Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Part 8: Alan, David, Joe and Lynda - The L.A.W. GraphicNarrativ Seminar Series


During the 8th lecture of the series we looked at the work of four legends of the form and some of my favourite creatives in the world of storytelling. My lecture showcases the various approaches to communication of these key creatives. 

Proposition Time Part 7

9 Object Narrative Exercises
This a great technique for creative storytelling that requires artists to produce a narrative artwork using only 9 objects to tell a story (and nothing else, no speech bubbles, no additional objects, no humans, absolutely nothing else, just the nine objects). This is about discipline and imagination. Make your brain mossy so it will grow great outcomes. 

I decide the 9 objects and your have only 1 hour maximum to develop your visual story. This can be expressed as a single image or as multiple frames. Post your outcomes on your social media channels.

Here is the list of the 9 Objects (pictured below also):

1. A Green wire In-Tray

2. A Box of CD-R80's

3. A Magnifying Glass

4. A Ball of String

5. A Black door hinge

6. A Yellow paperclip

7. A Green Spirit level

8. A Typographic Depth Scale

9. A Philippe Starck Lemon Squeezer


For an alternative version of this exercise. 
Here is the list of the 9 Objects (pictured below also):

1. A Green Cardboard Box

2. A Black Hole Puncher

3. A Whiteboard Eraser

4. A Large Rubber Band

5. Two Lego Bricks

6. A Bulldog Clip

7. An Electronic Calculator

8. Pair of Scissors

9. Box of Red Round Stickers

Part 7: Artist Presentation with Q&A - Akhran Girmay. The L.A.W. GraphicNarrativ Seminar Series


During the 7th lecture of the series we looked at the work of Akhran Girmay. He discussed the origins of his process. His obsession with drawing and research as well as his keen sense of personal integrity. 

Akhran took us through his influences and elaborated on his ongoing Graphic Novel project that is based on historical fact shown as allegory. It is about how treasures are 'lost' and 'found' as his protagonist searches for meaning in post-imperial/ post-colonial eras. Thanks to Akhran for sharing your work with us over at the London College of Communication.

All work set out below is copyright of Illustrator Akhran Girmay.
© Akhran Girmay 2022.

Part 6: Rites of Passage - The L.A.W. GraphicNarrativ Seminar Series


During the 6th lecture of the series we looked at the following sources of inspiration and storytelling devices:

Graphic Novels: Creatives

Jessica Abel

Jonathan Ames

David B.

Charles Burns

Alison Bechdel

Max Brooks

Julie Doucet

Dean Haspiel

Rutu Modan

Marjane Satrapi

Jillian Tamaki

Mariko Tamaki

Craig Thompson

The main points covered about the works under discussion in this seminar.

La Perdida
A gap year like no other. When the other is seen only through the narrow view of a fish out of water in an 'exotic' land we know are heading for trouble. 'Playing at life' is a phrase that comes to mind when I consider how vulnerable the truth can be. There is Mexican sunshine in Jessica Abel's drawings. Remarkable transformation occurs when one gets 'lost.'

The Alcoholic
Looking at the pros and cons of addiction set against the backdrop of 9/11 when stress is at its maximum. It shows that no subject is off limits, and that human life goes through many dark corners in order to make the person whole. Dean Haspiel's illustrations evoke the British 'Kitchen Sink' dramas of the 1960's despite the action occurring in 2001. A lost weekend can become the norm when you cannot stand on terra firma. 

I have an older brother and much of my childhood was seen through a lens that directly related the fact that he was the heir and I the spare. What happens when the heir is not the child your parents wished for? What are the consequences when fear and ignorance reduce illness into embarrassed denial? David B. locates us in a pastoral France that has shadows in all senses of that word. The coils of this family drama are there in every detailed page as we see the author's emotional state and inescapable shame.

Black Hole
You are young, horny and have puberty and exams to contend with. plus your parents are very annoying at this age. This book by Charles Burns is as intense as it is thrilling. It proves that we become adults not as independent beings but as characters shaped by how our peers and parents think and act. Or at least what we think they are thinking. In black and white the images create a sense of suffocating finality.

Craig Thompson's gentle but disturbing summer of chaste love explores the notion of what it is to be a good Christian. Like Black Hole mentioned above the teenagers featured are young, horny and have puberty and exams to contend with. However unlike the more liberal actors in that book, abstinence is the commandment to follow. Thompson sets the story in a snowy landscape when the two 'lovers' uncover the fact that feelings come from the most perplexing of places. 

