Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Working on spreads this evening has made me nostalgic.  Thought I'd share two of my favorite photographs from my time there.

Taken from Waterloo Bridge on my first day in London, January 13, 2009.

Taken from the same bridge, this time on my last day in London, May 1, 2009.

How things change... seasons, skylines, viewpoints.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wandering and Rearranging

Hey all.  It's been a week since my last post, and a crazy week at that.  But I thought I'd share how another one of the stories is progressing.

My Honors advisor, Hanna, asked me while I was abroad, "How are you ever going to cure your new wanderlust?"  Which got me thinking, and got me writing.

This is the original spread from my sketchbook, where I let my thoughts literally wander across the pages.  Which led me to...

This.  My original layout, all spread out across the couch in my apartment.  Originally, it was five pages long.  My challenge was to get these five meandering pages down to two, without losing the essence of the piece.

Just a close-up of two of the pages joining.  Along with the swooping text and sidewalk-like panels, I added the element of me escaping the boxes and traveling outside of them-- this time I'm swinging as if the panels are monkey bars.

My solution to the problem of length was to cut the piece down-- literally.  I took a pair of scissors (lent to me kindly by my roommate) and cut up my original layout, and rearranged the panels by hand inside the notebook where I am keeping all of my pencilled spreads.  I copied the new arrangement onto the new pages, and adjusted panel sizes accordingly while I drew.

This is a close-up of what I ended up with.  At this point, I had not added text, but every frame has a line of text to go with it.  Each panel is a snippet of a different memory (from left to right): the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles in France, a bench at sunset in Hyde Park, trees in Green Park, the London Eye reflected in a puddle, and the pyramid structures outside the Louvre in Paris.

I'm sure there will be changes to this layout, as there are to every layout I will do, but for now this is where my wandering has led me.  Keep an eye out for more wanderings to come.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marjane Satrapi

Today, Syracuse University hosted a symposium about cultural diplomacy and the role of the arts and technology in shaping culture and making a difference in society.  Normally, I wouldn't have gone, but it was the presence of one panelist in the discussion that made the difference for me: Marjane Satrapi.

For those of you who don't know, Marjane Satrapi is the author and illustrator of the memoirs Persepolis and Persepolis 2, which are first-hand accounts of what it was like as a little girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and subsequently what it was like growing into adulthood escaping the war by moving to Europe.  Persepolis has been turned into a movie, but first it was a graphic novel-- and a beautiful one, at that.  She has been one of my graphic novel heroes for a while now, and the chance to meet her and hear her speak was too good to pass up.

Instead of telling you about the talk, or gushing about how cool she is (which I could easily do for quite some time) I thought I'd share some quotes from her from the panel discussion today, as well as sketches I did of her.

"The basis of making any work of art is narcissism.  If anyone tells you differently, they are lying.  But it is a good narcissism.  For example, if I draw something, then people look at it and like it and that means they love me.  It comes from narcissism, but you go and open it up [to other people]."

"If I could have Twittered what happened in Iran, I would have written something so sour... I needed seven years to sit and think about it.  We need time to digest things."

"I smoke cigarettes.  I show that in my book.  American publishers told me, 'If we publish your book, our children will read it and become smokers.'  Well, I was thinking, maybe if you publish my book, you children might want to become good cartoonists."

My copy of The Complete Persepolis, stacked on top of the sketches from today's discussion.
She signed it!!!  

One last quote to think about: "For art, it is extremely important to be subversive."

Now, I'm off to work on my pencilled spreads for this week, reinvigorated by her words.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Random Sketches

While in London, I filled four sketchbooks:

But not everything in the sketchbooks will make it into the final graphic novel.  So I thought I would share some of my favorite sketches, and the stories behind them.

Often, I would draw people on the Tube.  This was a woman on the Hammersmith and City Line reading one of the London tabloids.  On the opposite page are some of my spring break musings about having the apartment to myself while everyone else was away on trips (I stayed in London), and also some of my thoughts about the imminent arrival of Chris, my boyfriend, to London (why I stayed in London for spring break, hehe.)

