Sunday, December 13, 2020

31 Days Of CCS, #13: Ashley Jablonski

Ashley Jablonski's is just starting out as a cartoonist, but from the short works she sent me, there's already a great deal of promise in her work. While her visual approach is completely different, her early student assignments remind me a bit of what Natalie Wardlaw did, in terms of using her art to directly address her trauma. 

For example, her CCS application comic (the one that requires a robot, a piece of fruit, the artist, and a snowman) was titled Change, and it's an intense but brief meditation on the trauma that she understands she's been through because her father has paranoid schizophrenia. She detailed how cold he was growing up, then discussed being put in a caretaker role at an age when she couldn't understand what was wrong with him, then described a harrowing incident where he threatened Jablonski and her sister with a knife. She astoundingly managed to stick to the assignment when she described her father's behavior as robotic. She compared the ripening of a fruit to a snowman melting as a metaphor to talk about the changes she went through growing up with her father. The final page, which is in black and white, is a howl of a drawing: it's Jablonski herself, where "the color was taken out of my life" as she was just trying to survive.

Jablonski was ambitious in this strip, and it paid off in that drawing but cost her some clarity in other panels. She didn't quite trust her line or her use of color enough to lean on either to carry the narrative, and the result was a muddle at times. The actual page composition and ideas behind the drawings were all solid, especially the clever panel-to-panel transitions, but the actual images lacked the clarity she was going for. That said, that final page had a perfect chiaroscuro balance while highlighting the resolute but weary quality of her face. 

In The Tortoise And The Hares, Jablonski took the Aesop's fable assignment and turned it into a personal diary of her first semester away from her home state. Once again, Jablonski took a specific premise and made it personal while deftly exploring the depths of that premise. This time around, Jablonski opted for a dense visual style with a heavy line weight as she drew herself as a tortoise, slowly adapting to life around her and recognizing her own bravery in completely uprooting her life. Jablonski allowed for just enough negative space to let her drawings breathe, while still establishing the immersive quality of her drawing.

Jablonski also submitted a number of one-page comics. These range from sketches to gag work to personal reflections, all experimenting with line weights, grayscale shading, and stylistic flourishes. There's also a strip that gets at the central issue of all of her strips: the guilt and paralysis she feels toward her father. On the one hand, he not only traumatized her with threatened violence, he also witheld affection as she was growing up. On the other hand, knowing that he has a serious mental illness, one that creates paranoia and delusions, means that he wasn't in command of his faculties. It's a difficult decision to make regarding her future relationship, but it's clear that working through them on the page is as much a part of her overall process and project as an artist as figuring out her best visual approach. It's all part of the same thing, and it will be interesting to see how Jablonski continues to explore and expand on both her own outlook and mental state as well as the most rewarding ways to express herself.  

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