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Warren Craghead - Comics poems. He uses a completely original approach to juxtaposition and composition of images, words, and fragments of both, to suggest meaning beyond what you see on the page

HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE


Warren Craghead, HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE, Domino Books, 2007.

www.craghead.com/lrg/HTBE.html
drawerdrawer.blogspot.com/


To me, this is one of the most important comic books of the last decade. Conceived as a tribute to Appolinare's Calligrames, there are a number of different ways to appreciate and love this book. First, you can view it as a very personal style of drawing pushed to its apex of creativity with the challenge presented by Calligrames as the organizing principle. Craghead fills page after page with drawings here, and each one of them doubles over itself with mroe life then the next. Are these 'abstract' drawings or are they drawings presented as information, organized within the form of a book? Or is there something more going on? 
I look at a project like this with maybe a naive idea of whats its about. What I see is this: Craghead uses Calligrames as a catalog and engine to create a substantial amount of drawign around. The images generated by this engine become more and more creative---to me, they are breathtaking---as Craghead is forced to create more work to fufill the tribute. I may be totally off base---but no matter what, this is one of the most important comics of recent memory (up there with John Hankiewicz' Asthma). - dominobooks.org/


My book of the year must go to Warren Craghead’s How to Be Everywhere.  I’m already on the record as an admirer of his work, but this is a masterpiece.  It is the only fluid, beautiful fusion of comics and poetry I have read, with drawings that echo the language, a true marriage of media.  Issued in an edition of just one hundred, I can only hope that more than one hundred people will read it.
The book adapts Apollinaire’s modernist verse into free comics pages.  Craghead abandons panels as Modernist poets abandoned meter, and his drawings echo Braque and Grosz.  I am struck by how naturally his drawing, previously in the service of suburban America, lends itself to the trenches of World War I.  And how beautifully his lettering transforms another’s poetry into his own.  The work recalls Apollinaire’s calligrams, only in line as well as word.
Most impressively, the book calls to mind the scholar’s fantasy that ended Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville.  At the lighthouse down in New Zealand, there exist all the unknown masterpieces of comics, works by Gertrude Stein and Picasso, our medium’s lost history.  Imagine if these artists had put their hand to comics, Horrocks suggests.  Craghead has done one better, envisioning an entire poetic autobiography by Apollinaire.  He has made a work that would sit comfortably on that shelf in that mythic lighthouse, waiting to be discovered decades later.  In other words, right now.
- billrandall.net/


As Bill Randall points out in his excellent overview of Warren Craghead's career, Craghead is one of the more productive, compelling, and almost completely overlooked verbal-visual artists working today. I first saw Craghead's work 11 years ago in his Xeric-sponsored release Speedy. That book and a few smaller mini-comics the artist produced during that period felt as thrilling and potent as any young cartoonist's work to emerge that decade. Craghead bent comics' formal properties in a way that yielded new thematic ground and significant, almost delicate instances of emotion and meaning. His work seemed more like a comics equivalent to poetry than anything that had come before it and perhaps since, and Craghead used it to explore some wonderfully nuanced notions about the passage of time and human longing. In 2000, Craghead began to shift from comics and cartoon-based stories to projects more heavily dependent on non-iconographic drawing. Through works like Thickets and A Map's Little Spell, Craghead began to forge connections between the gallery world and the Internet and self-publishing that in some location suspended between them seemed to give his work a home and greater context.

His latest works have begun to make good on the staggering promise of those early mini-comics. An adaptation of young writer Erin Pringle's story "The Only Child" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, while HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE [caps Craghead's] showcases the artist's almost unique ability to empathize with another person's view of the world by giving life to their words through their careful placement vis-a-vis a visual element: in this case, the words of poet and painter Guillaume Apollinaire. Rather than cutting into Apollinaire's poetry, dissecting its meanings, Craghead climbs inside of its causes and attending worldview so that in the course his interpretations explain, embody and ultimately reinforce the ideas behind the originals.

As a comics fan, you owe yourself some time spent with Warren Craghead's work.

Mr. Craghead has prepared a special preview page for his latest book just for this interview. Thanks, Warren!

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Warren, I'm kind of unclear on what you do now. You mentioned a day job... are you making art full time?
WARREN CRAGHEAD: My wife and two-year old daughter and I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, about two hours south of Washington, DC, and an hour west of Richmond. We originally came here because of my wife's job, but have decided to stay for a while at least. There's a surprisingly large art scene here.

For my day job I do design and art direction for a company based in North Carolina. I work alone in my office downtown which is also my art studio, so I'm able to deal with both sets of things throughout the day. Between that and some nights and weekends I get a good amount of studio time, but it's never enough.

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SPURGEON: Can you tell me about your collaboration with Erin Pringle on "The Only Child" and how it came about?
CRAGHEAD: The literary magazine Barrelhouse approached me for this project. In every issue they have an "illustrated story" where an artist chooses a piece they have accepted but haven't published yet. So I chose Pringle's short and creepy story "The Only Child" and got to work drawing it. It's not technically a collaboration because I worked off of the finished story with no input from her and luckily she ended up liking what I had done with her work.

SPURGEON: How do you look on your adaptation now that there's been some time since it was done?
CRAGHEAD: I really enjoyed making that piece. I wanted to make something that both mirrored her story but also set up some parallel narratives, like visual grace notes to her main story. Making it, and trying to do her story justice, involved a lot of research and some very close reading which allowed me to find more and more in the page and a half story she wrote. That page and a half ended up as twenty pages for me because of the way I wanted to make rhythm in how I broke up her text. I was also aware that this was going to be published in a magazine that had curious readers but ones not used to strange comics experimentations, so I drew it in a clearer and at times very "normal comics" way. Well, "normal" for me anyway. I even quoted Charles Schulz by using a tiny Charlie Brown-like character in it.

imageA main undercurrent of Pringle's story is death -- the story takes place in a hospital morgue -- so I found as many ways as I could to show death in a wide variety of symbols. I think my favorite page is the one where a drawer is open and it contains a flag at half-mast, then it closes, then it's open again and it has a dead tree. What I drew followed the text -- "We shut her drawer. We open it." -- but also referred to death and the crazy way the narrator is understanding everything. All that wrapped up in a visually jarring and, I hope, compelling series of images. The trick in comics is to make a picture that says several things at once.

