Friday, 21 October 2011

Practice, Research and Professional Development - Comics/Sequential Images

As well as looking at small publishers and artist books I wanted to also look at comics and sequential images as this is what I'm considering using to explore the potential future of food.

Firstly there are graphic novels which I wanted to briefly look at to see what books were similar to mine, either in subject matter or those with a documentary style. The majority of food related works are from Japan. Two prevalent works are 'Oishinbo' and 'Not Love But Delicious Food' (these are what initially gave me the idea to do a sequential piece around food) the first of which explores Japanese cuisine following a Journalist trying to develop the ultimate Japanese menu, the second is about a Manga Author visiting various restaurants and reviewing them. 

Overall I feel the aim of my book is to make people aware of the developing technologies around food and make them consider their behaviour toward food by looking at future implications of food trends. I am considering doing a documentary style piece, which would be portrayed as non fiction but is just a prediction of the future.

When I visited Gosh Comics there was a section for Journalism and Biography which I feel are the closest to what I am going for (mentioned here are also related books found through Amazon and the internet generally). The section included work by Joe Sacco and Guy Delisle, comics journalism exploring politics and its effects on the local population. 'Maus' and 'Persepolis' are both well known books in this category, both exploring the lives of people affected by war. There was also books exploring physical and mental issues such as 'Psychiatric Tales' which explores mental illness, 'Epilectic' showing the experience of having an epileptic brother, 'Couch Fiction' which explores therapy sessions and 'Mom's Cancer'. These are quite personal and are more biographic than I intend my piece to be. I wonder if the piece doesn't have a personal focus will it mean as much? But I feel I could explore more future possibilities and explain the technologies further if I take a more documentary style approach. One book that comes to mind which doesn't have this personal approach is the graphic adaptation of 'The 9/11 Report' which makes the report more accessible, which is what I would like to do for future food technologies.

My piece will have a informative aspect and comics which have a strong information aspect are those such as 'The Stuff of Life' which is a graphic guide to DNA and genetics. There have also been graphic guides to Darwin and philosophers ('Action Philosphers') as well as 'The Cartoon History of the Universe'. Related to food there is 'Edible Secrets' which explores classified US documents involving food and includes information graphics. A good article about journalist graphic novels is this:

Both Gosh Comics and Orbital Comics had sections for small and self published books. As well as the bookartbookshop I should be considering this as a place to sell my book. Gosh does a 60/40 split for the sale of small press books, and Orbital encourages you to email them about having your books sold. I looked at what was already there to see what they had accepted. Typically the books are saddle stitched around A5, according to a printing website these are the typical sizes:

American Comic - 170 x 260mm
UK Comic - 160 x 245
A5 - 148 x 210

A few were half the size of this. There were also some more around A4 in size. I noticed that the ones that caught my eye were the more unusual sizes which is good to keep in mind if I want my piece to stand out. 

Another prominent place to sell self published work is events like London MCM Expo, which I'm attending at the end of the month. Below are a few examples of work that I have picked up there:

Above are 3 examples of perfect bound comics. One being a comic version Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tale 'The Happy Prince', one being an original fairy tale like story and another being a collection of works by different artists which can be read from either side (stories told from the back are read in the Japanese way of right to left) and the central story can be read in two directions.

These are examples of Saddle Stitch books. The two that I want to talk about are 'Filmish' and 'The Art of Sleep'. Filmish is a comic explaining aspects of film theory. It is the closest to the type of piece I want to do as it has an information focus, its works in a similar way to Scoot McCloud's Understanding Comics in that the main character explains film theory in speech bubbles with accompanying images. I'm not sure if I want there to be an actual character presence in my book or just an omnipotent voice over. The other book 'The Art of Sleep' takes the topic of sleeping and includes some whole page images and some shorter comics, it has a central theme but not a continuous narrative. This is another option for my piece. I also wanted to quickly mention 'Eco Dwellings' which is just whole pages of sketchy doodles of imaginary houses, I could have a selection of pages of potential futures which gives me more freedom than just exploring one potential future. These books also show a range of sizes and types of paper which does make a difference, for example the more textures almost watercolour paper suits the more painterly style of 'The Art of Sleep'.

These two are just examples of more unusual books. Both being small, one is a hand made hardback and the other is kept within a small envelope.

One more example of small publishers comics are these volumes of S! which take a theme and have various artists develop short comics and full page images around this topic. I like the variety of art styles and varied ways of approaching comics but all being held together by one topic.

I would like to consider getting my piece printed, which I thought of after visiting Gosh and Orbital, however I wouldn't be able to have it done for the competition. However possibly afterwards for sale in one of the places I mentioned above. This will depend on the design, I may decide to go for a more usual design which would mean I couldn't have them printed professionally. I do need to consider that I need 10 copies of my final book if I win the competition so it will need to be relatively easy to reproduce. If the design is able to be printed (aka saddle stitch in one of the sizes above) I will probably use one of the following companies:

Although the book would have to have a page number with a multiple of 4, at 12 there would be 10 inside pages (starting on the backside of the cover) and then 2 pages for the covers.

When I was initially thinking of doing a sequential piece about food but hadn't yet thought of a topic I looked up food webcomics. Other than Japanese comics these are probably the most common form of food based sequential art. Typically they consist of either recipes of reviews of restaurants.

Quite a few use photography that's annotated and put into panels like these:

This website collects recipes by a range of comic artists - and 'Webcomics: What's Cooking?' is a print version of the same concept. 'Drawn Butter' includes recipes for food and cocktails and explainations of glass types and other information surrounding food.

Also while not sequential 'They Draw & Cook' encourages people to create illustrated cards of recipes and its great to see the range of styles and ways of showing recipes visually.

'I Think You're Sauceome' is the effort of a woman to document her eating habits in order to change them (with recipes as well) and make them better and David Meldrum did a similar thing of documenting everything he ate and drank for a year.

I didn't find any unusual food webcomics (not to say there isn't any) and I don't think my comic will be particularly suited to the format, digitally I'm more likely to create something for the iPad. Lush Comics allows you to upload a comic and will host it on both and iPhone and iPad app, you get 70% of a price that you decide, they accept any form of sequential imaging, including storybook so my piece doesn't have to entirely fit comic conventions and you don't give up the rights to your artwork. They accept png and jpeg 1024 x 768. This will only be appropriate if my book format is quite simple. I'm considering devising of a way to make the content the same but experimenting with the cover material for the competition. Another thing to consider is double pages as I didn't notice any in the previews, so these may not work on the app. Typically people charge 69p for around 23-29 pages. They offer 3 page previews for buyers so the first 3 pages would be important.

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