Category Archives: study

Leeeeds coooomics 

See that? That’s my planned table setup for Thought Bubble comics convention 2017. Leeds Town Hall Marquee table 37 might just buckle under the weight of many comics including :

  • Research questionnaire. Fill in a questionnaire about comics you’ve read, get a free sticker and an infocomic and the knowledge that you’ve taken part in my PhD research about reading British comics. The questionnaire is in comics form and will take maybe 7mins to fill in – good if you want a break from wandering round, or want to do something comics-y that doesn’t involve spending money. It’ll take a bit of thought but not too deep – the second stage of my research involves more indepth interviews with comics readers, this questionnaire is a stepping stone to that second stage. 
  • Applied Comics Etc collaborations. Free comics, all made in partnership with researchers, archives, kids, sweeeet comics creators. Promo postcards for Freedom City Comics anthology are hot off the press (launches in Newcastle 1st October) 
  • Comic Swap library. Read the well wikkid comics made by kids’ comics clubs, swapped earlier this year as part of a postal swap run by Hannah Sackett and I.
  • Applied Comics Network. Free badges, free chat about overambitous plans coordinated by John Swogger, Ian Horton and I. 
  • My comics and books. To swap with comics you’ve made, or coffee/tea/snacks, or for sale (various prices from £1 stamp books to £13 double comic). Say the secret password ‘I like your office wallpaper’ and get a free gift with any swap or purchase of my solo work, whilst stocks last.

If you’re around on Thursday/Friday come to Comics Forum conference – I’ll be presenting about my questionnaire & PhD research, and involved in running an Applied Comics Network workshop. 

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Notes on notes.

This week I handed in an essay and also made progress setting up 2 new comics. I’ve been thinking about notes, so here are some notes on notes.

My personal notes seem to be one of three, maybe four, things. Here comes a list:

1. on post-its then typed then annotated, if I’m reading a heavy academic book.

I’m about a year into my part-time PhD in Education, focusing on comics and values and Britishness. Overall it’s great. Sometimes it’s particularly hard. It’s already improved my thinking about the comics I want to make and help others make, which is a large part of why I chose to do it. At this stage I’m reading A Lot. Taking notes in this way helps me digest and remember what I’m reading, and also means I type (write) my opinions and arguments on what I’m reading. So reading and thinking and writing aren’t separate processes. Mind, we’ll see how that goes as it creeps closer to my 2022 (yup, 2022. Part-time takes for-ev-er) completion date.

2. messy and doodley and with pictures, if I’m trying to link things I’ve read (eg to write an essay or plan a comic).

I enjoy planning the content and the form of a thing. Then the actual making or writing of that thing has its ups and downs, then finalising the thing is enjoyable too. My essay plans and comic/project plans are fairly similar. Lots of arrows to show connections between bits and development of ideas, and a mix of words and pictures. Lots of abbreviations. If I need to show these plans to people, it’s typically either with me to talk it through or alongside a more formal version, as evidence of process. Not on their own. Essay, academic, and project plans are just about always carried out. There are a fair few comic plans that are in sketchbooks in boxes – either until time and skills and interest allow, or because in the planning I concluded that they’re not so hot.

3. increasingly minimal, if I’m taking notes on someone else’s talk and will probably show other people the notes afterwards.

Other people’s talks are tricky. Unless the speaker requests otherwise, I think it’s good to make and share notes.  I’m cautious not to share too much, particularly if it’s a ‘work  in progress’ talk. I prefer drawing-writing during a talk and sharing afterwards, rather than trying to livetweet comments. I like drawings that reflect the content of the talk rather than drawing a portrait of the speaker, though crediting the speaker by name is important. I’ve had good and bad experiences of people making notes on talks I’ve given (good: people follow up with questions afterwards, bad: they’ve misreported the facts of the work I’ve done, never mind different interpretations of arguments). Being nominated the Official Notetaker for an event can be a beast as there are so many possible interpretations of what’s been said – try to be neutral, switching off academic brain? report my own take on it? draw cute things and hope for retweets? – but can be worthwhile both personally and for the event community (attendees, organisers, people who couldn’t make it) too.

There are also sketchbook pages, doodles, and diary comics that are probably notes, but more in the sense of remembering things I’ve seen and trying out ideas than trying to understand and share specific content. Though that’s a blurred line. These notes matter too, and they take whatever form I darn well please.