Are You My Mother?
Alison Bechdel creates the follow up to Fun Home (the story of her father's life and death) with Are You My Mother? It is a book that is designed to help the author position herself in closer alignment with her mother. It does achieve this but not without a lot of internal struggle and difficult home truths that are suddenly faced. As Oscar Wilde once penned "
All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his."

The Harlem Hellfighters
Volunteering to take part in the War to end all wars but unwanted by their own Government. Our heroes join French Regiments and take on the ultimate challenge of humans in conflict. 
Caanan White's drawings are powerful, unflinching, and direct. Max Brooks writes with smooth authority has he shows us what it means to be a 'Black' man in a Klu Klux Klan dominated world. It was framed as a battle of good versus evil when it is really only ever evil pretending to do good. Each soldier is on his own journey but he is doing so with his comrades and as the most successful fighters in later stages of World War 1 the Harlem Hellfighters really should be more widely appreciated. 

Exit Wounds
In Rutu Modan's novel the Intifada is no joke. If you are trying to live your life in the politically tense and contentious modern Tel Aviv, Israel, you are acutely aware that Palestinians and others want the land back. Can finding those you love to serve to reshape one's personality? At what point do you discover that you weren't searching in the first place? A Rosebud moment if you will. Keep your head down and keep moving.

Hands down Marjane Satrapi has created a classic text that approaches the Rites of Passages that must be confronted by everyone when a whole nation changes almost 180 degrees in a matter of months. We are lucky sometimes to grow up in interesting times and I believe this fuels this vibrant story. This might be the only time when a comic and its animated translation both work brilliantly without either missing a beat. A masterpiece of visual storytelling and very funny.

Proposition Time Part 6 (Recall of Part 5)


Our fascination with coming of age stories is linked to the fact that change is inevitable. In your work, which rite of passage would you choose to explore?

Choose an issue that you feel is unsung and generate an eight page zine about it. This publication is intended to act as an incubator project for something bigger and bolder later on.

Select and A3 sheet and fold as shown in this Video (they are using a sheet that is closer to A4 in size but the principle with work with A3 too). Your drawings and ideas will of course be superior to those in the example Zine. 

Here is a list of a few issues that affect people to help you to get started with this task.

Access to Water

Establishing Adulthood

Forms of Aggression

Gender Assignment

Oil and Gas security

Passing for another race

Period Poverty

Space Pollution

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

GRAPHIC NARRATIVE Q&A: Johnny Recruit author Theo Behe by Lucy Nathan

Check out this interview with a person who talks the talk because they walk the walk. I found it inspiring and it also adheres to my belief that you can excavate your personal life for the services of visual communication.

Also see more of artist Tom Muzzell's work here.

Monday, 28 March 2022

My Book Review for Stagdale Part 2 written and illustrated by Frances Castle

Reviewed by Karl Anderson Foster in November 2021.
Frances Castle's website 

Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.

The Diary of Anne Frank


What comes to one’s mind when one is reminded of things remembered past?

In the second part of the graphic novel Stagdale, the setting is the bitter cold autumn of 1938. The air is still apart from the noise of a burning city just beyond the doors of our protagonist Max’s home. Max and his family face an impossible situation, all is not well. It is Kristallnacht a time of grave danger in Germany for many peoples.

The days after Kristallnacht Max and his family try to remain calm as they are imprisoned in their home apart from fraught trips to gather essential supplies. While his mother concentrates on making a home for them, Max watches a world outside that he no longer understands. We know how he is feeling because he writes about it in his diary that he has been asked to keep in order to practice the English language.


Max is uprooted from Berlin due to the rise of the Nazi party and its followers in Germany. We are witness to his gruelling journey across national borders during a period of extreme nationalism that will bring the world to its knees. Max is on his way to Stagdale, England though he doesn’t know it yet.

I think that the A5 landscape format works even better in Part 2 of the series as it reminds me of old photographs spread out in front of me as you try to knit together the stories of family and friends. Again Castle’s’ illustrations are a treat for the eyes and it’s the beautifully crafted details that evoke a time long gone by but they are still modern and prescient. The drawing style and character design of this complex world combines modulated lines with delicate textures juxtaposed with faded colours and sombre earthy tones.

