Confirmation is coming up. Looming like a great shambling beast of gargantuan proportions, thick ropes of saliva shining sickly, it seems at first glance far, far away in the distance. The reality is that in just over six weeks I’ll be standing in front of a room full of people, attempting to concisely present everything I’ve been doing in the past year in a relevant, structured and coherent way. I’ll be defending my findings and hopefully not forgetting how to breathe in the process. The beast doth loom, and it’s breath reeks of potential failure and embarrassment.
In an attempt to subvert the situation I have met with Supervisor Supreme Queen Spark to come up with a game plan that will enable me to befriend the beast and ride it, victorious and true into the sunset. In order to get this stuff straight in my head I’m going to bore you senseless with a summary of our meeting and points covered. Feel free to go and watch YouTube now.
1.) Consolidate canon– at the start of the DVA I made a Canon of Artists- basically a list of others who practice in the same field and whose work is similar to mine, or those whose work was an influence. Since those heady days I have refined my output and the canon needs to reflect this change. Certain works will need to be removed, while others will need to be added. Goodbye Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, for example, while a fantastic work, is just not indicative of my current output. I haven’t portrayed myself as an animal once, and I certainly don’t see the sense in doing so at the moment. On the other side of the coin, my work now includes a hefty component of daily diary comics, but I don’t have any diary comic artists besides American Elf James Kolchaka in my canon. There are many more out there.
1a). Context– An examination of existing practice and how it ties into culture and society.
2.) Describing what I’m NOT doing– I’ve checked out a few things in the last year, some I have pursued and others have been left behind. I need to talk about this, what’s investigated and what’s disregarded, and why. Other things have evolved; you could say the post-it-note comics have become the diary comics, for example. The idea of diegetic and mimetic storytelling, although informative, has been discontinued; or rather incorporated into my work. I’ll be delving further into the idea of storytelling, but this particular strand has reaped sufficient rewards.
3.) Voice and persona– In telling autobiographical stories there are different identities one conveys, different ‘voices’ and personas. For example, in making my diary comics it has become clear that a variety of different voices have arisen, such as ‘biting adult humour’, a ‘universal’ truth telling, ‘the ‘immature/insecure’ voice… and the list continues. This links into my investigation into identity and representation.
3a.) Theme– What are the main themes arising from these stories? Relationships (family/friends/sexual) and the idea of evolution/discovery of identity; the universally recognisable trope of becoming a man.
4.) Visual styles– an investigation into the evolution of a visual style through experimentation and practice. The visual style helps to refine and develop the character, the ‘narrated I’. Situated as a subjective persona in the objective background familiar to all of us, the visual style further communicates ideas of the self and the world around it in subtle ways.
Sidenote– 3.) and 4.) are linked under a heading of identity and representation’; who is the real ‘I’ and who is the ‘persona’ I? How do I communicate the distinctions? How does the ‘persona I’ react and work within a world of the other, family, friends and external events, and what can the reader gain by reading these stories? Or is it all self-indulgent navel gazing??
5.) Key elements in production–
–Technical (codes, conventions and knowledge of the medium.) This might be a good spot to elaborate briefly on the structural elements of sequential art that I make use of, and how we ‘read the visual’; an introduction to some of the theories posited by Scott McCloud and how they might inform the reading of my work.
–Practical (what materials and techniques are used and how do they influence the output?)
–Theoretical (Identity, representation, truth)
–Ethical (what goes in, what doesn’t, seeking permission from others, deciding where to draw the line of disclosure.) These decisions influence things such as target demographic as well as giving the reader an idea of my identity, through the subjects I focus upon.
6.) Analysis of process/compare and contrast– How does my work fare against that of the key texts within my canon? What is comparable to the work of Craig Thompson and Chester Brown? How is it different, and why?
7.) Format– Although I have experimented in both strip comics and short form extended narratives, the next step is to create a long form graphic novel, somewhere between 100 – 150 pages, using the knowledge gained from both these practices. The novel will need to contain a nod to the fundamentals of traditional form of storytelling structure while including the ‘gag’ payoff found within the strip comics as humoristic rewards for the reader. Although the grim take on storytelling can be performed to great advantage, such as in David Small’s ultra bleak ‘Stitches’, I would prefer the reader leaving my story with a sense of hope. I see the format being quite small, around A5, as in Chester Brown’s ‘The Playboy’ and one of my favourites, Brown’s ‘I Never Liked You’.
8.) Methodology- I use an Action Research form of methodology, which I believe is the methodology most pertinent to art practice. This entails a praxis of everyday practice which informs future work and creates material for discussion.
9.) What’s next? I’ll have a final two years to complete my work and have a finished product that makes use of my research and hopefully provides meat for others to chew on. This is the part where I lay out my aims and objectives till completion.
So that’s it as a rough skeleton. On an interesting side note, Andi suggested I call my project ‘Bloke and Dick’. Although a bit crude, it’s fairly apt. What do you think?