“Marbles was in many respects was the senior thesis in psychology that I never did as an undergrad.”
The great Seattle cartoonist Ellen Forney joins the show to talk about comics, civic art, being bipolar, and the challenges of maintaining! We get into her 2012 graphic memoir, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, finding a graphic representation of her depressive states, the evolution in her drawing style, the letter she stole from Michael Dougan, the process of going from comics panels to enormous murals for a light-rail station in Seattle, the influence of the Moosewood Cookbook, the importance of a psychology stats class she took in college, how she learned to teach comics, the moment when she felt she was using all her artistic tools, and why she needed Kaz to design her back-tattoo! Give it a listen! And go buy Marbles!
“Knowing statistics doesn’t prepare you for the experience of the person in front of you.”
About our Guest
Cartoonist Ellen Forney is the author of NYT bestseller Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir, and the 2012 “Genius Award” winner in Literature from Seattle’s The Stranger. She collaborated with Sherman Alexie on the National Book Award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, created the Eisner-nominated comic books I Love Led Zeppelin and Monkey Food: The Complete “I Was Seven in ’75” Collection, and has taught comics at Cornish College of the Arts since 2002. She grew up in Philadelphia and has lived in Seattle, Washington since 1989. Ellen swims and does yoga, and fixes things with rubber bands and paper clips.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Forney’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Promo photo of Ms. Forney by Jacob Peter Fennell. Back-at-her-desk photo of Ms. Forney by me. It’s on my instagram.
“I’m not a foodie, but I love other people’s obsessions about food. I love watching Kings of Pastry and seeing two men carefully bisecting a pastry and sharing it. They’ve got the most serious looks own their faces.”
Rising comics star — don’t blame me, that’s what Publishers Weekly just called her — Andrea Tsurumi joins the show to talk about her new collection, Why Would You Do That? (Hic & Hoc Publications). We get into her off-kilter sense of humor and why I love it, why she chose that title, the most sadistic children’s book ever written and why she adapted it, the comics industry’s saving grace (it’s too small to fail), staged photos during the Civil War, the challenge of teaching comics, her attempt at a work/art/life balance, the comics, cartoons and picture books that influenced/warped her, why she left New York, the truth about cakes vs. pies, and more! Give it a listen! And buy Why Would You Do That?!
“The problem with freelance illustration and comics is just that there’s not enough money, especially if you’re living in New York City. If you don’t have enough money, you don’t have enough time. And if you don’t have enough money or time, you have to make hard choices, and you’ll never have enough wiggle room to have a healthy balance.”
This episode was recorded at the School of Visual Arts, where Andrea studied and where she does some teaching nowadays (that’s her standing next to a print by Jim Rugg). Past guest Nathan Fox, chair of the MFA Visual Narrative Department at SVA, offered us a space to record. SVA’s low-residency MFA Visual Narrative Program includes two years online and three summers in NYC. The program focuses on the growing need for original content creators in advertising, video games, picture books, graphic novels, film, comic arts, illustration and animation, and it prepares artists and authors to become innovators in the ever-evolving art of visual storytelling. Now go listen to the show!
“You know when you’re growing up and you have these moments of dramatic realization of the obvious? That’s what the growing up is.”
About our Guest
Andrea Tsurumi is an illustrator and cartoonist who likes history, absurdity, dogs and monsters (in no particular order). Her first book, Why Would You Do That? is out now from Hic & Hoc. A lifelong book nerd, she received an English BA from Harvard and an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts. She now lives in Philadelphia and likes her ice cream angry.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the School of Visual Arts on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Tsurumi by me, portrait of her drawing by … someone else.
“I’m not looking for artists to actually be able to draw everything perfectly and accurately, but I want them to understand how the body works enough so that within the context of their own style they can create a set of rules that will work for them.”
