I’m finally back from a whirlwind 3 weeks in Brussels and Moscow and have promised to write a proper blog post about each. So first up is my 2 week residency with the acclaimed literary organisation Het beschrijf in Brussels. Het beschrijf organises book festivals and residencies for many amazing global writers (Including fellow Scott Janice Galloway The Trick is to Keep Breathing and Alan Hollinghurst who wrote The Line of Beauty). Their Brussels in Shorts project was the first time Het beschrijf has opened their doors to comic artists, selecting 10 global artists to each create a 12-page stories set in or around a street in Brussels- Oude Graanmarkt. The 10 stories will be collected in an anthology and published by the fantastic Oogachtend publishers (who have published award winning comic artists Brecht Evens and Randall C).
I was so excited when I heard about this project. How many British organisations fund residencies that allow comic artists time, space and a salary to create? So I worked my proverbial bollocks off on my application creating a pop-up book complete with chocolate bribes (see below) and submitted a story about a magical 5 Euro note that grants your deepest, darkest wish.
If you’ve seen my work, you’ll know I like experimenting with different mediums to tell sequential narratives and so I decided to use paper cut-outs for my story as the narrative was all about objects and paper money. During the residency I managed to write and plan out the full 12 pages and to build the first 3. Below are a few sneak peaks…
It was amazing to have a whole apartment to myself and a little intimidating to suddenly have my hearts desire of enough space, time and money to make what I wanted. So intimidating in fact, that I filled some of that space and time learning about Belgium and the comic scene there. For any of you who don’t know, the Belgium people LOVE their comics. Like the French they refer to it as their ‘9th Art’ and their tiny country is crammed with amazing comic festivals (such as Strip Turnhoutwhere we were guests last December), fantastic comic exhibitions (Belgium Comic Strip Centre,Hergé Museum etc), comic degrees (International students can study BAs and MAs at Saint Lukas), beautiful comic shops (the beautiful Brüsel, Passa Porta and the English Speaking Sterling Bookshas a great selection) and some of the most brilliant artists in Europe (my ex-intern Shamisa Debroey is one to keep your eye on plus Olivier Schrauwen, Thierry Bouüaert and the afore mentioned Brecht Evens and Randall C). Here’s a fantasticaly informative report my ex londonprintstudio students did about their trip to Brussels last year (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). How does such a small country produce so much talent? I suspect with proper funding from the government and respect for this art form which is often over looked in the UK.
I found myself living a nocturnal existence; drawing comics all night and keeping myself busy in the day meeting with lovely comic professors, publishers, curators, festival organisers and artists. Having spent a lot of time recently drawing alone in my flat in London, it was great to put myself outside my comfort zone, get out into the big, wide world and meet new people. I also had a radio interview with FM Brussels (where I was terrified about pronouncing the dreaded ‘Het beschrijf’) and a TV interview with TV Brussels (where the lovely cameraman spent a lot of time filming my feet!). I also gave a talk to a packed audience of such lovely folk at Sterling Books and taught a lesson on comics at the British School of Brussels. Jon came out to visit for a weekend and we had a perfect day visiting a huge contemporary art fair, watching silent films with piano accompaniments and eating all the lobster we could muster.
So- hopefully that’s given you a rough idea of my residency. I’ll keep you posted on the other artist’s work and how the anthology comes together. AND you’ll be pleased to know if this project goes well there may be future opportunities for comic artists to apply (although you’ll need to have been published). All that’s left to say is a MASSIVE, MASSIVE thank-you to Het beschrijf (and all their staff including Ilke, Sigrid, Petra, Kristien, Barbara, Piet and Marq) for making me feel so welcome and looked after, and to all the jury for selecting my story to be included in this wonderful project (Ever Meulen, Willem de Graeve, Charles Dierick, Johan Stuyck, Linda Torfs and Annelies Verbeke).