Laydeez Do Comics London, November 2013

Hi! My name is Ingrid Brubaker and I was kindly invited to act as guest blogger on the Laydeez Do Comics event on the evening of 13 November, 2013. A bit about myself for starters: I am currently undertaking my MA studies in International Journalism at City University London. In practical terms that means that this blog post will be a chunk of text sprinkled with illustrious words rather than drawings or photos, as I don’t really draw that much.

As for comics, I have been an avid reader of them since I was a kid (especially Calvin and Hobbes) but got more and more into them in my teens. Not that many years ago, really. But I’ve read my fair share and I also worked a few years in a comic book library in my native Oslo, Norway. I am also on the board of a nice little comic art festival in the same city, which you can check out here if you’d like! Oh and I have a blog myself. It is here.

So, Monday night at Foyles. You would think the concept of the Laydeez Do Comics project is good enough for having a great time – friendly people getting together in a bookstore gallery listening to artists who talk and explain their work for the audience – but no: Sarah Lightman and Nicola Streeten, the organizers and founders, in addition bring along homemade cakes and coffee and tea. It’s pretty much like there’s a comic art party in your living room. If your living room is a gallery and you have apple cake and chocolate cake (with Maltesers on top!) being beautifully served in a corner of the room.

Anyway, the night kicked off as I’ve learned it usually does – this was only my second time attending Laydeez Do Comics – with an introductory question, to make the audience, quote, “feel the fear of the speakers”. This is actually a great idea in terms of making people comfortable but the best thing is that you get to hear a lot of great (though sometimes pretty sad) stories. The question this night was “Has something unexpected happened to you?”, which was triggered by Nicola’s story from last week of her dog suddenly dying on the beach, mid-leap. The question resulted in a lot of different answers and stories: quite a large number of deceased pets and relatives but also pierced noses, a motorbike gift, climbing squirrels and phones lost down the loo.

After the question there was time for the guest speakers of the night: Brigitte Mierau, Gareth Brookes and ILYA, also sometimes known as Ed Hillyer.

Brigitte Mierau kicked off by presenting a few examples of her work. Mierau is a stitcher who creates beautiful pieces with thread and needle – some so detailed it’s hard to believe that it’s not pen on paper but thread on (and in) fabric. She explained that she found inspiration in bits of overheard conversations, to-do lists and shopping lists. She also told us she uses the stitching to tell autobiographical stories, such as her experiences in art school, and in the sewn book of essays she has made, Stitch it to the man (nicely). Right now she’s working on a project involving graffiti and Venetian tourist t-shirts.

(What she didn’t present, though she totally should have, was her notecards. I could see them over her shoulder before she got on stage. She’d written every word in a different colored pen! Amazing.)

In addition to presenting a slideshow of her work she explained her artistic process. All her stitching is done by hand, since, as she puts it, “I don’t like machines.” She explained her artistic happiness really nicely: “Just the thought of being able to stitch for hours on end makes me really happy.”

The second artist to talk this Monday night was Gareth Brookes, author of the 2012 winner of the First Graphic Novel Competition from Myriad Editions, The Black Project. He guided the audience through his life as an artist, from the start of “Banal Pig” that was rejected from the local tattoo parlor, to the stick-man “Man Man” and, as he describes them, beautiful drawings with horrible poetry on them. I’d like to see more of those, actually, that was spot on my kind of humor.

His graphic novel, though, is less funny and more beautiful, and slightly eerie. The Black Project tells the story of Richard who makes girlfriends out of household bits and pieces. The story is told through Brookes’ work with linoleum and embroidery, which looks very cool on paper but isn’t, as he says, a very efficient way of working. Brookes also presented a story published in Art Review called “Dead Things” which I found summed up his work quite well: Beautifully made, really nice to read, but pretty morbid.

When Brookes was done, it was time for ILYA’s presentation, which was set in a different format from usual. Instead of showing his drawings and talking about them the Laydeez themselves joined him on stage in a panel conversation. ILYA is the author of the newly released Room for Love, published by SelfMadeHero, but before he talked about that the conversation went through his work in chronological order: From the idea of “Super Jelly Eater” in his childhood to “Kid Savage” and his contribution to the Manga Shakespeare series, King Lear. In addition to all his comics ILYA – or in this case, Ed Hillyer – has also published a novel. The Clay Dreaming, a book which started out as a comic book but ended up as a novel,  published by Myriad in 2010. This illustrated a point Hillyer made throughout his presentation: Things take time. Ten years, in the case of The Clay Dreaming. Having worked in comics for 28 years, Hillyer stated, “You go to college too early in life”. He also pointed out that most people had no idea what to do with their lives when they were 18 or 19. Instead, he suggested, people should work things out and try going to university at the age of maybe 26.

In his newest book, Room for Love, the plot circles around a young homeless man and a middle aged woman and their relationship – ILYA calls it an “anti-romance” – and how they deal with life. ILYA talked the audience through how he had done the coloring of the book. Mostly he used subtle blues for the plotline of the woman and browns for the plotline of the man, mixing up the colors as their relationship grew more intertwined. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet but I am definitely planning to.

And after this talk, the Laydeez Do Comics was over for this time. I had eaten cake. I had talked to nice people. And I’d attended yet another good night for comic art and conversation. Until next time!

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