• Chris-ware-hero

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

Illustration

WOW, aka a preview of Chris Ware's new and very brilliant magnum opus, Building Stories

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

It’s been a very long time since comics widened their scope beyond superheroes and science fiction for anyone to dismiss them as the creative property for only those interested in such stuff.

The illustrative vanguard for progressive, independent and socially challenging comics that Art Spiegelman spearheaded with RAW magazine and his own Maus graphic novel, drove this point home and into the collective literary psyche. It has since been followed-up by a number of key cartoonists who have widened its wake and filtered through some of the most extraordinary and genre-defying narratives that modern readers have had the pleasure of eyeballing. To them, we say thanks (and keep it up).

Chris Ware, who is widely-known to dismiss in self-deprecating tones any personal merit adjoined to his work (rumour has it he is collecting up and destroying one of his earliest published endeavours), is perhaps not ready to receive this thanks or the praise his latest, indubitable magnum opus Building Stories will inspire. But applause it will get (and probably stunned silence quickly followed by imaginative combinations of swear words, as was the case in our studio when this advance copy arrived).

  • Chris-ware-01

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

Building Stories is (insert swear-verb) lovely to look at. Ware delivers in many different bits of printed matter (pamphlets and broadsheets, hard- and cloth-bound books, one-pagers and a something like a games board), a collection of comics that has no real beginning or end because that is what regular books do and Chris Ware can do without.

In short (and it has to be that way even if my notes tell me something different) the story/one-big-“emotional prevarication” occupies a single building in Chicago and follows its inhabitants; a lonely landlady, a lonely-but-together couple, and a lonely woman. Isolation, both mental and physical is Ware territory – together with dry-or-die humour – this work reminds me how devastatingly beautiful it can be.

If you wanted to, you could work hard to read it chronologically but then that would do away with the memory-like quality of individual stories and their extraordinary, almost musical, handling of space and time. It is this, the way rhythm and movement is conducted through the various scales and formats in Building Stories and how it is played out in recurring graphic themes, that elevates Ware to master-status.

  • Chris-ware-03

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

“I learned how to structure a page and how to think about comics in a language and not as a genre” he told Christoper Irving for NYC Graphic Novelists, and it’s a pretty good visual syntax – multi-directional type; sub-narratives that run down the edges or in the top corners of pages, the subjects of which appear and disappear in the lead stories which run in tandem across generations; huge floating heads in the centre of psychological, schematic illustrations; open-sided architectural renderings that perform like comic panelling and compliment a narrative which, like a home, knows that action is never exclusive to a single frame (or room).

If anything Chris Ware has written has pleased you (and we don’t see why they would not have. On paper his Fantagraphic bio reminds us he has won more awards, some of which never before bestowed on a cartoonist, than he has published comics), you will not be disappointed when this boxed collection arrives to make your hands sweat and your heart ache and your eyes bleed. Because, whether he likes it or not, that is how good comics can be and Chris Ware’s Building Stories is a prime example.

  • Chris-ware-06

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-07

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-10

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-14

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-11

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-18

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-26

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-21

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-22

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-20

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-19

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-27

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-13

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

Building Stories is out in October.

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. Marcelgeorge-port-itsnicethat-list

    Maybe it’s because I am a notoriously un-stylish man, but the product spreads in magazines usually do absolutely nothing for me. Flicking through multiple pages of artfully arranged man-bags strikes me as purgatorial, but I understand these kinds of features often have a commercial rationale in the complicated financial climate of modern magazine-making. Credit though when a publication strives to do something more interesting with these spreads, like the Russian version of Port magazine (or Port Россия) which commissioned Marcel George to illustrate a recent feature on watches.

  2. Adamnickel-itsnicethat-main

    I came across Adam Nickel’s work on a Mr Porter Journal article entitled How To Speak Professional-ese which outlined how the common man can attempt to understand office and business jargon. Adam Nickel’s perfect for a brand like Mr Porter. His drawings are inspired directly from packaging design and illustration in the 1950s and early 1960s, channeling the kinds of characters you may have seen rushing about in the background of The Pink Panther or chasing a pesky critter through some well-animated opening credits. Adam states on his site that he’s a lover of all things old – I assume he’s referring to design? – and is pushing out so-good-they-could-almost-be-actually-vintage illustrations at a mile a minute. Definitely one to commission if your brand or publication is lacking a spot of style and olde worlde charm.

  3. Sarahmazzetti-mit-itsnicethat-list

    It’s always a joy to hear from Bologna-based illustrator Sarah Mazzettti who has been a firm favourite of ours since we first stumbled across her gig posters back in 2012. The Italian image-maker seems to have settled on a more confident style in recent months and big-name commissions from the likes of Vice, The New York Times and MIT Technology have duly followed. But that unpredictable playful sensibility we so loved has not been entirely banished, as evidenced by her huge yellow giant holding up a room for the TICTIG exhibition at Casa Testori in Milan.

  4. Hattie-stewart-itsnicethat-list-2

    Hattie Stewart is back – not that the self-proclaimed doodle-bomber ever goes away for long – and this time it’s with reams of new work for her very own exhibition at the House of Illustration, entitled Adversary. In the first of what looks to be a whole series of commissions by the London-based gallery, she has created a collection of new (and enormous) pieces in her signature doodle style, decorating images from pop culture with accessories, stripes, googly eyes and emojis and generally elevating them beyond magazine fodder and into something entirely unique and infinitely bolder. 

