Inspiration & Influence (i)

“What if the things… were still out there?” – page from Ch. 1, with an obvious influence from Tenniel’s illustrations for ‘Alice’.

Inspiration and influence are the html of the creative world. They are the mechanisms by which artists link their work to what has come before and what comes after. They form the chains of cause and effect that constantly drive the creative world forward. For me, understanding what my influences are and where my inspiration comes from is key to helping me get some perspective on my work.

Epileptic is an extraordinary graphic novel. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that its almost certainly the text that has had most influence on the development of “Graphic Medicine” into a distinct genre. I was fortunate enough to hear its author, David B., give a talk at last year’s Comics and Medicine conference in Brighton. A lot of what he said about the choices he’d made when it came to the story and the artwork in the book seemed to echo thoughts I’d been having about One Of Those People.

There can be no getting away from the fact that the approach I’ve taken to my artwork – and even to some of the structure and storytelling – has been influenced by the work of David B. An obvious example of that is the mixing of “real” and “surreal” elements in the artwork.

Early on in my conversations with Liesl, it became clear that there was a hugely surreal element to a lot of her experiences. Not only were the experiences themselves surreal – being unintentionally trapped in a hospital over Christmas, for example – but the language she used to describe them was surreal as well. She seemed to have difficulty describing aspects of her experiences without resorting to metaphor, analogy and parallel.  A lot of her references were literary – Alice in Wonderland being an obvious one (linked to an episode at Easter genuinely involving a white rabbit; the white rabbit later became something of a re-occurring character).

David B. mixes together a lot of elements that work on multiple visual levels. He uses the surreal to embody particular emotions, or to personify particular events, actions or even states of being. The personified elements share the visual space with himself, his family and other “real” characters and situations, and the medium allows him to mix together these disparate visual players to make particular narrative points. I really like the way this works, and it’s something I’ve started to do in my artwork. This approach has brought with it a huge package of narrative freedoms that have made working with the unorthodox text much easier.


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