Thursday, November 17, 2016

chin yew needs your help...

Chin Yew is probably one of the most persistent bugger I know. I first got to know the Malaysian comic artist when he sent in a story for Liquid City Vol 2 (Image Comics, 2010), an anthology of Southeast Asian comics I co-edited with Sonny Liew. Chin Yew is heavily influenced by the Drawn & Quarterly gang like Joe Matt, Seth and Chester Brown. The story he did, The Box, is a little existentialist tale about a man trying to get rid of his porn addiction. (but one never gets rid of one’s porn collection as Joe Matt has proven; you just rebuy all the old Playboy and Penthouse you have thrown away…)

I gave Chin Yew the feedback that porn addiction is too specific and not all would identify with it. I suggested for him to change it to addiction in general. He agreed and you can read the story for yourself in Liquid City Vol 2.

In the year that Liquid City Vol 2 came out, Harvey Pekar passed away. Both Chin Yew and I were big fans and we readily worked on a comic story together to pay tribute to the man.

http://www.ideaship.com/CAA/uncleJAM/harveyPekar.pdf


Apparently, Joyce Brabner, Pekar’s widow, has a copy of the book.

So I am familiar with Chin Yew’s work, having edited his comics and worked with him. He went to Europe to work for a few years and we lost touch. But we got reconnected again when he returned to Malaysia a few years ago. Since then, he started a patreon page where for USD$1 a month, you get his daily diatribes. So get this, for just 0.033 cents a day, you get a read a single page comic filled with quirky insights and loser situations that you are glad Chin Yew is experiencing on your behalf. You get to live vicariously. For just 0.033 cents a day.

I’m doing this sales pitch not because Chin Yew is a friend but he is a very talented artist spilling his guts out on the page – his bad relationship with his father, his lack of a girlfriend problem, etc. It’s uninhibited and bashful.

Recently, Chin Yew had an exhibition and here are some photos from it.

https://www.facebook.com/events/143917136048062/






I’ve also included a sample of Chin Yew’s daily strip here. Hope he doesn’t mind. (too late bro!)



What I like about Chin Yew is his tenacity. As of today, it is Day 449 of his daily struggle.

Anyway, if this is something you like, do support support.

https://www.patreon.com/chinyew



Thursday, November 3, 2016

SWF 2016: Tita Larasati



In the previous blog entry, I featured Xin, a local artist whose comics are like diary entries. This particular form of comics is rather popular among indie female comic artists these days - personal and confessional in a short story. We have longer autobiographical stories like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006), Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know (2009), and Miriam Katin's We Are On Our Own: A Memoir (2006) and Letting It Go (2013). Miriam will be at the Singapore Writers Fest next weekend.



But in Asia, the short story form in telling personal stories has taken root. In Japan, we have the essay manga while in Indonesia, we have the graphic diaries. You also see similar examples in Thailand and Malaysia (the comics of Sarah Joan Mokhtar and the travelogues of Mimi Mashud, which is a slightly different genre). Of course, this form is not exclusive to female artists. In Singapore, we have the Ollie baby stories by dreamscape and the urban sketching trips of Favian Ee.

One of the pioneers of the graphic diaries from Indonesia will be coming for the SWF, Tita Larasati. Together with Sheila Rooswitha, Tita started doing graphic diaries in the 2000s. In 2008, Tita and Rony Amdani set up CAB to publish graphic diaries. Their first titles were Curhat Tita by Tita and Cerita si Lala by Sheila.

Both of their stories have appeared in the Liquid City volumes, the anthology of Southeast Asian comics published by Image Comics. Sheila did a family road trip story in Vol 2 while Tita wrote about her grandmother in Vol 3. Recently, Tita's mother passed away and she has been remembering about her ibu in short graphic diary entries which she posted on Facebook.



At SWF, Tita will be appearing on a panel with Miriam about Drawing To A Close, on graphic novelists wrestle with the concept of personal loss and trauma - how they depict painful memories, and how the process helps them seek closure.

Tita has come to Singapore several times for STGCC and other personal trips. But this will be the first time she will be speaking about her personal comics. Do check out her panel with Miriam.

https://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/nacswf/nacswf/author-speaker/Tita-Larasati.html

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Illustration Arts Fest / Singapore Writers Fest 2016: Interview with Xin



The Illustration Arts Fest at LaSalle may be over but the fest continues as part of the Singapore Writers Festival over this coming weekend. I’ve been interviewing the foreign guests, but this week I like to feature our homegrown talent, Weng Pixin, or better known as Xin.

