Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scary-Cute Comics by Deth P. Sun

To help me on my quest for inspiration (says she, rationalizing), I ordered work by Deth P. Sun, an artist known for his scary-cute paintings and drawings (and a CCA alum), who is represented by Giant Robot in Los Angeles. 

Please Be Brave by Deth P. Sun. 2009. 5 1/2" x 8 1/2". This one begins with a page about Dracula, but continues with packed pages of imaginative drawings that always include one of these, "a knife, a skull, a stone or a cat on it." At first, I wasn't sure about it, only because it felt more like a sketchbook than a zine or book, no message or overall theme, really. A nice sketchbook, I should add. But I was hooked by the letters he drew that resembled hollowed out trees and branches, not only because I am always drawn to letters, but because he was inspired to draw them while he was camping at Butano (a favorite California campground of mine). So, the personal connection won me over and I bought it.

The Various Things I Eat by Deth P. Sun. 2010. 5 1/2" x 8 1/2". Do you keep a food diary? I bet not like this one. He drew his food, day by day from September 1, 2009 to February 16, 2010. First, you will simply enjoy his interpretations of a roast beef sandwich, plates of restaurant food, little stacks of potato chips. It is apparent that he eats really well. (Hey, it's Berkeley, of course he does!) Then you start noticing a pattern. He eats Corn Flakes almost every day. He eats a banana almost every day. Sometimes he eats a mint It's It, sometimes a cappuccino one. He shares food with his girlfriend Marci. I hope they stay together. The third time around you start creating a story. You see that he has eaten five lemonade Popsicles in four days, but wonder if the box originally had six. Did Marci eat one? He ate no Corn Flakes from the 6th of November through the 27th. Was he out of them, tired of them, or tired of drawing them? By the end of the third read I wondered what he wasn't drawing. My imagination started writing a completely new story. Who knew what studying this would reveal? By spending time with it I uncovered a hidden narrative, but perhaps an unintentional one.

I See All by Deth P. Sun. 2012. 8 1/2" x 11". On his website he acknowledges his love of Richard Scarry Books such as Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. They are children's books that have pages packed with labeled images, rather like a visual dictionary. But this zine, in fact, was inspired by I See All: The World's First Picture Encyclopedia. The original comes in 5-volumes and it is dated 1926. His version is an alphabet zine and includes a hippogryph, dictaphone, electric toothbrush, manifesto (it says "Eat More Cheese"), wheat grass shot, yoga mat, jelerang, zombie, and plenty of cats, food, and fish, among others. Alphabet books, or abecedaries, are very, very popular with printers and writers. Alphabet books have a nice solid structure on which to hang one's own idiosyncrasies.

As books, all three of these fall into the category of collections. Individually, they highlight different approaches to those collections: a personal collection of random things that delight the maker; the disciplined acts of working with a theme and keeping a daily log; and a pre-structured alphabet book. I'd love to see what he does with other kinds of narratives.

Deth P. Sun pays attention to detail, is completely disciplined, clearly love his work, and has a lively imagination. Creating these comics took hours of sketching in pencil, then inking in with pen and, finally, erasing all those pencil lines. Inspiration? Thumbs up. His drawings have already made me start hunting for different kinds of pens…

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