After the restorative magicks of a heatwave, the agitated ape is resurrected from winter hibernation. The gibbled gibbon, the crazed chimp, the silly simian, the mirthful monkey, the languid lemur, the grumpy gorilla, the almost humble hominid is sheepishly sidling back up to his blown-off blog. Please ignore the alliterative angwantibo.
Today I have an absolutely shameless and gushing plug for writer, artist and graphic novelist, Von Allan. Mr. Von Allan hails from the quaint and remote village of Ottawa Ontario. I mention this for two reasons. One, I live there, and two, I rarely have any bonobianly bountiful sentiments related to this blightful burg. Without further ado:
Aside from being a self-taught artist, Mr. Allan is a micro-publishing magnate, loosed unto the world with his debut graphic novel, “The Road To God Knows. . .”(available at Chapters, and Amazon, as well as Barnes and Noble—whatever that is).
It offers an understated but poignant tale of strained adolescence, depicting a young woman coping with the her mother’s schizophrenia. It’s as simple as that, nothing sensational, or self-helpy, no great revelations, just a series of painstaking and loving details of days in a girl’s life. The dialogue is character driven, lusciously breaking all kinds of narrative rules in order to draw you into the difficult moments of a person’s life, at an age when expression and disclosure are choked. And that is the beauty of the story—the empathic tension we feel watching from the camera eye, unable to reach out and help. You aren’t reading a graphic novel, you are viewing the highlights of a spy-cam; the frames and sequences seek to direct your psychological and heartfelt discovery of this tale.
I found Mr. Allan’s work on the internet before there was a paper edition, and it was the art that drew me in. Well, no, to be accurate, it was that damned perfect title that caught my attention. Breezing through some artwork hooked me. I mention this because I am not sure how to describe it. Everything that comes to mind sounds like backhanded compliment or criticism, and it isn’t. This black and white work is brilliant, emotive and evocative. And as someone who recognises the artist’s inspiration for settings and locales, the drawings are great on a purely technical level(I warmly recognise all manner of places).
It’s really worth a redundant gush, because I read an interview with the author in Ottawa’s newspaper, The Citizen, describing how Mr. Allan came to drawing later than most, and was constantly told to give it up, that “he sucked”. I can’t speak to his growth as an artist, just the power of his work in this story. The style is realistic, foregoing so many available graphic narrative techniques available for the medium, and so the challenge is, technical. For a self-taught artist, self-admittedly challenged, to choose direct representation, rather than cartooning, exaggeration, surrealism, etc. demonstrates a vision, discipline, dedication and vigour. I can see the occasional graphical flaws: flattened perspectives, unnatural feeling angles in bodies at times, and somehow magically they aren’t flaws.
I can’t say anything about intention. Some aspects of art are planned, some well up from the sub-conscious, and some are accidental bonuses. What I can say, is the level of detail, the grey-shading, the “cinematography” are all exquisite and create a beautiful sense of reality within the decadent pleasures of drawings. Allan’s choice of vista is profound and ambitious, with wide angles, camera depth, and no fear of full frames with entire figures and all the complications entailed in that. In fact Mr. Allan seems to revel in these full images. They are stark and vulnerable, like the tale they embody. I wish I had a verbal sensibility of graphics to describe it. His drawings scream to be witnessed, heard and understood, they command your attention, they implore your feeling.
The people and the story are potent, visceral, and drive home the fragility of our lives and the tenuous ways we reach out to each other, and I never would have read it without being seduced by the artwork. That really needs to be offered up to the critics of his art—I am as prose based as any person could be, a bodily divorced cerebral person, and it is the art that seduces me into the story, reaching into me and driving me to relate.
It’s a brave and personal story from the author, without being sentimental or maudlin. A mature work despite being a first work.
Anyways, check this one out. Buy it if you are a graphic novel fan, or go to his site for downloads or info.
We’re all on the road to god knows where.
p.s. despite the rock star kind of fame that we all know goes along with being a comic artist, Mr. Von Allan remains humble, not forgetting his roots, and will usually answer inquiries. at least he answered all of mine, and i was annoying.