Tag Archives: Craig Thompson

Caution: Artists at work

Our 19th century conception of the Artist (or Poet or Actor) still stands, mostly intact, a testament to the enduring power of Romanticism. You know by now that I’m no Romantic, right? (Though I can be a sentimental old fool and sometimes the symptoms are the same.) But the Romantic idea of the “studio” or “workshop” or “rehearsal hall” is one that I’ve kept, the idea of the place where the drama of creation occurs, and I start to snort a little even as I type “drama of creation” because, come on, who am I kidding? What does that even mean?

Still, I respect the place where work takes place, creative work, and I believe it has, um, possibilities that other places don’t have. But usually it was closed to interlopers, especially casual interlopers. Until now. Until blogs! Which are admittedly mediated spaces, of course, unless someone has come up with a “studio cam.” But still.

So here are some artists’ blogs that I’ve found. I hope the artists aren’t creeped out that I occasionally drop in.

Bunny with an Artblog I’m not sure what it is about Hilary Pfeifer’s blog that keeps me coming back, but I do. Some of it is just the random personal stuff. For example, I just discovered that if she played our “movies that move me” game, she would probably choose Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. But mostly, it’s because of the photographs of the strange creations she’s fashioning in her Studio for a show upcoming at Ogle Gallery in September. It’s called Natural Selection and after watching it blossom the past month or so, I’m definitely hooked.

TJ Norris: Unblogged When I wrote about Norris’s show at the New American Art Union, I found his blog. It’s a great mix of reportage on the Portland art scene, a little news here and there, some excellent links, and some personal events and reflections. Oh. And pictures. Very cool pictures. And enough hints about his work to constitute a peek inside his studio. UPDATE: Broken link fixed!

Craig Thompson’s Learn to Draw blog OK. That’s not its real name. (That would be Doot Doot Garden Blog.) But let’s just say I developed a powerful hankering to create a gigantic new graphic novel, a little like Thompson’s Habibi, which by his recent reckoning has a “couple” of years yet to go. Then I would go to his blog a lot, to watch the drawings unfold, because it’s like a little online classroom. Again, I discovered the blog working on a post a few months ago and bookmarked it then. Habibi looks very cool, by the way, and really, I don’t mind the wait as long as I can get little hints about what it’s going to be like on Thompson’s blog.

OK. Maybe that’s enough for now? But I would like to know what your own favorites are, if you wouldn’t mind sharing?

Thompson, Delisle, Sacco and comics non-fiction

panelsoba.jpgThat’s Joe Sacco, to the right, looking out of the window in a restaurant in the old part of Sarajevo. As usual he is passive — listening to the stories that other people tell him, observing life around him and presumably taking notes, though in this frame, he doesn’t seem to have a notebook with him. He looks a lot like a — journalist. Oh. There’s no drawing pad, either. And that’s what usually separates him from other journalists: He is recording conversations,
observations, scenes AND he’s drawing them.

By this particular moment in War’s End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96 (2005, Drawn and Quarterly Books), Sacco has drawn and interviewed his subject, Soba, a lot. He’s also drawn the streets of Sarajevo, the insides of clubs and restaurants and apartments. He’s proven to be sympathetic to Soba’s account of his combat against the Serb nationalists attempting to defeat the Bosnian independence movement — he’s listened, he’s drawn, he’s located himself in the narrative. And something wonderful has happened: We’ve gotten to know Soba.
Continue reading Thompson, Delisle, Sacco and comics non-fiction

Part four — Joe Sacco’s extreme journalism (extremely good)

For the intro to this series click here. Do the same for Part two and Partthree.

cover War’s End, by Joe Sacco
Both Craig Thompson (even in the looser diary format of Carnet de Voyage) and Guy Delisle follow comic book conventions. In Thompson’s work they show up in the idealized women, for example, the relative inexpressiveness of the faces and in the representation of himself as a Woody Allen kind of character usually underdrawn compared to the rest of the characters. Delisle’s Pyongyang reads even more like a comic — lots of frames per page, action (what there is!) moving along linearly, and his own self-depiction is VERY cartoony: none of the other characters is so unnaturalistic.

Sacco lives in a different world — War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96 wants to demolish the acceptable boundaries of comics, the affect of most Sacco books. The subject matter is grimmer. The drawings act as though they want to spill off the page. Words can fill huge chunks of space. (There are moments in Carnet that resemble Sacco’s work: Thompson has cited Sacco as an influence.) I like the subversion and the obsession with getting it right: We interpret it immediately as “seriousness of purpose,” and I accept it as a reasonable account of what happened, especially the events that Sacco witnessed directly.

Continue reading Part four — Joe Sacco’s extreme journalism (extremely good)

Part two — Craig Thompson: O, the fame, the misery

This is Part Two of a four-part series. The introduction is here.

As Carnet de Voyage begins on March 6, 2004, Craig Thompson is 28 and heading for Paris. Blankets has been published in the U.S. the previous year, to major acclaim, and his European publishers want him to do a promotional tour for a couple of months, signing books for fans, meeting other comics artists, attending some big continental comics fests. Most, if not all, paid for by the publishers and convention organizers. Sweet! To be young, gifted, single and comped on a European vacation. He even has a side trip scheduled for Morocco. The Carnet is his sketchbook diary of that trip, and we might expect it to be a celebration, maybe even a bacchanal!

189183060001mzzzzzzz.jpgExcept that maybe we’ve read Blankets, and we’re pretty sure that Craig is not going to be able to give himself over to that sort of thing. And in fact, Craig is unhappy for a lot of Carnet. He counts the ways: he’s homesick, he misses his ex-girlfriend profoundly, she’s quite ill, he’s lonely, everything reminds him of her, he’s lonely, his hand hurts from so much drawing. Did we mention he’s lonely? His internal struggles spill out into the frames and pages of his notebook, enveloping them in fog of gloom. Morocco, near the beginning of the trip, is especially difficult, primarily because he doesn’t know anyone, doesn’t understand the culture very well and plunges into the worst melancholy of the trip.

By the time he returns to Europe, things start to lighten up. Some. Everything is more familiar. He eats great food. The pages feature more drawings of attractive women. He has conversations with interesting people, including his comic artist heroes. He sees relatively happy families in action. But his drawing hand REALLY hurts, enough to seek treatment, and despite the numbers of slender, attractive European women around him, he misses his ex. The commercial part of the comics biz is difficult for him — the speaking, signing of books, conventions. And then he leaves, though by the end he’s getting to like it. Barcelona? Hard to argue.

Why is this relatively familiar story so engaging?

Continue reading Part two — Craig Thompson: O, the fame, the misery