SPURGEON: How many similar works have you done at this point?
CRAGHEAD: Other than "The Only Child" I've done two books with the writer Roger Noyes [Other People's Schemes and The Problem With Chemistry], a book with Marc Geddes [Wallball], two swapped stories with Ted May [Deliverance and The Legend of the Prowling Paw] and HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE which is drawings based on the work of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. I'm also working on three different "drawing conversations" with three artists which will eventually become individual books. Along with that I'm doing two drawing/video projects with people, and one other drawing/writing collaboration. It's a lot, but they all move slowly...

SPURGEON: Has working with people changed the way you approach your own work?
CRAGHEAD: Working with someone else, or with someone else's work, makes me do a lot of things differently. As I mentioned earlier, it makes for some very close reading as I really try to do right by whatever I'm working with. Working with Ted May's script for "Deliverance" was hard because I could see that really funny story drawn by him and I knew I couldn't match his comedic chops, so I had to go in another direction. Noyes' poems also threw me for a loop because I had to find things to draw in his poems without merely illustrating them. For the Apollinaire book I was trying to connect with not just his poems, but his biography and the whole world of pre-WWI Paris as well.

All this friendliness has affected my own work in a few ways. I'm more apt to steal -- I mean learn -- from people. I'm also finding I like having a fixed point to push against. Sometimes, by having someone else's work, work that I really respect, to go from I can seem to go farther out than if I was making all of it.

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SPURGEON: How exactly did you discover Guillaume Apollinaire?
CRAGHEAD: I came across Apollinaire as a result of my long interest in Cubism which has been a steady influence in my work for a long time. Apollinaire was a great champion of Picasso and Braque and other leading edge avant garde artists in pre-WWI Paris -- reading his work one can really see and feel the crazy energy of that time. He saw poets and artists as heroic and seers, as badasses. That and his embrace of the changing world around him was very appealing to me. I should also mention he was the first poet to seriously make "concrete poetry" where the way the type is laid out on the page forms an image that interacts with the text of the poem itself -- he called them "calligrammes."

At the same time I was interested in the intersection of words and images and specifically how poetry could be used with pictures to make something else. I started this project around the time I published Jefferson Forest and thickets which are along those lines. The drawings that became HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE started as just little exercises in my sketchbook, little scrambles of Apollinaire's words with some of my drawing.

SPURGEON: Were there specific qualities in his work that led you to want to explore it?
CRAGHEAD: Well, his work is full of great images, and the language is also startling and beautiful, especially the Donald Revell translations. Beyond that I'd say it's his deep affection for the world around him, the changing world of avant garde Paris, and how he tries to reflect that world while holding onto valuable methods, techniques and aesthetic tricks from the past. He uses beauty which makes his work powerful and compelling. That use of optimism and beauty was probably easier before WWI, but his later work, after he had fought in the trenches and almost died there, still has that spark.

Another thing I saw is his relationship to the visual art revolution going on around him. I think there's a lot we can still learn and steal from those Cubist paintings, especially those of us looking for new ways to tell stories using pictures.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk about the show that preceded the book? How does the fact that this material was in a show have an effect on what we see on the printed page?
CRAGHEAD: The book preceded the show, part of it by several years.

SPURGEON: My bad. How did it develop, then?
CRAGHEAD: I started the drawings that became the book while I lived in Albany, New York -- my wife was in school and I would go to the library with her. She studied while I drew and ransacked the university libraries for images of France, Paris, WWI, etc. I laid that group of work aside for a few years and came back to it when Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, MD offered me a show coinciding with the Bethesda Literary Festival. I decided to finally finish the book and make some accompanying drawing/collages.

The book and its drawings influenced the wall pieces a lot -- bits of each are in the other. The wall pieces were colorful collages on board, all 12" x 12". They also were each based on a single poem rather than using fragments and lines like the book drawings. The car I drew for the book also ended up in the collage based on that poem ("Le Petit Auto"). I had originally planned on also showing the drawn pages of the book in the show, but that didn't work out.

The book itself was affected very little by being in the gallery show. The numbering of the books was something I hadn't done before, but other than that it was the same as if I had just published it.

SPURGEON: Did you have a general notion of how you wanted the work interpreted in this visual-verbal way and then figured out how to apply that to each piece, or did you struggle through each individual piece? Was there a key?

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CRAGHEAD: At first each page was done separately. I would draw something, then find an appropriate piece of a poem to add into it, then draw some more, revise the text, and on and on. At times I started with the text, but usually it was the image first.

As the project grew I started deliberately doing pages to fill holes -- I tried to follow Apollinaire's life in the work with a rough Paris section at the start followed by bits of his war years. The final composition was in ordering the pages. I laid them all out in my living room and moved them all around. I was looking for a balance between the flow of images and text and some structure loosely based on his life. The final few pages were really important to me - some of his final poems sum up his whole enterprise and I wanted to reflect that.

So no, there is no "key," no master unlocking secret to all the pages that allows one to read them. I did use some of his symbology (as well as a bit of my own), but each page stands on its own inside the larger flow of the whole book.

SPURGEON: Is there possible to see in the work any antecedents? Saul Steinberg springs to mind as a potential cartooning influence here, was he? Were there other cartoonists? Other artists?
CRAGHEAD: Saul Steinberg is someone I look at a lot. He can pack narratives and ideas into seemingly simple drawings, and that multivalent image-making is something I'm very interested in exploring.

Raymond Pettibon is another word and picture scrambler I look at, though my favorite pieces of his are from old Minutemen LPs I bought as a youth. His work needs both the words and the images -- either alone is much less than both together, and than kind of friction is something I wanted to make happen in HTBE.

Gary Panter's crazy and ambitious remaking of the Divine Comedy is another thing I look at a lot. He keeps the story very Panter, but injects lots of parallels with Dante and other writers.

One other antecedent, though I know it's way above my weight class, is James Joyce's Ulysses which, on one of its almost endless levels, uses the Odyssey as a rough template. Like Panter, that absorption of an older thing into a newer piece is something I'm interested in.

