Make an autobiographical comic!
The key to making comics is to take what you already know but to also learn as you go.
Mistakes and making decisions are the quickest ways to learn. Making discoveries is the exciting part about drawing comics. Be in the moment and really enjoy living in the world of the story. Trusting in your intuition, your gut feeling. It’s fun and a lot of work and it’s worth it.
I love comics. What can I say but to admit that I think and dream about them all the time. So it was with great excitement that I had the opportunity to read new comics created by the students of the Stella Prize Digital Write Up Series.
I was struck by the diversity of distinct, fresh voices and the unique approach each student took to telling their stories with comics. Evident in each piece was a clear willingness and open-minded approach to trying something new. Creating and sharing the results of this experimentation and discovery is a truly generous act on behalf of each student. I understand and appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating the work and the results speak for themselves.
The choice of subject matter offered a meaningful insight into the lives of each student and the complex times we are all living in. With well thought out concepts, clarity and humour each student managed to transform their unique and personal experience of being in the world into something that also resonated as relatable and universal. Their warmth and insight was unmistakable.
I was pleased to see in the range of work an understanding of the language elements that are unique to comics. The elements that stood out were bold eye-catching titles, clear and effective uses of narration and speech, well placed word and image juxtaposition, strong use of facial expressions and body language, thoughtfulness in composition and timing, and well chosen background details in panels. It was exciting to see the ways the students chose to depict themselves as the characters in their stories and I just loved the use of animals as representations of the symbolic self.
Through their comics each student demonstrated their distinct writing and visual styles as well as knowledge of their subject matter. As a reader and a comic fan I came away from each story feeling like the world as I knew it has just opened up to me that much more. Thank you and well done. Please keep drawing comics!!!! 🙂
A monologue which explores the theme of ‘Surveillance – Who Am I If Nobody is Looking?’
– Include stage directions for the performance
– Have a sense of a Beginning, Middle and End
– Show evidence of drafting, editing and crafting into shape
Farmer: Oure father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Let thy kingdom come,
Thy will be fulfilled,
As well as in erth, as it is in heaven,] (calm tone)
No more, (x8) (Increasing in speed and intensity/power)
Nev’r! (With maximum intent)
[Now ev’ryone hath gone and can not seeth,
For thou is a caitiff,
Letting me live in this true dullard world,
Withouten consequence.] (Public speaking like tone)
LARA: Who am I if nobody is looking? I have to say that despite quarantine I still have no idea, the busy, rushing river of life has always waved my thoughts ever on. Time to consider the deep dark depths of what makes me, me, was always lost in muddy clouds of silt dredged up by the water. But now it’s like someone’s built a dam in the middle of it. The dust has settled, the water’s clear, and I feel like I have to decide if I even like what I see. (Pauses, thinking.)
‘Who are we when no one is watching?
“When the lights turn off,
And it’s our turn to settle down,”
Who are we?
When no one else is around,
Are we anybody?
Or are we nobody
Without other bodies?
Speaker: Who are we when no one is looking? Are we more pure, less ashamed, more ourselves than ever? Are the things we do alone in our room, far away from the judgement that surrounds us in every day life, the true us?
Self: the set of someone’s characteristics, such as personality and ability, that are not physical and make that person different from other people (serious tone when saying definition). Self-awareness, self-expression, self-esteem (emphasise on every ‘self’), our sense of self (hands on heart/chest) is strongest when nobody is looking. Why? (confused tone, followed by a pause) In a world where a sense of ‘self’ is praised, where ‘individualism’ is accepted, where being ‘unique’ is encouraged (list these all in a positive, excited tone), we comply (serious and disappointed tone). We comply with expectations, we comply with standards, we comply.
Trapped in these four bleak walls I battle to get a breath of air. The few sun rays which sneak into this cave blind and terrify me. The time on the ticking clock seems infinite yet simultaneously non-existent. The world around me crumbles and decays while I cry over my frivolous concerns. Revolutions and social uprise ensue as I rot from confinement. Inside, I’m forced to confront my demons and ponder if they truly define me.
Who am I when nobody’s looking? Who am I when the eye of the beholder no longer looks at me? Who was I then? Who am I now? Who will I be?
Of course it started when I found the ring. I didn’t know that then. I don’t even really remember how the ring came to me. I think I saw it in front of me on the footpath, glowing in the sunlight. And I picked it up. At first I offered it around, but no one claimed it. So slipped it on.
Isn’t it lovely, the quiet?
Not that I don’t like to listen, but there’s just something so calming about silence
Ordinarily, everything bustles and shuffles, moves and moans and groans in a constant deafening ruckus
Til’ everything stops.
I was thinking about a quote I heard the other day. “Human beings are very social creatures, and ninety percent of what they do is done only because other people are watching. Alone, with no witnesses, they start to learn about themselves – who are they really?”
But in the silence of my room, (sit down on floor) with the blinds drawn, door shut, my puppet strings come undone (posture drops). I feel as if here, my actions never happened. Without others to know about them, do they even have meaning? If I’m a superhero alone, so what?
Who am I if nobody is looking? Sometimes it feels as if I am someone completely different. Like if I were to look into a mirror, the face staring back at me would be a shell of who I truly am. It doesn’t make sense. The most comfort I feel is alone, yet all I sense is a stranger now. I sit here and can’t help but think; what makes me, me? Is it my long blonde hair or big blue eyes? Is it the clothes I wear or the smile I show?
It was wonderful to read such a range of pieces centred around the prompt of ‘Surveillance – Who am I when Nobody is Looking?’
