Category Archives: Autobiography

super duper late… my comic in response to One! Hundred! Demons!

Making the demons piece was a mental and creative break that I desperately needed. I just went in with my own ink, my brush, and my paper. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself about any linework or tracing before so I just went through the many things that I had running through my brain and put them into a paper format. Firstly, making this piece gave me a lot of art confidence that I needed. I worked from the objects around me as well as images from my brain to create my figures that keep me up at night. I play with the physical space of the bed and the space of my brain and how often at night the two become indistinguishable.

Although I paint a few different faces as demons, the only object that I give a real “face” to was the cup of paint brushes. I didn’t feel like just the cup of brushes could convey the truly bad feeling that looking at my dusty art supplies gives me. It is a creature, a demon.

It’s also been one year since I made a verbal commitment to myself to make more art. I made this commitment last year when I treated myself to some new art supplies and ventured into the world of Inktober, a daily drawing challenge throughout the month of October. As Inktober this year started to roll around, I was reminded of my (failed) commitment last year… But then I stopped.

I looked at the incredible growth I have made in the past year, experimenting with new mediums and processes as well as making the full commitment to an Art Major. This year I made hella money off of my art…. Like a lot. I sold many of my prints last month. My comic is about the process of acceptance with my art that I am still actively working towards. Many days I beat myself up about my lack of making, due to my overcommitment to social justice and other extracurriculars at this school. Every day, I scribble in the margins of my papers, on top of old readings, on the inside of planner pages, in hopes of these small bursts of non-commital making help me advance my craft and skill. I often take the time of pen to paper for granted, but I am beginning to find beauty and solace in these tiny escapes.

Making this comic made me step back and congratulate myself for this growth I have made in the past year, something I don’t do hardly enough. I am working on a larger path to self-love and acceptance, of all my demons. My demons make me who I am. I am hoping to working alongside them rather than against them. I hope to turn that dusty cup of brushes into a happy, overused glass full of tools.

However, the dust that collects reminds me of the other important work that I am doing, to make a future where making art is easier and more accessible to folks like me. I know that all of my work is important and it was so beneficial to turn that feeling into a comic.

owned by @megwaldz

owned by @megwaldz

owned by @megwaldz

 

Autobio Response

In creating my piece for the Lynda Barry art project, I had a somewhat difficult time trying to parse out what the demon I most felt like representing. I have in past written about my experiences, and spoken about them, but in some way this was a different kind of story. My life is layered with stories of strength and power, but also of pain and weakness. As such, I wanted to find the moment, or series of moments, that made me think about myself in a different way, one that was in some way self-constructed. To the surprise of very few people, the moment I focused on was a moment that I’ve talked about before, and one that is still in some way haunting my memories.

 

When I was a kid, I was raised to believe that men were men, and that feminine qualities’ in someone like me at the time, a male, had to be erased. When those feelings and character traits started to come up, I attempted to fight them back in the best way I knew, which was to attempt to play football. In my eyes, doing the football camp was in some way me proving to myself that I was a male. Naturally it didn’t work at all, and I found myself in a kind of intertidal zone in life. When I eventually realized that I was in fact a trans individual, I went in the other direction, pushing away anything that could be seen as masculine. There came a point where however, I realized that my reasons for doing them were shaky at best, and gradually I found myself comfortably moving back towards the middle, as a kind of butch fem.

 

Creating this comic was the first time that I had really explored how such a concept had shaped me as an individual. My drawings retained my sketch, pen and paper kind of style, and in a way that has allowed me to show a sense of personal power that writing on a computer has limited. Even though they are not fantastic, beautifully drawn works, in some way they are the most realistic form of art that I can create. They come out quickly, and in allowing it to flow I am not editing myself in the same way. When the pen gets put down, that line stays. There is not fixing of mistakes, because in this autobiography mistakes just become a part of my process.

 

I am not a perfect individual by any means, and I think that this drawing method is bringing out layers in my own life that I am perhaps just finally having the chance to understand myself as an individual for once, rather than forcing myself to compare myself to others. I think that these autobiographic comics allow a certain level of power in that way, as the only person drawing the lines is the person who has lived through those experiences, allowing them represent what they see their life to be. Honestly yet also not is something I saw throughout this, as I was able to represent it how I saw it, and in some way validated my own experiences.

