Loving women interests me passionately. National Film Board animator, Diane Obomsawin’s new comic book collection of short stories, On Loving Women, draws us into the world of discovering and assuming lesbian loves and pleasures.
Explaining the inspiration for this graphic novel, Diane shared: «I was reading Michel Tremblay and he was writing that when he saw a heterosexual couple, he always identified with the woman in the couple. When couples kissed, he felt himself to be the woman receiving the kiss, a first revelation as to his sexual orientation. I started thinking about my own experiences discovering sexuality. When I was young, my family moved a lot, I changed schools many times. The first thing that I would do each time is to choose a girl to fall in love with, it was my raison d’être, I would wake up thinking about the girl. It was a natural, I would even say unconscious, attraction, at that age. I realized in my adult life that I had always done this. Tremblay’s revelations inspired me to want to explore these attractions in my own life and in the lives of my friends.» Each story in On Loving Women is a vignette of this social reality.
As a child Diane kept a diary, but a diary with pictures, in which she would express her little secrets, drawing what she did and about her family. «As far back as the age of three, I can remember drawing everything,» she told me, «and this progressed to comic strips and to graphic novels and then to animation, a natural progression really. Animation, however, allows for a fuller expression because I can add sound effects and music and movement to the experience.»
When I asked Diane why she tells stories through animal forms rather than human ones, she confided that «I am not very good at realistic drawing. My lines are simple: two dots for eyes, a line for the nose, another line for the mouth. Drawing animals, little creatures, allows me to create distinctive characters, a different animal for each character.»
Is there more creative freedom in telling stories this way? «For me, yes,» she said. «It softens the story that can be a little bit sad because a lot of stories come with pain. Animation, using animals or creatures, distances reality.»
Drawn & Quarterly, the publishers of On Loving Women, sent me Diane’s press photo, and I laughed, it was this brightly coloured yellow and green animation. Does Diane Obomsawin identify as a creature? Is this her self-image? Is this a symbolic representation of how she sees herself? What is it that she would like us to see and know about her from and through this self-portrait? I posed all these questions.
«Many animators use drawings as press photos. It is common. I just instinctually drew myself in that moment in that way. Another moment, I could have drawn myself completely differently. I guess you could say that I see myself as a creature and I see people as creatures,» she answered.
Previous to my interview with Diane, I had heard from many people that she was shy and I wondered if the choice of expressing herself through animation was somehow related to being shy. Is it a more comfortable form of self-expression? «Absolutely!» she admitted. «Animation and comic strips allow a shy person to tell a story without being centre stage. It is like being behind a curtain so to speak. We can hide but we can say anything we want at the same time. We do not need to communicate directly to an audience. We do not need to be exposed.»
On Loving Women is about 10 young women coming to themselves sexually, seeking love, wanting sex, sometimes finding it and sometimes losing it. I liked the feeling of the sex scenes and I shared with Diane that I was ready to jump right in, jump right into her drawings, and this pleased her. I invite you all to discover the world of Diane Obomsawin.