The Sleuth Exhibition – process diary #1

13 Mar

Warning – art-wank!
Please note: To ensure all wank does not go by unmissed – all French words are in italics .

This post is going to be part of a slowly growing process diary where I will talk about some of the strange discoveries I have made whilst working on Sleuth … which is an exhibition of comics where I will be sticking up comics all around a gallery room. It is a big personal experiment in how comics might be able to work. If you’re interested in this post, then you might be interested in other places where people write art-wanky content about comics such as Australian Pat Grant’s website (just google him), international places such as the Inkstuds (radio show and website), and other places.

For the most part I have decided to make comics that are quicker to write and make, which largely means that there will be drawings of characters without much background details, relying more heavily on the words to give context to the characters. This is mostly so that the interplay between the different comics is where the action is felt by the reader / viewer.

Back-story – For the past few years I have been slaving away on the Long Weekend, which is graphic novel (non fiction comic … is that still called “novel”?) which is long slog … and my heart’s desire was to churn out some comics that were far more intuitive and less thought through. I came up with a loose idea for criss-crossing comics on a wall and applied for a spot at an artist run space (Inflight ARI) in Hobart and got a slot for November 2012.

Even though I still had more of the Long Weekend to ink I haven’t had much left to do in the way of decision making, I had pencilled out most of the last chapter and made most of the grand decisions so it was down to the stage which I like to think of as meditation – just inking away over pencils that had been decided upon a while back. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to decide at all … au contraire – inking is still a very malleable process, lots of things get decided then too … just no where NEAR as much decisions need to be made as the earlier layout and pencilling stages (at least not the way I do things).

SO – my grand master plan was to make something super quick and dirty, making lots of mini-comics, but they wouldn’t be designed for the page, they’d be designed to spread across walls!!

“That’s not a big deal is it?”

WELL – it means a whole different bunch of considerations must be made! Which is when my creative interest is piqued! ( I have a fairly restless mind that needs to be engaged, or I get mssively bored … hence the need for a new challenge that is different to last overly ambitious thing I tackled).

The first thing I decided to do was to make a rough plan of the gallery space, and draw what it could look like … this is before I’d done any writing per se. I then decided on some generalised themes that rattle around my obssessive brain – mostly with a slight Jungian bent to them such as psyche and spirituality in modern Australia, Australian history, particularly that of explorers who die in the pursuit of glory (a ridiculous Australian pastime) … I decided to use these characters that I had invented in 2010 that I had in this comic that I called the Department of Conversation – Paul and Mary … and old retired couple, the baby-boomers, the grey nomads. I decided a comic involving a meandering conversation between them might make for a good “spine” for the whole artwork, something simple to get it all started. I’m quite fond of these two, they’re quite warm and funny in an old-couple kind of way.

I decided after that that I should make a lot of my decisions on the fly as it would give the whole piece a much more improvised feel, which would make it a process of discovery for me … I would discover the links between unrelated comics myself, perhaps I won’t even realise them until afterwards when other people point out links that they’ve made.

I recall a conversation I had with Bernard Caleo in 2011 about non sequitar arrangements (that’s Latin, not French), if you place things next to eachother and show it to people, their brains are hard-wired to search for the link themselves, they assume that since you’ve shown it to them then there is a reason, if you haven’t explained it to them then they will make up their own reason. HOW INTRIGUING!! That’s how comics work … or at least in part. You show people two images, they actively create the link between them panel to panel … but what about story to story?? That’s one of the things that I’m exploring myself. If I stick up a whole bunch of comics that intersect at certain points, then people will assume there’s a link, (otherwise why would I have put them all together) and then they will search for the meaning behind it all … provided I’ve kept if vague enough then unforseen meanings can spring into being within the reader / viewer’s mind!!

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