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Getting the Tables Turned…

Not a lot to time to write this week as the day job has been absolutely mental.

But I’ve been meaning to post about an odd feeling. I love sketching people. I love watching them while they don’t know their being watched and trying to capture the things about them that make them uniquely THEM. It’s usually not got a lot to do with likeness and more to do with the vibe the subject seems to give.

At the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, after I’d delivered my own talk, I was free to attend those of the other writers and I loved being able to draw them as they spoke. The first of the images I’ve posted here is a sketch I did during a talk by Amy Waldman, a journalist turned author who’s just published her first novel, The Submission. It’s a story about what happens when the architect whose design is chosen to commemorate a 9-11 style terrorist attack turns out to be Muslim. The second is of Jennifer Homans, a former dancer whose history of Ballet “Apollo’s Angels” has stormed through the ranks of high culture because, though she clearly loves ballet, she doesn’t see much hope for it surviving as is.

So you can bet that it was more than passing strange for me to have the tables turned on me a couple of times. I didn’t find out about it until after the fact (had I done I imagine I would have been as uncomfortable as I imagine the people I draw must get when they realise I’m drawing). Up in Edinburgh, I met a lovely illustrator, Morag Edward, whose sole job it was to draw authors during their talks and during down time when they would retreat to the yurt set up to give them a place to decompress when necessary. As she describes it, “That’s like a courtroom sketch artist but without the solicitors.” Little did I know that she’d come along to my talk, as a fellow illustrator and doodled me.

image copyright Morag Edward

And then, separated by several months, but found by me when I slipped down the digital rabbit hole one night, I found this drawing by David Jesus Vignolli from my talk at Laydeez Do Comics in May. Each month, they nominate someone to be the event cartoon blogger and capture the night in pictures and words.

copyright David Jesus Vignolli

What’s so strange for me about both of them, and what is strange for anyone who sits for someone else to draw them, is that the things that others find characteristic and striking to draw are not the things that one thinks of as being striking in oneself. When I draw self portraits, I definitely opt for something a little different. But that’s what makes being drawn fascinating. You get to see through others the parts of you that are most prominently projected into the world. Fascinating stuff, but not for the squeamish at all.

Finally, the highlight for me in all of this was meeting a couple of totally inspiring kids at the Writers’ Conference in my home town. On the last day, as we were all gearing up to go home, I met illustrator/metal rock musician and 10 year old, Ava. With a buddy of hers, the two of them were working on a magnum zombie apocalypse graphic novel called “Zombie Apocalypse.” The three of us talked comics, music and shot the breeze. Then the two of them disappeared suddenly. Thinking I might have said something to offend, I was a little worried. But they came back 15 minutes later and Ava presented me with this original piece of art! How cool is that?

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