The comics diary and personal creative practice stopped over the last month. Instead, creative practice happened in smaller ways by attending the ‘Sketchy Bitches’ online drawing group, by creating birthday cards for friends and family, and by working on commissioned illustrations for a research chapter. This post is designed to explore why the personal creative practice was derailed and how to construct new ways of keeping this practice constant.
In my first mentoring session with cartoonist Simone Lia, we discussed the comics diary and Simone wanted a name for this series. I came up with the ‘Lovely Littles’ to embrace the idea of noticing the overlooked lovely little moments of the everyday. This is partly inspired from once hearing a centenarian describing her habit of always thinking ‘what nice happened today?’ in bed and then going to sleep with these lovely things in her mind. She said something nice always happens, even if it is just a nice cup of tea. This is a nice cheerful practice if you are in a normal state of mind, but trickier in darker and depressive states. Due to recent difficulties, I am discontinuing the ‘comics diary’ practice to replace this with the ‘comics daily’ practice with broadens the approach to create in darker days when there does not seem to be anything ‘lovely’.
I asked Simone ‘how do you find the funny in grim times?’ and she said that the grim often offers lots of material for creativity and that her graphic novel ‘Please God Find Me a Husband’ (2012) came out of dark times. Lynda Barry also mines the dark for material in ‘One! Hundred! Demons!’ (2017) and her approach to teaching comics is to encourage her students to mine dark experiences (2008 , 2015, 2019). This approach has not worked well with my comics practice in the past and in fact I stopped creating for weeks after creating these pages in response to Barry’s ideas,
Still, it is time for me to be braver and to work with all kinds of emotional states for comics creation – resistance is clearly futile and just results in wasted weeks of work. Also, our primary neural network is emotion which lies at the centre of a central chemistry forged of emotion, physiology, cognition, and behaviour (Positive Group 2020). If this is imagined as a car of people, then emotion is in the driving seat and it makes sense to utilise the possibilities of this. The fascinating element for my research is how directly this connects to both humour theory and comics practice.
Noel Carroll, Professor of Philosophy and writer on humour theory, explores ‘comic amusement as an emotional state’ (2014), and these emotional states could be mined for creative ideas on an emotional landscape that changes daily and offers different ways to humour and types of humour. Argentinian cartoonist, Liniers uses the approach of exploring his mood states through different types of humour, including; classic, surreal, dark, and self-referential. He describes this approach as a way to ‘work in as big and free a space as possible’ where you can ‘enjoy, experiment’ and ‘surprise’ yourself (Liniers 2020)
The difficulty comes in dealing directly with the grim as a source for funnies and being able to step back. This needs bravery to face whatever this involves, but also requires the need to observe with objectivity. Humour needs ‘anamnesis’ – ‘the temporary amnesia of the heart’ (Critchley 2002:86-87). The practice of ‘anamnesis’ is essential for appreciating humour (comic amusement is difficult and perhaps impossible in negative emotion states of pain, fear, and threat) and this must also apply to the creation of humour – creativity itself may not difficult or even impossible in certain fear states (Fishburne 2018). One of the challenges ahead will be to observe emotion with objectivity and implement anamnesis for creativity.
To draw this blog to a close that concludes ways to continue to work creatively without the need for the ‘lovely little’ moments. The comics diary is discontinued as too close, too ‘navel-gazing’, and too dull. This is probably an emotional response to an announcement continuation of ‘6 months more’ of this situation from the government in September. The miserable seeming similarity of solitary isolation of dark days ahead of a British autumn and winter feels mind-numbingly dull to make my experiences the centre of this, so these are only a launchpad to seeing through other lenses, with other characters, and seeing if the creativity can be more interesting and liberating -from the individual to the universal. Here are some ideas for doing this.
1. ‘Do nothing’ for 20 minutes, and then noodle-doodle freely in words and images (remembering everything is allowed in the noodle-doodle). If something interesting appears, develop an element of this into something ‘funny’. If it doesn’t appear, work through old ideas for cartoons and ink these up.
2. Character-led exploration of the emotional landscape (after Liniers 2020) – first I will need to develop the characters.
3. Ralph Steadman’s approach. Basically flick ink across a page and then turn this into something. I attempted this recently while I was thinking about ‘black dogs’ of depression and whether it was possible ‘to play’ with the black dog as a positive act. This was the result:
A rather nasty chihuahua that I didn’t want to play with at all. The downside of Steadman’s approach is ink gets everywhere. I flicked ink out of the window on to paper and then in front of my house, but even then I still got ink all over my PC screen during the creation. (This is almost a form of automatic drawing and reminds me of comics scholar John Miers discussing ‘fortuitous realism’ where the mind and eye automatically finds faces and concrete shapes in the abstraction.)
4. I often find David Shrigley funny even though this not his aim or his interest. For example:
(Shrigley, D. 2020, Instagram posts, dated 25.09.2020, and 21.09.2020)
Shrigley’s approach is apparently Dadaist exploration of zen absurdist haiku apparently (I would like to look into what this means at some point). He says that the ideas come from drawing list of things – the funny comes from the drawings. His process is to write list of things to draw during the day (and he does this silently and thoughtfully), and then to draw these quickly with music. He draws quite prolifically sometimes up to 40 pictures in one day. Sometimes his assistant finds him images on Google to copy, but he is not concerned about plagiarism as his versions are so far from the originals (Shrigley 2020). This is a particularly interesting approach to explore during ‘Inktoberfest’ which I recently discovered is an annual drawing event that aims to draw a different thing each day during October and post these on Instagram. The list is as follows:
Shrigley might draw all of these in one day and at the moment I need to catch up with 12 days of ideas.
Quick conclusion, be brave, keep on ‘humouring’ whatever is happening in the comics daily. Resistance is futile, so may as well welcome the possibilities.
List of References:
Barry, L. (2019) Making Comics. UK & USA: Drawn and Quarterly.
Barry, L. (2017) One! Hundred! Demons! UK & USA: Drawn and Quarterly.
Barry, L. (2014 ) Syllasbus. UK & USA: Drawn and Quarterly.
Barry, L. (2008 [2015) What is it. UK & USA: Drawn and Quarterly.
Carroll, N. (2014) Humour. UK: Oxford University Press.
Critchley, S. (2002) On Humour. London and New York: Routledge.
Fishburne, T (2018) The Power of Laughing at Ourselves at Work, available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_fishburne_the_power_of_laughing_at_ourselves_at_work (accessed 19.10.2020)
Inktoberfest (2020) The Inktober Challenge, available at:
https://inktober.com/ (accessed 19.10.2020)
Lia, S. (2012) Please God Find Me a Husband. UK: Jonathan Cape
Liniers (2020) Graphic Humour: Give Us Our Daily Comic Strip. available at: https://www.domestika.org/en/courses/623-graphic-humor-give-us-our-daily-comic-strip (accessed 19.10.2020)
Positive Group (2020) Changing the Way Organisations Think, Feel and Behave, available at: https://www.positivegroup.org (accessed 19.10.2020)
Shrigley, D. (2020) Are We On Air, (Episode 29, David Shrigley) available at: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7jlVLXCK28dtwE2j1OxkMF?si=cd_8ALuuQwinaDzjqYOhqg (accessed 19.10.2020)
Steadman, R (2020) The Art of Ralph Steadman: A Savage Satirist, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6omL2ukk9c (accessed 19.10.2020)