Ootastic: PCOS in pictures

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!

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