I first encountered the work of the 32 year old artist about five years ago. She was then selling her own handmade toys from recycled materials in a shop, Doinky Doodles, which she opened in 2008 along Bali Lane (an earlier incarnation was Maki Squarepatch in 2006). She was also teaching part time at LaSalle on how to draw comics.

Xin is not a professional comic artist. But she has created a few mini comics, which she sold at her shop and bookshops like Books Actually. At that point in time, she has made about 8 mini comics and 3 poster comics. Her mini comics are priced at $10 and above, double the price of most other mini comics in Singapore.

Xin’s comics are reminiscent of the work of Harvey Pekar and Jeffrey Brown. She seeks to emulate the emotional and intellectual intensity of the former but is closer to the latter’s lovelorn sappiness. Her major comics are the two-parter, Please To Meet You and I’ve Lost An Ocean, which detailed the fallout of her breakup with her boyfriend in 2006.

Xin described these two works as diary-entries, and doing these comics was meant to be therapeutic for her. In the afterword, she said she was advised by family and friends to not be overly edited. Thus, Xin’s comics falls within the category of what Hillary Chute described as reimagining trauma, whereby artists return literally to events to re-view them.

The first book, Please To Meet You was a blow by blow account of the fallout. But the catharsis was incomplete. The second book, I’ve Lost An Ocean was more reflective. It took place immediately after the events of Please To Meet You – it showed how Xin picked herself up, recovered from the experience and reconciled with the breakup. She still described her boyfriend as kind and gentle even though she was dumped for no good reason.

In this email interview, Xin’s answers were thoughtful and provided insights into her artistic processes and practice. The desire to build a community through art is a constant refrain in her replies. Xin has since closed down Doinky Doodles at the end of 2013 and has started a new workspace, Studio Why Not.



What is your current art practice and what informs it?

My current art practice involves teaching-&-facilitating art workshops mostly for children, engaging in community-based art projects and designing-&-facilitating art experientials for groups of individuals with specific goals in mind (the goals are often directed by the organizations I am working with). In terms of my personal art-making processes, I find that there has been a gradual shift, from my initial interest to create semi-fictional pieces reflecting themes of loss, change and transformations, to my more current interest, which carries themes of acceptance, courage and working with vulnerability. I feel my interest in expressing my responses to universal states, such as happiness, shame, pain, harmony…etc, are what generally informs my art processes, practices and interests.

How would you describe yourself - an art maker of handmade objects, an art therapist or a comic artist?

Yes, I think all of them apply to me in big and small ways.

You graduated with a first class honours in Painting, Fine Arts from the LASALLE College of the Arts in 2004, and later returned to LASALLE to do a Masters in Art Therapy. What motivates you as an artist?

What motivated me is…probably my belief that art is not an extra special something in life, and that art is very much part of our life. It is not restricted to scheduled moments in the theatre, galleries…, it is also not restricted to books, paintings and many other structure that art exists in and within (though those mediums are just part of where art takes its form in). Art is a form of communication in the broadest sense, be it in a verbal or nonverbal manner, or both. For me, seeing art in this way motivated me to do what I do, as an art-maker, art therapist and comic artist.



Can you share with us My Thread, My Word, your communal sewing project?

My Thread, My Word started because I found myself wanting to sew, but I was not motivated to do it on my own anymore (I did solo-sewing for close to 7 years!) I had completed my studies in art therapy and began work in a private psychotherapy clinic. Soon the idea of a communal sewing project came to mind. I wanted to…somehow (during my off days from work) be able to do something that brings people together through the art process that I enjoy very much, while also giving me the opportunity to sew. It is also connected to my belief that art is for everyone, that it is not about being in some hip venue making art (though I don’t mind that happening), but really- about the gathering of people in a comfortable space to make and sew some art together.

When and why did you start doing comics?

I started making comics sometime in 2006. The reason was pretty much to make sense of a heartbreak that was experienced as a very sudden and surprising thing, so naturally- that made it rather hard to sort of, digest, what just happened. I tried writing it out, like journal-entries really. Then when I found I could not put to words what was going on, I found myself drawing, to accompany my journal. As it looked like a huge mess, I thought to arrange them in boxes, which also helped provide a sequence or flow to how the words and pictures work together to tell my story. Prior to that, I had not read a single graphic novel in my life (I grew up more with cartoons and short-formed comics like Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes or Matt Groening’s Life in Hell). When I completed my comic, I knew I was not the only one who ever went through a heartbreak from breakups, and so decided to print it into a comic zine to sell at art markets. It was only then, where people started sharing information to me about graphic novelists, in a “hey, your work reminds me of so and so”, where I begin to check out graphic novels.