So yeah. Whether text, text and pictures, or mostly pictures, notes are good. Now I need to revisit plans for my next chunk of PhD reading, and get some proofs printed for new comics. That’s good too.

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Brighton beef.

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I’m cross that I was told to stop drawing in a museum. I’ve sent a letter of complaint, and am sharing it here on my blog (oh I know, I’m rolling my eyes at myself) too. There are of course bigger problems in the world. Drawing shouldn’t be a problem.

Dear [name and job title redacted] Brighton Pavilion,

It is with sadness and outrage that I am writing to complain about having been told to stop drawing in the Brighton Pavilion.

I visited the Pavilion on Sunday 5th June 2016, the day after I gave a talk at the University of Sussex about my academic work using drawing and comics as methods in social science. As a researcher, educator, student, and artist I was glad to revisit the Pavilion particularly as I had included mention of it in my earlier research.

During my visit I drew and wrote notes in my A6-size (one quarter of A4) sketchbook. About two thirds of my way round the Pavilion I was approached by a member of staff who told me to stop drawing. This came after I had approached two members of staff, sketchbook in hand, to ask the names of rooms as little written information was available. When I asked why he told me to stop drawing, he said it was because some items in the Pavilion were on loan from the Queen’s collections and, I quote, ‘she doesn’t like people drawing them because of copyright’. If this was an accurate statement of your policy it suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of both the concept of copyright and of the ownership and purposes of the Royal Collections.

At the end of my visit I asked a member of staff in the gift shop if I could see a copy of the Pavilion’s policy on drawing. He directed me to the ticket desk. Of the two members of staff there neither was able to show me a sign or policy in writing, or to tell me where I might find it online. There were signs banning smoking (a legal obligation and good practice for conservation) and photography (a more questionable ban), but no mention of drawing. One member of staff repeated that the reason for a ban related to the copyright of items in the collection, and the other said she thought it was because the corridors were too narrow. The Pavilion was not busy; by standing with a hand-held sketchbook I was not causing an obstruction to other visitors.

Museums and galleries are of course important venues for education and for the arts, especially when combined with the value of drawing as a way of seeing and a way of learning. The Pavilion’s significance to the political and arts history of Britain (and internationally) makes it a wonderful resource. Preventing such learning is an unpleasant divergence from this mission, particularly when done through an unadvertised and selectively-enforced rule.

I ask you to reply to clarify the Pavilion’s policy on drawing. I will share this letter with my professional and creative networks.

Yours,
Lydia Wysocki

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Current status: busy as heck.

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Lots of day job work, lots of PhD work, lots of comics projects. Lots of talks about Applied Comics Etc projects and Newcastle Science Comic, too. Not so much time for drawing at the moment , but I’ll get to it.

One particularly exciting thing is that I was on the radio, interviewed on Paul Hudson’s Weather Show on BBC Radio Leeds. Listen again (about 35min in to the programme) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03jyjs9 (should be live until the end of March 2016).

Unblog.

This here is a blog post after the Comics Unconference in Glasgow on 28th February 2015. It has photos from my trip to Scotland Street School Museum the day after, because learning and that.

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The Unconference started with a big paper and post it notes brain dump of what people wanted to talk about, then hands up voting to decide which topics were most popular so would be in the first two parallel sessions.

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Unsurprisingly, I went for the ‘comics & education’ session. Damon Herd and Naomi Jacobs were facilitating. They asked if anyone wanted to start off with a presentation, so I did. I reused my Graphic Medicine (Baltimore 2014) slides about ‘Asteroid Belter’, skipping through to focus on examples of what comics creators and scientists got out of their collaborations. SPOILER: they both learned from each other. [To the people who asked for my slides: I’m going to do a narrated version, the slides themselves aren’t the full presentation] Discussion then meandered: it wasn’t a Q&A about this one project, it became more of a discussion, which I liked. There were good points well made about:

  • how research communication and public engagement outputs can also be teaching resources
  • how the cost of comics is prohibitive in comparison to publishers’ deals for 30 copies of, say, Hamlet, making it hard to teach comics as literature in schools
  • WorldComicsIndia.com‘s ABCD Any Body Can Draw approach to encouraging people to make comics, especially 4-panel comics (start, middle, middle, end).

