This sorta blows my mind to reveal...
Page by Paige has been printed in Hebrew!
It is really surreal to flip thru the book that YOU drew but you can't read a lick of it. Even the words I hand-painted have been perfectly altered! Israeli illustrator Alina Gorban really did an amazing job with that task. Also, the book is read right to left so that makes it especially bizarre to flip through, since everything now looks backwards. Backwards. Wow, I can't even imagine what new kids will pick up this book and what they might take away from it! I'm a lucky author indeed...
In conjunction with Israel's official "Month of Reading" (June) I was interviewed by The Notepad, which is an online magazine for children's literature and culture. (Article by Yotam Shwimmer.) Since the article is all in Hebrew, I thought I'd include the English version below! Sorry if it's a bit long-winded.
- When did you first read a graphic novel and what impact does it had on you? Do you think this genre is more reasonable or effective for young adults nowadays in terms of the artistic expression?
Then someone gave me a copy of “Fun Home” by Alison Bedschel, and it was such a breath of fresh air. Here was someone telling a story that was beautiful, insightful, funny, and kept me thinking about it for days afterwards. Then I read “Blankets” by Craig Thompson, and this was the clincher. There was a page with no panels and no words, just a beautiful drawing of two figures walking through the snow. I thought, “You can DO that??” My work was in sketchbooks for years, and I loved that intimate hand-held format. Of course I didn’t belong in the galleries, I needed to be in books. And these graphic novels showed me here under my nose was the medium ultimately flexible enough for someone like me, that this was where I belonged. I started reading all the comics I could get my hands on.
I am such an advocate for comics as a form of self expression! Especially for young people, who grow up surrounded with sequential storytelling through film, television, and video games. Contemporary visual culture isn’t painting, sculpture, and still images...it’s moving pictures, multi-disciplinary, and immersive experiences. So we need to keep up with shifting aesthetic platforms if we want to connect with how the next generation thinks. Comics incorporates writing skills as well as visual storytelling, it can be done alone or collaboratively, it can be made digitally or on paper, it can be sketchy or eloquently painted...it is adaptable for whatever your style is. All you need is pencil, paper, and dedicated time...and you can create a whole new world. You can show us the world in your head.
- Does Page by Paige is based in some levels on your life as a teenager and as an artist to be?
The book was also sprinkled with some of my experiences from when I moved to New York, because that was a challenging period when I turned more to my art for support. When things get rough is always when I rely more on my art to help me through. Many things in the book were inspired by real life experiences from here and there, strung together like beads on a necklace. For example, in the book Paige does street art under the name Finch. I have done some myself under the name Karat, but focused more on hanging brass etchings.
- What drove you to create Page by Paige? And why did you decide to write a graphic novel rather than an illustrated YA novel, for example?
I got the opportunity to pitch a graphic novel to Abrams Books, but at the time my work was illustrative rather than comics. I was stubborn and didn’t want to change my style, but I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime. I had read only a dozen graphic novels by this point, so it seemed incredibly intimidating for someone who never took an illustration or writing class. But I thought, hey, this is a way of teaching what I’ve learned about finding my voice as an artist, which can be an isolating, humbling, soul-searching process. Most people give up. So I decided I would try to make a book that would simply encourage people not to give up. To teach through narrative rather than by standing in front of a classroom. As children we all naturally draw, sing, dance, build things, tell stories, and play. (Play is essential to develop creative thinking.) We all just stop doing these things along the way for a variety of reasons, mostly because we become self-conscious about it. But as humans we NEED to express ourselves and play to maintain emotional health.
So I took off three months from work and decided to write this graphic novel, but only if I could do it in a way that was authentic to my whimsical illustrative style. So it flips between traditional sequential panels (portraying Paige’s reality) and my splashy illustrations (portraying Paige’s imagination). This book was definitely my stepping stone into comics as a format. In my new book I really made an effort to weave the “imaginary element” more naturally through the panels, exploring more thematic metaphors rather than sticking to just the visual metaphors.
- In your experience, how Publisher and editors capture graphic novels? Do you think the industry in the U.S.A is treated graphic novels as a respected genre?
Publishers are looking to expand their graphic novel libraries, I think for many reasons. Comics are gaining more acceptance as a literary form, they’re being included more in school curriculums, and Hollywood mines the comics world for new content for films/ TV shows. One current trend is adapting classic books into a graphic novels, which I don’t see as replacing the original work but rather presenting it as something fresh and accessible for a contemporary audience. If publishers were not seeking out more comics, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity I did to pitch my book. There is especially a need for more female voices in comics, because there is a growing female audience and they might not necessary relate to stories of macho superheroes.
- Tell us about the design of the plot in Page by Paige. How did you use the structure of the book as an object in the genre of graphic novel to reflect the interesting relation between the themes and the plot and the way they are being designed through the drawings?
- The book is burst with visual images that reflect both Paige inner world and creative spirit and the reality she describe in her sketch book. Plus, your book is a great example for an Ares poetic piece that use the pattern of a diary to says something about creativity. Please share with us your comment on these issues.
- In your book you describe the first steps a young girl is doing towards adulthood and accepting herself. Since her sketch book is her diary and the drawings increase her thoughts and emotions through the visual images – how did you find the correct balance and the perfect dose of self-study without make it too obvious or overwhelming?
- Please tell us about your new graphic novel.
I’m actually developing this graphic novel as a multi-disciplinary musical for young people, which I am thrilled about! Yet I’m admittedly intimidated, because it is a whole new format for me. Page by Paige models how to get a sketchbook and start making art for yourself, which is more of a solitary journey. But Will & Whit takes this a step further by modeling how to create community, how to support each other and combine forces to make something bigger together. Turning the story into a musical is my way of bringing the lessons I’ve learned working with a variety of artists here in New York to mainstream America.
- Since the industry is going toward the digital medium, what do you think is the strength of the graphic novel as a genre (that will or could be create as a digital book), and could it gain from the digitalization?
I have seen some interesting uses of the digital format (like “Power Play”), but these are the ones that are designed FOR digital. But they have a different feel than comic books, they rather lean more towards motion comics or storyboarded film. They utilize panel-to-panel storytelling without the need for a multi-panel page layout. I’m not opposed to entering the digital realm myself, but that’d be down the road and only if I got a really fun idea. I like exploring different formats and media all the time, so if I went digital it would be an idea that I could ONLY do that way.
- What – to your opinion – makes a good graphic novel?
In other news...
I got specifics for Heroes Con in North Carolina this upcoming weekend! I'm sharing a table with Brooklyn illustrator Sara Woolley in a prime spot on Indie Island, table #1029.
And my Young Adult Graphic Novel Panel? It's at 12:30 on Saturday in Room 206. Moderated by Christopher Irving and featuring myself along with Chris Schweizer (Crogan’s Adventures), Maris Wicks (Primates), and Jim Ottavani (Two Fisted Science).
Currently Reading: Walt Disney: the Triumph of the American Imagination...by Neal Gabler.