A few pages into Capacity by Theo Ellsworth and I thought I was being treated to a book similar in intent to Lynda Barry's What It Is. That is to say where the writer/artist talks about their creative processes in order to inspire the reader. Instead the book turned out to be a journey as Ellsworth attempts to sort out his mind and get in better touch with his subconscious in order to improve his creativity.
He does this by letting his imagination roam. Anthony Mingella referred to the process as taking a line for a walk and while I had absolutely no idea where the book was going to go from one page to the next, I strongly suspect that neither did Ellsworth. Strange worlds and creatures come and go but all the time the narrative is anchored by the fact that he narrates the story, often referring to his real-life journey as a creator. Also, he has not only drawn himself in the story but he has, rather charmingly included a character that represents the reader.
It's impressive to see work that defies narrative expectations and strives for truly imaginative thinking. What's refreshing is that Ellsworth appears to be a very upbeat person as he keeps the tone light. His whimsy also leads him to breaking the main narrative with comedy sketches and it's here he's a little exposed - if you don't find the gags amusing they fall flat.
No one can fault the amount of work put into each page though. Every panel is filled with his delicate line work whether on the scales or fur on a monster, blades of grass, leaves, lines, swirls, curls - this man has endless patience. I suppose that's the main strength of the book, Ellsworth apparently loves to draw and his enthusiasm is infectious. Cute and rather liberating. SLS