Good Reads // May & June

Oh my oh my! I can't believe it's been two months since the last Good Reads post. It's been a busy couple of months but I have been trying to make a concerted effort to keep reading through my reading pile, which always manages to get bigger when I'm not looking (or when I go to my local comics store). Anyway, here are my top picks from the past couple of months:

1. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

Presented by Sonny Liew, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography of a fictional Singaporean comic book artist and is amongst other things a staggeringly impressive read. It's written as though it was a factual collection of art by comic book artist Charlie Chan (in fact, for half the book I thought it was a completely factual biography, which goes to show what I know).

For those who love: to be intrigued, confused and amazed.

2. Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau, and Alexandre Franc.

If you know anything about me, you know I'm a sucker for a biography and Agatha was no exception. This beautifully drawn bande dessinée-style comic enlightens the reader about the life of Agatha Christie, the writer. All of Christie's well-known characters, including both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, appear and talk to Christie about what's going on in her life and her work, and act as a sort of narration to the story. I really enjoyed the way it was written and drawn and now want to learn more about Christie's life (I've started by reading a book about the poisons she used in her stories called A is for Arsenic).  If you like Christie's books, I think you would really like this comic. 

For those who love: The Queen of Crime, Biographies and European-style comics.

3. Water by Mandy Ord

Mandy Ord is one of my favourite Australian autobio comics creators. Whenever I read her comics, she always manages to make me want to use more brush and ink in my comics. This mini-comic, Water, is no exception. I loved the personal stories about hiking in Australian bush and felt like I was there with Mandy, desperate for water. I also found myself, due to her luscious inking style, stroking the pages as the ink gave the illusion of being more 3-D than it was.  

For those who love: Autobiography, hiking and good ol' H2O.

4. Hostage by Guy Delisle

In 1997, Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe Andre was kidnapped and kept in solitary confinement for three months. In his first graphic novel biography, Guy Delisle tells Andre's story, which for most of the book is spent in a small room with one person, not knowing when he is going to get out or when he will eat and when or if he will ever see his family again. It's not an easy topic to read about but Andre's high spirits and personality remain strong throughout his ordeal, making it an interesting if tough read.

For those who love: Biographies, suspense and Guy Lelisle

5. How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy

Luke Healy masterfully weaves fiction and true story together to create How To Survive in the North (HTSITN). Like every Nobrow book, HTSITN is beautifully printed with very well chosen colours (eye popping pinks, green, and yellows). It has great pacing and tense relationships and I love Healy's simple style and clean lines. I just really enjoyed reading this book and I think you might too.

For those who love: Adventure, interesting characters and beautiful printing.

And that's what I've been reading for these past few months. But the bedside pile never ends, so I must away to start on the next couple of months of reading!

Gx

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The 24-Hour Comic Challenge

A couple of weekends ago I took on the 24-hour comic challenge. This is an annual challenge where, basically, you have to write and draw a 24-page comic in 24 hours (a page an hour). It's the third time I've taken and completed the challenge (although last year I did finish 24 pages in the allotted time, but the story I wrote ended up being longer than that, so I penciled all 32 pages during the challenge and inked the remaining 8 the next day once my hands had had a little rest). You can read all of last year's 24-hour challenge comic about my Harry Potter fandom online here or if you prefer a physical copy you can grab one from my Etsy store here. 

Over the three years I've undertaken the challenge, I've refined my 24 hour technique, including making sure I have my paper all ready to go (I use 200 gsm card cut into single sheets of A5. I've found this size means you don't feel like you need to add too much detail and the single sheets are good because you can easily look back at what you have already drawn without constantly flipping through a sketchbook).

Having delved into the the 24-hour comics experience a few times now, I've noticed a few patterns in my emotions when affected by the lack of sleep and constant comic creation. So I give you my 7 stages of the 24-hour comic challenge:

HOUR ONE:

HOUR FIVE:

HOUR TEN:

HOUR THIRTEEN: 

HOUR EIGHTEEN:

HOUR TWENTY:

HOUR TWENTY-THREE:

I was so impressed with everyone who I took the challenge with this year (and in previous years too, of course). The comics all looked great and we all finished the challenge (and some people even managed to get shading and colour in their comics, somehow). I can't wait to see everyone's comics in print. 

And if you are thinking about taking the challenge you totally should give it a go! It's hard, no doubt, but it's super rewarding and you have a 24-page comic at the end of it. I recommend you do it with at least one other friend but the more the merrier. I'm sure I would've given up had I not had a lovely group of people encouraging me to keep going. 

That's if for this week, chat to you soon!

Gx

My blog is brought to you by the help of my Patreon Pals. If you want to become a George Rex Patreon Pal, then just jump to my Patreon page here. 

Curiosity Care

Hello wonderful pals!

