The Ignatz Award-winning artist Gabrielle Bell’s autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of her life as a struggling 20-something artist in Brooklyn. Bell describes taking a string of odd jobs (nude model, art teacher, jewelry maker, artist’s assistant), dealing with passive-aggressive roommates, how her boyfriend doesn’t quite want to find a place of his own and so many other scenarios familiar to artists that this graphic novel could easily sink into cliché. Yet Bell’s keen visuals, ear for dialogue and strengths as a storyteller guarantee that doesn’t happen. Bell is a master of the revealing moment: a dream reminds her of a depressing job search; a modeling session underscores why she hates it; a note left behind by roommates exposes the seething animosity in the house.
All of this is combined with an appealingly spare drawing style made it easy for me to imagine that instead of Bell’s bohemian Brooklyn, the story was set instead in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver or any other city where artists toil and my friends live. The end effect is an enjoyable and fine work of storytelling. (Ron Nurwisah)
by Gabrielle Bell, $19.95, 112pgs, Drawn and Quarterly, PO Box 48056, Montreal, QC, drawnandquarterly.com