An Improvised Comics Manifesto
I make comics.
I write fiction, and I paint and draw. As well as that, I make comics, which is a curious combination of all of the above.
Still pictures and words can combine in interesting ways, and do things that neither can do on their own.
My own ideas combine in interesting ways with other people. I’ve worked with actors, artists, photographers, charities and community groups to create stories that are bigger than I am.
When I’m making comics, I want to achieve the following spectacular and groundbreaking results.
Good fiction can tell compelling stories, that speak to their audiences at a deep level, and change the way they experience their lives. The majority of fiction doesn’t do this, and the majority of comics don’t either. There has always been a small body of world-changing fiction, and there is a small but growing body of good comic book work that’s come out over the last few decades. It doesn’t have to be “difficult”, “high-brow” or “inaccessible”, and I’m not looking to pander to a tiny elite in my work.
I started out telling stories from my imagination (which, I’m proud to say, is both strong and strange). More recently, though, I have sought to expand my creative practice to tell other peoples’ stories too, to collaborate, and create things that are broader than just me. See my projects page for examples of the work that I’ve done.
Push the Envelope
Comics lie somewhere between prose, poetry, and the storytelling techniques available to childrens’ picture books. On top of that, the visual/spatial dimension adds all sorts of possibilities and challenges. I want to explore the use of this vast territory in the service of good storytelling.
Producing comics is gruelling! I’m lazy! I don’t have more than a handful of hours a week to devote to this stuff! It takes a lot less time to write a description of a conversation or event than it does to draw it, and as for drawing it expressively, beautifully, capturing the nuances of emotion, of light, the rich details of the setting… I can draw reasonably well, but so often fall short of the glorious images in my head. So, cutting corners gets things done. I love embarking on projects that I think I’ll finish, and fortunately, I live in a visually-rich world with a whole internet full of source material, stock photos on tap, the ability to take photos and scan in artwork, to draw on a touchscreen with my fingers,and to manipulate those images digitally. I’m actively engaged in figuring out ways to take the gruel out of comics.
I started off working with photographs as a way to cut corners. Using photography led to working with other people, which suddenly led to a pretty big collaboration with Kendal Community Theatre, a costumier and several photographers at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in 2014, which has really taken my work in some very unexpected directions.