We all get stuck sometimes. It's a pretty common ailment of making something. Putting your heart and soul into a project, whatever it is, can be super rewarding and satisfying but also super tiring and scary. It can take all my brain power just to write a few words, because getting started is, at least to me, the hardest bit.

I've been stuck more than once while writing Oh Brother but luckily I've also been able to get unstuck too. Sometimes with help from other people and sometimes by just waiting around for my brain to let me back in on the project. And the bigger the project, the more chances you have to get stuck!

Of course once you're on a roll, then it feels good. You're working hard everyday, making great headway, nothing can stop you and then, BAM. You're stuck again. On a plot point or style choice or something stupid that doesn't even mean anything but you just can't get it out of your head.

I'm currently writing part three of my book, and the written script part of the process (before I start digging into the drawings) is the hardest for me. For a few months now I've been in this limbo space, flipping between productivity and slump. Seeing how I was feeling, a good friend of mine recommended and gifted me a book. This book was: 

I have been enjoying reading Elizabeth Gilbert's views on creativity and I would also recommend this book for any creative thinking person (or any person tbh). I was particularly grabbed by her writings about curiosity. Gilbert writes that curiosity is accessible to everyone, contrasting it to passion (which feels more specific, unattainable and somewhere over there). Curiosity, however, says Gilbert, only asks one question: "Is there anything you're interested in?" 

And Gilbert's thoughts about curiosity were able to capture some of the feelings that have been floating around my brain and helped me to bring them to the forefront and crystallise them.

So I've been thinking that curiosity care is something that we all need to start doing. Let our curiosity take us to places we didn't know that we were interested in. Give it the time to stare in wide-eyed wonder, gasp at new knowledge and walk down a different path. It may feel like you're taking the long road to get back to your project, and you probably are, but it's going to be a pretty great trip and if you don't take it maybe you won't get back to your project at all. 

Being curious can come in many different shapes and forms. You don't have to be learning about something new to be curious about the world. And a lot of my curiosity comes from stopping and thinking about something I already know pretty well and trying to think about it in a different way. 

A lot of the time I just want to get my brain out of all the To Do lists I've written and just thinking about anything else. So here are a few things I use to help me get my brain cogs off lists and relax enough to let the world in. 

1. Tea

Yes, yes, we all know that I, someone who categorises and labels her dried leafy mixes into individual specially bought plastic containers, really likes tea. But I think sometimes I forget some of the reasons why I really like tea. I love the waiting for the kettle to boil, picking out the right tea for the moment, picking out the right cup for your feels, breathing in the steam of the hot water, smelling your tea choice and sitting with it. Not doing anything but sitting with your tea. 

Picking the right tea for the moment can be hard but I think it's important. I get easily stuck on whichever tea I normally choose to drink in the morning, with my lunch or just before bed. So one thing I like to do when I'm in a slump is to try different teas at the 'wrong' time of day. Here are some of the teas I have made and their magical properties. 

2. A different point of view

I have found that sitting in chairs all day can be pretty tiring, particularly if you are staring at a screen all day too. So if I don't have time to leave the studio, I like to eat my lunch on the ground by my desk. I enjoy seeing the world from a view I spent a lot of my childhood, well, viewing. Also lying on the ground and looking up to the ceiling and just letting your mind wander can be really great. I find it really hard to let my mind wander on anything other than making lists of things I need to get done, but I do manage it sometimes.  

3. Walking

Walking has been one of the biggest things in the past 12 months that I've discovered really helps me to think through tough spots in stories or mental blocks. A lot of my a-ha moments are when I'm walking or swimming laps. This is because if I do it long enough I get over that natural brain reaction of making lists in my head and move onto other things that must have been lurking in there but have been hidden by all those To Do lists. 

I personally like to look up at the skyline and the clouds when walking. The sky is endlessly fascinating to me. I will never be able to capture in my illustration a cloud the way I see it in real life, and that is so intriguing and mysterious to me, like a 40s noir film. 

4. Reading

Something that I've been trying get myself back into is reading more. I know I read a bit but not as much as I would like or think I should. I often think that if I'm reading I could be drawing instead. But you see it's actually okay to consume things too, you don't just have to create! Crazy, I know, but it's something that I'm trying to come to terms with. And if I don't consume other media it won't be able to inform my own work and help me to grow as an artist. So when I'm feeling like my brain is sludge and writing just one more email will make me cry or everything I've been drawing lately has been coming out just not quite that minimum level I'm used to, I'm trying to get myself to read a book or a comic. And then I'm working on not feeling guilty about it.

5. Drawing

The last thing I do when I'm in a bit of a rut is draw stuff I know I can draw. Stuff I like. Usually for me this means drawing my bag and all of its contents. But it can extend to drawing ladies in styles of clothes I would like to trial wearing. Or skulls. I quite like drawing skulls. This gives me the feeling that I've actually drawn something that day and it usually doesn't look terrible. 

Even though I think taking a break or letting your curiosity take over for a while is good and necessary, my personal little motto, that I say to myself at least once a day, is:

The only thing that will make you feel better about the work is doing the work.

