Pregnancy test comic

Click to view gallery. The numbers relate to actual blood hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) readings taken from a notebook I was keeping at the time. I hope to use something like p2 in my graphic memoir. Page 2 is the original drawing I used to trace p1.

I considered using other text such as: Shall we watch Curb Your Enthusiasm again tonight? Coz it helps. Or: Once, twice, three times a lady not having a baby (bit cheesy). But it was mainly about drawing itself: giving the lost,  the thing that never came to fruition, some permanence by drawing it.

Thinking about it – this is something I’ve done in the past. As a lovelorn teenager dealing with unrequited love, I would draw the object of my affection – perhaps my way of ‘having’ something of them in the absence of ‘having’ them – or the only tangible way to express secret feelings!  This must surely be a common occurrence with artists – sometimes obvious in their work – where secrets are hidden behind seemingly fictional characters.

Here are the pages bigger in case the gallery is too small (click to view larger).

Once a collection of lines p1

Once a collection of lines p2

All the best from Spooky Womb!

Today is my 1st blogiversary so I’d like to say a big thank you to my followers who’ve shared, liked, and commented here over the past year. I’ve been pretty darn chuffed by the response to my work and I really do appreciate the support you’ve shown. So, here’s to you guys, from Spooky Womb and me!

Spooky Womb Christmas card, copyright Paula Knight  2012

Spooky Womb Christmas card, copyright Paula Knight 2012

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.

Medical record comic page

I recently obtained some medical records from my time as a reproductive medicine outpatient and a hospital stay in the same department. I wanted to see them to help figure out what happened when in that period of my life to help with writing the memoir. It’s all a blur of blood tests and appointments now.

One of the tests involved in investigating reasons for repeated miscarriage is a chromosome analysis test. This is to make sure that the parties involved are the sex they think they are. How we laughed! The no-nonsense fertility doctor just said: ‘You’d be surprised!’ That left us feeling a little anxious and so it was with much relief that our minds were set at ease.

This treatment of text and form of writing owes a lot to the artist Tom Phillips and I’ve seen it used by others also. I like to think of it as a writing technique and it’s fascinating what comes up if your mind is fixed on a certain subject. I’m sure someone else who hadn’t had the same experiences would find other words. They might not make much sense but to me they embody a feeling, not just about my own experience but perhaps of those around me in the gynae ward too. Here are the words (make what you will of them, I’m not even sure):

I Heal

She is red; Labor spit me out into hospital; Pedigree product not known; Numb; Blood is revealed; Her state is supplemented with opiate.

[By me and Bristol Genetics Laboratory]

Comics-wise I’m not sure if the ideas are a bit mixed up. I have at least 50 medical records pages so I’m thinking this might comprise a comic of sorts. I didn’t leap around naked in front of a mirror trying to draw myself – the legs are from a Muybridge Figure in Motion book and the rest from memory. It’s meant to be a bit like that old M&S TV advert ‘I’m normal!’

I’ve deleted names and personal info from the page – I didn’t think my fertility consultant would thank me for appearing in a comic without his/her consent. Maybe I haven’t deleted enough…

In hospital/ Inhospitable – graphic novel page about a patient/nurse exchange

I did this page early on before I’d started to plan my graphic memoir-in-progress The Facts of Life. I was experimenting with media and styles. I like the pencil and ink look but have since decided on acrylic paint and ink for this project. 

Pregnancy loss as subject matter is taboo and will make some people feel uncomfortable, but it can be rewarding, and possibly useful to others, to communicate such experiences. Call it catharsis if you want; I hope that it ‘speaks’ to someone as well. I’ve chosen comics as a medium because I feel that visual communication has more to offer than prose alone. This probably comes from my involvement as an illustrator of children’s books where images are as important as the written word in storytelling, if not more so.

This page deals with being in hospital during a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I’ve since come to realise that the nurse in my strip was probably overworked and over-tired on a long night shift.

I imagined what she might be thinking, but I can’t be sure what was going on in her head – it could have been totally unrelated to my calling her. Nevertheless, her response affected me in a negative way. I’m using ‘author’s truth’ in place of not being in a position to ask her. Sometimes you just have to make it up.

I think this is one of my images that Paul Gravett used in his keynote speech last year at Comics and Medicine: The Sequential Art of Illness.