An Inkpot of Fate

Chris Downes is an American, but it’s hard to hold it against him. This is in part because he’s clever, witty and compassionate (and garden-variety passionate, to boot), but also because he seems to have become – in however many years he’s been living here – to become more of a Tasmanian than most of the Tasmanians I know. His frequent editorial skewerings of issues both political and social are savage, crazy, and lush – and deeply rooted in this, his chosen home.

He is talking about influences when I arrive (late, evidently) to ‘An Inkpot of Fate: Plus a Lengthy Subtitle After the Session Title’ (I’ve lost my program), and it’s fascinating to see – literally, see – him deconstructing the art and techniques of his influences and showing us how they manifest in his own work. Sometimes the resulting comic is an explicit homage, others it’ll just be some shading on a tree, or a frame around the panel, and it’s a hugely illuminating process. Sure, all art (and particularly writing) is founded on and built with selected chunks of what has come before – but I have rarely seen it illustrated (hohoho) so clearly before.

This isn’t to say he’s making collages, but this sort of slow-step witnessing of how someone incorporates their influences into their own style is real interesting.

Josh Santospirito’s comic presentations often involve a guitar and a battery of effects pedals. He doesn’t have them today, but the pauses and rises and flourishes are still there, echoing off the back wall. They make me think about the importance of space, and cadence, and deep-sweeping rhythm (and rhyme – the graphic types run rhymes better than most capital-P Poets I know), and how a chap might go about trying to enhance those things in his text-only escapades, where you don’t have the advantage of being able to leave two-thirds of a panel empty to get your reader to pay real attention to the bit you have drawn in. That said, we can use more words overall, so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

Josh’s readings also bring about some pretty classic writer’s festival mmm-waves, where you have a full audience semi-vocally showing their approval of a thing or sentiment by going ‘mmm’. It’s kind of bovine and a little bit magical once it really starts bouncing around.

Then Sarah Firth drops a series of disparate pieces: a sweetly-funny memoir of growing up surrounded by designer furniture; a couple of chilly animations that go after pop culture (selfies, Nicki Minaj) with a bat and bad intentions; an incredibly caustic set of non-sequitur first-world-problem panels based around White Wine (prn: ‘Whine’), which all three panellists narrate with great relish; and lastly, a synaesthesiac minute-or-two clay-centric animation that nails the vibe of getting a massage better than I could manage with a million words and the time between now and the heat-death of the universe. I have no idea whether it’s on the internet somewhere but if it is you should go and watch it.

Josh closes the session by saying, ‘I knew when I invited her that she’d come down and show us all up.’ She shakes her head and laughs. Self-deprecation crosses all authorial breeds, it seems. But then again, if these guys knew how good they are they’d probably explode. So let’s just leave them scribbling.


– MB