The only times I have felt like I'm on top of my project, that I'm making actually physical, tangible headway, is when I've done something. And it doesn't even have to be a big bit of something. In fact, I'm a big fan of the chip away every day. But it's when I do something that I feel the best. 

ANYWAY. This post is waaaaay too long so I will stop (plus this post has been in my drafts for months and I've already had to write and re-write it a few times. It's time for me to cut it off and focus on some new blog posts).

Have a stellar dream tonight. One that you remember really clearly the next day. One that you can still talk about in years to come. 

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For The Love Of Editing

Hello pals!  

As long promised, I have here a post about the editing process I've been using to work through story problems in my graphic novel. It's pretty much the same process I was introduced to at the Comic Art Workshop residency in 2015, which I completely fell in love with and have adapted into my own writing practice. 

I never thought I would actually look forward to and enjoy receiving feedback on any of my creative practices (I studied classical percussion at Uni and was terrible at getting feedback on my musical performances; I took everything personally and couldn't separate myself from the performance), but this method of editing has really helped me to embrace areas in my story that could be improved and not feel like I'm a failure of a human because my story needs some help from my friends.

Never underestimate the power of outside eyes! For example. I'd not noticed that I had never mentioned whether my brother or I were the older sibling, because it was something that I knew so well I'd completely forgotten that any reader who wasn't a good friend or a family member wouldn't know. This meant that people going into the story would make assumptions about which of us was older (it's me, just so you know). The upshot of this was that the reader, not knowing this information, would assume that I was whichever sibling they were (if they were older I was the older sibling too and if they were younger I was obviously the younger sibling). It was great that the readers would identify so heavily with me that they placed themselves in my position but I really needed them to know that I was the older sibling because it's important to how I tell my stories. 

So this is sort of a step-by-step guide about how to use the editing process I do (with a few personal interjects from my cartoon self).  

For the love of editing 3_edit_Colour_Flat.jpg

I hope that made sense and was hopefully some use to you and your creating!

Have a wonderful day, whichever day it might be.

Gx

My blog is brought to you by the help of my Patreon Pals. If you want to become a George Rex Patreon Pal, then just jump to my Patreon page here. 

 

George Rex Comics mini-documentary

Hello friends!

So I know I promised you a post about my manuscript editing process this week, but I'm still working on it and I'd like it to be the best it can be. So in the meantime I would really like to share with you a pretty rad little documentary. Some film students recently asked me to be the subject of a mini-doco and this is the result. I think the guys that made it (see credits at the end for a full list of those wonderful people) did a great job at reining in my tendency to blather when I talk about comics (I just get so darned excited). 

Anyway, I'll let you just enjoy and watch. 

That's all for this week, guys. I hope you liked the vid (I was really chuffed to be a part of it). 

Next week, I promise a post about editing. I'm really excited to share that process with you because I want to make Oh Brother the best book I can, and I think the process of nutting out the problems in my book with other humans really helps me get towards that great book.

Have a sweet rest of the week. May your skies be mildly cloudy so you have interesting things to look at above you.

Gxx

My blog is brought to you by the help of my Patreon Pals. If you want to become a George Rex Patreon Pal, then just jump to my Patreon page here. 

Sick Day

Hello lovely humans, 

I'm sorry I missed last week's post. I've been trying to keep on top of a few things (the book, a zine fair, commissions, life, the To Read pile), as well as battling with a head cold. I usually try to push through, but with a few big events coming up I wanted to be as well as possible - so I took to the couch, sat in front of a pile of oranges and worked my way through a few comics I've been wanting to read for a while. 

That said, I got bored pretty quick and my sick brain triggered memories of being sick at home and how Rob would deal with getting a cold. 

I'm a terrible daughter! 

Anyway, I best get back to the drawing board. Next week I'll talk about the editing process I go through with my comics colleagues once I've finished the draft pencils of a section. 

Until we meet again, I hope your head remains clear and you remember that famous quote perfectly just in time for that quiz night. 

Gxx

My blog is brought to you by the help of my Patreon Pals. If you want to become a George Rex Patreon Pal, then just jump to my Patreon page here. 

Vegemite Parrot

I've been thinking lately about some of the short comics I did about Rob before I made the decision to work on a whole long-form book dedicated to stories about growing up with him. In particular, I've been thinking about one story that I have just revisited in part two: the Tale of the Vegemite Parrot. The first version of Vegemite Parrot was originally published by Comicoz in the anthology Australia! alongside lots of other rad Australian comic artists. And I thought you guys might like to see how my stories and style have changed and what things have stayed the same over the last couple of years. 

Let's start with my original mini comic. It's a couple of years old now and I've changednot only my haircut, but also how I draw myself and my family members. I have to admit I cringe a little looking at it now but I quite like the 3-eyed parrots (they have no bearing on the story; I just wanted to draw them). Maybe I'll use them in a future fictional story.

