This second part of our interview delves deeply into the artist’s process–mapping out stories, sketchbooks, ten-issue arcs, and the importance of drawing noses and eyelids.
In terms of the disparate aesthetics, do you get bored doing one style all of the time?
No, that again is just trying to learn. Everything I’m doing is there to serve the story, and there’s a reason I’ve made those choices. I started using noses and eyelids in the stories.
What does that mean, exactly?
Well, I started drawing noses—distinguishing actual noses. Like last year I started using noses, but there were still the dot eyes. It’s kind of like I did it because I thought the story needed a certain level of expressiveness. The reason I pulled back from using eyes and noses in the first place is I felt like their faces felt cartoony when there was eyes and noses. It has a certain impression on a reader to see a well-rendered face—there’s a certain level of detachment. There’s more empathy for a reader when there’s not as much detail. So that’s why I did it. and now I feel like it really should be the situation that the person is in that’s creating the empathy and not the way they look. It’s kind of the visual version of “show, don’t tell.” It’s much richer than just showing a drawing. So I put the noses and the eyes back in and I can actually more be more accurate.
These are lessons that you learned from previous issues?
Yeah, yeah. Just kind of moving forward. I’ll probably draw like that until I figure out a new way. But I don’t know if I will. There’s only so many ways you can render a face.
Is that a good thing? Do you ultimately want to settle on a style?
Um, yeah. Because I would rather jump around with the stories I tell, rather than jump around with the trappings of the stories.
The art being a trapping of the story?
Oh yeah, yeah. The art—those are the tools I use to transfer the story. Pictures, words—those are the conveyance of the story. The important thing is the story, so once I get my tools there, I convey the story in a way I want to. You write, you write, you write, and then suddenly there’s this way you can write where you can express everything you want to. So yeah, I would totally not mind settling. It’s the story to me that’s the most important thing.
So you sit down and map the full story out first?
Oh yeah, yeah. I thumbnail the whole thing and get it to where I’m happy with it. and then it changes again when I’m drawing it out. But I need to get the story out first. Then it goes through a few more iterations, and it’s changing with each one.
How rough is that first thumbnail? Does it reflect the way the art is ultimately going to look?
It depends. There’s some composition. [Pulls out a notebook with sketches.] It basically shows the important things. They need to register. It reflects that more or less. Of course it does change. But it shows the position it’s going to be seen from. It’s certain things that need to be shown. I’ll take those things that need to be shown and refine the composition. But it’s there to get the idea of the pacing and how the panels sit next to one another.
That’s the first thing that happens? It doesn’t exist first as prose?
Most of the time. there are certain times I make prose notes. I did make a lot of prose notes for the next chapter. These are all moments for that. Who know how many I’ll use, who knows how many I won’t? I had them all in my head and instead of trying to draw all of them, I had to just get them down.
It all sort of came to you at the same time?
No. this particular regurgitation came when I was driving up to San Diego, having dropped off our kids at their grandparents. I had to come up with four or five good ideas and I had to get them on paper before I forgot. And those are just ideas. Just notes. The next step is to block out the thing I’m going to build with them. That will happen in pictures.
Things get left out during that process?
Oh yeah, all the time. When I’m starting, it’s like there are loops of strings sticking out of the dirt, and you pull them and it comes up a little and then it stops coming. And then you see some over there and pull that up, and eventually the strings will connect. It will eventually form this unifed thing. That gives me a place to start from.
Not to get too literal with this analogy, but do you feel as if there’s a formed story out there already and you’re just pulling it together?
I don’t know if I have that much faith. I’ve heard people say that before, and that’s cool. But I feel more like I’m digging a ditch.
That’s a glamorous way of putting it.
Well, you’ve got to get in there and do the work of putting the story together. There are a lot of pieces in the story that are made, but I don’t use. They all need to be done. Some of them fit and some of them don’t, but it’s all the work that goes into making it. sometimes they fit, and sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay. I may end up using that stuff later. It might be a good scene, but it just doesn’t work for this piece.
How far are you working ahead? [Points to notebook.] It’s looks like you’ve got a lot of stuff here.
Well, I mean, that’s another thing. If I’m working on a story, it’s not exactly ‘how far ahead.’ It’s like I have all these pieces and when I’m sitting down dig the ditch, that’s for the next issue. I’ve got notes scattered throughout. So I’ll just be working on the next issue. I’m not thinking that far ahead.
In your mind, is the next issue mapped out?
It’s about 85-percent mapped out, which can totally change. It can change drastically.
What about that 10-issue arc? How far ahead have you thought about that?
Well, I mean, I see the whole story, but I don’t have it divided into chapters.
But you see how to get there.
Well, I see things that I want to happen. And I know how they fit in, but maybe I won’t be needing all of them, because things change. But most stories are really, really simple. But the thing that makes them engaging are the characters and the way they interact.
There’s the saying about there only being five stories in the world.
Yeah, well, there are that many stories, but there are a lot of great ways to tell them. Most of them are pretty simple. Somebody does something that affects someone and they react.
If you don’t know how the story breaks up right now, where does the number ten come from?
Well, I know where the story is going, and I know how much I’ve conveyed in this particular chapter. I could be totally wrong. It could be a lot shorter or longer. But I hope it’s not. I need to do a lot of issues a year to get it out quickly.
If you spread it out too long, does it run the risk of losing your interest?
Yes and no. It’s interest, but I really want to get it done. I like the story. I’m really excited about it. I don’t really get bored with things. I know where it’s all going. Comics take a while to draw, and I’ve never had a problem with that. I’m pretty patient watching it unfold.
[Continued in Part Three.]