There’s something a little AA, in the sense of Alcoholyics anonymous rather than the Automobile Association, about that statement – a little confessional. So it's only appropriate that I'm going to use the time I've been asked to talk at the excellent monthly Laydeez do Comics event on Monday night to confess a little about the history of my relationship with comics.
But, as I've had to explain what this means to at least five people this week, I'll do it here too. Here's a neat, all purpose definition from Oulipo founder, poet Jacques Roubaud.
This usually means something along the lines of complicated linguistic rules. More fun than you might think. Really.
(And if you can't be bothered to do N+7 the long way, I just discovered this!)
My favourite Oulipian is* probably chain-smoking crazy-haired medical archvist, Georges Perec, best known for La Disparition, a novel written in French entirely without using the letter 'e'.
In the latest issue of the White Review, which is launching tonight.I've attempted to exhaust Perec's essay, "An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris." - a work in which the writer sat down for three consecutive days in the Place Saint Sulpice, Paris, trying to record everything that he observed.
The first step in building the Oulipian labyrinth as a visual is surely to create a key that is, if possible, more complicated than the words it represents. After all Walter Benjamin (not an Oulipian, but similar hair) once said
My infographic reconstruciton is sort of like orange juice reconstituted from concentrate: the result doesn't taste 'natural', nor do people really expect it to be, but it's another version of an orange. Here's a taste:
If you can't come to celebrate the launch of the magazine tonight (it's open invitation - see the link above) you can buy The White Review 3 (with my work on a fold-out poster) here.
*Oulipians are still considered members of the club after death
I participated in the final event of the weekend, talking a little about drawing in London and Paris as well as helping out José-Louis Bocquet, author of the fabulous Kiki de Montparnasse, by drawing a model dressed in nothing but Kiki-esque 1930s underwear...
In case that wasn't enough I'd like to announce some more upcoming events.
On Thursday 13th a lauch for the excellent White Review at Foyles. YOU can come - just rsvp on the link. I have a piece in it.
On Monday 17th I'll be talking at Laydeez do Comics. You can come to that too: you don't even have to be a Laydee to attend. And apparently they all have curry afterwards which is certainly a plus-factor for me.
Sadly I'll be replacing the fabulous Catel, the visual half of the team behind Kiki de Montparnasse, one of my favourite recent graphic novels.
Happily I'll be talking about drawing and writing in London and Paris, and drawing live (and probably life-sized). There will be Absinthe.
This is my take on Kiki, drawn from a portrait of her ready to go to work in the studio of one of the artists she posed for. Luckily I've always been fascinated by Alice Prin (Kiki's real name), the girl from the sticks who became the most famous model of her day - and no mean painter herself, with a sell-out show in 1927.
Looking at her in the photo it's difficult, in our age of airbrushed supermodels, to see how she held such sway. A little too hairy, a little too un-buff for today's tastes, she was ousted in the affections of Man Ray - not only her lover but the guy who fixed her image in the century's imagination with hundreds of photographs - by Lee Miller, a Vogue model and photographer much more in keeping, lookswise, with the Claudia Schiffers and Giselles of today. It was almost like the 19th century giving way to the 20th, the tram to the car, Romanticism to Modernism. Kiki refused to behave, be good, be conventionally beautiful, and ended her career overweight, underpaid and, most of the time, drunk, a heroic failure, like the heroine of a Jean Rhys novel.
If you'd like to come and see me - or go to any of the other events over the weekend - I have ONE SPARE TICKET to give away. As the festival starts TOMORROW I'm giving it to the FIRST, yes the VERY FIRST person who asks for it in the comments box below.
When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?
For years I resisted becoming an illustrator: at school art was considered a second-tier lesson for students who couldn’t cope with ‘academic’ subjects. I did an English degree and doodled during lectures but I don’t regret it because reading and writing are at the heart of what I do.
What piece of art most inspires you?
Right now nineteenth-century cartoonist Honoré Daumier’s Les Bas Bleus series about the pretentions of female intellectuals: satirical but also deeply sympathetic. His lithographs have such wonderful tiny touches like the smoke of a woman’s cigarette clearly made by wiping a drip of acid across the plate he was working on – such personal, hands-on ‘moments’ draw the viewer closer to the moment the picture was made.