Pizza Island Ends, Kate Beaton Steps Back from Regular Updates for ‘Long Term Projects’
The Brooklyn comics studio Pizza Island recently disbanded, with its creators — Kate Beaton, Domitille Collardey, Sarah Glidden, Meredith Gran, Lisa Hanawalt, Deana Sobel and Julia Wertz — parting amicably and scattering as far as Canada and France. One of Pizza Island’s most prominent members, Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant, also announced that she will be slowing the pace of her webcomic updates in order to focus on unspecified long-term projects, and mentioned opportunities ranging “from children’s books to television work.”
ComicsAlliance spoke to each creator in the former all-female comics super-group about where they’re headed next, what made the studio different from the often solitary work experience of comics art, and what they’ll miss most about Pizza Island.Kate Beaton talked to ComicsAlliance about her upcoming move back to Canada:
Well, I love New York, and I think it will be hard to leave it in a couple months. I don’t think it’s going to hit me till it’s done. But my move here was never supposed to be permanent, and Canada really is my home so I always knew I was going back. I came to NYC because I figured it was what was best for me, and that worked out tremendously, these past 12 months in particular have been amazing. My studio, my roommates, my friends, agent, publisher, book, everything. I guess New York isn’t permanent for a lot of people though, myself included.
Going back to working on my own will be different, but not too different. Pizza Island rarely had everyone in at the same time, often you might be there by yourself, and when there were people there, we respected each other’s work and kept it fairly quiet. But I am going to miss having other people around to break the work silence with a joke or two, and have a real conversation with, so you’re not in your own head all the time. And to have the people around you be as smart, funny and talented as those girls, in the same industry as you? Irreplaceable.
…The artists from Pizza Island are some of the best around; we were good peers career-wise, and friends too. I respected them. I felt neither above or beneath them, and I think we complemented each other really well. People like to think that some kind of magic happens in studios, but the truth is when you go there to work, you sit at your desk and work and there’s no real group input on anything. People are doing their own thing the same as they would at home. But the environment was inspiring, the work everyone was doing was inspiring, the studio was a great place. When I move to Toronto I’m going to work from home for a bit, but who knows what will happen after a while.
It’s funny how people always think there’s a bigger story happening at Pizza Island, [but] in the end though it’s just people going to a place to do their job. But you couldn’t ask for better people.
The experience at PI was a great one at its height. There was a lot of energy in the room and it was one of the more productive times I’ve had as a cartoonist. At some point people started shifting away to other things, mentally and geographically, and it seemed inevitable that the studio would dissolve. Then the lease was up so the decision kind of made itself. It’s hard to recreate that energy among a group once it’s gone.
I’m sort of transitional at the moment. Octopus Pie is my primary project but I’m taking freelance. I work mostly at coffee shops and the library. I’d like to work in a studio setting in my own home, when the money/space is available. It seems like this is a year when more cartoonists in major cities are consolidating their workspaces and trying to save money. At this point I’m seeing collective studios as a luxury — but maybe a few months of lone madness will prove me wrong on that.
Here’s why I had fun at Pizza Island: All girls, all the same age, doing amazing things in comics, but everyone filled a different niche. I think that was my favorite part — how different everyone’s work was — it was exciting to talk about stuff and then see everyone’s ideas come to life. It was like having six wacky sisters who are really good at stuff.
Being part of the studio was great while it lasted but it’s time to move on. I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone does next! At the moment I’ll be working at home, which I don’t really mind because my apartment gets great light and for some reason feels kind of magical. I think I do my best work when I feel like I’m actually living in the cartoon world I’m creating. I’m working on an animation project, a picture book, and gag cartoons. You’ll always be able to find my work at www.deanasobel.com and http://philipthesealion.wordpress.com/.
Lastly, I was excited to be part of Pizza Island because it was a vast improvement over previous all-female collectives, such as the one in the attached photo:
I’m going to work from home for a bit, and I’ll be traveling back to France for a while this spring. It’s possible that by the summer I will feel crazy and will look for another working space. I recently finished a book for my French publisher Delcourt, I’m not sure when it is coming out. Otherwise I’m keeping busy working on the next issue of What Had Happened Was, on a long form story, and on various illustration commissions.
I loved everything about Pizza Island. It’s definitely the best working space I have shared so far. What made it special is that we were all cartoonists, very good friends, and very admiring of each other’s work. I learned a lot from watching everyone else work. We could turn around to ask very specific advice about something we were working on, and some solution would come up. We were great bouncing boards for each other. Not that we were always having conversations about comics and ideas, though. Most of the time, we were just sitting at our desks with headphones on, our backs turned to each other. Or we made fun of some silly article from the Style section of the New York Times. The other day they ran an article about “man buns”…
I loved being around the others, but I also liked being alone at the studio at night, or on weekends, so I’m not afraid of working by myself so much as working in my house. We’ll see how that goes.