Autobiography Reflection

Writing my own autobiographical comic for the Lynda Barry assignment wasn’t the first time I’ve written about my own life in comics form – I did an independent study on drawing comics last fall and used a piece of nonfiction I had previously written as a starting point. However, for me, these two pieces of nonfiction writing were quite different. The piece I did for the Lynda Barry project was conceived as a comic piece, not translated into one from just text. I found this to be much more conductive to something genuine, at least for me, especially since there were less intermediary steps. 

One thing I tried to do when doing the Lynda Barry project was think of my demons in a more abstract way, which I think is a things that Barry did. I appreciated this because I thought that it helped to get at the things that are a little harder to talk about, but I also found that this made it a little more difficult, at times to think/talk about them. I also found myself trying to give certain categories of things I do/issues that I have so that I could better address them. I think this allowed me to better understand the issues I wanted to write about and allowed me to better address them within myself. 

Furthermore, I really appreciated starting more or less with just drawing the demon, and then integrating it into a comic. At least, that’s the way that I tackled this assignment. It felt more productive and useful to me to try and pin down that the thing was and then see if I could trace it through a narrative or potentially more than one narrative that I wished to address. 

One thing that I found interesting was the way that my writing changed when I did write in this way. For one, the images I came up with when drawing for the autobiographical webcomic were not so much a story in themselves. I used less dialogue and used more caption type writing. It felt more like a diary entry than a narrative story. I addressed a lot more of my thoughts on and about the specific thing than actual events that took place involving the thing. The images might have shown events that actually occurred, but they were more out of time and place experiences and moments that came together to support what I was writing. In all, I found the Lynda Barry exercise to be a good, but different, way to start writing, and I would like to further explore autobiographical writing in comics.

Autobiography Reflection

I was interested in the way that our reading for today analyzed the similarities in autobiographical style between Bechdel and Barry. In many ways I felt that the two texts were opposites, since both have such a different style of narrative, temporality, tone, and color. However, I do think that women’s autobiographical art projects, as a genre, tend to run along somewhat predictable lines. When searching for autobiographies for my group presentation this week, the options of art styles and subjects seemed surprisingly limited considering the great variety of comics outside this category, and the variety of styles from detailed to simple to purposefully grotesque and ugly. Most women’s autobiographies had to do with trauma, mental illness, love, and coming of age, and used art styles which if not the same seemed to exist in the same family of art history and style. The most interesting graphics I found in this category were shorter, almost informal comics: like the dream-horror comics of Emily Carrol, Kate Beaton’s joking self reflections, or the incomprehensible therapy-comics made by young women on the internet, for no audience but themselves.

When making my own autobiographical comic, I thought a little about what I would like to read in someone else’s comic, as well as what would feel good for me to produce. I would like to see the genre of autobiography expand from its current form into stranger, less immediately accessible styles and forms. For my own comic, I thought that since I was under no obligation to create a comprehensible narrative for a publisher or audience, I should just draw abstractions which connected to my emotions, and write whatever words came to mind unedited. I also wanted to get away from the usual, linear progression and often consistent, simple, almost cutesy style of many graphic novels which gain popularity in mainstream culture. It made me reflect on the challenges that people trying to tell a narrative face in terms of the visual art side of comics, and the limitations and possibilities created by the medium.

Thinking about other people when writing about yourself

The thing I found most challenging about writing an autobiographical web comic was finding a way to tell a story without explaining too much. I went into this comic focused on the general idea rather than the story, which made me feel like I ended up using pictures to accompany words, rather than pictures, with words. Without the story, there isn’t nearly as much weight to the comic itself.

