“Manifestation” by Gabrielle Bell

Gabrielle Bell, “Manifestation” p. 1, panel 2, 2011

Gabrielle Bell (born 1976) started self-publishing minicomics in 1998, work in which one can see her groping for a style of storytelling that she would later perfect. Her work, often autobiographical, creates a distance between the action and the reader by never depicting figures close-up. More often than not they are shown in full-figure, which in the context of a tiny comics panel requires that individualizing details be somewhat minimized. Her drawing style operates similarly--there is "a democracy of lines" (to use a phrase originally used to describe Hergé's drawing). There is nothing in the linework that distinguishes figure and ground. This is not to suggest that he drawing is confusing--on the contrary, despite panels packed with figures and detail, it has remarkable clarity.

Her stories, usually autobiographical (if not literally diaristic)  are often about being an awkward, alienated person in a big city with many acquaintances. She writes about (and depicts) retreating into herself in social situations (for example, when someone is hugging her).

This tiny panel was purchased from the artist at a convention. Apparently when Bell drew it, she was unhappy with the way she drew her characters face. So she razored the panel out, photocopied it, made some tiny adjustments to the photocopy (her character is smiling less and her eyes look more thoughtful), and pasted the photocopy back into the art. This is something you'll occasionally find in original comic art--evidence of the process the artist went through to get to the final image. It doesn't matter if there are visible blue lines or white out or even wholesale panel replacements--because the finished artwork is actually the printed copy.

Bell has published several books, including The Voyeurs (1012), in which the final corrected version of the panel in this exhibit is published. She often publishes early versions of her work online at her blog.