Early Life, “ my mother thought it was just great that I would draw endlessly for hours. And my dad actually furnished my first art materials straight out of the X-ray department of hospital where he worked. The first drawing paper I ever worked on were these enormous sheets of yellow paper from the Kodak Company that used to come wrapped around X-ray films” – David Small David small was born in Detroit Michigan, on February 12th, 1945. He was a sick child, suffering from sinus ailments along with many other unpleasant conditions. His poor health, which kept him inside for most of his childhood, contributed to the nurturing of his talent as an artist, as there was nothing else for him to do but draw.
“ his father was a workaholic radiologist and his mother was ill and unloving, prone to lengthy disgruntled silences, her life riddled with secrets.” Growing up, David’s environment was by no means a pleasant one. The family spent more time apart then with each other, and even dinner became an uncomfortable ordeal with “dry burnt meals cooked by his mother, and tense silence, which he had his brother had no means to understand. David describes this best in his own words… “ As a six-year-old—and my brother, we just—the two of us could not understand what was going on in our household. And I don't think any kid really can until they're adults.” – David Small
A need to escape … Every family member seemed to have their own means of escape, the father and his punching bags.. The mother and her golf, the brother and his drums, in all of this noise and disconnect, David found freedom in drawing. In those other worlds he created with his imagination. David Small’s love of Alice very likely stemmed from her exciting other worldly experiences.. In the land of “talking animals, singing flowers and dancing teapots.” For a child of his age, dealing with his home life, and other miserable experiences, bulling and crazy grandmothers, that magical place would only be more Alluring. “ Additionally, Carroll’s classic represents to Small some effective parallels to his own life. He too was ruled by a tyrannical “queen” (his physically ill and enraged mother), was transported by stories to another world, and was challenged to return to normal life.” -- stitches-piecing-together-a-past-for-a-future
A light at the end of the tunnel . . . David's life continues to remain painful and dark for the most part, as depicted in the graphic memoir Stitches. And as with any child or young person, it is mostly at the hands of his parents, those people who brought him into this world, fortunately for David, he realized something most people do if they are lucky… that parents are people too. . . “ The whole idea of forgiveness of my parents always struck me as absurd because they had done unforgivable things. But, to jump ahead, now that I've done Stitches , I find that there really is a kind of forgiveness that means something. It's not a hollow declaration. To understand somebody else as a human being, I think, is about as close to real forgiveness as one can get. I would say that's probably true of the way I regard my family now. I just see them as people bumbling through life, doing what they thought was best. They had no idea how they were scarring their children, in my case quite literally.” -- David Small
Adult life David Small's adult life was very much affected by his childhood. He carried the anxieties and nightmares of his childhood with him, despite his good life and logical adult perspective on his family. Stitches was a way for Small to reconnect with his childhood self and become his own therapist. “ It started as an act of self-therapy, really... I did have this need to go back and to see my youth again.” – David Small Video: Art Therapy for Children *
Choosing a career… David was always torn between his passions. He had wanted to be an actor at some point but his cancer operation had ruined his vocal cord at age 14. He had wanted to be a writer, and had written plays when he was about 17, until a friend told him that his drawings were far better than his writing. Finally David chose the passion that came the most effortlessly to him - his more instinctual talent - drawing. “ I wasn't a writer. The hardest thing I'd ever done was try to write plays... it left me exhausted, not exhilarated... But art—I had never thought of that as a career because it was like something I did so naturally... that's what I'm good at, and that's what I should be concentrating on.” – David Small David Smalls Video Interview - BigThink.com *
