Important info for you to know: You can become a fan of my page on Facebook! My graphic memoir, Tangles, is coming to a bookstore near you in fall 2010! All art on this website by Sarah Leavitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be good at drawing. I really do believe that a good drawing is a drawing that either pleases the viewer aesthetically and/or inspires an emotional response. I don’t think that “good” equals representational or highly polished. So in that way I am OK with the fact that my own drawings in Tangles are kind of crude or unskilled. I know that they have pleased and moved people and that is great. At the same time, I want to improve my drawing, make it more confident, more intentional, have the control to be able to decide between simplicity and detail, rather than being limited to a certain style because of my skill level. So I am going to take drawing lessons — though I might be too sensitive to take lessons like the one I drew here. But come to think of it, my favourite writing instructors have been the tough ones who make me cry.
Comics & Medicine 2011: attempt at an articulate summation
I will now do my best to write a brief report on the Comics & Medicine conference without using “OMG,” “awesome,” or excessive exclamation marks. We’ll see how I do.
For months now I have been both looking forward to and completely stressed out about this conference. Here’s why I was looking forward: I kept thinking about how Comics & Medicine was not only (ha!) a gathering of cartoonists, doctors, nurses, academics, and other extremely interesting people; it would be my first time meeting Brian Fies, author of Mom’s Cancer, who has supported me since I emailed him in 2009 to get advice on publishing a graphic memoir about illness; a chance to meet MK Czerwiec, who writes and draws the Comic Nurse comics and who I could tell was
awesome cool after just a brief email correspondence; and a chance to rub shoulders with people I had huge admiration for, like Scott McCloud, Paul Gravett and Phoebe Gloeckner. And here’s why I was stressing out: everything I just said! Plus, I was preparing for a panel presentation and a workshop, and I was convinced I had no idea what I was talking about. In fact, I had realized that I was a fake cartoonist, with no talent and nothing interesting to say.
So it was wonderful when not only did nothing bad happen, but, to put it mildly, the conference was a brilliant weekend of electric connections, artistic and intellectual stimulation, laughter (the kind that happens over drinks and shared stories of beloved parents with dementia) and self-reflection.
OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!
Here are some photos:
I arrived in Chicago Thursday evening and was late getting to my hotel because the traffic was crazy due to extreme thunder and lightning that ended right before our plane came in. I raced to the opening reception…
Meeting Brian for the first time, at the opening night reception. We became BFFs right away, which was a true act of bravery on his part, because I looked a bit crazy I was so excited!
This is a page from Tangles at the art exhibit at the opening reception. Wine did not reduce my extreme, vibrating excitement.
This is part of a comic by Thom Ferrier, the doctor/cartoonist who started this whole thing. I love this bit with the brain deteriorating… Thom is great at combining humour and pathos. See http://thomferrier.com
Then came the conference:
This is Phoebe Gloeckner. If you have not seen her work, go buy it and read it. This is a bad photo and does not adequately convey important info, such as a) she is ridiculously attractive, b) she presented a completely jumbled slide show that nevertheless captivated everyone, and c) the slides show the illustrations she did for Vogue Hommes in which she illustrated men’s fashions in interesting ways — the image on the right is a guy in a Dolce and Gabanna suit flashing a woman and her daughter in a park. See http://www.ravenblond.com
Brian introduced me to Scott McCloud, once I got over my shyness. Scott was very nice and chatty and normal, and even wore a checked shirt!
One of my conference pals was John Swogger, an archaelogical illustrator and cartoonist from Wales. See John’s conference post here: http://bit.ly/iAp1Gl
I went to all the panels I could, and they were great: using comics for health education with youth; looking in detail at Our Cancer Year, how the art both draws the reader in and pushes them away (by smartypants Mita Mahato of the University of Puget Sound), and more… Paul Gravett gave an incredible overview of the history of graphic medicine — I think maybe 1/1,000,000 of the comix expertise he carries in his head, Scott McCloud guided a worshipful crowd through a rapid-fire examination of comics and visual information, David Small talked about the torturous process of creating Stitches, and so on… I met Raney Linck, a nurse educator from Minnesota, Shelley Wall, an extremely talented medical illustrator from Toronto who is writing and drawing about her partner who has Parkinson’s…
Ultimately, I came away from the conference feeling like I had found my people. This group of smart, somewhat nerdy, compassionate, curious, generous people. It made me feel like they were all Jewish, or all lesbians, they felt so familiar. Especially, but not only, the cartoonists. Aside from my good friend Eve Corbel, I really had never connected with any other cartoonists. And now I have. And somehow, this experience of finding a place in the world of cartoonists is a super deep and meaningful moment. After a successful panel and workshop, and excited responses to my book, and especially after a stern lecture from Brian Fies, I even believe that I am real cartoonist. Don’t worry, I am still cynical and snarky. But this is serious.
If for some weird reason you want more after finishing this long post, check out the tweets I did during the conference (Twitter account link to your right), or the #comicsmedicine hashtag on Twitter, or stay tuned for my post about the workshop I presented, “From Diary to Graphic Narrative.”
I will end with two of my 100 architectural photos, from the delicious day and a half I spent wandering the city with MK Czerwiec and Paul Gravett after the conference was over.
The Aqua Building by Jeanne Gang.
Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, amazing outdoor sculpture.
The Kitty’s Parents
Cute Overload has never failed me; it has been there whenever I needed help procrastinating, or a break from depressing political news. And now, it has alerted me to proof that I am right about The Kitty’s parents. For those of you who don’t know, The Kitty is a main character in my book Tangles, and I always suspected that she was the child of the Owl and the Pussycat. And see below: it is possible. If a cat and an owl can be close friends, could they not be more?
Here is the drawing from Tangles…
And here is the real-life support for my theory. What do you think?
Vacation before and after
I drew these on the ferry on the way to Tofino for a much-needed weekend away… Now that I’m back in town, I would say that I am somewhere between these two images.
Sarah shares a recipe on Writers Reading Recipes
What will Julie Wilson (aka Bookmadam) think of next? This was an unprecedented opportunity for me to read from the delightful cookbook published by the National Council of Jewish Women in 1974, a book that I have read with pleasure, even though I haven’t cooked from it. It is the kind of cooking that my mother called “goyishe” because it was not healthy and relied on a lot of Jello and mayonnaise, but which many Jews will recognize from their childhoods.