Who/what are your influences for art in general and specifically for comics?

My influences in art came from…as a teen, mainly Van Gogh and Picasso. Van Gogh for his passion and honesty (though looking back, I think he needed a lot more help than just making art), and Picasso for his playfulness and daringness. As an art student, I found myself more influenced by people I get to meet close-up (not through art books), because I feel seeing the artworks themselves made a much bigger impact on me. For me, as an art student- I was under the tutelage of Ye Shufang and Kelvin Tan during my studies. While Shufang encouraged me to check out works by overseas artists through books, which was wonderful, Kelvin recommended that I check out a senior of mine, Sia Joo Hiang, who was painting a few doors from where I was situated. I was pretty lucky to be able to check out her art space back when LASALLE College of the arts was situated at Goodman Road. Joo Hiang’s works made a big impact on me, because she painted the way, I feel, Marlene Dumas painted. I don’t mean stylistically, but in terms of energy: raw, unfiltered, bold…in a way that it stirs me emotionally. Looking back, I realized this energy of ‘stirring’ me was likely from their courage to be themselves and speak their minds. As an art student, this was refreshing because she was showing me that we can use art beyond representing something in our immediate surroundings. Joo Hiang’s art taught me how we can communicate ourselves in an, as unafraid a manner as possible. In my comics, I tried to do that as much as possible.

What is your process like for your comics? Do you lay out your pages first by doing thumbnails or is it more free flowing - you just draw one panels after another? Do get someone to edit your work?

The process for my comics has been a bit of a mixed bag. In some stories I wish to tell, I find it better to plan it out a bit, and in some others, I find free flowing works much better. Overall, I avoid too much planning such as sketching in detail where everything is to be within a panel or as a whole comic. This is due to the fact that I am sort of a messy art-maker in my paintings and drawings. In my sewing, I rarely plan at all. So I suppose I don’t quite work well with too much structure or certainty put into place.

You have described Please To Meet You and I've Lost An Ocean as diary-entries. Are they meant to be therapeutic?

They were meant to…help me understand what was going on inside my head. For some reasons, the heartbreak (then) hit me pretty hard and I was not able to string words together to make sense of my thoughts. I wanted to gather my thoughts so they could help me understand what is going on in order to know what I can do next. And in turns out- the pictures have to come in, to help me out.



What functions do comics serve for the individual (for the artist and for the reader) and for society?

I believe there is research stating that we survive as a human species by communicating and passing along our stories, our lived experiences, universal desires and wishes…and so on. In essence, it makes us feel less alone in our experiences and dilemmas. And comics is just one such way for stories to be created, passed along, for people (readers) to feel less alone and more connected to the community. Personally, I felt relieved when I found Gabrielle Bell’s works, because she captured a sense of mundaneness which I could relate to very much. I felt ‘less alone’ in experiencing my personal bouts of melancholia, and in turn- that helped relieved anxiety of ‘being the only one feeling or thinking this and that’.

Why do you think most Singapore comics today are dealing with more about personal stories and issues?

I believe we inherently, not only as Singaporeans, but just as people, want to belong. And a way to do that is to express ourselves, connect, and engage with others. Considering from a local context…there may be some reasons such as: (1) the availability of the internet, where you are exposed to a greater spectrum of others’ lives, from the wonky to the mundane, to the really interesting; (2) This may also be connected to the newer government’s approach where it is less authoritative than what my parents’ generation was used to. There is an expanded area for conversations, opinions and thoughts to be shared (more so compared to the past). With that, you have people feeling more comfortable expressing themselves than before; or (3) art schools and art colleges’ teaching approach, where the encouragement of one’s ideas (as a ground for art to take form) trumps the focus on honing techniques.

What was the last comic you produced and any new ones coming out soon?

The last comic produced was probably in 2015, where I completed a series of short-form comics, working along the themes of conversations with the subconscious (if subconscious manifested as a human being). A new one I am working on is a short blurb for Chicks on Comics project, a Buenos Aires-based comics collective, with a focus in supporting and encouraging women comic artists.




