Comic Care

A project with Neil Max Emmanuel about visual communication of significant but difficult to communicate themes within health care


This project has been made possible by the award of an Internationalization Research Grant 2019 from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Music and Design, University of Bergen.

Neil Max Emmanuel,
Freelance Motion GFX Artist & Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, Visual Facilitation, London, UK

Simon Gilbertson,
Associate Professor, Music Therapy, GA, KMD, UiB, Norway


Purpose and aim
This project facilitates the international collaboration between a music and health researcher in Norway and a freelance artist and illustrator in the UK in order to engage with a cross-professional fusion of health professions care and graphic art.
The intention of the international collaboration is to use an intensive 2 day sprint-project to explore the affective and narrative potential of visual communication and interaction with significant but difficult to communicate themes within health care. It is our intention to create conceptual drafts for what we currently imagine as “The Care Comic: Moving images”. From these comic drafts it is intended to consider the relation between emotion and the temporal aspects of still comic images with the temporal aspects of animated film. Here the double sense of the term “moving images” becomes active.

This project responds directly to the KMD Strategic plan to increase cross-disciplinary projects by collaborating with graphic artists in KMD and Norway in future steps in 2020. Building on the results of the current application, larger group collaborations will also respond to UiB’s Strategic plan to develop cross-Faculty projects by bringing together the fields of art, music therapy and medicine and their respective Faculties and thus expanding potential external funding sources. The possibilities for the contribution of this work to the education programs of music, art and medicine are as yet unexplored but could promise significant opportunities for curriculum development, teacher professional development and effective development of student education programs.

A recent Wellcome Trust research project (McNicol 2016) states that the full use of health care comics is not being realized. As a result, certain members of society may be missing out on an appropriate and effective mode of communication of personally and socially relevant information and participation in related discourses. In terms of health care and art, this may include students, service users and providers, researchers and policy makers.

Narrative, characterization and images have been proposed to be significant core elements in the use of comics as health information medium (McNicol 2016). These aspects overlap with the narrative and anonymized case format of health care research as found within music therapy research (Bonde, Ruud, Skånland & Trondalen 2013, Gilbertson 2008) and closely related health care professions (Allegranti 2015, Casey, Proudfoot & Corbally 2016). It has been proposed earlier that there are common foundations of both narrative and music and that the somatic, social and affective realms of human experience bind these two genres (Walsh 2011). The fusion of graphic art and health care professions is expanding during the past decade as can be seen in the work of comic and medicine (Green & Myers 2010,

Relevant areas of expertise and resources of the applicants to complete the project
Both Simon and Neil are at an advanced level of experience and expertise within their central professional designations within music therapy and art respectively. They both share a common feature of authentic interest and actual engagement with fields beyond the conventional limits of their core professions. Their collaboration is in an emergent phase and Simon and Neil are both participants in the founding group of the Materializing Care International Research Network, which is financially supported by a current KMD Strategic Grant and will be inaugurated at the beginning of April 2019.

With auxiliary experience in image and animation hardware and software, and early stage arts-inclusive research experience, Simon is committed to the exploration and extension of research methods and dissemination processes that go beyond an “arts or academia” attitude. Neil has auxiliary experience of health care research and practice related to dementia, embodiment, the corpse, and has an extensive range of experience working in the communication and dissemination social and political themes within the public domain for children and adults in multiple media.

Budget and ecological implications
This application is made to facilitate a face-to-face intensive sprint-project over two days and to provide a small amount of arts materials for the collaborative process. Ecological considerations of the use of air-flight and a face-to-face meeting have been made and deemed to be necessary due to the nature of the physical co-creation of the project materials.