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SPURGEON: I wanted to ask about a couple of your basic approaches. The first being the diagrammed-out pictures, where there are actually lines between objects and words playing different roles at the end of these paths than they might down their length. The second is the kind of layered shapes effect you get that sort of look like some 20th century painting.
CRAGHEAD: I think comics and narrative storytelling can learn -- and steal -- a lot from both information design and from Modernist, specially Cubist, painting. The diagrammatic pages are directly from my interest in how story and information can be delivered in different ways. The lines link the word with the pictures, as in a real diagram, but the connection between the two isn't always on the surface. The images and words also start getting mixed up with each other, scrambled, making something destabilized and a little confusing, which can open the readers eyes up to an experience of seeing the page rather than just reading it.

The layered shapes, and the references to Cubist and related Modernist artwork in general, comes from Apollinare's deep interest and enthusiasm for that work. It also comes from my thoughts about how the lessons of Cubism can be applied to comics and narrative storytelling. I'm just beginning to work on this, but I think there's something to investigate there and the parts of HTBE that go there are just the first steps.

SPURGEON: What are your expectations for an audience? Where does a book like this sell?
CRAGHEAD: I know that there's only a small subset of the comics world that is interested in something like this. It's poetry -- French poetry! -- it's weird drawing and it doesn't use most of the usual conventions of comics... Still, I think anyone can read it and get things out of it -- it rewards close reading. It's for sale at some online places [Cafe Royal in the UK and Little Paper Planes in L.A.] and is also available through my galleries in DC [Gallery Neptune] and Richmond, VA [ADA Gallery] and also at a local store here in Charlottesville, Destination Comics. I've also sold some directly over email. I'm exploring publishing it in France and I may issue a second edition when this one sells out.

imageSPURGEON: Do the pages with some of the poems included within them generally include all of the poems, or are there substitutes made in terms of visual information for words? How did you approach the issue of whether or not to include words?
CRAGHEAD: I took chunks of his work -- only two pages have complete poems. I didn't drop words out and replace them with images, but at times the images do function as words or letters, building on each other in a logical progression like letters forming words. The images and Apollinaire's words need each other in my book. I was making a friction between them that would hopefully, while still referring to the old things, make something new.

SPURGEON: Is there anything you discovered about Apollinaire's work in the process of working with it that you didn't know before?
CRAGHEAD: A big thing I discovered is his rich and deep affection for the world, for the stuff and materials and people around him. He's like Walt Whitman in that way, and, like the Cubists who led me to him, he always grounds whatever crazy flights he takes with the real, concrete things around him. I try to learn from that, to look at my work and ask, "Is this real? Is this close to a true experience?" and "How do I make something that is an experience, not merely something that points to one?"

SPURGEON: Is there any other cartoonist out there you'd like to see approach adaptation? Who? Doing who? Is it something you wish to continue pursuing?
CRAGHEAD: Adaptation is a rich land for us artists to plunder. Seeing Panter's Divine Comedy adaptation showed me how on can work from a text but make it completely one's own. The drawn version of Paul Auster's City of Glass that Paul Karasik and David Mazzuchelli made is another example of an adapted story that uses the friction of words and pictures to make something that runs parallel to the original text. David Lasky's Ulysses adaptation is another great piece. I do want to continue mining this vein -- there's one poetry project in particular that might take me the rest of my life, but I'm a little leery of it. There's also another French poetry project in the works.

If I could command people to do adaptations, I would order Ted May to do Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Crumb to do John Ashbery's Girls On The Run (which is Ashbery's poetry version of Henry Darger's drawings), and Kevin Huizenga to do Paradise Lost. I guess I'd also want to see Gilbert Hernandez do One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's really unnecessary since his Palomar is as rich and alive as Marquez's Macondo.

SPURGEON: How much of a connection do you feel with Apollinaire's desire to match old forms and new? What is the purpose of doing so, do you think, for Apollinaire? Was it a goal in and of itself? Was it a way to better represent life or a political moment?
CRAGHEAD: I feel a great connection with the old/new aspect of Apollinaire's project. I hope my experiments and wanderings are like his - ones that are deliberate attempts to more closely render our experience of the world. Apollinaire was seeing so much change in his world that he knew the old forms just couldn't keep up and I see that now too. In art, and especially in comics, I see a lot of wide open territory.

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SPURGEON: How would you describe the satisfaction you get out of work your very idiosyncratic corner of the comics world?
CRAGHEAD: The satisfaction I get from my work is both the process of making and the finished piece - seeing something I've made that baffles and confounds me. Something that stays mysterious. I'm not getting rich or famous, but I am finding new things all the time. Another satisfaction is the reaction I get from people and when I see others working along the same lines, artists like Andrei Molotiu and Gary Sullivan. That tells me we're on to something.

SPURGEON: Tell me about the rest of your 2007.
CRAGHEAD: With a crazy-drawing two-year-old daughter I'm busy without picking up a pencil, but I do have some stuff lined up. For printed work I have an 11-page piece in the recently released UK book Cafe Royal [issue zero], edited by Craig Atkinson. For that one I made three small tear-out and DIY booklets that all add up to a kind of autobiography. I'm not sure when it prints, but I've done a 4-page color piece for the next Rosetta from Alternative Comics. The pages from HTBE will be in a show in Portugal as part of the Amadora Comics Festival and there's a chance I may go see it. For art shows, I'm in a group shows in Washington DC, Pittsburgh and New York this fall, at least one of which will have an online component.

*****

all art from Mr. Craghead's new book, except for images #2-3, which are from his adaptation of Erin Pringle's "The Only Child"

*****

How To Be Everywhere, Warren Craghead, Warren Craghead and Gallery Neptune, soft cover, 100 pages. Special Preview.

