We have the great fortune to live next to a great park in Amsterdam. It’s out of the way of the tourist routes and has really become a park for all of the neighborhood: young families, joggers, people with dogs, families at a barbecue, and tormented artists like ourselves seeking the solace of nature.
Two years ago the old abandoned shack in the park grounds was reopened by an enthusiastic young couple, Tim and Astrid, who started selling delicious smoothies, toasties and other goodies there. Their cafe in the park, called Terrasmus, became a great success and last winter they remodeled the place, so they can accommodate more people inside and have more room for workshops, music festivals and all sorts of activities for kids.
A few days before the reopening, we walked by to check the place out, and bumped into Tim and Astrid themselves, who showed us around. They pointed out a great empty stretch of wall where they were thinking of asking a local artist to do a mural – so we immediately volunteered and the same evening I made a sketch for a drawing of about 3,5 by 1,20 meters.
After some back and forth about things to include in the picture – basically everything and everyone that can be found in the park on a nice sunny day – we had an approved sketch that Yiri then colored in bright summery colors. We sent it to the printer to have it printed on wallpaper, and within a week a big package was delivered to our doorstep.
And here is the whole picture, enlarge by clicking on it:
If you’re in Amsterdam, come and take a look at it at Terrasmus in the Erasmuspark – and have one of Tim & Astrid’s great smoothies to make it a perfect experience!
Currently, there’s a Kickstarter campaign going to bring out ‘Anything That Loves’ - a bold new comics anthology that explores and celebrates the complex world beyond the categories of “gay” and “straight”. I’m proud to announce that one of my comic characters will fill ten pages of this book.
I started ‘Mijntje’ for Dutch lesbian magazine Zij aan Zij in 2004 and she’s my oldest and longest running comic. Mijntje is a 22 year old bisexual girl who’s in a relationship with Mia, with various adventures on the side.
Especially for ‘Anything That Loves’, I have translated ten comics, and re-christened Mijntje into Minnie for the english-speaking world.
Given the ongoing struggle for any minority that doesn’t fit into what other groups define as “normal”, I think this will be an important book that will contribute to the visibility of the shifting realities of sexuality, instead of the cliches. I’m proud my Minnie can be part of this, and I encourage anyone with an interest in the subject to back the Kickstarter here to receive the book – and there are also cool T-shirts to order!
Here’s a preview of one of the ten Minnie comics that will be in the book:
Last week the digital debut of the graphic novel ‘Persia Blues’ happened, one of the newest releases of my American publisher NBM. I had the pleasure of backing creators Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman through Kickstarter, which bought me the thrilling perk of being depicted as a character in the story! To surprise my husband, I asked him to be drawn in, and last week we saw the result – Yiri’s wonderfully pencilled incarnation as Brigand #1!
Yiri takes the stage for three action-packed pages, after which he is unceremoniously uhm, well, annihilated basically.
To counter his gruesome graphic demise, I drew up this alternative ending:
If you want to read the whole of his performance, you can download the first issue for just 99 cents on Comixology by clicking here.
Or you can wait until June, when the entire graphic novel will be on sale in comic stores and beyond!
Is there anything better than doodling? Yes: doodling for two! This is a fun drawing “game” I love doing with other artists – each one draws a first panel in a six-panel grid, then passes the paper to the next person, who continues the story in his/her own style. Usually, this results in fascinating wacky comics.
Lately, my husband Yiri and I had a lot of fun creating these:
(Translation by me, colors by Yiri)
If you’re lucky as a comic artist, you get to make a comic for a magazine that appears with some frequency. This allows you to build a world, to flesh out characters, to introduce backgrounds and depths.
If you’re really lucky, your comic runs for a few years and builds a readership. A run of two, three, four years is a really good one in this time when magazines seem to re-style at a disturbing rate. (Unfortunately, the comic is usually the first thing to get changed under a new editor.)
And if you’re really really lucky, you get a chance to revive such a comic, even after years and years, in another magazine.
This is what happened to me with my comic Stella.
Stella appeared in girls’ magazine Flo’ from 2005 to 2008, when the magazine folded. Stella was an eleven-year old, as were the readers, and she was well loved.
Last Summer, I was asked to make a comic for magazine Hoe Overleef Ik, aimed at girls around 15 years old. I asked if I could draw Stella again, this time a little older. The editor was OK, and the readers liked it, and by now I have already made six new adventures for her.
Here’s the comic at the very start, in 2005:
And this is the new Stella, that appeared last Summer:
Widely beloved author Neil Gaiman has started the project A Calendar of Tales, in which he invites the world to make art with him. Using the tweets of thousands of people as an inspiration, he has written twelve tales, one for each month, and is now inviting artists to illustrate them.
