From my review of her nature-based slice-of-lifer Brockley Foxtrot in the early months of this column through to her time as one of the guiding lights of graphite artzine Tiny Pencil, Katriona Chapman is an artist whose work has, perhaps, been fleeting in output but always beautifully presented on those occasions on which I have covered it. This year, however, has seen her launch a project which guarantees a more prolific yield of Chapman material with her own quarterly autobio offering Katzine.
The obvious comparison to make here would be Katie Green’s similarly themed and arranged The Green Bean. Katzine, however, relies on a heavier comics content, with over half of its 24 interior pages being classifiable as sequential art. It’s an engaging mix of strips, illustrated features, mini-essays and photos that encompass a variety of Chapman’s day-to-day thoughts, exploits and interests. The tone ranges dramatically as well, from light-hearted and frivolous humour about her boyfriend’s dry observational comments in ‘Sergio Talk!’ to honest personal reflection on her introverted nature in ‘Fears and Loves’.
That’s the key to the huge appeal of this zine. It is indeed incredibly diverse in scope but the genial and understated presence of its host ties together what could otherwise be a disjointed collection of subject matter. It means that pensive remembrances of childhood Canadian holidays, family history and the adventure of global travel in ‘All Summer Long’ can sit side-by-side with Katriona’s one-page salute to her local hardware store in ‘Local Business’. Two pages of drawings and text on a favourite house plant can be placed in the same publication as a more revealing comic strip on ‘Some Things that People Have Got Wrong About Me’.
From a purely comics perspective it’s pleasing to see Katriona making such varied use of the form within this opening number. I was particularly taken by the silent two-pager ‘It Moved So Fast’ wherein she and Sergio take a nocturnal rooftop trip to watch the International Space Station fly by (above). The panel to panel pacing is exquisite and the sense of scale and wonder at our tiny place in the big scheme of things is tangible. It’s also indicative of her stunning use of shading and varying degrees of light and shadow; something that is very much a trademark feature of her work going right back to Brockley Foxtrot.
It’s a rather self-evident comment to make, perhaps, but what this book essentially represents is an invitation into someone else’s life – a chance to be drawn into another person’s reality and to observe how they interact with the world around them. I’m a little loathe to use the term “endearing” about Katzine in case it comes across as inadvertently patronising but there is something very appealing about the intimate tone – the sense of connection between creator and reader – that Chapman fosters here with her self-deprecating and modest on-page voice. Refreshing, sincere, and impossible to dislike, Katzine is one of the standout offerings I’ve covered in this column so far in 2015…
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