On this post, excited to share a roundup of new reviews and interviews, a video conversation, plus more process sketches.

First up, I was interviewed in great depth by Tim Hodler for The Paris Review. Hodler’s questioning took the conversation in a number of directions I don’t normally go, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity. An excerpt:

[In regards to my newborn daughter learning to control her fingers.] “That experience of seeing new is something I wanted Unflattening to remind us of. Obviously, this could be a problem—if you had to figure out how your hands work each day, you couldn’t do anything. But if you can find ways to keep your eyes open in that same way, while retaining the experience of knowing how to use your hands and not having to learn that all over again—that’s what I wanted to get at. To see new, but acknowledge that we have experience and it’s necessary to have experience in order to do something. You want your children to be very “unflat,” to recognize the circumstances they are born into and that they acquire but also able to see with open eyes so as to make their own way.” Read in its entirety here.

Comics for Grownups Podcast Episode 48 featured an absolutely brilliant and rich discussion of Unflattening by Alexander Rothman and Joshua Malbin. One of the really astute observations Rothman made, spoke to conception and perception being two sides of the same coin, and Malbin brought up how my early chapters seem to be teaching the reader how to find their way into the work – which was quite intentional. Really pleased to have this kind of insight into my own work. Listen to the Comics for Grownups Podcast here.

I did a long form interview with UK comics critic Colin Smith for his Too Busy Thinking about Comics site. A sweeping conversation about process, constraints, and more, I really enjoyed and am grateful for the opportunity. A little excerpt from his introduction in which he describes it as:

A celebration of comics’ ability to bring complex and challenging ideas to life, Unflattening finds its writer/artist in joyfully innovative form. … Whether he’s playfully expressing how dogs perceive the world or evoking the soul-quashing brutality of tyrannical regimes, Sousanis’ pages are ingenious, involving and inspiring. Put simply, Unflattening is smart, heatfelt fun. Reading it reminded me of the bliss it was height of the mid-80s, when so many new paths in the sequential arts were being pioneered. … Yet the typically enthusiastic press that the book has earned might not always give quite that impression. Fun in its most general sense is rarely mentioned. Although Sousanis’ visual storytelling has rightly been highly praised, it’s often in the context of scholastic conversations about education, perception, academia and so on. All of these discussions have been entirely relevant; Unflattening began as a doctoral dissertation and its content is appropriately rigorous and knowledgeable. But for all of that, the book is essentially an effervescent and entirely accessible paean to the oft-underestimated potential of the comicbook. As such, Unflattening holds considerable charms for the reader who might care little for this or that philosophical implication. The sheer fun of it all is something that I fear might get lost in the otherwise welcome chorus of learned approval. In short, Unflattening isn’t an experience whose appeal and value in any way stops on either side of the academy’s gates.

Read the interview with Colin in full, Part One here and Part Two here.

Unflattening got its first choose-your-own-adventure review! The piece on Australia’s The Lifted Brow is framed more as a response than a review, as its creator Matt Finch decided since Unflattening was challenging the forms scholarship could take, shouldn’t a review as well? He took upon himself the challenge of weaving a circuitous path through the bowels of the Warburg Library and comics theory and history, and hidden within, there’s a discussion of the book if you’re a bit patient and persistent (or more clever than I am). The whole game is takes up the book’s themes and is a delirious creative work unto itself. Great fun and thrilled to have the work generate that kind of engagement! Play here. Finch also discusses why he went this route on his site here.

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I was interviewed by Bruna Cruz for the Brazilian Paper UOL, with a focus on the educational role of comics and new forms of scholarship. It’s online here: “Teacher publishes doctoral dissertation in the form of comics in the US”. Because they excerpted my written interview and translated it into Portuguese, I’ve included the responses I sent them in English here for the curious reader. I did something similar a long while back, with the Russian Magazine Theory&Practice and that interview is here. Apparently Theory&Practice has reviewed or featured the book again recently, but I’ve yet to ask any Russian speaking friends for a translation.

 

A couple weeks back, I had the delightful opportunity to talk online with members of the Connected Learning/Make with Me #CLMOOC. We took a tour through the work, dove into some great questions, discussed the importance of seeing behind the scenes of the creative process and wrapped up with my having them do the abstract comics making exercise that I came up with some years ago for my classes and have been using in talks since. They’ve posted it to youtube and it’s cued up to the exercise part, you have to go back to hear the whole conversation. (It’s also on their site here, if you want to learn more about the group.)

One of my favorite moments of he discussion is captured in this tweet from @pedestrian_poet, who wrote “Slowly unlearning the imposed school system of right & wrong and relearning who I am by reclaiming my creative roots.” There were a few summaries posted, Sheri Edwards shared reflections about it on her blog here as did Wendy Taleo (who caught it from Australia!). If you just want to see the exercise, someone made a video of it here and you can see some of the abstract comics they made in that short time on this link. I also discussed the exercise as part of my keynote talk at the Toledo Art Museum in 2014, which is found on my site here. Thanks to everyone for the conversation!

 

I’ve been sharing a lot of process sketches lately, and want to continue that here with more from Chapter Four (where I shared from last time). This page (78) is the end of a several page sequence wrestling with ideas of embodied cognition and how the metaphors that we build our thinking upon are grounded in our physical experience in the world. This also referenced Molly Bang’s wonderful book Picture This, which I discuss in The Paris Review interview and in the clmooc talk around my exercise. Seemed fitting to share it here. I tend to draw maximally, so this simplification to pure shape and relationship was a really enjoyable way for me to work, and one I’d hoped to do more of in the book. Likely I’ll be exploring working this way in future project. Thanks – Nick
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