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The Art of Creating Comics

A point of view and something to say: An interview with Jillian Tamaki

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.

Author Jillian Tamaki talks about where she finds inspiration, what advice she has for aspiring comics artists, and what her favourite vegetable is. 
 
Image: Awago Beach, 2014, Groundwood Books (Canada)/First Second Books (USA)

What are your literary and artistic influences? Where do you find inspiration?
This is constantly changing. It depends on what novels I’m reading or what museum shows really knocked me out. One book I really liked that I read recently was Michael Crummey’s Galore. I liked the folkloric scope. Comics-wise, Geneviève Castrée’s Susceptible was interesting. Art-wise, I’m most intrigued by weird net art tumblrs  because they feel very fresh and new and strange.

Do you work with photos or other visual references?
Yes, all the time. It takes a long time to know how to use reference properly. Too little and the work can feel lacking in specificity and texture. Too much feels very stiff and soulless.

How did you get started in comics?
I made a photocopied minicomic! I moved to Edmonton after I graduated college and it was my first time living alone. I had something I wanted to express and comics seemed like a cheap, fun way to do that.

What would you tell an aspiring comics artist who is starting out today? 
Just start making things and don’t stop! The barrier to entry in comics is extremely low. The materials can be extremely cheap. You don’t need a lot of space. You don’t necessarily need to be able to draw well. It’s easier than ever to publish your comics online. The only thing you need is a point of view and something to say.
 
What is a question that you would like to be asked that no one has ever asked you? 
I asked a friend the other day what her favourite vegetable is. She said "bitter greens". Mine is probably eggplant.




Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator and cartoonist originally from Calgary, now living in Brooklyn, NY. Her next book is Awago Beach, co-created with Mariko Tamaki, due out in 2014. She also has a webcomic called SuperMutant Magic Academy. Visit her at jilliantamaki.com.




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