In her paper Schlick spends a lot of time talking about intertextuality; for Fun Home in particular she takes the parts of the story apart and frames them in their literary references. We mentioned in class that many English departments who use Fun Home, teach it through its literary references, tying the character’s back to the stories they read.  We also talked about that this isn’t necessarily the point of Fun Home, that the book (which certainly leans heavily on allusion) has the ability to stand for itself as someone’s story, and overlooking the story for the references could miss the personal experience behind it. These references however do another piece in the confrontation of the greatest problem faced by any means of communication ever, actually communicating things, or having someone think about something the way you do, if only for an instant. While many readers (myself included) aren’t the most intrigued by her references if you have read them (and enjoyed them, and talked about them with your friends over lunch) they do help breakdown another barrier of identification between the reader and Bechdel, easing them into the mental space that she constructed to bring them along with her. While I have been spending most of this talking about literary references I think this idea of using tools to construct a mental space for the reader, or in other words, making others feel how you felt, is the central focus of many autobiographies (certainly for any autobiography that is not just concerned with lining up dates correctly.) I think the reason Barry and Bechdel are such great writers is because their decisions appear to ultimately be facing back to this idea. Bechdel in particular brings all elements of her form that she has control over to put the reader in a place where they can understand what she was saying, it’s not just the stories she chose, but the way her figures stand, the colors she uses, the references she makes, each trying to form a connection with the reader, each its own type of metaphor trying to put the thoughts and feelings that ran through her head into yours. Barry while less “refined” is after the same thing in her novel. Simple short stories relatable enough to feel and sink into, paired with grotesque yet storybook-like visuals gives the reader that feeling of exploration and anxiety of the teenage years where most of her stories took place. While Schlick takes apart Cicadas from One! Hundred! Demons! for all the straightforward x is like y metaphors, I think Barry’s true mastery comes from how she constructs a different kind of metaphor, building a scene that is like our lives but different. Taking all the times we have walked into a house with fruit on the table and adding a rope. Pulling the reader into to her mental space with what they know, and adding something different.

That’s all to say, I think I should have added more story in my autobiography, while most of it makes sense to me, I don’t think that I included enough interface for the reader. Maybe next week.

demons + autobiography

I’ve never really been a person prone to autobiography; those personal narrative essays from the fifth grade always had me stumped for ideas. So reading Schlick’s essay on the ways Bechdel and Barry convey experience left me wondering not so much how to convey my own experience, but if I was even conveying an experience at all. He titled the essay with a question asking what experience was, and while I can see that experiences can be completely internal, I felt like my demon and my comic were not really about an internal experience so much as a state of mind. In a looser sense, a state of mind is a kind of experience, but it is quite different from most of the things that Bechdel and Barry wrote about. Their autobiographies generally involved past events, and the construction of the narrative was for them a way to process and think about those passed experiences. Part of my difficulty in understanding my comic as an experience is the fact that it is not about something I went through in the past, but an ongoing, current state. I can use the process of making the comic to think about what is going on (and I did), but I can’t place it in a narrative because I feel like it’s not resolved or in my control enough to be a story. Right now, it’s just a thing that freaks me out. Rather than my comic being comparable to either autobiography, it’s much more like the little diary excerpts Bechdel included in Fun Home, like a snapshot of part of a story. And I know I could have chosen to write about something I had dealt with in the past, and I could even think of a fitting example that made last semester really hard and is about to make the next few days really hard too (shit maybe I should’ve done that?) but the thing is, that’s not what I’ve really been thinking about the last few months, and as hard as the shit in the past is, it’s not really that relevant right now.

Maybe the point of some autobiographies is to make sense of past demons, to “[express] trauma and exorcise it through narration” or to use intertextual references as frameworks impose a faulty structure for your life and all that, but I can also see this kind of storytelling/ demon exercise thing as a way to acknowledge current demons (Schlick). Maybe you don’t need to impose structure (outside of the panels, that is) or even a narrative for this to be useful or meaningful, at least to yourself; the act of expression can itself be constructive even if it doesn’t really help the issue that much.

Reflecting on demons

Creating my own autobiographical comic was an interesting exercise in self reflection. At first I didn’t know what to do mine about, even though I have been essentially writing autobiographical comics each week. As I was drawing monsters for the exercise I tried to draw ones inspired by things I didn’t like or specifically things I do not like about myself. I am generally someone who suppresses negative thoughts, especially negative thoughts about myself, which is, in most cases, a good thing. However, in doing this exercise I realized I am not as critical about myself as I perhaps should be. Being more critical of my thoughts and actions and how they effect others could help me be a more kind and considerate person. Maybe. Or it just leader to disliking myself in an unhealthy way. It’s hard to tell.

