Do you keep a sketchbook? What do you fill it up with?
I do keep a Moleskine sketchbook, which is filled with all sorts of things. Often when I start imagining a new project, I’ll sketch out a few pages of ideas to visually map out some of my thoughts. Sometimes it’s little life-drawing sketches from when I’m sitting somewhere eating lunch. There are some Sailor Moon drawings, workshop notes, weird plans and so on.
I recently got a stack of gridded notepads, which I’ve been really enjoying drawing into. Doodling little schematics and small comic strips. It’s really nice for planning things out as well. Something new that’s pretty fun.
Do you have a sweet studio setup or do you draw on the kitchen table?
I’ve got a little study that I share with my wife Elizabeth Marruffo and our son. We each have a work space and our projects set up. So often we’re in there all working away on our little things. Liz is an amazing painter and creates gorgeous soft scultpures, our son does a lot of drawing.
I’m pretty happy to work wherever, I’m not too concerned about having the ‘ideal’ workspace that needs to tick off a list of criteria before I can make things. As long as I can sit somewhere, I’m good.
Tell me about your favourite pen. Or brush. Or pencil.
My favorite tools keep changing, but currently I’m really into the Sakura Pigma Micron PN. I used to always use their felt tip pens because they’re really nice and I’d often watercolour over the top of them, so their watertight ink was perfect. They would never last very long though. After a day or so of steady use I’d often destroy one.
The Micron PN has the same ink, but the tip is a durable plastic, so it lasts a lot longer. It’s equivalent in thickness to the 05 felt tip, which is what I was using before.
I used to be obsessed with the Blackwing Palomino Pearl, which is a really gorgeous pencil and always feels super luxurious to draw with. It’s ridiculous, but true! Recently, I picked up a Mars Lumograph 6B by accident that was in one of my drawers and have been loving drawing with it. The dark and soft lead is fun to play with, is silky smooth and dramatic.
I usually steal my brushes from Liz, so whatever she’s done with is what I’ll use.
What’s a good comic/book you’ve read recently?
I just finished re-reading Domu: The Dreams of Children (also titled Domu: A Child’s Dream) by Katsuhiro Otomo. It’s one of the books that first got me into comics as a kid.
When I was in late primary school, my local library actually had a pretty amazing graphic novel collection. I was constantly getting out books from there that really weren’t suitable for me at the time, but the librarians and my parents didn’t know. I read all of the Sandman series in primary school and other Vertigo book. Lots of really weird manga series and so on.
Domu was one that really showed me how the supernatural and the suburban can intersect. How childhoods can be filled with horror. About how cinematic comics can be in their scope and aesthetics (while still being uniquely ‘comics’).
Recently, someone I know was giving away a huge stack of comics. Domu was one of them, it was an ex-library copy as well. It was kind of magical to hold the beaten up old copy. Was it the same one that I’d read twenty years ago? Had it found it’s way back to me after all these years? I like to think so.
Anyway, reading it again was a pretty special experience. It’s still as good as I remembered. There’s still so much to learn from it.
You run a kids art school, what’s that like?
Yeah, I run milktooth with Liz. It’s currently in it’s third year, which is really cool. I teach comics making and Liz teaches painting and sculpture.
There are basically two courses I run, one of them is Comics Mentoring, which is generally for the older kids. They have a lot of fundamental skills already down and are able to identify a project they’d like to work on over the term. So I help them with that. Identifying what materials they’re going to use, what their story is going to be, how to structure it, troubleshooting storytelling or illustration challenges and so on. Then at the end, they have a mini-comic that we publish for them.
I usually go through and just give their work a gentle polish, neatening up the panel borders and tidying up the lettering. Doing some minor graphic design on their covers and printing it on nice paper. Just letting their work sing.
The other course I run is Comics Quest, which is more like Dungeons and Dragons meets comics. Where I run an ‘adventure’ for the group to go on. Each week, the group explores something new in the story, we do a fun activity that teaches them a new technical skill and then they finish up the session by drawing out what happened in a journal comic from the point of view of their character.
There’s always something surprising happening in the classes and it’s such a privilege to get to see these kids make their work. I learn a lot about comics making from having to explain it as well, so I’m always discovering new things because of them.
Do you have any plans for the comic you’re going to make?
I’m going to make a Picasso burn comic. The guy was such a jerk and is directly responsible for a lot of toxic practices that still persist in the contemporary art world. So yeah, it’s about him, but it’s also about how jerky and corrupt and unethical the art world can be.
I’ve been playing around with some different aesthetics and processes to figure out how I’m going to draw it. I’m really interested in doing it as a two colour riso print, or maybe just a black and white book with one spot colour. Still gotta play around.
It’s going to be a blast.