Saturday, December 21, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #21: Filipa Estrela

Filipa Estrela is a first-year student at CCS and is the classic example of a motivated, hard-working cartoonist who doesn't quite know what kind of cartoonist they want to be just yet. Estrela's work is all over the place as she's put out work at a furious pace to see what might stick. After reading this big stack of comics, the most evident thing about her is that CCS is helping her to focus her talent and refine it. Where she will go with it is still a mystery, as I can easily see her focusing on YA work, memoir, or fantasy fiction. She may well pull an Eleanor Davis and do all of these things. Let's take a look at her collection of short works.

She did a bunch of eight-page micro-mini comics. Most of them were jokes or very brief narratives. What Did The Electrician Say To The Dentist? represents her most throwaway version of this sort of thing. Why I Am Still Awake @ 2:33 AM is done entirely with thought balloons, as she illustrates her restlessness. She did a Magical Girl origin story, a scribbly mini about the somatic effects of her anxiety and how she deals with it, unpredictable New England weather, and a list of personal characteristics titled Identity. Magic Shroom and The Unicorn And The Cat both stand out as having the core concepts and images for longer work, especially the former. In this comic, a wizard walks by and gives a mushroom sentience, and it then proceeds to be a farmer that grows more mushrooms. There's something pure about all of these comics, as they feel like they were done under some kind of time restraint. They're all short, scribbly, and expressive.

Rioteens! #1 and We Are The Rioteens! are the kind of things that might have appeared in Action Girl Comics twenty years ago. The characters are so fully realized in part because Estrela designed them for a role-playing game, and that level of detail made it easy to instantly understand and recognize each character. The character who is a black hole wearing a hoodie is an especially clever bit of character design, but the whole flavor of the concept is a nice blend of cute and edgy. A more refined version of this feels like a good fit for Estrela's first long-form project.

Companion is an inspired take on the Ed Emberley assignment, where one uses his method of basic, simple shapes to make drawings. On glossy cardstock with bright, saturated colors, Estrela told of a creator who made a witch character who rejected all scenarios and sidekicks. Not until the creator entered the strip in the form of a cat was the witch happy. It's a clever idea, one that I could easily see expanded into a kid's board book. Estrela likes harpies, and her Harpies Of New England combined a bird-watcher's guide with different kinds of female magical creatures. Two of them appeared in Estrela's take on Aesop, Sparrow & Crow. It's a funny take on the moral "Birds of a feather flock together," but the pacing was awkward in this story. The other problem was that the figures had so many decorative features that they looked stiff; for a story that depended on characters interacting in space, it disturbed a lot of the subtler aspects of the story.

Ona's Parade is much better in this regard, with a similar level of decorative details but a greater focus on balancing physical bodies in space. How To Make A Shoople is an interesting accomplishment, as it focuses on Estrela as a maker as well as a cartoonist. The comic is about making a creature, and it's crafted as much as it's drawn, with crepe' paper and other items used on the page to create images along with drawings. It's more of an experiment than a real comic, but it's a technique she could use elsewhere. I've only seen this used for long-form comics a few times, and there's a world of potential there. Finally, Catharsis is a personal comic about grieving her mother, depression, and anxiety. It's roughly-crafted at points, but it also features some of Estrela's most spontaneous and expressive drawings. She was willing to spill some ink here and it showed. That bodes well for her future, and I will be curious to see how she develops as she finds her own style.

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