Visual Thinker - head opt2


Don't they know it's missing?
Don't they know it's missing? - by Bryan Mathers - CC-BY-ND
A year or so ago, Fintan told me I should write a book. So, I bounced the idea off a couple of friends. I’ve never had a great relationship with constructing paragraphs. I find they need so much sculpting.

And yet - I have this thing burning inside of me. Stories of rebellion and of a forgotten mother tongue. A disremembered history, an undiscovered identity and a hope for peacemaking. And with Visual Thinkery, I have been given a curious lens through which to squint at it all.


For the last few years I’ve been on a journey. Haven’t we all? Well sure we have - but in addition to the Pandemic journey, I’ve been trying to make peace with my past. Using cartoons. I’ve been trying to grab an hour each day to scribble down the guts of a cartoon, letting my curiosity unpick my memories one by one.

I’m keen to not fall into the trap of lazy-blaming someone for all my troubles, when I know there is nobody at the end of my finger to blame. In fact it’s usually the complicated product of an ongoing fog of sectarian violence that has crashed over Ulster in waves for hundreds of years.

Drawing a cartoon is a curious therapy. Commencing the ritual of allowing yourself to be tickled by a memory or story that leads to another and before too long I’m in the flow and drawing the narrative, being forced to separate it out into individual scenes.
Raleigh and the big fat potato
Raleigh and the Big Fat Potato - by Bryan Mathers - CC-BY-ND
And boy does it scrape the soul! Too much of it, and it makes my other work (the paid work) seem uninteresting and pointless. It draws so much energy. But then something takes shape, and I’m pleased with how it’s come out, and I show it to my son and he giggles and then asks what a particular Ulster word I’ve used means…

I have to keep reminding myself that my chief aim is my own catharsis, because I have no idea whether this will resonate with anyone else.


I’ve facilitated a few Zine-making workshops (which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed!) where we visually think through a story in order to create an off-the-cuff zine from one page of paper - all in a couple of hours. But I hadn’t considered it as a medium to stitch together single story cartoons.

I’ve had some lovely encouragement from The Cartoon Museum in London, who have agreed to stock my first Zine. In fact, it was they that suggested I look to the humble Zine as a way of getting something smaller out there sooner, and gather up what people make of it.
Mother Tongue - zine by Bryan Mathers
Mother Tongue - A Zine by Bryan Mathers


When I’ve shown someone from Ulster my Zine, it seems to prompt the telling of a story in return. And this is the gift of openness - it softly encourages reciprocity.

It’s funny what makes an enjoyable cartoon. I’ve found that regardless of the big historical narratives, it’s often the silly wee half-memory that’s tucked down the back of the sofa that others warm to the most.

And rather accidentally, I’ve found myself creating an artefact that my kids can read, and maybe understand their 'oul dad a little bit better.
More power to your reflective elbow,


You can acquire a digital version of the zine here:

Or you can pop in to the Cartoon Museum in London - or get one via their online shop:



This month’s remixer is the O’meter, named after another Irish guy I once knew - Tom O’meter ()
O'meter - the remixer machine
If you need 5 mins of creative fun today, just pop along to the O'meter remixer and give it a whirl:

With this remixable gauge, you can create lots of different gauge-markers, change the pointer, edit the title and even use emoji. I’ve used it in a few online workshops as a icebreaker, just to distract people for a minute from the brutal reality of human existence...
bryan in the canon


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