Graphic novel progress

Here’s a timeline and brief diary for my graphic novel, The Facts of Life, to date. It’s been a case of ‘comics interruptus’ so far for all sorts of reasons, but it’s gathering speed now and I’m ‘in the zone’:

2006: After reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, I realise that it’s possible to be a middle-aged woman writing memoir using the medium of comics. Can I play, too? Seeds of idea for a autobiographical graphic novel germinate. Start an alphabetical card file of memories. I begin to sketch memories and draw my first comic strip How a Baby is Made. Tentatively show one or two amenable friends who emit positive noises and suggest I go for it. I go to a comics convention for the first time but feel that neither myself nor my story fits somehow, and leave discouraged. (It would be a long time until I discover the the indie self-publishing scene).

DSC07927

2007:  I enter How a Baby is Made to the first Observer Graphic Short Story prize – but it’s not really a short story. Join Deviant Art as ‘Missnibs’ and post strip there - but I’m not yet au fait with social networking and don’t get very far.

How a Baby is Made 1

How a Baby is Made 1

2007/8: Submit idea to a new comics publisher – initial interest and very encouraging but nothing solid. My proposal is still a little under-cooked. And so am I.

2008-10: Hiatus - all will become clear in book! Discover Laydeez do Comics.

2010: Timeline of memoir ends so ready to start writing – theme of story has changed somewhat due to life events! I go to Laydeez do Comics for the first time and feel more encouraged that there might be a readership for my story. I start to transfer the card file entries to colour-coded post-its, which stay on the wall for over two years until the glue goes crispy and they start to drop off. I use these headings to start writing scenes in words. Join Twitter as a proofreader (my other work) but end up using it to meet comics people instead, thus discovering Graphic Medicine. Further enthused. Sadly, I don’t attend the very first Graphic Medicine conference because I mistakenly think it’s for academics and medics only.

DSC06758

2011: Get going! Background research and much reading. Enter 17 pages to Myriad Editions’ inaugural First Graphic Novel Competition. It’s good to have a goal. Air project in public for the first time at Laydeez do Comics in May (where I hear about the competition). Attend Arvon Foundation Graphic Novels course where I receive some welcome feedback and meet more lovely comics people - in full flow of quenching thirst from the overflowing cup of comics camaraderie at this point. In November I speak about my project at Comics Forum in Leeds at the Graphic Medicine day. It’s the first time I’ve spoken at an academic conference and it seems to be well received, although I’m extremely nervous. I’ve finally met ‘my people’, professionally speaking, this year! Trawl through old photos.p1_2010_gray

2012: Good news - reach shortlist of Myriad competition! It’s the first time I’ve got so far in any professional competition. Keep in touch with Myriad as project progresses. More research, reading, and story-boarding in between paid freelance work. Make my first self-published comic, Spooky Womb, to dip toe into water. I take it to autumn Comiket and it sells well. My first children’s books as author are published this year, too. A year of firsts.

DSC04345

2013: More good news! Sign contract with Myriad Editions. Then follows another unfortunate 8-month hiatus. In summer, I speak at the 4th Comics and Medicine Conference in Brighton, which buoys me. Unearth old teenage diaries and letters. Start working on book again towards the end of the year, when I finish the artwork for my prologue.

Gn_panel_pjk

2014: Finish first draft of storyboards. Feeding of recycle bin with superfluous splurge. Successful application to Arts Council England for funding to complete my book. Re-read letter to make sure! They definitely said yes. Have a go at making a handwritten font for the lettering – aka a week of faffing resulting in alphabet spaghetti rather than beautiful lo-fi fontage plus sore knuckles from all the gnawing. Begin to make working drawings from the storyboards, which I transfer to Bristol Board for painting and inking. Fonts can wait until patience is restored.

working-drawingPART_02_0003_workingcopy-copy

Onwards: Part three to jiggle,190ish pages of artwork and lettering to draw and complete, and the cover to design. Now working on it for six days a week stopping at eight o’clock most nights. I don’t get out much. I hope friends and family can bear with me for the confinement over the coming year. BBC Radios 4 and 6 are my friends now, plus garden snails and local cats at lunchtimes.

DSC07909

 

Graphic Medicine podcast

mytalk_Comicsmedicine4_brighton _UniSussex.

Photo by Ian Williams.

Last year, I presented my work at Ethics Under Cover: Comics, Medicine and Society (4th International Conference on Comics and Medicine). I spoke on a panel named ‘Who’s Story is it?’ alongside Peaco Todd, Linda Raphael and Mita Mahato. Here is a link to the podcast (mine is second on the recording): Graphic Medicine Podcast: Brighton Panel 4A

My talk was titled ‘In or Out: Considering the impact on others of writing and sharing graphic memoir’. I spoke about my work in progress in relation to the responsibility for secondary characters’ stories in memoir (those who have not asked to be in a book), especially where medical details are involved. I also spoke about my other comics about fertility, miscarriage and childlessness and the response to sharing that personal work on social networking sites between 2011 and 2013.

