THE CRUMBCAST // Real Men Burn Their Jockstraps in Support of Women!

Or maybe they don’t. It’s their choice really. They can have a cup of tea and a lie down if they prefer.

Okay, so I’m not a feminist, but this doesn’t excuse me from showing support to my sisters out there. They’re speaking up, and it’s been a long time coming, so I’m-a-gonna turn my hearing aid on and have me a listen. Might learn something.

By the by, my latest Crumbcast is a babble about the thorny issue of feminism as a label. Yes, I know… I’m a fool. Be gentle?

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

COMFY CONFABS // Tony Single

Hullo, Dear Reader. Guess what? I got talked into being the second interviewee for my brand new, ongoing feature, Comfy Confabs. The interviewer being the interviewed?! How on Cthulhu’s sweet, barren earth did that happen? Well, I’ll tell you how… It’s all the fault of one Candice Daquin, and if you don’t know who she is then you really need to edjumacate yourself at The Feathered Sleep. Okay, go. Go now! Go and have your eyes opened and your mind exploded. I’m serious! I’ll be here when you get back.

Right, got all that? Good. So, anyways, I approached Candice to be the focus of this second interview, but instead of a yes I got an offer to be interviewed by her instead. “You’ll be more interesting!” she said. “But I’m a career hack!” I protested. She was having none of it, so I folded rather more easily than a deck chair at a conflict resolution symposium…

All joking aside, I am rather pleased with the outcome. Not only have I shared dialogue with a writer of Candice’s calibre, but the resulting Q&A even makes it seem like I’m not a total and utter narcissistic halfwit—pretentious maybe, and a bit of a tool, but still…

CANDICE: Were you always an artist? Did you used to do something before that? If so, when did you decide to devote yourself more toward your art and networking your work for others to see?

TONY: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon, so I feel like I’ve never not been an artist. I was even creating comic strips all the way through my school years, so by the time I was accepted into art college the idea of trying to be a professional cartoonist felt like the next logical step to me. However, my life since then has consisted of being equal parts job seeker, house husband, and struggling artist.

CANDICE: What do you recall as your original inspiration when you began to draw more for others to appreciate? What message if any did you want to convey the most?

TONY: I don’t really recall much to be honest. I do remember Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strip featuring quite prominently in my childhood. I adored its many characters (and still do), and very much aspired to do something in the same vein. As for messages, I don’t think I had any in mind at that age—only an idea that I wished to live out a creative life.

CANDICE: Do you consciously impart messages in your work or do you think they are interpreted by the viewer?

TONY: I believe it’s a bit of both. The older I get, the more I find what I want to say, and so I’ll layer this into whatever I create. However, no one likes to be preached at, so I’ll try to find an indirect way to impart that meaning, a way that gives the reader credit for having their own mind and take on things. Of course, whatever I put out there does often get interpreted in ways that I cannot possibly anticipate, but this is no bad thing. All it means is that people aren’t being passive, that they’re actively engaging with my work, and that makes me happy.

CANDICE: Does your hearing-loss factor in the choices you make artistically?

TONY: Such an interesting question. No one has ever asked me this before! If my hearing-loss is any factor at all then it would have to be in the way I try to write dialogue. I am constantly striving to make my characters sound as naturalistic as possible (not easy to do within the silence of the page). I want their stresses, intonations, and turns of phrase to mimic what I will often hear in everyday conversations.

CANDICE: When did you begin to combine your ability as a writer/poet with your art? Do you feel more confident in one genre than another?

TONY: As a cartoonist, I’ve always combined my writing with my art. I do find it difficult to draw a standalone image as it often feels like there’s no story present. I tend to be more comfortable working with a sequence of images; it’s a less static approach that’s conducive to driving narrative or some overall message. If there’s one thing I like more than writing or drawing alone, it’s putting those two things together to tell a story.

CANDICE: If you had endless options, what would you choose to do with your art? Would you like to be a comic-artist, a graphic-novelist? Or something else?