*****

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 - Tom Spurgeon www.comicsreporter.com/













HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE

HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE




a postcard

STATEMENT
My work explores the absurd idea of how to be everywhere; It insists that art can be accessible, cryptic, and beautiful all at the same time. My drawings, collages, paintings, book and mail art are inspired by my experience in the ordinary world. They contain spontaneous "without thinking" narratives that process and encode everyday life and the written word into discrete, pictographic, nonlinear stories that can be encountered everywhere: a sticker on a pole, a booklet in a newspaper, a postcard in the mail, an image on a website, a collage in a gallery.
In my process, I mix and transpose images and words, pictures and poetry, constantly sketching as a way of mapping what happens to me in a given day. Cubist and cartoony collage elements or texts from poets or myself are translated into multi-valent diagrams, whose glyphs, sentence fragments, and miniature imagery beg to be deciphered. I make numerous series of small drawings and arrange them sequentially, placing them in literary journals, comics magazines, or self-published books that I sell or give away on the web.
I also am interested in the idea of 3D drawing, folding, cutting, and gluing to build origami books or free-standing paper sculptures, as well as unconventional art modes, such as mailing out thousands of small drawings on found postcards. In all my work there are additional levels of translation and evolution, where past pieces are scanned and digitally remixed into new web-based or filmic works.

In the end, I am fascinated by the notion of a "seed toss:" by the cycle of exchange between artist, object, and the person who holds a small strange book in their hand.





 
fauves

Fauves
comic strips on
Comics Workbook


outside #2

outside 2
for Oily Comics
12-page book

30 Days of Comics

30 Days of Comics
30-page book

seed toss, a new map, anew

seed toss, a new map, anew
20-page booklet

The Endless Summer

The Endless Summer, Drawn
a drawn film

ladyh8rs

ladyh8rs
online project

Singing Is Fun with Violet

Singing Is Fun with Violet
12-page book

Ginger is Five!

Ginger is Five!
12-page book

Violet is Eight!

Violet is Eight!
12-page book

Gloucester is a Colony

Gloucester is a Colony
for Comics As Poetry
6-page story
outside #1

outside 1
for Oily Comics
12-page book
fjords

shshshshsh
for Fjords Review
10-page story
tusen

backyard
in Tusen Hjärtan Stark #1 from Domio Books
8-page story
seed toss

seed toss, nameroughquena pt. 4
20-page booklet
seed toss

seed toss, nameroughquena pt. 3
20-page booklet
seed toss

seed toss, nameroughquena pt. 2
20-page booklet
seed toss

seed toss, nameroughquena pt. 1
20-page booklet
seed toss

seed toss
mail and street art projects
seed toss

99 March for Obama
postcards for victory
Baldessari

Baldessari
Album design &
20-page book


30 Days of Comics

30 Days of Comics
30-page book

Sundays 5

shshhshshhshsh
8-page story
revolution drawings

revolution drawings

How To Garden with Violet

How To Garden
book

Violet is 7!

Violet Is Seven!
booklet

Ginger's Treasure Hunt

Ginger's Treasure Hunt
book

Ginger's Day

Ginger's Day
book

Ginger Is Four!

Ginger is Four!
booklet

Ginger is Three!

Ginger is Three!
booklet

smoke sound, a cork

smoke sound, a cork
collage

scraps

scraps
44-page book

instagr/am/bient

instagr/am/bient
sound/drawing

A Bout De Souffle (Breathless)

A Bout De Souffle
(Breathless)
a drawn film
30 Days of Comics

30 Days of Comics


prize, prized

prize, prized
12-page book
a rabbit as king of the ghosts

a rabbit as king of the ghosts
8-page story
seed toss, trench sent print

seed toss, kick it over
12-page book
seed toss, trench sent print

seed toss, trench sent
print
a sounds of the world. a thing

a sound of the world. a thing.
4-page story
party crashers

party crashers
origami book
Leaf and Signal

Leaf and Signal
curatorial project
Dear, I'll

Dear, I'll
4-page story
Leafs and Signals

Leafs and Signals
12-page book
A Sortf of Autobiography

A Sort of Autobiography
online published project
Un Calligramme

Un Calligramme
8-page story
seed toss, new waves

seed toss, new waves
12-page book
This Is A Ghost

This Is A Ghost
14-page story
seed toss, trench sent
a circle, a sphere 12-page book
The Surf and The Face

The Surf and The Face
12-page book
originally published in C-Ville
seed toss, trench sent
seed toss, trench sent
12-page book


to be Everywhere


to be Everywhere
collage
a siren-song, a ballad
A siren-song, A ballad
collage
The Dot and The Line

The Dot & The Line
12-page book
a flame expelled
A Flame Expelled
online project
seed toss rough cut
seed toss, rough cut
12-page book
petals. a spell

petals, a spell
origami book
Lisboa, Lisbon

Lisboa, Lisbon
28-page book
HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE

HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE
90-page book

chanson
collage
a maps little spell

a map's little spell
online project


The Only Child
20-page story


A carpeted Troy (sneak 1)
digital print


between ice chunks (sneak 2)
digital print


your breath sent blue ripples (sneak 3)
digital print


I did see sky. (sneak 4)
digital print


the end of everything
drawing and collage


Learning to draw, shucking
drawing


reading Apollinaire in my room
mixed media
a toen center

a town center
drawing and collage


Jefferson Woods #22
mixed media


Alone, at a party, look in the mirror, look out the window
mixed media on paper


Jefferson Estates #21
mixed media on paper


I will tell you. No matter. Listen
mixed media


Jefferson Estates #192
mixed media on paper


The Problem With Chemistry

27-page book
tangled. We are entangled.

tangled, we are entangled
mixed media on paper


heap, signs, where we live
mixed media


Los Arboles
drawing
I Found Something On A City Visit

I Found Something
On A City Visit

drawing


Pleasure in Troy, NY
drawing


Jefferson Estates #111
mixed media on paper


a Backyard Birdhouse
drawing and collage


driving by a grave
drawing


Things Have Happened
drawing


Things Bleed
drawing


ha ha What The World Is
drawing


Jefferson Estates Phase 1
16-page book


Jefferson Estates Phase2
16-page book


Jefferson Estates Phase 3
16-page book


Other People's Schemes

28-page book

thickets
48-page book


Jefferson Forest
16-page book


older drawings



...and found. and found.
Flash animation


Crap-Head Daily
comic strips
   

A Sort of Autobiography by Warren Craghead

Submitted by on May 17, 2010 – 9:00 am

Download
StoryCube 1 – 1970 A4 only PDF 600Kb
StoryCube 2 – 1980 A4 only PDF 1.5Mb
StoryCube 3 – 1990 A4 only PDF 1.5Mb
StoryCube 4 – 2000 A4 only PDF 1.1Mb
StoryCube 5 – 2010 A4 only PDF 1.8Mb
StoryCube 6 – 2020 A4 only PDF 1.6Mb
StoryCube 7 – 2030 A4 only PDF 2Mb
StoryCube 8 – 2040 A4 only PDF 2.1Mb
StoryCube 9 – 2050 A4 only PDF 1.7Mb
StoryCube 10 – 2060 A4 only PDF 800Kb