Next up we have the process of taking this story and putting it in the middle of a graphic novel. 'Vegemite Parrot' appears in Oh Brother around the 130 page mark and by the time I was writing the script for part two (January/February 2017), I couldn't really remember what I'd written for the first version. I decided to not really refresh myself about what I'd done because I now wanted the story to work as part of the book, not as a stand-alone piece. So without re-reading the short comic, I wrote a brief description about the Vegemite Parrot story. 

Then came my new favourite part of writing comics: thumbnailing! I took the fairly boring text and added lots of fun pictures to help me visualise what the story would look like on the page. I use red marker because it makes me feel like I'm some sort of fancy editor. I also really like red. 

Then came the actual penciling of the story. Now, I figure out the layout for the panels as I'm doing the pencils, because the layout to me is like I'm having a conversation with someone and I want the panels per page to reflect the speed and flow of the story I'm telling. That's why I use gridded paper note cards that are already cut to certain sizes, so I can play around with what the panels will look like on the page before I draw everything up (a trick I picked up from the very clever Pat Grant and adapted slightly for my personal writing style). Note: My pencils are normally a boring grey lead pencil colour. I made them pink for this blog because I wanted to.

The next step is making people read your work, seeing what they think and then editing it again. I've recently had an edit session (I'll talk about that in a future post) and this little story has yet to get a mention (which is good. It means people think it's a good story)!

And that's it! Technically the next step (which I am yet to do) would be to ink and colour the final art of the story but I'm not going to start inking anything until I finish the whole book and have edited it as a whole. I want my inking to be as consistent as possible throughout the book, so doing as much as I can at the same time is my goal. 

That's the blog for this week. I hope you found it interesting to re-read my old comic and compare it to the newer version of the story. I find it fascinating seeing what changed and what stayed the same. I didn't much like looking at my old work, but I rarely do. That's why I must always be making more comics, because the next thing will be better. Oh yes.

Have a super week!

Gx

My blog is brought to you by the help of my Patreon Pals. If you want to become a George Rex Patreon Pal, then just jump to my Patreon page here. 

My Go-To Story

Hello hello!

It feels like this year has been the year of short travel trips for me: Melbourne, Norwood and now most recently I've been off to Our Nation's Capital, Canberra. I was there selling my zines at Noted Festival and also getting in some quality hang time with my fantastic pal Kyra (who moved to C-town a couple of years ago for work). 

I didn't realise just how much I missed her face and spirit in my life until I saw her and got to spend time just being around her. Y'know those really great friends you have, that it doesn't matter how long you've been apart, you just fall back into each other's lives? It's a pretty great feeling. Although now I miss her more than ever. 

Anyway, with all these small trips my routine keeps getting all disrupted and it always takes me a little while to get back into the swing of things, respond to emails etc. But I'm back and about to get stuck into Part Three of my book (all about Fears and what the future holds for me and Rob). So while I'm working hard on that, have a read of this little excerpt from the pencil draft of Part Two. It's my go-to story when I'm trying to explain to someone who doesn't know Rob at all just how clever and amazing and perceptive my brother can be. 

This is straight out of my pencil draft manuscript so it's not final art (JSYK). 

Rob really is pretty amazing. 

Alright pals, that's it for this week but don't worry, there will be more coming soon, I promise. 

Until next time, stay indoors, keep warm and watch that movie you've been thinking about seeing but constantly putting off. 

Gx

 

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Good Ripping Material

Hey guys!

Guess what? I've finished Part Two of my book! I'm pretty excited about having another 150 pages done of the draft pencils but also a bit nervous about taking on Part Three (the final part), as it will probably be the most emotionally taxing section (it's all about fears and what the future means for me and Rob). But I'll go into all that stuff in a future post. 

Part Two was all about obsessions, mostly Rob's obsessions - from food to TV and item placement to nappies. One of Rob's more frustrating obsessions for me was his ripping paper phase. He would rip pretty much anything, including my math homework. Here are a couple of non-sequential pages from Part Two featuring Rob's ripping abilities:

I've been cleaning up a few of my old school books and papers that have been living at my parents' house and the other day I found one of the original notes my mum wrote to my teacher. I can't believe that I've kept it after all these years (also I thought that the teacher would've needed it).

I'll be sharing a few different snippets of Part Two over the next few weeks, as well as a wrap-up of the differences between working on Part One and working on  Part Two. 

I'll be in Canberra for the next week, taking part in the Noted Festival Zine Fair. So If you're in Canberra for whatever reason on the 7th May, come and say hi!

Have an excellent afternoon, the next time you find yourself in an afternoon. 

Gx

My blog is brought to you by the help of my Patreon Pals. If you want to become a George Rex Patreon Pal, then just jump to my Patreon page here. 

