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Summer Spotlight: Paris by Comic Strip

© Lindsay Grime
© Lindsay Grime

We sat down with Summer faculty Lindsay Grime to discuss her upcoming summer course, "Figure & Flâneur: Paris by Comic Strip":

What made you want to teach this course?

I had the pleasure of teaching an illustration summer course at PCA in 2019 and included a “bande dessinée” (comics/graphic novel) day, introducing the students to some French comic artists and then asking them to make their own 8-frame comic strip recounting a real-life anecdote. The inspiration behind the brief was comic artist Riad Sattouf’s Secret Life of Young People in which he recounts (in only 6 or 8 frames) outrageous or funny conversations or scenes that he witnessed between strangers. I was really impressed with what the students came up with in only a few hours, and it inspired me to design a whole course around this as it is such a rich world with much to explore. I find comics an amazing form of self-expression through which we can record our lived experiences, recount someone’s life or else conjure a whole imaginary world with its own cast of characters.

What drew you to the idea of the "flâneur", particularly in the context of illustration?

The figure of the ‘flaneur’ or urban wanderer is a product of Paris, a true native! The city just invites this kind of exploration and it seems to me that illustration, and particularly the sequential, narrative art form of bande dessinée with its combination of words and images, is a perfect medium to capture and record those experiences and interactions, putting oneself in or outside of the frame. Wandering the city and observing its characters and different neighbourhoods can also be a great way to glean ideas for pure fiction.

© Lindsay Grime

What do you find special about the "bande dessinée", especially in France?

France has a long history of bande dessinée and is one of the countries that produces and consumes the most comics/graphic novels. The range and diversity is impressive, from classic comic characters aimed at children, to commercial fantasy series, through to non-fiction explorations of political subjects, to biographies and autobiographies, to translations, to independent, left-field publications… anything you can think of really! As a result the readership is also very diverse, and comics are considered as much of an art form as novels or films, with their own festivals, prizes, “top ten” lists, as well as dedicated independent bookshops. Libraries also abound with the latest titles. So if you like comics, France is a great place to live or just to visit!

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

I’m most of all looking forward to meeting the students and seeing how they respond to the different challenges of the course which may be new experiences for them – such as a life drawing class or an outdoor observational drawing session. It’s great to see how students can evolve, even in the space of two weeks, and I like seeing how the different personalities of the students are expressed in their work. I’m obviously also excited to see where their ideas take them in the culmination of the course – the creation of a final comic strip!

What do you hope to learn from your students?

One of the lovely things last year was the variety of different nationalities within the group – I would love to learn about the visual culture and especially the comic book culture in students’ home countries. Aside from that, teaching is definitely a two-way street, which is at its best when we recognize that everyone has something to share in terms of their approach, their enthusiasm and their influences!

© Lindsay Grime

What have you been working on during your time in lockdown? Any upcoming projects you can share?

I have to say I’ve been very grateful to be a creative person throughout this time, as getting immersed in artistic projects is a very welcome escape from you-know-what! During the first lockdown I was busy working on a book proposal in collaboration with writer Béatrice Fontanel (we worked together on a graphic novel published in 2015) – this was to be a graphic novel biography of a famous female photographer and I was awarded a grant from the Centre National du Livre (French National Book Trust) to work on it, as well as receiving an offer from a publisher. However, unfortunately the foundation which manages the photographer’s estate opposed the project due to certain legal issues, so my collaborator and I have had to rethink – we now have a new fascinating female figure in mind but need to go through the whole process of creating a book proposal to pitch to publishers again! As with many creative pursuits, setbacks are par for the course and perseverance and resilience are key. Alongside that, I’ve also begun work on a more personal graphic novel, a weaving together of autobiography and the social and feminist history of cycling. I’m going to write as well as illustrate it, which is a new challenge for me!

All photos are the personal work of Lindsay Grimes and may not be reproduced without permission.