Cartoons and Comics
This strip was a way to strengthen my resolve through a difficult month by remembering the mottoes of my nearest and dearest. I always wanted to fuse them all together and ‘Enjoy what you have‘ is an attempt to do this. It does not really work in times of depression though and recently Grandad’s worked best and I often repeated ‘Do your best with what you’ve!’ This motto was previously slightly resisted because it is rather a tough approach to life that reminded me of the Japanese version of this – ‘Gambatte!‘ which literally means ‘Struggle!’ Still, sometimes it is a struggle anyway, so may as well go with it.
Support from the ‘Sketchy Bitches’
Comics diary entry.
Bad pain week this week that was much cheered by Dulcie Ball’s post on Instagram with 3 portraits of me from our ‘Back to School’ drawing session. In her message she says “Meet Continuous Clari – she plays by her own school rules! She’s a #sketchybitches superstar and a short story/comic book waiting to happen”
This is Dulcie’s sketch of me in continuous line (I traced it using the ‘Trace Table’ app and tried to keep as close as possible to Dulcie’s original, which can be seen on her Instagram feed).
Comics diary entry.
Working the allotment with Mum who had ‘fizzy energy’ that day and was zooming. She tends to leave tools abandoned in the soil and I always do a sweep for tools after she leaves.
I changed my plan for the format, which is why there is a grey line down the middle. It went from two panels to one.
You lot get on my nerves…
Introducing new characters called Mardy Min (something Mum called me when I was wee and moaning about something) and the Mardy Bums. These happened while doodling about mardiness and working with cartoonist Liniers approach of working with your emotional landscape to explore types of humour – playing with black humour here.
I like their hairy feet, but would like to do more work on these characters. Looking forward to the next mardy mood to explore further….
Comics diary entry that captures a conversation between Laurence Shorter, Carlos Saba and me. Laurence had just asked us to write down a list of unresolved questions that concern us and my list was long and catastrophic including questions such as: ‘how can I keep my parents safe into old age?’ and ‘when will I die?’ He then said ‘all can be solved in the non-doing space’ which I wrote in my notebook along with a doubtful ‘ha ha ha!’ As if, non-doing practice can tell you when you’re going to die…
We did some non-doing practice together (i.e sit do nothing and accept you have no idea) online. Afterwards, I realised that all of these questions involve situations that have not yet happened and sketched this cartoon in response. I love that Laurence was right despite my bitter laughing pessimism.
Note to self: invest in more permanent pens that do not bleed.
Sarah Millican’s Story
This is a comic strip version of a story Sarah Millican told on the radio programme ‘Women Talking about Cars’ (R4).
I wanted to remember this story, because it made me smile lots. To my mind, it also illustrates both modern relationships and also our dependency on ‘men who can’ – the wonderful people who can actually do stuff!
Kudos to… my heating engineer Karl, my mechanic Gary, my carpenter Andy, and my Dad always (his middle name is ‘Candooo’).
The breath is always first…
This is a quote by my online yoga teacher. When she said this, I instantly thought of a newborn getting slapped on the tushy into life and breath. Breathe baby breathe!
This cartoon also illustrates my ‘hippy trippy’ side (sometimes visualised as me in hippy flares tripping over with daft hippy nonsense – might be worthy of drawing up into a cartoon sometime).
Dad used to do aikido when he was younger. He would do these dramatic aikido forward rolls across the floor to entertain me and my brother Will.
These days, his most common advice is ‘roll with the punches’ – so common that it merits motto status.
My dad is actually a clever engineer who might well disagree with this assessment. He often disagrees with my version of things and calls me a ‘fantasist!’ regularly, but he IS definitely zen in the way he approaches tasks with slow careful kindness.
This week, I have been doing a ‘bird-hat’ challenge creating birds-as-hats (after the illustrator Terry Runyan and a suggestion from Dulcie Ball of the Sketchy Bitches).
