Monday, September 27, 2010

Questions 4: Katy Ellis O'Brien

I met Katy Ellis O'Brien at the Comic Workshop at Cosmic Monkey.  Then we saw her amazing show Kilkenny Cats at the Sequential Art Gallery.  She deftly uses animals to tell as her story telling stories.   She is Editor of Stumptown Underground.    Check out her painted story Fair Weather Friend from 2009.

Doug Dorr: What projects are you working on currently?

Katy Ellis O'Brien:  Right now I'm working toward getting my painting series "The Kilkenny Cats" published as a graphic novel. Otherwise I've been doing small illustration projects lately, trying to "brush up" on my inking skills so that I can launch a major comics project within the next year.

DD: What is your writing Process?

When I'm trying to generate or develop ideas, I typically doodle in my sketchbook while listening to music. Character sketching is often the first step in my process, because once I've designed a cast of characters it's only a matter of time before a story forms around them. My ideas come from all the usual places - my subconscious, my life, things I've read. Once I've worked out a story in my head, I focus on a few key moments from the story and build my pages around them. I draw fairly detailed thumbnails before I start drafting the pages.

DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?

"Asterios Polyp" by David Mazzucchelli is my newest favorite. I love comics that explore the possibilities of the medium, and I hope this book will be very influential in that regard. But aside from that, it's just a good story full of warmth, humor and sadness.

DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?

It really depends on the person. There's a comic out there for everyone. But if I could get everyone in the world to read one comic, it would be "The Arrival" by Shaun Tan. It's a gorgeous silent comic that anyone can enjoy, and it has a beautiful message.

DD: What skill would you like to learn?

Right now I'm practicing my skill at inking with a brush. The more you do it the more you realize how much practice it takes to get really good!

DD: Do you have a collection?   If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?

I don't collect anything right now, but I dream of one day becoming an art collector. One of my most prized possessions is a little drawing given to me by Craig Thompson that I keep in a frame on my desk.

DD: What is your favorite genre of Comics?

Silent comics! Does that count as a genre? Otherwise, I like a little bit of everything - autobio, history, humor, science fiction, fantasy, even some superhero stuff. But I have a special love for comics that don't really adhere to a genre. Jim Woodring, for example, seems like a genre unto himself...

DD: Do you have an Ipad?   If so what do use it for the most.

Nope, I've never even laid eyes on one! But if I had one I would probably use it for reading webcomics. Predictable...

DD: What is your favorite TV show/ movie?

TV show - Star Trek The Next Generation! Nothing can ever top that.  Movie - The Secret of NIMH. I guess my tastes haven't changed much since I was 7...

DD: What was your first comic convention?

Olympia Comics Festival '05! Joe Sacco was there, I recall.

DD: What is your favorite part of comic conventions?

The feeling of inspiration I'm left with after a weekend spent discovering new comics and meeting enthusiastic readers and creators. It's a great motivator.

DD:  What comics do your kids like?  What was/is your favorite character?

I don't have my own kids, but I work with kids and many of them love "Bone" by Jeff Smith, which shows impeccable taste. Thorn from "Bone" is one of my favorite characters ever, in part because she's a smart, brave princess who doesn't need a prince to save her.

DD: If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?

I love art history and I've thought about doing something with that, but I'd never give up drawing for anything. I simply can't imagine life without it.

DD:  Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?

Well, I'm a vegetarian and kind of a health food weirdo, so I love Blossoming Lotus on 15th & Broadway, but it's definitely a special occasions kind of place. I miss their casual downtown location.

DD:  How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?

I've lived here for a little over 2 years, but I grew up in Forest Grove, a rural town 20 miles west of Portland. When I was a kid, Portland seemed hip and happening, and that's only become more true since then. Moving here after college was inevitable - the awesome art scene just sweetened the deal.

What is your favorite part of Portland?

Try as I might I can't narrow it down to just one thing, except for "the people" which seems like a cop-out. They really are amazing, though! It's a cliche that everyone in Portland is either an artist or
a musician, but it's really true, and I like it that way. I don't think of it as competition - it's community.

DD: Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?

I feel like I've been everywhere in Oregon by now, but I'm sure I'm wrong... there are many places I want to visit again and again, like the Umpqua River Valley and Crater Lake. I love hanging out in nature but I seldom escape the city because I don't drive a car.

DD: Would you like to write for another media? or conversely, how would you feel about writing a comic of a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond?  What would you explore?

I have a very visual imagination, of course, so I doubt I will ever write a novel. I could definitely see myself writing a screenplay, though. And I think it would be fun to work with characters from other media. My comic about James Bond would explore his humdrum life between secret missions - doing his taxes, ironing his suits, going to the dentist. It would be really boring.

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