Chris Ware has been an important influence on the way I look at issues of image, text and narrative, and the possibilities of non-linear approaches.
Edited from Wikipedia
Franklin Christenson “Chris” Ware (born December 28, 1967), is an American cartoonist. His works explore themes of social isolation, emotional torment and depression. He tends to use a vivid color palette and realistic, meticulous detail. His lettering and images are often elaborate and sometimes evoke the ragtime era or another early 20th-century American design style.
Ware often refers to himself in the publicity for his work in self-effacing, even withering tones.
I arrived at my way of “working” as a way of visually approximating what I feel the tone of fiction to be in prose versus the tone one might use to write biography; I would never do a biographical story using the deliberately synthetic way of cartooning I use to write fiction. I try to use the rules of typography to govern the way that I “draw”, which keeps me at a sensible distance from the story as well as being a visual analog to the way we remember and conceptualize the world. I figured out this way of working by learning from and looking at artists I admired and whom I thought came closest to getting at what seemed to me to be the “essence” of comics, which is fundamentally the weird process of reading pictures, not just looking at them. I see the black outlines of cartoons as visual approximations of the way we remember general ideas, and I try to use naturalistic color underneath them to simultaneously suggest a perceptual experience, which I think is more or less the way we actually experience the world as adults; we don’t really “see” anymore after a certain age, we spend our time naming and categorizing and identifying and figuring how everything all fits together. Unfortunately, as a result, I guess sometimes readers get a chilled or antiseptic sensation from it, which is certainly not intentional, and is something I admit as a failure, but is also something I can’t completely change at the moment.
Although his precise, geometrical layouts may appear to some to be computer-generated, Ware works almost exclusively with manual drawing tools such as paper and ink, rulers and T-squares. He does, however, sometimes use photocopies and transparencies, and he employs a computer to colour his strips.
Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (2000)
Graphic novel serialized in the alternative Chicago weekly newspaper Newcity and in Ware’s comic book Acme Novelty Library in issues #5–6, 8–9, and 11–14) from 1995 to 2000. Jimmy Corrigan is a meek, lonely thirty-six-year-old man who meets his father for the first time in the fictional town of Waukosha, Michigan, over Thanksgiving weekend. Jimmy is an awkward and cheerless character with an overbearing mother and a very limited social life. After an ill-timed phone call, Jimmy agrees to meet his father without telling his mother. The experience is stressful for him as he can barely communicate with anyone other than his mother, let alone his estranged father. The two do very little together and Jimmy’s father, while well-intentioned, comes off to Jimmy as slightly racist and inconsiderate. A parallel story set in the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 shows Jimmy’s grandfather as a lonely little boy and his difficult relationship with an abusive father, Jimmy’s great grandfather.
Chris Ware Jimmy Corrigan
Building Stories (2012)
Chris Ware Building Stories
Graphic novel made up of fourteen printed works—cloth-bound books, newspapers, broadsheets and flip books—packaged in a boxed set (inspired by Duchamp??). The parts of the work can be read in any order.
The intricate, multilayered stories pivot around an unnamed female protagonist with a missing lower leg. It mainly focuses on her time in a three-story brownstone apartment building in Chicago, but follows her later in her life as a mother.
Loss is a dominant theme. The characters suffer loss in terms of relationships, romance, finance, weight, and in terms of the main character, loss of limb. The characters fear and resist these losses–though sometimes they desire it. As in other works by Ware, there is much interconnectivity—the smallest details have great importance in the work.
Chris Ware Building Stories
Quimby the Mouse
Quimby the Mouse is perhaps Ware’s most autobiographical character. Quimby’s relationship with a cat head named Sparky is by turns conflict-ridden and loving, and thus intended to reflect all human relationships. While Quimby exhibits mobility, Sparky remains immobile and helpless, subject to all the indignities Quimby visits upon him. Quimby also acts as a narrator for Ware’s reminiscences of his youth, in particular his relationship with his grandmother. Quimby was presented in a series of smaller panels than most comics, almost providing the illusion of motion à la a zoetrope. In fact, Ware once designed a zoetrope to be cut out and constructed by the reader in order to watch a Quimby “silent movie”. Ware’s ingenuity is neatly shown in this willingness to break from the confines of the page. Quimby the Mouse appears in the logo of a Chicago-based bookstore “Quimby’s”, although their shared name was originally a coincidence.
The Last Saturday
Chris Ware The Last Saturday
Ware’s latest project, The Last Saturday, a “comic novella,” began appearing online every Friday at the website of the UK newspaper The Guardian, starting in September 2014. The story follows a few people in Sandy Port, Michigan: Putnam Gray, a young boy caught up in his sci-fi and space fantasies; Sandy Grains, a young girl and classmate who is interested in Putnam; Rosie Gentry, a young girl and classmate with whom Putnam is infatuated; Mr. and Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Grains. The strip also features in the newspaper’s Weekend magazine.
The serialization has now apparently ended after 54 instalments. The bottom right-hand corner of the last page has a note that says, “END, PART ONE”, but so far there appears to be no indication from The Guardian or from Ware that there is to be a Part Two.
Mural for 826 Valencia
Dave Eggers commissioned Ware to design the mural for the facade of San Francisco literacy project 826 Valencia. The mural depicts “the parallel development of humans and their efforts at and motivations for communication, spoken and written.” The 3.9m x 6m mural was applied by artisans to Ware’s specifications.Describing the work, Ware said “I didn’t want it to make anyone ‘feel good’, especially in that typically muralistic ‘hands across the water’ sort of way,”…”I especially wanted it to be something that people living in the neighbourhood could look at day after day and hopefully not tire of too quickly. I really hoped whomever might happen to come across it would find something that showed a respect for their intelligence, and didn’t force-feed them any ‘message’.”
Chris Ware Valencia mural
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Chris Ware Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
In 2011, Ware created the poster for the U.S. release of the 2010 Palme d’Or winning film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Describing the poster, Ware said “I wanted to get at both the transcendent solemnity of the film while keeping some sense of its loose, very unpretentious accessibility… This being a poster, however—and even worse, me not really being a designer—I realized it also had to be somewhat punchy and strange, so as to draw viewers in and pique their curiosity without, hopefully, insulting their intelligence.”