TONY: When I was young, my goal was to write and draw a famous comic strip, just like my hero Charles Schulz. That changed. What I’m doing now with Crumble Cult actually plays to my strengths as a cartoonist, and far more so than the newspaper format ever would have. It’s emotionally fulfilling in a way that a gag strip could never be for me. Still, as a creative, I can’t say that I’ve ‘arrived’. My next big challenge is to write and draw my first graphic novel, and I want to do this in Ukraine. I have no idea how I can make this happen, but I sure aim to.

CANDICE: If you weren’t you and you didn’t know you, and you saw your art what would you think of the person behind it?

TONY: God. Again with the interesting questions! I find this difficult to answer as I’m often wondering what people make of me anyway (could someone tell me?). I’m constantly striving to get personal with my comics, to bare my all, and yet I use them to hide myself at the same time. It’s weird, I know. I guess I just like to confound people’s expectations.

CANDICE: Whom are your biggest influences both historically and in more recent times and why?

TONY: There’s the aforementioned Mr. Schulz. His Peanuts strip has always appealed to my whimsical and melancholic natures, as have the works of Tove Jansson. I grew up reading her Moomintroll books, and they were fanciful but in an extraordinarily mundane, grounded way. Then there was the Osamu Tezuka comics that possessed a certain kineticism which I very much admired. And they had a rather pleasing pulp fiction sensibility too; for me, Adolf and Astroboy will always be his definitive works. Oh, and Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku was another influence. That story was romantic, down-to-earth, very very funny, and humane. I’m also seeing an abundance of that last quality in Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Bros. That’s a more recent influence I suppose, but no way in hell will I ever reach those giddy heights of masterful storytelling. Not with my own paltry efforts. Still, I love what I do, so I can try.

CANDICE: You mentioned wanting to do a graphic novel (so glad you said that, this interviewer always felt this was your destiny, jus sayin’!) but also ‘in Ukraine’ meaning you want to write / draw it in Ukraine or in Ukrainian? Can you elaborate on this and explain to the readers where this momentum began and why? (I think I know!)

TONY: I think you do too! I once asked my writing partner Tetiana Aleksina about her home country, and she challenged me to simply go there and pay her a visit. Her feeling was that it would be better for me to experience Ukraine firsthand rather than simply hear about it from afar. That’s when I had the idea to turn this potential trip into a story that I could tell in the graphic novel format, and so I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since. Plus, it would just be a cool thing to hang out with someone that I love and admire very much! I plan to make it happen. Again, I don’t know how, but I will.

CANDICE: What influence has your writing collaborator Tetiana Aleksina had on your work and how do you feel she has influenced your direction?

TONY: I was floundering creatively before Tati came along, and that’s the truth. I don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for her timely intervention. The width and breadth of her imagination is the one thing that shone through when I first encountered her blog, and so I very quickly became a fan. And as I got to know Tati through our collaborations thereafter, I came to realise she was someone I very much wanted to work with on a permanent basis. With much trepidation, I asked her if I could, and luckily for me she said yes! And in all the time since, I’ve come to see just how meticulous Tati is with her endeavours. Everything counts for her; nothing gets wasted. Things are worth doing properly or not at all. Not many bloggers seem to have this perfectionist drive, and so I’ve really come to value her professional approach and attention to detail. I’m forced to lift my game—to strive for my absolute best—and this clearly is no bad thing. As a result, we now have many projects in the pipeline, and aim to make them all come to fruition.

CANDICE: If you could fast-forward ten years where would you like to be in terms of creative output and accomplishment?

TONY: I would like my wife and I to be living abroad, and for me to be working alongside Tati in person. That’s the dream. We want to bring out more books, to complete our first novel, and maybe even tackle a graphic novel together too. The sky’s the limit. We just have to be foolish enough to reach for it!

CANDICE: What subjects most influence your perspective as an artist and why?