I decided that my comic was just going to be a series of eleven demons drawing on yellow paper with black ink and then pasted onto paper. In this format I was drawing directly from Lynda Barry’s work, both in the subject of demons but also with the ink and collage style. I thought it was fascinating to reflect on my life in a very similar way to how she reflects on hers and then see how the results differ. As Jane Tolmie writes about, Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons is very intertextual. It is cool to be able to build of that history of intertextuality with my own piece that is referencing Barry’s work. Another realization I had about the medium was how much I enjoyed working with the black ink. I thought that it would feel to formal and permanent or messy compared to my normal process of a pencil draft and then inking the comic with micron pens. However, I liked how bold and clear the ink was and I think that it worked well with the style I tend to already draw in. The ink also inspired me to do more backgrounds behind my images and to draw more lines in general because moving the brush over the page was fun in a way that pen or pencil is not.

One commonality between my demons and Barry’s is body image and self consciousness. “Skin” and “belly fat”, two of my demons, are both connected to my past and family in a way that I sometimes forget in everyday life. While I do not really feel comfortable going into the details here, parts of my body that I feel self conscious about effect how I dress and also how I perform gender. The various demons also made me think about how fear and dislike can come at a variety of levels and how there is not always a pattern to it. For example, loosing things make me feel immensely sad and hate myself even more so than looking “bad” for example. Autobiographical exercises like this just begin to scratch the surface of self reflection that can help us grow as people.

Fact and Fiction

“Is it autobiography if parts of it are not true? It is fiction if parts of it are?” (Barry 7).  These were the major questions I chose to explore in our Paint Your Demon project this past week.

First, I must say that I really enjoyed the opportunity to try out the creative process that was featured in Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons.  Channeling my demons through a Chinese brush and ink onto lined yellow paper proved to be extremely therapeutic and fascinating once you could see the results.  I felt very pleased with my creation.

The major challenge came when, upon having a sense of how to interpret my demon, I needed to channel this image into an autobiographical comic.  I simply didn’t know where to start or how much content to include.  Ultimately, Barry’s term “autobiofictionalography” proved to be the most accurate term to describe my comic.  I began by writing the truth, or at least as I saw it.  Translating my perspective on a breakup, wrought with raw emotion and lingering questions, onto a page in an artistic fashion was a challenge for sure.  I additionally decided to play with time, making myself both a narrator and a subject in past stories, much like Barry does in One Hundred Demons or as Alison Bechdel does in Fun Home.  It was interesting to be able to play with time in the circular fashion that is so unique to the comic medium.

I realized when I was writing, however, that I wanted to incorporate a present storyline into this narrative that was so heavily based in the past.  Yet, I hadn’t seen my ex in months.  Still, it was true that he was coming back to campus and I ran the risk of seeing him.  For this reason, I wondered: what if I did see him? What would happen? How would I react? Thus began the basis for the final panels in my comic strip.

It wasn’t until the end of my writing process that I realized I had interwoven elements of the truth with aspects of fiction, just as Barry and Bechdel do in their respective works.  I had found myself lingering somewhere in the middle of what Schlick, in her essay What is Experience?, calls a “spectrum… a continuum extending from autobiography as a referential practice to autobiography as a practice through which the self is textually constructed, ultimately fictional” (Schlick 26).  No longer was I simply writing my truth, but I was adding in fictional elements to better display my thoughts and feelings toward a difficult situation.  I can now better understand these authors’ reasonings for having chosen to intermix reality and fiction within the genre of autobiography.  Truly, as Schlick points out in her essay, Bechdel and Barry’s decisions to utilize elements of both “fiction and reality, are not naively conceived” (Schlick 27).  Although I had not previously thought of autobiographies as being liberal enough to allow for elements of fiction to be incorporated within them, Bechdel and Barry have helped to allow me to expand the definition for autobiography to incorporate more than just cold hard truth.  Ultimately, it would seem that pieces of fabrication can help the story along and even boost the truth of feelings or emotions behind an event that would not be apparent in the narrative otherwise.  Thus, perhaps there is room for fact and fiction in autobiographies after all.

