Thursday, December 29, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #29: Filipa Estrela

Filipa Estrela crafts (and I do mean crafts) delightful, multi-media minicomics, often using materials like felt and then photographing it to create a narrative. For example, Find mixes paint, cut-out figures and yarn to tell a brief, poignant story about connection in the face of darkness. The yarn is used to create the lettering, and the cut-outs are posed and drawn upon in different ways to create the figures. It's an ingenious, painstaking method that's also emotionally affecting. Acceptance is a story about a young woman climbing a mountain in order to talk to a dragon about grief, and it's done entirely in intense watercolors. There's no linework at all, as Estrela instead delineates figures with big brushstrokes. 

Joy won a MICE mini-grant in 2021, and this comic is entirely made of felted figures and backgrounds, with sewing lines deliberately made visible to emphasize the constructed quality of the comic. It's incredibly complex in its construction, and Estrela takes great pain to create movement in this story of some friends getting together for a tea party and snuggling under a blanket after a rainstorm. The expressiveness of her figures is what makes this so much fun to read, even as Estrela once again is less interested in a complex story than she is in invoking a certain kind of feeling. 

Sparkle In The Fog uses assorted craft decorations to support the narrative of being a "scattered mess," as the pile is stirred up and rearranged in order to try to create something new, only to remain a mess. But the search itself is worth it, Estrela argues. My Mother's Garden sees a pivot: exquisitely rendered and printed drawings of flowers on cards with gold-ink lettering, all to the end of highlighting the flowers found in her mother's garden. It's made all the more poignant with the reveal that the garden has fallen into disarray, representing her absence; however, the persistence of the blooms provides evidence of her hand for all time. This is a superb merging of craft, artistry, and feeling. 

Gender Clown is done in a more traditional line form, only all black lines have been flipped with white and everything is surrounded by cotton candy colors. It's an interesting and personal take on gender, as Estrela eschews any particular role, preferring to embrace all of them all at once. Like a clown wearing multiple outfits, Estrela prefers to "dress in layers" with regard to gender and gender performance, and this little confection of a comic firmly establishes this idea in an inviting manner. 

Spy/Spa Day is much more conventional in terms of narrative; it's a cute story about an anthropomorphic frog and turtle who go on a "spy" day together instead of a spa; they listen in on others, sneak around, and then eventually actually go to a spa. Estrela certainly has the chops to do kids' comics if she wants; she has the rhythm and style down pat. Date Night has more of a YA vibe, and it's just as good. This is the most conventional of the comics in this collection, but Estrela's cartooning is simple, expressive, and goes in some interesting technical directions, especially when you look at line weights and the use of color in flashback and current scenes. The comic is about two childhood friends briefly reunited for a day as adults, and they find their feelings are the same as always but have evolved into something else. The moment-in-time quality of their interactions give this comic a particular poignancy and longing, just as much of Estrela's work does.

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