Underground comics artist Lynda Barry (previously) is one of this year's class of $625,000 Macarthur Foundation "genius grant" recipients, and it's so deserved.
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Lynda Barry's "Making Comics" is one of the best, most practical books ever written about creativity
Underground comics artist Lynda Barry (previously) is one of this year's class of $625,000 Macarthur Foundation "genius grant" recipients, and it's so deserved. Read the rest
TIL: the fabulous Lynda Barry teaches at the University of Wisconsin! In this lesson, called "Writing the Unthinkable," she shares a neat method to get started on a new piece. It begins by drawing a tight spiral as a meditation.
"Once I start to draw this spiral, I'm starting to get in the mood to write some kind of story."
Drawn & Quarterly has a new edition of Lynda Barry’s coming-of-age novella, The Good Times are Killing Me
Young Edna Arkins lives in a neighborhood that is rapidly changing, thanks to white flight from urban Seattle in the late 1960s. As the world changes around her, Edna is exposed to the callous racism of adults―sometimes subtle and other times blatant, but always stinging. By weaving the importance of music in adolescence with the forbidden friendship between Edna, who is white, and Bonna Willis, who is Black, Lynda Barry captures the earnest, awkward, yet always honest adolescent voice as perfectly in prose as she does in comics.
The publisher kindly gave us permission to run Barry’s afterword. Enjoy!
Seattle photo: MILKOVÍ Read the rest
Lynda Barry blogs about the amazing feels she got when she discovered that she'd been given a guest-appearance in The Family Circus by Jeff Keane, Bill Keane's son and successor. Read the rest
The instructors for this summer's Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy writers' workshop are Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Cory Doctorow, C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson: the workshop runs from Jun 25-Aug 5 at UCSD in La Jolla, California. Read the rest
I'm pretty bad at keeping up with new cartoonists. I'm stuck in the world of artists who emerged in the 80s and 90s: Daniel Clowes, Mary Fleener, Julie Doucet, Carol Tyler, Lynda Barry, Los Bros Hernandez, Jim Woodring, Roberta Gregory, Peter Bagge, Chris Ware, Dori Seda.
Lucy Knisley is one of the rare younger cartoonists that I've gotten hooked on. (I interviewed Lucy on my podcast Gweek in 2013.) I'm a fan of the "ligne claire" drawing style, which Lucy exemplifies, and her sense of page composition is clean but with the perfect whimsical touch. She also colors her drawings with watercolors, not Photoshop, so they have a nice texture.
Her work is mostly autobiographical. Her 2008 book, French Milk, is an illustrated journal about living (and eating) in Paris with her mother. Her next book, Relish, is about growing up in the food industry.
In 2015 she wrote Displacement, a comic book travelogue about taking her frail grandparents on an ocean cruise. Lucy does not have children, and was not familiar with taking care of dependent people, so she was stunned by how exhausting the "vacation" was. Her 91-year-old grandmother had dementia and didn't really know who Lucy was, and her 93-year-old grandfather had an incontinence problem that he didn't care about. Lucy ended up having to wash his trousers every evening when she was able to convince him to take them off.
In between the diary entries about things like waiting in line for 3 hours to board the ship, calling her father asking for help (he wasn't helpful), and putting up with the bossy ship's crew, Lucy included excerpts from her grandfather's WWII journal, which shows him to be an excellent, observant writer, much like Lucy herself. Read the rest
It’s hard to imagine what contemporary culture would be like without the existence of the comic, graphic novel, and low-brow art publishers Last Gasp, Fantagraphics, and Canada’s small press darling, Drawn & Quarterly. In Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-five Years, D&Q are given their due. This lavish doorstopper of a book contains numerous historical essays about the company, with lots of great photos, a timeline, reminiscences, interviews, and more. The rest of the book is mainly comprised of full strips and excerpts from some of the many award-winning and pathbreaking comics and graphic novels that D&Q has published over the past quarter century. Some rarely-seen comics are included. Peppered throughout are appreciation essays from the likes of Jonathan Lethem and Margaret Atwood along with many artists appreciating the fellow creators of the delightful devil’s picture books known as comics. Artists featured in the collection include Seth, Julie Doucet, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry, Chester Brown, Peter Kuper, Tom Gauld, Daniel Clowes, Anders Nilsen, Ariel Bordeaux, and dozens more.
Again, imagine for a minute a world in which the work of these talented artists had never reached the masses, and how far less rich, interesting, and strange our world would be as a result. Congrats to Drawn & Quarterly for bringing these artists to us, for celebrating 25 years of beautiful high weirdness, and for producing this impressive and yummy book. The ink smell of it alone will make a book nerd’s eyes roll back in her head.
