Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rebecca Clements Interview part two of four

Rebecca Clements interviewed by Chris Beach

Read part one over here.
What are some comics that have influenced you? Did any particular comics creators inspire you?

As I mentioned before, Patrick Alexander is a strong influence. I may never have got into comics without him, and I feel pretty damn lucky to have one of the greatest cartoonists of our generation there beside me. I know of very few cartoonists who can make me laugh like him, or take my breath away the way his thorough and masterful use of all the elements of comics art in his pages and stories does. If there's one surefire thing that keeps me in comics, it's always wanting to impress him. Or outdo him.

James Turner and Nick Wolfe's comics, among others, were early webcomic influences for me, and still are! James' fun sense of humour and charming characters, Nick's ceaseless headfirst rush into new ideas and ways of expressing his worlds and characters—there's a lot of really astounding talent out there. Over the years I've been influenced by far too many cartoonists to list them all, and often I'm not aware of an influence until years after its effect on me. I will mention Nedroid, KC Green, Rene Engstrom, Kate Beaton and David Troupes, then stop there before I go on forever.

Are there artists who work outside the field of comics who appeal to you? What is it about their work that you admire?

Absolutely, I'm also an illustrator and although not by trade, there's a game designer inside of me (as well as a director and an animator and many other things all hoping to get out from time to time). I'm very much inspired by the ideas and creations of all sorts of people in these fields.

The children's illustrators and writers I grew up with remain a huge force pushing and pulling me along. I never stop feeling the presence of the various stories and characters and artists whose worlds I spent much of my life in. There are too, too many to name: Roald Dahl, Babar, Daniel Pinkwater's The Big Orange Splot (to be very specific!), Dr Seuss and Diana Wynne Jones. I feel that I create richer things when I remember what excited me as a child. To remember those feelings and the specific things I responded to, but from an adult perspective that can come at it from different angles, is vital I think for creating charm. I'm always stomping around with a clumsy enthusiasm, trying to figure out how to hit the right notes. That's a mixed metaphor, but I think that's what I mean.

In my adult life I've discovered things like Moomin by Tove Jansson, James Marshall's George and Martha and the work of Shaun Tan, that are beacons I always make sure to keep in front of me—people and works that stun me with their masterful gift for creation in any medium. Discovering them is like finding the greatest treasure life has to offer.

To limit myself to one single last mention, who has been and always will be one of my biggest inspirations: Jim Henson and all of the hundreds of his fellow creators and creations that basically raised me. I'm not sure I'll see a repeat of a creator like him in my lifetime. Somehow I seem to find more respect and admiration for him every year of my life. He is the best. 

Do any other interests feed into your cartooning?

Of course. I think my interests in cartooning are just about the least of it. A person's life in general tends to be what really feeds their art (and people who are only immersed in comics often have little to say).

As I've said, my intense interest in video games coupled with my having grown up with computers makes it into my work. It's probably clear to anyone who knows me or reads my comics that I have an ever-increasing interest in things like sustainability. On top of that, I'm passionate about finding ways to improve our lives and ourselves in general, and about the wisdom that comes from exploration and experience, from new interactions and feelings, and from being able to make people happier. It's important to me to try to find ways to help all of us fit together better. I don't think I can stop that seeping into my comics. If it doesn't seep, it will pour anyway.

Since I've started doing a lot of diary comics, it's hard to have an interest that doesn't make its way into my cartooning. I especially like to make comics about things I find that excite me, often movies or books. I think once or twice I've even done comics around learning Japanese.

Life, both frustratingly and thankfully, is always getting in the way of comics for me.

When you were a guest and interviewed on 3CR you said "I don't read much in terms of print [comics] because I don't have much of a history with it". It seems like more and more artists who don't come from the usual background of reading a lot of mainstream comics are becoming comics creators. What do you make of this trend?

Great! It's just great when people from all kinds of backgrounds try a medium. The worst thing that can happen to any medium—music, television, whatever—is for the same kinds of people who all followed the same lines and jumped through the same hoops to be the only ones who have any impact. It happens in every industry, and that's when you begin to see nothing fresh and people forget to experiment and try new things—people become afraid to try new things. In areas where this happens, creators themselves seem to be a mix of arrogant, depressed, self-loathing, conservative types who forget why they got interested in their trade in the first place.

The things people genuinely love—that excites us and makes us feel alive, that unites us by bringing different demographics to a medium that should never be a single-demographic one—can only come out of an industry that is rich with different opinions, experiences, outlooks and styles. It's great when artists mix and share ideas. It's also great when artists have nothing to do with each other. That variety drives us all to create.

Which comics (on the web and in print) do you currently enjoy reading?

It's always changing because I don't really have that much time to read comics. I'll definitely read anything by the web cartoonists I mentioned earlier, so Gunshow and Hark! A Vagrant are among my staples. Pictures For Sad Children, So Far Apart, Hilarity Comics ... I'm very excited by anything people like Ben Hutchings and Pat Grant do (Pat's Blue is one of the most wonderful comics out there).

I'm not reading much in print right now! I'm finally reading Eddie Campbell's Bacchus, which I recently acquired. Just today I was reminded that I have a lot of Alan Moore to catch up on. I read my Moomin comics whenever I need to be reminded of what it's all about.

What prompted you to live in Japan for several years and what were your experiences like there?

To answer the second one first and succinctly: A-MA-ZING.

I'd always been interested in Japan (come on, I grew up with video games and anime) and I studied Japanese for a few years, so after university I went to teach in Japan for what was supposed to be a year but turned into many.

I think of those years in Japan as my truly formative adult years. That's where I learned the most about life. I had difficult and harsh experiences that taught me the best things about life. I met really fantastic people there, had so many unbelievably fun times and traveled a lot around the country. It was the best decision of my life. I can't even begin to imagine what I would have missed out on had I not gone. So much of who I am now came from those fantastic struggles and good times. So many more after returning to Australia too. And I look forward to all the new experiences to come all the places I go.

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

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