November 2012 Laydeez do comics in association with Comica

Alison Bechdel at Laydeez Do Comics
Monday 12 November 2012
My name is Eve Lacey, this month’s guest blogger and I am a writer. You can read my feature on LDC for For Books’ Sake here and see my own blog here.
This month, Laydeez  Do Comics welcomed Alison Bechdel  to the Gallery at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, whose scaffold was doodled with black, white and red – a fitting backdrop for the sanguine shades of Bechdel’s most recent publication, Are You My Mother?  The meeting began with an introduction to upcoming Comica events, an invite to the Queer Zine Fest London, and a call for British comic artists to read and contribute to The Strumpet, a new transatlantic periodical edited by Ellen Lindner. 

Bechdel’s presentation, Q&A and signing were then followed by Charissa King-O’Brien’s short film The Paper Mirror, an artistic collaboration between Bechdel and queer/crip artist Riva Lehrer in which the graphic novelist sat for her own portrait and provided a sketch of her mother for Riva to lay over Bechdel’s own shadow.
Bechdel began with an explanation her of methods –  from grey sketches to blue pencil to black ink, scanned, shaded, coloured and digitally aligned with the text. Bechdel’s work displays an obsessive record of her own life and, using Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child, she interprets her precocious emotional intuition as a burden that turns daughters and sons into proto-analysts of their parents.
In Are You My Mother? Bechdel records Virginia Woolf’s musing on To the Lighthouse: ‘I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients’ – writing had enabled Woolf to put her mother and father to rest once and for all. Except she does not describe this development in calm, cathartic terms, rather her creative process is violent, murderous. Similarly, Bechdel’s regurgitation of her family’s life is not without malice. Her mother, Helen Bechdel, was reluctant to support the publication of family secrets, but in response, Alison half-jokingly explains the irony of the situation: she may never have developed a compulsion to retrace her formative years in such impeccable detail had her family not been so cold and distant.
Despite, or possibly as a result of, her mother’s disapproval, Bechdel has become a professional diarist and an expert in memoir, and unearthed the graphic novel’s natural affinity with psychoanalysis.  Marvel and DC comics often seem all ego and Id, all BOOM! and KAPOWW!, and it is perhaps in a direct mockery of this parodic superficiality and lack of psychic nuance that Bechdel carves out a space for the unconscious, somewhere between the image and the text. With at least two layers of meaning in every glance, Bechdel has found her own therapy – the drawing cure, contained within moveable frames, tackling the brevity of text and space by allowing the two to speak louder than the sum of their parts. 

During a Q&A with the audience, Bechdel addressed the differing mainstream popularity of DTWOF and her graphic novels; the extent of the autobiographical content in her comic strips; with the discomfort of writing about family members; change in space and format and the many fruitless attempts at animating series of her work. The most revealing and comical moment of Bechdel’s presentation was the series of snapshots of herself in costume, dressed as her mother and D.W. Winnicott, which she used to accurately illustrate postures and scenes in comic format.
Though Helen Bechdel, in the end, was a closed book, she could not help but collaborate with her own novelisation, and so mould the infinitely meta-textual Are You My Mother? And in the process of sketching her enigmatic mother, Bechdel found herself committing more and more of her own psyche to the page, paradoxically gaining perspective through two dimensions rather than three, until she was bound to confess, as she did at the end of her presentation, ‘I think I am a drawing.

October 2012 Laydeez do comics

Medicine, Conversation and Comic Artists
22 October 2012, at Laydeez do Comics
By Sarah Glazer
I am Sarah Glazer, you can see my work at For a writer like me (who does not draw) and is a newcomer to graphic novels, the Laydeez do Comics salon off Brick Lane can be a revelation–a window into the ever-widening scope of comics art and the London-based talent that makes it happen.  As a journalist who has covered medicine and health, I was fascinated to learn at October’s gathering that medical illustration has become not just a method of documenting illness, but an art form that brings a little humanity to medicine I’ll report further down on the formal presentations made on Oct. 22nd. But I’ve found that just as important is the inviting atmosphere Laydeez co-founders Sarah Lightman and Nicola Streeten create, enabling talented people with diverse skills to find one another, such as writers linking up with artists. Listening to the self-introductions at the start of the evening (required of everyone who attends), I’m continually surprised by the diverse paths through which people come to this art form. Many create comics prolifically in their spare time while holding down a day job that may have nothing to do with graphic novels. During the break over tea and cake, I talked to Ian Williams, a GP. He told me he uses the graphic novel format to illustrate the disturbing ways that doctors sometimes act out their personal frustrations and stresses. He has been unsparing in exploring some dark corners. In his “Cruel to be Kind” strip he dramatizes young doctors’ sadistic techniques for prodding awake a patient whom they believe is faking unconsciousness. You can see this comic in “Disrepute,” published under his pen name Thom Ferrier, and at the web site he founded (, which offers more examples of this growing genre of graphic medicine.
Illustrator for this Blog–Artist Phoebe Cohen 
To help me fulfill my assignment–describing the three distinctive presenters of the  evening– the very talented American comics artist Phoebe Cohen graciously agreed to illustrate this blog. Phoebe Cohen is a graphic novelist, artist and illustrator in Florida. She runs the website and has a blog at She is currently collaborating with Nancy Miller on the graphic novelization of Ms. Miller’s book: “Memoirs of a Copycat.”

