Last night I went to a nice event as part of the Visions and Voices series. It was an interview of (perhaps conversation with is a better way to describe it) writer and artist Carol Tyler by Henry Jenkins, who is a professor here at USC in the Annenberg School of Communication (check out his excellent blog here). C. Tyler is well known for her work in the comics and graphic novel world (or graphic book, if you prefer) particularly in the underground comics movement. She is one of the most well known memoirists in this medium, telling the story of her family life, and in particular a great deal of her father’s retelling of experiences in war, and its effects on him, her, and her family. It was good to go along and listen to her talk about her journey in producing the three books that came out of that project (“You’ll Never Know”), other projects, and a little bit of her personal history as a writer and artist. (See Henry Jenkins’ post about her here, and her own website here. Many of her books are published by Fantagraphics.)
I met and spoke with her
last year (update/correction: two years ago) very briefly (she certainly won’t remember), since a few of us (including her) were waiting in the lobby of the LA Times building for the LA Times Book Prizes ceremony to start. She was a nominee in the graphic novel category. We talked for a few minutes and then went in. I remember being struck by the fact that -perhaps appropriately- a pencil was lodged in her hair in a way that suggested that she’d put it there and forgotten about it. I liked that. She seemed very quiet at the time, and also the time I saw her as part of a panel the year before, so it was interesting to see her on stage as the sole focus of attention. She was very animated, interesting, and expressive, especially when recalling scenes involving her father (she do his voice/growl quite a bit). Henry Jenkins made the interesting observation that she takes after him in that she’s very taken with all the tools of her trade (pencils, pens, paper, inks, and so forth) just as she describes him being particular about the tools in his workshop, loving fixing things, and so forth. I was delighted to hear and see her obsess about her pens and brushes and inks, and the various systems she invented for tracking what she’s ding as she designs her graphic novel, as I’m a bit that way myself, as you may have gathered from reading this blog and following along with the various posts that mention my own graphic book project.
While listening to them, I had a pleasant time doing a little sketch of the set up on stage. C. Tyler talked as various slides illustrating what she was talking about went by, and Henry steered things gently in various directions as he saw fit. She also brought lots of things, including lots of original artwork, tools such as various pens and so forth (which I believe were transported in that little red suitcase), and a beloved keepsake and symbol, one of the military jackets that her father used to wear that she now wears. You can see that to the right. I enjoyed doing the sketch, and was pleased with the result so I threw on some colour today (watercolour pencils with water floated in using a water brush) for your enjoyment (made a slight blotchy mess in the shade area of her face, I’m afraid). Yes, I do see the delicious symmetry of doing a drawing of her as she talks about doing drawings of the people in her life.