Writing memories of place

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Last week we hosted Australian comics-artist, Campbell Whyte, on his way to SPX in Bethesda, Maryland.

Campbell presented a break down of his first long-form graphic novel, Home Time, to our year-long intensive students and alumni.

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Set in the urban-meet-bush landscape of Perth, Western Australia, Home Time tells the story of a group of friends who get a little lost on their way home from school. Told from five different perspectives, the shifting narrative is supported by a shifting visual style for each character.

As Campbell tells it, he sought to create the classic heroes journey, in a specifically Australian context. What would that look like? How would the setting change the narrative? How could he actively subvert the expectations of the genre?

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As such, place drives the story. This concentration, embedding his childhood and lifetime of memories of Perth into the story, sets the narrative apart. Throughout the book there are personally significant details - a bridge that crosses the Swan River, buildings that Campbell worked in that no longer stand, the Telstra phone booth crowded by students as they get out of school - that hold memories for him as the creator but work to situate the reader in a very specific place and time.

These details of place were aided by reference photos, as well as handmade paper constructions and computer models that show just how much work Campbell has put in to creating this world!

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The project has lasted over ten years, in various iterations. Campbell says his process has changed from the initial germ of the idea but essentially he writes a script, letting everything get on the page, and as he thumbnails he edits the story down. The thumbnails go through various edits until they're ready to be paneled. At each stage, the story is continuing to change, the dialogue is being parred back and the problems of the page are being solved.

It was interesting to hear him talk about the biggest change in his process: jumping straight into the thumb-nailing. For him, that is the moment of actual comics making; resolving the issues of text, image and narrative on a page is the point of making a comic and he wants to spend as much time as possible there. Everything else is just pre and post production.

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Each section has a different production process, varying from the physical medium of acrylic and wet material on linen, to digital media, constructing a world of pixel art.

For the making of the second book, Campbell has enlisted the help of colorists to realize the project, due for release in 2020.

Thanks Campbell for sharing your work with us! We look forward to having you here again!

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Sequential Artists Workshop