Friday, November 30, 2012

Artist Feature: Guy Delisle

Some of you may be familiar with the work of animator/comic-artist Guy Delisle. I just picked up a couple of his books from the library the other day, having seen (but not read) his latest graphic novel Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City in a local bookshop. The two books I picked up were his Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China and Burma Chronicles . Yes, Delisle is a sketchpacker.


Delisle has published four travelogue graphic novels so far. He uses the comic medium to record his memories and experiences in the places he visits. Because of this, you will find a very personal perspective coming through his stories. Some reviewers have complained that Delisle has certain biases, or that he should or should not have done certain things during his travels. Well, perhaps they may be right, but his books are a visual diary, not books on teaching people how they should travel and what mindsets they should have. As such they should be treated as simply what they are - one man's sketch diaries. Readers are welcome to disagree with his viewpoints, but they should be just as ready to appreciate the artistry.

Shenzhen was the first of the four travelogue graphic novels by Delisle. You can see that his style is a lot rougher - more "primitive", if you like. Some people find the book boring, but if it is, then I think it is a good reflection of the boredom he experienced while living there. The stories are quite disjointed, as one might expect of diary entries, but there is a certain sense of passage of time - from when he begins his work as an animation director to the day he leaves. He works in monochrome, but his drawings have the characteristic quality of one well-versed in animation - they have good composition (and staging), design, movement and general style.

Burma is quite a bit longer than Shenzhen, probably because life was more interesting for him there. He was practically the stay-at-home dad while his wife was there on assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). You can see his drawing and storytelling style has developed much since Shenzhen. The stories are much more interesting and humourous.

Sketchpacking isn't always about drawing scenery on-location a-la urban sketcher style. You can draw comics to tell stories of your experiences, your thoughts, reflections and inspirations drawn from the place you are visiting. Delisle does this exceptionally well (and has made money doing it too!).

But you don't need to be a trained animator or comic artist like Delisle to do what he does, especially if you're doing it for personal pleasure. In a future post, I'll introduce one of my friends who uses the comic medium to record her travels. Be inspired!

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