Avoiding his family… As an adult, David had virtually no relationship with his family. He avoided his father since he was 15, saw his dying mother for the last time when he was 16, and contacted his brother just before publishing Stitches after they avoided each other for 50 years. He did not want to stay connected to his past life, not knowing that avoidance was hurting his present life. Writing Stitches re-connected David with unresolved issues, and his brother. “ We’re friends. We talk. We call one another... I don’t know if we’ll be best friends, but we’re brothers again.” – David Small NiemanStoryboard.org - David Small Interview *
Creating “Stitches”… For David, overcoming his troubled connection with his childhood didn't become a priority until he was in his 50's, when he decided to make Stitches. He had an epiphany when he was at a restaurant with his wife and felt a lump on his neck, in the same place it had been when he was 14. What turned out to be just a swollen gland also turned out to be a life-changing moment for him, urging him to take his repressed emotions seriously. “ I understood in that moment... that I could die from it if I didn’t do something about it.. and I said, this is not where I'm going to die, and this is not the end... And it was that moment when I resolved to seriously get to work on this book.” – David Small
Carrier (Age 2- Present) Illustrating over 40 books by the time he was ( age 2009) David small continues to demonstrate his abilities Through both his verbal story telling, and illustrations. Since then he has married his wife Sarah Stewart and with her he has over 25 books of their personal work published. You can see clips of these works on their website. DavidSmallBooks.com *
Before the illustrator.. ..was the writer. Davids first love of expression was in writing Before his success as an artist Small wanted to be a play write . By 19 he had several small plays presented in a theater in detroit. He was also living in a one -room apartment that in an interview David small refers to as “grim” . David also commented that one day his roommate said .. “ I’ve seen all of your plays, and to tell you the truth, the little drawings you do while you’re doodling on the phone are better than anything you write.” “ I was mad at him,” says David with a smile. “My dream was shattered. Plus, drawing was so easy, I didn’t think it could be a job.”
“ For years, Small tried to write his memoir in prose. He struggled. Art is his thing.” - quote by Terri Finch Hamilton from The Grand Rapids Press . David Small's book Stitches was on the New york times best seller in 2009. That same year the graphic novel was nominated for t he young peoples literature award with the u.s. National Book Foundation. This foundation has been bring together publishers, editors, writes, and critics since 1950, to help celebrate the years best fiction, nonfiction and poetry. In an interview recorded with 'big think' a internet forum. Interviewer ... “ I could see that these young people were so touched by Stitches; it was just unbelievable. The questions that they asked were—they were the equal of the very best questions that I have been asked on any forum.” ...Austin Allen asks David Small about his book being categorized as “Young People’s Literature” in the 2009 Notional book foundation awards. Small responds that he wasn't sure his book would resonate with readers until he was at the New York Public Library the day before this particular interview.
“ Small, 66, has won virtually every medal and honor in children’s literature with his charming art and stories. ” - quote by Terri Finch Hamilton from The Grand Rapids Press . As far as Davis is concerned awards are just highlights in your life . Things get exciting for a while then calm down. “ and thats how it should be”... to hear David tell you himself check out his interview with Big Think .*
Plot & Structure Stitches chronicles the life of David Small from age 6 to adulthood. With constant health problems involving numerous X-rays, and cold silent parents, David's childhood is dark and oppressive. Things turn for the worse when David forms a lump on his neck that requires an operation, which leaves his vocal cord damaged. His parents keep him in the dark about the lump being cancerous, leaving David to eventually discover the truth himself. After his father confesses that the X-rays were the cause of his cancer, David leaves home at 16 to pursue the arts, visiting his mother once on her deathbed but never again becoming a part of his parents' lives. W.W. Norton.com - Stitches Plot Summary *
Sticking to the plot… With his experience as an editorial artist for magazines like The New Yorker and the Times, David manages to take his life story and edit it to fit within a solid plot structure. He discards subplots so that every scene is connected to the main theme of the story, rather than branching off as an autobiography might. “ In your life everything and everybody is important. But to a reader they’re not.” – David Small Above: Example of an editorial cartoon.