Reflection on Autobiographical Web Comic Project

Although I don’t think my web comic could be called “intertextual,” and so doesn’t enter into the conversation about intertextuality in Bechdel and Barry, I think that it does speak to what Schlick describes as “a theory of autobiography” (26). My talky style, and the fact that I am trusting the reader with personal information, probably creates a sense of authenticity and the genuine. It also signifies an approach I am taking: I chose to directly address the audience, not just with my words, but also with the image of me talking to them on the page. This strategy calls a lot of attention to the medium, I expect, and to the constructed nature of the story. In some ways, owning up to constructed-ness to this degree may increase authenticity, while decreasing the potential for the reader to get ‘lost’ in the story. (It is more of a conversation than a story.)

My images, I realize, function largely as metaphors, and hardly at all for the re-presentation of actual scenes and people from my life. Only a handful of images are literally true. The others, most particularly the scene on the bicycle, never happened, but feature as a handy metaphor (as the bicycle moves through time and space) for what was actually a gradual and difficult-to-depict process: the shift in my understanding of my gender. I like how it works in ways similar to John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” taking us through a large span of time (and a big change) symbolized by a relatively simple progression. It’s also nice that the street is not a long-shot from Kyoto’s downtown.

The image of femme-me sitting in the armchair is also a metaphor I am proud of. That image is not any one day or any one instance, but rather a conglomeration of a thousand times I sat that way in boots like that, looking up to greet my friends with a smile. It represents a sensation of the past that I suspect is worth missing. I honestly freaked even myself out a little bit with the next panel, where femme-me disappears. I wish I could have inserted a page-break between the previous panel and those two panels, because I would have liked for them to be on a page of their own, waiting for fresh eyes.

Within the comic, I navigate how I think about my past self. The scene on the benches in the mall where I am sitting near my old self rang particularly true, communicating my sense of sympathy for my past self like nothing else quite could – at the same time, I have to correct myself and remember that I also had my own thing going on in the past, and thus don’t need to feel pity for that ‘other me’. It’s true that I wasn’t thriving as much as I conceivably could have been, but I was still enjoying my life a lot of the time. I corrected my pity within the comic (as opposed to just removing the bench scene) because I wanted the reader to also experience the conflict about it that I feel within myself.

I guess my theory of autobiography here is foregoing the literal in favor of leading the audience to feel what I feel – a Time O’Brien-style approach. The sensation, and not the literal story, is shared. It’s also the sensation as I interpret it now, and not as I felt it then. I compare the liberation of my gender discovery to a scene on a bicycle, such that any reader can imagine that flying, freeing feeling. The scene of my disappearing in the armchair is slightly scary for a reason: I want the reader to feel the sensation I sometimes feel, a sensation like I’ve climbed one too many stairs in the dark, and my stomach is sinking down – What about me the way I was? I think the talky-ness protects me on an authenticity front, reminding the reader almost at all times that they are “conversing” with me, and thus hearing a summarized retelling of something true. I keep the sensation – the liberation, the doubt, and the strange sense of separation from the past – and let the rest be flexible. This is understandable to the reader (I hope…) because the interaction resembles a conversation.

Autobiographical Pain

When I wrote my autobiographical comic, it hurt. I didn’t want to think about this demon that I put on the page. A demon that I’m struggling with as I write this, and one that I will continue to struggle with for at least some time. It may not be a big deal to everyone, but this demon is looking over my shoulder constantly.

I felt that for this assignment I had to use this demon. If I didn’t address the demon that plagues my mind on a daily basis, then I would be missing the point of this assignment. But, regardless of that, I still wanted to change it. To think of something new. To focus on something that didn’t make me feel so badly about myself. But I didn’t.

I continued to make this comic because I knew that I had to face this demon one way or another. The problem is, I’m working on fighting this demon already, and this comic didn’t help me do that. Instead, this comic showed me how far I had to go and how little progress I have made towards conquering this demon.

Is this my fault? Yes. I understand I can do more to help myself, but I don’t think writing a comic about it is going to help me to beat it. It made me feel as though there was nothing I could do and I would be stuck with it for the rest of my life.

I think this exercise would have been more cathartic for me had I focused on a demon that I had already conquered, or one that I had felt I had made a lot of progress towards beating. But, this one was the one at the front of my mind so it was the one that poured itself out of my brush and onto the paper.

And for those of you who are wondering what exactly my demon is… Well…

There’s your hint.