Heroes and Villainesses

Heroes and Villainesses wrapping paper design by Jack Teagle (the most awesome wrapping paper design ever)

(...apart from maybe Astro Cats by Ben Newman)


Women and Comics

For my Contextualising Practice summative essay I've chosen to write about 'Feminism and the Fairy Tale', looking at the portrayal of women in traditional folk tales. After spending the last couple of months actively looking for graphic novels / comics either written by / aimed at women or with a female protagonist, I have decided to research this further with the possibility of discussing some of these issues in my essay. I borrowed From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of ♀ Comics from Teens to Zines by Trina Robbins from the library this week as a first point of reference, and I'm aiming to read Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics by Hillary L. Chute afterwards. The culture of comics, especially the more mainstream titles / publishers has always seemed been incredibly male dominated both in terms of producers of comics and the consumers and I would like to explore the various reasons behind this.

Bacc For The Future

The English Baccalaureate is a "performance measure which recognises the attainment of GCSEs in selected academic subjects". It was first announced by the government in late 2010 and would mean that attainment is measured by GCSEs at grade A* - C in five areas: English, Maths, Science, Languages, Humanities (either History or Geography).

Bacc for the Future is a campaign to renegotiate these current plans so that the EBacc includes a 'sixth pillar of creative subjects' such as Art, Music and Design & Technology and ultimately to save creativity in schools. Creative subjects need to maintain their place as a core part of the curriculum in order to ensure the health of the future creative sector  and to provide children with a rounded and rewarding education.

The link above provides more information and a shortcut to signing Bacc for the Future's petition.


The First Cut

I recently visited Manchester Art Gallery to see their newest exhibition, The First Cut, a showcase of contemporary papercut  art. 

From the Manchester Art Gallery: 

"31 international artists who cut, sculpt and manipulate paper, transform this humble material into fantastical works of art for our stunning new exhibition.

Wonder at giant sculptures inspired by far away galaxies that spiral from the wall, explore a walk-through forest of paper trees and marvel at miniature worlds that explode from vintage staple boxes or emerge from the page of a book. 

Flocks of birds and butterflies cut from maps appear alongside artworks that feature dark fairytale imagery. Guns and grenades fashioned from paper currency and sinister silhouettes comment on social, political and economic issues."

Wuthering Heights by Su Blackwell

Map of my Entire Life by Rob Ryan, his largest single papercut to date
Wonder Forest by Manabu Hangai
Close up of a gorgeous piece which I forgot to record the title / artist for!
I really enjoyed the exhibition and one of my favourite parts was peering into glass boxes which contained tiny paper mountains. The large scale pieces worked really well in the space and gave a nice contrast and juxtaposition to the smaller pieces.

I also really enjoyed the Clore Interactive Gallery which I believe is a fairly recent addition to the Gallery. We spent most of our time lying in the giant kaleidoscope.

Miss Don't Touch Me / The Metamorphosis

For a change, I've decided to write about two graphic novels that I didn't particularly like.

Miss Don't Touch Me takes place in 1930s Paris and is the story of Blanche, a young woman who begins working in a brothel to track down a serial killer who murdered her sister. What drew me to this was definitely the art, I don't think I'd ever have read this for any other reason as I'm not generally a fan of crime fiction. I especially liked the really rich use of colour and the expressive line drawing, but that for me is one of the books few redeeming factors.
I think the writer could have  explored more the issues of gender, race and class that are so intwined in the story but sadly that didn't happen. It also struck me as being slightly exploitative whilst also commenting on the exploitation of sex workers, which I found very uncomfortable.

The Metamorphosis by Peter Kuper is a graphic adpatation of the novella of the same name by Franz Kafka, originally published in 1915. Having never loved any of Kafka's work I picked this up because I thought it'd be interesting to investigate how an already famous narrative can be adapted visually into a new form and context. In contrast to Miss Don't Touch Me I really hated the art in The Metamorphosis.


The House That Groaned / Eden / The Nao of Brown

I've been on a major graphic novel binge lately if you hadn't already noticed. I usually read them in one sitting and have recently discovered that the MMU library stock some, which goes someway towards explaining the rate of my reading them!

