One of the greatest strengths of comics as a form is that we don’t necessarily need characters to invest in, or narratives to become involved with, to fully appreciate their communicative power. Due to the unique relationship they have with their audience – that way in which we control the reading experience and interpret events on the page – a strong visual storyteller can evoke feelings of familiarity and recognition in their readership by tapping shared emotional responses and conveying experiences we all recognise without the need for an overt protagonist.
Such is the case with Laurel Pettitt’s Quiet Moments, a series of vignettes that rarely extend beyond a handful of panels and yet speak to us on a fundamentally human level. Pettitt’s subject matter in this minicomic offering consists of brief sequences that are usually pensive or resonant in nature. Waves crashing around a rocky outcrop; the simple act of pottering in a greenhouse; smoking while looking at the stars; observing raindrops on a window; relaxing in a meadow and the like.
Each short sequence employs a deceptive simplicity in the manner in which it conveys events to the reader; Pettitt’s manipulation of our “between the panels” comprehension being far more sophisticated than we realise on an initial reading. In fact, what is so intriguing here is that we are often asked to create our own wider narrative concerning each sequence; to not just fill in those spaces between the panels but the one that exists around them as well.
The manipulation of comics’ unique relationship with the passage of time is dexterous in its application by Pettit in these pages. Two-frame segments can prove not to be sequential but simply different aspects of the same image, for example. Whereas a section of a flower blooming sees time jumping rapidly between images despite the illusion of little movement occurring between each panel.
Pettitt’s art switches from careful realism to a more representational visual characterisation but never fails to speak to us on an emotional level with a most profound eloquence. The subdued colouring adds a sense of solitude and a feeling of the meditative to the proceedings with the atmosphere being largely reflective in tone. A more abrupt sequence of a house fire, then, becomes all the more devastating for the ominous silence in which it is depicted.
Quiet Moments is proof positive that truly exciting new work doesn’t have to be brash, loud and ostentatious to command our attention; that burgeoning talent can be found in quieter yet intrinsically powerful storytelling practice. There’s so much going on here from the slightly abstract to the literal, the empathetic to the observational, but the one thing that stands out throughout is the undeniable promise of an artist who can communicate with her audience with such profound subtlety.
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Laurel is also a guest artist at Orbital Comics on Small Press Day 2018. More details here.