I have also been cat-sitting for the neighbour’s cat Hamish, who is a fluffy white ball of snuggle.
These were the two main happenings of the week (what a silly and wonderful life!), so I’ve fused these two things here.
I got nothing!
Alexei Sayle is my favourite stand-up comedian – I love him and this is a sort of hommage.
This joke is paraphrased from ‘Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar‘ comedy show on Radio 4, where he says, ‘Sometimes I get really fed up with my subconscious – it’s like it’s got a mind of its own’ (Series 2, ‘Britain’s Place in the World’ episode).
The Sketchy Bitches
It h-h-hurts to talk!
This cartoon is not well-drawn, but it contains layers of jokes between my Dad and me over many years. I don’t like the drawing, but it makes me smile to remember the jokes. It reminds me of ex-cartoonist Corinne Pearlman saying that she missed ephemera cartoons of the family that she had thrown away over the years.
Joke 1: my Dad reminded me for years when leaving the house to ‘Remember your waterproof!’ I was a teenager at the time and didn’t bother to elucidate that I did not own one. Eventually he bought me one for my 49th birthday. He bought me his favourite brand ‘Rohan’ at vast expense even in the sale.
Joke 2: my Dad loves Rohan – friends and family like to mock this affection (he does ramble on about it). On this day, he has told me in detail about his Rohan attire and his breathable wicker vest and pants. Bemusedly I asked if he was wearing 90% Rohan that day – he proudly said 70%
Joke 3: on this day, we had hiked 10 miles in pouring rain to Warwick Books and I had made the mistake of putting my required face mask in a non-waterproof pocket (non-Rohan!) so it got soaked. This meant that it was difficult to talk to Mog and Pauline (the book keepers) and it hurt to breathe. I enjoyed my Dad’s resulting compassion.
Sit in your own genius!
My cartoonist mentor suggesting that I sit ‘in my own genius!’ This was a little difficult not to joke about (and I mimed confusedly looking around the room for my genius until she explained further). This cartoon condenses the idea, so that I might (maybe possibly) remember to do this and to take it lightly and seriously.
Yin and Yang Productions
This comic was a useful way for me to condense the information from Laurence Shorter’s first official ‘The Art of No Idea’ coaching session on 30 July 2020.
There is a group of about 20 of us working with Laurence’s structure to develop constructive and enjoyable creative practice. There are more details on this in my ‘creative practice notes’ dated 04/08/2020.
I particularly liked the connection to a lexical chain of water that seems to be a visual metaphor. J.K. Rowling’s creative practice that involves her going to her imaginary house next to a lake and concentrating on the lake as a source of ideas. Also two members of the coaching group used watery terms; Christopher talked about ‘waiting to see what bubbles up’ in the yin practice and Katie talked about ‘sinking into‘ the work.
(Media: nib pen and ink, watercolour paint.)
This was drawn in my wee sketchbook while on holiday in Lanzarote.
It’s based on an experience in a nightclub where some English dudes in football shirts got very loud to the beautiful sad love song ‘Miss You’ by band ‘Everything but the Girl.’ I remembered the lead singer Tracy Thorn talking about the sorrow behind the song and the juxtaposition amused me.
This was drawn on holiday in Lanzarote.
My best friend loves Lanzarote – he wakes up happy to do the same thing everyday. He’s been there nearly 10 times (I make a concession to go with him once every 10 years, so we’ve been together only 3 times). I’m always a bit confused why he loves it so much…
Going in literally theoretical circles…
This comic is about being stuck in theoretical circles for my PhD as the university asked for more justification for my ideas. I started to get depressed that all my time was going around in circles justifying the idea with theory, rather than actually doing the research on ‘finding the funny’ and creating comics and cartoons.
Learning is ascending…
There were discussions of cycles in my reading on action research and in my mind this connected to cycles that go up and down.
My Dad (that’s him with the lovely nose there) often mentions ‘the slough of despond’ as a cycle down to the depths of despondency and depression.