The House That Groaned by Karrie Fransman is more like six short stories woven into one by detailing a fortnight or so in the lives of the six inhabitants of an old house converted into six flats. I never really warmed to this, I didn't like the art (apart from the front cover!) and the stories would have been more interesting if they weren't quite so far fetched.

Eden by Pablo Holmberg is a surreal collection of mostly unrelated, unchronological 4 panel comics depicting tiny moments within Holmberg's utterly strange and beautiful created universe. One of the most recurring characters is the strange, royal animal depicted on the cover but apart from her there isn't much that ties the stories together apart from their shared world. The art is stunning - simple, dreamlike and gorgeously coloured, whilst the individual stories are at turns mysterious, funny and touching. I absolutely loved this and will none doubt read it again fairly soon.

The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon is the story of a young woman who suffers from the more obsessional and unpleasant side of OCD and her attempts at trying to keep down a job and find love whilst fighting her illness. I really loved this, the book itself is beautiful just as an object with its scarlet edged pages and embossed Japanese 'Ensō' on the hardcover. Both the story and the art are gorgeous. Maybe I'm biased in loving this book so much as I have the same kind of OCD as the protagonist and I haven't before noticed it specifically mentioned in any other fictional narrative. 


Two Years at Sea

I saw Two Years at Sea at The Cornerhouse a few months ago but never got around to writing about it. It covers a year in the life of a reclusive man named Jake Williams who lives alone in the Cairngorms.

Shot entirely on vintage black and white, 16mm film, the film looks beautiful. Mostly dialogue free throughout the films entirety, often with whole scenes just with, for example, Jake very slowly drifting across a pond on a raft for eight minutes.

It focusses on the small intricacies of Jake's everyday existence within the lonely, vast physical landscape that he inhabits. Although stark and melancholic, the film is ultimately uplifting in giving a glimpse into a extraordinary life that would otherwise remain vastly unknown.

Adrian Tomine

I've just finished reading Adrian Tomine's 32 Stories, a collection of his early work originally published in his Optic Nerve zine that he worked on in the early 90s. This is the first of his earlier stories that I've read and I actually enjoyed reading it more than his later work. The drawing was looser and more spontaneous and some the stories were really funny.

 I read another couple of Tomine's books, Summer Blonde and Sleepwalk, last year and although I enjoyed them, some of the stories were a little too depressing for me. The drawing is also lot more precise and lacks some of the character that I liked in his earlier work.


More Celestial Maps

Celestial Atlas and Atlas Coelistis

From discovering Urania's Mirror I also discovered Celestial Atlas (1822) by Alexander Jamieson...

Ursa Major
Canis Major, Canis Minor, Monoceros, Argo Navis, l’Atelier de l’Imprimeur, Pyxis Nautica

...and Atlas Coelistis by John Flamsteed (1776)
Constellation map of Northern Hemisphere

Urania's Mirror

While I was researching northern hemisphere constellations for my information board for the site project I came across Urania's Mirror. It is a set of 32 constellation cards first published around 1852 and  it has really strange, gorgeous illustrations produced with an amazing, restrained colour palette.


Noctua, Corvus, Crater, Sextans Uraniae, Hydra, Felis, Lupus, Centaurus, Antlia Pneumatica, Argo Navis, and Pyxis Nautica

Psalterium Georgii, Fluvius Eridanus, Cetus, Officina Sculptoris, Fornax Chemica, and Machina Electrica
Draco and Ursa Minor


Anya's Ghost

I really, really loved this.

Non graphic-novel book I'm currently reading is American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Site project beginnings part 2

I'm currently thinking of staging a kind of mini exhibition probably on the ceiling of one of the uni buildings or hanging from trees in the park. The exhibition would show some major northern hemisphere January / winter star constellations that the viewer would be able to look for in the sky straight above their heads. I would probably redraw the map myself and simplify it to only include stars visible with the naked eye (maybe a challenge as Manchester has so much light pollution!).

January stars



I recently finished reading The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman for the first time and there's nothing I can really say apart from please read it if you haven't already! It was utterly moving and amazing and heartbreaking and should probably be required reading in secondary school or something.