If I was still doling out titles for each episode, I’d call this one The Anatomy Lesson. Kriota Willberg joins the show to talk about her work teaching anatomy, pathology, drawing, and massage, and her focus on keeping cartoonists from suffering work-related injuries (or art-related injuries, I suppose) through her minicomics and exercise programs. The conversation veers into the challenges of delivering pathology gags, making needlepoint of medical images, becoming a dancer and becoming an ex-dancer, learning not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, growing up nerd in central Washington, and why it’s not good to tell jokes when you’re in the middle of surgery (okay, that last bit is one of my anecdotes). Give it a listen!
“People don’t realize they need to pay attention to their bodies when they’re drawing, until they have an injury.”
BONUS: Science fiction writer/critic Paul Di Filippo comes in to talk about The Black Mill: Issue Zero Kickstarter that he just launched with Orion Zangara and Derek L. Chase. It finishes March 8, 2016, so check it out and help launch an innovative, gorgeous SF graphic novel!
Also, if you want to find out who Kriota’s reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of February, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who Kriota’s reading lately and why.
About our Guest
Through graphic narratives, writing, performance, and needlework, Kriota Willberg focuses on the intersection between body sciences and creative practice. In addition to body/science narratives, she makes self-care comics for artists ((NO) PAIN!, and First Aid for Drawing Injuries) and a minicomic series of little educational value, called Pathology Laffs. One of her blogs, thecinematologist.blogspot.com examines medical themes through the lens of Hollywood films. Willberg keeps her past as a dancer/choreographer alive by teaching anatomy in the dance department at Marymount Manhattan College. She is also a massage therapist working in the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her projects and opinions do not reflect the views of MSKCC. Kriota is working on a project called Pathographics, a soon-to-be-posting blog exploring the body, medicine, and history, through comics, and other visual narratives. This project is a collaboration between Cathy Leamy, Andrea Tsurumi, and Kriota.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Willberg’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Willberg by me.
“My impulse is to break the windows of Starbucks, but I’d get arrested if I did that, so I make comics about people breaking the windows of Starbucks.”
Cartoonist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship winner Ben Katchor joins us for the first live episode of The Virtual Memories Show (in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium). Ben & host Gil Roth talk in front of — and take questions from — an audience of 50 or so about Ben’s career in cartooning, including his new book, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories (Pantheon), which collects his monthly comic page from Metropolis magazine. During the episode, Ben even performs several of his comics. If you’d like to see the comics themselves, you can download Manumission Houses and Lossless Things.
“People ask about influences and where I get my ideas. A lot of people looked at all the stuff I looked at, and they’re doing something else. It’s not like there’s an equation, like you read Saul Bellow and you look at Poussin, and then you make my comics. It’s not an equation. It’s brute force.”
The conversation and Q&A also cover his work process (with a surprising revelation about how he draws!), how book publishing lost its identity, what he learned from working in other art forms (like musical theater), how he teaches cartooning, the allure of new technologies, his one critical audience demographic, the joy of imperfections, whether he has an ideal era for New York, what happened to his History of the Dairy Restaurant book, how fear of shame keeps him productive, how Google can help when you need to draw a Russian prostitute, what he picked up from the Yiddish humor strips he read as a child, which one book the Library of America should withdraw, and how to pronounce “Knipl”! He didn’t win a “Genius” grant for nothing!
“It’s a golden age of art comics. It didn’t exist when I started. Most bookstores wouldn’t carry a comic, or even something that looked like a comic, back then. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young cartoonist now, when these things are taken seriously and there’s an audience for them.”
About our Guest
Ben Katchor’s picture-stories appear in Metropolis magazine. His most recent collection of monthly strips, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, was published in March 2013 by Pantheon Books. Up From the Stacks, his most recent music-theater collaboration with Mark Mulcahy, was commissioned in 2011 by the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and Lincoln Center and was performed at both venues. He is an Associate Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City. For more information, visit www.katchor.com.
Credits: This episode’s music is Big City Blues by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. The conversation was recorded in the Bark Room at The New School in NYC on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. Mr. Katchor’s readings and some of the questions from the audience were recorded on a second Zoom H4n. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by Amy Roth.