Ootastic: PCOS in pictures

August 16, 2016

30 Film Females: A League Of Their Own (1992)

Filed under: 30 Film Females — ootastic @ 7:26 pm

It’s been great to see so many Team GB women excel at the Rio Olympics.  My three-year old’s favourites so far have been “horse dancing” (dressage) and “jumping” (trampoline).  I’m intrigued to hear that Olympic baseball will be making a comeback at the 2020 games in Tokyo.  One of my memorable movies from early nineties, possibly because I’d been on the school rounders team, is the comedy-drama A League Of Their Own.  An enthusiastic ensemble cast – including Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell – tells the real-life story of the All-American Girls Professional Girls Baseball League that was established during World War Two.  Aside from the obvious comparisons between Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, my pun-inclined brain always flags up the song Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (actually from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).

Honourable mentions for 1992: a truly sinister Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.  Also, Demi Moore gives good legal defense in A Few Good (Wo)Men.

August 7, 2016

Sci-Fi Cambridge

Filed under: cambridge, conference, SciFi — ootastic @ 11:28 am

I’ve just rediscovered some drawings I did for the 2009 UniCon science fiction convention organised by friends in Cambridge.  They were published in the progress reports and programme book and the originals were framed as gifts for the guests of honour.  I’ve posted a couple of these before separately, but though it’d be nice to gather them together.

kings_ufo cthulu
dalek punt

August 2, 2016

Graphic Medicine 2016 Conference

Filed under: comics, conference — ootastic @ 10:10 pm

Last month I attended my first Graphic Medicine conference in Dundee. I followed the 2015 event in California on Twitter (it even inspired me to get a comic finished), so I thought embarking on an eight hour train journey was the least I could do.  Surprisingly, the trains all worked – hopefully you’ll recognise Cambridge, Peterborough and Edinburgh in the doodle below left.  The train was too wobbly to draw on so instead I finished reading the excellent Graphic Medicine Manifesto which I later got autographed (in comic form, so autodoodled?) by two of the co-authors (and Graphic Medicine website co-managers) MK Czerwiec and Ian Williams, and which I will hopefully review in the near future.

My attempted sketchnote below right shows one of the reasons why that epic train trip was well worth it.  The Saturday afternoon session of lightning talks titled Moving Stories – featuring comics mostly drawn from the perspective of patients, family and/or friends around topics including bereavement, depression, miscarriage, Alzheimer’s and cancer – left me feeling more than a little emotional (and this was before the conference wine was opened).

train_small stories_small


The closing keynote speech (or should I say song?) of the conference was given by renowned American cartoonist Lynda Barry  (depicted below as Medusa), who discussed the biological basis of creativity and the fact that “anyone can draw”, even/especially(?) if they use their non-dominant hand or an icing bag!



One of the Saturday morning sessions featured a trio of academics demonstrating the power of comics medium to communicate both the physical and mental sequelae of disease.  I should mention that I failed to find room in the right-hand image to include the details of the weighty book, i.e. the harrowing Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green.


amy irmela paul


Finally, to end on a classy note, the enlightening workshop on graphic facilitation and sketchnoting included this clip of the BBC hospital-based sitcom Getting On for which I was obliged to draw the following visual pun (possibly influenced by the current potty training of my son).


During the feedback session we were asked to summarise the conference in one word and I chose “participation”, of which I’ve encountered several escalating varieties as described more fully in my recent not-conference-talk.

  • Read comics – there are now so many comics available to read both online and in paper that it’s hard to know where to start.  Like many I’ve asked, I’d recommend Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies.  Also, a big thanks to Suffolk and Cambridgeshire libraries for their range of comic books.
  • Talk about comics – book club, social media, in the pub, etc!
  • Draw comics – as Lynda Barry says, “anyone can draw”.  JFDI, where the “D” stands for “draw”!
  • Attend a comics conference – don’t forget to talk to people, even just to say “nice t-shirt” or “what are you reading?”.
  • Give a conference talk – maybe I’ll be organised/brave enough next year!


Happy reading/talking/drawing!

July 25, 2016

30 Film Females: Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Filed under: PCOS — ootastic @ 9:52 pm

Summer is upon us and I’m not beach body ready.  My ample derriere and I are more likely to be digging sandcastles or exploring rock pools rather than lounging around in the sun.  So I approve of Bridget Jones’s penchant for “absolutely enormous panties”, as played with gusto by a game Renee Zellweger.  Knickers ahoy!


Honourable mentions for 2001: Emily Watson stands out in the engaging ensemble of murder mystery Gosford Park.  Also, Audrey Tatou as the whimsical Amelie.

June 28, 2016

PCOS in pictures: I’m not an artist but…

Filed under: comics, PCOS — ootastic @ 9:48 pm

This is a version of the lightning talk I might have given at next week’s Graphic Medicine 2016 Conference if I’d managed to submit my abstract in time!

Around this time last year I went to my first LaydeezDoComics meeting in London.  Whilst chatting to the other ladies there it struck me that I kept hearing the same phrase:

“I’m not an artist but…I draw this webcomic.”

“I’m not an artist but…my friends and I put together this magazine.”

“I’m not an artist but…I made this cake.”

This led me to think about the roles I play in life relating to comics and medicine.  First of all, I’m not an artist but I am a patient. Around 2010 when I was struggling to get pregnant I was diagnosed with the hormonal condition polycystic ovary syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS.  This is estimated to affect one in five women and has a number of annoying symptoms which I started doodling about – as you can see below, these include acne, excess hair, weight gain and fertility problems.

Femme fatale

Out, damned spot

Next, I’m not an artist but I am a science fiction fan.  I started incorporating some film and TV references (mainly bad puns) into my drawings.  Below left you can see the replicant Pris from Blade Runner whose famous blonde hair seems to have spread and become more of a blade ruiner. Below right is the USS Uterus whose anatomical features always remind me of a certain fictional starship.

Pris USS Uterus

This leads me on to say I’m not an artist but I am a scientist.  I originally studied human anatomy and now work as a bioinformatician for a scientific software/services company. I spend my day playing around with data and graphs and trying to avoid the biscuit tin in the office kitchen.

Facts and figures

I’m not an artist but – perhaps most importantly – I’m a mother.  After a few years and two miscarriages I finally gave birth to my son, who is now three years old.  My pregnancy was difficult for other health reasons as I have a congenital heart condition, which I’ve drawn about in a couple of entirely separate longer comics.  Being a mum means having to balance my son’s needs (football, baking, CBeebies, etc.) with my own (work, chores, sleep) which leaves precious little spare time for exercise and drawing comics!

Tipping the balanceFinally, I’m not an artist but I am a comics fan.  I was introduced to Watchmen at my friend’s monthly book club, complete with themed Rorschach biscuits.  This may have inspired the drawing – titled ComiConfectionary – below in which I’ve tempted various superhero identities to the dark (chocolate) side.


Somewhere along the way I picked up Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies, which really resonated as my mum died of a brain tumour in 2000 (the topic of yet another comic).  I honestly can’t remember how and when I discovered the Graphic Medicine website, but I’m glad I did!

I’ve spent the past few months (since well before the conference submission deadline) thinking about what I wanted to say here but have actually found it surprisingly straightforward to write, even if it does contain more food references than I’d hoped for.  Overall, I think I could say that – as well as being as a PCOS patient, science fiction fan, scientist, mother and comics fan – maybe I am an artist after all!  How about you?

For more information and support about PCOS see the Verity website.






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