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.
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.
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.
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!
Finally, 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.