  5. Jonjones-itsnicethat-list

    You know what we really love apart from great illustration? Seeing how that great illustration was made. Jonathan Jones is a South African illustrator who flits between countries making his beautiful work, but what sets him apart from most of the rest of his freelance counterparts is the way he documents that work online. It’s lovely of course to see the final product of his endeavours, but to see layers of red, yellow and blue build up into a singular image allows a kind of eureka moment where you instantly understand the practitioner’s skill and wish you’d spent more time learning about colour separations at university.

  6. Steven-harrington-itsnicethat-listr

    If pastel colours, psychedelia, totemic piles of strange, Lennon-esque faces and a Salvador Dalì approach to yin-yang symbols are your thing, it’s likely you’ll love the work of illustrator Steven Harrington. The California-based illustrator has spent his career making dreamy, magic, sunshine-infused work; and he’s recently updated his site with a bunch of new work. The piece that really made us grin like a blissed-out, long-haired hippy is the poster for Noise Pop, a refreshingly playful approach to promoting the likes of the equally playful Dan Deacon. Elsewhere, Steven’s been keeping himself busy designing some great patterns and images for New York clothes brand Staple, which are all melting yin-yangs and cactuses bent into Loch Ness Monster-type forms, naturally.

  7. Sacmagique-itsnicethat-main

    Sac Magique’s back with a brand new (magic) bag! The Finnish artist has updated his site – which I check almost as regularly as the news – with a bunch of new drawings in a new, sketchier style. As always his work has gotten funnier and more daring and I daresay he’s cracked up the weird levels a few notches. That’s why I love him, much like fellow Helsinki-based illustrator Rami Niemi, he approaches briefs from big brands with a carefree childish wit, unafraid to use cuss words, toilet humour and sarcasm in ample spoonfuls. He’s been making work for bands such as Fat White Family recently, and has been making personal work that rings of the cynical one-line cartoons found in pages of The New Yorker –the one entitled Drunk Online Shopping, and the London scene in particular. Sac, I love you. Let’s elope.

  8. Bernhardaxilko-itsnicethat-main

    Excuse the pun, but I’m a sucker for penis drawings. Birthday cards, desks, walls, Post-Its, other people’s books, car windscreens: to me the world is but a canvas for penile artwork. Judging by his startlingly extensive back catalogue of sexually charged, penis-infused illustrations, it seems Belgrade-based artist Bernharda Xilko is on the same page. His style is in the same camp as people like Patrick Kyle and Paul Paetzel but comes with a side order of terror, penetration and science fiction. For me, I like the depth of his one-panel cartoons, and how you can stare at it for a while like a saucy magic eye painting, and keep finding things you had missed first time around.

  9. Newyorker_01-wilfrid-wood-itsnicethat_list

    Giving us proof if it were needed that humour and style are in no way mutually exclusive, Wilfrid Wood has created a sweet, strange series of his signature plasticine caricatures for The New Yorker. The illustration spots feature throughout the mag’s style issue, aiming to sum up a variety of different New Yorkers “with hats and scarves and various accessories,” Wilfrid helpfully points out. As is typical of Wilfrid’s work, they’re very odd, sometimes ugly, and very brilliant, and rudimentary as they are we’re sure there’ll be a few folk in the Big Apple who see a little bit of themselves in these lumpy visages.

  10. Alisondubois-after-itsnicethat-list

    Alison Dubois is a San Francisco-based illustrator who channels all of the vitamin D from her native temperate climate into her work. Take After, for example, a collection of re-creations of works by great masters, including Henri Matisse, Peter Doig and a handful of Paul Gauguins. Her drawings are rendered in felt tip and dominated by primary colours, and looking at them for too long feels something like consuming a bottle of Sunny D via an IV drip.

  11. Thomas-slater-mosaic-itsnicethat-list

    It’s a good job “Thomas Slater, Illustrator” has such a nice ring to it, as we seem to be spending a lot of time on his website of late. His newest undertaking is for Mosaic, the science-led strand of the Wellcome Trust which is using commissioned illustration and photography to make even the most opaque of articles on their journal absorbing. For a piece entitled Do You Need to Go to Parent School? Thomas has created a series of drawings depicting kids both being encouraged by, and outsmarting, their ambitious parents – putting them on school buses, playing at being doctors from their buggies, or having their brains measured while diligently sipping on juice cartons. It’s the kind of commission which shows editorial illustration at its most challenging, but somehow Thomas manages to convey broad ideas about parenting and education with a simple and bold colour palette, outsmarting us all in the process.

  12. Sygold-itsnicethat-list-new

    Illustrator S.Y. Gold is one of growing number of young illustrators making a virtue of the limitations of digital software. His imagery makes clear its origins – Illustrator line tools and Photoshop’s airbrush can – in its exuberant final results. What’s the purpose of his unusual images? Hard to say but they display the beginnings of some great character design as well as the potential for interesting editorial applications.

  13. Margot-fabre-itsnicethat-list-4

    Friends aren’t really friends until they’ve gotten together with a bundle of felt tips to draw a bunch of pornographic illustrations; which is precisely what makes graphic design student Margot Fabre and her mate Frederik Stender such good ones. The pair have combined their creative skills in the purest of ways, doodling a collection of wildly imaginative and not altogether innocent sketches of a couple – and occasionally an extra character or two – having a really, really nice time. It’s filthy and hilarious and completely unafraid to have a giggle at itself, and we bloody love it.