Spaces_Places Travel Sketches by David C Mahler 2008 - 2015

Melbourne cartoonist David C Mahler's exhibition of travel drawings and sketches opens 6:00pm tonight at Brunswick Art Space. I asked him a few questions about the work he is exhibiting, recent travels, and his current comics work.

FB Event page.

Matt Emery: What do you think producing drawings and sketches during travels creates in contrast with taking photographs?

David Mahler: For the artist, travel sketching is about meditation and the preservation of detail and memories. These days for me it’s more about the former, I tend to travel by myself which means I have the luxury of taking my time with sketches. Putting an hour aside to sketch an abandoned Japanese shrine leads to some crazy thoughts and reflection. You get to analyse every detail of a culturally unique piece of history that you’d normally just glance at in passing. You contemplate who placed those stones there, why, how long ago, what does this structure mean to the surrounding people, to this foreign society as a whole, how do I fit in this culture, how do I fit in the world etc.

Back in the day it was more about the detail and memories. When I was a kid traveling with my parents in Europe (growing up in Belgium most of Europe was a car ride away. Definitely the start of my travel addiction) we’d be moving too fast from monument to museum, I’d have to frantically sketch before chasing after everyone else. But this was great practice, and those little details - window sills, dinner tables, train seats - are linked to strong memories.

Photographs evoke memories as well of course, but I think if you’re someone who’s interested in really immersing yourself in a location and taking the time to reflect, then sketching is the way to go.

Emery: Can you tell me about your trip to Japan earlier this year, I recall you mentioning this was for an extended stay and comics motivated?

Mahler: Japan was amazing. It was my tenth time there but my longest stay, a bit under three months. I started with family, traveled with a friend for a fortnight then spent the rest of my stay conducting research at the Kyoto Manga Museum before a two week train trip. I’m very passionate about Japan and Japanese culture, pretty typical for an Aussie boy who watched anime in high school. I’m very grateful to have been able to be a (dare I say) cultural tourist, riding my bike from my share house in Arashiyama (think vibrant green bamboo forest stretching up a mountain side) to work in the centre of Kyoto, swing by the grocery store on the way home before hitting up the local Izakaya (Japanese-style bar). Insider tip, Nagano is the best city.

Emery: Your Exhibition Spaces_Places features drawings created in eighteen countries, what other countries and places do you hope to visit? Do you have further travels planned this year?

Mahler: Unfortunately I don’t have any travel planned for the near future, I’m dead broke after those three months and some film projects. The next trips (next year?) will be New Zealand, South East Asia and eventually back to China to complete a gay rights doco I’ve been producing.

Emery: Can you offer any advice to a budding travel sketcher/drawer?

Mahler: Don’t throw anything away. Don’t be disappointed. Every drawing was a necessary step to the next drawing, and together they all make a body of work. Don’t expect perfection, and learn to see that value in flaws and naivety. Travel drawing really is a lot of fun, it’s an excuse to just sit on the side of the road instead of busing from temple to tourist trap. People come up to see what you’re doing, you make friends, you’re given the opportunity to converse with locals about anything on your mind. And after staring at and precisely rendering a bunch of something’s you’ve never seen in your life you’ll have questions. Use sketching as an opportunity to learn more about the world and grow!

Emery: What are you working on in comics at the moment?

Mahler: That research in Kyoto was for a YA fantasy/art-themed adventure comic I’ve been working on called Alexandre Calame. I honestly haven’t even started penciling, but that should be out one day.

More pressingly I have a collection of early material in the works called Junior Catharsis, as well as a proper follow up to Deep Park called Natural Philosopher which is about a hundred pages away from completion. Very excited about that one. Oh, shameless plug for the Australian comics anthology Flying Fox, we’ve just put out issue 2 and will be printing up a second print run (risograph, woo!) after the first run sold out in a week!

