Lynda Barry is one of my very favorite cartoonists and her 2008 graphic novel, What It Is, was my favorite book of that year. So when I saw that her follow up book, Picture This The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, was coming out this week, to say that I was excited would have been an understatement. Well upon starting to read Picture This last night I was shocked that I didn't immediately love it. I didn't think this was due to my not being in the mood for what Lynda Barry is doing with Picture This, rather part of my initial diminished enjoyment was due to overly inflated expectations of what the follow up to What It Is was going to be and the other part is that Picture This doesn't really have a narrative.
Fortunately I picked up Picture This again this morning and gave it another chance to woo me. Even though I had (and still do to a lesser degree than last night) reservations about Picture This in terms of "story", Lynda Barry's art is as wonderful as it's ever been, especially in glorious color as it is here and in What It Is. Basically Picture This is a sequel / extension of What It Is. What It Is and Picture This can be looked at as being motivational graphic novels for artists and the lapsed artist in all of us.
Picture This is subtitled The Near-Sighted Monkey Book because Picture This features this character, the Near-Sighted Monkey, who is Lynda Barry's new cartoon representation of herself. And even though I wasn't "wowed" by Picture This as I was by What It Is, Picture This is worth the price just for Lynda Barry's charming, kid-like (I say this in a positive way) art, because just to look upon her art can't help but bring a person to a happy place.
Lynda Barry's premise in Picture This (like that of What It Is) is that everyone has an inner artist that wants to be put upon paper, but for most of us, we've abandoned this artistic voice after childhood. Barry postulates that people over think things when approaching a blank piece of paper or canvas, so she suggests just putting pencil (or whichever artist tool you're using) to paper and do some simple stream of consciousness things like drawing circles or making lots of dots. So while Picture This will speak more to people who are looking to re-awaken their artistic self, it's also a great graphic novel that will make you fondly remember artistic things (even "simple" things like coloring or tracing an image) you did as a child that took you to a magical place.
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