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Persephone Pioneers

Persephone Pioneers: Anne Emond

Anne Emond is a writer, illustrator, comic artist, and cat lady lover extraordinaire. Her work runs from the personal to the fantastical, and always seems to capture that funny place in between the positive and the melancholy that comes with almost any territory. Anne is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and lives in Brooklyn where she creates her fantastic worlds, as well as a few other goods. So now if you will, Persephone Magazine, please welcome Anne Emond!

Persephone Magazine: How did you get started making comics, as well as illustration? Has it always been something you knew you wanted to do? What changed the game for you in doing it professionally?

Anne Emond: Although all through my childhood I was obsessed with illustrated books and cartoons, I never considered it a serious vocation for myself and I always assumed I was going to be a writer. But I think I gravitated towards illustration and comics because I was a fairly solitary kid and art designed for books is meant to be held in your hands, in your lap, and viewed in private, intimately and alone. I loved H.J. Ford’s Fairy Book illustrations and I collected New Yorker 1950s cartoon books at flea markets and made photocopied binders of my favorites. I used to draw copies of Nicole Hollander and Lynda Barry and Matt Groening cartoons (I wasn’t allowed to watch TV so I didn’t know anything about The Simpsons, but I had all of his Life in Hell books). I think about this a lot now, I’m sure other people have had this realization, I didn’t recognize that all those hours I spent poring over books of comics at the library and in my room, photocopying and doodling and all of that, it seemed like I was wasting time, but I was actually giving myself a comics and illustration education. It wasn’t until I graduated from college (I was an art history major) and took a few continuing ed classes on the graphic novel that I finally began seriously drawing my own comics. And then I ended up going for an MFA in illustration, which was the best decision I ever made because it taught me that maybe I could do this for a living one day.

PM: Your work seems mostly autobiographical, spanning from the mundane to
the heartbreaking to the hilarious. Do you usually make material based on your own life experiences? If so, what are the benefits? The fallbacks?

AE: Most of my subject matter does come from my day-to-day musings or observations. An obvious benefit of basing comics on real life experiences is that there is a constant flow of material. Childhood in particular is always a gold mine, and I haven’t even begun scratching the surface there. A common response to my comics, which I do appreciate, is that people say they relate to them or see themselves in the situations I draw, but I would like to start pushing that in the future. The kind of work I really admire is comics or stories that a reader thinks she can’t relate to because the situations being presented are so unseemly or distasteful, but then she realizes with a sinking sense of horror that she actually deeply relates.

In terms of drawbacks, I have to say that I am actually an extremely private person, and there are things I think would be very funny to draw, but I’m not sure I want strangers knowing about them, or family members reading about them. Sometimes I am astounded by the eagerness with which cartoonists share their embarrassing personal secrets. I think a lot of people have much thicker skin than I do.

I also would love to have the confidence to speak to the things happening outside of my direct sphere, but at this point I feel ill-equipped to do so. I’m a pretty voracious news junkie, but I have trouble filtering the things I read into cogent and funny comics without just regurgitating them, which is why my work hasn’t thus far been overtly political in nature. But that is something I would like to experiment with in the future.

PM: How do you gather your material? Do you take a lot of inspiration from
other comic artists or do you take more from the everyday world around
you?

AE: I gather material by going to art museums, going to the library, reading books and magazines, watching movies, browsing the Internet, and reading the news, articles and essays. So basically, everywhere. I have a nice personal library of art, illustration, and comics that I’ve accumulated over the years. I am always going back and looking through my collection whenever I feel any kind of creative block. This applies to inspiration for technique as well. There’s a great exhibition going on at the Metropolitan Museum of Art right now on satire and caricature. I visited the exhibition three times, and went through the hi-res images on the Met website, and I’ve started mimicking some of the line work in my own drawings, which is why the crosshatching has gotten a lot more prominent in my latest comics.

PM: How does a strip come to be? What is your process like?

AE: Usually my comics emerge in two different ways. The preferred way is that an idea will hit me unprompted, while I’m on the train or at work or making dinner. I’ll be thinking about something that has been troubling or preoccupying me: self-doubt as an artist, anti-sociability, irritation at some obnoxious comments, and so forth, and that will evolve in my head into a fully formed comic before I even arrive at my studio. The other, more frustrating way a strip comes to be is that I sit at my desk, doodling and browsing images on the internet, waiting for ideas to float to me. Those ideas tend to be a bit overwrought and consequentially less funny. Then I sketch the comic out, draw it on bristol paper, scan it into the computer, and clean it up in Photoshop.

PM: Do you ever struggle with the terminology of your occupation (as an illustrator or comic artist)? Do you feel like this term doesn’t or does justice?

AE: For some reason I dislike the word “cartoonist,” even though it’s a perfectly accurate, descriptive term. Maybe it’s because I associate it with daily newspaper strips, many of which are pretty lousy these days. Illustrator versus comic artist can sometimes feel limiting also, because I’d like to think that I am open to several forms of expression. On my website I say that I’m a writer, illustrator and drawer of comics, which seems to pretty much cover it. I guess I am fundamentally a “visual storyteller,” but I couldn’t really bandy that about without feeling a bit pompous.

PM: What great work can we look forward from you in the not-too-distant future?

AE: At the moment I’m working on finishing the manuscript to an illustrated children’s novel about a the ghost of an actor and a fledgling girl detective. I’ve been working on it for almost two years now, and am very eager to be done with it! Working on it was actually the reason I started drawing and posting my comics online. My moods and interests and desires fluctuate pretty dramatically from day to day and week to week, and those were emotions that I didn’t want to affect the consistent tone of my novel. Drawing comics allows me to express each new iteration of those moods and desires. It lets me exorcise that stuff out of my system.

You can find out more on Anne’s work at her blogs, anneemond.com and comiques.tumblr.

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