Our visiting artist this week, Dylan Horrocks, was a soft-spoken cartoonist from New Zealand. Although his work didn't immediately grab my attention, I did feel camaraderie with him when I learned he was around my age and has kids - one the same age as my own son.

He's got a Wikipedia page - a real sign of success!

Although he had been interested in comics his entire life, living in New Zealand meant there was no market, interest, or "tribe" to support that dream. And at one point, he developed a strange phobia to comic books! He still has fantasies about comic burnings (like book burnings).

His time spent in England, working in a children's bookshop, helped him see comics as stories with pictures - like children' books. And he made a number of industry connections that would follow him back to New Zealand.

From the Waikato Times

He did work for DC and wrote some of the stories for Hunter: The Age of Magic, Books of Magic, and Batman: War Games. Meanwhile, trying to work on his own comic stories.

While working on the new Batgirl stories - he lost his confidence and sense of purpose. The stories had become so violent and senseless. He hated the character and the plotlines he was assigned. He described a storyline where a character is tortured with a drill for four issues! And his own art was suffering. He hated his drawings, stories - everything.

He was given the advice - "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly."
So he started drawing with felt tip pens (instead of a brush) on cheap cartridge paper. And he drew just for himself, slowing down and following his instincts. These turned into an online comic and then into a book, The Magic Pen.

The Magic Pen is autobiographical and explores the ideas of how other people's fantasies can hold us down and what moral responsibility an artist (or writer) has for their ideas put out into the world. He talked about Salman Rushdie (Dylan was working in a bookstore in New Zealand when Rushdie came for a signing) and Charlie Hebdo. He said, although the attack generated a lot of discussion - it was too abstract and didn't talk about the moral responsibility issue. And who gets to decide? The reality is that there are many cartoonists who have been jailed, tortured, and beaten - including some from the US, from comics meant as satire or simply as jokes.

The room was rather quiet by this time. This was serious stuff. Especially in school, there is a feeling that we have all these RIGHTS. We can draw anything we want, offend anyone, use swear words, draw weird sex, and draw horrible things happening to women (besides spandex and chainmail bikinis!) This was sobering news.

So what do you draw, if it might get you killed?

Dylan has a comic where all the speech balloons are empty. Yes, it's about censorship.

He left us with the thought to "EXPLORE, but do it with honesty."

Friday morning he came back for an informal workshop - he looked at our art, answered our questions and told us more about his own process. I had read his Magic Pen book the night before and was blown away by the message. He told us a funny story about a book signing where all these grandparents were in line to get that book signed for their grandchildren. He suggested they might want to get the Hicksville book instead as it was more age appropriate. They insisted their kids were hip and savvy. He showed them some of the images of orgies and such and they all dropped the book and grabbed the other one!

I don't think I had realized just how much male fantasies about women have driven the plotlines of comics - throughout the ages, genres, and nationalities. (The Manga ones, Hentai, are particularly horrifying!) The Magic Pen points them out but also shows how we can make our own choices and find our authentic creative voice without being seduced by the easy, popular storyline.He's doing a tour of other cities in the US - if you are interested, look HERE for a schedule.

And he did this amazing drawing in my book! Cool!

After all that - I needed a break!! I have a ton of homework and feel stressed about the Walt Kelly project... but I decided to go exploring for a bit. I found the smallest, but prettiest indoor shopping mall I've ever seen...

... the Powerhouse Mall in Lebanon, NH. I loved the ceiling of umbrellas, and there were smaller areas with hanging art with a circus theme. Pretty. From outside, it looks like a little village. I have to file this away in my head as a good place to come and walk this winter. Although, there is a candy store AND a Lindt shop...

Back to the stressful homework... Walt Kelly marathon. I have piles of Pogo books on the floor. The school librarian texted me that she had found some more...

While waiting for the Comcast guy to install my internet, I worked on the sketches above. We had to draw 12 objects, in the style of Walt Kelly. I used a dip pen to ink the ones below - although I'm pretty sure Walt Kelly used a brush - I don't have those mad skills... yet.

I think he would have simplified and "cartoon-ified" them even more. But at least that assignment is finished.

Funny story about the Comcast guy... he had a really strong Spanish (Mexican?) accent and I was feeling both annoyed and a little guilty that we were having such a hard time communicating. Then he called his supervisor to see if my old router would work (no, it won't, bummer). The supervisor had a REALLY strong Southern, sort of Texas-y maybe, accent. He had him on speakerphone and it was SO FUNNY - neither one could understand the other. It was like a scene from Pogo happening in my kitchen!!

Yes. I know. If I were a cartoonist worth my salt (what DOES that mean?) - I would be illustrating this blog in cartoons. It's a goal.

As it is, I have to settle for knowing that this is all FUTURE comic material.

Last night I learned that I have to go to a hearing next Wednesday in NH - which means I will miss the very class that ALL this homework is for! And the critiques. And the demos. And the info for the next week's homework. Sigh. So I was thinking about affidavits and parenting plans... instead of Pogo and Albert (the alligator).

Lying in bed - I tried to think of clever stories for the three Pogo-like strips I'm supposed to create for Wed.'s class... but all I could think about was... could I drive down to court early Wed. morning and be back for the afternoon part of class? And OMG!!!! I have nothing to wear!!!!!???? I need black, serious looking clothes - not jeans and a Wonderwoman t-shirt.

Think about Pogo.