Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. Over 70 are attending in 2018 in October (and that’s not including creators you’ll find in the Comics Clock Tower).
This Festival Focus for 2018 is Emmi Nieminen, a visual artist, illustrator and comics artist from Tampere, Finland.
Since her debut in 2010, she has published five books and participated in several anthologies. She works with themes like miscommunication, cats, family, food and the imperfection of human life.
Vihan ja inhon internet (The Internet of Hate and Loathing), Nieminen’s most recent work, created together with the journalist Johanna Vehkoo, is a powerful study of the phenomenon of online misogyny. She is currently working on a historical graphic novel together with the writer Jamie E. Rhodes.
What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Emmi Nieminen: I’m in between marketing previous books and securing funding for future ones. I’m also working with Jamie E. Rhodes on a new book by the working title Elämänmäki – Hill of Life. Autumn is always a time for change and transition, so I’m in bit of a limbo.
Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Emmi: I’m happy to say it’s my latest book which I’ll be presenting at the Festival, Vihan ja inhon internet (The Internet of Hate and Loathing). I’m fairly new to non-fiction and getting to work on such an important subject as online harassment was a really big deal to me. I’m happy that I and the co-author Johanna Vehkoo managed to create such a good book.
Sadly, the book is still available only in Finnish, but a translated sample was published in Drawing the Times.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Emmi: I used to be very rigid in my planning, with daily quotas that left very little room for sudden, unplanned events in my working and personal life.
Nowadays, I have weekly and monthly goals that I can work on as I find fitting because, frankly, it’s incredibly important to be idle from time to time. Idleness can mean many things of course, but creative work does requires some moments of peace and distance to the job(s) at hand.
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Emmi: I don’t know if this is the best thing, I generally suck at ranking experiences, but I’m amazed again and again what a versatile, magical thing comics can be. You can keep the magic to yourself or spread it to others, you can experience their magic and it keeps evolving and escaping strict definition. I also enjoy the simple act of drawing as a physical exercise, it brings me pleasure.
Except drawing cars.
And the worst?
Emmi: At the moment, the most tiresome thing is the general insecurity that affects every part of one’s life. Any creative process contains a healthy dose of self-doubt and anxiety. The market here in Finland is so small that it’s really rare to earn a decent living on comics alone, so money is always an issue. Unfortunately, also the general public’s knowledge on the diversity of comics is very limited at times and it’s so dull to convince people that my work has value. This however seems to be the experience of artists in general, no matter what the field.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Emmi: I live inside my head to the point I sometimes forget to live outside of it. Sometimes I daydream and sometimes I go through horror scenarios that prevent me from working on some of the ideas I come up with. This is the Number One reason that keeps me from working, especially personal projects.
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Emmi: That’s a really tough question and of course I can only talk from my own experience.
Nearly everyone in this field I’ve met have started by self-publishing and so did I. It totally depends on the person what they want to achieve and of course nowadays artists can choose from many different forms of publishing, be it online self-publishing, be it a book or a zine or a whole multimedia project.
However, a lot of young people seem to choose other professions over comics and illustration, because they don’t see this line of work sustainable in the long run. A bit hazy answer, but I believe it’s harder to get published and keep on publishing, if one doesn’t believe it to be worth the time and effort.
The ones who do choose comics and illustration seem to give it 110%.
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?
Emmi: Oh I haven’t and I’m excited! My first trip to UK was in 2017 for the ELCAF and I’m so happy to experience England outside of London. I’ve seen some pictures from previous years and while they probably didn’t do any justice to the area I am prepared for rain and sheep.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Emmi: Aw heck, another difficult question. To be honest, these days I feel a bit cautious about meeting any artists I’ve looked up to because some of those meetings in the past have been quite unsavoury and disenchanting to say the least! I’m more interested in meeting new creators that I’ve never even heard of before.
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Emmi: I started going to comic festivals and cons when I was 12 and ever since it has helped me gauge where I am and which direction I feel like I’m heading to as a creator. Also, being able to chat with other creators, publishers and enthusiasts face to face has the impact a lone e-mail with a link to the portfolio doesn’t quite have.
However if you want to show your work at an event, be it a con or a festival, it never hurts to schedule a meeting well in advance with the wanted person or a publisher. During the event everyone is in a hurry, hungry and tired and therefore more likely to say “yeah, nah” than during a well scheduled meeting. I learned this the hard way.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Emmi: Just one?
Repeatedly doing one’s own thing is one of the most difficult things in life. I used to teach comics to young adults and every year more than one student asked me why something they love can make them feel so bad about themselves. So year after year, I had to convince them that even your favourite thing in the world can also be one of the most difficult things to do.
Publishers will reject your work, people will try to get you work for free and the work itself is often a matter of perspiration than inspiration. It’s completely normal, all creative work is hard and the feeling of having a hard time with something you love is not automatically a sign of failure.
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
I can’t wait to get my hands on Mari Ahokoivu‘s newest graphic novel Oksi. 5 years in the making and not only does it look hauntingly beautiful, it’s got pagan mythos, bears, magic and hard to describe feelings.
The book is in Finnish with English subtitles and you can check the best way to buy it in her website at www.mariahokoivu.com. She’s a pretty amazing creator.
Emmi, thank you very much for your time and thoughts on creating comics. We look forward to seeing you in Kendal in October!
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018. Tickets for the Festival are on sale now from the web site: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast