Saturday, June 29, 2013

Matthew Forsythe -- illustrator, graphic novelist

Matthew Forsythe -- illustrator, graphic novelist

From the drafts:

1. Graphic fiction, we are told, is in; it has arrived. Academics talk about it, literary publishers include it -- sometimes -- on their lists. But how accepted is it really? Is it genuinely accepted by the high-brow, and viewed with true objectivity? Or is some of the praise that it is given merely bumpf? After all, MFA programs specialize in writing, not graphic fiction; English departments rarely if ever pay attention to graphic fiction; major publishers do not publish much of it, and major prizes never include it in short lists, even though it can be a form of novel. What needs to change for graphic fiction to gain more acceptance?

I think more people would need to read comics. Books like Epileptic immediately debunk any perception people might have of the restrictions of the medium.  Having said that, there is something necessarily vulgar and low-brow about comics and we should embrace that. There is something about showing and telling - Like film, I suppose - that can easily make things too direct.  

2. Literary fiction (particularly by new authors) is struggling these days while graphic novels are enjoying steady, healthy sales. Any observations on why that is?

Fiction is actually doing well for some direct-to-Kindle authors. We're seeing print in a slight decline. I think comics are immune for the next year or two because we don't have any hi-resolution reading devices. When a hi-res tablet comes out, I think many people will be content to collect their comics digitally. Until then there's a slight reprieve for our industry. 

3. There are a lot of comics artists who self-publish.  As in the music industry -- with bands with their own labels -- this is considered perfectly acceptable as long as the creative result is good. Yet self-publishing is deeply frowned upon in literary circles. Why do you think that is?

In comics self-publishing is never frowned upon. There's actually a certain esteem to the DIY approach. Silkscreening, low print-run, collectible prints - these are all desirable things. 

4. How did you start out?

I started drawing a comic and posting it on the web. 

5.What kinds of drawing materials do you use?

I use pencils, nib and ink. Increasingly for my illustration work I use a tablet and work digitally. 

6. Cartoonists tend to refer directly in their work to the influence of other cartoonists, while traditional artists get "left out". Any fine art influences on your work? 

Lately Paul Klee has had a huge influence on me. I was a bit obsessed with all the modernists last year. 

7. How about literary influences?

Jordan Crane, Sammy Harkham - these are the literary influences I feel most in comics. I've been reading Waugh, Murakami, Nabokov, Conrad. "Youth" by Conrad especially moved me this year. But I don't know if that translates into my art at all. 

8Canada has produced a large percentage of strong graphic fiction artists, including Julie Doucette, Chester Brown, Dave Collier, Seth, etc. Any newer names you'd like to add to the list?

Well, the obvious one is Michael Deforge who is impressing everyone with his prolific output and unique vision. There are so many good Canadian cartoonists right now. Kate Beaton. Jillian Tamaki is probably the single most influential artist in my generation.  

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