Lynda Takes the Line for A Walk — Abstract for the Transitions 8 Conference

Lynda Takes the Line for A Walk: Attitudes and Philosophies of Drawing in Lynda Barry’s Comics

Transitions 8, 10 November, Birkbeck, University of London (detailed program)

Lynda Barry’s What It Is (2008), Picture This (2009), and Syllabus (2014) are not simply educational or self-help books on making comics, they reveal Barry’s theory about drawing and about creation. In my presentation I examine what Barry’s explanatory texts, creative exercises, and autobiographical comics inserts reveal about her philosophy of drawing.

In her exercises designed for either students or readers to engage in making drawings, Barry emphasizes the importance of bodily engagement in thinking and in creation. This idea appears in comics scholarship as well, but, unlike scholars, Barry thinks of the line as a trace of one’s personality. This way Barry engages in an ongoing discourse on the authenticity/conventional nature of the line in comics. Authenticity in non-fiction storytelling has become possibly the most overinvestigated term in the study of comics autobiography and journalism, but the relationship between the line and the drawer and the line and the story has not been studied that much.

While approaching Barry’s work, I reach back to theories of drawing by Jan Baetens, Hillary Chute, Jared Gardner, Simon Grennan, Philippe Marion, Nick Sousanis, and parallel theories in contemporary approaches to drawing in contemporary art, namely by Karen Kurczynski, Elizabeth A. Pegram, Katherine Stout. Philip Rawson’s Drawing and Laura U. Marks’ recent article “I Feel Like an Abstract Line” have shaped my understanding of the line and provide the starting point of my analysis of Barry’s work.s

As the title of the presentation hints, I believe Barry’s idea of drawing a line is closely related to that of Paul Klee. I will show that, similarly to Klee, Barry considers the line as a partner of the drawer. I also offer close readings of some of the drawing exercises Barry designed for her students and for the reader, and these pages will serve as prompts to illustrate the already mentioned theories on the nature of the drawn line.

barry what it is 157

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