Harry

About a year ago, almost to the day, our family dog Harry passed away. He was very old and had a(nother) seizure and the vet found many cancers throughout his body. I remember so clearly Dad calling me to tell me of Harry's seizure, that he was taking him to the vet and that he'd let me know what was happening when he knew more. That day I had gotten up early and was cleaning up my study while listening to the Stephen Fry audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the book about the boy wizard after whom our dog was named). 

Harry was a big part of my life, as are many childhood pets. He was always there for me when I was stressed about Rob, stressed about life. He was to me the perfect dog. Dorky, sweet, a great pal and a bit of an idiot. Even though Harry wasn't our first family dog, he was the first I had a say in adopting. When I drew wolves (my favourite animal) as a kid, I drew Harry.

He was like another sibling to both me and Rob. And I still miss him lots. I still sometimes forget he's gone and when I visit my parents I expect him to greet me when I arrive or automatically go to feed him my leftover fish at the dinner table. 

He was such a big part of our lives that he has a starring role in Oh Brother, in particular in part two (which I have just finished the draft of!). Which of course means that he needed his own character sheet. 

It's been hard writing the stories that feature Harry but I'm glad I can celebrate his radness with others in comic form. My biggest regret is that I wasn't with him when he was put down. I still wish I had seen him one last time, to thank him for being such a great friend and pillow. 

To all the pet pals out there, you guys are the best. 

Gxx

The Burrow

During March this year I was invited to work and live out of a studio apartment in Norwood, South Australia for three weeks by the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust (MGCLT). I had been awarded the Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship (in fact I was the inaugural winner) for unpublished authors. So I packed up my things and got ready for an adventure.

Clothes for my Burrow adventure.

Clothes for my Burrow adventure.

The fellowship was created to help unpublished emerging children's and Young Adult (YA) authors and illustrators to have time to work on their current book project. There was also an element of networking and industry meetings. This meant that I spent two weeks solidly working on my book and then one week meeting with librarians, publishers, agents and book sellers to find out more about the industry that is Children's Literature. 

I had originally planned to finish part two of Oh Brother, which I assumed would be about the same length as part one (about 100 pages) during my time at the Fellowship, but I soon found out that this part had quite a few more extra stories and pages. I got 120 pages done while at the Burrow and still have about 20 more to go. Phew!

The essential art supplies for comic book making. 

The essential art supplies for comic book making. 

Even though I didn't achieve my goal of finishing part two (which I was pretty annoyed at myself about), I did get a big chunk of the book done. Hopefully I'll finish part two by the end of this week and then all I have to do is finish part three (and hope that it's no longer than 100 pages), find a publisher who's interested in it and do all that inking stuff. No worries, right?

While I was there I kept notes for myself to write up a little travel comic when I got back into my regular studio (with writing the book all day I ran out of drawing energy by the evening to make the travel journal happen while I was at the Burrow). But I did write up a mini travel comic for the MGCLT Fellowship visitors book. 

On top of getting a big chunk of work done on the book, I also finally got to make a big dent in my reading pile. These are all the books, comics, and zines I read while away from home for the three weeks. I'll talk more about some of my faves in a future post. 

Below is my leaf collection from my time at the Burrow. Each leaf represents a walk I made either around the neighbourhood or into town or to meet up for a coffee with someone. Some of the walks I took helped me to work my way through problems I encountered while working on the story.

Although there are quite a few panels that I drew in part two that I'm proud of (and quite a few I would rather not look at), this was probably my favourite panel that I drew during the Fellowship. I dig the expression on my Mum's face and we all know I love diagrams, cross sections and arrowed foot notes. 

And that pretty much sums up my Fellowship. I had a great time at the little studio apartment, getting up, making breakfast and then getting straight into book making. I think I lived on turmeric lattes and skateboard bread. The bad side-effect is that I do feel a little burnt out on the book at the mo (after working on nothing else for three weeks). I can't wait to have this section done so I can take a breath of air and maybe make short silly comics about nothing important. Or just illustrate some rad ladies. Or food. 

Catch you round!

Gxx

Autism in Film part 2

Hello! This is part two of my Autism in film blogs; if you want to read part one, head over here:

Autism in film part 1 

A lot of the time I can get frustrated with how stories about autism are presented in film (and other mediums too). They often build up to what I call the break-through moment. This is the point in the life of someone with severe ASD where their parents and/or carers, who have tried everything they can to discover a way to communicate, break through the invisible communication barrier. This of course leads on to the person gaining other skills such as socialising, keeping down a job and living independently.

It's great that there are these types of stories out there and they should be celebrated but not to the cost of telling other stories of ASD. Often the way these break-through stories are told suggest that if you try hard enough you will find a way to communicate and if you can't find a way then you as a parent are a failure, that you aren't trying hard enough, that you don't love enough. This is not true. My parents are not failures, they are always trying to find new ways to help Rob lead a happy, fulfilled life and they love him very much. 