Comics as art or art as comics - what do you think?


I like to think it is comics as art as life.

You are taking part in the SWF panel on Illustrating the Female Body. Is illustration a mode for feminist discourse? And what is the role of the woman artist in contemporary times?

Yes, illustration is certainly a mode for feminist discourse. Art in all forms is a potential mode for feminist discourse, so long as it is communication that does not promote hate and divisiveness. Illustration in particular is powerful because of its usage in print media and online media. Considered from a local context, a woman artist can further utilise her capacity by using her art as a form of education and support for the younger generation, especially the girls. For example, I believe illustrations (or any other form of art…) that seek to capture a fuller spectrum of women’s lives, experiences and dreams, can be a great base to contribute to the feminist discourse. If an artist’s illustrations can help inspire a girl to feel less alone, help her think and dream big, I believe that makes illustration a wonderful modality for amazing things to take form.


After the interview, I thought of an additional question for Xin, whether she feels alone and isolated as a woman and as an artist? Maybe I’ll ask that at the SWF panel she is appearing at:

https://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/nacswf/nacswf/author-speaker/Weng-PiXin-.html

Check out her activities here:

https://pixmadeobjects.com

And you can find the rest of the IAF panels at SWF here:

http://illustrationartsfest.org


Friday, October 21, 2016

Illustration Arts Fest / Singapore Writers Fest 2016 - A short interview with Mattias Adolfsson



Famed Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson is coming to town for the Illustration Arts Fest at La Salle at the end this month. Something his fans in Singapore are looking forward to. And he is one of the most relaxed and chilled guys you will get to meet too. He left the games industry some years ago and has not looked back since.

His appearance at the Illustration Arts Fest:
http://illustrationartsfest.org/

And at the Singapore Writers Fest:
https://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/nacswf/nacswf/author-speaker/Mattias-Adolfsson-.html


How burnt out were you when you decided to quit your day job and just go into illustration full time?


Not that much. It was just a growing feeling that I wanted to quit the game industry; the plan was to work a couple of years more as my side business grew on the side. My body told me it was high time, but I guess the brain did not agree fully with the decision.

Are surprised by the success and acclaim you have achieved overseas? For example, the adoration you have received from your fans in Taiwan..


Yes it`s a constant surprise for me but I am very happy that the things I draw are liked all over the world




Where do you get your ideas from?


I get them from my brain, but where my brain gets it from I have no idea.

What is with your fascination with robots, machines and steampunk?

It`s probably from my childhood I have always been fascinated by things I really can`t understand.

Is the future dystopic?

Probably yes, but I like to think positive with my drawings, nothing halters creativity than a depression.

Given the details in your illustrations, how big are your originals?


For most of the time I draw in scale 1 to 1, so if you see something in prints it`s probably its size

What do you expect to find in Singapore?

So many people have told me how wonderful it is, so I have really high expectations. One thing that I`m expecting is to sweat alot.



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Illustration Arts Fest 2016 - Interview with Richard McGuire



Most people in Singapore would not have heard of Richard McGuire or his groundbreaking story, Here, in RAW. Nor would they know that he was in the seminal NYC No Wave band, Liquid Liquid, in the early 80s. They were best known for their track, Cavern, which was covered by the Sugar Hill Records house band as the backing track for Melle Mel's old school rap classic White Lines (Don't Do It). You may have heard the Duran Duran version of White Lines.

That is why it tickled me to no end that McGuire is being invited to Singapore for the Illustration Arts Fest later this month through OIC's partnership with NoBrow. An odd choice but I am damn pleased that McGuire is coming, someone so left field which is what we need. And if you need more convincing, the expanded Here (300 pages!), originally published by Pantheon in 2014, won the Gold Prize for Best Album (French edition) at this year's Angouleme Comic Festival.

I emailed him some questions and here are his thoughtful replies.



Did you expect 'Here' to have such longevity? What is its 'staying power'?

When I made the first six page story, I could never have imagined that it would have had the impact that it did. It’s been twenty five years since the original was published and I’m still being asked about it. I think the story, or the concept of ‘the passage of time’, is something everyone can easily relate to.

What do you think is the legacy of 'Here?

I don’t know, that’s not for me to say. One thing I do know is that the non-linear way it works may be closer to ‘new media’ than to a traditional narrative. It’s very fluid, you can open the book at any point and jump in, it doesn’t really matter where you enter or exit. This kind of narrative is more ‘experiential’ than a traditional narrative story arc.