TONY: Religion and mental health are two huge subjects in my life, so they tend to crop up in my work a lot. After suffocating in a Baptist church environment for nearly twenty years, I realised that I needed to get out and truly be myself for once. I’d also given up on the idea of a loving god by this point, and was feeling tremendous guilt about that—I felt like a heretic and a failure as a human being. There were also lingering questions from my youth regarding my sexuality and self-identity that were still not going away, that could not be adequately addressed the longer I stayed in such an emotionally and intellectually toxic subculture. I felt stained and stunted. I needed to escape. Add ongoing anxiety and depression to the mix, and you can see why I write and draw the things I do. I have to.

CANDICE: What role do you think you play as an artist in terms of being a ‘truth’ bearer to subjects most close to your heart and what subjects would you include? (Example; This interviewer holds mental-health and gender close to her heart and incorporates them into her work often.)

TONY: The more I follow my current path, the more I find what I want to explore in terms of themes. Of course, there’s the aforementioned religious and mental health issues, but I’m now branching out into other areas such as sexual identity and gender politics, and finding that there’s quite a bit of crossover. Actually, it’s shocking to note just how much church and society have framed my thinking in general, and in ways that are less than helpful, that quite frankly fly in the face of reality. Back in my church days I tried to cleave to some pretty dangerous ideas dressed up as piousness and a sacrificial love for mankind, but really… I was only robbing myself of the ability to empathise with others while at the same time deliberately taking leave of my senses. One particular issue seemed to crop up again and again amongst my peers: homosexuality. God and his ‘chosen ones’ were disturbingly obsessed with that, and sought to box it up as something which was ‘aberrant’ and ‘evil’. This kind of bigotry troubled me as I’d always believed that homosexuals were as normal as anyone, but I never had the guts to challenge the church’s prejudice head on. At the time, I was more invested in gaining total acceptance from my fellow Christians than in pursuing a form of ethical honesty. So, yes, I now incorporate such concerns and themes into my works as often as possible. It’s kind of my duty, and I have a lot to atone for.

CANDICE: Thank you for your time answering these questions. As long as I have had the fortune to know you as an artist, I have found you to be a continual inspiration, but I also know you personally to be very modest and unaware of the impact you have upon others. Do you think this came about from your life thus far? Have you felt working in this creative community and especially with your creative partner Tati, that you have begun to shed your modesty and become fully the creative person you wanted to be? Do you see this as a process of transformation? I say this because in the last year I see a shift in the courage of your work delving deeper into issues and subjects that matter to you with more willingness to ‘go there’ than say, before.

TONY: Oh, Candice, you’ve always been very kind to me. I wish I truly was modest. The reality is that I possess a massive ego, and it offends me. Seriously, I must have an overinflated sense of self if I’m trying to tear that down on a constant basis! If I was truly humble, I wouldn’t even be thinking about myself in the first place. As for the impact I have on others, I’m always worried that it will be a bad one, so I find I overcompensate and try not to have an impact at all. I know—messed up or what? I’ve always suspected that I’m not being totally honest with myself, which is why I write and draw. I just want to get closer to the truth of me—whatever that may be—so the creative process is very much an act of attempted transformation. It’s taken me a long time to ‘go there’, to work up the courage (or foolishness?) to tackle issues and subjects that I personally still find very painful. I also hope I don’t end up fashioning a narrative for my life that’s dishonest, or a narrative that paints me as some blameless, long-suffering saint, a narrative that fools even me. How do you stay true to something like that? I’ve no idea.

 

Interview by CANDICE DAQUIN
© All rights reserved 2017

COMFY CONFABS // Elly Kellner

Hullo, Dear Reader. Welcome to what shall hopefully become an ongoing feature where I pester fellow creatives to chat about themselves and their process of birthing art.

As many of you would already know, art can and does take many forms. Sure, it can be a standard landscape on a gallery wall, but it can also pop up as a stirring folk song or taboo busting webcomic. Art doesn’t need permission to appear however it wants. As long as people from different walks of life are making it then it’s going to bust preconceptions wherever it goes.