The Graphic Element… The amount of writing in Stitches is minimal when compared with the amount of drawings, giving it a similar structure to that of a film storyboard, or even a silent film, with expression and camera work telling a large portion of the story. With his background striving to be a writer, David struggled with stripping away the writing, but ultimately realized the power of imagery to inform. “ The author doesn’t need to say that the character has a bathrobe on if they have a bathrobe on in the picture.” – David Small Silent film clip - Charlie Chaplin *
Influences… Although often labeled as a graphic novel, Stitches is in a category all its own, borrowing from different influences to form its own unique look and feel. Small admits that ultimately his biggest influences for Stitches were literature and film, and that he was unfamiliar with comic books or graphic novels before he created it. Persona trailer (Ingmar Bergman) “ I didn't read any of them until I was finished with my book because I didn't want to be infected or influenced” – David Small “ In film I like the guys that came along in the '60s and early '70s, along from Europe: Bunuel and Alansky and Bergman.” – David Small “ I love those romances that, you know, weigh 500 pounds and take months and months and months to read. I read the three big novels of Thomas Mann in one year” – David Small
Voice & Tone Originally david small hoped to be writer. So it is particularly interesting that this memoir of one of the most dramatic moments of his life. Has so little words associated with it. Silence is a major theme in Stitches say Rochelle Jewel Shapiro a* published psychic author. Recognized by both the new york times and newsweek . And shes right. In this memoir Most words only help emphasis the silence. Their is a part in to book where david discovers his father is responsible for his cancer. They go for dinner . The long silence while they eat, is emphasized by the repetition in themes and movements such as the smoking of davids father and davids dislike of it....
Sound Effects * After dinner they drive to the beach where davids father confesses that it is the treatment he provided gave david his cancer. The events up to the confesses are filled with tension and you really feel the silence. This book uses few words and most are sound effects. Such as the click of the lighter at dinner or david’s mother who speaks with a “whap” of a cabinet door or a “Knh,” little cough which communicates to those around her how displeased she is. These are “ perfect devices for depicting a family where no one is allowed to speak, and where family members must hold in their shocking secrets.” (CaliforniaLiterary)
The Scream However the use of words, or lack off. Is not our only pull into Davids mind and world. The book is told both from a third person view and from davids view when possible. The use of mirrors help us see what david is seeing. When David sees his scar in the mirror the audience clearly sees what he saw, his vocal cords cut. Rochelle observes that the horror of the drawings bring to mind Edvard Munch’s iconic lithograph, The Scream.” Even with the limited details of the images. “The creatures that come alive in David’s nightmares are haunting ....And yet, Small’s drawings never lose their childlike quality.”
Even earlier when David is taken by his father to the radiation treatment room because he is ill. Rochelle describes the scene as “quiet horror ...the cropped image of David’s face. Just his eyes, nose, and part of his mouth, seen as he might have seen himself while lying on a table, looking up at his reflection in the metal surface of a piece of medical equipment.” These images and the feelings they provokes “will stay with you long after you finish the book.”
The stark washes of watercolor, intensified by heavy use of shadow, a intense contrast between blacks whites and greys, all add to the shadowy recollections of Small’s childhood . In the wake of this trauma, Small uses his pen like a camera, hauntingly capturing the emotional timbres of David's alienation and reckoning through evocative close-ups, wide-shot landscapes and dreamy fade-ins and -outs. -- David Small finds his voice Lauren Kirshner
Influences in development “ Here were some very sophisticated themes being dealt with and the art was terrific, much less raw than a lot of the stuff being done in America.”-David Small Mr. Small's first brush with comics was uninteresting as far as David was concerned. Then one day in college on his roommate shelf he found a new bread of graphic novel. While his first inspiration to combine attractive art and compelling story in graphic novel form came from these French comic books. They are not his only influences.
The Newyorker compared the book stiches to a silent film. Which is no surprise David himself names his influences including Bergman, Hitchcock, Polanski, and Buñuel. An example of Hitchcock's lovely use of black and white can be seen in this film trailer* from 1940. “ (it)is brilliant visual storytelling. The camera swoops into a particular building, then into a window. It carries the viewer.... takes you into the landscape and the light, and it will tell you about the experience (someone is) going through.” -David Small “ Absolutely, ... It’s a book that was influenced by film.” -David Small
A t te n ti o n These film creators are all excellent managers of black in white in their films, They understand how color is a strong force that can and should be used carefully and with deliberate intention. Inspired by these choices David Small decided not to use any colour in this memoir. He has however, not ruled out the possibility in the future. However... “I t will have to be very limited color.” says the author.
