Reflection of Tracing Stitches & Spinning

Prompt

Selecting and tracing my pages was actually much more challenging than I originally thought it would be. I found myself looking through both books multiple times trying to find pages which would suit the purpose of this assignment and were also genuinely interesting to me. During this process, I bookmarked a few pages on both books which were possible options and then went back to each one looking at ways that the pages could be compared. I was pretty satisfied with the page I selected for Stitches however the page of Spinning that I was gravitating towards seemed pretty bland at first glance leading me to almost disregard it. I didn’t disregard it though mainly because there were several comparisons between that page and my already-selected Stitches page that were building up in my head. While I was tracing my pages, I didn’t annotate at all because it felt easier for me to do one part at a time. Instead, ideas and comparisons between the two pages would pop into my mind while I traced both pages and I would write them down on a sticky note to include in my annotations later.

I initially had trouble beginning my essay just because I had no idea of where to start. After pondering for a while without getting anywhere, I simply just started writing and the essay began to form from there. In previous writing classes, there was usually a more clear cut structure that’s meant to somewhat guide you through your essay. With this format however, I had no idea of what my thesis was until I actually got to the point where I needed to write it down. At this point where I have already written two full paragraphs, it seemed like it would be extremely difficult to write a thesis that somehow related everything together yet it came much easier than I expected. Most likely, this is because after analyzing and comparing both pages, I somewhat already had a thesis in my head that I just needed to organize and straighten out.

Doing the tracing, annotations, and analysis, in a way put me in the place of the author in how each aspect of the page was deliberate and has meaning behind it. When I originally read Stitches and Spinning, I knew that to an extent, the authors of these books were using it as an outlet to express their feelings during this time and share their personal stories. After completing this assignment however, it became much clearer how these books strongly show their feelings not only in the past as a child, but even in the present as the adults that are creating these books hence the title of my essay, “The Past and The Present”.

Reflection on Tracing Pages Assignment

This essay was very fun to write about because it required a lot of different elements that needed to be pulled together for analysis. From finding the pages to tracing them, the entire process made me feel as though I was professionally critiquing David Small and Tillie Walden. Before this assignment I’ve never traced because I don’t have access to the materials so this project also allowed me to go out of my comfort zone and delve into something new and creative.

I aslo enjoyed the new writing style. I did take some time to introduce the panels and provide context but I felt that was essential in understanding the concept of my essay. It was also an interesting process of putting my essay together with the thesis as the last paragraph because I felt as though I was writing my entire paper backwards.

Overall, assignments like these, where we are tasked to look at and analyze comics have increased my interest in writing. There is so much to write about and its fascinating how much each panel can mean to the author and the reader.

TRACING PAGES REFLECTION POST

The process of tracing and annotating two pages (three in my case) was a rigorous process for me. The tracing Pages assignment was a very unorthodox for me; the traditional 5 structure thesis statement was not followed and that the whole writing process had to be revamped. I felt that the writing process for me was not to present a thesis statement and present evidence supporting that statement but to undergo a process of “discovering” your thesis statement. I definitely understood both books better after this assignment, but the tracing and annotating process was more time consuming for me. The thesis statement shows that the general story outlines portray the mothers as antagonists but both authors show rare moments of care and concern exhibited by both mothers for their children. The link to the assignment is given here.

Trace It Back (Reflection Post)

By Ja’Mya Yancey

I already knew what I would be confronting when we read Stitches and when the assignment was announced. The page I traced in David Small’s graphic novel was a page that drew me in even before I knew I would have to analyze anything. Seeing that something similar was occurring in Spinning made me excited because everything was there. For my tracing pages I analyzed how words do not have to be there in order for the author to express that they are processing and internalizing a situation that is about to change them and/or hit deep. It moved me personally because I know how it feels to go through something but not have the words to describe it, its just a feeling that hits you hard and I feel like they showed that through the dark shadows and colors.

Structuring the analysis was not that much of a change for me because this writing structure was introduced to me my senior year of high school. Also, I never really liked having to write an introduction or conclusion paragraph. I felt like it was over doing it and it was a hit-or-miss type of thing. One thing that did surprise me about this entire experience though is how it feels more personal reading in this medium. I expected the same thing I would get from a regular novel with this but just with pictures. Graphic novels though has drawn me in more and allowed me to reflect and internalize what they want to convey.