There’s someone who was born in Antwerp that I’d like you to meet. She’s half Flemish, half Dutch, and she lives in the Netherlands. I’m not sure if she paints scenes of the countryside but she definitely sings songs and draws comics, ergo she’s an artist. So, hey, let’s break out the billiard chalk and buff our eyes for the click clack of words that follow…

TONY: Welcome, Elly Kellner. I’ve spent the morning listening to your rather pleasant vocal stylings at Creatieve Vlo. You see, I hadn’t even realised that you’re an accomplished singer ’til I tore my eyes away from your comics to find a clearly visible Music tab at the top of your site. As soon as I clicked on that… Well, all I can say is my hearing aid did a little flip of approval! How long have you been singing for?

ELLY: Well I’m glad you liked what you hear! Gosh, I’ve sang ever since I can remember! And when I was 9 years old I started picking up the guitar and after a while songs magically started to appear in my head.

TONY: Wow! What kinds of things were you singing about at that age? Do you remember?

ELLY: I read a lot of books from the library then and would sometimes be inspired by things I read, for instance a story about a girl that got run over by a car and died. I first performed my own song ‘Rain’ in music class at age twelve. It described the sun smiling at a dark rover (a dark cloud with a gun) as he took over the night shift and looked down on us with a grumpy frown. And how his rain made my clothes all wet and how I wished to be home beside the warm fire.

TONY: It’s clear that you had quite an active imagination from a very young age. And empathy too. Where do you think that empathy came from? Was yours an idyllic childhood?

ELLY: Oh dear, idyllic? No, my upbringing was like a fairy tale to me, filled with monsters, witches and much darkness. I was just trying to find out if I was the only one going through what I experienced. I left home at age 15 and lived ‘ever after’ and I still put a lot of energy and focus into the ‘happily’ part every day.

TONY: Yes, people do tend to forget that fairy tales were a lot darker back in the day. I’m glad you were able to find a way out of yours into a much happier story. So, what things make you happy these days?

ELLY: The first that comes to mind is drawing! It was my first creative love as a child but as soon as the music appeared my focus shifted and drawing took the backseat. But now, after some 30 years of focusing on making music my inspiration has decided to not come out in songs anymore. I spent a year without inspiration and then it suddenly came to me in images! It’s a bit scary seeing my dear friend ‘Music’ wander off… but I’m happy my long lost friend ‘Drawing’ came back to me as a replacement. In July 2016 I started creating my own comic and it’s been a fun journey so far!

I’m also quite proud of the give away shop that a friend and I set up a year and a half ago. The shop is open to the public to come shopping for free or to drop off things they don’t use anymore and that someone else may be happy with. It’s a great joy and shows the light side of life; everything in the shop we received from kind people including the shop interior and even the space where our shop is we may use for free. I find that’s pretty amazing! I’ve recently left the shop to focus more on my drawing and it is now run by my friend and six volunteers but the whole thing just proves to me that if you set out to do good and ask for help people are very willing to support you.

TONY: How on earth did you come up with the idea of a give away shop? That’s a quiet kind of genius that could change the world!

ELLY: Here in the Netherlands we have about 40 give away shops so for most of us it’s a normal thing. Of course there are special places all around the world for the needy and poor (I assume?) but a give away shop is for everyone! Even someone who has enough money may enjoy up-cycling and durability. They may enjoy rummaging through old clothes and finding that one gem!

TONY: I don’t think we have an equivalent to be honest. The closest perhaps are the charity shops here that sell second hand essentials at severely reduced prices. I prefer the Netherlands’s approach though. It feels more generous! Do you give away books as well? And what books do you personally love to read? Do you have a favourite author?

ELLY: Yes people can pick books as well as DVDs and some choose to return them once they´re done with them. Hmm, Haruki Murakami´s Kafka on the Shore remains a favorite as is Alice in Wonderland. I don´t read much though, I don´t have the peace in me to quietly sit and read.

TONY: Which explains why you have your fingers in so many creative pies in a way. So, could you tell me a little about your webcomic, and how and why you started it?

ELLY: I guess I’ve always needed a creative outlet to let off steam about my day to day experiences and emotions. I used to put it all in my songs but since that musical inspiration went on a holiday I just had to find something else. I slowly started getting images in my head and tried to draw me! It took a while before I found the right way to draw me.

