Monday, October 25, 2010

Heads up for those in L.A : Theo Ellsworth's Art show "Visitors" at GR2

I recently heard about this and it makes me sad that I'm so far away on the East Coast that I'm missing out on Theo Ellsworth's show next month.

But anyone lucky enough to be in L.A shouldn't miss it and anyone that knows anyone else in L.A should tell them to get in on it! :) :


Theo's work is amazing, and on top of that he's a really nice person. Even though he was probably really busy, he was gracious enough to let me interview him along with illustrator/comic artists Sonny Liew and Jungyeon Roh for a school paper.

Here's his interview for fellow fans/illustrators/comic artists:
Theo Ellsworth’s Interview (april 2010):

Theo Ellsworth is more a part of the indie comic scene with the semi-autobiographical and imaginative short stories compiled into a book called Capacity. I stumbled across Ellsworth’s work when a friend pointed me out to his booth saying “this guy’s work is crazy awesome.” And it was true. Ellsworth is a self –taught artist living in Oregon. He used to also manage the Pony Club Gallery, but now he primarily makes his living from his comics:

(ME) How did you get started with comics, especially since I’ve read that you’ve been self taught? Or art in general? How did you first integrate yourself into the art community? Mainly through conventions/ online? Do you feel like you’ve created a niche for yourself in the comic community?

(THEO) Drawing has been part of my own personal vocabulary since I was a kid. Especially in High school when it really started feeling like a vital outlet and life line for me. It took me awhile to actually start making comics. I was always drawing different characters and making things up about them, but drawing the same character more than once, or getting them to move and speak for me was a big challenge. I still feel like I’m figuring it out. Soon after I finally started making comics, I was exposed to some of the zine/DIY culture and realized I could start making my own publications. I got a table at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco and was blown away by the kinds of work I saw there. Just by focusing on my work and trying to get it out into the world, I feel like I’ve come in contact with a pretty amazing community. I don’t know if I’ve really created a niche for myself or not. I do feel lucky that I’ve been getting by for awhile now, doing my own thing.

What did you do in school? What did you do after school? How did you support yourself in the beginning of your career? What do you consider to be the turning point of your career/work/life?

I thought about going to school for art, then architecture, but ultimately decided to travel for awhile instead. I wanted to develop my own style and way of thinking about my work and the world. I lived out of my car for quite awhile until a felt I needed a space to work. I went back to my home town and sold my car, using the money to kick-start my comics career. When I ran out of that money (which didn’t take long) I worked all kinds of crappy jobs to make rent, while working as much as I could on comics. Moving from Montana to Portland, OR a few years ago was actually a pretty big turning point because I was actually able to start making my rent by selling art by selling my comics and prints at an outdoor art market. The next huge breakthrough was getting approached by the small press, Secret Acres, who published my first book.

How do you find the time to work on your comics and manage your art gallery and read other comics/keep up with the comic scene? Does everything you do relate to comics? Do you also illustrate on the side? How do you feel about comics as fine art?
When I first moved to Portland I took up every art related opportunity that came my way. One of them was starting an art gallery with a fellow cartoonist I’d met. It was a great experience, but I had to let it go after 2 years because it ultimately took too much time away from comics. The gallery still exists and is run by some great people. Trying to make a living on comics alone is a huge challenge, but it’s definitely my goal. I do illustration work sometimes. I teach art workshops once or twice a year. It’s a big mix of things that keeps me afloat. Comics are at the core of it all. Comics are also the most challenging and time consuming, so I’m always fighting to make sure the stuff I do to make my rent doesn’t take over.

How did you come up with the idea for Capacity? Did you have an original plan or was Capacity just a compilation of your work over the years?

Originally I started making the Capacity series as practice. I just wanted to launch into making comics and see what kinds of things I could do. It was basically just a way to explore the medium and try to find my voice.
Your work seems very impulsive, do you still revise/edit? Do you write the script first or draw and write as you go? How do you start composing? Or how do you start in general? What is your process?
I get a lot of ideas when I’m walking. I’ve never really written out a full script. I never do thumb nails. It’s been interesting meeting other cartoonists and learning about all these other methods. I usually picture a scene in my head and start sketching it out right on the page. Sometimes I’ll simply draw a panel without knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s always changing. It always seems to take on a life of its’ own. I have half finished pages everywhere right now, and I’m trying to piece it together now and figure out how it all connects. It usually feels like a pretty subconscious process, and I don’t always quite know what’s really going on.

Your work reminds me of a fusion of folk art, Asian monsters, and ancient Latin American/Mayan art, because it is so distinct is it natural or inspired? What art do you look at? What contemporary artist/comic artists inspire you? What things in life inspire you?

I feel like inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I feel a strong connection to a lot of outsider artists like Adolf Wolfli. I also love native art of all kinds. North Western Indian art has really been catching my eye, living in the North West. I love a lot of the old newspaper comic artists like Windsor McCay and Tove Jansson. I love Jack Kirby. There’s plenty or recent work that I find wonderful too. I feel a strong kinship with David B’s work. I read a lot of novels too. I’ve been currently really in to David Michell and Italo Calvino. I’m inspired by nature documentaries. Pretty much everything that interests me gets filtered into my art in some way or another.

What are your plans for your next comic or is it a secret? Are you where you want to be career wise/life? Is there anything you haven’t done that you want to do now?

I’m working on a longer story now. It feels like a leap ahead in many ways and a much bigger challenge too. I’m working more with color and having to work out a lot more about characters and the worlds they exist in. Right now it’s called The Quiet Family. The name might change by the time it sees print. At some point I’d like to do a bit of animation too, but comics will always be my main focus I think.

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