Stylistic features of a Graphic Narrative

Monalesia Earle gave us a lecture on the stylistic features and mechanisms of comic books and graphic narratives. It was interesting to see how many different tools are used by comic artists in order to build up a narrative. Often we overlook comics as just a form of storytelling, and don’t look past the literary techniques that are used.

We look at how the gutter (which had previously been highlighted when we discussed Scott McCloud) offers “closure” (McCloud, 1993) as well as how different illustrative styles offer movement within a still frame. These include techniques such as Briffits, Squeens and Solrads. For the sake of this post, I will look at these in the context of my favourite narrative Watchmen.

Dave Gibbons is the illustrator for the Graphic Novel Watchmen and this heavy tome is packed full of stylistic techniques that were highlighted in the lecture. Most interestingly the manner in which Rorschach has a different speech balloon (a jagged curved one) to other characters, indicating a different manner of talking. This continues throughout the book and is used in order to indicate that it is always him talking when we see these balloons. There are also countless Briffits (clouds or lines indicating movement or speed) due to the action-nature of the comic.

Due to the size of the book, it is important for Gibbons to apply pace to the story, just as a writer would use paragraphs to speed up and intensify a story, so too must the artist. This is done through the use of the gutter, and varying sized panels, in an attempt to guide the reader through these scenes, and when needed, create a sense of urgency in fight or action scenes. Gibbons also uses countless techniques that were discussed by Monalesia, in order to set a scene. Watchmen is set in a dystopian future, and each panel attempts to address this through it’s visual language. Rain, fire, smashing glass, are all illustrated by Gibbons in order to draw in the reader, allowing Alan Moore (the writer) to be more brief with his words, as the illustration can summarise the general feel of each scene.

 

Dating Profile

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Here is a dating profile I made as a response to a lesson where we were tasked to do so. I chose to create a very basic profile, where I only showed snapshots of myself. My reason to do so was taken from my own ideas on the digitalisation of love.

Tinder is an app which has become popular in the last year or two, as a revolutionary version of a dating profile. Users have to pick 4/5 photo of themselves and this is then presented to other users when looking for ‘matches’. I find the concept of Tinder extremely strange, and I feel that it perhaps works on a base level, but fails to take into account that love is not simply 2-dimensional. It also does not appear to work as merely a sex-app as people appear to be on there primarily to meet people, and yet they know nothing of the person, apart from a few snapshots of them.

I chose these four images, none of which particularly explain much about myself, in an attempt to mimic the concept of tinder. Just as I have shown you four snapshots, so too does the app.

The graphic narrative I have tried to create is a very minimal one, no explanation, no likes or dislikes, not even a name. In the app a person “swipes” left or right depending on wether they like or dislike someones appearance. Similarly I expect my own portrayal of this to do the same. Four snapshots, presented together, not much to see, just a few bits and bobs, time to decide if you like/dont like it and move on with your life.

I think that the comic format (panels and gutters) is most suited to this form of storytelling, as it mirrors the purpose that I set out to create. If I had chosen a landscape or portait image, it would not have left anything to the imagination, and would have removed the assumption of my attempt at visually describing Tinder.

 

The Cartoon Museum

We visited the Cartoon Museum in Central London together with the class. I had never been here before but had heard about it previously from friends that had visited it. We were lucky in that we were able to meet one of Penelope’s friends, who happened to be the curator for the gallery.

He gave us a talk at the start and explained to us all about the exhibition, and the work that goes into running and maintaining such a collection. The first thing he explained was the importance the museum placed on British artists. In fact the museum was not so much an exhibition on comics and cartoons, but more a celebration of British comic artists and comic books throughout the years. He began by showing us a page from an Alan Moore and David Gibbons piece Watchmen. As I have previously noted, Watchmen is one of my favourite narratives of all time, so it was great to see one of the original sketches. He explained to us how this was originally sold off at a very low price, about 10 pounds per page, and how he was unfortunate to have had to pay a collector a large sum of money for this page. However I do feel that this page should have cost the amount which the gallery paid for it, I just find it unjust that a collector profited from this over the artist, but that is the way the art (and business) world works.

