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Visions of Taiwan

Visions of Taiwan is a compilation of short stories illustrated in comic book style, giving short bites of the artists’ experience of Taiwan. I asked Ray Hecht and Bronwen Shelwell what inspired them to create this project.

Ray says he has always loved comics and published his first book ‘Always Goodbye’ in 2019. That’s when he came up with the idea of an anthology showcasing English speaking cartoonists. As an art teacher and lecturer, Bronwen knows how tough it is for emerging artists to find a platform and she wanted to help make some kind of creative space for expression.

“Taiwan has an incredibly deep pool of artistic talent, there are always markets, craft pop ups, conventions, festivals and I wanted to find a way to bring those people together in one project. I have always loved bringing together artists, curating exhibitions and finding platforms to share art.”

~ Bronwen

Left to Right: Visions of Taiwan #2. A Slug’s View by Bronwen Shelwell. People Watching on the Train by Ray Hecht. Chariot by Jon Renzella

Even though all of them found it quite challenging to work on the editing and formatting of the book, they found that the whole process of working with other artists and writers, compiling the works, and appreciating their unique styles, has been very satisfying. One of the artists, Fabienne, feels she learned a lot through the experience, creating a good balance between visuals and text and also working in monotone. 

“Ironically the part of the project that was the most challenging ended up being the most fun, it’s a little like when you start to see a puzzle you’re building start to take shape, and you start finding the right pieces.”

~ Bronwen

Ray’s story “People-watching on the Train”, is all about conjuring up the fantasy lives of strangers, and how that can actually turn out to be very different from reality. Several stories have a consistent theme of finding a home in Taiwan, even though these authors are from all over the world. 

Bronwen was inspired by a small incident when camping with friends. Ray and I were getting ready to make some dinner. Ray walked over to the chopping board and found a slug there! It had been a really wet and rainy few days and the slug had made its way up to the makeshift kitchen shelf. That moment really stood out to me, and I decided to write a little tale from this slug’s point of view. 

Above: excerpts from ‘Taiwan: an Island of Inspiration’ by Fabienne Good

Fabienne’s story for Visions of Taiwan 2 inspired a 28 x 28 inch textile piece, titled “The Taiwanese Farm Adventure”. This was selected for the Headwaters Arts 27th Annual juried Fall Festival — and sold to a mysterious buyer! 

“For readers in Taiwan, I hope they find the stories funny and relatable. Moreover, I hope they will share the comics with readers outside of Taiwan so that people everywhere can learn what Taiwan is really like, and what a charming place it is. Too often, Taiwan is in the international news because of threats of war, and those kinds of news stories miss the humanity of everyday life. I hope the entire world can think of Taiwan as a relatable place where real people live.”

~ Ray

Aspiring writers

For aspiring writers, Bronwen says that if you can come up with one image, one spark, one idea, you can build around it. You don’t always need to think of the whole story at once, or have the perfect ending. Instead, just start from one point of inspiration and the rest will come in time.  Ray says it takes a lot of networking and a bit of luck, which is not easy for many writers who tend to be introverts. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and self-publish, which is more how his career in comics is currently going. Overall, what’s most important is to keep at it, keep learning, and stay motivated. 

Ray Hecht and Bronwen Shelwell

There will be a Visions of Taiwan # 3 in early 2024. The goal is to eventually republish all the issues in a larger graphic novel collection. Interested artists can reach out to Ray and Bronwen.

Visions of Taiwan # 1 and # 2 are available on Amazon and at select locations in Taipei.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/author/rayhecht 

Ray Hecht is an author and sometimes-cartoonist from America. He has lived abroad for over a decade, now residing in New Taipei, and has no plans to move back any time soon. His published works include the novel South China Morning Blues (Blacksmith Books, 2015) and his comic autobiography Always Goodbye (TWG Press, 2019). 
Website: www.rayhecht.com 
He moved abroad in 2008 from California to Shenzhen in mainland China. Among my various adventures, for a time I worked as a journalist in Shenzhen, writing and editing for the English-language newspaper The Shenzhen Daily. There, I met Bronwen and we moved to Taiwan together in 2017. I occasionally write for the Taipei Times, but recently my passion has been in comics. 

Bronwen Shelwell is a South African internationally-exhibited artist, currently based in Taiwan. Her primary media is glass but she enjoys experimenting with other disciplines and has used digital painting for her stories. Through these various mediums she investigates connections, states, experiences and is always seeking the thread that connects all things. 
Link https://artassembly.org

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