Monday, November 10, 2008

Sarah Glidden

Sarah Glidden is the breakout talent of 2008. Her mini comic, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or less, won an Ignatz award for promising new talent. She is currently turning the mini into a novel for Vertigo. Sarah is relatively new to comics, but you wouldn't know it from her work. In terms of storytelling and composition, her work is sharp and smart.

Here is her website: http://www.smallnoises.com/

1. can you describe your drawing routine---how often you draw, how many hour per day---how you break up the day with drawing?

My schedule has changed because I'm working on this book now and have been writing the script for the past few months. I suppose when its time to start drawing it my drawing routine will look a lot like my writing routine: get up, eat breakfast and read some news, then start working by around ten. I take a break for lunch or when I hit a wall, whichever comes first. Then I try to get back to work again. Of course, there are always errands to do or blog posts that really need to be read, email to answer, or general procrastination which I struggle with and then feel guilty about. I do my best.

And then a few nights a week I stay up really late playing music and drawing things unrelated to the book. I have a lot of things I need to get better at doing like drawing clothes, anatomy and architecture so I try to find time to practicing those things.

2. how much revision/editing do you do in you work?

I spend a lot of time working on a script and that includes a lot of revision, but then of course when you get to the point where you actually put it down on paper things need to get changed a little.

3. talk about your process---do you write a script or make up the drawing as you go?

I would always write some sort of script before drawing, even for little journal comics, but now that I have to write the entire script for my book before I start drawing a single panel its become a more intense process. I actually thought I would really dislike writing the whole script first, that I would miss drawing too much and that typing a script on the computer would feel wrong, but now I love it. I start with a general outline and then from there make chapter outlines and sometimes scene outlines and then finally start writing the script (it ends up looking like a screenplay with panel directions etc). Sometimes I get stuck on a certain section of a chapter, so recently when that happens I've tried writing the scene as if I were working on a prose version of the story, letting myself ramble. Then I can read it over and adapt it back to comics form. Writing can be hellishly frustrating but I'm really going to miss it when I start drawing again.

After I'm done with the script I make rough thumbnails and take it from there.


4. do you compose the page as a whole or do you focus more on individual panel composition?

I'm using a nine panel grid (with some variation) so the page's composition doesn't matter as much to me. I'm more concerned about the rhythm of the story. Panel composition is important to me though.

5. what tools do you use (please list all)?

I love Prismacolor's Col-Erase blue pencils. They're not photo safe or anything, but the weight of the lead is perfect for me. I've been using the Rotring rapidograph for inking up until now, but I've been thinking about maybe switching to a nib pen for the book. I'm not sure. When I draw for fun I really like the Rotring Art Pen. I have two of them, one with the regular Penguin ink and one with a converter and Noodler's waterproof black ink.

6. what kind(s) of paper do you use?

That Strathmore bristol board that has the photo of blocks on the cover. For sketchbooks I'm addicted to the Hand-book brand. I also like lined, spiral-bound cheap pads from the dollar store for sketching in because it keeps me from being too precious with the drawings.

7. do you read a lot of comics? are you someone who reads comics and then gets exited to make more comics---or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?

I don't read that many comics, but I look at them a lot. I've never gotten through reading that big Locas book, but I've studied every page of it just going nuts over how Jaime Hernandez draws. If there were more French comics translated into English I would read a lot of those. A friend of mine got me this untranslated album from Florent Rupppert and Jerome Mulot which I look at all the time because it's so gorgeous but I can't read it. I'm trying to learn French so I can read these comics. There are definitely a lot of comics that I WANT to read but I get stressed out because I don't have enough time to read in the first place and I have weekly periodicals and other books that have to take priority. Those magazines and books end up motivating me to work harder at comics more than looking at other comics do, honestly.

8. do you make comics for a living? if not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics making process?

I'm extremely, extremely lucky to be making comics for a living right now, but there's no guarantee I'll be making a living off comics two years from now. I suppose if my book turns out to be interesting for people then I'll get an opportunity to make another one. When I start thinking about that, though, I get really paralyzed by the pressure so I try not to think about it too much other than having a reminder to do the best job I can with it.

9. do other artforms often seem more attractive to you?

Sometimes I really wish I was a writer or a journalist because writing a piece takes less time than writing and then drawing, which means you can work on more projects in the same amount of time. Maybe I'll try that out someday. Maybe I'll just have to learn how to draw faster. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on out there. Making a documentary would be fun as well.

