We all grow up with a misconception that some people have innate artistic talent. While it's true that some people are born with some natural talent, succeeding as an artist requires self-discipline and years of practice. I've told my 13-year-old daughter this countless times, but as a mother, my view point sometimes falls on deaf ears.
Better to get that information from an actual artist.
That's why I was so pleased to have some input from Alison McCreesh, the artist and storyteller behind Ramshackle: A Yellowkife Story. Here is how her experience of living off the grid came to be a graphic memoir/travelogue/diary. (That's her self-portrait below.)`
"I had travelled a fair amount before and had always kept illustrated journals of some kind or another. I didn't give it that much thought. I just liked to draw and also liked to keep some kind of notes about my wanderings."
Draw inspiration from other artists
"It took until about 2008 for me to start discovering more indie and alternative comics and to realize that there was a whole genre of visual storytelling that actually existed and got published. A little while after that, I also started following a bunch of comic blogs and was inspired to start my own."
Set short-term goals
"My plan was to draw a few panels a week - never less than one - to document my travels. I figured that a little accountability to the World Wide Web would keep me motivated. I called the blog 'Alison a fini l'école' and started working on it in earnest when I headed out to do an internship in Halifax to wrap up my undergrad."
"I was surprisingly disciplined once I started and kept it up for a good three years. I made several panels a week and posted them diligently as I wandered - and as I eventually came to settle in Yellowknife. After a while of being sedentary, and of other creative projects taking up more and more time, the blog eventually fizzled out."
Build on the seed of an idea
"It seemed a shame to have done all that work and for barely anyone to have ever seen it and I always planned to do something with it. It just took me a while to figure out the precise incarnation. It wasn't cohesive enough for me just to stick it all together into a book."
Don't expect everything to be perfect
"The visual style changed over time, the drawings were sometimes sloppy and there was often a lack of context. It was a lot of raw material though!"
Decide on your focus
"In the end, I decided to go back and focus on reworking a section and that's how Ramshackle came to be. The book is directly based on about four months worth of the blog - the four months that span our first summer in Yellowknife."
A sense of humour always helps...in art and in life
"As for humour, I try to be of the school of 'the more aggravating at the time, the better the story later.' Being under pressure (even self-imposed pressure) to draw weekly comics also did wonders for my attitude: every tiny hardship was potential gag material. Working on the story of that first summer in hindsight was also a plus. In revisiting all the old panels and strips, I mostly saw the funny side. It's easy to laugh at sleepless mosquito infested nights when the bites are long forgotten."
The Unexpected Twists and Turns is a reflection of the people, events and books that pass through our lives. I started this blog in December 2008. After a much needed break, I'm back and on the lookout for people forging new non-traditional paths.