We have to take into consideration that I’ve never much read any comics before, I had no interest in it whatsoever, except as a child I read the Donald Duck and old Flintstones comics. And I don’t research stuff, I just do it my way. It was the same with music making and writing songs, I just gave it a go and didn’t research what others were doing or how it was meant to be done. And I quite like that tactic in life.

With drawing it works the same… I do follow artists on Instagram, and I just discovered Chuckdrawsthings who draws pigeons that make me laugh or gets me teary eyed sometimes. It can be very inspiring but I don’t want it to influence me too much. The main thing I draw about is me. Anything I draw in these Creatieve Vlo web comics is about my experiences and my feelings. With dating and trying out a polyamorous lifestyle there was enough stuff happening to draw about so I started off with that. Positive body image, me being silly, my relationship with food, mental issues and life with its darker and lighter moments also come into view. And then I have many more ideas to work on…

TONY: Has drawing your strip been as satisfying as you’d hoped it would be? What are some elements of it that you wish to develop going forward?

ELLY: As I’m getting more practice and seeing there’s development in the drawings it gets more and more satisfying. But also, I have so many ideas to draw and it’s just so much fun to get it out on paper and see it actually work! I’d like to keep trying to be open and honest in my work, so try to go into the core, to areas that many would possibly recognize but not many would openly talk about. That way I can be of some help I hope! I think hurt starts the moment one thinks he or she is alone in it. And it can be very comforting to realize there’s many more people feeling the same as you do. I have more ideas that go more towards the ridiculous, talking poop or talking penises for instance. They seem to lead a life of their own so I’ve started drawing them too. I bet they’re very pleased with me.

TONY: I’ll bet they are too! In fact, you mention penises, and there’s something I’ve noticed with that. I get the distinct impression that you are completely enamoured of them! Is this the case? I ask because you seem to draw them on a regular basis.

ELLY: Yes, to me a penis definitely has a certain charm (as an entity of its own) and I also find them aesthetically pleasing, just like ladybugs, boobs, trees and birds. The penis is just another beautiful thing in this world that I enjoy drawing. Now this isn’t a shout out for males, ladybugs or trees to come tug at my sleeve so they can model in the nude for me. No thank you, don’t call us, we’ll call you…

TONY: Yes, this isn’t a cattle call, Dear Readers. Elly’s doing just fine, thanks very much. Well, I guess all that remains is for me to thank you for taking part in this interview. Is there a question that you wish I’d asked?

ELLY: Hmm, did you ask about where the name Creatieve Vlo came from?

TONY: Oh my god. Yes! Of course! That!

ELLY: Creatieve Vlo is Dutch for creative flea! Sometimes when I get a creative idea it’s like it’s an itch that needs to be scratched or dealt with asap. Once I was telling a friend that I was in a good flow with so many creative plans while I was thoughtlessly scratching my head. He smiled and commented that I might have the creative flea. So I really owe the name to this friend.

 

Interview by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

THE CRUMBCAST // Lovers of a Lesser God

I hate being preachy, but I feel I might have crossed that line with the latest Crumbcast. I guess this stems from the fact that I’m finally ready to reveal what I really think when it comes to relationship and religion (with a dash of sexy sex thrown in for good measure). Of course, it’s not as if the world is breathlessly awaiting my opinions! I’m certainly under no illusions about that. Really, I’m only doing this because I want to. If someone’s willing to listen… then great!

Also, it’s only fair that I warn my religious friends and readers that some of the views expressed in this episode may be offensive to them. While I don’t feel it necessary to apologise for said views, I do want to acknowledge the distress that they may cause. So, please do be aware that I don’t take this lightly, and that I hope we can at least agree to disagree. It would be grand if we could still be chums anyway. Yeah, let’s give peace a chance, man!

Oh, and please do feel free to read Matching Jeremy Tang for some much needed context regarding this installment of the podcast (which can be found below). Crumble Cult is my baby, so I enjoy having people fuss over it! Hint. Nudge. Insert winking smiley here…

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017