I love this.
Even though I’m busy enough preparing the translation of ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’ (to be published in September) and the second print of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ (Yay! A second print!) AND the usual assignments and commissions, I’m making time to get into this project, reading and illustrating one tale a day.
It doesn’t pay anything – and though it may generate some exposure of my work, it’s highly unlikely it will make a big splash amidst the thousands of artworks that are being uploaded.
I’m doing this because it’s FUN – with all capital letters – the kind of fun that working aith others in a studio or 24 Hour Comics Day brings me. It’s the pleasure of working without restrictions, combined with the energy generated by a whole bunch of people doing the same thing, riding the same creative wave. Yes, I know I sound like a hippie, but I can really feel this almost tangible energy that surrounds a project like this. It’s crisp, it’s fresh, it’s positive. It’s thousands of people making stuff that did not exist before. It’s miraculous.
I wish the world could be more like this: simply Creative, without worrying about payments or copyrights. I’m so happy with people like Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer, who are showing the world the power of connectivity and what it can do for art.
Anyway, here are my illustrations so far:
Even though the tales are only about two pages long, Gaiman manages to conjure up such a wealth of imagery. It’s in my comic artist’s blood to try to get as much of the story into my drawing: the soldiers, the forest, the beach, the couple with the champagne, and of course the Unspeakable Things that lurk behind the seconds… You can read the story here.
The February Tale became a tryptich. It’s about an old lady who lost a pendant on a beach – but she doesn’t actually feature directly in the story. So I wanted to draw her, and her reaction to what’s happening, something that’s only speculated about.
I surprised myself with this one. Even though I can often picture in my head what kind of drawing I want, it always turns out different. That’s partly, I think, because I never had any formal education in drawing. I have not tried different styles as much as I would have liked to. In the past years, working on my books, I have stuck closely to my “simple” drawing style. After such a long time of full time drawing, I find that I actually have built some skill, a certain routine, a confidence that I can make a drawing work on a page. And now I can apply that confidence to these drawings in a whole new way and style, and here’s actually a realistic-looking Old Woman, that I didn’t know I could draw until now!
The March Tale is about pirates and a Southern porch and when I read it, I immediately saw silhouettes, because that reflects the nostalgia as well as the frilliness of the story. But I’ve never really done silhouettes, so again this was a nice experiment, and again I surprised myself! And lo and behold, it also turned out to be a tryptich:
It’s my intention to illustrate all of the twelve stories in the coming week. It gives a nice new impulse to my work rhythm. It’s like pushing myself into new territories – full of discoveries and unexpected vistas.
If you want to get in on this project, you can! You should! Artwork can be submitted until March 11. You can read all about it when you click this link.
As Neil Gaiman says: “Sure, the world is full of artists, but none of them is YOU. Don’t withhold the world your unique view on things.”
It’s Valentine’s Day! Here are some doodles I made of the loved ones I live with:
Lately, a friend has joined our little workspace, bringing a whole new discipline in our comics-dominated world: Michiel Mensingh is an old high-school friend of Yiri, and an acclaimed composer of modern classical music.
The new input inspired me to make these cartoons:
The piece Michiel has been composing will be performed by pianist Laurens de Boer on 22 March 2013. More information here.
I hardly ever make political cartoons or comics. But when I was invited to comment on the pending Iraq War in March 2003, I made this:
I can only grasp global problems by scaling them down to “sandbox”-size. It all the more emphasizes the pettiness of human behavior and motives – which really depresses me, but at least it makes for an entertaining comic. As you can see, this one was heavily influenced by Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, both in style and tone.
After being put up on the site Stripster.nl, the comic went viral – and I kicked myself for not having put in a recognizable signature (it has one now).
Recently, I got to make another comic about a global issue, for magazine Open Deur: the theme was Rich and Poor. After giving it some thought, I decided to revive the Sandbox, and this is how it turned out:
Tonight, Dutch Queen Beatrix, after a reign of 33 years, has announced she will abdicate the throne in favor of her son Willem-Alexander. Coming Thursday, she’ll turn 75 – what a grand way to celebrate her birthday!
After seeing her speech on TV, in which she stressed that she really enjoyed being Queen but thinks it is time for the New Generation, I made this cartoon.
The Netherlands has had a run of three Queens (Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix) – now for the first time in 123 years a King will rule again. But his reign will not be without Grrl-power: he has three daughters and a great wife, Maxima, who might even be allowed to use the title of Queen of Holland.