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Gummo & Co

When Ward was asked in interviews or conversations about his influences, the interviewer often got confused. Ward tended not to point to other illustrators or comics authors, but mentioned photographers and film makers. For instance for Wolven (23), Jim Goldberg’s photography book 'Raised by Wolves' (44) was a major influence. As much as the content, the way it was published was completely up Ward’s street: wild, honest, pure and raw.

From 'Gummo' (2020) © WARD ZWART
From 'Gummo' (2020) © WARD ZWART

Works by photographers such as Ed Templeton, Larry Clark and others who documented the 1990s skateboard culture, could often be found on his pin board. A major role can be attributed to the film 'Gummo' (45), which in essence could be a moving Ward Zwart comic book. Listless youths (see: Outsiders, Teenagers) experience bizarre moments (eating spaghetti while taking a bath, anyone?) during this hour-and-a-half-long trip. Ward based a recent series of posters (46) on the movie, as well as other works.

Collecting reference material was an important part of Ward’s working process. He was an illustrator who did his homework before getting started. The walls of his studio were always covered in cuttings and prints. His laptop was filled to the brim with images he had collected on Flickr and Tumblr, from books, as film stills, etc. Much of the material he gathered seeped into his drawings, consciously or subconsciously. The more narrative his work became, the greater the role of the film medium. He studied sequences and movements to give life to the characters in his drawings, and to explore new ways of framing them.

People think I just sit down at a desk and start drawing, but it’s not that simple. First, I need to collect a whole load of images. So I watch lots of films and start drawing from there.
Ward Zwart in De Standaard (52)

As he drew, Ward also listened to podcasts about photography, such as those by Brad Feuerhelm (48), and he devoured interviews on websites like 'American Suburb X' (49). With his brother Mees, Ward also made two zines in which they published drawings and photos that are intentionally out of focus or overexposed, and which capture socially awkward moments (see: Outsiders) (50)-(51).

Early on in the making of Ik kom van ver, maar blijf niet lang (24), Ward and Enzo Smits started a blog in which they discussed the story through images. This became a growing mood board, collecting their shared passion for photography and film as a driving force for the new work. In the run-up to the publication of the graphic novel, this blog was also made public, as a snapshot of their work process (see: Internet). The name of the blog references to the book 'The Strawberry Statement' by James Simon Kunen (52), which is read by one of the characters in 'Ik kom van ver, maar blijf niet lang'.

  • (23) Wolven (‘Wolves’) — Enzo Smits and Ward Zwart. Bries: Antwerp, 2016. Second print run, 2020. Translated into French as Wolven — Même Pas Mal: Marseille, 2018.
  • (24) Ik kom van ver, maar blijf niet lang (‘I Have Travelled Far, But Won't Stay Long’) — Enzo Smits and Ward Zwart. Bries: Antwerp, 2020. Second print run, 2021.
  • (44) Raised by Wolves — Jim Goldberg. Scalo: Zurich, 1995.
  • (45) Gummo — Harmony Korine. Fine Line Features / Independent Pictures: 1997.
  • (46) Gummo print zine — Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2020, 50 copies, technique: colour print on newspaper.
  • (47) Je maakt pas iets goeds als je het niet verwacht (‘You only make something good when you’re not expecting it’) — Elien Delaere. De Standaard, 3/6/2017.
  • (48) Nearest Truth — Brad Feuerhelm. Podcast.
  • (49) American Suburb X — Podcast, 2008-nu.
  • (50) Cobra Zine — Mees Kuypers and Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2011, number of copies unknown, technique: photocopy with cover on pink paper.
  • (51) Cobra Zine 2 — Mees Kuypers and Ward Zwart. Self-published: Antwerp, 2011, number of copies unknown, technique: photocopy, probably also a cover on coloured paper.
  • (52) The Strawberry Statement — James Simon Kunen. Random House: New York City, 1969