Evi Tam­pold is a bud­ding young graphic nov­el­ist who found her love of comics while bat­tling ADHD.

How cre­at­ing graphic nov­els helped one teen thrive

The Kids Post - - Extracuricular - By Jon Sufrin

For Evi Tam­pold, deal­ing with at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity disor­der (ADHD) as a child was both a curse and a bless­ing. A curse be­cause she grew up with frus­trat­ing bouts of hy­per­ac­tiv­ity and rage, and a bless­ing be­cause it drew her to the world of graphic nov­els.

Due to her con­di­tion, Tam­pold wasn’t able to con­cen­trate enough to learn how to read at an early age, so she grav­i­tated to­ward comics. It wasn’t a school book that taught her how to read, she says, it was Bone — a leg­endary se­ries from comic creator Jeff Smith.

Per­haps it’s not sur­pris­ing, then, that she showed an ap­ti­tude for draw­ing from an early age and through­out her years at Al­pha II Al­ter­na­tive School near Bloor and Duf­ferin.

“Draw­ing has been my lan­guage since I was young,” Tam­pold says.

Now, the 18-year-old Toronto res­i­dent is an up-and-com­ing graphic nov­el­ist her­self. The medium does not have many big-name cre­ators who are un­der 20 years old, but Tam­pold has got­ten an early start. She pro­duced her first comic-strip story, “Black Thread,” at age 14. For some­one not im­me­di­ately pro­fi­cient at read­ing and writ­ing, the ex­pe­ri­ence was a cru­cial one.

“It was life chang­ing to be able to cre­ate a story,” she says. “The fact that I could pro­duce a story that was in my head was in­cred­i­ble.”

Soon af­ter, she cre­ated her first solo graphic novel, The Hall­way Closet, at the age of 16. In­ti­mate, emo­tional and star­tling in its ma­tu­rity, it is an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count of Tam­pold’s ex­pe­ri­ence with ADHD.

It re­calls the story of how, when her be­hav­iour spi­raled out of con­trol as a young child, her mother would place her in an area de­void of sen­sory stim­u­la­tion — the tit­u­lar hall­way closet — un­til she calmed down.

Even­tu­ally Tam­pold’s out­bursts re­ceded, and as she grew up, she says she largely for­got about her or­deals with ADHD. That was un­til she de­cided she wanted to par­tic­i­pate in the Graphic Medicine con­fer­ence, an ini­tia­tive that ex­am­ines the use­ful­ness of comics in med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and pa­tient care.

When brain­storm­ing a po­ten­tial project for the con­fer­ence, mem­o­ries of her ADHD — and her en­coun­ters with the closet — slowly sur­faced. So she be­gan to draw, and more mem­o­ries re­turned. The Hall­way Closet was born.

It was an emo­tional process, but one that was also cathar­tic, she says.

“I had to think about the ex­pe­ri­ence and what it meant,” she says. “I was able to give it worth.”

With the help of her mom and dad — who were blown away at the level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion of her work — Tam­pold self­pub­lished The Hall­way Closet and took it around to comic shops around Toronto to get it stocked on their shelves.

Tam­pold fol­lowed up The Hall­way Closet with Keeper of the Clouds, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Univer­sity of Toronto teach­ing as­sis­tant Liza Futer­man on the topic of de­men­tia.

“When I was mak­ing comics at that age, I never in a mil­lion years would have ever made some­thing that was that emo­tion­ally raw and thought­ful,” says Miles Baker, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Toronto Comic Arts Fes­ti­val. “What I find even more im­pres­sive is that she took The Hall­way Closet and found even more courage to ap­proach stores and zine fairs to pro­mote, share and sell the work.”

Th­ese days, Tam­pold is a stu­dent at God­dard Col­lege in Ver­mont and is at work on her lat­est comic, Just to Talk, the true story of a Toronto doc­tor and her de­ci­sion to be­come a psy­chi­a­trist. Tam­pold is also artistin-res­i­dence at Yorkville De­sign Cen­tre, where she cre­ates one-of-a-kind res­i­den­tial art pieces.

“I want to push my­self and see how far I can go with this,” Tam­pold says of her bur­geon­ing graphic novel ca­reer. “I’d like to con­sider my­self to be a pro­fes­sional.”

Tam­pold’s work can be found on­line or at comic shops across Toronto, in­clud­ing Page & Panel at the Toronto Ref­er­ence Li­brary.

It was life chang­ing to be able to cre­ate a story.”

Clock­wise from left: Evi Tam­pold; book cover for ‘The Hall­way Closet’; book cover for ‘Keeper of the Clouds’

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