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Interview

Creator of All Over Coffee, Paul Madonna.

Paul Madonna talks about his days drawing mini-comics which he would leave around San Francisco, and his routine for drawing All Over Coffee...

READERSVOICE.COM: How long were you leaving free mini-comics around San Francisco and what sort of places did you put them? What benefits came from that, apart from meeting your wife?

PAUL MADONNA: I left books in cafes, bars, bookstores, restaurants, wherever I felt they wouldn’t get thrown away, and people might pick them up. I did that for three years before I took a break to get my life together.

Then I took two years to get stable and just write and work in my sketchbook and not worry about what the finished project was. Then I put out one zine and that’s how I met my wife. Of course, I didn’t know how long those periods would last while I was living them. Or what would come next, until it felt like time to change.

People wrote to me occasionally in those first years, and I loved how the free books put me in touch with strangers. I’m interested in the randomness of life that we take for granted, and fear getting trapped in the limits of our social groups like work or family.

As for my work goals, the books provided me with personal satisfaction because I could take a batch of ideas, realize and edit them, collect, put them out into the world, then move on to the next batch of ideas. I like books and collections for that reason, they encapsulate a period of time, eras.

Work has to go beyond the self, even if the content is the self. The act of making is rich and satisfying, but offering it to the world, and having it be a part of others’ lives is lifeforce.

RV: Is it high-pressure coming up with a cartoon each week for the San Francisco Chronicle, and a new free cartoon on your website each Monday, or do you just take it easy?

PM: There’s pressure, but there has to be. I signed on for this. I made it up and asked to do it. This is what I want. If it wasn’t or if I couldn’t hack it, I wouldn’t be doing it.

We don’t end up where we don’t belong for very long. If we follow ourselves, we should find that we’re doing what we’re good at. Of course, we’re always sorting out the difference between what we think we want to do versus what we’re actually good at. That’s why we go to school or change professions. That’s life. I’m interested in the differences between perceptions of self and reality of self, or even others’ perceptions of you.

I’m wary of the impressionable character of perception—or, at least, my impressionable character of perception. A bad day can lead you to see a friend as an enemy; a good day to see an enemy as a friend.

In art I push myself to try new ideas to discover those gaps, and allow my work to reflect it. And hope that those reflections inspire insight in others.

RV: How far in advance do you draw them?

PM: I work on a piece anywhere from one week to six months. Another reason why I work on up to ten pieces at a time. I have to finish at least one a week for the paper and one a week for myself, so if I have a lot of pieces going I don’t have to force anything prematurely. Sometimes I get into a bind though, and sometimes it’s a necessary bind. Pieces can linger, especially if there’s something I can’t resolve.

A deadline can be the drill sergeant forcing you to push. I have a good work ethic, though, and I know that even if I’m procrastinating, I won’t forever, so I always prefer to let something breathe if it needs the space.

I can always touch in on another piece, and maybe one that’s been sitting for months will wrap up in an hour, and I wouldn’t have known that piece in particular would be the one I’d finish right then. It feels more natural to let it happen that way. But having trust in your process is integral to this method, or else you’ll doubt how long something sits.

RV: What advice would you give to other artists – from your mistakes or good ideas?

PM: Work hard. Prioritize. Love the doing as much as what you finish. And if you don’t love the doing, find something you do love doing, and realize that’s more who you are.

RV: What are some of your plans, whether for short stories, graphic novels, other anthologies, or anything else?

PM: I’ll keep my strip as long as I can. I love doing strips but I also love books. I just finished my first illustrated novella, so am hoping to see that out in 2009.

And even with strips, collecting them together, defining an era, and putting out that work feels like the real and final resolve. I like tidiness in that way. A shelf of books that records my creative endeavors.

I recently began doing portraits and am documenting that process every step of the way, envisioning a book in two to three years. Really, I want to keep creating, following my ideas, and offering those works to the world.

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