In action research, the learning cycle moves upwards as your knowledge advances. I loved this – for me it especially makes sense as learning is my main driver. I like the idea of it moving upwards. It also connects to cartoonist Lynda Barry (pictured here in the plaits), who loves drawing spirals in her work, as a way to move cartooning work forward.
This is a theme in November, where I was stuck in theory and getting more and more miserable going around in circles. I wanted to escape and to be subversive like Wokker, the surrealist cartoon character created by Earnshaw and Thacker. Wokker is a strange yellow wheeled creature (perhaps a bird or dinosaur?) that you can see escaping to the right and saying ‘Wok it!’ I’ve drawn myself a little like Wokker, but I wasn’t surreal or subversive enough to escape the circles. Interestingly, later my research became very interested in surrealism and surrealist tools for creation – probably with the influence of Wokker.
I managed to eventually feel better during this time by making time to draw. Drawing is my happy place.
Birds are often in my research (and life) and provide sage counsel here. Mostly they provide sarcasm or sardonic comments for the absurd humans (i.e. me), as birds are clearly so much better than humanity.
How do you cope…?
This is the start of my PhD at UAL. I was so happy to be working with Roger Sabin as my supervisor that I felt a bit mentally delirious for a while. It was (and is) a dream come true – Roger was the first person to really get what I wanted to do and believe that it could be a valuable contribution. Later Nina Mickwitz joined the supervision team, so I just got luckier and luckier.
Burnout…trying to break free with creativity
This was an attempt to create a comics haiku.
I had taken a ‘mental health day’ trip to Oxford because work was awful. Now, I can see that the monstrous black thing is burnout, which had been dogging me for years by this time. It took me two more years of this before I managed to get free to rebuild health. To do this, I had to take unpaid leave from my post at Coventry University – everything else I had tried before to fix this situation had failed. Sometimes, you can’t fix things, you just need to stop and start again.
This is an early cartoon of a condensed memory of Dylan – our funny Australian colleague who was stuck teaching out in rural Tojo. He joked often about being stuck living alone with a stuffed monkey and a BB gun. BB guns were probably illegal in Japan, so I added a policeman saying ‘DA-ME!’ (= no way/not allowed) in hiragana. I can no longer remember how to write hiragana and only remember this from the context.
Here’s a typical Dylan joke:
Day 1 in Tojo: buy a Playstation
Day 100: ….huh…what happened to the last 99 days?
OK, please sit down! (Japan 2004)
This is the cartoon that planted the seed in 2004 for my future PhD research and it is the root of the idea really – i.e. the importance of finding the funny to lighten life for yourself and for others.
At the time, I was teaching in Japan and failing to manage a class of young children, which resulted in sleepless nights, circular thinking, and exhaustion. I called them the ‘kids on speed’ because they were so excited they were impossible to control. Interestingly, the solution did not come from strategic thinking or consulting books on teaching methods, but from drawing this comic. It helped me to notice the humour in the situation and to see the children as filled with incredible energy and enthusiasm. Drawing the comic shifted my thinking, so that the next time I walked into the classroom I was able to see the humour, to enjoy the energy of the children, and to begin experimenting with new ways to successfully channel this energy. This became one of my favourite classes and this is probably my favourite cartoon. It is only the second one I drew, but it makes me smile when I remember these kids – chilled Anju, tiny smiley Masatoshi, hyperactive Riichi, and confused Yusuke. These lovely kids!! Thank you.
Kevin, are you listening? (Japan 2004)
2004 was the beginning of creating cartoons for fun (and therapy I guess). At the time, I co-directed an English school in Miyoshi with friend Jeremy. We had a few problems with one of our colleagues and this was perhaps an outlet for my frustration.
I drew around a dozen cartoons then, and then returned to Britain and got distracted working for Warwick and then Coventry Universities. A lengthy distraction of 15 years!