Friday, January 21, 2011

Questions 25: Sarah Oleksyk

Sarah Oleksyk grew up in Maine, graduated from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, and eventually moved to Portland with just her and her three cats.  Portland and Sarah Oleksyk are a perfect match; it allows her to ride her bike to the nightclub, dance until 2 in the morning, then wake up and feed her chickens in the backyard.

Her graphic novel, "Ivy," is being published by Oni its is about a high-school girl on the dark and lonely road between self-absorption and self-awareness.   Ivy is girl living with her mother in a small New England coastal town, longs to leave her home and pursue her adult life as a painter. Unfortunately, daily life doesn’t run smoothly for someone who never knows the right thing to say, and who makes enemies more easily than friends. 

Fred Van Lente mentioned her on an CBR interview “... the most famous and talented artist you’ve never heard of yet.”

She also works on the occasional animation job and sells silkscreens at her web site.  

"My entire life I've looked for a group of peers who cared about me," Oleksyk said. "Every good thing that's come into my life has reinforced the idea that this is where I belong."

And don't miss her book signing for Ivy at Floating World this upcoming First Thursday, Feb. 3rd 

DD:   What projects are you working on currently?
I have teamed up with comics writer extraordinaire Fred VanLente in an amazing stroke of luck (and at the perfect time!). We're working on a large, full-color, long-term piece of historic fiction called RENAISSANCE. We've both been doing a ton of research, factual on his end, visual on mine, and I'm completely excited about and absorbed in this project. We'll be serializing it online later this year once I've gotten a head start on the art.

DD:   What is your artistic Process?
I like to draw out an outline flowing through the concepts, adding in relative bits of dialogue and quick sketches of visual moments that occur to me early on, then write out a general script. Once the thing's loosely written, I have a fairly standard process of thumbnailing (which usually gets shuffled around, edited, and rethought quite a bit before making it to the final page). I've been very conscious of the editing stage lately. Just about anything can be improved by taking a couple things out. Then it's pencils and inks. I use a #2 brush for everything. In many ways I'm very classic in my process. There's definitely an allure for me to do things the way they were done 50, 70, 100 years ago. I want one of those "cartoonist visors" they used to wear in the bullpens.
DD:   When are story illustrator, how involved are you in the writing?
If I'm just the artist on a story, I can make suggestions to the writer, but I try to interpret the point of each scene and make my characters "act" to bring out more subtext, humor, and complexity in interactions. I think good artists always need to add a little more to the script than what is evident on the surface. It requires an understanding of your writer and his or her intentions, but it adds so much to the reading experience.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?
Where to begin? Carol Tyler's new books, "You'll Never Know," are fantastic. Chris Ware is bringing something to comics never before seen, and his new work lacks the bitterness and pathos of his older stuff. I thought Mazuchelli's "Asterios Polyp" was a masterpiece and did things with the form in a seamless manner - everyone can learn something from that work. Carla Speed McNeil's "Finder" series are just straight-up enjoyment. I could go on forever.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?
I'd always ask what type of non-graphic novel they enjoy, then recommend based on their taste. I think a lot of the books I like the most are a little "advanced comics reading" for people who aren't used to the form. Even The Watchmen, for example, takes more than a beginner's understanding of the comics form to get the full experience. I'd say something nonfiction, perhaps, a true-life tale, to introduce a different understanding of comics to someone whose knowledge of them starts and ends at the Batman comics they read in junior high.

DD:   What skill would you like to learn?
I'd like to learn to paint, physically paint a comic, but my track record on watercolors and the like will make this an impossibility. That said, my new comic is going to be full-color, so I guess I'd better learn to color in Photoshop quickly and effectively. ;)
DD:   What's the most important thing you've learned?
EDIT. Think about details - are they all necessary? Do they help the thrust of the story? Think about focus - why are you telling this story? What is the purpose of this comic? How better can it be told? Can it be more concise? Can it benefit from using nontraditional visual storytelling? How can the timeline be played with? All these thoughts can lead to better comics.

DD:   Do you have a collection?   If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
Not exactly a collection, but I have a fantastic library of comics and out-of-print books. I can't help myself; used bookstores to me are like flowers to a bee. One of these days I'm going to start this blog wherein I showcase some of the more arcane, bizarre and hilarious old books I've discovered.

DD:   What is your favorite genre of Comics?
Lately it's bizarre kids' and teens' comics from the 60s (HERBIE!), 70s-era fantasy sexploitation comics, and whatever's currently coming out that isn't autobiographical.

DD:   Do you have an Ipad?   If so what do use it for the most.
I do not.

DD:   What is your favorite TV show/ movie?
Hmm. I'll go with Mad Men. It's beautiful, compelling, SO smartly written, and every character is completely rounded out and three-dimensional, not entirely likeable or hateable. Some of the most well-developed female characters on television. On the comedy end of the spectrum I can't seem to get enough Venture Brothers. I've been watching altogether too much TV lately.

DD:   How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work
I've been trying to think a little more independently from the "Portland Comics Culture" mindset I was in a few years ago. There's not really one overarching "culture" - there's way too many people involved in the business here for that. I've found a wonderful group of friends at my studio, Tranquility Base, and I've got friends, peers and allies in different areas of town, but as far as making my work, I try to think beyond Portland and its "scene" and keep my focus on Making Better Comics in a universal sense. I try to aim as large as I can when creating. I don't think "How will this fit into Portland" but rather, "How do I make this an objectively powerful work?".

DD:   What was your first comic convention?
My first major convention was in the late 90's. I think it was the Big Apple con in NYC. I tabled in this little offshoot room with copies of a comics anthology some folks in my college put out - it was called "Junkfood City." I walked around and was a little overwhelmed at the crowds, but not put off or frightened at the scene - in a way, it felt very natural and like a door was opening. At one point some guy came around to my table and shyly pulled out his portfolio and asked me for a review. I felt completely unqualified!

DD:   What is your favorite part of comic conventions?
The bottle of whiskey I keep hidden under the table! Just kidding. I love talking to people about comics. I love talking about craft, about peoples' projects. But most of all I'm always surprised and touched by the people who have been reading my comics and who come up and tell me how much they like my work. When you make a comic, you just send it out in the world, hoping someone is enjoying it. Comics shows are a chance for the world to come back to you and answer.

DD:   If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?
I would be living in the woods, writing novels and raising rare breeds of chickens.

DD:   Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?
If I did, I wouldn't tell, so it'd stay less crowded! Ha! I've mainly eaten from the food carts downtown, but my favorite restaurant in the city is Clyde Common.

DD:   How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?
I'll have lived here ten years this September. I picked Portland randomly after having it recommended to me three times in a month from three separate people as a place I'd probably like. I flew out here in 2000, fell in love, saved up for a year and drove out with only my three cats.

DD:   What is your favorite part of Portland?
Tranquility Base, my studio! I spend almost every day here. It's an oasis, a place where I can get work done, hang out with my buddies, laugh, drink, rock out, rant, get inspired, get my butt kicked when it desperately needs it. It's right downtown in the heart of everything and many days it's the reason I get out of bed at all.

DD:   Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?
I still haven't been to the Chinese Gardens. I'd need someone special to go with, so I'll wait. I've also never seen Crater Lake, but I think some friends and I will take an excursion this summer.

DD:   Would you like to write/Illustrate 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'd jump at the chance to draw a licensed character. Honestly, my dream job would be to draw a Venture Brothers comic book. I'd also draw for any other media, because then I'd get a chance at making a decent living. ;)

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