What made you want to do 'Here' the graphic novel?

I had the idea to make it into a book about ten years after the first strip was published. Then it took another fifteen years before the book was realized. Not that I was working on it all that time, I was involved with other projects, directing animated films, designing toys, etc. I always thought the concept was worth going deeper into, something deeper emotionally and also with history. In theory the concept is infinitely expandable, it would be as deep as I was willing to go. I chose a three hundred pages because that felt substantial. I also decided to use an actual location and I chose my family home, so then it became more personal. I did a year of research on that area before I made any serious attempt at the artwork. It needed that foundation before I could start to play around with it. Right before I started to seriously focus on the project I faced some family tragedies. My mother, my sister, and my father all passed away, all within a short time. My parents had been living in the house where I grew up for fifty years. The process of going through everything in the house in order to sell it brought back many memories, it helped as part of the grieving process, but also became part of the research. I used a lot of family photos as reference. The experience set the tone of the book, the idea that life is short, and to appreciate the moments we have. My family is at the center but the scope of time is so vast, I show the formation of the planet and deep into the future. In context our lives are all just tiny blips in time, it can be humbling.

To me, the original 'Here' taps on the synchronic strength of the comic medium - we see six panels (and more) in a single page at one glance and then we start reading the individual panels in 'order'. I find that I could 'read' the panels across, and up-down to come up with different stories and flow. (much like Steranko's Frogs)

Just now I looked up ‘Steranko's Frogs’, it’s fascinating!

Yes, In the original strip there were six panels per page, each with the complete view of the room, and of course including many smaller panels. The reader can scan the information, and make connections much faster in this format. It was also more of a formal exercise. It’s not a real location, I wanted it to be a sort of ‘any-place’ so the reader could feel that it could be their own home. Even the choice of style was very generic, on purpose, it was to read very ‘deadpan’, very clearly, like an instruction manual. With the non-style I felt more could be projected onto it by the reader.

The graphic novel, on the other hand, is more diachronic in nature given the format of the book and its narrative flow (although we do have panels within the panels). What do you think is gained and / or lost when Here becomes a graphic novel?

I don’t prefer one over the other, they both have their strengths. The room in the book is a larger image and fills a two page spread. It feels satisfying that the corner of the room fit’s into the gutter of the book. When you open the book you physically enter the space, it gives it more of a reason to exist in this format.

One thing I was very proud of was that when I decided to do the book, I was equally excited about what I could do with the eBook version. I wanted to take advantage of what the electronic version of the book could do to push the non-linear narrative. I was lucky to meet a developer and together we created a version that could be read faithfully as the book, or go into a ‘random‘ mode, which is kind of the ‘re-mix’ version. The program shuffles all the panels and backgrounds, making new combinations. I was able to incorporate animation too, here and there as a surprise something small will move in ‘real time’. Again I don’t prefer one over the other, they each use the strengths of their mediums, and expand the concept.



Why didn't you do more comics after the original 'Here'?

I made a few but my interests led me to different areas. I made a few books for children. I designed some toys. I was always interested in getting involved with animation, that led to eventually directing for TV and cinema. Having returned to comics I see the possibilities and the advantages very clearly. You can do things in comics you can’t in other mediums. The form allows for a flexibility with narratives, it can be as fluid an experience as reading a map, there are many possibilities. Film in contrast is very fixed and unrolls in one direction always. I’m interested in doing more experimental book projects, film and music too.



You were in Liquid Liquid and you contributed to RAW in the 1980s. Can you share with us those heady days of the 80s working / living in New York City?

We could do an entire interview on this subject. First of all It was a time when you could survive by paying very little rent, that made a lot of things possible. Being in a band we were invited to play clubs which allowed us to experience a lot of different scenes. Different cultures (black, hispanic, gay) were influencing each other in a very fluid way, and music was at the center of that. Graffiti was another cultural connection. Two people I was very fortunate to meet and become friendly with were both Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. I was very interested in making street art in those days, I would paste up drawings in the streets while I pasted up posters for the band, that work and the designs I made for our record sleeves was the first public work I made. I met Art Spiegelman and all the RAW artists in the late 80’s. Having already had a little taste of the booming art scene, meeting these cartoonists felt to me like what I imagine meeting artists in Paris in the 20’s must have been like. They were making work because they had no choice to do anything else, it had nothing to do with money. There was zero money to be made in comics at that time, there were no ComicCons, no blockbuster films based on comics, no graphic novels before MAUS. RAW artists were a passionate, international group, making exciting work and getting it out to the public the best way they could. It was thrilling to have the first comic I ever made published in it’s pages.