10. what artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with?

The world is really flipping out right now. One could say "well, yes, but the world was always flipping out," but I think its happening in much more complex and absurd ways than ever before. The amount of information that's hurled at us every day is astronomical and everything seems to be shifting under our feet. When I see someone trying to translate all this bullshit into something that almost makes sense and can even make me laugh, I feel like I'm more comfortable being in the world. In comics I see that in artists like Marjane Satrapi, but its even more pronounced in the non-fiction work of Matt Taibbi and George Saunders. I like people who aren't afraid to express their anger or excitement or bewilderment over the outside world, who are really into sincerity. I would never dare say that I feel a "kinship" to David Foster Wallace, because he was just above and beyond everyone, ever, as far as I'm concerned, but his writing makes me feel like everything is going to be OK.

11. is a community of artists important or not important to you?

So important! And I owe so much to the community of cartoonists I found in New York. I was absolutely shocked by how warm and helpful everyone was to me before they even saw any of my work and when I was just starting out there were so many people who helped me develop. When I started going to conventions I was so excited because I thought to myself "there's MORE of these people?" I've gotten so much encouragement from the community. Just as important, though, is being able to see at close range what kind of amazing work everyone else is doing and with such intensity, and it really keeps me from slacking off.

12. what is your parents/family's reaction to your work?

My parents are awesome and have always been supportive of whatever ridiculous idea I wanted to try out, but I think they're happy that this particular ridiculous idea of being a cartoonist seems to be working out.

13, what is more important to you---style or idea?

They're both important, but I suppose for me the style follows the idea. I have something I want to communicate so I need to find the best way to get that across. Plus, at this stage in my career I think I'm pretty limited stylistically. Anyone can have an idea, but finding the right way to communicate it is difficult. Hopefully, the longer I do this, the better I'll get at getting ideas across.

14. is drawing a pleasure to you or a pain?

It's a pleasure because it's a pain. Well, not painful so much as difficult. I think you can compare a lifetime of drawing to playing a video game. Any well designed video game is just difficult enough to be a challenge, but not too difficult that it gets frustrating and you give up forever. The balance of those things makes it "fun." Then as you keep advancing in the game, you get better at a similar rate as to the increasing complexity of the tasks. So this is how drawing is for me. I always feel like I'm getting better but I certainly have a really long way to go. If it all goes according to plan, I can remain in that fun zone with drawing forever and never feel like I've mastered it.

The very best part of drawing is that its less of a learning curve than it is a punctuated equilibrium. I'll be at a plateau for a while and then suddenly just GET how to do something. It's really exciting when that happens. And addictive.

15. when you meet someone new, do you talk about being an artist right away? do you identify yourself as an artist or something else?

If someone asks me what I do I will tell them that I'm a cartoonist. I'm really happy to identify as that. But I wouldn't volunteer that information, just as I wouldn't launch into talking about myself when I first meet someone. That's just bad manners.

16. do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like steve ditko or jack kirby---or does this seem like a foreign world to you?

It's a foreign world. I appreciate what they did for the medium but I'm not really interested in reading their work. Will I be shunned if I publicly admit that that's the way I feel about Sonic Youth as well? I really admire them for being innovators in the history of pop music and I know their work is brilliant, I just never feel like listening to it. Generally, I do wish I was more well versed in comics history in the way that I think its important for any visual artist to keep a copy of Gardner's around from their Art History survey class in college. Hopefully I'll have some more time to read up on those guys in the near future.

17. do you ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?

Only when I daydream about being a journalist.

18. do you draw from life?

I went to a pretty traditional art school and spent four years drawing and painting the figure so I got used to the idea that drawing from life is really important. I usually always have a sketchbook with me and try to draw people as often as I can. I love drawing faces. The problem is that drawing from life is really different than cartooning. I was always pretty satisfied with my own ability to draw from life, so when I decided to try cartooning I thought it would be a piece of cake. It was not cake. It's a completely different skill set involving visual memory, spacial reasoning and imagination. Cartooning makes life drawing feel like finger painting. Really difficult finger painting.

19. do you pencil out comics and then ink? or do you sometimes not pencil?

For my big projects and the book I pencil then ink. I used to pencil and then ink for every drawing I ever did, sketches and life drawing included, but recently I started drawing without penciling and its so much fun! A lot of the times I mess up the drawing that way, but it doesn't matter. That was your recommendation by the way, so thanks.

20. what does your drawing space look like?

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