Minis Monday: Sweetheart Comics #2 and Christina and Charles, Windy Corner Magazine

Posted by on May 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Sweetheart Comics #2
Christina and Charles
By Austin English
Windy Corner Magazine
By Austin English and others

Like the man said, this year’s Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland is coming up fast, as in May 23. Here is more of the booty from last year’s get-together, three books from Austin English.

Sweetheart #2 has him at his most miniest: typing-sized paper folded in half, 16 pages, one black and white drawings per. There are four … not really “stories,” more like segments, moments or considerations: sitting on a couch with friends, making a phone call from a pay phone on a subway platform, and so on.

English’s drawing style is not exactly brut, as its emotional patina and sentimental orientation is implicit. It’s not primitivism, precisely because of that concerted sensitivity and it’s altogether too self-aware to be mistaken for outsider art. The closest parallel might be to children’s drawings but with a cultivated nostalgia, a regard from some distance, as if the pictures and situations were of visually “recovered memories” reclaimed long after the fact.

Christina and Charles profiles the youth of “two unrelated people” through more numerous selected episodes extended to greater length. The addition of color — through crayons and pencils, I’m guessing — carry English’s renderings further from minimalism. The use of coloring tools reinforces the connection to children’s art even while the spontaneous, on-the-spot problem-solving that kids can summon remains elusive. The closest approximation to that seat-of-the-pants ingenuity — and the book’s most successful piece — comes in the relatively more ambitious segment that adds musical abstractions for the sounds of a jazz combo to the voiceover recitation.

Things become clearer still with Windy Corner Magazine, #2, “The Lois Lenski Issue.” This is an anthology edited by English concerned with “artists writing about and interviewing other artists.” He himself opens the edition with three pieces (a child going to a planetarium, a child going to a movie, and Life of Francis Part II, including a visit to a child’s home and the childish dissembling there, a theme that had also surfaced for Christina).

The book’s cover is a sketchbook page English composed to pay homage to children’s-book artist Lenski. In an essay accompanying a gallery of her work, English extols her art, particularly those qualities to which you might legitimately think he himself aspires (“observing the world and turning it into something economical and humble — not turning it into something expressive;” “It’s a vision of interaction and support that isn’t shoved down your throat but merely presented and offered up for your consideration”).

The issue also includes an interview with John Hankiewicz along with a welcomed selection of his images. Hankiewicz’s discussion refers chiefly to his own work but comments can’t avoid appearing thoughtful and thought-provoking when applied to broader circumstances: “Printmaking is physical in a way that cartooning isn’t. Cartooning is all about slouching and thinking;” “Crosshatching feels like investment in the comic, like there’s more of me there;” “Ultimately, it’s probably not a good idea to go for any effect at all — creepy, funny, whatever.”

In the context of the magazine, its contents and other contributors, Hankiewicz appears, by both word and pictures, to be something of the wise son … at least until a short story by Dylan Williams traces his correspondence with an original Old Master in Alex Toth. The two pages of Toth’s sketches, along with those gems from Lenski, are certainly the unexpected treats in a magazine of remarkable and nurtured visual latitude.

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