Visual Thinker - head opt2


Zine adventure door
Zines open doors - by Bryan Mathers

“I’m calling about some overdue homework, circa 1985…”

My primary school teacher had got a hold of my first Zine about learning to speak the Irish language and was rather taken with it.

He still teaches in the little country primary school in County Down that I attended as a kid. In those days, he was fresh out of Teacher Training College, and I’d had 6 years of standard sensible fill-the-bucket education.

His class was different. He was different. He told us there was nothing under the sun that wouldn’t benefit from the use of a cricket metaphor. We knew nothing about cricket. He had us learning Burns and Shakespeare - most of which I can still recite. And somehow I left that last year of primary school with a confidence and curiosity that I’d never had before.

My cousin’s kids still go to my old school - it has very much thrived in my absence, no longer the sleepy country school full of farmer kids, where three consecutive dry days were required to be permitted to play football on the grass. And it was my cousin's kids that had shown my small press publication to the old master.

I hadn't seen him in many years, but on reading my Zine, he immediately googled me and subjected his class to my TedX talk...
story arc thread zine
The Weaving of a Story Thread - by Bryan Mathers

“Come over and I’ll give you a walking tour of Belfast - because in Belfast the history is on the walls…”

When a door marked adventure creaks ajar - I do my best to walk straight towards it, before I talk myself out of it. For I’ve come to know that adventure is where the life-gold lies.

And a few weekends ago, we set out on a walking tour of a cold and sunny Belfast, accompanied by my brother, some cousins and a few other friends - lead energetically by our capable green-badged tour guide. And of course one thing leads to another, watching Ireland vs Italy in the 6 nations rugby in a covered market followed by an impromptu pub crawl. Plenty of traditional Irish music and dancing in Belfast’s cathedral quarter, where so much of Belfast’s young history took place.

With all of us on the bus home, it soon transpired that there were others on the bus that had also been taught by my teacher, and receiving their warmest salutations, we went and sat at the back of the bus, blethering all the way home.
In the beginning God created Protestants and Catholics
In the beginning - from Zine #2 - Change is a foot - by Bryan Mathers

Stepping Zines

This Belfast adventure presented me with the perfect self-imposed creative deadline to print Zine #2. It’s a little more pokey, with cartoons about the polarised Protestant and Catholic culture and the identity I continue to wrestle with. Having started as a soul-scraping visual experiment, I’ve already learnt so much from the production of the first zine. The weaving of visual reflections into a story thread. Sometimes, having given a zine to someone, expecting them to flick through it, I'm amazed to see them get completely absorbed in it and read it cover-to-cover before responding with a reciprocated story, a forgotten memory of their own, tickled into the present. And so it seems that stories prompt stories in return.
Zine - a comfy read
A comfy Zine - by Bryan Mathers
The Zine seemed accessible to kids and adults alike, and my own kids have been quoting bits back to me (complete with agricultural Ulster accent). I’ve realised that for this reason alone it has been worth creating. My kids can understand just a little bit more of who I am and where I’m from.

I numbered the zines by hand, to distinguish the first print from any future editions. And due to popular request, I added a zine web shop to the website so people could buy zines for family and friends with an Irish connection. I’m told that it makes the perfect quirky Ulster Mother’s Day gift. (But I suppose that might depend on your mother…)
stepping zines
Ah - over there? - by Bryan Mathers

Only Getting Started

By creating the first Zine, it became clear which story the second Zine needed to tell. And from there, plus a history gathering weekend adventure in Belfast, the third Zine is already deep in production.

I have this phrase I mumble to myself. It acts as a little verbal reminder that all of this is an experimental journey, a series of little experimental hops, and that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ach sure but I’m only getting started…





March is always a busy month for me. Here are a few highlights from a bucket-load of projects that passed through my iPad this month:
Personas and Archetypes - University of Greenwich
I’ve been working with the University of Greenwich who asked me to use visual methods to capture user stakeholder requirements for their upcoming University Portal Strategy refresh. Cartoon user personas were created through stakeholder conversations, which helped create archetypes, feeding the vision for what the Portal should become.
Green Deal - EEB
EEB asked me to help them think about a massive loophole in EU law, in order to petition EU Policy makers.
Pesticide - greatest hits
The Visual Thinkery 10-ideas process (this time with Friends of the Earth Europe) continues to throw up slightly oddball ideas - like this death metal band and their greatest hits - in reality the usual tropes used by the Pesticides industry.
Visual Storytelling Workshop
I travelled to the University of Göttingen in Germany to give a workshop on Visual Storytelling. The workshop took place in the Biodiversity museum, next to a humongous skeleton of a sperm whale.
Why is community so hard
WeAreOpen Co-op had me working on some Co-operative and Community oriented imagery. Blog post: The Art of Community: Cultivating Online Connections
Cartoon Museum Speaking
I was called on at very short notice to give a talk at the Cartoon Museum about Zine making and visual thinking, filling in for another cartoonist who couldn't make it. It might have been the best talk I've ever given. Mental note: talks are better when I don’t get a chance to overthink them…
bryan in the canon


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