After a brief intermission, I AM BACK, with a wonderful interview with Marian Churchland. You may have noticed her work in Elephantmen or Northlanders. You could also just recognize the name from the awesome blog she has, hchom. She is wonderful to speak with and one of my personal favorite artists. We talked about everything from skipping classes to draw to future goals and aspirations (and a little bit of Skyrim as well). I hope you all enjoy this wonderful interview with Marian and check out her blog (and be prepared to spend hours reading every detail).
So my first question would be is there anything in particular that inspired you to start drawing/consider using your artistic talent for a career?
I guess I started drawing when people started giving me crayons – I suspect it was an easy way for an introverted kid to avoid attention and be left alone. I had various parents and teachers telling me I was going to be a “famous artist” (har har) long before I was capable of considering it as a career, so naturally I had to rebel against them when I hit my teenage years. I ended up studying English rather than going to art school, and in retrospect I’m glad it turned out that way, though I skipped a lot of classes to stay home and draw.
I can’t actually remember when I finally caved in and decided to make it a career. It still feels like something I’m skipping classes for.
Were there any specific comics or artists you found helped to inspire you and develop your style?
Most of my favourite artists (as a teenager) were videogame artists. I had really limited access to comics – I owned a few issues of X-men (Joe Madureira and the Kubert brothers were doing the pencils, back then), but I had a lot of trouble getting my hands on new issues. More often I’d flip through Gamefan Magazine (a great videogame magazine from the 90′s), and see stuff by Bengus, or Yoshitaka Amano, or Akihiko Yoshida, etc. That was my main source of inspiration, at that age, and the one that still resonates the most.
What steps did you take to start getting your work published once you decided to go down that road? Did you frequent conventions, send in portfolios? And did you ever try to do something like concept/character art for video games?
Hrmm. I guess I decided that I wanted to draw a graphic novel, and I just naively assumed that once it was done, I could send it in to publishers until I found one that would take it. I never did the conventions/portfolio thing. At that point, I didn’t know anybody in the comics industry, but within several months I met Brandon and Justin Norman (Moritat) and others, which was lucky timing. Even knowing people, getting a book published was far from straightforward, but I was probably spared a large share of uncertainty and disregard.
I showed finished sections of Beast around for about a year, and Image took it after I’d drawn three issues of Elephantmen (which was a job I got via Justin).
How did the process go for getting you into Elephantmen and Northlanders? Those are huge names. Was it a “Hey, guys. This girl’s art is awesome she will be drawing for us now.” Or did you still have to go through everything but you just had somebody’s name backing you?
My getting the Elephantmen job was entirely Justin’s doing. He was the artist on the series, and he convinced Richard Starkings to hire me for an 8-page backup, which was eventually upgraded to three issues. Richard was also extremely supportive in propounding me to Image, and once they took Beast, other opportunities followed – the Madame Xanadu and Northlanders issues.
I’m probably not the best example! I’ve taken a relatively passive role in my career (at least from a networking standpoint) mainly wanting to be left alone to do my own thing, and I’ve been lucky to have outstanding friends in positions to land me work.
That’s still awesome that you have had those opportunities. I saw on your blog that you offer up “Packages.” What else do you do with art between working on the bigger stuffs?
Hchom posts constitute most of my in-between work. I angst so much over the details of the bigger stuff – does this belong here, should I remove that, etc. – and having an outlet that’s less controlled and self-conscious helps keep me sane. I can draw the same loaf of bread seventeen times in a row, and it might not have any artistic merit, but piss if I care, because I’m just doing it to please myself!
And the big projects do take me a really long time, so the blog has some social importance as well. Left to my own devices I’m a complete hermit, so getting comments from a variety of awesome people who also like art, or videogames or tasty loaves of bread is probably good for my sanity as well.
Anything you would like to do in the future? Big goal plans for your artwork?
Really my hope for the future is to be able to focus entirely on my own books, simple as that is. Staying at home and drawing (and having people pay me to do that) is already a fantastic scam, but I find that I have trouble juggling the side jobs with the longer projects I’m really passionate about. I’m not a creative multitasker.
Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I hunkered down, and worked on one thing – people would find me later, a skeleton at the bottom of a dungeon, surrounded by paper (pardon me, I’ve been playing Skyrim). My point is, if I could do that without starving to death, and somewhere that didn’t have giant rats, then life would be roses.
And big goals for the work, of course, but I’ve never been any good at talking about that stuff anywhere other than in the work itself.
What is some advice you could give to some aspiring artists? Or advice you received from somebody that you really took to heart?
I was once complaining to my friend Sachiko Murakami, who is a poet, about some comics-related social terrors, or something I didn’t want to do, and she told me that I should view it as serving the work. I thought that was nicely put (well she is a poet, after all), so I often remind myself, now, to serve the work – that it’s not actually about me.
So if I had to give broad advice, it would be to put the work first. For me that means dialing back my panic about external pressures, emails, deadlines, publishers (whether you have one or not), etc. And it also means trying to disentangle my various anxieties (whatever they happen to be, that day) from the work, so that I can actually sit down and get on with it. (Not that I’m any good at either of these things, mind you, which is why I think it’s such good advice.)
Thanks again to Marian for the interview you can check out a link to her blog below