Hire This Woman: Cartoonist Cathy G. Johnson
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
This week we’re featuring cartoonist Cathy G. Johnson. Johnson writes, draws, colors, and letters her own work. Readers may be familiar with her webcomic-turned-graphic novel, Jeremiah.
ComicsAlliance: Which is your preferred form of creative output?
Cathy G. Johnson: My strong suits are penciling and watercolor painting.
CA: When penciling, do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
CGJ: Almost strictly on paper, with slight digital tweaking. The only real reason why is because I’m a romantic. Working digitally doesn’t have the physicality I like to have when I’m making art. I also really like the original artwork. Going to museums and viewing artwork is a big part of my inspiration, so it’s how I like to work.
CA: What’s your background/training?
CGJ: I’ve been making comics since I was a kid, but when I went to art school I was really interested in critical theory. I chose to major in Interdisciplinary Sculpture because the department in my college was heavily conceptual. Aesthetics weren’t as important as the intent and effect of a work. It never went over well when a piece of art looked good, but didn’t do any intellectual heavy lifting, and I liked that. Despite all the steel and ceramics classes, I ended up making a graphic novel for my graduating thesis. As a professional artist now, I chose comics to be my main voice artistically because it’s still the kind of work that speaks to me the most. I like that comics are printed in multiples and shared online, making it a very accessible medium.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
CGJ: Fresh and deliberate. I start every project impatiently. I like working quickly, but immediately shifting gears and slowing down to focus on the details. It’s a style that keeps it fresh but doesn’t dilute the importance I have for my work. This style goes for writing as well as drawing and painting.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
CGJ: I have just self-published Jeremiah, a 160-page watercolor graphic novel that was serialized online. I’ve made a number of shorter comics that I’ve published in zine form, such as Her Name Was Prudence and Until It Runs Clear. I’ve also collaborated and printed illustration and literary chapbooks with my good friend and writer Ross Hernandez. I’m also a printmaker. My current big project is a new graphic novel for middle school girls that’s currently in the writing stage.
CA: What is your dream project?
CGJ: Right now I really want to make graphic novels for girls that aren’t afraid to bare their teeth. All the girls I’ve known as an after school educator have been smart, independent, and really really cool. I want to make comics for them that are like that. I want to make them comics with a large range of diverse representation that aren’t preachy, that girls can see themselves and their experiences in. I feel like as an adult woman, it’s my turn to step up to the plate and make great, fun, and intelligent comics for girls.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
CGJ: Right now I feel like I’m part of a great group of young artists in Providence that I’m proud to call my friends and peers. Olivia Horvath, Mimi Chrzanowski, Dailen Williams, Katrina Silander-Clark. They are really inspiring and influence me to work hard and push my art in different directions. I’m also really inspired by Laura Knetzger, Sam Alden, Kevin Czapiewski, Jillian Tamaki, Julie Delporte, Gabrielle Bell and Julie Doucet.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
CGJ: I read ferociously as a child. My father summarizes it well: “Thank God for manga, because I don’t know what I else I would have given a seven-year-old girl who liked comics.” I read every single manga title my mall’s bookstore got in stock, all the way from middle to high school. So much of the manga that was being translated and published during that time was drawn by women for girls, and I think that was a big influence on me, to be able to see girls as protagonists and heroes. I get a lot of my sense of pacing from manga too, and what’s important to show on a page. My favorite mangas growing up were Honey and Clover by Chica Umino, and Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya. Each of them are about creative students in artmusic college, so I saw myself in them. But they’re really about people’s relationships with each other. It’s all very subtly orchestrated. People are very conscious of each other’s feelings, and I liked that. They would be working really hard and passionately to become smart creative human beings, while also treading lightly and feeling deeply for one another.
I’ve recently read, and felt tremendously moved by, Today Is The Last Day Of The Rest Of Your Life by Ulli Lust and Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment
CGJ: A supportive, close community, with a good balance of social and alone time. Some day I’d like to have a separate studio from my bedroom. My set-up right now involves three desks carefully orchestrated in my small bedroom and a tiny bed shoved into the corner. It’s comfortable but I keep expanding my work, so something will have to change!
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
CGJ: I’m reliable and good at time management. I’m really honest and don’t pick up projects I know I won’t be able to fulfill. I really push myself to make everything new and unique. Nothing I make will be boring.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.