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Next, and again unsurprisingly, I went for the ‘autobiography and comics’ session. There was no one presentation to get us started, but a show of hands found that a lorra lorra people round the table made and/or read autobio comics. Then:

  • Jef Lewis talked about her diary comics as a way of processing stuff
  • Andrew Godfrey talked about the Graphic Medicine approach to performance and autobiography, and “the fallacy of impartial text”
  • Hattie Kennedy was all up in the performance of identity as a comics creator, and whether readers of autobio comics tend to give these texts more of a chance than autobio prose
  • This headed into a discussion of ‘torture porn’ literature written/ghostwritten by people who were abused or experienced other bad things, ghostwriting more generally
  • Then on to the importance of autobio comics being created in the moment not later, whether to help the creator process events or as a record made whilst doing/travelling/being – not as perfect drawing board or Photoshop’d drawings later.

It was only at the end that we talked about different sorts of autobio and examples of wholly or partially fictional stories presented as autobio or through barely-fictionalised avatars (it’s not me, it’s this guy). It was a shame that this session was on at the same time as the ‘zines’ session as there’s potential for a lot of shared ground, but the magic of Twitter #comicsunconf15 helped keep in touch with the other room.

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Lunch was a reassuring Subway meal deal (I tried going in search of more exotic treats but it was raining).
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In the first afternoon session I like totally broadened my horizons by going to the ‘digital comics’ session. There’s a possibility of digital comics projects through Applied Comics Etc in the not too distant future – no offense to the ‘comics and health’ panel, but all my Graphic Medicine-related experience went into the ‘comics and education’ session.
The digital comics session started with an awesome presentation by David Sweeney from Glasgow School of Art:

  • we’ve had scanned comics (print first then digital), now on to digital first comics (then maybe collected in print) and digital native comics (designed specifically for online reading)
  • Comixology’s ‘guides view’ feature controls how much of the comics page the reader sees on screen at any given time. Sometimes this works (Batman 2.0 was made with this in mind) sometimes not (Watchmen’s glorious page layouts are unsatisfying when seen one panel at a time); Margaret Mackey 2007 wrote about the importance of the stability of the page for reading (like, the page as a unit, not about reading on a bumpy Metro^)
  • this addition of the Comixology guided view adds another layer to who is involved in making and reading comics. Sweeney showed how Walter Benjamin’s 1936 work ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ and Steven Shapiro’s 1997 ‘Doom Patrols’ can help understand how that works
  • Thrillbent/Insufferable won’t let their comics be read on Comixology guided view. They have other ways of deciding when panels are/not visible to the reader
  • some talk of comics by Emily Carrol and how they use web technology
  • apparently Philip K Dick predicted the emergence of motion (moving) comics, reckoning these would be the lowest form of entertainment
  • Homestuck is a digital native comic that makes use of hyperlinks, browser features, Flash, and other web stuff
  • visual novel games are big in Japan, there’s one about pigeon dating, and they’re sort of comics and choose-your-own-adventure stories combined
  • there’s research at Glasgow School of Art into comics and Oculus Rift and other virtual reality technology.
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Next session was ‘how comics work’, a narrow call between that an ‘WTF is comics studies?’. This turned out to be mostly about structure in comics:

  • ‘Gasoline Alley’ as an example of using the whole page for one image, with panels and narrative embedded within this
  • brief mention of comics designed to be read in different sequences, or no set sequence: Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Chris Ware, Karen Rubins
  • Woodrow Phoenix’s work: ‘Rumblestrip’ with no human characters and lots of text, well-received by non comics readers; ‘She Lives’ as a physically not and heavy comic read in groups, no text, the page turner might answer questions but is otherwise silent – different and similar to school carpet reading time/Jackanory
  • this one time, Marvel and DC comics banned the use of thought bubbles. We (and Roger Sabin) think the use of speech bubbles has been around since long long ago, then became increasingly prevalent in c.20th comics
  • we found Google images of what looks like an EXPO building in the shape of speech bubbles with Chinese text projected (?) onto them (alas, only a mock up)
  • Eddie Campbell has lamented that so few comics now start with a speech bubble outside a window, as it can be an effective way to draw readers in to the story with suspense over who said what
  • Dieter Roth’s 1998 video installation ‘Solo Scenes’ presented a series of short videos of him bumbling about his art studio, shown as a panel-type grid on a video wall. Sometimes he disappears from one panel to appear in another
  • Grayson Perry’s work The Vanity Of Small Differences, drawing on Hogarth and history paintings and political cartooning traditions
  • an art exhibition (Dave McKean’s ‘The Rut’) which included a mask to look through, with the eye line leading the viewer to the next artwork: sequential art without being comics?
  • some awesome comics graffiti from ancient Pompeii (two figures captioned ‘I wish I were kissing someone else’) and art from early Mexico with coloured lines representing that talking is happening without saying what the words are.

