Kendal Calling: An Interview with comic artist and illustrator Jillian Tamaki

LICAF 2017 Banner - Jillian Tamaki

This year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival is back next month (13th – 15th October 2017). The downthetubes “Kendal Calling” interviews continue with a chat with multiple award-winning illustrator and comics artist Jillian Tamaki. Jillian’s illustration work is imaginative and surreal, and would proudly grace the walls of any art gallery.

Jillian Tamaki is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Toronto. Her book Super Mutant Magic Academy was a New York Times bestseller and recipient of an Eisner Award.

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki - Sample Art

Art from Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
Art from Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Jillian is the co-creator with her cousin Mariko Tamaki of the graphic novels Skim and This One Summer, the latter of which earned both a Caldecott Honor and a Governor General’s Award (and topped a list of “banned” books in US libraries). Her latest work is a collection of short stories called Boundless.

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Jillian: This is not comics, but I have a picture book, called They Say Blue, coming out next Spring.

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Jillian: I guess I’m always the most in tune with the last project I’ve worked on. That would be Boundless, apparently available in bookstores everywhere.

Art from Boundless by Jillian Tamaki
Art from Boundless by Jillian Tamaki. You can read a sample here

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Jillian: I don’t really plan my day. I have a very free-flowing attitude. I could probably use more structure and scheduling. I usually work every day, even on weekends, to some extent.

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Jillian: It’s definitely a privilege to be able to draw for a living. I get to set my own schedule and live in any city I want. I don’t have to go to an office. My peers are very interesting people.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Jillian: There is a lot of uncertainty being a creative worker. It’s a very trendy industry and it can be exhausting trying to keep on top of it. Being a freelancer means unstable cash flow too, which is something one has to get used to.

Super Mutant Magic Academy -Cover

A page from Super Mutant Magic Academy
A page from Super Mutant Magic Academy

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Jillian: Social media.

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Jillian: I’m not sure! I assume easier, if you consider how powerful self-publishing is. There are more publishers of indie comics too, it seems to me. But it’s never easy.

This One Summer - Cover

This One Summer - Sample Art 1

This One Summer - Sample Art 2

This One Summer - Sample Art 3

This One Summer - Sample Art 4
Some of the opening pages from This One Summer

downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?

Jillian: I’ve never been! I’m expecting rolling hills and farm animals and a cute high street.

downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Jillian: Good question. Certain shows are lucrative and can literally put money in artists’ pockets. Others have more ephemeral benefits, like strengthening relationships and friendships. It really is nice to meet readers too. I work alone most of the day for a “theoretical” reader… it’s good to be reminded this person actually does exist.

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Jillian: The last comic I really loved was Uncomfortably Happily by Hong Yeon-sik. It’s published by Drawn and Quarterly.

downthetubes: Jillian, thank you very much for your time and see you in Kendal in October!

Book Your Festival Tickets Now!

• Book your tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year’s events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world! 

Web: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast | View the Festival Programme on Issuu | Download the Programme (PDF)

JILLIAN TAMAKI ONLINE

• Jillain was interviewed by The Guardian about Boundless in June, arguing “Our brains are being rewired to exist online”. You can read the interview here

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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