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  • Writer's pictureMereida

Escape Project

Based on a dream.

I wanted to create a full-length comic (24+ pages) as i've only made short comics until now, which is based on a dream i had. This summer i've been keeping a dream journal, something i do sporadically and which makes me better at remembering dreams if i do it frequently. It's also influenced by experiences i had on my gap year, specifically time spent in the desert in Peru and Bolivia which left a strong impression on me. Other key influences include my ongoing obsession with mountains and bodies of water, skin, and some cool plants i found out about.

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Peruvian Desert

Sketchbook page from a day spent exploring the ruins of Chan Chan, a pre-colombian city in the northern peruvian desert. Being alone in the desert was very profound blah blah blah

Back home this turned into this drawing. This summer my main focus has been learning to colour my comics digitally and be able to use photoshop so coloured it. Actually pleased with how it came out in terms of the balance of the colours and composition, feel it captures how it felt to be there, but linework is shonky so could be improved on if i wanted to take this thing further. The fish are lifted from patterns found on the remains of temple walls in Chan Chan.


Scribbles from the dream, part dream and part subsequent imaginings. The beginning of the narrative was v clear and pretty straightforward but wasn't sure what to do with the second half of the story.

The narrative was already there in my head before being set the 'escape' project but it fitted as personally its about escaping family pressures and expectations, specifically about my relationships with my father and maternal grandfather, and my father's relationship with his father. It was also good motivation to do this idea. The focus on mountains is natural to me (also family-related) and the tattoo thing is obviously very me (in my dream i did gouge it out which was terrifying) Below: my first playful attempt at drawing it in comic form. As a first try its decent and showed me that it could work, and where it could go.

Water Drawings

Being locked in this summer, after spending all possible time in South America swimming, my strongest desire was just to swim. So i spent my time fantasising and drawing about water instead....

These two one-page comics inspired by the RA Bill Viola / Michelangelo exhibition from last year - beautiful video art of and about water, relfection and distortion. Above, The Messenger. I like the idea of breaching the water surface being analogous to waking from a dream. Also playing with the idea of reflection and caster acting independently as in The Reflecting Pool.

Could go on about my fascination with swimming pools and what they've represented to me this summer (' " escape" ?! badumm-tss) but i was thinking a lot about this one specific day we spent in a pool in Nazca, another desert city, which birthed this drawing, and this vision of a drowning sun:

I'm currently v into this combination of rich yellow and light blue with a greenish tinge and the juxtaposition of the barren desert with the pool. Is it a justified extravagance in water-scarce places, or  completely out of place.

The Comic

As the sketchbook says - it all came together. Sometimes things just click, and here the different elements my brain had been circling slotted together. Explored the ways to combine the pool obsession with the desert story, finding visual motifs and through-lines, as well as the Bill Viola/dream stuff.

First attempt at layouts. Felt off somehow but got quite far through the comic before realising that it would be improved by being landscape. This gives the desertscapes more space to breathe, and created other compositional opportunities.

My friend told me that many people who swim through water lilies in ponds or lakes get trapped and drown, so that stuck in my mind and made it into the story, thematically and to create a way to rotate the page.

The Quiver Tree

The last major puzzle piece that really tied everything together i found in my favourite film of all time, David Attenborough's Private Life of Plants, which features the kokerboum, or quiver tree, a desert succulent that conserves water by self-amputating its branches. It somehow managed to express a lot of what i was feeling, about and separate from the project, and ended up giving the comic its name too.

Other Influences + Motifs

Another cool plant - the quaking (or quivering) aspen which i incidentally first heard about during my gcse biology exam. This tree grows in clonal groves propagating through roots, this image just gripped my mind, and kind of functions as an opposite to the quiver tree while sharing name similarities

Heidi Bucher's incredible exhibition at the Parasol Unit last year has stayed with me and with its skin imagery and themes it wormed its way into this project. I am so obsessed.

Mountains, because just, well, mountains.

Main mountain love comes from the Alps (left) but the landscape of the bolivian altiplano is really what inspired this. Flat, expansive desert, interrupted violently by high, sharp peaks, only to fall away again into endless flatness.


Mini booklet to plan page layouts and which pages would be facing each other, which turned pretty contentious and i went back and forth on several times. At this point was only 24 pages (i chose this as its the length of an average commercial comic). 

Below, pdf of pencils. Note the half-hearted and rather disingenuous attempt at captions throughout, which come off a bit pretentious. I was advised to actually increase the number of captions so the dialogue at the end doesn't come from nowhere, but it never felt natural or instinctual (which the art did). I am a sucker for a silent comic.

pencils pages 1-24
Download PDF • 18.43MB

Linework + Colours

Doing the linework and subsequent photoshop colouring ran pretty smoothly, there was just one page I completed and then scrapped, partly so I could add 3 more pages to make the transition into abstraction smoother and tie the final sequence into the rest of the comic better, but also cos its just a bit shit. Included here for completions' sake.

QT pdf combined all test 1
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Below, me fucking around while colouring. I experimented for a while with giving page 8 (the hospital) a radically different scheme, something colder, but ultimately it felt too jarring.


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