Weekly Blog: Living In Line: Maddy West

Comic by Maddy West, April 2020.

As I read “Living In Line” by Scott McCloud I was really inspired to share my best friend, Maddie’s story. Maddie is a college student who is living with arthritis, which causes her health problems, mainly chronic pain. When I read the blog post, I thought this would be the perfect time to showcase what chronic pain is like and how much of an impact it truly has. I felt that trying to convey the invisible sense of a pain that others cannot see would translate well. When she was first diagnosed about 5 years ago, Maddie said “It feels kind of like fireworks are going off inside me but no one else can feel how badly they are burning me.” I really wanted to share this feeling and showcase how she sometimes feels like she is trapped in her own body.

I utilized material tools to create this comic because my brother needed to use my computer to complete his schooling. Originally I was bummed because my vision had to change, but as I worked, I loved what I was able to create. I knew that I wanted my comic to be minimal in nature, so that what I used to showcase the pain would pop off the page. I created minimal drawings, copying a style that has recently become more popular (line drawing). This is an incredibly difficult skill to master, that took me a long time and several tries to get a look close to what I wanted. For these bodies, I used pencil because I wanted to maintain the simple line look and keep the character light. I didn’t want her to come across as burdened by creating too heavy of a line. Then, I added pipe cleaners to the bodies. Maddie’s pain congregates in specific parts of her body, so I focused on those. I decided to use pipe cleaners because I think that they really showcase the feeling of a firework, by kind of popping of the page and being a bright color. They were also easy for me to manipulate into the shape that I wanted. I added a single word to each panel that I think really represent the story of someone dealing with chronic pain. People have often called Maddie’s arthritis an “adventure” that she gets to go through and some have told her that she looks fine (perfect) so she probably is faking it. Maddie wants people to know that arthritis is a part of her (me) but that it is only a small part of who she is (snapshot). These words came from some old scrapbooking paper that I found. Finally, I outlined all of the panels in the thick black marker. I did this to convey a sense of being blocked in to what other people see and how you feel. This sense of being stuck can be just as exhausting as the chronic pain itself. This also relates to the order of the pictures. I wanted the pictures to feel like a set of mugshots, (at least in how they are framed), to communicate how chronic pain can make one feel trapped. The girl is turning for each picture, to capture a new side of her that people may not be able to see.

I definitely noticed my own inability to communicate my creative message because I am not a super good drawer. I spent a long looking at different minimalist drawings so that I could imitate the same feeling, and it took me a while. I also noticed how the image of the comic does not have the same impact as actually looking at the comic. In person, I can actually see the details of the comic, which are not shown in the picture, simply because they do not translate well (such as things like texture). Despite this, I like how the comic turned out because I think it communicates my point.

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