Juan and Sally have thoughts on visual literacy, comics from the Women’s March, an Island comics club, news of The Beguiling, and much more to start your week.
Today on the site, Tyler Landry shares thoughts on running a weekly comics club in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada – a Comics Workbook “satellite school”!
I’ve been running the Charlottetown Comics Club (CCC) weekly, since the spring of 2016. At first in my home with a few trusted friends, then we moved to a public place – the back room of a local comic shop, Lightning Bolt Comics, where anyone and everyone is welcome to join.
I sought to model this club on a few basic ideals. First, the continued development and expansion (for myself, and members) of the foundation of comics-making skills I learned through Frank Santoro’s Correspondence Course, and, by extension, the inundation of ideas, influences, and examples flowing through Comics Workbook. Second, to gather locally operating cartoonists (of all levels and persuasions), who often toil in silence/obscurity at home, in a place where we can feel comfortable working and growing alongside each other, for mutual benefit and general good feels.
Lately, I’ve been really interested in how we create and share information (and truth) across the web. And of course, how visual literacy (and the tools necessary for its preservation) tie(s) into it. Let’s talk out about visual information and the net.
Did you know that more than 180,000 of the items in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections are in the public domain? It’s true! Aaron Cockle showed me that a year ago, the NYPL had announced this new part of their digitally accessible collection. Thanks Aaron.
Now everyone has the freedom to enjoy, modify, reuse and share the materials in almost limitless ways! NYPL now makes it possible to download these items in the highest resolution available, directly from the Digital Collections website. They’re BIG files.
It’s true, “the interactive visual library” has been upon us for a while thanks to search engines that could deliver images. Nevertheless, searching in that library is for the most part garbage. You have to sift through mountains of visual information just to potentially find what you need. Bummer.
Web art that is allowed to grow wildly from that collective visual library, in an art-for-its-own-sake kind of way, has for the most part been visually chaotic and the noise of visual resolution has usually been used as an aesthetic tool. Think Paper Rad. (Of course, there are lots of interesting exceptions like Dina Kleberman’s I’m Google project – not chaotic at all!) What kind of art is possible with tools like Public Domain visual collections? You tell me.
Relatedly and more broadly, this kind of thing reveals one of the many reasons why public libraries are so important. They point to a simple truth that everyone is denying. Searching via tools made by creators that work hand-in-hand with corporate interests sucks. It’s never deep enough. It’s never a rich enough experience. The paths to finding high quality, curated collection of visuals, for free, are long, windy, and sometimes non-existent. A private browser like Google, isn’t the most stable place to reliably find images across time. Sorry, private browsers.
What we have is the exciting arrival of another institutionally supported manifestation of archive-able visual memory. I’m very thankful. We have Wikipedia, Archive.org, and others, but we still need more. Yes, this news is from last January, but I want to shout about these kinds of projects from the hilltops. Especially in these times of “#alternativefacts”.
With the explosion of instantaneous visual communication across the internet, visual forms, digitally transferred, can essentially be considered as shared experiences. The shared experience of “having seen”. This aspect of highly networked communication allows for users to collectively “see” the world through a shared viewpoint. Permission to transform artifacts of visual ephemera, of past visual memories, invites us to step across time and create and modify languages using pre-existing systems of visual communication. It is the power to create knowledge. Captured thought held into stable states that can be comprehended by another person across the network. Truth as recordable and transferrable. Huge props to the late John Berger for helping me understand this and expand his thoughts from the seventies into the present day.
So why and how does this matter today? Expanding this all out to copyright, websites ARE the expressions of that thought. And, as such function as the basis for the merging of idea and expression of idea. Everything expressed in “recordable” communication IS an idea within the legal framework. Organizations with corporate money have the power to take away certain “sides” of information. Information nowadays essentially being the mass of recorded experience. That kind of power can shape the mass of collective knowledge, that is the basis from which we collectively determine “truth”. Turning the creation of ideas into a commodity form.
As a society, it is only through collectively supported libraries that we can expand what it means be creating, sharing and finding Truth. Commodity form as community form.
