July 30, 2014

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Tally Marks #1

Written and Illustrated by Natalie Nourigat
Published by Monkeybrain

Natalie Nourigat returns with a new sketchbook series offering illustrations and observations from a year-long trip across Europe.

A little while back, Natalie and Monkeybrain published what I joked at the time was "the most inexpensive sketchbook you'll ever find" featuring drawings she'd done in Amsterdam. It was a lot of fun to read, and I couldn't be happier to learn that not only are we getting more, we are getting an entire mini-series worth of sketchbooks from the extremely talented artist behind 2013's A Boy and a Girl.

In this first issue, Natalie takes us from her jumping-off point of New York City across various locations in Europe, ending just before she reaches Paris. The "story" of her journey is told roughly in chronological order, though a few things have been changed up for space or thematic reasons.

The artwork inside the sketchbook is simply stellar. Whether it's nearly full-page depictions of scenes like Brooklyn's Botanical Garden or detailing the countless faces she encounters on her trip, the level of detailing on this work is amazing. Nourigat varies her style often, thanks to the use of several artistic tools, including pencils, markers, and even white gel pen for corrections. Because she changes things up, sometimes using color, sometimes not, each figure, headshot, and depiction is its own animal. What could be a bit too repetitive if it were merely penciled people across 30 pages takes on new life as the curious will try to figure out which tool Natalie's using for each illustration.


There aren't a lot of notes that accompany the work, though we do get an introduction and an explanation of Nourigat's technique. However, seeing scrawled lines like "villain from Norwegian TV show" or "I love drawing the statues!" allows us to see her feelings in the moment in a way that text boxes inserted over the sketches themselves could not.

Nourigat's eye for detail, which serves her so well on long-form projects, is on display on every page. When working on full-body drawings, Natalie is able to capture how different everyone's clothing is, whether it's the pouch of a shirt against tight jeans or how a blouse contours to the shape of the person wearing it. There are tiny shading differences, some of which show that certain parts of a person's dress matched in color but without using the markers. On the pages that feature headshots, I'm not sure if a single one of them looks the same. In certain cases, features (like a broad nose) are exaggerated, while in other cases, she goes more realistic.

When color is added, the drawings really pop, especially when Nourigat notes she has new markers. They stand out against the black and white drawings and show a strong understanding of complimentary/contrasting colors. At the same time, however, I think it's Natalie's use of the power of black and white art and how to color without having more to work with than pencil or black ink that shows her most powerful strengths as an artist.

Tally Marks #1 is available now on Comixology. It's only 99 cents for 30 pages of great artwork from a creator you should be watching. Anyone who appreciates the work that goes into making a comic stand out from the crowd or wants to see how Nourigat works on an informal level should pick this one up right away.