Sour Pickles

By Clio Isadora (Avery Hill Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-910395-63-9 (TPB)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Peep at How the Other Half Works… 8/10

There are countless reasons to draw and even more to tell stories. For an increasing number of talented folk the primary motivations are curiosity and therapy. When combined with ruthless honesty, creative boldness and a sense of whimsy the results can be instructional for the author, and hugely entertaining for those of us privileged to be coming along for the ride.

Clio Isadora has drawn remorselessly but with sublime care and attention on her rather extraordinary life for her risograph minicomics such as Damp Candy, Soiled Fantasies, Is It Vague in Other Dimensions? and others, and in her first full graphic novel, takes those shared observations to a new level of humour and poignancy by revisiting her final year as a student at prestigious Central St Martins art school.

Like most slice-of-life sagas – no matter how well or judiciously curated – the true joy is in experiencing it unfold, so the précis portion of this review is deliberately meagre…

Pickles Yin doesn’t have the financial resources of her rich, posh, fancy art school classmates. She’s got by so far on talent, drive, hard work, bursaries, frazzled nerves, frantic overreactions and few true friends. Now the final year and big show are looming and beyond that the gaping unknowns of adult life and a career.

Unlike almost everyone else she knows, though, Pickles can’t rely on the buffers and comfort zone of parents, money and connections if she fails. Or even decide on what kind of job she wants if she gets through the year. She’s drowning and floundering and in a panic, when her pal Radish suggests what would help her get by and even the odds is some pharmaceutical enhancement…

Witty, fraught, heartwarming and quite frankly a bit scary – my days in art school in the heyday of Punk were filled with fun, excess, budding pop stars and a complete dearth of career pressure – Sour Pickles is a fabulously wry and subtle examination of mental health, the unexpected legacies of parental prejudices and the crushing pressure of modern living.

Recommended for anybody wondering about the “road not taken”…
© Clio Isadora, 2021