12. Mentoring with Simone Lia (10.08.2020)

In the first session (10.07.2020), Simone’s biggest concern was my lack of funny friends, so over the last month this was considered, and changes made. I also had the task of working on a daily comics diary. To summarise briefly, this has been a very good month for exciting changes and developing new positive habits:

  1. Funny Friends:

I have been prioritising time with my funny friends (the inspirational ‘fountain’ friends rather than the ‘drain’ people). This has had the lovely effect of bubbling over into new energy, a happier life, and also bubbled into ideas for comics strips, and various cartoons in the comics diary.

  1. The Comics Diary – ‘The Lovely Littles’:

This task began as a tricky habit to remember to do every day. Also, Simone had suggested that I work in a large format, so for a while the A4 sketchpad was the place for the daily diary. However, somehow it got too big and unwieldly with the space to draft longer strips. This felt difficult and often they were unfinished; there is much to consider in building a longer comic strip including; panelling, rhythm, pace, silent panels, and also the three elements of set-up, development and gag – and this became overwhelming. In the end, I went back to B5 size and a ‘Lynda Barry notes’ approach. By the end of the month, the diary practice settled into an easy fun practice of filling in the notes at the end of the day, and sometimes drawing a little single panel image too – and when I am too tired, I draw up the single panel in the morning. What I love about this task, is that it allows me to notice and remember the sweet and funny little moments of the day. Yesterday’s panel for example details a regular occurrence of bumping into Peter – the man on the next allotment who often gives me dahlias. Drawing this panel gave me pause to think about wonderful Peter and the pleasure of our little encounters. He is a tall, strong, retired, clever, and kind man. We share thoughts and our lives a little. The panel also illustrated that in this last encounter I had blabbered happily away at him (this was not entirely realised at the time.)

Drawing this comic, helped me to notice Peter much more, to notice the common everyday joy of talking to him, and sharing thoughts, and flowers. Now, this little comic joyfully exists for me to remember beyond the usual loss of these little moments. Simone asked me today for the name of my comics diary and I could not think of one. Now, an obvious name occurs ‘the ‘lovely littles’ – the lovely little moments of everyday.

  1. Doing nothing ‘yin time’:

Following Laurence Shorter’s monthly challenge, I have been taking time each day to ‘do nothing’ – to just sit for 10-20 minutes in a space of ‘no idea.’ This has been great in many ways – great to rest and recuperate and great to discover ideas. It has been surprisingly productive with ideas coming lightly. I look forward each day to this delicious space of ‘yin time’ to see what ideas will bubble up. It is the first time that I remember actually sitting doing nothing, and it feels weirdly revelatory and revolutionary, yet it is so ridiculously simple!

Mentoring Session 2:

In today’s mentoring session, we caught up on the exciting new habits of ‘funny friend’ time, ‘yin time’, and the comics diary practice. We also discussed the plan for the month ahead.

I had a rather ambitious plan of creating ‘bird puns’ after being inspired by Cat Faulkner’s book of avocado puns. Simone was wary of this idea, because she feels that it is important for work to be natural and for you to be yourself in your work (not to try to be someone else). She suggested instead creating little gentle observations with birds with the notion of translating everyday interactions and situations. Bird situations are very different from people’s concerns and so there is the potential conflict of alternative worlds to translate.

She also suggested limitations would be good and we discussed these until they became:

  • Limited format of one small page (i.e. cheap Tiger sketchbook size of 216cm by 142cm)
  • One bird comic per week
  • To be uploaded to Instagram on Fridays

Simone is very good for me because she prevents me from overextending ambitions and unrealisable (or at least difficult to realise) ideas. It is interesting to note that she is much kinder to me than I am to myself!

She said several times, ‘Sit in your own genius,’ and because I resisted this with questions and jests. She explained that ‘your truth’ + ‘universal truth’ has a genius quality, and even though she is not a genius, people have described her as such because her work resonates with this truth. This idea ended up the comics diary:

I had noted down a few questions to ask her – most of which were discarded as answered during the session, but she gave me permission to use her full name on my blog, and she also gave me some key pointers on process:

  • It is about constantly editing down – removing and removing. What else can you remove?
  • The aim is the essence – to pick the essence and keep this (she likes my comics diary for creating this essence, i.e. condensing complex ideas into a little cartoon)
  • Deadlines are a key part to the process, as an idea needs to be delivered for a date and the brain keeps working towards this. She says that she thinks, ‘something fun has to happen!’ as the cartoon deadline approaches, and she searches for this in her life. Talk about ‘finding the funny’ – she is actively looking for it and seeking it in mind and deed.

We talked a little bit about process procedures and software. Simone does not have a ritual like J.K. Rowling, although she believes strongly in play (and colours and draws in play with her daughter). She is also not particularly interested in tech/software and her process is:

  • Get the idea, writes it on whiteboard, or down somewhere,
  • draws and inks cartoon on workshop days,
  • the cartoon is photographed by partner and emailed to her,
  • then she polishes and finishes it in Photoshop.

She suggested that I consider Procreate as a money-saver, rather than paying £18 per month for Photoshop.

At the very end of the hour, she asked about my heart’s desire. We went over time by a few minutes with this question and I later thought of one with no effort. I would like a ‘funnies group’ of trusted friends who can get together to think funny and to draw funny. I would like it to be based in Leamington and regular (maybe every two weeks), where we set ourselves tasks and play with ideas to lighten our lives.