My current project is a collection of longish short stories (as in 30-50 pages each) that will be collected in a single book out from Koyama Press this fall. Probably at SPX. After that I’m going to work on a follow up to Drinking at the Movies. And I’ll just do it from home as we don’t have any immediate plans to start another studio.
The main difference in working at a studio versus working at home is probably sanity-based. When working from home, it’s very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of your own mind and to suddenly realize you haven’t gone out into the world or talked to anyone with your mouth (only email) in days to weeks. It’s probably not that difficult for people who live with others who can snap them out of that mode, but I live alone so I have to be more careful to get out and socialize once in awhile or I’ll go insane. I’m going to be working long hours at home for the rest of this year or more, amd I’ll probably emerge from my mole house in 2014 having aged 20 years. I’ll miss going to the Island and sitting around procrastinating by eating snacks and making jokes and generally not getting a whole lot done.
My plan right now is to work from home (even while we had the studio, I worked at home over half the time. So it’s not a huge change)! I wouldn’t be opposed to joining another studio in the future, but for now it’s nice to save a little money. As far as current and future work…I have a children’s book coming out in a few months (“Benny’s Brigade,” published by McSweeneys) and I’ve been contributing to The Hairpin blog and posting random comics and things that I make on my Tumblr.
Pizza Island was the first studio I shared since taking painting classes in college, and it was great mainly because we all got along so well. Like, even moving our furniture out and cleaning up the place was pretty fun because we all made stupid jokes the whole time. I happen to really like working at home alone, but it was nice to have that camaraderie… It helped to keep things feeling balanced and healthy. I’ll have to make an effort to work at cafés or at friends’ houses once in awhile, otherwise I’ll really miss that group feeling.
[The end of Pizza Island] is kind of sad, but also it’s kind of ok for us all at the same time. We feel good about the fact that we went out on a really good note and didn’t let Pizza Island ever get to the point where people were sick of each other. It was one of the best artistic experiences of my life for sure, and probably one that helped me grow a ton as a cartoonist. But then, even if Pizza Island had continued on, I wouldn’t have been involved because I’m here in Angouleme.
This has so far been great, living here in Angouleme. Of course, I’ve only been here for about 10 days, and five of those days were taken up with the festival and 24 Hour Comics Day, so its not exactly indicative of what the rest of my stay here will be like. But so far so good. The studio building, the Maison des Auteurs, is really beautiful with great facilities. They have both private studios as well as shared ones, and I chose a shared studio because I had liked the Pizza Island experience so much. All the artists here (there are about 15 of us at any given time) are all really talented. Here’s the listing of who’s here right now.
Angoulême is actually home to a really large artistic community outside of the Maison. There’s an art school here with comics and animation degrees , so a lot of people stay on after they graduate (the city is pretty cheap to live in). Also, there are a number of animation and game design companies here and a few comics publishers. This means you meet a ton of artists immediately and everyone is pretty friendly and serious about their work. But on the flip side, theres not much to DO in Angoulême besides work on your comics or hang out with these folks, so its exactly the kind of environment I was looking for when I thought of leaving New York.
My reasons for coming here were to save money (the Maison provides me with an apartment and a studio) and to be able to concentrate on the next book. I’m working on a book which will be sort of comics meta-journalism. I accompanied several journalists on a reporting trip to Northern Iraq, Lebanon and Syria last year with the goal of making a comic about how journalists do their work and what goes into the relationships between them and their subjects (in this case, Iraqi refugees in Syria, a deportee from the US who was sent back to Iraq, and an American ex-marine who fought in the war). I’d like to be able to finish this book while I’m here…or at least come close to it.
After Angoulême I’m not really sure. I usually have a plan for my next move and then change my mind about 10 times before actually committing to a place, but right now I’m thinking of relocating to Seattle. I have a lot of friends out there who are doing some exciting stuff with journalism; it’s cheaper than New York, and it’s got a lot of easily accessible nature, something that New York lacks. But if you ask me again in 6 months I might have some other plan, like staying here forever. Wherever I do end up, I’d really like to continue sharing a studio with other artists. It’s funny that the studio sharing thing we were doing with Pizza Island got attention at all; here in France it’s really really common and I know of a lot of shared studios in the States as well. Maybe it’s just because we were all women. I’m not sure.
Best wishes to all the members of Pizza Island in their future endeavors, and a fond farewell to the most deceptively delicious-sounding comics studio of all time.