We wrap up our interview with the EmiTown author by discussing the Portland comics scene, the downside of art school, and the effect of collaboration on her artwork.
Did you go to school in Portland?
I went to high school here.
So you’re actually from Portland?
Yeah. That’s why I’m an idiot not knowing that there’s so much stuff here.
New York is sort of the same way—you’re surprised when you meet someone who’s actually from there, because it’s a place everyone moves to.
It’s weird, because I know people say that about Portland, but I never really considered it that way. That’s probably because a lot of my friends that I hang out with are the ones from high school, so I’m always around people who grew up here. But I remember, I was at Joe [Keatinge]’s birthday, last week, and someone at the table was impressed that there were two natives. That’s a weird thing? I was confused. So, I guess it is a weird thing to be a native. I’m a minority in my own city!
How active is the comics scene out there?
It’s pretty active. In fact, this week, there’s a comic book club that was started up, where a bunch of comic book nerds and creators and what have you, get together at a comic book store and go drinking afterwards—which is the best part. Portland’s pretty centered around arts and creativity and cooking and whatever. So, the first Thursday, there’s a lot of gallery walks, and stuff, so Floating World always has signings and things like that going on. It’s really awesome.
Sometimes I feel like I should move away, to be somewhere different, but I think that wouldn’t be a good idea, because it’s my career.
Maybe you should move away and move back, so you can recognize how great it is, from the perspective of an outsider.
Maybe so. I lived in San Francisco for a year, and I missed Portland—even though I know that San Francisco is not that much different.
It’s really not. And there’s a comics scene in San Francisco.
Yeah, but back when I lived down there, I didn’t realize that comics was my destiny [laughs]. But that’s where I met Joe. And I went to art school to learn illustration and I failed. I moved back home. And it’s expensive to live there, too.
What did you plan to do with your art school degree?
I had no plan. I had no idea what I was doing. That’s probably why I didn’t put a lot of hard work into it. I sure hope the people who gave me my scholarship didn’t hear that! I think a lot of kids, when you’re 18, 19, 20—I was 20 when I lived there, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I just knew that I was good at drawing, so you’re supposed to go follow that. And I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with that.
Earlier, you said one of the reasons you didn’t show your early strips to people is that you didn’t want it to ruin your hobby, but I guess at some point you were planning on doing it professionally.
You could say that that sounds like a contradiction, but I argue that going to school is what made me think that, if I followed that, it would make me hat it, because I hated doing the homework, and I hated being told to draw a vase. And, I don’t know, I just despised it. That’s when I moved home and I had bullshit jobs, like working at call centers. I didn’t know what to do at all.
It’s the idea of someone telling you what to draw that could potentially ruin your enjoyment of drawing?
Back then. I feel like I’ve matured since, because now I’m drawing from people’s scripts, and so I’m basically being told what to draw. But I still have some artistic input, of course. But it’s definitely an exercise, because this is the first time I’m drawing other people’s scripts. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
There’s also a difference between drawing a comic and drawing a vase.
That’s true. A big difference, because I actually enjoy comics, versus drawing a vase, or drawing some apples and a banana.
Are you confined to tighter structures when you’re drawing other people’s stuff? A lot of the diary stuff you’ve drawn isn’t as defined by traditional panel structure.
Definitely moving into a panel structure, for sure. But it’s hard for me to say, because I’m literally just starting working on other people’s scripts. I haven’t had a lot of experience with how good of a job I’m going to do. I’m going to try my darnedest, trust me. I was lucky with Madman and Sweet Tooth, I got to write and draw them. But they were still in the panel structure, and I’m still kind of new to it. But my 24 hour comics are paneled.
Anything else you’re working on it that you can talk about?
I don’t know what I can talk about.
Well, we don’t want to get you in trouble.
And I don’t want to jinx it. But there are two projects out there, in the works. One I just got some pages and script for. I’m really excited for it. Baby’s first script!