Lynda Barry’s graphic novel What It Is has a very distinct and unique art style that sets it apart from other books in its genre. From the collage-esque cuttings of paper to the rough handwriting scribbles on lined paper, Barry utilizes texture constantly and consistently throughout the course of What It Is.
This example from Barry’s novel is a perfect representation of her use of texture. Like many of the other pages, page 83 also has the collage style with what appears to be bits of fabric, strips of paper, glitter, and even leathery materials at the very bottom. Texture is the tactile grain of surfaces and substances. While texture can be both physical and virtual, all of these elements only represent virtual textures. The pages themselves that make up this book are all smooth and exactly the same, if not a bit thick and sturdier than most book pages.
I believe that Barry designed her book using these methods because of the books subject matter. What It Is is a look at Barry’s past and the path that led her to becoming an artist. The scrapbook style reflects this idea of scattered memories, jumbled together after all the time that has passed. Sometimes the collaged pictures, text, and fabric almost make no sense textually, but have a deep overall visual cohesion. We can feel the soft fabric in our minds, the crinkled corners of the pages feel rough and bumpy, and the ridges of each overlap gives depth and emotion to the images. These pages look old, they would presumably feel old, and every bump, scratch, slice, stain and cut makes the pages feel real. This realness imparts an even greater sense of ingenuity to the reader. By making the images feel real and worn, it communicates the age of these memories being represented. It took time to craft this, in fact it technically took Barry’s entire life to craft the contents of this novel.
The scrapbook style also directly relates to the lesson Barry imparts on the reader in the last 72 pages of the book. In the last 72 pages Barry has created an activity page that encourages spontaneous thought and letting your mind just run as you write. This chaotic and fast pace approach to creating images and ideas is reflected in the layouts of the pages.