Vignettes of Ystov
“Vignettes of Ystov” by William Goldsmith was published by Jonathon Cape in March 2011.
Vignettes of Ystov is an ongoing collection of short graphic stories, all set in the fictional, vaguely Eastern European city of Ystov. The book examines the interlocking lives of seemingly disparate characters, charting the everyday absurdities, restraints and small triumphs.
Vignettes of Ystov is a collection of short graphic stories all set in the fictitious city of Ystov. The stories are very simple, often revolving around a mundane detail – such as a man kicking stones, a woman on a tram, a couple parting at a station, two builders working on a famous monument. As the stories progress they interlink and we start to see subplots emerging; in particular the three main characters of a journalist/poet, a ‘nose-sculptor’, and a deceased janitor are all intrinsically linked. Visually, I wanted to create an evocative sense of place; Ystov is part Eastern Europe, but I think elements of Glasgow have also crept in! Each story is painted in comic-book format, and each in a separate two colour palette. There are also large ‘splash-pages’ – double page spreads where we see one large picture telling a story and linking earlier comic stories.
The project itself was a frantic process. I’d created earlier versions of ‘Janitor’ and ‘Alphabet Soup’, but it wasn’t until the final 10 weeks of my final year that I decided to embark on creating a collection of stories. With the aid of two devoted lower year helpers and tutorial support the final book appeared in the degree show as a large format 32 page comic (roughly A3 size), digitally printed with a screen printed cover. It was exhibited at D & AD 2009 where it was shown interest by Walker Books and Random House Publishing Group. I went with Random House, whose Jonathan Cape imprint has published many of the graphic novels which inspired me to make Ystov in the first place – comic book artists like Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes and Seth. I also count Ben Katchor as a big influence on my comic, as well as Bruce Chatwin’s novel Utz and Anton Chekhov’s short stories. I have since noticed parallels with Bohumil Hrabal’s short story collection The Death of Mr Baltisberger, which I discovered after the book was made but continue to inspire for future comics. I also managed to track down a huge range of 1970’s Soviet Magazines in Glasgow University Library – these were crucial in forming the overall ‘flavour’ of Ystov.
Cape have since expressed an interest in continuing Ystov as a series of books; I am starting work on a second collection towards the end of this year.