About : “I have lived like a fool and wasted my time”, Guillaume Apollinaire
A Sort of Autobiography is a possible story of Waren Craghead’s life projected both back to his birth in 1970 and forward to his death in 2060. Each decade of his life is represented by a storycube as a rough self-portrait. Drawn in various styles and encoded in different ways, the cubes tell a story of transformations – of mark-making, of physical appearance and of a life seen through drawing.
Published May 2010 in the Diffusion Transformations series

A Short Interview with Warren Craghead



Warren Craghead is an artist  generally beloved by cartoonists and readers lucky enough to have found his work. Mentioning his name never fails to elicit a quick “oh, yes I think his drawing is great,”  but he is woefully under-read and-under discussed. Part of this is because his strongest work, How To Be Everywhere, is a publication with an extremely limited run (although that’s no excuse–the readership of comics in general is extremely limited to begin with, and could sync up just fine with the amount of copies of How To Be Everywhere if it wanted to). More importantly, though, what Craghead is doing with his art is rather daunting to describe, leading to inevitable tongue tying after the confession of admiration. I have the same problem myself–which is why I thought a series of short statements from Craghead himself might be in order. I hope this might get the ball rolling in terms of thinking about what Craghead is doing. In the current comics landscape, where experimental approaches seem to be hastily backed away from more and more after the giddy embrace they received about five years ago, Craghead is as important as ever.

Austin English: Your drawings feel incredibly personal to me, but not in any simple version of the word ‘personal.’ They seem like your own world of symbols that express something that is very much yours, and I don’t see those symbols anywhere else. For the drawings that you publish, how much work is done in developing them (in sketchbooks or studies) before you share them publicly? Or are the images you publish visual ideas that you’re still developing?

Warren Craghead: I don’t do much preliminary drawing at all. I don’t sketch or “pencil” but I do draw things over and over until they seem right. By “right” I mean interesting and strange. My work is sort of stories that tell themselves or that are found by drawing them. It sounds a little corny but I wander around.

As for the personal, I’ve always been interested in the idea of turning images and words into each other. Concrete poetry (like some of Guillaume Apolliniare’s work), Mixtec screenfold histories, Cubism, medieval illuminations. I once tried to learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphs – I still use some of them in some work. The idea of mixing them up is old.

A personal vocabulary forms naturally for an artist. I’d like to think I can draw anything but I know I gravitate towards drawing things I like to draw. Houses, dirt, lights, trees. People, not so much. There’s reasons for all that, I guess.

English: Can you expand on what those reasons are? The absence of people is almost a signature of your work (although, for me, there is a feeling of “people” in all of it).

Craghead: The biggest reason is that most of my work is non-cinematic in that I don’t want to make little windows that the viewer peers through to see something happen, like in a movie. I want drawings that come out at the viewer, that are experiences themselves. For me this idea comes from Cubism and its insistence that a painting be both a representation of something and an honest object in the world.

Dang, it only took me two questions to start spouting off about Cubsim….
I enjoy quite a lot of great work that does employ cinematic devices in storytelling – most comics from Kirby to May do this, though there’s more and more other traditions being used these days. I guess I’ve just veered off onto another path.

I am interested in people – How To Be Everywhere is all about a person, it’s a sort of biography of Apollinaire but I only really draw him once. I tried to make a presence there without specific depiction.

English: “An honest object.” Is an honest object a shape we’ve never seen before? A shape that you have in your mind that doesn’t exist anywhere else?

Craghead: To me an honest object is one that is itself. So, for example, a painting that doesn’t only strive to be a window into another world, but one that might depict something but is also clear about what it is — wet colors moved around on a 2D surface. Comics already do this with cartoons — they show something but they are also clearly ink on paper. In my work I’m not interested in having a reader “get lost” in my story, I want my things to jump out and participate in their world. Towers and mountains not pits and windows.

I’ll add that in other artist’s work I very much like the cinematic and “window” ways of working. I just want to do something different than that.

English: I feel like I have that in me too…liking the “cinematic” style in other artists’ work, but my work comes out differently. Sometimes I sit down and say, “This will be a normal comic from me, finally!” But it never comes out that way. But sometimes just looking at an old Joe Maneely comic will be more of a charge for me then looking at something that’s more stylistically similar to me. Just the idea of comics. How important is the idea of comics for you?

Craghead: I really like the idea of words mixing up with images to do something. Is that comics? I also like making little books, things to give out, too send out into the world like seeds or viruses. Is that an idea of comics too?
I’m with you on old work that might be totally divorced from what I make. Old Infantino or Wayne Boring comics make me happy in some comics area of my brain. I don’t think they affect my work much though – it’s like watching TV. Well, not even that because I draw from TV sometimes. Lost comics. Project Runway comics.
English: When you make those little books and things to give out, at this point how connected is all that to your day to day life? Is art-making a natural thing like taking your kids to the zoo or is it in a different part of your brain?

Craghead: You’re asking something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Comics-makers like Oliver East and Franklin Einspruch have a great sense of place and life in their work. They do sort of auto-bio work, but without drama (well, without much drama). I see possibilities in what they do for comics that still stay close to one’s own life but don’t always illustrate dramatic situations. In some things you do I see situations that are so sunk into the materials used and the play of drawing that the work also moves away from dramatic illustration. Do I think about things like that?
I have very little time to draw between my day job and my family and I think that has made my work move more towards being integrated into my life more. I’ll draw a lot while doing other things (eating, playing with kids, driving) and that ends up being used in work I make.

