Wednesday, December 29, 2021

31 Days of CCS, #29: Kat Leonardo

Over the years, it's been fascinating to me to see how CCS students choose to interpret their assignments. That's especially true of  the Aesop's fable assignments. Kat Leonardo is a young cartoonist with a lot of illustrating skill, and that's readily apparent in The Mouse And The Manticore. It's a variation on "The Mouse And The Lion," wherein a mighty creature shows mercy on a mouse and is later rewarded for a small kindness. It's the details that make this comic pop: the cute mouse endpapers, the delicate and restrained use of watercolors, and the refined use of gesture to tell a simple story. 

The Damselfly is a beautiful, unsettling statement of self, using a powerful visual metaphor. Introducing the titular insect as one that sheds its skin as it grows, evolving past old forms and leaving them behind, Leonardo's character reveals that she cannot leave the past behind, and that's revealed through dozens of hands grabbing her, holding her fast, and surrounding her. It leaves her "hiding in plain sight" and she signs off with the desperate plea of "come find me." Using a simple blue line, Leonardo's visual approach is entirely dependent on that clear line that devolves through the comic to create a horrific effect. The use of hands in this way reminded me a bit of Tom Neely's The Blot.

Anosmia makes use of a mostly blue/gray wash to tell the story of Leonardo losing her sense of smell in 2020. She wasn't sure if it was COVID-19 or not, but the interesting story here is that she used to have what she described as a "superhuman" sense of smell. This is a comic about trade-offs, highs and lows in life. Her sense of smell was so powerful that she could smell flowers from across a room, and eating was a blissful experience. It also meant she was extra sensitive to foul odors, and she was frequently so overwhelmed by smell that it induced debilitating migraines. Things are now more level and there's less pain and discomfort, but Leonardo clearly misses the highest of highs. Her use of ink to depict smells, and additional spot colors to indicate migraines, was a clever storytelling device. One thing I wish she would have discussed is smell's relationship with memory and how that's changed for her. 

Redacted sees Leonardo using yet another technique: colored pencils. In a story about being visited by someone's ghost, or the memory of a person missing from her life, the way that colored pencils blend together and are made even more intense when juxtaposed against entirely negative space is a clever storytelling solution. The intense brightness of her current world contrasted with this memory that's harder to access is powerful. 

Eternal Knight is a love letter to love itself, through time and multiple lifetimes. Leonardo uses her full bag of tricks here: clever endpapers, a wide range of watercolors, interesting page compositions, and a theme that resonates throughout every technique. In telling a story about lovers that continue to find each other, again and again, throughout different lifetimes, Leonardo gets across that sense of interlocking souls that seem to never have enough time together, no matter what. The biggest problem with this comic is that Leonardo goes too over the top with color, and it sometimes overwhelms her line. A more restrained palette would have been more effective in returning the focus to the lovers, rather than their environment. 

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