Jeff Lemire – Graphic Novel Shenanigans

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Currently- I am reading Essex County by Jeff Lemire for my English Class at Yukon School of Visual Arts. As you can tell by my forced formality- This is a homework post. So far- I have read book one: Tales from the Farm, and started into book two: Ghost Stories. And so far- I have just not been reeled into the story. No biscuit. No cheese. Nada. I absolutely LOVE the illustrations, truly, illustration ENVY. I was also intrigued by the cover art and choice of colours. Feeling like I was missing the boat on something, since it seemed like everyone else was enjoying the graphic novel ~ I did a little research via CBC. And here is what CBC had to say:

http://www.cbc.ca/books/booksandauthors/2010/10/essex-county.html

“Jeff Lemire’s Essex County is composed of three interconnected graphic novels — Tales from the FarmGhost Stories and The Country Nurse. Winner of several major awards in the world of comics, including a Joe Shuster Award, it was hailed by reviewers as “the comics medium at its best” (Booklist) and “a quiet, somber, haunting masterpiece” (The Oregonian). The minimalistic though intensely emotional trilogy gives form to the author’s inspired vision of what it means to live, work, dream and even die in a Southwestern Ontario rural community.

The population of Lemire’s fictional landscape is represented from childhood to old age through the characters of Lester, Lou and Anne. Their external world is rendered in stark black-and-white lines. The vividness of their interior lives, however, is what gives the graphic novel its colour and vitality.

After the death of his mother, 10-year-old Lester, the central character of Tales from the Farm, is sent to live with his Uncle Ken, a rural bachelor and a man of few words. For the sensitive boy, comic books and superheroes are a welcome distraction from the painful circumstances of his life.

Lou LeBeuf, protagonist of Ghost Stories, is an aged hockey player living out his last days alone at his farm. Isolated and full of regret, he replays the turning points of his life once again.

Anne Quenneville is the focus of The Country Nurse. A travelling nurse in Essex County, she has seen her share of suffering. Perhaps that’s what makes her such a force for good. Through Anne, the trilogy finds resolution and its heartbreaking characters find much-needed connection.”

I caught myself thinking something was wrong with me to not be enjoying this book. But then again- what I am reviewing is how I am engaging with the image and text, rather than the creator’s work. And to be frank- where I am at with my depression and anxiety, I feel like I just cannot and will not allow myself to absorb any more suffering if I can help it. Enough already- the thoughts in my mind do not need inspiration for regret and suffering. Even if it isn’t relevant to life events that I have gone through- depressing stuff just adds to the ever-growing laundry pile of anxiety triggers and a feeling of being uncomfortable. Sort of like sitting in a bath too long. Not my idea of enjoyment. I would not have read this if I had a choice, at least at this particular time in my life. I am sure that there is possibility to enjoy it, but not in the situation that I have found myself in right now.  It was the same with the other books assigned in class- full of heart wrenching  psychological ponderings, uncomfortable periods of self loathing, and a sense of negativity but also a cryptic secret commentary on politics, society, you name it. And I just could not focus, I tried, but there is nothing worse than trying to write an educated blog post on a graphic novel that you feel not so sparkly about, let alone an essay on a final exam. But I am not the kind of human to give up, so I will keep reading, and try to step into the world of Jeff Lemire.  Where are the positive books? Okay Okay, I don’t expect cotton candy and happily ever afters. Hell- Where is David Sedaris? Now there’s an author I admire. (Don’t get me wrong, I like reading books that have an edge of darkness to them, but it depends on how the author communicates it to the reader. And so far with Essex County, no cheese. I like a Humorist’s approach to dark matters)  Where are the authors who delve into less dark matters? [Would that be considered Grey matter?]  This is an improvement from Beautiful Losers, but I still find myself knitting my eyebrows together when asked to “make a comment”. So I conclude: I liked the illustrations. And like any other homework assignment which makes pulling fingernails off with pliers look like spa treatment- I will carry on. Maybe my opinion will change once I finish this book- who knows.

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Photo of David Sedaris 

 

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I like my Peanut Butter with a side of Jam. Please and Thank you.

 

So here I am blogging about what I did in class today. What I would rather be talking about is THE YUKON QUEST. OH MY GOD DAWSON CITY CHECKPOINT. WHAT. DOGS WHAT. SNOW WHAT. MUSHERS WHAT. FROSTED BEARDS AND FANTASTIC CHILI WHAT.

