Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rebecca Clements Interview part one of four

The following interview was conducted in May 2011 via email

Rebecca Clements interviewed by Chris Beach

Rebecca Clements populates her Kinokofry webcomics with a continually expanding cast of cute, whimsical and enormously charming characters (the adorable Submameen, ferocious Xylosaur and tragic Cookie Thing are some recent welcome additions to the Kinokofry family). She employs humour, a fertile imagination and innovative graphic elements in her comics to share entertaining stories, to document aspects of her life through diary comics, and also as a vehicle for progressive social change (with a particular emphasis on sustainability). You can read Rebecca Clements' comics on her website Kinokofry.com

 Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?

I grew up in a pretty little port town in Western Australia called Albany. It's a nice place, but I left as soon as I was able and went to university on the opposite side of the country.

I feel like my childhood was pretty typical, but I suppose everyone has different ideas about what's typical. I was fortunate enough to have parents who have always been very supportive and gave me copious amounts of freedom. I played a lot of video games, read a lot of books, did a lot of silly things in school, changed what I wanted to do with my life every month, discovered things like Red Dwarf and Monty Python, had great and terrible times with kids at school, was fascinated with the world and always wanted to go out and explore on my own.

I suppose something I took for granted, and have come to realise lots of kids (especially in cities) didn't have so much of, is all the wandering about and exploring of places in the town and in nature; climbing hills, especially the sides without paths, exploring all the parts of the beaches no one went to, making cubbies and hanging out with older neighbourhood kids in patches of bushland drawing boobs and finding junk people had abandoned, being in all the places that just don't exist in cities. Lots of bike riding, finding all those tracks between houses, walking along the coastal roads down to the ocean and spending hours looking in rock pools and climbing around dangerous cliffs.

Not to romanticise it too much though. Of course it was a country town and came with all the negative aspects of that lifestyle as well. As I said, I left to push myself out into the world and see what I could make of myself.

What made you decide to make your recent move to Melbourne?

I had come back to live in Australia after a few years in Japan and wanted to work on my art full-time, which meant I didn't need to be in any city in particular. I'd already spent a lot of time in Brisbane, I wasn't very interested in Sydney and a couple of my friends were also planning on moving to Melbourne, so we all decided to get a place down here together. Which we did! And it's been pretty fantastic.

Melbourne very quickly let me know it was my new home. Whenever I live in Australia, I'm pretty sure it will be in Melbourne. It's well established as the Australian hub of art, food and excellent coffee, which all suit me fine. I love the lifestyle here, I love how exciting Melbourne is, I love the general enthusiasm and trend towards more sustainable living here. Melbourne is full of amazing potential and it bubbles with those possibilities. I even have a respect for the ever-changing weather here, which I prefer to Brisbane's dependable humidity. Oh, and trams. Trams are GREAT.

How did you first get into comics?

My initial answer is always that it was only a few years back really. I was living in Japan and had given up on art for a few years. I hadn't grown up with comics and had only fairly recently discovered some interest in European comics via Tintin and American comics via Alan Moore. I'd grown up with some British comic anthologies when I was very young, but I barely even thought of those when I heard the word 'comics'.

Some of my good friends were cartoonists and I of course had an interest in their work, but it didn't really occur to me that it was something I could do. I never thought about it. I had even stopped drawing until I was inspired by some new artists who excited me and I became encouraged, largely by Patrick Alexander, my best friend and housemate at the time. I started to draw again and try to draw from my own head, my own personality and imagination instead of trying to copy others (I had spent my teenage years learning to draw in a manga style and attempting to be 'just like the professionals!'), and it was a pretty amazing and liberating feeling!

I started to read a few webcomics (the ones that stick in my head are Beaver and Steve by James Turner and Name Removed by Nick Wolfe) and I was pretty in love with this new medium that seemed to be the place with the kind of comics, creativity and humour that appealed to me. Fairly soon after, I decided to buy a domain and start drawing comics and putting them online to see where it took me. They were TERRIBLE at first, but some very nice people liked them anyway and that encouraged me. Pretty soon after that, I guess, it started to take shape. I improved, I started to get an idea of what kind of comics I was interested in and my audience grew and grew. The possibility of having a career as an artist finally started to feel real.


What is it about webcomics in particular that helped to renew your interest in art?

First, I never really cared about comics while growing up because what 'comics' was to me, outside of newspaper strips like Garfield and Hagar, was American superhero comics. Zero interest. They made comics seem like a very stagnant form indeed and were just completely samey and boring to look at. I loved books. I loved cartoons. I loved illustration. I loved great comedy and TV shows. I loved video games; that's what I spent my childhood with more than just about anything.

I think one aspect of it is that when I discovered web comics, I found the comics that MY generation was inspired to create, and in the place that best suited us, and with the freedom to express things the way we wanted and to find our own audience. I finally found comics that struck me as fun, and funny, and beautiful, and original, and creative and there was no one to tell their creators to do anything differently, and there were lots of them, all doing what they wanted. Obviously I thought lots of them were crap too but that's part of what makes them wonderful. It must have been much like what discovering zines was to people who grew up with print comics.

In a kind of wanky way, it was like rather than me discovering comics, comics had come to MY playground. Where I'd always been and where my interests lay. On top of that of course, there were far, far, FAR fewer limitations on them and it was an exciting new medium and industry. It's accessible to everyone and it's always growing and changing. It's very exciting to explore.

What do you enjoy about making comics?

One of the things I enjoy the most is how liberating an art form comics can be. I feel like I get to be an illustrator, a writer, an animator, a comedian and a teacher, all in one. I often see much of the world in comics form. It's exciting to have these thoughts and be able to translate the world, my experience and imagination, using all the different facets that make up a comic. Finding a particular configuration of images, words, lines, colour, layout, timing, typeface, ideas ... I think any medium handled well can feel limitless like that, but I feel it most with comics. When I see an amazing page or story that brings everything together elegantly and effectively, and makes me feel consumed with admiration and pure excitement for art and creativity in general, I think those are the times I love comics the most.

To be able to feel you've achieved that, or that you're getting closer to feeling like you might achieve that is an amazing feeling. I deeply enjoy looking at a page for a long time and considering the possibilities. Finding new ways (for me, at least) to communicate an idea. Getting expressions just right. Being impressed with some really economical lines or some great unconventional palette. Creating a page that makes people laugh or smile, or makes them read it again trying to discover all the things you've put into it (that's what we always hope for). Being told my comics have actually inspired people in some way.

And being able to make my dumb jokes as beautiful as my good ones is pretty nice too.

All images copyright 2012 Rebecca Clements. Interview copyright 2012 Chris Beach

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