The Role of an Artist in Society by Brendan Leach

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The Role of an Artist in Society
by Brendan Leach
Self-published

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Ah, art school kids.

By now we’re all familiar with the basic stereotypes, yes? I mean, it’s been five years since “Art School Confidential” was made into a movie, plus 40% of our readers have partially-completed arts degrees*.

The Role of an Artist in Society was a jarring title to read, at first. It’s so pretentious. And look at that font. Look at the way he set that type. Ugh.  Hipster as shit.

I braced myself for something painfully arty.  I remember thinking if this book was by anyone but Brendan Leach I wouldn’t have been interested in it one bit.

Luckily, to be braced for irritating pretension is the perfect way to approach this mini.  It really aids the comedy.

The Role of an Artist in Society is not overly arty at all or painful in the least, I need to make that clear.  It is hilarious.

It makes use of direct address, with the subject speaking conversationally to the reader throughout the book.  The subject is an artist who you haven’t heard of, but whose work you might have seen around, maybe?  Yah, probably.  He offers to show you some of his work — right now.  So he reaches into his pocket, unwraps a handkerchief to reveal, what is that?  Oh.  Oh my.  Annnnnnnd he snorts up a big pile of coke.

It’s disarming for sure.

Then the subject responds to the substance through the end of the comic, all the while trying to describe his creative process, which chiefly involves him altering his experience and surroundings with the use of drugs, which of course has an impact on you since you’re now bound together through the remaining pages.

Brendan Leach is certainly one of my favorite mini-comic makers today. He’s consistently curious and inventive as a storyteller and involved in the medium of bookmaking in a way that is really refreshing.  This looks like a simple mini but the size and format work really well for the purpose of telling this particular story and, like I said, the design of the cover gets you in a mindset to really enjoy the story from page one.  The story works largely on surprises made more surprising by a page turn, so each square page contains just a small piece of art or text.  It’s pretty spread-out, which can mean lazy planning from some minis, but in this case it’s purposeful and impactful.

Leach was among the first artists I sought out at MoCCA Fest this year, genuinely excited to meet him for the first time and see what he’d been working on since The Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City. Making fun of his recently acquired arts degree from SVA, apparently. Haw haw. Good one, Leach.

The art is uniquely his — featuring sketchy, playful figures with really expressive eyes.  I like his weird little hulking bodies, where the upper trunk and lower limbs equal each other in length on either side of the pelvis.  The hands are graceful and take on a different look depending on the closeness of the shot, which is maybe one of my favorite things comics can do: Stylizing figures and scenery for wide vs. close-up shots. I don’t know why.

There’s no cover price and the book was given to me as a freebie (P.S. Thanks!). It’s not available for sale on Leach’s website and I can’t find evidence of it being sold anywhere else online. The book measures 5.5″x5.5″ and is 32-pages long.

Why so tough to find? Perhaps the role of the artist’s book in this case is to remain beautiful and obscure. Sorry. Maybe write Leach directly and see where that gets you: CONTACT.

Sarah Morean

*Guessing here.

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