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Comics drawn from life by the fastest pencil in town

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John Weeks enjoys capturing amusing everyday moments. Photo supplied

Comics drawn from life by the fastest pencil in town

When cartoonist John Weeks speaks, it’s almost stream of consciousness – one idea has barely tumbled out of his mouth before the next is on his lips. And he draws comics the same way.

During lunch this week at Street 240’s Artillery Cafe – where an exhibition of his QuickDraw strips will go on display on Wednesday – the American hardly touched his hummus platter as he jumped from topic to topic, with comics the common theme: from drawing tools (“I’ve got no excuse not to draw if I have a pen”) to publishing (“I love physical comics but they’re so expensive”) to motivations (“It’s venting … I just want to get stuff out there”).

Weeks began QuickDraw as a photocopied comic “zine” back in the States in 1995.

It was as an experiment in trying to get his comic ideas down as quickly as possible.

The average time he takes now is about an hour, but it only takes him 25 minutes to jot down a strip about being a “talker eater” during lunch. 

In 2011, he committed to drawing a comic every day but has eased off the pace a bit since and now does a few a week, which are added to his QuickDraw online comic website.

“I time my strips so that I can create them as fast as humanly possible – because the next idea is around the corner,” said Weeks, who is one of the founders of Our Books, a local NGO that focuses on the development of comic art in Cambodia.

The strips have featured in international shows, and in exhibitions at the Chaktomuk Theatre and Java Cafe.

In 2010, Weeks published a selection in a physical compilation to celebrate his first decade in Cambodia.

The QuickDraw exhibition opening this week will feature about 15 of the strips – most having already featured on the website – drawn since 2011.

They’re generally musings on everyday existence, and not necessarily gag-based, touching on anything from tuk-tuk politics, to relationships, to the downfalls of being a freelance worker.

“[I’m] aiming to share ‘quotidian Cambodia’ moments that both ‘barangs’ and Cambodians can recognise,” he said.

Weeks enjoys pushing the boundaries of comic art: for example photographing a cardboard cutout character named Weeksita (little Weeks in Spanish) in real-life settings and turning the images into strips with speech bubbles.

In a similar way, he said the exhibition was about introducing comics to people in a different setting.

“This exhibition will be more loose and fun than normal­­ - playing with the definition of what’s gallery worthy.”

The Kingdom of ‘I Wonder’ is opening 6pm on Wednesday at Artillery Cafe, Street 240 ½.

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