We were explained how these comics would have been done in the pre-digital era, with the colour artist selecting and listing the different ink colours that would have to be used in the printing process, and how this had transitioned to the digital age. It was interesting as well to note that many of these artists no longer worked in the same way they did and had chosen to move over to the digital side of the work. I found this surprising as often artists are reluctant to transition to the digital side of their trade.

We were then sent off to have a look around the gallery, which featured predominantly works from comics, and downstairs a retrospective on the works of Martin Honeysett.

Honeysett worked predominantly as a cartoon artist for newspapers, and although I am not particularly fond of this aesthetic (often harsh and unfriendly looking faces) I found that the subject matter resonated with the issues we face today. Cartoons highlighting the ongoing racism and sexism of the country we are living in today featured heavily throughout the exhibition, and If I looked past the aesthetics, many of the cartoons were humorous and enjoyable.

We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of pop-star and former UAL student Jarvis Cocker on the way out of the exhibition. He was visiting the museum with what I believe is his son (who looks like a younger version of him!).  All in all, I found the museum very entertaining, and the talk we received at the beginning gave us a fitting insight into the running of the establishment.

House of Illustration visit

We visited the house of Illustration to see an exhibition on women comic artists called “Comix Creatrix”. We  met at Central St. Martins and had a discussion prior to going. We discussed the role of women comic artists as well as minorities in the comic world. It was interesting to see the different perspectives the group had towards the subject. In particular a female friend of mine, explaining how she didn’t agree with a women only exhibition, and a male friend arguing that all exhibitions are essentially male-only exhibitions.

We then left CSM and made our way to the gallery. The shop was filled with many great comics, most of which were on sale at a reasonable price. We went through into the first room which was surprisingly the smallest space in the exhibition. Personally I would have curated this section a little differently, as being a group, 20 or so of us filed into this small space and I was then forced to move to the following section, and return at the end to see this first section, which due to the curating of the show (works grouped together in style and theme) meant that I was not viewing it in the intended manner.

The second section of the exhibition (or the first one for me) featured women artists who’s main substance matter was sexuality. Now it is important to note that I am commenting on this from a male perspective, so naturally there is going to be some form of bias. I didn’t particularly enjoy this section as I felt that the depictions of women seemed crude, as well as unrefined, in particular the work of Julie Doucet. I understand that women come in all shapes and sizes, and in male comics are often shown in a perhaps over-sexualised way. And I also understand that if we constantly portray men and women as beautiful, strong, sexy etc. we create a general image of the ideal man or woman. However this is an aesthetic issue for me in that, I felt that the style of the drawings were crude. Just as I don’t find a harshly drawn woman pleasuring herself aesthetically pleasing, I also wouldnt find an overweight man pleasuring himself aesthetically pleasing. I feel that art is important in pushing political and ethical messages, but I feel that a comic can do this in another manner than which Doucet had decided to do.

The rest of the gallery was far more lighthearted and less political, and there were a few pieces that I thought were really great. One comic in particular Ambient Comics is very similar to my style of illustration and it is something I will look at for inspiration in the future.

I find the notion of an all-girl exhibition great, but I think it would have been more interesting to not highlight the fact that it was female only, and instead present it at the end of the visit. This would allow the viewer to look at the exhibition in an unbiased manner, and leave with the knowledge that this was all created by women, perhaps allowing them to question their own issues on the subject.

Graphic Narratives

We were asked to bring in an example of a Narrative which we enjoyed. I haven’t read comics for a while, however as a child I used to frequently read comics in Spanish, and also the Beano in English. However my choice of narrative to bring in was Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

I own a copy of this graphic novel (in French) and have previously read it in English. I have also seen the film, and although I don’t particularly like the film (it’s cinematography is amazing, I just feel that it goes on for too long) I like everything about the narrative. I chose this one as it has far more adult themes, and the book itself feels more like a comment on society (In a similar fashion to V for Vendetta) than just a superhero comic. In Class we then drew up on an A4 sheet a simple illustration of our graphic narratives and the date, and then we were asked to put this up on a timeline.

