The Making of

Writer / Artist
The Making of
The Making of Brecht Evens review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Jonathan Cape -
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Drawn & Quarterly - 978-1-77046-073-7
  • Release date: 2012
  • UPC: 9781770460737
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Brecht Evens is an extraordinary artist, rendering page after page in radiant colour washes, without pen lines or any sign of pencil sketching. He’s less rooted in the ink art traditions of comics, than in illustration and fine art (more later). Even amongst the diversity of comics available by 2013, the only graphic novel resembling Evens’ The Making of, was his 2011 debut, The Wrong Place. 

Attention is caught by striking splashes and spreads, typically of lush, intricate, landscapes. The first is a cityscape, complete with traffic, milling pedestrians, and cutaway shots of interior nightlife. This shows the influence of German Expressionist George Grosz, and the Italian Futurists’ visions of urban energy. This scene points back to the metropolitan settings of Evens’ debut, and forward to his 2021 book, The City of Belgium. However, The Making of soon moves into the rural world. Landscapes channel further fine art influences –  the lush vegetation of Henri Rousseau, the sun-bleached vistas of Georgia O’Keeffe, and seascapes of Hokusai. Every page is a visual delight. His books would sell on the visuals alone, as a prestigious commission from fashion house Louis Vuitton attests. So how, then, does this read as a graphic novel?

Turn the page from the cityscape spread, and it’s clear Evens is equally adept at sequential art. Over twelve panels of people talking round a bar table, they greet new arrivals, hug, kiss, pour drinks, drink them, then pour more, while variously looking happy, pensive, awkward and jealous. That’s all realised in playing-card sized panels, and in those wonderful colour washes. Reading on reveals smart devices to help navigate the sensory overload – characters have their own colour scheme (featured image and cover), including lettering. Evens typically establishes settings with vivid splash panels, removing the need for backgrounds in subsequent panels, and so keeping focus on the characters. Jumps from one dazzling style to another, occasionally jar, but against such exquisite work, evidence of human fallibility adds charm.

The ‘Making’ of the title, is an environmental artwork commissioned, for a local festival, from artist Petersen. This involves living in situ for a period, getting to know the place and people, in order to produce an appropriate artistic response. Such site-specific works are an established strand of contemporary art practice, while offering a fresh premise for a graphic novel: an appealing twist on the stranger arrives in town. The process offers an inbuilt beginning middle and end, beginning with arrival and orientation, through understanding and conception, to realisation of the final artwork. Tight timescales, and the challenges of working outside the studio, and with untrained local assistants, offer the necessary narrative tension and complications. 

Evens is an engaging storyteller, and it’s easy to get absorbed not just in the lush landscapes, but in the developing relationships between Peterson and the quirky, yet believable, locals. It’s sufficiently convincing to suggest Evens is drawing on personal experience. Details like the tensions with Petersen’s wife back home, and his eye for a budding local girl, are deftly handled. The sculpture Petersen eventually decides to make is absurdly trivial. The striking cover image is not the sculpture itself, but simply the scaffolding built to construct it, by implication representing the process of its creation. Such art commissions, can be as much performance as artefact, with the final product less important, and less rich, than the process itself. True to the cover, Petersen’s final artwork is less important than Evens’ engrossing process of getting there. 

This beautiful book also proves an engaging read.