The Perspective of Perspectives

The first noticeable aspect of the page from ​Stitches​ that a reader picks up on lies within the odd, spurious energy of the doctor. Small crafts this energy by placing an odd shadow that lies directly in the middle of the doctors face for the first two panels. This shadow splits his face directly down the middle, which splits the reader’s attention between the two bright sides of his face where his small, intense eyes reside. Further emphasizing the odd feeling garnered from the doctor, Small slants the angle of his frames, as well as slowly getting closer and closer to him throughout the scene. In contrast, ​Spinning​ presents a much easier image sequence to follow. Walden frames out Tillie’s eyes which places all focus on her tears and slight arm movements throughout the six identically framed panels. This minimalism allows the reader to notice the smallest movements of her arm, or even how she flinches as her mom throws insults at her in the right middle panel. There is no unsettling energy from a doctor or dramatic shifting angles. This comparison makes Walden’s moment of a forced coming out to her mom seem almost tame. InStitches,​ on the other hand, the creepy over-expressive smile of the doctor along with the dramatic framing of each new shot places the reader actively in between the doctor and David. Both pages share a simple two by six paneling, but the dramatization of ​Stitches​ places the reader in the inner fear and disorientation of David as he awakes from his operation, whereas the audience takes on almost an observer’s perspective as they watch Tillie nervously shift in her chair.

The revelation of the dreaded procedure not working and the unfortunate circumstances of Tillie’s coming out are portrayed in violently different lights between Small and Walden. In Stitches​ we only see one panel of David’s static face as he stares with his big eyes at the chatting doctor, whereas in ​Spinning ​we stay locked in on Tillie’s upper left torso for the entirety of the six panels. This difference makes sense when one considers the nature of their problems. When looking at the story as a whole, David faces the external problems of having cancer caused by his father, whereas Tillie faces the internal problem of being her true self to her mother. The focus of their respective pages reflects this contrast. David focuses on the external doctor and the words he has to say, which reflects in the close up canted shots of the doctors face in this stylized lighting. Tillie cannot face her mother with the truth about her sexuality, which reflects in the focus on her shifting arm as that is presumably all Tillie could focus on in that moment. When looking at these moments through the lense of their memories, a clear –and obvious– connection can be made: they are both told from the perspective of the authors. This idea of an auteurist creating a “singular intimacy of one person’s vision of the world across words and images” can be used to great dramatic effect (Chute, 18). With this in mind, one can now consider how the differences in stylistic choices of the panels are actually an artistic choice made by the authors in order to best present their perspectives and memories on the page.

Walden’s minimalism is present throughout her novel, however, there are many ways she could have presented this scene. She presumably chose to use the same basic framing on her shoulder because that was how she remembers the moment. In one of the most dramatic moments of her life she can only focus on how she slightly moves her arm and leans away from her mother. In the moment, this attention to her body position not only reflects the larger narrative of femininity through ice skating, but also acts as a focal point to distract from making eye contact with her mother. David, on the other hand, does not even have the power to look away. The doctor looms over him as he sits helplessly in the static hospital bed. This powerless perspective is reflected in how the majority of the frames are focused on the doctor and his words, whereas all of Walden’s frames focus on Tillie. Despite this difference, Tillie clearly has no power in this situation. She begins the page with her arm crossed over her chest. She lowers it when she affirms her sexuality to her mother, and then when her mother rejects her she raises her arm again and is left in the same defending position at the end of the page as the beginning. When considering these panels with the lens of how each story is told from what the authors memories, the reader can understand how their two positions of powerlessness are similar, despite their varied framing. The panels from each page show very different images, but understanding that each shows the focus of each of the respective author creates the feeling of helplessness that each person shares.

Read with Eyes, Feel with Heart

It was difficult to decide which pages to trace as I did not know what I should be looking for. Therefore, I marked three to four pages in each book that I found somehow unusual and interesting and read them carefully. I quickly decided the page for Spinning, in which a complete picture was intentionally divided into three panels, but I failed to find a similar one in Stitches. Albeit far from being able to articulate the special features in them, I eventually made my choices simply because of the special feelings I had when looking at these pages. As I would find out later, this selection process contributed to the development of my thesis that these two pages serve to let readers not read but feel the stories and also the title, “Read with Eyes, Feel with Heart“.

Spinning-1
They are in fact observations at different times from different perspectives.

Despite previous careful examination, tracing definitely helped me figure out how both authors managed to confuse and overwhelm their readers and create feelings so that they could empathize with the protagonists through “choice of frame”. The comics’ “all-at-onceness” was in effect as well, as I tried to make visual connections between panels only to realize, after tracing them, that they were similar but depicted from different angles. As for the page from Spinning, before I traced it, I thought the three overlapping figures on the right of the page were observations at different times of a continuous movement, but from a fixed perspective. However, when I tried to imagine the movement in my head while tracing it, the sizes and distances of these figures did not match. Then I concluded that they were in fact observations at different times from different perspectives. The tracing process forced me to experience the uncomfortable feelings the authors designed for these pages and identify the reason behind at the end.