Laydeez Presents Three Creators at the October Event…

Lucy Lyons, artist 

“Drawing my way to understanding” is the way medical researcher Lucy Lyons describes what she does.  Her occupation, drawing people and the human anatomy in various forms of sickness and health is “drawing research.” She spent five years studying and drawing examples of a rare disease in which a person’s muscle and connective tissue turn to bone, known as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive (FOP), and her drawings are often used in academic lectures to help understand the condition.
She has also begun to create what she calls “story drawings,” which draw on her wide experience of different medical situations. 
While exploring aging in Denmark, Lyons rendered arthritic hands with a beauty that even an old woman ashamed of her arthritis was able to see in her sketch, she recalled.  Lyons reminded us that this art form has a venerable tradition going back to the 16th century. Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius’ influential book on anatomy was illustrated with woodcuts by Titian pupil Jan Stephen Van Calcar. One of the most famous woodcuts shows a skeleton standing in a lifelike pose of grief, a “weeping skeleton.” Medicine could not be understood without drawing, 19th century pathologist Sir Robert Carswell believed. Yet his sketches went far beyond the clinical. “You can feel this man’s pain,” Lyons said of Carswell’s sympathetic portrayal of a man with subcutaneous cancer. And his portrait of an impoverished woman with an extreme form of the skin disease psoriasis gave the woman “her dignity,” Lyons observed, pointing to the personal detail of the earring she wore. In much the same way, Lyons’ sketches of elderly Danes reflect a quiet dignity.
 Fay Trier is a writer of monologues and short stories who has entered the comic art form by collaborating with artists for the drawing part. “When I used to write, I held on too long” to a piece of prose before letting it go to publication, she said. But working with an artist and a deadline “makes me get past myself.” Trier usually tells the artist what images she wants to go into each panel, as well as the words. “I’m very conscious of how I want the final piece to look,” she said. But she acknowledged she is more open to artists’ suggestions about arranging the panels than she once was. “I’m getting better at allowing my work not to be (only) mine anymore,” she said.
 My favorite comics title was “The Aspiration for Perfect Hair,” inspired, by Trier’s participation in a focus group for L’Oreal. Trier has also experimented with fables in comic form. In one, a character rolls a rock uphill Sisyphus-like. (Question: How long should you keep trying? Moral: “Until.”) A recent comic of hers set in London will be featured in Ink+Paper [].
Simon Grennan, artist
Simon Grennan, who has collaborated with American artist Christopher Sperandio since 1990, is the artist of the evening who most defies definition. The unifying theme of this team’s work, as Grennan described it, is that “We’ve invited people to do stuff they don’t (normally) do.” This has ranged from inviting workers at a Chicago Nestlé factory to design their own chocolate bar to compiling the stories of New York City’s nighttime workers into comic book form. The comic book, “The Invisible City,” supported like most of their other work by foundation grants, was then distributed free in the New York subway.
My favorite cover came from their comic book “Modern Masters,” based on stories from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the gallery P.S. 1 in New York City. “Modern Art Made Her Sick!” accompanies a pop art-style picture of a woman hiding her eyes. “She couldn’t bear to look!”
The artist team is currently developing illustrations for a comic book based on a novel by Anthony Trollope. The renderings, including one of a drawing room, looked very inviting with their style reminiscent of 19thcentury book illustrations. But I’m not sure I’m even allowed to compliment the artistry. As Grennan told us, he and Sperandio have now developed a set of rules so that ANYONE can draw like them.