We Are Tabulit 3: Brynne Johnston

This week we have Brynne Johnston. She is publishing a comic called Woods & Bramble on Tabulit.

The first time I met Brynne it was at a food court. Then we proceeded to have one of the most intense conversations about comics I’ve ever had in a food court, and I talk a lot about comics.

Anyways, once again I can talk about a whole bunch of things in regards to Brynne, but I feel that she’ll do a better job of that so, here’s Brynne Johnston.

Tell us about yourself Brynne.

I am a being who is in a constant state of monachopsis.

I am a space traveller grounded on one planet.

I am an Aquarius, an awkward potato, a fangirl, and a reclusive introvert.

I am a proud cat-mom to two beautiful cat-babies.

I am a creative.

I am a Lion Heart, but a Sheep Soul.

I do not know.

By the way, for those who don’t know monachopsis, it’s “the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach.”

Could you also tell us about what you’re working on with Tabulit?

I am working on a serial comic, Woods and Bramble. A folksy-meets-science-fiction anti-fairytale.

The whole thing is very intriguing. Could you tell us briefly how you thought of the setting of Woods & Bramble?

Thanks! Well, as of recently I have been very intrigued and attracted to the aesthetic and mood of a forest setting: folk and fairy tales have always been an interest of mine. I find woods or forests to be fixed in reality — perhaps due to the fact I grew up in B.C. — yet ethereal and… wispy? Because of these contrasting qualities, I enjoy working with this setting within a narrative; Woods and Bramble, especially, as it is an unfixed world where reality is more fluid and changing than our own.

Also, how did you come to decide the names of Woods & Bramble?

To be honest, the title came before the narrative. I was brainstorming ideas and the words in conjunction just popped up. …You could say it was a mistake… but grew anyway…

And how did the characters come about? When did you first think of them, and what inspirations led you to creating them?

The characters Woods and Bramble came from an etching project I worked on several years ago, though back then they were nameless and their story made less sense, if you can believe that. Ha.

It was a project that I still consider one of my more successful pieces. I was drawn back to it while formulating the beginnings of Woods and Bramble; and I’m glad I was able to come back to that project (entitled Woodsman) and further its narrative. The etching series is set, likewise, in what is not exactly a “normal” forest. However, amongst the strange, unexplained environment, the foggy relationship of the two characters (the Woodsman and a woman — a spirit of the forest or his wife) gives the piece a specific direction. Woods and Bramble follow a similar path, where their relationship pulls their world together: that despite the unpredictability of their surroundings, their relationship — though not specifically easy to describe — is a guide for us, as an audience.

So Bramble was a rock, and Woods was a thistle. Or still is? Could you explain just a bit on how they became uh, ‘people’? (without spoiling too much of course).

Hmm. That’s a bit of a tricky question. It is an ongoing mystery; how did they come to be? Are they products of some sort of strange evolution? Or perhaps derived from divine intervention? Perhaps they, themselves, are gods? The funny thing is, it does not seem to be a question for them, though, that may change…

The beginning simplicity of Woods and Bramble, is that they do not wonder why or how their world is as it is. Instead, they search for others like them, without asking how they came to be. That is… until their forest begins to change.

Why a rock and a thistle?

I love rocks. And the word thistle is phonetically beautiful. Seriously.

Does it affect their personalities a bit then? Like, Bramble came to be from a rock. So is he more stubborn and down to earth?

Sure, how could it not? There is something stereotypical about Woods and Bramble’s characters as a couple: I feel we see a lot of the Big Strong Man and Small Young Girl dynamic in the media, especially in video game narratives. True to that dynamic, Bramble grew from a rock and is therefore sturdy and fixed; while Woods grew from a thistle and so is vulnerable and adaptable. Of course, a rock can be overgrown with flora, and a plant can sting like a nettle.

Do you see yourself in either of the characters in Woods & Bramble? Is there something about you that you infused in either of the two characters?

I suppose… though, the more I think about it, the more I see myself in the entire world. The narrative is becoming more and more eerily familiar…

In terms of forming the relationship Woods & Bramble have, is there an either real life or fictional relationship that you drew inspiration from?

Yes and no. As I’ve said, I draw on tropes that are easily recognizable and therefore approachable. Usually I do this for two reasons: the first being that it gives my readers something tangible in a very ambiguous and vague narrative, and, secondly, so I can later subvert it or put that trope into question. Woods and Bramble definitely have a sub-narrative pertaining to gender roles.

I do like to put a strain on the assumptions people make. If you take Woods and Bramble, you may think you know what their relationship is, because you’ve seen it before. But when you start to break it down, who exactly are they and what exactly is their relationship?

Any special plans you’d like to try for Woods & Bramble in the future?

I am planning on a hardcover printed edition of the completed comic. However, I have been itching to create some screen prints and/or linocut prints for the series — I feel the style would lend itself nicely to those processes.

Just for the heck of it, any closing comments you want to leave here?

Just a simple thanks to all of you for your time and interest in my project!

Also, I little bit of a warning: do not assume to know where any of this is going.

Well that was fun, thanks for the talk Brynne.

Woods & Bramble updates every Thursday at Tabulit.