Friday, September 6, 2013

Sharply Observed: The Everyday

Adam Cadwell's The Everyday wears its influences on its sleeve but manages to carve out its own territory. A collection of autobio strips in the vein of acknowledged influences Jeffrey Brown and James Kochalka, this collection is notable for the fact that he didn't grind them out on a daily basis as well as his slick, appealing art. Indeed, while Kochalka goes cartoony to express his outsized emotions and Brown goes scribbly to bring an emotional immediacy to the page, Cadwell gives the reader a smooth, refined look at himself. He's the sort of person who has the kind of natural sense of optimism that gives every strip a bounce but still grounds it in everyday experience. Spanning four years of his life, Cadwell hints at being lonely when not in a relationship but never dwells on it in his strips. Instead, The Everyday is a sort of scrapbook of being a young, single person with a lot of friends and all sorts of exciting things to do. Cadwell manages to make every experience an adventure no matter how mundane.

Still, the real attraction here is the sheer pleasure of looking at Cadwell's drawings. The are naturalistic for the most part but retain just enough cartooniness and elasticity to keep the eye on the page instead of it sliding off. It starts with his own self-caricature, but his drawings of women are lovely and charming without being sleazy or too cutesy. There's a degree to which Cadwell's lack of interest in exploring negative emotions or experiences gives the book a superficial quality. On the other hand, just because an artist complains in their autobio work (usually about how they can't get laid) doesn't give it any added profundity. Cadwell basically has two goals in his strips: to get a laugh through an observed amusing moment and to reveal to the reader just what it is that he finds to be beautiful. His love of music, comics conventions, pubs art and just general shared, aesthetic experiences is the fuel for this comic's existence.

Like many cartoonists, he started doing autobio strips as an experiment and stopped after drawing 400 of them. Along the way, he became a superior draftsman and sharp observer of human behavior. He probably could have kept going, but one gets the sense that he wanted to quit before he reached diminishing returns. His last year's worth of strips are certainly his best, as his character work is fully realized and his tone light and frothy. He had reached a certain storytelling rhythm and level of skill that had really surpassed the strip's original intent as a humble daily autobio comic. While the reader doesn't walk away from this book with any astounding personal revelations about Cadwell or the human condition, one does get to know him at an aesthetic level. We get the full scoop on what makes Cadwell happy and how he interacts with others, which is every bit as revealing as spending a book dwelling on what makes him miserable.The book was published by Great Beast, the British publishing concern that Cadwell founded alongside Marc Ellerby.

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