This is the first sketch I ever drew in England.  Our friends Janet and Haley, both girls from my major, took me and Allie (my flatmate and good friend) out for a drink at the Queen's Larder, the pub near the SU Center.  The pub predates the Revolutionary War (or, as the Brits call it, the War for American Independence), but when we walked inside the first night they were playing Otis Redding.  We spent the night talking, laughing, and drinking hard cider.  

In late April, we had a school-sponsored trip to Brighton, on the coast of England.  This sketch is of a bunch of my friends relaxing on the pebble beach.  

In early April, I went to get my hair cut in the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden.  The buildings were all such cheerful colors-- neon pink, sunny yellow, bright blue.  (Sadly, my pages are in black and white.)  The left side of this spread is the exterior of the building where I got my hair cut, and the buildings on the other side of the street.  The right side of the spread, with the windows on its side, is actually a very interesting story: the little circle with text in between the window shutters is a historical plaque saying that building was Monty Python's studio.  And I love me some Monty Python, so naturally I had to sketch it. 

I was having a bad day in early April, and took a walk to Hyde Park.  It was a grey, misty day.  I sat by the lake and drew the water, and the bridge in the distance.  As you might be able to see, in the water it says "London calms me down."  

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I figured for this blog, and this story, the beginning is a very good place to start.  The very first thing I wrote about for my journey abroad was, appropriately, the very beginning of it: taking off from JKF airport in NYC and flying into London Heathrow.  Before my semester abroad, I had only been on a plane a handful of times, and had never gone anywhere outside the U.S.  Naturally, I was freaked out at the prospect of being thousands of miles away from basically everyone I knew and loved, on top of the fact that I was going somewhere completely new and foreign to me.  So naturally, I wrote about that.  But in a more poetic way than simply "I have no more bajeezus, for it has all been scared out of me."  

Process pictures!  (Just a note: I don't want to give too much away as to the actual layout because I want there to still be a "whoa" moment at the end when it's all put together, but I will share snippets of final pencilled layouts, just to give you an idea of what the pages are looking like.)

 The pages from my notebook where I wrote my first thoughts, and drew a sketchy self-portrait reflected from the plane window.  (I had a window seat, thank goodness.)

A couple panels from my rough draft version of this part of the story.  Very literal, with me looking out the window of the plane, and very text-heavy.

A snippet of my first attempt for the final pencil draft.  I edited the text very heavily for this attempt.  

Working on the re-drawn pencil draft.  I am keeping the final pencil draft layouts in a hard-bound black sketchbook, and working on them sequentially.  The dimensions are 11x8'', horizontal.

Close-up on the second page of the Takeoff layout.  I am trying to be less literal and work more with the metaphors I created in my writing, and I edited the text even more.  

I'll leave you with those for now.  It's still in the very early stages, as you can see, but I hope you like seeing how it's coming along!  More on the way later.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Hello and welcome to my blog.  If you're here, chances are you already know about me and my project, but just in case...

Hi!  My name is Brianna.  Originally from the Philadelphia area, I am a senior at Syracuse University majoring in Communications Design and minoring in creative writing.  I am also in the Honors Program, which requires an in-depth thesis project senior year.  

My project:
I spent spring semester of my junior year studying design in London, and visited several other cities while over there.  While there, I sketched, took photographs and video, wrote, and just absorbed as much as I could.  This was all in preparation for my Capstone, which I decided (with some encouragement) should be a graphic novel based on my experiences abroad.  Why a graphic novel?  Well, two reasons.  One, my major is design, so while it would be more expected of me to do a more design-oriented project, Honors Capstone is an opportunity to explore something in-depth that you don't normally get to do.  Two, I am a huge nerd.  So combine those two, and you get my ambition to write, illustrate, and publish my own graphic novel.

My blog:
This blog is for updates on my year-long process of writing, editing, sketching, inking, coloring, publishing, reminiscing, and sharing.  Not all of it will be strictly process-driven-- I will also post about my inspirations, my time abroad, anecdotes, and anything else I feel is relevant to the project overall.  Comments, questions, and encouragement are welcome and appreciated.  I will be updating once a week, if not more, so keep an eye out for upcoming posts.

That's about all for now.  Cheers!