At my house, we've fallen in love with Recipe, a 2013 picture book about a little girl who tells her good-sport mom that it's time she learned to cook, and hands over a set of ingredients for Mom to buy, including a new puppy, a Cleveland Browns sweatshirt, a helmet, a water squirter, and 20 bags of marshmallows. Read the rest
Professor Lynda Barry has been on a roll of late. First, she published her astonishing and inspired writing-workshop-in-a-book, What It Is. She followed that up with Picture This: The Near-sighted Monkey Book, which covered drawing in much the same way that What It Is approached writing. In Syllabus, Barry has published her actual hand-drawn lesson plans from her popular college class entitled “Drawing the Unthinkable.”
There is something profoundly dream-like in Syllabus – in all three of these books – like you’re mainlining Barry’s bizarre and fertile imagination, and tapping into your own via a kind of contact high. There are visual invitations on every single page of this composition-styled, hand-drawn notebook to get out your own crayons, pens, and notebook and get to work. There are a series of lessons in the book, class announcements, examples of student work, and related class notes. Where I loved and was inspired by Barry’s first two workshop books, Syllabus finally pushed me to start doing a daily art journal, one that grants me permission to play, to “draw the unthinkable” (i.e. just do it, don’t overthink it, and do it for the process, not the product). I’m 19 days in and absolutely having the time of my life.
If you’re like me, you are always on the lookout for a novel that speaks to the homicidal teenage girl on acid inside of you. Well, today you are in luck, unless you’ve already read this 1999 masterpiece by artist/writer/teacher/goddess Lynda Barry.
Best known for her comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, which ran in many weekly alternative papers in the 1980s and '90s, Barry creates characters that are simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. In Cruddy, 16-year-old narrator Roberta Rohbeson lives in poverty, “on a cruddy street, on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe.” As the story begins, Roberta has been grounded for a year due to getting caught “tripping on drugs very badly.” In one long journal entry/suicide note, Roberta composes the “famous book” she plans to leave behind: the recounting of a road trip with her violent, alcoholic father, which leaves a trail of death and destruction and concludes with Roberta stranded on a desert highway, her trusty knife Little Debbie as her only companion.
Although Barry departed from her usual cartoon format, the ominous black and white drawings she includes throughout beautifully enhance this dark tale. Nice touches are the illustrated endsheets, which are maps detailing both Roberta’s cruddy hometown and the route of her and her father’s horrifying crime spree, er, family vacation.
Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel by Lynda Barry
David Letterman sometimes says, of certain eccentric (usually brilliant) people: “She (or he) ain’t hooked up right.” He means it as a compliment. Lynda Barry definitely ain’t hooked up right – and we’re all more enriched for the strange wiring.
So, it’s no surprise that when the well-known comic artist sat down to write a book about the craft of writing (based on her popular writing workshops), she’d end up with something utterly unlike any previous writing guide. Like all of Barry’s work, What It Is is disarmingly personal and brilliantly playful and chaotic.
This densely collaged book is utterly uncategorizable – so many modes of expression are at work here: a textbook/workbook on inspiring creative writing and cultivating creativity of all kinds, a comic-memoir of Barry’s personal struggles with creativity and self-expression as a child, a stunning and challenging piece of collage/altered book art, and a sort of extended fever dream on the nature of memory, imagination, play, and creativity.
Barry’s ultimate message is about waking up to yourself, to your potential as a creative being. It’s an extended pep talk on finding the inspiration between your ears and using your senses and memories of life experiences to express yourself in ways that can truly enrich your life. It’s hard not to open up this book, poke your head into its dream-like sea of memory-ticklers, imaginative ideas, creative inspiration, and surreal imagery, and not want to put it down immediately to go make something of your own. As if to drive home the beastly, manifold nature of our deepest reservoirs of creativity, Barry introduces the Magic Cephalopod (aka squid), a sort of creature from the Id, who swims through the murky depths of the text, its many appendages constantly in creative motion, gently encouraging us to swim off on some grand adventure inside of the Mariana Trench of our own imaginations. Read the rest
Today, our friends at Last Gasp are having a huge underground comix megasale at Fab.com of fantastic funny book bundles filled with works by Robert Crumb, Dan Clowes, Spain Rodriguez, Dori Seda, Lynda Barry, Gilbert Shelton, Diane Noomin, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Peter Bagge, Jay Kinney, Dennis Worden, Kaz, Trina Robbins, S Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Bill Griffith, Ted Richards, Mats?!, Krystine Kryttre, Shawn Kerri, Justin Green, Terry Boyce, Joyce Farmer, J Bradley Johnson, and lots more. Many of these comics would be very hard to find anywhere else.
Lucy Knisley's comic "Downloading Optimism: Pessimism Detected" is a thoughtful response to a panel where great indie comix creators (Lynda Barry, Jules Feiffer, Matt Groening, Chris Ware) decried online comics and online reading. Click through for the whole thing.