Limited edition Giclee Print by Seth

Lakes Festival Focus 2015: An Interview with Canadian Comic Creator Seth

Seth. Photo: David Briggs Photography
Seth. Photo: David Briggs Photography

Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event – and we’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event in October, starting with top Canadian artist Seth…

Seth is the cartoonist behind the comic book series Palookaville, which he says “started in the Stone Age” as a pamphlet and is now a semi-annual hardcover. His comics have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, and McSweeneys Quarterly. His illustrations have appeared in numerous publications including the cover of the New Yorker, the Walrus and Canadian Notes & Queries.

He is also Lemony Snicket’s partner for the new Young Readers series, All the Wrong Questions, and has illustrated and designed a new, deluxe edition of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, and is also the designer for several classic comics reprint series, notably collections of work by Charles Schulz, John Stanley, and Doug Wright.

He has exhibited throughout the world in a variety of group and solo shows. He was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which showcased the first public display of his model city, Dominion. He is now a part of the Gallery’s permanent collection. Dominion City subsequently toured Canada.

Seth was the subject of a 2014 National Film Board documentary entitled Seth’s Dominion, which will be screened at LICAF this year.

He lives in Guelph, Ontario, with his wife Tania and their two cats in an old house he has named “Inkwell’s End”.

Art from Palookaville 21 © Seth
Art from Palookaville 21 © Seth

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

Seth: I’m working on Palookaville 23.  That volume will include The conclusion of “Clyde Fans” ( a pretty important milestone for me) and more pages of “Nothing Lasts”.

Art from George Sprott by and © Seth
Art from George Sprott 1894 – 1975 by and © Seth, the fictional life of George Sprott, originally serialised in New Yorker. On the surface, George seems a charming, foolish old man — but who is he? And who was he? Told as a patchwork tale, we come to know George, piece by piece, in a series of “interviews”, flashbacks, and personal reminiscences. George Sprott is a story about time, identity, loss, and the pervasiveness of memory. Though ultimately this is the story of a man’s death, Seth leavens it with humour, restraint, and a light touch.

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

Seth: George Sprott 1894-1975. My best book I think. The book is available from Drawn and Quarterly.

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

Seth: Everyday is pretty much the same – the only thing that changes is what I am working on. I get down into the studio by 9 o’clock usually and work until noon. Usually I try to do something of my own in the morning (sketchbook or some such) and then in the afternoon and evening I work on whatever is pressing.  Sometimes design jobs or the comics or commissioned work.

I spend a few hours every day with my wife but work late at night.  The weekends are generally reserved for the two of us.

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

Seth: The solitude… and the opportunity to elaborate an inner world on a daily basis.  This gives one the chance to come to understand oneself better.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Seth: The few times when solitude has turned into loneliness.

The cover of Seth' graphic novel, It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken. © Seth
The cover of Seth’ graphic novel, It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. © Seth

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

Seth: The desire to leave the studio and go out to a dim bar with my wife and float the hours away with several glasses of red wine.   This is a pretty constant distraction.

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

Seth: I’m not sure.  I think, because of the internet, that it is easier to have your work seen… but to be honest, if a cartoonist is very talented early on they will end up getting published.  Then or now.

If you need time to develop you may have to struggle more and find your own options. I am not sure if it has ever been any different.

There are more publishing options now than when I was starting out, but there are also a lot more talented cartoonists out there as well.

Art from Palookaville 22 © Seth
Art from Palookaville 22 © Seth

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?

Seth: I am expecting beauty — since that is what everyone who knows the area assures me of.

Limited edition Giclee Print by Seth
A limited edition Giclee Print by Seth that will be on sale at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, and from the event’s web site

downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Seth: I usually reserve this kind of  thinking for creators who are dead.  So, it would be either Max Beerbolm or Edward Gorey.  Both very witty and interesting cartoonists.  Well read and probably a marvellous companion.  Someone to talk to.

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

Seth: Besides selling one’s books, they offer the chance for young creators to meet other artists whom they share a sensibility with. This is so important when you are young and is probably one of the things I am most envious of the younger artists.

There were few opportunities in my youth to meet other young artists with the same tastes and ambitions.  It was a small pool then. It’s nice to see so many young artists meeting and having fun together at these festivals.

For myself, I think the main benefit (besides a free vacation!) is the chance to speak to an audience who may not know my work.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Seth: Be an artist — not a professional.  Do the work the way you want to do it.  Don’t start trying to make work that pleases an editor or a perceived audience.  If the work isn’t primarily for your own self expression then what was the point in devoting your life to it?

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

Seth: I think Ben Katchor remains my favourite cartoonist — or certainly in the top five. Any of his books are currently available from Pantheon Books.

Seth - Self Portrait• Find out more about Seth: https://www.drawnandquarterly.com/author/seth

• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is again offering a number of limited edition giclee prints by Festival guests as part of its fund-raising efforts. The 2015 range includes images by Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Darwyn Cooke, Hunt Emerson, Jamie Hewlett, Stuart Immonen, Sean Phillips and Seth (right), most available now (along with some 2014 prints) from the Festival shop: www.comicartfestival.com/index.php/shop

Events at the 2015 Lakes International Comic Art Festival featuring Seth:

The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World: Seth
Saturday 17  10.30-11.30 am  Shakespeare Centre  Tickets £8
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS

Seth’s Dominion: Introduced by Seth (Film)
Sunday 18  10.30-11.15 am  Brewery Arts Centre Screen Two  Tickets £8 Concessions £6
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS

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• Tickets for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival are on sale now from the Brewery Arts Festival – Book Now
• Check out a digital version of the 2015 Lakes  International Comic Art Festival Programme here
• For the latest news on the 2015 Lakes International Comic Art Festival visit: www.comicartfestival.com
• Sign up for the Festival’s newsletter here for the latest news! 

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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