Please visit your local library today. It may have been a while since you last visited… It may have been just yesterday! Either way, do yourself a favor and open yourself up to serendipity. Get out there, find something interesting and check it out.
Sally here: The Guardian asked cartoonist Katie Fricas to document the Women’s March in Washington D.C. on January 21st 2017 – here are the stories of some of the women who chose to march.
Cartoonists were on the streets worldwide that day, and many of them were documenting the march. Here is a sampling of work I gathered from just a quick scan through my Instagram feed:
The Washington Post shared advice from eight creative thinkers to “the sisters who follow in their footsteps“. Among those who spoke out were Lynda Barry, Hilary Price, and Cece Bell. Advice from Hilary Price:
“You will face two monsters, an external one and an internal one. The external one is the person who tells you you don’t have what it takes. You need to cultivate a knee-jerk response to this, to the tune of: ‘Go to hell. Yes I can.’ The internal monster needs a much softer touch. She’s trying to protect you from rejection, but her strategies are misguided. She says things like, ‘You don’t have time’ or, ‘This isn’t real work’ or, ‘It’s probably not good enough.’
“Your job is to see through these tactics, then tuck her in, tell her everything is going to be okay, and go back to your desk.” – Hilary Price
And Lynda Barry says “always carry a pen and notebook” – read the rest HERE. (via Comic Riffs by Michael Cavna)
There is a lovely piece in The Globe and Mail about The Beguiling, the famous Toronto comic book shop that recently had to move to new digs – a location that one can only hope will someday be filled with as much history as the last place. It won’t be quite the same Beguiling that Michael DeForge discovered as a high schooler, or the one that pulled Jillian Tamaki from New York City to Toronto… The cartoonist Seth finishes out the article:
“I will certainly miss the Markham Street location. That place has a special spot in my memory. We all have a lost city inside ourselves – the memory of places that used to be. I’m sorry to add the Mirvish Village shop to that inner lost city, but I am happy to see the Beguiling carry on and prosper. Long live the Beguiling.“
- David Mazzucchelli’s interview with Ted Stearn over on The Comic’s Journal:
“DM: But long before you were making comics you were thinking about characters and settings and worlds and creating these environments and I think it really shows right from the first comics you made that there was this sense of world-building, or atmosphere—
TS: (Nods vigorously) That’s really good, I hadn’t really thought about that a lot, but I think that’s true, and I think the artists and the authors who I admire the most are able to do that. They did reflect on the real world, but they created their own—like, Basquiat did that, and, I don’t know, Goya did that, Charles Burchfield, and a lot of other artists that I admire. They weren’t married to “reality”—you know, so many artists recreating the world in their own vision. That’s what I appreciate about a lot of artists and I guess that’s what I was trying to do, though I don’t think I thought about it consciously, whether it was the sculpture or the paintings or the automatic drawings or the comics…”
- Comics on The Nib – recently Mary Shyne (Comics Workbook student) on Obama’s Last Mic Drop.
It seems like cartoonists are more needed than ever these days, whether it’s to document and comment on history, tell the stories of forgotten people, or offer insights into how to survive in this increasingly strange world. From comics journalism to political and editorial cartoons to sci-fi fantasy epics to memoirs to off-the-cuff mini comics and zines…we need it all to help us navigate and survive with a semblance of grace.
I’ve been incredibly inspired recently by the cartoonists in my life – from Audra Stang, here for her 2nd Rowhouse Residency, to Pittsburgh’s wealth of active and activist-minded artists, to my little 1st grade students who attend an after school comics class that I teach – and I hope that there continues to be many willing minds and hands out there ready to do this work.
Suzy and Cecil – 1-21-2017 – by Gabriella Tito
Suzy and Cecil – 1-22-2017 – by Gabriella Tito
(Suzy and Cecil strips that appeared this weekend – don’t want you to miss any of the fun! Strips go up seven days a week @suzy_and_cecil)
Joanie and Jordie – 1-23-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio
1-23-2017 – by Juan Fernández