Over the past few weeks in the lead up to our symposium, the fair city of Adelaide has been peppered with posters. Whether you’re having a hot coffee in the East End, or enjoying a cold pint at the West End, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the image of a fearless Nancy surfing a comics strip. The artist behind the poster, the ebullient Madeleine Karutz, graciously agreed to an interview about her artistic influences, and gave advice for other illustrators. Sometimes, you just have to draw that goddamn bee.
There are a myriad of art styles on the poster, which is fantastic. Who did you pay homage to in the design?
I tried to pay my respects to a few of the amazing comic artists in the alternative comic genre, both in Australia and overseas.
Here’s a blow by blow explanation of each panel (left to right):
The first is Robert Crumb, in his earlier more cartoony style with the dipping buildings, and the exaggerated feet and body movement.
Owen Heitmann, a fantastic Australian comic artist and one of the work shoppers for the symposium. His line work is always superb, and stories are compelling to read.
Georgina Chadderton, another Australian comic artist, who will be doing a workshop at the convention with Owen. Her comics are always bright, with great female characters and bold designs.
In the teal is Mandy Ord, a female Australian comic artist that does fantastic autobiographical works with beautifully detailed backgrounds in ink and brush.
Under that is a poor attempt at doing American comic artist Daniel Clowes’ style. He uses traditional medium to do his comic work and unless you have his sensibility for line it’s difficult to recreate.
American Ivan Brunetti – you may of seen his work on New Yorker covers.
Below that is Kate Parrish, an Australian comic artist. Some of her work can be found in The Lifted Brow, with very compelling story telling and subject matter coloured in lovely watercolours.
Then there is Bruce Mutard, an Australian comic artist who does beautifully detailed and paced comics in traditional medium. He wrote and drew the graphic novel The Sacrifice, which a great read.
Pat Grant, another Australian comic artist, is the Keynote speaker for the symposium and the creator of the graphic novel Blue. His work is always a delight to look at, with really thought provoking content.
The girl on the surfboard is in the style of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, an American newspaper strip comic started in 1938. Personally one of my favourite ever comics, as the drawings are fantastic and it’s still funny to read, even today.
Australian comic artist Mirranda Burton, who did the graphic novel Hidden. Her artwork has a lovely balance of fine line work and bold blacks, and her writing has sensitivity and intelligence.
Lastly, a workshop teacher for this year’s symposium and Australian comic artist and book illustrator, Claire Richards. She does wonderfully vibrant and playful works in watercolour.
If I could I would of filled the whole page with references to Australian comic artists, because I only touched the surface of the large number of immensely talented comic artists producing in Australia today.
If you were able to collaborate with any comics artist/writer in the world, who would it be?
Perhaps Alison Bechdel, because her writing is always unpretentious and thoughtful. Her artwork is also wonderfully illustrative. I actually had a whole spate of comic creators in my head for this question, but so many alternative comic creators’ work is autobiographical, and done by only them (art and writing), and so you wonder how you’d be able to combine your practice with theirs to make something new and good. Certainly it is achievable, but getting a balance of strengths and weaknesses would be essential.
Any tips for aspiring artists?
‘Keep pushing your work and practice’ is the best advice many art professionals have told me, and it’s really the best advice I can give. This means always expanding your practice, and finding your weaknesses, like maybe it’s drawing bees, and then drawing a whole lot of bees. ‘Cause it’s never enough just having one thing locked down, ’cause eventually you will have to draw that goddamn bee. So definitely get outside your comfort zone as an artist, ’cause the flow on effects are enormous.