What's next?

I have a few projects cooking. Possibly a virtual reality version of HERE. So far it’s just talk, but with some very interesting possibilities. I also signed an option contract to turn HERE into a TV series, which would be thrilling, but again it’s only talk until it happens. I have a new book coming out next month, it’s a collection of drawings I’ve made over the years for the New Yorker magazine. I am just starting to develop the next bigger project, it will incorporate multi-media. It’s both simple and complicated, it’s ambitious, and it scares me, so I know I’m pushing myself.

What do you expect to find in Singapore?

I was first here very very briefly in 1990, on the way to Indonesia to have my first toy manufactured. I’m looking forward to it, I don’t know what to expect!

Details of McGuire's talk at the Illustration Arts Fest are here:

http://illustrationartsfest.org


Sunday, October 16, 2016

SWF 2016 - interview with Chihoi



I can’t remember when I first came across Chihoi’s work but I do remember being blown away by it. One does not so much ‘read’ Chihoi’s comics but one encounters and experiences it in a visceral manner, especially seeing his originals at an exhibition at the Hong Kong Art Centre many years ago.

To me, he is like the third generation of alternative comic artists in HK (he would elaborate on that point in the answers below). But what really differentiates him is the experimental nature of his work, in his play with the form and substance of the comic medium.

I am tempted to say this makes his work closer to literature, but that would privilege the literariness of comics over its other aspects. To me, comics is more than that and it can be anything if we keep pushing the medium. Chihoi is one of these people pushing the frontier of what comics can do. And when I thought about inviting a comic artist from Asia for this year’s SWF, his name comes to mind.



From SWF website:

Chihoi was born in Hong Kong in 1977. He has loved drawing since childhood and started to publish comics and illustrations when he was bored by his food and nutritional studies in university. His comics have appeared in Hong Kong newspapers and international anthologies. Major publications include the collaborative projects Hijacking - Comic Hong Kong Literature, The Train and a solo work, Still Life. His comics have been translated into Italian, French, English and Finnish. His website is www.chihoi.net

Here’s a short interview with him via email ahead of his visit:

Are you doing comics or are you doing art?

Both. There're stories in my mind that I wanna draw in the form of comics. And there're images in my mind that I wanna express as a piece of artwork which I cannot express otherwise.

You didn't grow up reading comics. Is that a good or bad thing for your work?

Good in a way that I didn't have any presumption of what a comic book should look like. I just had something in my mind and tried to find my way to tell it.

In my secondary school days, I used to do some pastel drawings as a hobby. It's like a diary or dialogue to myself. I enjoyed the private time of making art without thinking of publishing them. This private time is important to any artist.

I had not discovered the form of comics until later in university time when I discovered Lai Tat Tat Wing's experimental works.

I see a linage of independent /alternative comic artists from Li Chi Tak to Lai Tat Tat Wing to you. Would this be accurate?

You can say so. Li Chi Tak had been a famous icon from 80s to mid-90s. Lai Tat Tat Wing had known Li's works for a long time until he started to publish comics in mid-90s. For my case, I started around 1996-97, soon after Lai's publications. Sometimes Lai says to me like, "We're actually the same generation, right? I'm not that old!" Haha!

Your preference is for the use of pencil to create very dense and heavy shading. Why did you choose this particular style / way of working?

On one hand I got inspired by some European comics artists like Anke Feuchtenberger, Amanda Vahamaki, etc., their works of pencil and charcoal are just amazing.

On the other hand, in our book Hijacking - Comic Hong Kong Literature that I collaborated with Kongkee, we have tried many different techniques and media to adapt various writers' works. Pencil by then has become my favourite tool. The force and emotion from my heart extend directly to the hand and to the pencil. The smudges create sense of depth, and some kind of melancholic atmosphere that ink cannot do.



I visited Helsinki and Stockholm recently and saw that you were there too for their comic festivals. Do the audience in Europe read your comics differently from the readers in HK?

I guess much the same. In both HK and Europe, they publish my books normally in small print run, like 500 to 1000, sometimes 2000. I guess I'm only known to small circle of people.