It was interesting to see how this compared when all the comics were put up on the wall in chronological order. We discussed how subject matter seemed to change over the 21st century, from Herge’s Tintin comics to Japanese Manga comics. It was difficult to compare Manga comics to those narratives from the west as many of them were far more modern, and also contained varying subject matter. However it was extremely interesting to see how the illustrations styles varied based on geographical location and genre of the narrative. We also looked at how these narratives were reinterpreted, from Marjane Satrapis Persepolis as well as the different interpretations of Batman comics as movies or video games.

To conclude, by comparing our narratives across a time-scale as well as other factors such as look and feel, we could see the vast range of styles. For example the heavy large book that Watchmen was presented as, or the light-hearted children’s animation film Little Krishna 

I am looking forward to reading more narratives over the course of these few weeks, as I have not really done so, since I was a child. I would like to read more biographical ones such as Persepolis and Maus as well as some novels in the same style as V for Vendetta and Watchmen. watchmen1

Case Study: Honest Tea

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In this CTS lecture we were asked to form a case study. Me and Armel Bellec decided to do so in a group of two. As I am interested in the concept of Greenwashing, and Armel wants to research Tea for his final essay, we decided to look at the company Honest Tea.

Honest Tea was bought by Coca-Cola in 2011 and subsequently heavily rebranded as well as a complete shift in marketing strategy. The rebrand was undertaken by Beardwood, a company which works primarily for health and wellness companies (palmolive, kleenex etc.). The rebrand focussed mainly on “health”. Honest tea is a completely organic tea drink, however since Coca-Cola has taken over, there is a higher level of sugar content than before.

 

CTS lecture: Greenwashing

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This CTS lecture was directed toward the concept of greenwashing. This is a subject I find quite interesting and would like to pursue for my essay question. We looked at ways in which companies like Ragu and Prego market their sauces to user (not  by creating the best sauce, but by creating the most varieties) and how crisp companies market their products to different ends of the social class spectrum.

I would like to talk about the latter. Social class is an interesting topic as it is wholly based around stereotypes and assumptions. The idea that someones class background defines their educational/reading level or their preferred packaging is one which I find extremely unethical. Yet we see proof that companies are using these assumptions and stereotypes to market their products.

In the lesson we tested out the theory that companies were using packaging and branding to market specific products to a specific audience, by looking at the choice of words the companies had used. Potato chips are not healthy foods, yet the companies that market to a “upper-class” market, create the link between the stereotype that those in the higher classes of society are more careful with their health, and choose to brand themselves in a more healthy fashion. They do so by using high-falutin words and including health-claims such as “no trans-fats” (which arent found in any potato chips, yet those marketed to the upper-classes only choose to mention).

A good example of greenwashing can be found in the Glaceau’s Vitamin Water. A tasty alternative to water, seemingly beneficial due to it’s claim to be packed with vitamins, is in fact quite the opposite. A little bit of research will tell you that Glaceau is in fact a subsidiary of coca-cola. It doesn’t take a genius to realise why they released this product under this name and not that of coca-cola, yet people continue to buy the product, completely unaware of the manufacturer. In fact when Coca-cola was eventually taken to court over their misleading health-claims on their product, their response was simple “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage”. Perhaps they thought that in using satirical stories down the side of the bottle in the description of the product, that people would realise the satire in the name. This highlights direct proof that companies are using branding and packaging and unwarranted health claims, in order to market their products to specific audiences. Their packaging is full to the brim with details of all the vitamins it includes and each type of drink is sub-labeled with the vitamins it is filled with, yet a closer look at the sugar count will show that you’re better off getting your vitamins from pills than from the bottles.