_________________________________________________________________________________

Movie: Life Animated (2016)

A documentary about a young man (Owen Suskind) with autism. 

Tagline: His imagination unlocked an amazing new world.

Owen Suskind is a young man with autism who is currently learning about living independently. The documentary takes you through his past and explains how Owen, who did not speak for most of his childhood, learned how to communicate with others and learned to overcome some of the challenges of autism.

I went to see this movie at the cinema on the only day it was showing that I was able to attend. I was feeling pretty lousy about my art and worrying about not getting enough done on my book so I wasn't in the best frame of mind for a close-to-the-bone documentary. I knew the story of Owen Suskind a little from the Radiolab episode Jucivose, so I knew that I was in for some tear jerking. (I highly recommend the Radiolab episode and actually enjoyed it a little more than the documentary.)

What I liked about the documentary was that it also interviewed Owen's brother, Walt. You don't always get to hear from the siblings and I sometimes I feel so desperate to know that I'm not the only one out there and that it's okay to feel the way I do about Rob.

I enjoyed the film - I still found it hard to watch when it came to the break-through moment, but it didn't make me feel like a failure. I was just jealous. I wish I could talk to Rob, have a conversation, find out how he's feeling. I know that's not going to happen but that doesn't stop me talking to Rob.

(Note: The Owen in this film is not Owen my boyfriend. Owen (my boyfriend) wanted me to make this very clear to you.) 

How much did I cry while watching: 5 out of 5 teardrops.

Movie: The Black Balloon (2008)

A film about growing up with a sibling with severe autism. 

Tagline: Normal is relative.

The Black Balloon is about two brothers, Thomas and Charlie. Thomas is a neurotypical teen and Charlie is a teen with autism. Thomas is just trying to get along at his new school, learn to drive and maybe get a girlfriend.

The movie covers a lot of situations that I too have experienced. Confronting other kids at school about people with disabilities; the bus that would take Rob to his school (which was a special school); watching Mum bath my brother; Rob having a meltdown; forgetting to lock the door; and labelling the images on the screen, amongst others. As the film was also Australian, these scenes really hit home for me and I felt like I finally had something I could point to and go, "This! This is what it's like!"

I've seen this movie many times now with groups of people and alone but every time I watch it, it really hits home how good this film is and how important it was for me to have. What I really liked about viewing this movie with lots of different groups is seeing the different reactions from people. The very first time I saw the film was at an Autism SA fundraiser movie night, so pretty much everyone that was watching had some exposure to someone with autism. This meant that whenever someone didn't lock something or just let Charlie look through someone's bag the whole room would audibly gasp before the reveal of Charlie running out the front door or finding something he shouldn't. Whereas when watching the film with people who had no experience of autism, they would of course gasp after the reveal (when you were supposed to). 

The Black Balloon is my very favourite film about autism (of the ones I've watched) as it most closely represents what it was like growing up with my brother and the feelings I had as a sibling. (Although obviously it was not exactly the same experience that I had.)

How much did I cry while watching: 3.5 out of 5 teardrops (I cried a bit during the film but more importantly, I laughed during the film. Autism can be hard to live with but it can also be fun and silly. This is something that I really want to highlight in my book).

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I'm not sure yet if there will be a part 3 of my series about autism in film. I'll just leave it at two for now. I want to focus on telling my story about autism and family. I want my voice to come through loud and clear and not get confused by other people's stories or views. 

Hope you are having an A+ week!

 

Write soon, 

Gx

Mentor Pals // Part Two // Mandy Ord

Last week I showed excerpts from my sketchbook with Pat Grant, so this week I thought I'd show some of the work I did with Mandy Ord. 

This sketchbook delved more into my feelings about life and comics as well as more interaction between us. I would ask questions and Mandy would answer with illustration. What I found interesting was that my drawing style changed when thinking about what I would write/draw to Mandy. It would suddenly get more inky, I would favour using a brush pen to a fine liner, and I would include more blacks and textures. 

It was nice playing around with style and responding to someone else's work. 

Mandy Sketchbook 12.jpg

Working with Mandy was great. It was very different from Pat as they are different people. Mandy was always good to talk to about life and Rob. She would phrase interesting questions that got me to think about the stories in the book a different way. Mandy also runs workshops regularly and is a fan of finding and creating new drawing exercises. When I visited her we were able to run through a few new exercises I hadn't yet done (but now love). I feel like I should always make more time for drawing exercises. 

When working with both Mandy and Pat we did a lot of walking and talking (and walking Mandy's dog Lucy, which was super great because, dogs), which I found really useful to just talk out my thoughts and worries. I get really nervous when I sit still and have to answer questions, but there is something about walking and talking that relaxes me. Maybe because my brain focuses on not tripping over my own feet (a common occurrence if you're me) and that relaxes me enough to talk about my work and answer harder questions. Maybe because I'm a fidgeter - I need to keep my body moving if I want my brain to keep active. 