Recently I’ve made little books that commemorate things – a trip to Portugal, an art show, my brother’s wedding, my daughters being born, their birthdays. I like reading Basho’s old Japanese travelogues where he adds some poems in with his story, like aesthetic punctuation. Again, life and autobio without just drama. Experience.


Comics Poetry, Poetry Comics, Graphic Poems

 
 
 
There are times I read something on the internet and feel this immediate need to respond. I think we’ve all felt that way about topics we care about. Thus is created the comments thread, the message board, and other forms of abbreviated, often argumentative discussions. For me, I don’t always feel capable of forming my thoughts and reactions into a coherent text, especially in a way that avoids being combative (I really don’t want to be that way). So I save links and texts in hopes of later returning to them and making some grand statement, some coherent argument, some well thought out response. But waiting for that time to come is often counter-productive as sometimes making the incoherent statement and getting feedback is where the real discussion and learning comes from.
Writing about the idea of comics and poetry has been on my to-do list for quite awhile. I’ve a note in Evernote from December of 2008 labelled “Comics as Poetry.” The note is just a bunch of collected links to people like Tom Hart, Bill Randall, and Gary Sullivan, all dating from early in 2008. I also have one paragraph of a started post from April 2011, and a never completed review of Warren Craghead’s How to Be Everywhere from February of 2011.
I feel strongly that there is a line of comics poetry that runs through the history of comics, but I always end up getting stuck on how to delimit such a feeling. What is comics poetry? What is poetry? Similar to asking “what are comics” or “what is literature” this is rarely the most productive place to start… and thus, the not starting.
What started me up again this time were two recent articles on the topic: Steven Surdiacourt’s “Graphic Poetry: An (im)possible form?” at Comics Forum and an interview with Bianca Stone at The Comics Journal from this past week. Both immediately set off my desire to respond.
First off, Surdiacourt’s article starts with the term “graphic poetry” which I find unfortunate. I can see the desire to parallel the “graphic novel,” (which he explicitly uses in one definition: “graphic poetry is to the graphic novel, what poetry is to prose”), but I don’t think it is a good idea to work from an already contentious misnomer of a term. Also, “graphic poetry” sounds like something a person in the 1950s would have used to describe “Howl.” Don’t let the children read that graphic poem.
Surdiacourt’s text itself starts off on good footing, discussing the inspiration for the article: an exhibit that featured paired up collaborations between comics artists and poets. He immediately notes the tendency to have the artists illustrating poems, rather than the two truly collaborating. We’ve seen this before with the work published by the Poetry Foundation (here’s the last one in the series with links at the bottom to the others) under the rubric of “The Poem as Comic Strip” (that title alone tells you something). What we find there is a bunch of comic artists (some, like Ron Regé Jr., whose regular work is often comics poetry) illustrating poems by famous poets. It’s quite reminiscent of that bastion of comics greatness Classics Illustrated and not particularly inspiring (see Bill Randall’s column about the series). Of course, this model works for people in the poetry world because it maintains the integrity and primacy of the original poem/words.
Back to the essay at hand, it draws heavily on an article by Brian McHale about narrativity and segmentivity (I’ve only managed to read sections of it via Google Books which seems to cleverly only skip the pages where the primary analysis is done). McHale starts with poetry but turns to comics, spending the majority of the article discussing Martin Rowson’s adaption of Eliot’s The Wasteland as way to compare the two forms’ use of segmentivity and narrativity. Surdiacourt summarizes McHale’s theory:
…this segmentivity is defined as “the ability to make meaning by selecting, deploying, and combining segments” (Rachel Blau DuPlessis quoted in McHale 2010, 28). It’s not merely their gapped nature that connects poetic texts and graphic narratives, but also their shared capacity to play off “segments of one kind or scale [...] against segments of another kind or different in scale” (McHale 2010, 28). The best known example of this kind of poetic configuration is obviously the enjambement, a trope in which the grammatical unit of the sentence (measure) is disrupted by the unit of the verse (countermeasure). A similar textual device is used in comics to create or maintain tension by the interruption of the action (measure) at the end of the end of the right hand page (countermeasure). [DB: Those are his ellipses and references.]
Surdiacourt rightly notes that this single criterion is not enough to compare comics and poetry. So, he also (briefly) brings up poetic rhyme in comparison with visual rhyme, braiding, as well as Barthes’ hermeneutic code. All of these can be gappy aspects of comics. In McHale’s article he also briefly discusses film, comparing filmic cuts to poetic segmentivity and the gaps in comics, noting the tendency of classical Hollywood style films to make cuts/gaps as invisible as possible (though one can argue against that when there is a desire to provoke mystery or suspense) in contrast to an Eisensteinian montage where gaps are introduced to force viewers to “make meaning.” I think the latter use of gaps is one place where comics can foreground their constitutive elements (images in sequence) in a similar way that much poetry foregrounds words and sounds.
Unfortunately Surdiacourt focuses on textual segmentivity, and his only example (from Nicolas Mahler) is primarily about the text. He ends on a strange note: “In the end, what and how graphic poetry can be (if it can be at all) remains to be imagined, and drawn of course.” He seems completely unaware of the existence of work that would fit his category, that would even better fit his category than his or McHale’s examples.
Certainly, looking at any comic by Warren Craghead provides a great example of segmentivity, a gappy aesthetic, and usage of various tactics Surdiacourt mentions. Craghead almost never uses text in the traditional way it is used in comics (balloons, captions), instead he fragments sentences and words into pieces (the word, the letter, respectively) and scatters them across the page. His pages and panels are also visually segmented as he tends to use images that are singular or partial–a single object, part of a larger object or scene–and then connect them visually through composition, lines, and text.
