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Comics artist Stuart Kolakovic on his art and books

Stuart Kolakovic talks about drawing comics, and about some of his works like the graphic novel Carries No Swallow...

READERSVOICE.COM: What’s the process in actually drawing it? Do you start with a script before you draw anything? Do you draw the actual size it’ll be in the book? What do you use for color?

STUART KOLAKOVIC: If I’m working on shorter story, I’ll have a loose idea of a script- only because i know i’ll have to fit the story within so many pages. With longer stories I have no idea where I’m going and allow myself to play around with ideas more- just because i know i’ll have the time and space to do so.

I know some comic writers spend as much time writing a script as they do drawing it- I think Rutan Modan works in this way. But most of the comic stuff I read is usually completely freestyled- Gipi, Simone Lia, Chris Ware all start work on a story without necessarily know where it’s going.

If you stop to think about, this is an extremely risky way of making comics, just because they take so long to draw and if for some reason you’re not satisfied with how the story is progressing, you’ve wasted a lot of time. But I think it’s this “risk” which makes creating comics even remotely fun and interesting.

I draw all my comics with ink on paper- I’m completely against using the computer to draw. You can automatically tell when stuff has been drawn on screen, and to me it just looks flat and dead. I even hand-write my text as opposed to using a digital font.

Conversely, I use the computer for layout and adding colour. I wish I could hand colour my comics, but it just takes me too long.

RV: What is Carries No Swallow about, and what length will it be?

SK: It’s so hard to get time to work on this book at the moment. I keep on getting offered more and more illustration work which I can’t really afford to refuse. Hopefully I’ll get the final proposal finished in the next fortnight and see where it goes from there.

It’s about two brothers growing up in Serbia in 1941- one younger brother who has to come to terms with how the war is effecting his day to day family life, and one older brother who tries to go join the Chetnik cause but gets stuck in the middle of the civil battle between the royalists and the communists.

WWII in Yugoslavia is extremely complicated, so I’m trying to figure out ways that allow people who know nothing about the subject matter to understand the story. I have no idea how long it’ll be- but i think around 200-300 pages, which is a lot a lot of work!

RV: Is it excrutiating to create a comic like this, or do you get more clinical or business-like the more you create comics?

SK: I’d never trust a comic artist who says that “making comics is fun”. It’s not- it’s long winded and extremely solitary. I think you have to be a bit introverted to be able to make comics. When I tell people this they can’t understand why I even bother making them. The answer is control- you don’t have to answer to anyone whilst making comics- it’s just you, some ink and some paper. No writers, directors, actors or mega budgets. You can do whatever you want and you don’t have to rely on other people to muck it up.

I can’t work with other people- that’s why I make comics. The business side of things is tricky- I can’t rely on comics to pay my bills, so I still have to take on as much illustration work as I can.

RV: What are your plans for the publishing of the comic?

SK: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say- but nothing is set in stone yet. One larger publisher is interested and one smaller publisher. I’m afraid to say I’m more inclined to work with the larger publisher, for obvious financial reasons, but also because that’d mean the book would be stocked in chain book stores. BOOK stores not just COMIC BOOK stores. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great independent comic book shops that are extremely friendly and stock some great books- but on the whole, and this might cause some controversy amongst hardcore comic readers, I don’t agree with the way comic book stores are ran and can’t stand the places. I don’t even understand why super heroes dominate the comic industry- you know the hero will win in the end and they emulate the language of film so much they’re almost obsolete.

If you want to entertain yourself with something fast and action packed- why not go watch a movie, which is obviously going to be a bit more dramatic than a comic book.

Comic books need to drop this horrible association with film. Of course, having said that, people who disagree with this statement are going to rant about the success of the recent animation adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

To this I will argue that Marjane wrote the story as a comic book and told it in a style that was both natural to her and at the same time, dictated by the natural boundaries of the page itself.

The story of the film may be the same, but the way it is told is completely different- for the obvious reason that it is a completely different medium. I think Marjane Satrapi’s work is amazing and I firmly believe she has extreme artistic integrity- she didn’t write the comic because she wanted to make a film- she wrote the comic because she wanted to tell her own story in her own way. I hope that a lot of young comic creators realise this, and aren’t deluded that comics are a hopping stone into film.

RV: Does your skateboarding overlap with your artwork much, or is it a balance, and fairly separate?

SK: I’ve been asked about this a lot recently. It’s a weird one, because skateboarding has been the most important single factor in the way I live. Its took to me to a lot of places and i’ve met a lot of cool friends from just rolling around on a piece of wood. But at the same time, I’m extremely conscious of depicting it or involving it in my art work. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the idea of “pimping” skateboarding in my illustration for people that don’t skate. I don’t like the way skateboarding has been labeled as a “sport” in recent years, and I certainly don’t like the way corporations that formally had nothing to do with skating now making millions of pounds off it.

Skateboarding isn’t nice and cool and trendy- it’s horrible and stinky and dirty. It doesn’t involve broadcast quality digital video, hot girls and explosions. It involves getting hassled by the general public and security guards, eating concrete and having fun with your friends. Or maybe I just don’t like drawing skateboards.

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