Vance McDermott BFA Illustration Thesis Spring 2017
Lumpy Acres is a small rural property about 25 miles from here that my wife and I purchased in April of 2015. It’s a 2 acre farm with a traditional farmhouse built in 1902 on a nearby plot of land but moved to it’s current location in the early to mid 60’s. Not long after we moved in we found an old newspaper attached to the inside walls of our bedroom closet. This paper was called The Oregon Mist, and it was published in the nearby town of St. Helens on April 11th, 1902. I can only assume why it was put there, but for me it serves as a time capsule, a marker for when the history of this place began.
When I’m idly sitting in my dining room or on my porch, I sometimes think about the lives that have been lived within the walls of my house, or all the boots and shoes that have been worn while walking around the earth outside. It is parallel to this history that I find myself having created the graphic novella that shares its name with the farm. What I have done with Lumpy Acres, the book, is to establish a chronicle of my history, my families history, and the property’s history as it is in 2017, 115 years after its establishment. This book is our story, the story of the Lump family, and when we are gone from this place and people look back on the history of this property, my book will be our contribution to the continuing narrative of this spot on the earth.
Instead of trying to pass ourselves off as amazing farmers I told our story as it really happened: I work at a grocery store to pay the bills, we’re just learning how to grow our own food, we do our work ourselves and by hand without the help of tractors or machinery, and we generally don’t know what we are doing but we’ve been learning a ton along the way.
The physical form of the book is 48 pages, 9 and a quarter by 10 and 3 quarter inches, with 5 colors used throughout. The form doesn’t neatly fit into a particular established category for the comics medium, it is kind of short to be called a graphic novel but it is longer and bigger in scope than a single issue of a comic book series. So I have tended to stick with comic memoir or graphic novella. The stories in Lumpy Acres are not just a random collection of anecdotes. The pacing and placement of each narrative, even each blank page, is put there with the intention of creating space and time that emulates the sense of time on the farm.
The structure of the narrative is divided into 4 parts that follow the seasons of a year: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Each chapter begins with a spot illustration of the landscape of my farm, my house, and the barn that was built in the 1890s. The chapters are of varying lengths, from 8 to 15 pages, depending on how important that time of year is to the farm and my experience. Each season ends with another spot illustration of a more conceptual approach, based on the strongest theme of the chapter.