from Warren Craghead’s “This is a Ghost.”
For instance, this page from “This is a Ghost” shows a fragmentation of sentences, words, and imagery. The fragmentation creates a rhythm to the reading as one moves across the page through the multiple sizes and spacing of the text. You can note that the (admittedly out of context) sequence of images is not a “smooth” transition. Also, when read in full (see the references list below for a link to a pdf of the anthology), one finds a use of repetition (both word and image), braiding, and visual rhyme across the comic’s 14 pages. The comic tends to force a different type of reading than a conventional narrative comic that provides a very smooth and transparent reading. Craghead’s comic engenders a closer reading and a tendency to reread nonlinearly as one moves back and forth through the pages trying to decipher its layers (in a sense this echoes the hermeneutic code).
From John Hankiewicz’s “Amateur Comics.”
Much of John Hankiewicz’s work would also fit well as an example for Surdiacourt. For example, his “Amateur Comics” sequence makes use of segmentivity in an unusual way that could mirror McHale’s measure and countermeasure. Each page from the sequence is divided into four groupings of two panels. The groupings’ two panels are divided only by a single line, while the groups are divided by the negative space of the gutter. In most of the pages, the groupings divide up into a panel with a person in the left and one without a person on the right. The left and right also often show different views of the same scene, sharing view across all four groups. In this way, Hankiewicz disrupts one narrative sequence with another, creating a network of potential sequential and spatial readings of the 8 panels on the page. The spatial organization in conjunction with visual content, which at a general level shows alternating imagery, makes use of repetition and creates rhythm within the page and across the sequence of pages. Similarly the two lexias of text across the top of each image (a question beginning with a series of interrogative abverbs and a two word phrase in the form of “[something] Comics”) also form a consistent set of repetitions and variations that can be read across the pages. Without even discussing the specific content of the images, it’s fairly easy to see how one can read “Amateur Comics” as a form of comics poetry.
So, that’s just two artists off the top of my head, and neither are that obscure in the comics world. Both comics provide examples that are considerable more invested in the interaction of text and image in a “poetic” (let’s put my usage of this term aside for now) way than just the text by itself.
I wish that before he decided to posit something that he didn’t think existed, Surdiacourt would have looked for examples of that supposedly nonexistent thing. I’m sure if he looked around a bit he could have found some examples. Certainly, Rob Clough wrote about Hankiewicz’s work as “comics-as-poetry” in The Comics Journal (the online version is easily searchable), and there are often (mostly brief) examples to be found fairly easily.
Bianca Stone, who explicitly calls her work “poetry comics” and edits a poetry comic column at The The, was interviewed in The Comics Journal and shows a similar lack of knowledge of artists working in the comics world. Stone’s foregrounding of “poetry” in her terminology does point to her grounding in the poetry world rather than the comics world, so that could be part of the reason (none of the comics she explicitly mentions are outside the mainstream (be it superheroes or “alternative”)). The interview bears this out as she discusses being in an MFA poetry program and not having much interaction with the comics world. (There are a bunch out us out here, Bianca.)
Even her definition of poetry comics points to a focus on text as poetry: “Sequential art that uses poetry as the text.” I realize she is surely simplifying here to have a quick definition, but the concept makes it seem like the work is “poetry + comics” a kind of addition wherein the comics–the images and the iconography and grammar of comics–is an add-on to the poetry, which is text. Some of the work she’s put in her column has born out this conception. To her credit, Stone’s work in her I Want to Open the Mouth God Gave You Beautiful Mutant doesn’t totally play out that formula, though I think it does come through stronger as a poem via the text.
For this reason, I use the term “comics poetry” as a way to foreground the comics aspect, a more succinct locution than Clough’s “comics-as-poetry”. Comics poetry isn’t poetry as text with comics images; it’s the whole comic as poetry. The images, the words, the structure, the rhythm, the page, all of it is used together to create the poetry, to create comics in a poetic register. But, as I mentioned in the beginning, this gets tricky, since “poetry” and “poetic” can mean a lot of things to different people.
In the end that doesn’t really help us identify or discuss how comics poetry differs from any other comics. So, I’ll take that up in part two (later next month), looking at how a few other people have discussed comics poetry or the poetic in comics, and then I’ll offer my own thoughts on the matter with some more specific examples.
References:
  • Craghead, Warren. “This is a Ghost.” In Ghost Comics, edited by Ed Choy Moorman. Bare Bones Press, 2009. 151-164. Order the volume or read the pdf: http://edsdeadbody.com/barebones.html
  • Dueben, Alex. “A Bianca Stone interview.” The Comics Journal. 24 Aug 2012. http://www.tcj.com/a-bianca-stone-interview/
  • Hankiewicz, John. “Amateur Comics.” In Asthma. Sparkplug, 2006.
  • McHale, Brian. “Narrativity and Segmentivity, or, Poetry in the Gutter.” In Intermediality and Storytelling edited by Marina Grishakova and Marie-Laure Ryan. De Gruyter, 2010. 27-48.
  • Randall, Bill. “Deaf Ears: Poetry, Comics and the Poetry Foundation’s Comics Project.” The Comics Journal #288 (February 2008): 193-5.
  • Stone, Bianca. I Want to Open the Mouth God Gave You Beautiful Mutant. Factory Hollow, 2012.
  • Surdiacourt, Steven. “Image [&] Narrative #5: Graphic Poetry: An (im)possible form?” Comics Forum. 21 Jun 2012. http://comicsforum.org/2012/06/21/image-narrative-5-graphic-poetry-an-impossible-form-by-steven-surdiacourt/
A few more comic artists who might fit in this vein (for at least some of their work):
Julie Delporte, Oliver East, Franklin Einspruch, Allan Haverholm, Aidan Koch, Simon Moreton, Anders Nilsen, Jason Overby, John Porcellino, Alexander Rothman, Frank Santoro, Gary Sullivan, me, and surely others I am obviously forgetting.
- See more at: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2012/08/comics-poetry-poetry-comics-graphic-poems/#sthash.GQu4open.dpuf