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The fourth session was a non-parallel session on ‘diversity?’. The question mark reflect the morning planning session’s discussion on whether we needed a session on diversity (race, gender, age, sexuality, dis/ability…) as much of this would come up on other sessions. The decision was that if we were discussing whether we needed it, we needed it.
The session began with a presentation from Kelly Kanayama on examples of stereotyped Asian and African female characters in comics (mostly superhero comics, 1950s+). There were many. Ari Silverman then told us about Diversity Crosscheck, a service on Tumblr where comics creators wanting to write about specific diversity issues can reach out to volunteers for advice based on their experiences. I was frustrated that the discussion didn’t really move beyond a frame of reference of (old) mainstream comics, as this isn’t my field of comics knowledge. Maybe I was spoilt by the earlier education and autobio sessions, but in fairness the digital comics session did cover a wider range of comics. It was also a shame that only a small number of people were involved in this ‘diversity?’ discussion: too many people for a group discussion? a case for more intervention from moderators? an opportunity in future to agree areas of discussion at the start of the session, not to deny free-flowing discussion but to make sure the discussion is as inclusive as possible?
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The final session was DEECAP, Dundee Comic Art Performance. This was fun and silly and worthwhile. There’s data projection of a comic and the creator of said comic talks/sings/acts/raps along with it. Damon Herd did stuff about teabags and guising, Andrew Godfrey made Damon into a taxi driver, David Robertson was Fred Egg Comics. M Contraband Esquire (aka Hope) rapped about copyright law, Kat Lombard Cook did a comic, and Paddy Johnson played guitar. I didn’t entirely know what to make of it all but I kinda liked it.
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That, for me, is true of this Comics Unconference overall. I think it was a welcoming event, and worthwhile. I found it different to academic conferences in the following ways:

  • the people. A good number of familiar faces from Comics Forum and Graphic Medicine, and a number of first-time-scholarly-comics-eventers. The teachers and student teachers contributed a lot to discussions
  • the reference points. I was slightly longing for heavy-duty conference presentations that set out people’s theoretical approaches and research methods. Some of this is undoubtedly because I’m in the very early days of my PhD. Some of it’s because comics studies is such an interdisciplinary field that I need to know more about people’s approaches before really understanding their work. Without this I found that whilst some discussions went well others felt patchy
  • the structure. Sessions that started with presentations – not as monologues, but as jumping off points for discussion – seemed to have a stronger start than discussion-only sessions. Sessions with strong moderators seemed to get most people in the group talking together. I missed abstracts as a way of having a better idea what to expect from a session.

All this is of course my take on an inherently collaborative event and was of course balanced by the immense value of spending a day talking withpeople about comics. I think the day length was about right. I’m glad I went – thanks, Comics Unconference 2015!

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^I wrote this blog post on a bumpy Metro.

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Newses.

Two main bits of news, I reckon.

One, I’m still making all the comics. Over the holidays I had a good old nostalgic look through the archive of comics I’ve made (lovingly archived on a bookshelf by my dear mother). They’re good. I can see I’ve made progress in both the content and the production values of my comics. This year I’m going to have a particular focus on further improving my production values. At the moment I have three comics in progress, each involving plenty of planning and gosh darn hard work. I like this.
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Two, I think I started my PhD today. In Education, focussing on comics, part time for the next 6ish years. It’s taken a fair chunk of work to get this far, with a whole chunk more (hmm, probably many chunks more) on the horizon. With good support from some good people.  I like this too.  I’m going to try to do some sort of diary comics to keep myself entertained… it won’t be every day, but I hope it’ll persist.  Here’s my first one:
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