What It Is by Lynda Barry

When I heard that Lynda Barry, one of my comics artist heroes, had a new book I rushed out to get it. It’s big and beautiful and bound with a hardcover that begs to be cherished. I devoured it in a day, but will go back to it many, many times as it’s filled with densely collaged images that inspire as well as activities that promote creation of your own. Part philosophical discussion on image making and why we do it, part  “how to” on writing or drawing your own stories, it is also sprinkled with autobiographical comics of Barry’s own artistic journey.
This is a fantastic book for anyone interested in the process of making art or writing stories. For those too scared to let themselves create, even Barry shares her fears and neurotic tendencies to judge her work, but gives prompts that help those in search of that “strange floating feeling making lines on paper” can only give. She encourages you to just stay in motion, and no need for precious materials – most of this book was made with ink on yellow legal pads and each page is filled with line drawings of sea creatures, birds, monkeys, extravagant patterns, doodles, collages, and images that provide a glimpse into her crazy creative mind, and make you want to go make stuff.
My favorite page is when she posits a hypothetical scenario where you open an old can of pork and beans and a genie offers to release you from your own can. “If a genie offered to free you from a dull, canned life, what would you say?” If you say, Yes please!, then go get this book. It may not instantly make you an award-winning author or acclaimed artist, but it will help you get one step closer to living “out of the can”.


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