Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bryan Talbot talk

I'm guessing most of my readers won't have come across Bryan Talbot. It's a shame he is a fantastic writer and artist, but as he writes (and illustrates) graphic novels he hasn't reached as many people as I feel he deserves. As part of the year of reading, libraries have been organizing events to encourage reading. Last night Cheshunt library played host to Bryan, who was largely talking about 'The tale of one bad rat'. This graphic novel was very unusual when he wrote it, as it was intended for a mainstream audience not a comics audience. It was fascinating to learn how many comic book tools he chose not to use to make this book as easy to read as possible. It worked too, I had tried several comic books before this one and found the impossible to read, this was the first that really grabbed me. It is a rather unusual subject for a comic book too, the psychological after effects of child sexual abuse. No it's not a laugh a minute, and he worked very hard to avoid anything cartoon like in the book, but it isn't grim either. It's a good, fairly serious read.

In his talk he explained a lot about the things going on in the background of his work to set scenes and get you to feel what he is telling you. It is amazing how many very subtle things he does to change the feel of the story. Things you would never notice but do respond to. Having been working for many years he had a huge catalogue of work to draw on to explain how he makes a story work. One thing that really struck me about the talk is he delivered it as a story. He spent a long time filling in back story and giving us all the clues to understand what he had really come to say, and yet I didn't see him do it until afterwards. That's one heck of a skill to have.

The biggest surprise for me is how much I learned that applies to my textile art. One piece I have been planning will now be redrawn. What I had done was OK, in fact I was pretty happy with it, but now I know how I can make it better. Somehow in all my reading about composition and drawing the eye I hadn't got it, it took a story to show me how different lines and directions work. I went to be entertained, and a learned a huge amount. If I get another chance to see this talk I will be going again, I know I missed more than I got, and it will take another couple of tries before I come close to getting as much as I can from it. If you get a chance to hear him, do take it. You may not get all his comic book references but he explains things so well you don't need to, and who knows, you might find a whole new literary genre opening up to you.

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