Nine Months Of Beige
At first I thought Nine Months Of Beige was one of Sean Azzopardi’s sketchbook comics, but I was wrong, sort of. It’s part sketch book, part diary comic, part fictional stories – all concerned with Azzopardi’s move to Weston Park, a sleepy North London suburb. And the locale allows Azzopardi to focus his attentions on the (lack of) events all around him, and return to himself…
As usual with Azzopardi’s comics there’s a heavy dose of self-depreciating autobiography, adventures with comic friends; a trip to Caption, meetings down the pub, a reflection on his progress after watching American Splendour, even a near meeting with Alan Moore on the tube. The comic is, as we’ve come to expect, rather downbeat, and Azzopardi works his way through the pages struggling with insecurities, concerned that his life and work are going nowhere. He pretty much nails the mood in the very first couple of pages:
He’s not entirely right though, there is a feeling of ennui, of a black mood taking hold part way through, but there’s also a sense of awareness of the problem, of trying to do something more.
There’s an insecurity to Azzopardi’s work, something he gets across to the reader in so many little ways. Probably no more than we all suffer, but seeing it on a page merely adds to the sense of mild despair pervading the comic. You want to reach out, tap the character on the arm and reassure him that it’s like this for all of us, don’t worry, life may not be great, but enjoy what there is, enjoy the moments…… and I suppose that’s a perfect distillation of how well Azzopardi gets his feelings across, how well he puts his art down on paper, allowing us to empathise so much.
So much so that the final page, an uplifting call to arms (or as much as one as I imagine Azzopardi ever feels) leaves this reader with a big smile on his face, happy that Azzopardi’s mood seems better, even happier that we’ll be getting more from him soon:
And also as usual with Azzopardi’s comics, the art improves yet again. The addition of a very subtle sepiatone provides a warmth to his art, befitting his shift to Weston Park, a freshness and more organic, natural feel to his art, or at least from the art in previous sketchbook style works.
His art runs the gamut from out and out sketch to controlled, tight line work. Isolated, panel border-less moments sit alongside detailed studies of his life and work – and it plays really nicely across your eyes, simple yet involving, yes, I do like Azzopardi’s line, I like it very much.
Nine Months of Beige is a satisfying little read, a look into an artist’s life, a link to where he’s at, and features some genuinely lovely artwork. Ironically, I read this straight after one of Drawn & Quarterly’s art books, and compared to that remarkably unsatisfying book, Nine Months Of Beige is a breath of fresh air – this is how to do something akin to sketchbook comics; with commentary, context, art that feels composed yet relaxed, capturing moments of a life. I’ll take anything by Azzopardi over some lavish D&Q artbook anytime.