PRESS
"...Similarly, Warren Craghead’s “Seed Toss” initiative involves a fair amount of effort. An entire wall is filled with Craghead’s crude, handmade postcards, which you’re expected to address, write a message on and then drop into a mailbox at the gallery, along with a suggested $5 donation. At the end of the show, the artist will add stamps and mail them for you..." more

Michael O'Sullivan,  “Art in focus: ‘Fall Solos’ put the work back in artwork”
The Washington Post

10.25.12
"...what Craghead is doing with his art is rather daunting to describe, leading to inevitable tongue tying after the confession of admiration. I have the same problem myself–which is why I thought a series of short statements from Craghead himself might be in order...." more

Austin English,  “A Short Interview with Warren Craghead”
The Comics Journal

09.06.11
"Unsurprisingly, the best strip in the book is Warren Craghead’s “(new, old)”. He was one of the originators of comics-as-poetry and this particular piece is a wonderful fit in an anthology full of such stories.... It’s a lovely, evocative story that stirs all of the senses using the simplest of building blocks to create a complex reading experience..." more

Rob Clough,  “Review: Sundays 4 (Forever Changes)”
The Comics Journal

07.08.11
"...Er hätte einen langwierigen, graphischen Roman schreiben/zeichnen können, doch Craghead entschied sich dafür, die Revolution mit seinen eigenen Mitteln zu unterstützen , die gegenwärtige Hilflosigkeit zu in einen Comic zu bannen: Er hat einfach einen Do-it-yourself-Comic zum Selberbasteln gezeichnet - mit dem Titel: 'Seed toss, kick it over'..." more

Daniel Wullner,  “Revolution zum Selberbasteln.”
Neus aus dem Elfenbeinturm
(Munich, Germany)
04.21.11
"...A Sort of Autobiography is a series of ten StoryCubes whose outer faces are covered by drawings of Craghead’s own making. Taken together, the ten cubes are intended to be interpreted as his “possible” autobiography – hence the title of the work..." more

Frederic Lesage,  “Telling Worlds.”
Proboscis
(London, UK)
04.20.11
"...Both my parents were artists and both my grandmothers were artists, and so my first artistic memories involve my family. I remember drawing at the kitchen table with my dad and my brother, and my dad is showing us how to draw cartoons and other little things...." more

“Checking In With Warren Craghead” (Q&A)
C-VILLE Weekly
(Charlottesville VA)
03.15.11
"... He uses a completely original approach to juxtaposition and composition of images, words, and fragments of both, to suggest meaning beyond what you see on the page...."
more


Jessica Abel and Matt Madden“Notables 2010: Warren Craghead”
Drawing Words, Writing Pictures

02.10.11
"... In this episode, they get to talk to the one and only, Warren Craghead about inspirations, his unique take on comics and art-making, the drawing process as well as a shocking secret that he finally reveals to Rina about his family history. ..." more

Rina Ayuyang and Renee French,  “The Comix Claptrap” (Podcast)
11.16.10
"... Across town this month at The Bridge/PAI, “Leaf and Signal” is a different kind of sea of images. Unlike “Half Life” there is no riptide waiting to pull you under. It is yours to swim in, this placid bay of gorgeous of little mysteries. ...." more

Andrew CedermarkAbout-Face
C-VILLE Weekly
(Charlottesville VA)
10.26.10
"... He uses a completely original approach to juxtaposition and composition of images, words, and fragments of both, to suggest meaning beyond what you see on the page...."
more


Laura Parsons“The Public Option - Craghead Opens The Books.”
The Hook
(Charlottesville Va)
10.11.10
"...it took two pages of a March C-VILLE cover story for Craghead to make us a 14-page book titled The Surf and The Face. But Craghead is used to wringing large spaces out of smaller ones...." more

Brandon Fitzgerald“Notables 2010: Warren Craghead”
C-VILLE Weekly
(Charlottesville Va)
08.11.09
"You know you’re entering strange territory when the first line in the “About” paragraph is an Apollinaire quote. For that matter, you know you’re in strange territory when the artist in question is veteran DIY avante garde comics artist Warren Craghead...." more

Scott McCloud“Now That’s an Experimental Comic”
08.10.10
"...What’s going on here? Craghead makes his first marks outside panel borders: a comma after the collage in the center of the page, and a period after the little piece of scrap in the lower right-hand corner. (“Un caligramme” is a poem whose letters are arranged on the page to form a picture—Craghead implies that his whole “story” is a poetic caligramme, complete with a period that finishes off his “sentence.”) ..." more

Derek Badman and Craig Fischer“Abstract Comics: The Discussion”
02.08.10
"Perhaps the most engaging exhibition of 2009 was Second Street Gallery's "Impera et Divide." Curated by Charlottesville fave and art renegade Warren Craghead III, along with Portuguese artist Pedro Moura, the March-April show highlighted six international artists who adopt the sequential approach of comic-book art and carry it in unexpected and thrilling directions." more

Laura Parsons“Art at the End of the Oughts.”
The Hook
(Charlottesville Va)
12.21.09
"Another tortured wasteland is revealed later in Craghead’s book, one with words like leaves on branches or so much broken flesh. We are given context through language and image, a feeling of space through the arduous passage of isolated words through the thicket of war from which we must form a single sentence or being." more

Ng Tong Suat“On Lettering - Old and New”
The Comics Journal

12.21.09
Laura Parsons
“Frame by Frame”
The Hook (Charlottesville Va)
04.02.09
"I don’t think I can do better than to quote the curators of the show in Second Street’s Dové Gallery, which gathers an international collection of art that’s influenced by comics. Think of these pieces as “graphic poems rather than graphic novels,” Warren Craghead and Pedro Moura suggest. It’s a fruitful approach..." more

Erika Howsare“Art at the End of the Oughts.”
C-VILLE Weekly
(Charlottesville Va)
03.31.09
"When I visited Craghead’s studio, his desk resembled a pile of paper on legs, overflowing with scraps of drawings that he’ll scan into his computer to add to his labyrinthine collection of websites and online collages. Give him an inch of paper, each space seems to say, and Warren Craghead will draw you a mile...." more

Brendan Fitzgerald“Here, There and Everywhere” (cover feature)
C-VILLE Weekly
(Charlottesville Va)
03.31.09
"It’s rare to visit a gallery and receive a parting gift. But as Migration prepares to empty its walls and take flight, it’s fitting that artist Warren Craghead, III has created a special book, The Dot and The Line, for the venue’s final show of the same name, which features the work of Craghead and Brian Mallman." more

Laura Parsons “Drawing to a Close.”  The Hook (Charlottesville Va)
01.12.09


 

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