The weekend storm has faded, and the sun soothes in through the window. My newly potted basil seems to approve, and I entertain the notion that this time I won’t kill it (I believe I have anti-green fingers).
I begin the Monday shuffle, sorting drawings, references, pens and pencils; plugging in laptops, tablets and lightbox, and complete my daily to-do list. I like to-do lists - they help to regulate, to make sure I am free to improvise - to be agile without forgetting the basics (in my case carb counting and insulin 🤷🏻♂️).
My work since Diabetes: Year One has been based around imagining ideas; visualising concrete and abstract research and concepts in different disciplines: from medicine [fig.1] and archeology [fig.3], to environmental science [fig.4] and history [fig.5]. I approach all this as a lay expert, as a patient, as the curious and as a communicator. My job is to ask questions, of the topic, and myself. To question the details and the obvious, to confront my own assumptions, but also to add my voice to the conversation.
There are loads of ways to begin to interrogate ideas, but my work is filled with the language of comics - character, movement, gesture, framing and lettering, so I tend to think best through thumbnail sketches in response to the research, and the thinking - where the coffee and staring into the distance comes in. But these are the notions, the quick thoughts; the thinking proper comes in making these sketches into drawings: correcting lines, finessing facial expressions, adding tonal layers, judging the composition and solving unseen problems [fig.2].
In some cases, these are specific images - such as figures 1 and 4, where a concept is isolated in an image, where considerations of audience and intent are wrapped around the detail of research, or the ambiguity of a concept. In these examples l have made decisions about standardising lines through illustrator [fig.1], or keeping the scan and wobble of my own hand [fig.4]; finding the right colour tone to speak to audiences, and how to balance my conflict between enjoying complex detail, and clarity of communication. The images display my personality in the characterisation and world building that emerge in adapting my aesthetic to a brief. Blending the relatable with slapstick and dark humour; colliding elements like the contrast and depth of shadow, with the tonal play and dissonance of colour; all these elements allow my imagination to play with the ideas, facts and theories that are put before it.
In other examples the research is theorised and embedded into narrative that tests or strips back the meaning to different readers and viewers [fig: 3 & 5]. Here I use different mediums to find different textures that, along with colour decisions, are important to guide and energise the narrative. The scraping of pen and ink against the resistance of the page creates a tension, but also forces a quickness of mark making that is both free, but also perilous [fig.5]. Whereas the laying of coloured pencil requires the images to build and build, creating a tension with the pace and action of the story [fig.3].
As comics, these examples bring in elements I’ve discussed before, such as pacing and rhythm through paneling, and the nature of the lines and marks. In these narratives there is the concern to depict the events and the story, but there is also the visualisation of texture, which is akin to the sub-text of the story, a deeper level of communication beyond ‘just the facts’.
All these decisions reflect my own struggle to understand the topic on my own terms, to insert myself as an outsider into the narrative, and in doing so to communicate to others.
These projects reflect different styles and mediums, but I feel now there is an aesthetic I can begin to touch, a blend of the surreal, the naturalistic, graphic design and cartoon; an aesthetic that is developing from facing new ideas, new areas of knowledge. An aesthetic that has grown from being forced to know type 1 Diabetes, and perhaps myself a little better.