Anyway enough blathering from me for now. See you next week for more fun blog adventures. 

Gxx

 

Mentor Pals // Part One // Pat Grant

Last year was a big learning curve for me and my comics. Not only did I delve into the world of long-form comic making but I also worked with mentors for the first time. I've never before worked with someone who was there to help me figure out what on earth I was doing (with the story and with my life as a comics creator). 

I was super lucky to have two mentors that I worked with throughout 2016: Pat Grant and Mandy Ord. I arranged to have a shared sketchbook with each of them, where I would write something , a thought or question or worry, and then post it out to them. They would respond by adding their magic and then post it back to me. 

And I thought that you guys might want to have a peek at some of the pages from the books! Pat's book revolved a lot around the mechanics behind writing and planning the book out. I found this was a great way to keep track of everything Pat was telling me about story structure and writing techniques. Which, as I've not studied any type of writing, was all pretty new to me. 

Working with Pat was really interesting. It took a little while for me to stop being so darned nervous I could barely talk but once I got over that, working with Pat was great. I felt like I could discuss my problems and it really helps to have another pair of eyes to read through your story and discuss it with you. Particularly a pair of eyes that has done what you are trying to do and knows all the feels you are feeling. If you want to read more about what I learnt from Pat, head here to my previous blog post about hanging out with him in his home town of Wollongong. 

Next week I'll talk about and share a few pages from my sketchbook with Mandy Ord. 

I'm almost at the end of my Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship residency at the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust, which has been great and filled with lots of learning and making. But I also can't wait to be home with my boy (and my bed!) and getting back in my own studio. Hope you guys are having a lovely week!

Gx

Writing autobio comics

Hello hello!

Because I am again away from the studio this week, working hard on my book, I thought I'd share a blog post from a couple of years ago that I wrote for the SA Writers' Centre. It's all about writing auto-bio. It was originally written as a taster for a Writing Auto-bio Comics workshop I was running at the time, so just ignore all the mentions of workshops. 

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Hello there! My name is Gina; I like to watch television, drink my tea without milk and draw auto-bio comics. What do you do with yourself?

Auto-bio(graphical) comics (writing stories about yourself) are my favourite to write as I get to write from what I know and experience. When I was younger I often found talking to people hard and so I started writing comics about myself that I could share when meeting new pals. They found out a bit about me and it was a talking point. My comics can help work out my feelings or just be a laugh (I also wanted to be a stand-up comedian but found being on stage terrifying so I ended up just writing my jokes down in comic book form).

When tackling writing/drawing/creating comics for the first time, people often think of superheroes — I know I did! My first comic was about a superhero called Menu Man (he’d fight food with food). But as I got older and started reading a broader range of comics, I realised the stories I wanted to tell were about my life and thoughts I had about things I came across in the world. 

Here are some common questions I hear about writing auto-bio comics:

Of course! Just because you weren’t born a chosen one destined to duel the greatest dark wizard of all time or didn’t survive a terrible ordeal doesn’t mean that what you have to say isn’t worth listening to. Everyone thinks differently, and if you think about the world in an interesting way there is nothing stopping you writing well-thought out or funny comics.

Me too! I often worry about what people in my stories will think of how I wrote them or drew them. And tbh they are generally flattered. However, I make sure that I check with whoever I’m writing about and show them the comic first before anyone else. Give them the chance to say “I don’t like how you wrote me there”. Most of the time people will be understanding; just give them the courtesy of being the first to read it.

No sweat! One of the most critically acclaimed auto-bio comics creators, Harvey Pekar, was a writer only and teamed with a variety of artists. Just because you don’t think you can draw (although I bet you probably could) shouldn’t stop you from writing your own comics masterpiece. Comics is a super fun medium to collaborate on. Often comic books will have a writer (or maybe even two), a penciller, an inker, a colourist and sometimes even a letterer.

Don’t be! It can seem pretty scary to write about yourself but it’s not as hard as you think. I know a lot of people who worry about what other people would think of them if they wrote truly about themselves. Do you have a social media account (facebook, instagram, tumblr, twitter)? Then you are already writing auto-bio! So why not add pictures and make it a comic?

There are lots of different ways to write auto-bio comics and no ‘right way’. Here are some of my favourite practitioners of auto-bio comics:

Raina Telgemeier

Mandy Ord

Art Spiegelman

Lucy Knisley

Guy Delisle

Gemma Correll

 

These guys are all great for different reasons - the only thing they have in common is telling their own story from their own special point of view. Have a look at their work (you can see most of them online or in the library) and start having a think about what kind of stories you would turn into a comic.

Can’t wait to see you at the workshop!

Stay excellent, 

Gina xx

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And that's it for this week. I can't wait to share with you guys what I've been working on at The Burrow (that's the name of the studio apartment my residency is at. How great it that!) and have the draft of part two of my book underway. 

Watching Louis Theroux's documentary on autism

Howdy pals!

