‘Driving Around: A Pandemic Journal’ captures the eerie ambiance of a pandemic vacation


Driving Around: A Pandemic Journal
Comic, Amanda Etches, 24 pgs, etches.ink, $10

A vendor sells hot dogs on an empty beach, still shuttered in June. Sand bars get converted into outdoor living rooms. The tired eyes of fellow travellers look back at your own. These are some of the moments of awkward stillness captured by Amanda Etches over the course of a 10-day trip, documented here in a sketchbook travelogue. While handwritten words guide the story and introspective details, they are juxtaposed with colorful drawings of the pastoral landscapes she and her partner pass as they drive around rural Ontario, detailing the fallow fields, roadside power lines, pastures, beaches, and the occasional lonely barn or house in rich, watercolour-like hues. All landscapes are void of humans, but Etches splices in occasional blueprint-tinged objects — an ice cream cone, a bicycle, flip flops, a stack of books — encountered along the way. Taken together, these arrangements on the page make her trips feel at once benign and despondent, nostalgic and foreign, effectively capturing the eerie ambiance of a pandemic vacation. Etches’ work is deliberate and thoughtful, right down to the paper stock and packaging..