Miscarriage platitudes

Following on from my earlier post ‘Words can be tricky, in panels’, I did a new comic page about one of the phrases used when people seek words to make a miscarriage-sufferer feel better. I understand that it’s hard to find the right thing to say at times. Below is my response to “It wasn’t meant to be”.

I’m not religious and I tend not to believe in fate or karma; this phrase suggests that such ideas are somehow involved, the presumption being that this will make the situation easier to accept. Fine if it does help some people, of course. The way I see it, for better or worse, nature just does its stuff and may cause sadness, joy or neither. I should probably have put all that in the comic, but I hope to go into it in more detail in my graphic memoir.

Do click twice to view larger if it’s a bit fuzzy!  I’ve also made a little stamp of my initials, carved out of a rubber, with which to sign future work.

Bamboo dip pens

The recent enthusiasm among some comics friends for using dip pens/nibs prompted me to dig out some old home-made ones. I wasn’t sure I still had them, but after rooting around in my old fishing tackle box (a must-have for the 1980s art student), I was pleased to find they were still there. I made them in an illustration module at art college. For any UWE Illustration class-of- 91 reading, I think we did this in Julian Fraser‘s class in the first year.

To make these we used bamboo cane cut-offs of varying widths; stanley knife for shaping the nib; aluminium drink can; and masking tape. For this thicker pen you need to add a rectangle of thin aluminium for the ink to pool behind, or you’ll end up with puddles. It can be bent into the right shape easily enough and taped in place with masking tape. I can’t remember if we used tin cutters or old scissors.You also need to cut a vertical slit in the nib.

This isn’t required for slimmer pieces of bamboo, perhaps because the ink’s meniscus is strong enough in a narrower space. Both of these pens are quite worn out but it’s nothing a bit of re-carving won’t sort out. One disadvantage is that, in finer pens, the nibs can split because of drawing with vegetation instead of steel!

I thought I’d see if they still worked, so spent an hour drawing bits of view from my studio window. The results are unsurprisingly haphazard but I quite like the limited control; it makes for more gestural lines and ‘happy accidents’. However, the accident on the roof of Jamia Mosque, Totterdown, was ‘unhappy’. I think this pen might be my preferred one for drawing trees from now on, but I won’t be ditching my usual Joseph Gillott nibs for panda food anytime soon.

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.