Artist Emily Steinberg just raised the stakes on the morning coffee and newspaper ritual. It doesn't just jolt her into consciousness while she checks out world events - she credits it with the evolution of her latest visual narrative, "A Mid Summer Soirée."
"Back when I still got the paper in the morning ... I had a little ritual," Steinberg, who teaches art at Penn State Abington, said. 'I would do the crossword puzzle every morning and then draw a little creature on top of the puzzle or somewhere on the funnies page."
"I liked the randomness of what happens in a drawing when you draw on top of things. Bits of words, bits of comics, find their way into my new little drawing, creating a densely packed image," the Philadelphia resident continued. "I did this every day for months. Then, I scanned them and added the storyline."
The intricate drawings, some in color, merge with and emerge from scraps of crossword puzzles, newspaper articles, and cartoons. Each showcases a creature or or two, some in pre-party mode and others arriving and socializing.
"The story is basically about human nature and what might go through our minds as we get ready for an evening out," Steinberg said. "A slice of life, with a side of (illustrator) Edward Gorey's surreal inanity."
There is no direct narrative link between the images so readers use their imaginations to mentally fill the intentional gaps.
“I’m interested in the idea of chance, and what happens when you don’t control the situation,” Steinberg said in Cleaver Magazine, which published the story this month, about its composition.
“I not only wanted to make visual imagery, as in my paintings, but I wanted to tell stories as well,” she said. “I found that the combination of words and images created a visceral way of storytelling.”Steinberg began experimenting more than a decade ago with graphic novels and now teaches the art form at Abington.
One of her earliest efforts, the acclaimed memoir "Graphic Therapy," depicts her life as an single artist and working through psychoanalysis. Her short comic, "Blogging Towards Oblivion," was included in "The Moment." Cleaver previously published two of her other visual narratives, "Broken Eggs" about infertility and "The Modernist Cabin" reflection on family.
Steinberg teaches painting, the history of comics and graphic novel through the art major at Abington. Learn more about the art program.