I had intended my little collection of short stories to comprise only 5 stories, but the total length is only about 70 pages which is insufficient for a ‘proper’ book, I feel. So I’ve decided to add one or maybe two more stories to this collection to flesh it out. I have no shortage of ideas about paintings to use, but then weaving a story around the scenes is another matter. I’ve been fascinated by some of Wyeth’s paintings for years, particularly the iconic “Christina’s World”, but perhaps that is a little too iconic for my purposes. So I’ve settled on this painting, ‘Winter, 1946’ for my next story. I finally worked out the broad outline of the story yesterday, after mulling on it off and on for a long time. It will be something of a ghost story.
Winter 1946 (Andrew Wyeth)
There is something haunting about the image of the adolescent boy, looking as if he is fleeing something. At first glance, one might think he is a pilot, with that hat, trying to evade capture after being shot down. But this painting has an interesting history; the boy is apparently running in sight of a railroad, where Wyeth’s father, the painter N.C Wyeth, had been killed only the year before he painted this. Of course, my story will have nothing to do with this.
Through some research on the web, I’ve just been learning of the difficulties of getting published and marketing one’s work to the masses. I suspect I do tend to write and draw stories for people who do not usually read graphic novels; so that is my main hurdle to overcome – how to get their attention? People are still dismissive when it comes to ‘comics’ and do not see it as any vaguely serious artistic endeavour. Perhaps I am just fooling myself about the merit of this sort of work, perhaps it would have been better to write a novel after all, at least one might be taken a little more seriously?
It certainly took a while but I’ve done it at last – got all my scans redone (which was painstaking!) and put into separate PDF files. Not exactly the size I had originally envisaged, but it turns out that all my comic pages actually fit nicely onto A4 paper and the text isn’t too small to be unreadable. I purchased Apple’s latest Pages software in order to get a simple layout manager to make up this little book when I decided that InDesign was much too expensive and probably overkill for my relatively simple needs. There are 5 stories so far and 73 pages in total, so I am mulling over the idea of writing and drawing 1-2 more stories to pad out the final book. I’d like my first book to be about 100 pages in length. When printed on double-sided paper, that will still merely feel like a slim volume in one’s hand.
I went to this little printers in Covent Garden (http://www.fastflowonline.co.uk), at 10p per side, it wasn’t too unreasonable at all and they bound the little book for me too, all for less than 10 quid. The printing quality wasn’t superb and the paper they used was cheap photocopier paper, but one can’t complain too much about a proof copy! In fact it was a joy to hold my work in my hands as a completed book, and the stories were far easier and more enjoyable to read in a printed format too – it was too tricky to get many people to read whole stories on the web. But at nearly 10 quid per copy, it’s still too expensive for me to be running off copies for friends. My new Epson Stylus printer at home still can’t cope with printing this without a blueish cast, even on a b+w setting.
At any rate, I will have to start hobnobbing around, searching for ways to get published, or self-published even – if it comes to that.
Note to oneself: I rewrote some of the dialogue of The Cafe Terrace and used the Ashcan BB font instead of the original Chalkduster. Just in case I need to remember this for the future….!
It took almost a whole year from conception to the final product, but it is finished at last! This has been a rather difficult story for me to plot, draw and script the dialogue for, as I had intended it to be a few interwoven stories taking place at a cafe terrace based on Van Gogh’s famous night-time painting. The idea evolved from my original plan for the ‘cafe’ to possess a consciousness and a sort of omniscient narrator’s voice, to what it is now, interleaved stories involving the different patrons of the cafe and the young waiter, who begins and ends the tale with his melancholy, brooding presence.
After finishing “The Dessert”, I realised I wanted to explore a relationship along similar lines, i.e that of the secretly homosexual husband, and the emotions of the wife when she discovers the truth. Given my own limitations and inexperience in the comics format, I sometimes wonder if this isn’t overly ambitious story-telling, and I leave it to my readers to tell me whether or not it was a success. I have had such varied feedback from my stories and it is always interesting to hear different perspectives. It is all too easy to get into a cul-de-sac when one is interpreting and reading one’s own work, so feedback from others is always refreshing. Since I had been busy with other unrelated projects, there were many months when I did absolutely no work on the story at all. In September 2010, being confined in a hotel room in southern Italy while gales blew outside actually forced me to tweak the storyline and rewrite the final few pages on a borrowed laptop, after months of absolute paralysis as far as this work was concerned.
This was also the first work I had where I experimented with colour – just a few greys and blues, and I found it appealed to a lot of readers. However, I’ve decided in the end to keep it starkly black and white and more in keeping with the rest of my stories in this collection. I’m not averse to experimenting with subdued hues, but for now, I’ll stick to my black inks and see where my inspiration leads me next!
So, here it is, the Cafe Terrace is finally finished. And I hope it won’t take another year for me to finish another short story.