Joyce Farmer on Tits & Clits, Special Exit, and How to Write a Graphic Novel

Joyce Farmer's more than happy to dish on what she used to create her graphic novel, Special Exits, she even pull out her bright blue mechanical pencil without an eraser and a worn and tattered grip.

The California-based artist and writer's known for her openness both in person and through her projects; she co-created Tits & Clits, an underground comic series to counter sexism in 1975, and just released Special Exits, a graphic novel about aging.

Farmer's also an old friend of New Times' art critic Kathleen Vanesian. The two discuss each others' influences (including each other) and the changing world of graphics in Special Entrances, which you can read in full here.

Farmer will present her novel and discuss "anything and everything" at 7 p.m. tonight at Changing Hands in Tempe. The event is co-sponsored by ASU Art Museum and local artist Jon Haddock will be leading a Q&A with the author. For more event info, see the Changing Hands website.

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Farmer simply says her writing of Special Exits was "lonely." She can't work much at home and would travel to southern Greece for two months at a time during the 13 years she was writing and drawing the novel. It was also a lonely process because she says she was fixated on the everyday happenings and struggles during her parents' decline, and the inevitable decline of every person.

"I was trying to tell a story that I knew would tread on my parents' privacy, but I didn't want to tread on their dignity," says Farmer. "I think the book can be a guide for young people who's parents are aging and a book for those who are aging on how to deal with their children."

Farmer decided to write the book in 1997 -- 3 years after her parents had died -- when she knew she had enough stories to share. And while she's never taken a cartooning class, the artist and illustrator knew a graphic novel was the way to share her story.

Her materials: A 2-ply Strathmore Bristol board, a mechanical pencil with soft lead, and f/w acetate ink with a dipped pen.

Her process: pick a subject you care deeply about and a story that has a beginning, middle and end. "And turn off the damn radio," Farmer says. "If you aren't paying attention you're just grinding the wheels."

The result: 1600 panels on 187 pages.

"That's a lot of pages, people will say," says Farmer. "But as my friend put it, no, it's a lot of miles."


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