The conference provided a generous portion of brain food, and I heartily recommend creators with medical/ health themes to their work to attend, or propose a paper to, future conferences. Also, do check out the Graphic Medicine Podcast archive where you will find interviews and talks by many talented comics creators and academics whose work reflects the ‘interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare.’ (Graphic Medicine website quote).

This panel took place first thing on a Sunday morning, so I’m sure those delegates who were still wisely tucked up in bed will welcome the chance to hear it. Although I’m still not sure how anyone ever sleeps in Brighton with those tireless over-enthusiastic seagulls.

Happysad memory comic

These pages are from a longer comic I made about my late father-in-law, Pete. I made it towards the end of 2011 when he left hospital to return home to be with his family in his final days after a long illness. The title refers to something later in the comic, but I won’t be sharing those pages yet (if ever) because it’s probably too soon.

These first pages are about my favourite memory of Pete. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish the comic, but, at a difficult time, it felt cathartic to draw and it was my way of coping. Perhaps that’s enough and I’ll never feel the need to finish it. I wanted to share this, though, as my way of celebrating his life and what was an essential part of his character – humour. We laughed about this occasion for years afterwards and I prefer to remember this sort of thing rather than his illness.

PC1

PC2

PC3

Panel two, page two, might worked better at a page turn – if I ever do finish it, I shall rectify that!

Fairy princess cushion

I’m putting together a sketchbook zine with small drawings and comics made in my local park. This took place in the park but I drew it from ‘memory’ back at home.

Fairy_Princess_Cushion_PaulaKnight

I think we all have a Fairy Princess Cushion in our lives, don’t we?

 

Early pregnancy transvaginal ultrasound comic page

Hopefully this will be a page in my graphic memoir, so it’s not intended as a standalone comic. It will have context!Paula_Knight_transvaginal_ultrasound

I used a blank scan of white paper to make the ultrasound image, turning up the contrast to pick out texture. And I fiddled with ‘warp’ in Photoshop. I liked the connection between scanning this artwork about having a scan, and making my own scan image by scanning ‘nothing’ to illustrate my ‘nothing there’ scan at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic (EPAC). The results of the actual scan are in my medical notes, which I extracted from the hospital last year. The medical notes helped me to remember certain details about it.

It’s probably a bit odd to those who understand comics that the radiographer’s speech isn’t in bubbles. She has taken over my narration – I did this to reflect the feeling of having no control over what happened in my story at that point. It was more about the scan machine governing my story – telling me what might happen next. Maybe it will be too confusing in context – any thoughts welcome.

Pixelmix 8-bit font by Andrew Tyler: http://andrewtyler.net/

Spooky Womb comic

My first printed comic, Spooky Womb (A true-ish uterine tale), is back from the printer. I’m just hand colouring the covers. I’ll be taking it to Comica Comiket on November 10th which takes place at The Bishopsgate Institute, London. After that, I’ll make it available online.

The grey covers have hand coloured elements – painted whites of eyes and rosy cheeks (Karisma pencil ‘Scarlet Lake’). The cover paper came from a local recycled paper wholesaler, only a ten-minute walk from my house. The comic is printed on 100% recycled stock.

I knew I wouldn’t be quite so busy with paid freelance work in October, so I gave myself last month to write, draw and get a comic printed – with a Halloween deadline (I made it but the printer didn’t!) And I had to get the whole ‘anthropomorphising a uterus’ thing out of my system. It’s been quite a learning curve but one I wanted to get on, so I could take part in comics fairs etc.

Spooky Womb is a short autobiographical 10-page spin-off from my work in progress, The Facts of Life. The story isn’t all that spooky in reality. ‘Spooky’ in this context refers to the nature of our bodies, which can behave in unexpected, mysterious and hidden ways that we can’t necessarily control, especially hormonally.

It was a good exercise in sorting out how to draw myself for the graphic memoir – something I’ve been struggling over. Still not sure I’ve cracked it, especially continuity-wise, but it’s getting closer to what I want. A friend once said that I draw ‘lollipop heads’ i.e. out of proportion (too big) with the rest of the body. It was an observation rather than a criticism but it’s something I’m trying to avoid. Some illustrators do this on purpose to achieve a ‘cute’ style. For me, it’s probably a habit formed from years in children’s illustration where head-to-body ratio is smaller (children’s heads being larger in pro to the rest of their bodies than adults’ heads are).

Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with the comic but plenty learnt for next time! After Comiket, I’ll be getting down to The Facts of Life again, so to speak.

Lost Lady of Penwith

I did these roughs for a comic, in my sketchbook, about an affecting episode that happened last week. I wanted to draw this from from memory with no reference materials. I’ve changed some names and details to protect the identity of the main character (I hope): [click to view more clearly]

I felt it was too intrusive to ask what was wrong with ‘Diana’. But I presumed (perhaps wrongly) that it was a form of Dementia or Alzheimers. Diana might have been quite happy, so perhaps my sadness was some sort of personal projection onto the situation.

Afterwards we went to Porthcurno and saw dolphins; I felt thankful for my own lucidity and relative good health. Not sure if I’ll go on to ink this up – just wanted to share it.