I'm locked away in my residency at a little studio apartment working on my book. So I thought I'd share a short comic with you about how I felt when watching a documentary about autism. 

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The thing I found the hardest when I was growing up with Rob was watching my brother attack my Mum. It's something that happened almost every day and we all know he wasn't trying to hurt her on purpose, it was just he didn't know how to communicate how he felt. But it's really hard to watch, it's really hard to think about and it's really important that people realise what it can be like living day-to-day with someone with a severe disability who you love to bits.

 

Write again soon. 

Gx

Good Reads for January & February

Hello hello!

I really like making comics but I also really like reading them. And I'd noticed that I'd stopped reading as much and was only working on making my own comics, which sounds pretty great and is! But I'd been feeling pretty down and uninspired by my work and I realised it was because I'd been putting out but hadn't been taking in. So for the last couple of months I've been trying to read more again and I've been feeling much better. As an encouragement to continue this dedicating-time-to-read, I'm going to start a regular bi-monthly post about the comics I've read. 

First up (in no particular order): 

1. Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

This is probably one of my favourite new YA series (there are currently 2 books out in the series, with a third released this month). I've always been interested in math and programming patterns but never really had a head for it at school and quickly would get frustrated with anyone trying to teach it to me. But reading this book made me realise what was going on: I was a visual learner and my teachers weren't always using the visual cues that helped me understand the problems. 

What I really like about Secret Coders is that they explain a programming puzzle two ways: once in just dialogue and then visually (two different characters who think differently explain it to the reader in the different ways). It's written in a way that doesn't talk down to the reader and you are encouraged to try to figure out the puzzle first before turning the page to find out the answer at the end of each chapter. I really really enjoyed this book and recommend it to everyone!  

For those who love: binary, sassy teens & robots. 

2. Hotel Strange: Wake Up, Spring by Katherine & Florian Ferrier

This Bande Desinee style comic was a really fun read. Cute characters going on rad adventures through a semi-magical world meeting fantastical creatures. It's the kind of book I would have gotten obsessed over as a kid and I can't wait to locate and and read the whole series of books. 

Also how good is the name Florian?!

For those who love: exciting adventures, fanatical creatures & pipes. 

3. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

I wasn't sure at all which way this book was going to go before I started reading it. In fact, I wasn't sure which was it was going to go while I was reading it either. But the loose rhyming couplets style of narration and soft pencil markings lured me into this intriguing meditation on conformity or society or something like that. I enjoyed it even though I probably didn't understand the finer points of it. 

For those who love: beards, poetry & untidiness.

4. The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

The second book by Isabel Greenberg, The One Hundred Nights of Hero,  is another love letter to storytelling and folklore. Greenberg just has this knack for creating new folkloresque tales in her own made-up universe that feel both new and old at the same time. One Hundred Nights interviews stories of the past and present and takes you on a rambling adventure that ties it all back together neatly at the end. 

For those who love: stories, brave women & deliciously inky drawings.

 

5. Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark

Originally an online blog written from the point of view of Plum (an adorable dog), Plumdog is cute and easy to read. It was a very pleasant read but I have to admit it was hard for me personally to get through because ever since our family dog passed away last year my urges for wanting a puppy pal to hang out with have been growing. Unfortunately my partner Owen is super duper allergic to pretty much everything and getting a dog while living in a small city apartment without a backyard is really not feasible.  

For those who love: dogs, watercolours and more dogs.

6. Oishinbo by Tetsu Kariya & Akira Hanasaki

I've tried to get into manga before but, like superhero comics, I've just not been exposed to the right one for me and don't really know what to look for in the shops. I'd kinda given up on finding that perfect manga for me until I was recommended Oishinbo by my studio-mate Greg. It cut from fairly dialogue-heavy scenes explaining the intricacies of Japanese-style food preparation and culture to intensive family drama sequences.  

For those who love: fine food, dramatic manga & bad father-son relationships.

Anyway, those are some things I read over the past two months. I can't wait to read through the pile of comics next to my bed. 

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?

Gx

You've got mail!

Hey guys!

As I'm busy as a bee working on the thumbnails for part two of Oh Brother in preparation for my residency with the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust in a couple of weeks, I've only got a quick little update for you this post. I've been working on a few more diagrams about day-to-day life growing up in the Chadderton household. This one is about the average mail we each received. 

 

JSYK the residency I'll be doing through the May Gibbs trust is called the Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship. I'll be working and living in a studio apartment in Norwood. My aim is to make as much headway as I can into the pencil draft of part two of Oh Brother. I'm hoping I can finish the whole draft of part two ready for reading by the time I finish up at the residency. While I'm there I will also be doing some networking and meeting with illustrators, publishers and children's librarians to find out about the industry side of children's literature. 

Alrighty! I best be off, still so many pages to get done before I pack. OH BOY I'M SO NERVOUS.

Gx