The inductive way of writing was hard at the beginning, like forcing a right-handed person to write with the left hand. I could not help but try to look for evidence to support my thesis. But what was my thesis? I had no idea at that time. With a vague idea about perspective in mind, I decided to analyze the two pages separately first. This approach turned out to be fruitful, as I soon identified the direction I should follow. Furthermore, the inductive way of writing shortened my time to write because I did not first commit to one thesis and then struggle to find evidence. And with all the evidence ready, there would be more room to develop interesting arguments.

StitchesThe biggest takeaway from this assignment is how versatile the comics is to influence readers. As Chute states in her book, Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere, “the comics gestures conspicuously to the reader’s active and involved reading”. Authors can use words, visuals, panels, and so forth to put their readers in the protagonists’ shoes. These elements work altogether to affect the readers, often unconsciously, through the special feelings they create. With the dizziness in mind, it becomes understandable that David runs away from school, break laws, and waste electricity just to annoy his parents. Tillie does not appear demanding when she is angry with her mother’s indifference after I have experienced the tough test with her. Appealing to emotion is more powerful than mere repetition to make the readers understand and accept the authors’ messages.

 

Assignment Link: https://eng181f19.davidmorgen.org/assignments/projects/tracing-pages/

Reflection on Tracing Stitches and Spinning

Considering myself an insightful observer, I was at first pretty confident with my ability to “decode” all the patterns and underlying meanings in the two pages I chose even before the tracing process. However, I was proved wrong when I picked up my pen. When tracing, I noticed that although Stitches was monochrome, I had to carefully address the shading by stressing David’s eye sockets and nose with dark gray color while applying a lighter gray elsewhere. In contrast, I just needed to simply trace out the contour of the characters in Spinning without applying any shading. This distinction inspired me to explore how these different styles relate to the themes of the two texts, which later became the focus of my analysis.

I used to always think about the thesis of my essays before I start writing. For this assignment, though, I forced myself to jump right into the analyzing process built upon my annotations without worrying about what conclusion I was going to end up with. It turned out that I had a pretty hard time structuring my final paragraph because the former two paragraphs seemed to have nothing in common that I struggled to come up with a thesis that spoke for both. Surprisingly, I managed to not only identify the connection between them, but also arrive at an entirely new understanding of the different rhetorical situations two authors are in. If I had started writing with a fixed thesis at hand, I probably wouldn’t get to the exciting conclusion that I have right now.

This assignment definitely helped me explore more about the underlying meanings hidden within the visual elements in Stitches and Spinning. By looking over and over again at the two pages, I realized everything that appears in comics is an artistic choice that reflects the author’s thoughts. Small chose to make his panels distinctive since Stitches has a clear overarching theme of showing David’s trauma, whereas the images in Spinning are more ambiguous and require closer examination because Walden herself was trying to explore who she truly is and what the book is about while making the narration.

Tracing Pages Reflection

The assignment prompt for Tracing Pages requires the comparison of two visual close readings in analytical essay format. In my essay, I concluded from page 174 from Stitches and page 170 from Spinning that both authors use the panel to panel transitions and the presence and absence of facial expressions to compare themselves with their mothers. David Small stands up for himself in between surgeries in a staredown with his mother by imitating her vicious glare, and Tillie Walden closes herself off from her mother in an act of neglect when she is late to pick her up from cello practice and causes her to witness a scary car crash.

It was difficult to choose only one moment from each text to compare, so instead of searching for two pages that mimicked each other, I focused on each book separately. I chose a page I found interesting without worrying that I would need to compare it to another page later on. This method proved to be successful because once I began the tracing process I realized both pages had themes of facial expressions or lack thereof and interesting panel design. These themes made the inductive writing process easier, however, it was still uncomfortable considering I am unfamiliar with the writing style. Inductive writing forced me to push my critical analysis to the front rather than building up to it with a cushiony introduction. This made me feel exposed because I felt I hadn’t given enough background and would automatically be put in defensive positioning. It was also overwhelming to notice the sheer magnitude of meaning behind “the secret language of comics”. Each page of a comic book has seemingly endless possibilities for underlying meaning just based off of the panel transitions alone, not even what is inside the panels themselves! Before tracing my pages, I didn’t realize how much each author used frame angles and transitions to influence the consumption of a page. Now I can see how calculated each frame is in what the author choses to show or not show.