David C Mahler Comics

ACHROMATOPSIA - Chris Gooch Interview

Prolific Melbourne cartoonist Chris Gooch has edited an anthology ACHROMATOPSIA that launches this week at The Good Copy in Collingwood, Melbourne. Featuring Editor Gooch and his fellow RMIT students, the ACHROMATOPSIA launch will also showcase an exhibition of riso prints. I asked Chris a few questions about editing his first anthology.

Matt Emery: What inspired editing an anthology? Has it been harder or easier than you imagined?

Chris Gooch: I just wanted to try doing one really, and having met a bunch of people through art school that were into comics and had a really well developed practice/style meant I had people to ask...

As for expectations vs reality, yeah, definitely harder than I thought I was gonna be. Admin is just really annoying, all this paper work and organising you have to do that eats into the time you'd otherwise spend drawing. The closer I get to the actual event the more stressed I'm getting. 

Joseph Lynch

Emery: I recall you mentioning some comics makers in ACHROMATOPSIA havn't come from a comics background, can you talk a bit about some of the artists involved?

Gooch: Well, we've all come through art school and maintained an interest in comics and drawing in general, which is something a lot of people end up ditching/losing, depending how you want to look at it.

Um, as I see them: Joe has a really wonderful traditional draftsman quality to his work, Tilly makes very gentle, intricate drawings (I remember her saying ages that if they had a deeper meaning, it would have 'a gentle one' which I thought was cool), Christian's work is super high contrast and detailed, really, really eye catching, Julia's work is really beautiful and delicate, linework wise, and Will's comics and drawing is crazy detailed a bit disturbing at times. 

Emery: I Also recall you mentioning drawing tools being a thematic part of ACHROMATOPSIA, Can you talk a bit about that? Are there other themes that tie the anthology together?

Gooch: In general I think anthologies which have a narrative theme (the ocean, time, disappointment, etc.) run the risk of ending up with 6 stories which are all very similar. So instead, we opted to have a visual theme, with all of the artists using the same kinds of pens and all the work having to be straight black and white. For the stories we would meet and discuss what we were thinking of and try and bounce off one another - I remember changing mine pretty drastically because of some feedback I got. 

Julia Trybala

Emery: ACHROMATOPSIA combines comics and illustration work, was it always intended as a combination of narratives and illustration?

Gooch: The illustration part of the show - 9 riso prints done by different artists - was a later addition to the project, mainly because comics take a bunch of time to get started on. Our hope was basically to expand the project and make it into a hybrid comics, illustration thing, as there's often a lot of crossover in audiences that isn't often reflected in artist's projects. 

Christian Vine

Some Melbourne Comic Events That You Could Possibly Go To

Alyx Dennison's Talking People @ Night, poster by young firebrand talent Marc Pearson. I believe this event involves some fine cartooning talent amongst the night's performers.

Squishface Studio's celebrate their third birthday on Monday Jan 26th. FB event page.

Tim Molloy exhibition in February at the Old Bar, Fitzroy, Melbourne. 24th Feb.

The All Star Women's Comic Book Club has already happened today but because I'm slow and feeble I'm only posting about it now. Still, it is on every month and you may wish to attend next month. More details on the All Star Women's Comic Book Club FB page.


The Melbourne comics collective where members are required to be able to bench a minimum are launching a quarterly anthology Melbourne Comics Quarterly. More details at and the FB event page.

Sissy Blvd running from Friday 16 January – Sunday 15 March. More info here, and FB event page.

Lee Lai, Katie Parrish, Merv Heers and Sam Wallman are queer cartoonists based in Melbourne. Using The Substation's front gallery space and Transit Gallery billboards, this exhibition will examine remnants of gay liberation, reflections on contemporary queer assimilation and resilience, mincing the fine line between subtlety and obviousness. Supported by The Substation and Hobsons Bay City Council.

The Melbourne comics meet up is on February 7th at the usual place and time, Prince Alfred Hotel in Carlton, 2pm - 6pm. FB event page.