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I rest my case. 

Today I presented my Pictogram. 

Here is a short definition on what I am talking about: 

“Pictograms, like those that you are creating for our class, are images that signify more complex meaning.  They are symbols that represent a concept, an idea, an object, a place, or an activity.  Pictograms are still in use as a main communication tool in some cultures in Africa, the Americas and Australia.” –http://sovaartwords.blogspot.ca/

Alright. 

Here it is: 

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My apologies for the rather blurry photo. I WAS RUSHING TO THE CHECKPOINT TO WAIT FOR THE FIRST MUSHER TO CHECK IN AT DAWSON CITY. 

Anyways- my pictogram depicts the making of a rather excellent PB&J sandwich. 

Strawberry Jam actually. 

I don’t know about you guys- But I like to but PB on both pieces of bread, then put jam on top- creating a pocket of jammy goodness. 

So if they world ended tomorrow and people millions of years later found my pictogram- they would (hopefully) interpret PB&J, and study ancient sandwich making techniques. 

How do you make your PB&J? 

xx 

 

 

Collaborating with Nature. Talking about the Process.

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Homework Post #1

Talking about the process.

I have chosen this specific piece to talk about because it is one of my favourite examples of what I like doing best:

Working with Mother Nature. 

At the moment- this piece remains nameless, as it was hard to give a “label” to something that speaks of so many wonderful experiences and moments outdoors in my beautiful home town of Fort St. James, British Columbia. 

Starting with raw canvas stretched onto a wooden frame, I began simply just by staring at the blank canvas. Occasionally raising an eyebrow, I allow my ideas to float around like ice-cubes in a nice glass of Sun Tea. This is a very important part of the process- as I like to create art in a very meditative state. Also- I am sure I look like a complete weirdo- so this is why I prefer working solo, away from prying eyes. 

I then resort to squirrel like tendencies, and begin gathering resources that spark the idea I have spun in the back of my mind. 

In this case. 

Bones.

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I then, like a smart squirrel, document my findings. 

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A little bit about my model:

Well. He’s dead. 

Before kicking the can, this old guy was a good looking bull moose,

gallivanting through the boreal forests,

wooing all the moose ladies. (Cows)

One day, he decided to die of natural causes. 

I would like to think he simply just decided to hunker down for a nap and slipped into moose heaven. 

But I honestly don’t know. 

All I really know is that he was pretty old.

He probably looked like this:

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What a Studmuffin.

 

Soon- graphite, turning into layered fluid acrylic “sketches” are done. 

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Work in cramped bedroom.

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Soon, I move into my summer studio (Canvas Wall Tent)Image

 

Keep working. 

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Always coming back to study and examine the moose skull and antlers, skull books, trapper manuals, anything I can get my hands on. Now including books on Wild Flowers, Local Trees, etc. When representing nature in my works, I want to get it correct. If I am doing a local painting, then there better be native species included, am I right? EH?

I begin harvesting grasses, yarrow, dandelions, and other wild flowers and plants and begin experimenting with printmaking.

I am now going back and forth to working on driveway and in Studio. 

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Mother Nature decided to help by adding some summer rain to my freshly painted canvas. Giving a “washed” look.

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I keep going back and forth, inside and outside, choosing different times of day, weather, as well as how I apply the fluid acrylic paint to achieve a piece of work that I am happy with.

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Mother Nature keeps an eye on me with her trusty informers:

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Photo courtesy of Dexter Hodder. (Neighbour)

As you can see- I have plenty of live models to study and sketch from (both animal and plants/trees)

 

Once I am happy, I stand back and take a long look at the work. Usually making a touch up here, a touch up there, until I am satisfied. 

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This piece was part of a solo show hosted by a local cafe called Soup Wallah. 

The other paintings created alongside this one were all done with nature in mind. When I choose to create a piece of art that represents, interprets, or conveys nature- I pay attention to the details, and take knowledge from all my interests (biology, history, osteology, gardening, etc.) and incorporate it into my art-making. Working immersed in my outdoor surroundings had a very positive effect on the creation of this painting, as well as the other works that were also shown in the show. I often feel constricted within a “conventional” studio, and can’t wait to get outside and carry on working and learning from Mother Nature. Lots of research, meetings with the biologist down the street, and simple observation was done to achieve what I can now call a successful art show, and a very enjoyable summer.