Friday, December 2, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #2: Erika Bloomdahl

Erika Bloomdahl is a second-year student at CCS, and her mini The Strawberry Dress points to her increasing confidence and skill as a storyteller while incorporating her unique background and interest in fashion. The relationship between comics and the textile arts is one that's not been written about enough, but it's every bit as legitimate as the relationship between comics and painting, sculpture, illustration, architecture, and music. Indeed, it goes beyond even the potential innovation of using fabric as a potential material for cartooning or how fashion designers need to have strong sketching and storyboarding skills. At its essence, fashion is something that isn't static. It's not just crafting a garment to sit on a manikin; instead, a designer must always imagine that garment with regard to movement and gesture. These are the essence of good cartooning as well. 

Bloomdahl's mini is tightly-structured, reflecting the CCS emphasis on storytelling. It starts with an examination of a particular, popular dress that was popular in 2020. In certain fashion and sewing communities, it was widely praised for its ability to be sold in a number of different sizes, its fit, and the way it made people feel to wear it. However, there was a controversy about its steep $490 price tag. That's the launching point for Bloomdahl's own exploration of her fascination with fashion and sewing. She learned the craft of sewing and even made a few things herself. This taught her the value of fabrics, of workmanship, of history, and of the sheer amount of craft that goes into making a garment. Making her own clothes also taught her the amount of work it takes to make something good. 

The parallels to cartooning are obvious. The craft of not just drawing, but also storytelling and cartooning, is something that can be learned. Just as nimble fingers can help someone sew, so too do some cartoonists have natural facility with a pencil. However, the actual craft of cartooning is something that must be learned and studied in order to truly understand it. In Bloomdahl's comic, she uses a fun decorative conceit: single-page panels, where each panel is dotted out like a dressmaker's pattern. Her use of colored pencil gives the comic a visual intensity and a visceral quality that jumps off the page. Her drawings are beautiful and expressive. The story is not just a lesson in what goes into making a dress; it's also a meditation on what she chooses to buy and chooses to wear, and why. It's about self-expression vs consumption, and one's personal responsibility in this dynamic. This comic represents a significant step forward for her. 

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