Interview: Dash Shaw Pt. 3 [of 3]

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As a graduate of Mahattan’s School for the Visual Art who has been actively creating his own comics since middle school, it seems like a stretch, at best, to consider Dash Shaw an outsider artist, in spite of his penchant for non-traditional forms of graphic storytelling. Still, the Shaw argues that, in many cases, some of the most exciting things happening in the world of sequential art are being created by artists who are largely unfamiliar with the form.

It’s fitting, then, that Shaw himself has tried his hand at a number of other artistic mediums, which have, in turn, influenced his comics. In this third and final part of out interview conducted at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, we discuss Shaw foray animation, the influence of outsider artists, and why his music career—or lack thereof—never really  took off.

[Part One] [Part Two]
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Interview: Dash Shaw Pt. 2 [of 3]

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“It’s a weird book,” says Dash Shaw, frankly, describing Bottomless Belly Button. The artist is delighted—if slightly baffled—about the book’s success. Soon after being release in June on Fantagraphics, the book was declared the graphic novel of the year but a number of fans and critics, with another six months still left until 2009.

Shaw’s own assessment is fairly apt, of course. Beyond its girth, Bottomless Belly Button seems a peculiar contender for the year’s best comic—it’s graphically simple—drawn with what the artist refers to as a “dumb line,” slow moving, and catalogs its own imagery with an almost obsessive compulsive drive. It is, perhaps, exactly these elements that make the book such a surprise hit.

Whatever the case may be, Shaw is very humble about the praise that has been heaped upon him in the last few months, working with his head down on the followup, BodyWorld, which is currently being serialized on the Web, and will soon be collected as a book by Pantheon.

In this second of our three-part interview, we discuss bookmarks, the compulsion to draw large breasted women, and what was in 13-year-old Dash’s middle school notebooks.

[Part One]
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Interview: Dash Shaw Pt. 1 [of 3]

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It didn’t take long for reviewers to begin lavishing praise upon Bottomless Belly Button. Before Dash Shaw’s 700-odd page tome was released, back in June, critics and artists alike were already heralding it as the graphic novel of the year, the subsequent six months be damned.

Even at that length, the book is deceptively simple, thanks in a large degree to what Shaw refers to as a “dumb line,” as he quietly discusses his art in an bench-lined alcove downstairs from the chat of Bethesda’s Small Press Expo.

It’s a surprisingly frank assessment of his own work, but like book it describes, the comment is far more complex than it initially lets on. Shaw is an artist who prides himself on putting a good deal of thought into even the dumbest of lines, constructing an image and subsequent book that can read and enjoyed in no time flat, but require repeat visitations to be fully understood, which, of course, assumes—perhaps falsely—that they can ever be understood fully.

Halfway through October, the book still seems a likely candidate for a good many year end lists, and Shaw, for his part, while still happy to discuss the intricacies of the book, has long since moved on to his next masterwork.

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