Characterization The designs of David Small's characters in Stitches are a good interpretation of the personalities they're supposed to portray. The adults are towering, lanky, sickly looking figures with furrowed brows and eyes hidden behind emotionless blank white glasses. They appear tall and intimidating, undernourished because of financial fears, filled with pent-up rage, and void of expression. Small's character is just as starved and neglected looking, but with wide confused eyes, searching for answers within the oppressive silence of his family. Later as a teen, his character adopts the same furrowed brow of his parents, becoming bitter and inward. Schiele (one of David Small’s visual influences) Egon
Childhood escape… David's characterization of himself in Stitches is that of a boy who longs to escape. He eventually does, at 16, but until he's able to escape in reality, he escapes through his art. Drawing and reading book such as Alice in Wonderland transports David to a better place. One scene depicts David escaping by diving into his drawings, like Alice inside the rabbit hole.
Adolescent escape… David later finds an escape through his therapist, a person who is completely open and informative: the opposite of David's parents. The role of David's therapist as a means for escape is made clear by the characterization of the therapist as the White Rabbit, again from Alice in Wonderland.
Children and adults… Small's characterizations give a clear depiction of the type of people he intended to portray, and how he himself saw them as a child and sees them now. His parents are dominating angry demons when David is a small, uninformed boy of six. As David ages and learns hard truths, evidence of the logic behind his parents' behaviour becomes clearer. His father leaves us as a guilt-ridden man, always sucking on a cigarette and blowing his stress out the other end, while his mother leaves us as a sexually oppressed woman crying on her deathbed, too mortal now to be a demon. “ I've been able to see them and understand their impulses, their fears—their fears of having no money in the case of my mother... Or hidden sexuality... that's an adult thing. Children don't understand this.” – David Small
Works Citied. (APA) Alysia Abbott. (2010). From tales of wonder to tales of horror: David Small dissects Stitches. Retrieved from http://www.niemanstoryboard.org/2010/05/14/from-tales-of-wonder-to-tales-of-horror-david-small-dissects-stitches/ Booth Features. (2010). Artist David Small 'Stitches' old wounds . Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/living/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2010/08/artist_david_small_stitches_ol.html Bob Minzesheimer. (2009). Fall sleeper: David Small magnifies a troubled childhood . Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-09-02-fall-books-small_N.htm Big think. (2009). Big Think Interview With David Small http://bigthink.com/ideas/17429 Danica Davidson . (2010). David Small Talks with The White Rabbit’s Grandniece. Retrieved from http://classic.tcj.com/interviews/david-small-talks-with-the-white-rabbits-grandniec/ GEORGE G.G. ( 2009). Graphic Books Best Seller List . Retrieved from http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/graphic-books-best-seller-list-7/ John Hogan. Small Steps . Retrieved from http://www.graphicnovelreporter.com/content/small-steps-interview
Works Citied. (APA) Large Hearted Boy. (2009) Book Notes – David Small: Stitches. Retrieved from http:// www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2009/09/book_notes_davi_10.html Lauren Kirshner. (2009). David Small finds his voice . Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/article1388483.ece National book foundation. Retrieved from http://www.nationalbook.org/aboutus_history.html Paul Morton. (2009). David Small: The New Gay Interview. Retrieved from http://thenewgay.net/2009/10/david-small-the-new-gay-interview.html Rochelle. J. S .(2009). THE ILLUSTRATED NIGHTMARE CHILDHOOD. Retrieved from file:///Users/ceilidheobrien/Desktop/11%20week%20ass/small%20reff/B2-Book%20Review%20-%20Stitches:%20A%20Memoir%20by%20David%20Small%20%7C%20California%20Literary%20Review.webarchive
Works Citied. (APA) Suzanne. (2011). Stitches: A memoir by David Small. Retrieved from http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/blogs/create-readers/11-10/stitches-memoir-david-small Small, David . Davidsmall books . Retrieved from http://davidsmallbooks.com/books.php Terri Finch Hamilton . (2009). Profile: Illustrator, writer David Small . Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/09/profile_illustrator_writer_dav.html