Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

November 3, 2014

Lost CR Sunday Interview Snippet With Renee French

imageI ran across this chunk of interview with Renee French the other day on my site and could not figure out how something like this could have been separated from our SPX-weekend interview. Then I realized it was from earlier in the year when we arranged to do an interview and I ended up pulling a Vinko Bogataj and the whole thing was abandoned while I stared at the walls for three months, barely moving, humming the Sub-Mariner theme song to myself.

It's been an odd year.

This small chunk of chat seems good to go, though, so I'll present the snippet here to drive some attention to the book French was promoting at the time, Hagelbarger And That Nightmare Goat. That's a really good book in the middle of a strong run of such books for French. I think she's an admirable artist in a lot of ways, and one of them is that she's very prolific. I only hope that we're not so fixated on public personality and distracted by the sheer volume of everything that is coming out that we don't appreciate that kind of accomplishment.

So anyway, if you see it, maybe buy Hagelbarger. I liked it a lot.


TOM SPURGEON: I'm sort of fascinated by the way cartoonists that have been around while work as they settle into a productive period. I have no idea how you work? How much time do you work on comics, how do you orient yourself to that work? Is it different now than it used to be?

RENEE FRENCH: My process has changed over time for sure. I used to start with a story written out longhand, and then marked up, for the panels, thumbnailed from that, then a dummy book, then finally I'd go to finished artwork sticking to the thumbnails, maybe making a few tweaks within each panel. Then a final edit with my editors.

Now, it's kind of sideways. I start drawing a world, making drawings of the different sets within that world, and then, based on sketches, I draw the characters that will live in that world, and then after a lot of finished drawings of the environment and the characters I write the story out longhand. So it's sort of backwards. I still do a dummy book to get the feel for the pacing and where the page turns are.

As for how much time, I mean, I draw more than I do anything else. That doesn't answer the question though does it? Like, all the time. But I don't start until 3pm.

SPURGEON: I know that I see some of your stuff on-line in progress. You know, you have the largest Internet presence of anyone I know that seems completely disinterested in that avenue for self-promotion. Do you spend a lot of time on-line? How do you find it useful?

FRENCH: In 2008 I finally started a blog as a place to post a drawing a day, every day, without skipping a day for a year, as a challenge. It ended up being three years, every day, and it was so valuable to my way of working and organizing my thoughts, and having a place to mark time with images. After three years I let the everyday thing slide, but still posted and still do post as frequently as I can on there. And that habit extended over time to other platforms. I mean, when I make a drawing, I post it. It's a ritual.

imageSPURGEON: Do you think in terms of self-promotion? You have a very distinctive style, you're personable... how do you feel about that part of making art?

FRENCH: I don't think about it as self promotion so much. I think I've always sucked at self promotion and felt that I let down my publishers when it came to promoting my projects enough. Now I'll post my drawings on twitter when I have a new one, and will announce when I have a new installment of my webcomic, but I feel self conscious about retweeting a positive review or a compliment from someone I admire, so I hardly ever do that. I see Neil Gaiman and other people doing it all the time and think, if Gaiman is doing it... but I get cold feet about it. I promote events I'm doing or books I have coming out, but not enough I think.

It's my least favorite part of making art. I can't think of it as part of making art.

SPURGEON: I know these are impossibly broad, but I have one more in this group. Is it still enjoyable for you to do comics, or is it enjoyable right now? Are there different aspects of making the work that you get a particular satisfaction from accomplishing?

FRENCH: Yes. I do go back and forth about comics vs stand-alone images, though, like the portraits I've been working on lately, but I always come back to telling stories because I love figuring out the puzzle of making them. I love the first seed of an idea, I love walking around with the story in my head, etc., but my favorite bit is still the drawing. It's the most relaxing, most therapeutic thing there is to do. And the older I get the more I love the process, and I've always loved the process. Once the process is over I kind of move on to the next thing. I start doing drawings for the next project right away. Then when the book comes out, it's this artifact that came from the process. But having that artifact is not the best part of it for me. The best part is the work of it. The writing and thumbnailing and drawing day to day. If I didn't love the hell out of the process I wouldn't be doing it anymore.

SPURGEON: At one point I know you were picking publishers according to art direction, or who could make you a nice book -- that's what you told me anyway. Is that different now? How did you end up wanting to work with Rina?

FRENCH: It's different for every book. This book, Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat, is a nice small book and I wanted a small, intimate publisher. Rina and I are friends and we both wanted to work on a book together, so her new company Yam Books was a good fit. Plus, I love that Rina's publishing philosophy has a lot in common with Dylan Williams' philosophy at Sparkplug. It's been great working with her on this project. She's one of my favorite people and man, she's got a killer sense of humor and you so need one of those to run an alternative comics publishing company.



posted 10:15 pm PST | Permalink

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