But in Europe there're more small publishers who have the sensitivity and guts to discover good artists and publish more edgy works.

In HK, the main problem is the expensive rent that makes small publishers and small bookshops difficult to survive.

How did Fa Fa World come about? I see traces of Lo Koon Chiu's 小圓圓 and also EO Plauen's Father and Son... did you read these comic strips?

When I was little, I didn't read much of Lo Koon Chiu's works except when I visited Grandpa. In Grandpa's place I used to read Wong Sze Ma's 牛仔. In 2008 when the newspaper asked me to do a column, I was re-reading a bunch of 牛仔 and discovered a long lost world. So I created Fa Fa World, and drew simple daily life stories between a father and a daughter.



What is the future for HK comics?

I hope there're more editors to do some archival publications, like re-edition of old comics from 1950s-70s. Or someone who can re-edit those comic columns scattered around so many newspapers of the time.

What is the future for HK?

I'm quite pessimistic, in a way that I'm afraid I'll be blamed for being pessimistic.

Can one still be an independent and alternative artist in HK?

Yes of course, among different arts, comics is the cheapest way to begin.



You can find details of Chihoi’s panels at SWF here:

https://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/nacswf/nacswf/author-speaker/Chihoi----.html

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Illustration Arts Fest 2016 - Interview with Isabel Greenberg



OIC is organizing the inaugural Illustration Arts Fest at LaSalle College of the Arts at the end of this month and one of the guests they have invited is the talented Isabel Greenberg. She is one of the most refreshing young comic creators to come out of the UK. Recently she spoke about the future of the graphic novel at the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre, London.

From her website:

Isabel Greenberg is a London based illustrator and writer. Her first graphic novel 'The Encyclopedia of Early Earth' was publushed in 2013 by Jonathan Cape in the UK, Random House in Canada and Little Brown in the US. It has since been translated into French, Spanish, Korean and Chinese.

It was nominated for two Eisner awards, won the Best Book catagory at the British comic awards, was one of NPR's 100 books of the year, was the Guradian's graphic novel pick of the month and was in the New York Times Graphic Books best seller list.

She studied illustration at the University of Brighton and since graduating has worked for a variety of clients including The Guardian, Nobrow Press, The National Trust, Seven Stories Press, Solipsistic Pop, First Second and The New York Times. In 2011 she won the Observer Jonathan Cape Graphic short story prize. She exhibited work in the Memory Palace exhibition at the V&A, and was a select at Pick Me Up 2014 at Somerset House.


Her second graphic novel, The One Hundred Nights of Hero, will be on sale at the Illustration Arts Fest.

Ahead of her visit, here’s a short interview with her conducted over email.



You entered The Observer / Cape / Comica Graphic Short Story Prize in 2009 and came in 2nd. You entered it again in 2011 and won, which led to the book deal. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth came out in 2013. How have your work and your life changed since then with all the attention and critical acclaim?

Well I get a lot more work which is very nice, and have more freedom to do the projects I like. At the time of making my first book, I had a part time job as a nanny, and after the book I was able to get enough work (and teach as well) so that I no longer had to. That’s the main way it has changed.

In 2014, I saw you many times at the various cons and small press events and I really admire your work ethics. Are you doing comics full time now?

Up until this year I was full time, doing graphic novels, some illustration commissions like children books and also teaching. But this year I have actually gone back to school, and am doing a masters in Animation!



Who are some of your influences? Tove Jansson? Ursula K. Le Guin?

Yes! I love both! Other artists and writers I like include Phillip Pullman, Leanne Sharpton, Russel Hoban, Alexis Deacon, David B, Marjane Satrapi and so many others!

How much preparation do you do for your world building? Do you have stacks and stacks of notes?

Yes, I write lots of stories. Some of them never make it into the final books, but it helps to make the world richer.

Tell us about the new book, The One Hundred Nights of Hero.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero is set in the same world as my first book, but is not a direct follow on. It is set around two main characters; Hero and Cherry, who are forced to tell a series of stories in order to save their lives. It’s a bit of an ode to the Scheherazade.



What do you look forward to in Singapore? What kind of food is on your must-eat list?

I don’t know what food is best to eat, I am hoping I will get to try lots of new things! I am not a fussy eater, so I like trying new things. I am also excited to see the Botanical Gardens.


Details of the Illustration Arts Fest and Isabel’s events are here:

http://illustrationartsfest.org