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The Art of Creating Comics

From Charles Burns to Lina Wertmüller: An interview with Nina Bunjevac

Canada Writes is talking to some of Canada's best known cartoonists and graphic novelists on the different techniques, challenges, and advantages of working with both text and drawings.

Winner of this year's Doug Wright Spotlight AwardNina Bunjevac talks about her literary and artistic influences and how the reader is an integral part of the story in comics. 

Image: Page one from Waiting for Chip

What are your literary and artistic influences? Where do you find inspiration?
My greatest comics influences are Charles Burns, Kim Deitch and Chester Brown—however, I draw most inspiration from non-graphic works of literature and cinema. Some of my favorite authors are Thomas Mann, Mikhail Bulgakov, Albert Camus, Italo Calvino, Naguib Mahfouz, Jorge Luis Borges and David Sedaris. I've enjoyed reading plays by Ibsen, Jean Genet and Fassbinder. When it comes to cinematic influences I owe a great deal to: Lindsay Anderson, Fassbinder, Tarkovsky, Lina Wertmüller, François Truffaut and Dusan Makavejev. I am also a big fan of documentary films. 

What are some of the advantages of working with text and drawings vs. just text? What do you think that this genre can do that text-only genres can’t?
There are certainly many advantages to working with text and drawings, especially in satire. I enjoy using the first-person soapy narrative, juxtaposed with the grim and ironic imagery to create the sense of naiveté or wishful thinking. In other words, my drawings do illustrate the narrative but not the sentiment or the yearning of the narrator. My characters are often ignorant of the true nature of their circumstance—this knowledge is reserved for the reader alone, who gets to experience the story through both the images and the narrative.This way the reader becomes an integral part of the story, a true witness, and their absence makes the story incomplete. 

Do you work with photos or other visual references?
At times I do use visual references when there is a need for precise representation of the subject or the setting; while creating stories from Heartless I have hardly used any. My new book contains a lot of historical facts; I spent a great deal of time researching and accumulating visual references. 

Nina Bunjevac is a Toronto based cartoonist and illustrator. Her work has been published in a number of North American and European publications: Broken Pencil, Exile, Taddle Creek, carte blanche, Le Dernier Cri (France), Puck (Italy), Black (Italy), Komikaze (Croatia) and Mineshaft (USA) among others. Her first collection of comics, Heartless came out in 2012 with Conundrum Press. Bunjevac won the Doug Wright 2013 Spotlight Award (aka “The Nipper”) for Heartless. 

Image by Ryan Kerr

Main page images from cover of Heartless, Conundrum Press, September 2012. 

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