Why Only Art (and Maybe Love) Will Ever Save You
Lynda Barry and DIrty Diamonds and following your dreeeeeeeams.
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
2:25PM, Wed. Dec. 10, 2014
Save you from what, precisely, is where your mileage may vary.
But everybody hurts sometime – as R.E.M. assured us back in the day – and sometimes that hurt is an existential sort of hurt that comes from not knowing what to do with your life, exactly; or not knowing where you fit, really, in the big scheme of things; or not having the confidence to step out there into The Great Untried and just see what kind of response – internal and external – that first act of stepping-out might provoke.
And wouldn't we all like to be saved from that? Don't we all need, every now and then throughout our long strange journey in this world, to be at least briefly saved from that?
In many cases, hallelujah, the sisters – as Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics sang – are doing it for themselves.
The sisters we're considering here are Lynda Barry – she of Ernie Pook's Comeek and The Good Times Are Killing Me and more – and the editors of and contributors to the Dirty Diamonds comics anthology.
Lynda Barry's newest book, Syllabus, is now out from Canada's graphic-novel powerhouse Drawn & Quarterly, and it's a sort of coda to her What It Is and Picture This books of creative how-to memoirs. Although "a sort of coda" doesn't do the book justice, really, since the volume is a standalone amalgam of lessons plans for (and the activities in, and the results of) the art classes that Barry, an "accidental professor" that any instructor would hope to be as delightful and inspirational as, teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The book is presented as Barry's own thoroughly illustrated composition notebook; it packs so much practical advice and passionate exhorting and beautiful drawing into its 200 pages that you'd think it was a sort of TARDIS. Talk about saving someone, Lynda Barry's relentless life-affirming insistence on surrendering to your imagination and creative passions is likely to rescue more stymied artists than Doctor Who has ever shared a continuum with. So you should have a copy for yourself, we're suggesting here: To spur you onward – or just to delight your artloving senses with.
And then there are Kelly Phillips and Claire Folkman, the editors of the independently produced Dirty Diamonds all-girl comic anthologies. They're on their fifth issue of the series, now, and this most recent release – a Kickstarter-funded success – features autobiographical stories on why the contributors make comics, why they got involved with comics, in the first place. So many artists here – 32 of them, from six different countries – telling their personal tales of discovery and creation; so much talent expressed in so many compelling styles; so welcome an addition to the indie-comics scene – so necessary, we'd say, to that scene's flourishing. The perfectbound volume (featuring a full-color cover by Carey Pietsch enveloping the black-and-white interiors) is available in an extremely limited edition for just $12, and would make a good gift for anyone, we reckon, but especially for anyone who's 1) young and 2) female and 3) wondering Hey, what's all this being-alive shit supposed to be about, anyway?