Two scenes in particular leave me with anxiety in my chest and then a lump in my throat. When the Soldiers come to take Max and his parents away at the start of the story. You wonder if things will be over before we start and when Max says goodbye to his parents at the train station before embarking on the Kinder Transport. Max’s train journey fills one with a sense of the danger as our youngster leaves the bosom of the family for the truly unknown. Border guards are genuinely scary and unpleasant. Max has to learn how to survive fast as he realises that his wits are all that stand between him and calamity.

If you lived through 1930’s Europe, the politics, the hatred and the loss of innocence then Max’s story may resonate with you more than those born in the 21st Century. However what Castle is able to do with her art is to frame a period in history that is chilling even today. The matter-of-fact banality of the brutality on show conveys how people are caught up in waves of oppression that pay scant regard to one’s worth and place in the human family. What will happen to Max as a stranger in a strange land. Will Stagdale be his salvation or his undoing? I really want to know, and so will you!

My Book Review for Stagdale Part 1 written and illustrated by Frances Castle can be found on the A.O.I. Blog here.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

FESTIVALS and ART FAIRS - Where you can buy and sell Graphic Novels and meet creators

If you wish to engage with the business side of selling and publishing your work, you should investigate the conventions and fairs where the world finds out what's new and exciting in graphic narratives. Oh and there might be some Cosplay going on too! There are far too many for me to feature them all here, but these are ones I'd go to.

MOCCA Arts Festival 
Happens in April 2022

London Book Fair 
Happens in April 2022

MCM Comic Con (London) 
Happens in May and October 2022

Happens in June/ July 2022

Comic Con International 
Happens in July 2022

Happens in September 2022

Small Press Expo 
Happens in September 2022

The Lakes International Comics Art Festival  
Happens in October 2022

Thought Bubble 
Happens in November 2022

MCM Comic Con (Birmingham) 
Happens in November 2022

Festival Angoulême 
Next Festival happens in Spring 2023

Friday, 18 March 2022

Part 5: The March of John Lewis: Why Equality Matters - The L.A.W. GraphicNarrativ Seminar Series


During the 5th lecture of the series we looked at the following sources of inspiration and storytelling devices:

Academic and Curators of the format who you can check out in the UAL Libraries or online

Graphic Novels Creatives

Kyle Baker

Warren Pleece

Nate Powell

Publishers of Graphic Novels 

Abrams books

Top Shelf Productions


The lecture slides are shown below that covered the main points of the works under discussion;

Graphic Novels can bring ideas to people that they might not engage with otherwise. The two books, 'March' and 'Nat Turner' show the lives of citizens who are not part of the mainstream in the US. The events covered happened more than 100 years apart - however just how much has really changed? What is happening in the head of the oppressor? Why did they make these choices in the first place? Can they even change?

In March the illustration by Nate Powell are realistic and do evoke the time period covered (there is much source material provided and a lot of it is preserved as US history. We are shown people as they are and that is scary at times. Working in black and white gives a documentary feel to the work.

In Nat Turner the illustrations by Kyle Baker are loose and expressionistic (almost sketches) but they do present us with a far-off age. He doesn't shy away from graphic violence and degradation. Working in black and white the book impresses as a diary of a tale of horror and woe. 

It was a good lecture with only one conclusion, we need to find the best way to be equal as people and to make the most of all of the talent that is out there. If humanity is to prevail, we cannot leave anyone behind. We only win when we all win. Think about the unsung issues that affect people that might be aided by the creation of a graphic narrative to explore and promote the new ideas. We are now in an era where what has been outside of the mainstream can be embraced by a majority of readers. Our work should be useful and change how the world sees things.

If you would like to know more about this subject then you can watch a video presentation of my Challenging Times lecture here (duration: 35 mins 50 seconds). Please note only those registered at The University of the Arts, London can watch this video presentation at this time.

Proposition Time Part 5


Choose and issue that you feel is unsung and generate an eight page zine about it. This publication is intended to act as an incubator project for something bigger and bolder later on.

Select and A3 sheet and fold as shown in this Video (they are using a sheet that is closer to A4 in size but the principle with work with A3 too). Your drawings and ideas will of course be superior to those in the example Zine. Bring the Zine to the next lecture on Thursday 21 March 2022.

Here is a list of a few issues that affect people to help you to get started with this task.

Access to Water

Establishing Adulthood

Forms of Aggression

Gender Assignment

Oil and Gas security

Passing for another race

Period Poverty

Space Pollution