Wednesday, December 4, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #4: Anna Sellheim

In her autobio work, Anna Sellheim can't help but spill some ink on every single page, metaphorically speaking. In her latest collection, Everything's Fine: Let's See Where This Goes, Sellheim expressed some anxiety that a comic about her growth as a person and happiness with her boyfriend might seem boring or precious. In the hands of a different artist, that may well be true. For Sellheim, as her therapist noted, even positive change and growth is stressful, and if there's one thing this artist is good at depicting, it's how she reacts to stress. Sellheim is not so much an oversharer as she is a compulsive truth-teller; she can't help but get at the root of what's wrong with her as bluntly as possible. That includes trying to correct herself when she feels anxious about things for no reason.

There's a hilarious scene where she discusses the difference between having a meltdown and a freak-out with her boyfriend; the former is due to depression and the latter is due to anxiety. In either case, Sellheim has to balance the weight of guilt for dealing with mental illness while being in her first romantic relationship. Dealing with being loved and accepted no matter what is a scary thing unto itself, especially because Sellheim clearly doesn't feel like she deserves love and acceptance. And yet, as her therapist pointed out, she's doing the hard work of therapy, she's not sabotaging her relationship, she's maintaining total & open honesty, and she has a support system for herself as well. In moments of panic or sadness, it's hard to see progress, but that's what therapy, and to a certain extent, this comic is for. The comic is personal, sweet, intimate, funny, and an inspiring example all at once. Sellheim's quirky character design (wherein she reduces figures to essential and sometimes symbolic elements), her frantic lettering, and her bright use of colored pencils give the visuals of her storytelling their own unique rhythm that works in concert with her personal anecdotes.

Three Terrible Dogs sees Sellheim writing about something much cuter: her three awfully behaved dogs. No one can point out the ways in which having dogs is awful like an actual dog owner, because that behavior is always forgiven because of their emotional importance. This comic is interesting because Sellheim uses a more naturalistic style in drawing people, in part because she wanted to draw the dogs as naturalistically as possible too.  #saveTucaAndBertie originally appeared online but was redrawn and expanded upon. It ties into a running theme in Sellheim's life: there are times that she becomes upset about something because it's symbolic of a number of deeper issues she's been angry or afraid about but was unable to express them.

In this case, it was Lisa Hanawalt's Netflix show Tuca & Bertie getting canceled. Sellheim came to enjoy the show after being uncertain early on, but its cancelation triggered an avalanche of emotion surrounding sexism, misogyny, racism, and virtually every other injustice. It's about coming to grips with one's own experiences facing injustice but also having empathy for others and their experiences. Once again, there's a liveliness to Sellheim's line that stands out in her simply-drawn figures, especially with the red, blue, and green in her comic callbacks from the Tuca and Bertie show. Everything may not be fine in Sellheim's world, but she's working on it with her relentless exploration of art.

No comments:

Post a Comment