Hire This Woman: Cartoonist Jessica Garvey
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.”
Cartoonist Jessica Garvey writes, pencils, inks, and colors her own work, which includes her autobiographical comic It Did Happen as well as the webcomic Pink/Blue. She is also a recent graduate of Oklahoma City University with a degree in Studio Art and English.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Jessica Garvey: Rather than choosing one form of creative output I prefer to think of myself as a comic creator. A combination of writing and drawing is what comes most naturally to me--when developing a new character, I have to be able to see an image of him or her on paper as well as in writing. In my collaborations so far, I most often work with writers as an artist, but I like to have input on the story and characters as much as possible.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
JG: My autobiographical comic, It Did Happen, was a combination of both. I typically prefer to sketch on paper as that is what comes most naturally, and then I will either take it immediately into manga studio or I will ink with traditional media. With It Did Happen, everything was inked traditionally with a combination of pen and brush. I have also used copic markers and watercolors. I like working with a range of different media depending on the situation, but I will admit that there is a bit of a disconnect sometimes with a tablet--because I’m not hunched over the piece of paper like I’ve grown used to doing since I was a kid. But it’s better for my back.
CA: What’s your background/training?
JG: I recently graduated from Oklahoma City University with a double major in Studio Art and English. One of the greatest skills I developed there was the ability to examine the interplay between different parts of a work. This is something that is essential in comics, as you have to keep the composition of a single panel in mind, while also considering the whole page and the whole book. My professors were very open to the idea of exploring such a “non-traditional” art form as comics, and I actually turned in my first graphic novel for my senior project.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
JG: I focus a lot on expression and the emotions of the characters in my writing and drawing. If a character is surprised or depressed, he or she needs time to live out that emotion naturally. I typically prefer to go without words and let the expressions and body language of the characters speak for themselves whenever possible. For me it always comes down to the character feeling natural and real, and sometimes a whole lot of description and inner monologue can feel fake. This preference probably comes from my love of Manga, where expressions are typically emphasized or exaggerated.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
JG: I began with larger sequential illustrations, primarily autobiographical work about my dog and the way she tugs my arm off every time we go on walks. My first comic however was a small story about my relationship with my first pet called Jasmine.
In 2013 for my senior capstone I self-published It Did Happen, a 30-page autobiographical comic. It tells the story of my first (brief, awkward) high school romance, as well as the startling events of two years later that threw the relationship into a new, darker perspective.
I have also completed a short webcomic called Pink/Blue that you can find on my website. This comic tells the story of a young girl who ventures outside of the girls’ aisle in pursuit of an action figure.
I’m currently in the planning stages of a fantasy gaming inspired story about a roguish character who gets wrapped up in the politics of a poverty-stricken city in a “Robin Hood” scheme. I intend for this comic to be published on the web and for it to be about the same size as It Did Happen.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
JG: I have not worked on a 20-page issue yet, but based on my experience with It Did Happen I believe it would amount to about a month of work before publication.
CA: What is your dream project?
JG: I want to tell stories that people can relate to. Most of my ideas come from very personal places, so my hope is that I can reach people and connect with them through these characters, whether it is autobiographical or fictional work. More specifically, I’ve always wanted to create my own sprawling fantasy story, one like Bone by Jeff Smith or more recently Spera by Josh Tierney. I grew up loving Tolkien and I’ve never lost that love, so I have a fantasy itch that I need to scratch.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
JG: When First Second serialized Faith Erin Hicks’s Friends With Boys online in 2012, I started to realize that comics did not have to be about testosterone-fueled super heroic fist fights. (That’s kind of the image of comics you get when all you know of them growing up is The Justice League.) Reading that comic sort of opened the floodgates for me and I discovered webcomics creators like Meredith Gran and Kate Beaton. One of my favorites is Lucy Knisley’s “Stop Paying Attention.” I have quite a few of her graphic novels as well and I love how her comics can remain so cheerful and relatable and honest all at the same time.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
JG: My autobiographical work has definitely been inspired by Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Jeffery Brown’s Clumsy and Unlikely. I pored over these titles while working on my own It Did Happen when I struggled with framing a good story -- one that jumps back and forth in time--while remaining true to actual events. Recently I’ve loved This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. It’s one of my goals to be able to tell stories about real people and believable characters on the same level as these creators.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
JG: While drawing and writing comics is a solitary experience for the most part, I work best when I can collaborate with a few supportive, trusted individuals. I also enjoy being able to turn around and pet my dog every now and then, so I work well from home and over email. A regular schedule of writing and drawing is the best way for me to stay focused.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
JG: I like to get into the head of characters in my work and I try to make that come through in anything I do, whether that is a finished comic or a simpler character illustration. I don’t want to do just one thing or stay limited to autobiography, but I do want to offer others the opportunity to connect to my characters no matter what I’m working on.
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.