Giovanni Drogo first lays eyes on the Bastiani Fortress -From Dino Buzzati’s Tartar Steppe

[My second, not necessarily more successful attempt at illustrating a scene from Dino Buzzati’s 1940 novel the Tartar Steppe (Il deserto dei tartari in the original Italian). Giovanni Drogo, a young army officer is on his way to the Bastiani Fortress, the frontier outpost to which he has been appointed. Unbeknownst to him, Drogo’s entire life is to be spent in this remote mountain fortress, waiting for an opportunity for military glory that could give meaning to his existence. The Tartar Steppe is probably my favourite novel, so it’s difficult for me to feel I’m doing any justice to the writing when illustrating it. But it’s so inspiring, so of course I will continue to do so.]

There they go, Giovanni Drogo and his horse, see how small they look against the sides of the mountains, which are growing ever taller and wilder. He keeps on climbing, wanting to reach the Fortress before the close of day. But rising up faster than he can –from far below, where the torrent is roaring– are the shadows. At one point they are at the same level as Drogo, directly across from him on the other side of the gorge. They seem for a moment to have slowed their pace, so as not to discourage the rider, then slide up over the cliffs and boulders, overtaking him.

When the whole valley had already been submerged in a violet darkness, and only the bare grassy peaks at the most incredible heights were still lit by the sun, Drogo suddenly came upon an ancient and abandoned-looking military building, looming darkly and immensely against the clear evening sky. Giovanni could feel his heart beating in his chest, for that was surely the Fortress, yet everything in sight, from the walls to the landscape, carried an inhospitable and sinister air.

He rode all around the structure without locating the entrance. Though it was already dark, there were no lit windows, nor were there any sentry lights visible atop the battlements. Nothing but a bat, fluttering against a white cloud. At last Drogo tried calling out: “Hallo!” he shouted, “Is anyone there?” Continue reading

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My comics adaptation of Robert Frost’s “Birches” in Plough Quarterly!

A couple of months ago, the American magazine Plough Quarterly commissioned me to create a visual interpretation of an extract from Robert Frost’s 1916 poem “Birches.” The comic is now up on their website: https://www.plough.com/en/topics/culture/poetry/robert-frosts-birches and will appear in their next print issue.

Click here for more information about Plough Quarterly: http://www.plough.com/en/subscriptions/quarterly

Posted in comic book poetry, comics, Poetry, Poetry Comics, watercolour | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Giovanni Drogo first lays eyes on the Bastiani Fortress

I consider this one a failure, mainly because of compositional issues. Nonetheless, there are some salvageable elements that could be put to use in a second attempt:

 

There they go, Giovanni Drogo and his horse, see how small they look against the sides of the mountains, which are growing ever taller and wilder. He keeps on climbing, wanting to reach the Fortress before the close of day. But rising up faster than he can –from far below, where the torrent is roaring– are the shadows. At one point they are at the same level as Drogo, directly across from him on the other side of the gorge. They seem for a moment to have slowed their pace, so as not to discourage the rider, then slide up over the cliffs and boulders, overtaking him.

When the whole valley had already been submerged in a violet darkness, and only the bare grassy peaks at the most incredible heights were still lit by the sun, Drogo suddenly came upon an ancient and abandoned-looking military building, looming darkly and immensely against the clear evening sky. Giovanni could feel his heart beating in his chest, for that was surely the Fortress, yet everything in sight, from the walls to the landscape, carried an inhospitable and sinister air.

He rode all around the structure without locating the entrance. Though it was already dark, there were no lit windows, nor were there any sentry lights visible atop the battlements. Nothing but a bat, fluttering against a white cloud. At last Drogo tried calling out: “Hallo!” he shouted, “Is anyone there?” Continue reading

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Infinite Splendour of Krishna

In Chapter 10 0f the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Khrisna elaborates on his transcendent nature. He is to be found within all things, but above all, as he tells his interlocutor, the warrior Arjuna, he is to be conceived of and looked for in as all that is superlative and inspiring, basically the crème de la crème of creation. Among mountains, he is Mount Meru, thought to be the centre of the Universe; among the celestial bodies, he is the Sun in the daytime and the Moon at night; among the letters, he is “A”; among animals, he is the lion; among birds, the mythical eagle-like Garuda; among water creatures, he is the crocodile; among trees, the banyan tree; among all the causes for procreation, he is Love; and among seasons, Krishna is the Spring, the bringer of flowers.

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Registration Open for my Comics Course at the Visual Arts Centre!

I am excited to announce that this Spring, beginning April 26, I will be teaching an 8-week course titled “Comic Book Illustration/Illustration de Bande-Dessinée” at the Visual Arts Centre in Westmount. Classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 7 to 10,  and will be taught in both French and English. The cost is $230 + materials. Here is the short course description that can be found in the VAC Spring/Summer 2018 program:

Bringing together images and words, comics are an exciting and accessible means of storytelling and self-expression. Learn basic illustration skills (including expressive figure drawing), inking, layout, character design, and story development, which will then be brought together in the creation of your own short graphic book. The development of a unique style and voice will be encouraged. No previous experience in writing or drawing required.

Registration for courses at VAC open today! For more details and/or to download their full Spring/Summer program, go to https://www.visualartscentre.ca/

 

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Massacre at Saint-Joachim

Throughout their siege of Quebec City in the summer of 1759, the British went about systematically raiding and destroying the French settlements both upriver and downriver from the capital of New France. During one such raid on the village of Saint-Joachim on August 23, a detachment of British light infantry, American Rangers and Scottish Highlanders clashed with a group of French-Canadian habitants led by their parish priest, the 52-year-old Abbé Philippe-René Robinau de Portneuf. There are contradictory reports as to what happened next, but it appears that a group of habitants, including Abbé Portneuf, were captured by the British and then murdered and scalped. The number of victims is unclear, but a monument in Saint-Joachim commemorates seven dead, in addition to Portneuf. The monument also provides the ages of four of them: 48, 61, 64 and 69 years. Presumably their younger neighbours had been posted to the defense of the city of Quebec.

This imagining of the events of August 23 are extracted from my ongoing graphic novel project recounting the siege of Quebec City and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Throughout the graphic novel, all the characters from a particular nation are depicted in a combination of a neutral grey tone and one characteristic colour -blue for the French, red for the English, purple for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and so on.

 

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My “Annabel Lee” comic a teaching tool in India!

I recently received my complimentary copy of the “Active Teach Lighthouse Grade 5 Coursebook” a school textbook for English second language learners in India, published by Pearson India Education Services in Chennai.  The textbook includes my 6-page comics adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” paired with a number of questions and assignments designed to verify and deepen the students’ understanding of the poem. Several of the questions refer back to my illustrations (ex. What can you see in the waves in the last panel of the comic? Why do you think the illustrator put that there? What are some of the lines that show the bond between the speaker of the poem and Annabel Lee? What are some ways the illustrator shows this same bond?). At  the end students are also asked to create their own three-panel comic strip imagining the speaker in the poem speaking to Annabel Lee on her deathbed. This feature in “Lighthouse” seems to me a great example of how comics poetry could be effectively integrated into language learning and literature classes everywhere.

 

Posted in Annabel Lee, comic book poetry | 10 Comments