All pieces demonstrated a clear understanding of the speaking voice that is central to performance and the monologue form. In some, the ‘I’ was a version of the writer, while in others the ‘I’ morphed into other characters, even across time periods from medieval times to aliens. Across these though, there was no doubt that the speaking voice was deeply felt and declarative. Students seemed very aware of the crucial fact that an audience is required for performance, and there was a sense that all their characters were addressing one. Particularly impressive were the use of stage and performance directions across the group – they were correctly formatted, but more importantly they added to the sense of drama, rhythm and character in the pieces.
Related to this, and one of the key demands of this form, that students have picked up on is a sense of movement. Pieces displayed an awareness that they had to start and end in different places emotionally and tonally. This sense of a journey is not easy, and all work displayed solid attempts at creating those shifts. The shifts particularly sung out when they were accompanied by detail and the use of a revelation towards the end of the monologue.
Many monologues displayed a talent for visceral language about the feelings of the characters, which can be key in writing for performance – you could really see how affecting it would be to see a body on stage talking about themselves with such emotion. It was also delightful and a privilege to hear the truth in many of these pieces – students were writing from themselves, even through character, and the confessions and insights they shared revealed something of their fears, hopes and preoccupations in a raw and engaging way.
How can you use your writing as self-care?
I’m just going to start where the trouble does. With The Aviary.
Mum lived in The Aviary with the rest of the Averys before she met Dad.
But she never talked about them.
I hadn’t been back since Art’s funeral. After the local newspapers found out all they could talk about for weeks wads that The Aviary drove him crazier. Everyone knew that Wren went to Bell’s because it was the furthest she could get from The Aviary. Cath disappeared when I was 4. Mum told me the day it happened, if The Aviary had broken its fast.
I dream of summer
And it’s long days that warm me.
Where I will not need trivial things or mindless distraction
Only the light and comforting whispers of breeze
To hold and protect
It has finally arrived.
Years in the making and for quite a costly amount, too,
at last, the perfect package to distract from myself.
Is there anything so wrong in desiring such a trivial acquisition?
No. It is my desire. I am free to decide for myself.
Thus, of my own free will, I have ordered this package.
As I unwrap this gift, open it’s container and pull out this frame,
I take my first step in displaying to others what I want.
Oh my, how this fills me with such glee!
I would be quite embarrassed to elaborate on it
as I strut through the halls with a new perspective,
seeing the world and myself from a different lens.
We dashed through the blooming fields of swaying sunflowers, the blazing rays of sunshine reaching out towards us. The lush grass enveloped us as we collapsed, huffing as the adrenaline faded from our bodies. I would roll over to face you, taking a few ringlets of your wild, unruly hair and braiding it between my fingers. You would push me away, chuckling, because we both knew that with your hair, my attempts would always turn out disastrous.
What a privilege and an honour to read this beautiful selection of pieces. There’s so much variation in form, style, voice and technique at work here. What I love to see is the range of responses which have come out of the writing self-care exercises. Some pieces seem to be crafted in direct conversation with themes and practices introduced in the workshop, while I can see others have taken very individual approaches to this topic and drawn out their own ideas and possibilities. Each piece is best assessed by what it does for you as a creator – is this something you feel nourished and enriched by when you return to it?
I loved reading Used to this and seeing how Sally has explored the possibilities sparked by a favourite song to construct a new narrative through which to imagine connections. While this piece is dark, it’s important to emphasise the role of angst in your own process: working through feelings in an imaginative sense gives us perspective, and allows us to explore aspects of our emotions we don’t always encounter in the everyday. This is an excellent example of how self-care doesn’t always look like utopia.
Similarly, I had a great time reading RE: Dear Icarus, which mixed a few forms, but I think is best read as an apostrophe – a speech directed to someone that we as the reader are not aware of. I feel like this piece combined literary ambiguity with the suggestion of a mythological history, and I love that kind of play. That’s exactly what writing self-care is all about! Writing without too much fear of constraint. This piece didn’t expressly narrate the emotions of the composer, but rather crafted a series of beautiful metaphors and images through which to externalise some of those feelings. It’s a great and imaginative response.
This winter is going to last/a lifetime I am told/or How I want to remember 2020 was such a creative and detailed piece that I’m pretty confident it comes from a broader project of Pen’s. This piece reads like an excerpt or snippet of a fun, intertextually rich dystopian novel, and the interweaving of the song had a really beautiful effect. It’s great to see young writers engaging so directly with inspiration and with structural devices in their work. I feel like the self-care that came out of this piece was the feeling of escape and possibility that comes from such a richly detailed piece of work. I hope you keep writing this!
I had such a nice time reading I Dream of Summer. It was so lovely to read a poem with such a balance of introspection and embodiment. I loved some of your images, especially those in the last stanza. There’s so much subtle suggestion in this. I feel like this piece was inspired by the discussion around how we can write to future and past selves and places to show how we value and cherish certain memories, so this was a tender piece to read.
Andre’s Glass is the classic balance of form and subject, and I can really see where this piece plays out the internal dilemmas of self-care. I love the metaphor/metonym you’re using here of the pretty object which gives us a sense of joy and pleasure, but which we know is entangled in complex world problems. You stage all of the questions and challenges without necessarily answering them, which is, I think, the value of this kind of introspection. I love that this poem is shaped like a vase as well! A great touch.
I had such a lovely time reading these responses. I hope they brought you joy and an opportunity to connect with your own reflections as you composed them.