FML Comics Collected is an intimate journey across Natasha Natarajan’s life that portrays her evolution as an artist and lets the readers glimpse her lifepath. Her work is genuine, it entertains with humour and shows us how this can be combined with drama, making the reading experience more enjoyable. Also, her work leads the readers to watch closely at human experience while validating the idea that, beyond one’s existence, we are all connected. Through this medium, Natasha allows us to participate in her asking questions about life, without necessarily having to find answers to each one of these. It is a work in progress.
After all, artists like Natasha bring their work into this world with candour. They do it because they engage with their nature, they dive deep into their experiences and, along the way, figure out their journey. Poets, songwriters, wordsmiths, artisans, illustrators, comic artists: in FML Comics and throughout her work, Natasha falls within each of these aspects of the creativity spectrum. It is about life in this world. At every turn there are signs to read, to interpret and to adapt and Natasha faces her daily challenges, victories, and losses, while relying on her own voice and resources. She tries different experiences because that is what each one of us does during a process of trial and error. In fact, there are no errors to make note of, as there are no wrong answers: it is just living.
In FML readers may find many similarities between their lives and that of the artist. It is personal but at the same time shared with all of us readers. Also, Natasha is authentic and holds onto her true nature while interacting with family, friends (the fact that she uses pet names for them is something many readers will relate to), people who came and went, people who stayed. Throughout the pages, Natasha gives us her own interpretation of the complex map of life to which we normally would refer. Indeed, this collection of 63 comic strips is not meant to be read through and, once finished, put back on the shelf. It is in fact a living piece of art that evolves each time one reads through it. The readers are free to decide the pace: by tiptoeing around the artist’s insightful reflections, they will understand her nature as such; by plunging headlong into her poetical stream of consciousness, they will see their fellow human Natasha. In both cases, the loose plot facilitates an understanding of who the author is, how she has matured and how she has accepted her inner thoughts.
This collection covers the last five to seven years of Natasha’s life. The frames are black and bold, the choice of watercolours alternates between bright (see some clothing details, which are realistic and eye catching) and darker colours. All this reflects the mood changes; the different hues represent contemporarily life as a tranquil lake or as a raging ocean. As it can sometimes happen, beneath the surface there is a whole different living universe: sometimes the balance between the two worlds is shaken and colours mix up. The lettering is handwritten, which adds consistency and authenticity to Natasha’s storytelling. Moreover, readers will enjoy the cartoon-style drawings, the various framing techniques which the artist has chosen, as if in doing so she was imagining a storyboard for a feature length film of the years that have passed. She has selected those scenes that illustrate every change in her life, especially those when life itself pushed her in a different direction.
In an interview on Broken Frontier, Natasha gives us some details about her process. “In terms of approach, I have a habit of just starting things. I don’t think too much, I just start” she explains. It is the urgency of expression that will resonate with the readers, while they read through the pages and let themselves be captured by the inner monologues, the messages and emails she writes, the debates with a member of her family (we all have an uncle with whom we might argue when it comes to certain topics, as you can see in the “Uncle Monologues” section).
Through a window in her kitchen, during her time spent in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, Natasha sees “a vast expanse of grass and sea”. I think this scene is emblematic of her sensitivity as an artist, therefore as a human being.
In conclusion, Natasha Natarajan is indeed a comprehensive artist. She is an author, a web designer, a photographer and an illustrator to mention a few of her endeavours, and she works constantly, moving across different professional ranges. She is also an educator and as such she works with children, helping them develop their artistic sense. Her approach to work is multifaceted and it has been a pleasure to read FML Comics Collected. I look forward to enjoying her future efforts within the arts.
If you are a fan of slice of life comics and would like to find out more about Natasha Natarajan’s works, I would recommend checking out her website. If you have read FML Comics Collected, don’t hesitate to share your comments with us on Facebook or Twitter!