With time to kill in London, I went over to the always sublime British Library for their Royal Manuscripts exhibition (on until March 13), not inappropriately given the dense decoration of Thompson’s Habibi. For the first section I spend lots of time poring over the details of every book…then I rounded a corner and saw how large the exhibition was! This is a phenomenal gathering of books – so many in fact that by the end I was just casually glancing over them as I walked past as if these incredible art objects were common as mud, my brain and eyes too full to take much more in. If I lived closer, I would probably pay the entry fee twice to spend some more time. Interpretation was excellent as well, with free audio guides for extra info from various experts – the only thing not there that I could have wished for was some information on all those bizarre and fascinating creatures and scenes that get tucked into the borders of so many of these works! You could make a rich and fascinating fantasy world populated with them. My highlights included the first encyclopedia, and a later one which used the alphabetised approach we’re now used to.
Craig Thompson is one of my biggest comic heroes (like many others I’m sure)…or perhaps more specifically than comics, one of my biggest drawing heroes, whose lyrical lines fill me with wonder and enthusiasm about what a line can do – so I was definitely looking forward to this event, especially knowing he’d be spending a bit of time talking about his process on Habibi.
I’m not going to go much into his talk, because Comics Gosh!p (Gosh‘s comics reading group) were there filming, and presumably that will be available at some point. I did take notes to ponder though, peppered with sketches that don’t look much like him due to the lights being off for his powerpoint. You might be able to pick out a few themes – this page is mostly process:
I totally have a thing for hearing about other peoples’ development and work processes, and his seven-year process on Habibi is fascinating and intimidating in its intensity – apparently that time was solely on Habibi, and he didn’t really take any outside work. He’s now working on three projects simultaneously, and I’m curious how he’ll find that compared to the intense-focus approach. It sounds like a fairly linear flow – he mentioned being able to be solely immersed in the drawing stage, figure drawing, backgrounds, etc, when he got there.
I have to admit, his thorough drafts and re-drafts make me a little embarrassed that I rough-drafted a 24-page issue script in a day the day before. But of course, I’ll re-draft it, and the answer to anything about process is “whatever works for you”. For example, I have to work on more than one project or I feel stiff and stale – but not too many, or I have trouble getting into the headspace of a project when switching modes. And in a way, it’s as useful to know “that wouldn’t work for me” as it is to go “hmm, maybe I should try that”. It remains completely fascinating to me to hear about a very different approach.
I’ll wrap up with a bit about the signing he did afterwards. I have a confession to make. I’ve never waited in line for a signing before. No wait, that’s a lie. When I was a teenager I lined up for Yoshitoshi Abe’s signature at an anime con. But in general, while I love getting books signed on a more chatty/casual basis, standing in a line and getting a sig from someone who’s doing one after another feels so anonymous, when the real desire is a connection or chat with the person. (Yet at the same time, I would be elated if I could ever procure enough people who wanted me to sign things to create a line!)
So I don’t really know how these things usually go. However, I would like to anoint Craig a Class Act ™. Instead of sitting behind a table, he pulled up a chair on the same side as him, and did a sketch and chatted with the person while he did it. He was amazingly warm and personable. This was basically a master-class on doing a signing well, and making every reader of your work feel special.
I’ll wrap this up with a thank you to the three people who let me in front of them so I could get my book signed and still make my train – I made it with 2 minutes to spare! O.o Phew! I’ll finish by showing you the lovely sketch I now have in the front of Carnet de Voyage 🙂
Thanks Craig! 😀