A Lifetime Girl Scout: New ‘Lumberjanes’ Artist Carey Pietsch on Building Character and Earning Badges
As the latest guest artist to head out to camp with the Lumberjanes, Carey Pietsch is well qualified. Not only does she know her way around a campfire, but her previous comic work includes a series of self-published mini-comics that combine exactly the sense of grandly fantastical and intimately personal that has made Lumberjanes one of the most important hit comics of the past couple of years.
Pietsch joins writers Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh for the latest Lumberjanes arc, featuring an encounter with a possible werewolf, starting with issue #21, in stores this week. ComicsAlliance chatted to Pietsch to find out how she landed the gig, and what sort of experience she has in the wilderness!
ComicsAlliance: Hi Carey. Coming on board Team Lumberjanes must be an exciting gig. How did it come about?
Carey Pietsch: It is! I'm thrilled and honored to get to be a part of such a powerhouse team. I've worked with the Boom folks previously as the artist on Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift, which Meredith Gran wrote, and I was lucky enough to work on a cover for the initial eight issue Lumberjanes run as well as the artwork for a few short Lumberjanes stories written by Noelle [Stevenson] and Shannon.
I actually got the email from Whitney Leopard, my (wonderful!) editor, as I was heading out of town to a weekend in a cabin in the woods, which felt very appropriate. I was so stoked all weekend, but it was so stressful to wait until I got back into an area with reliable internet before I could actually reply!
CA: What made you say yes?
CP: Selfishly, I love the Lumberjanes characters and stories. Noelle, Shannon, and Grace [Ellis] did such a fantastic job with the initial series! I knew Kat was joining the writing team, and I love Supercakes, so I was looking forward to see where this arc would go. And having seen it now — it's fun, funny, cute as heck, and really exciting! I'm so glad to be drawing it. Working with the writing team has been a pleasure; I loved collaborating with Meredith and was really excited to get to try it again. They've all had such good feedback, and Kat worked up some brilliant character designs, too. And Maarta [Laiho] and Aubrey [Aiese] do such a fantastic job with the colors and lettering! I love seeing it all come together.
As for saying yes to the guest artwork position itself, that was honestly also selfishly motivated; I'm really glad to get to work on a project that Brooke [Allen] established such an expressive, gorgeous feel for from the very first issue. And the other guest artists have all also been people whose work I admire! I love Carolyn [Nowak]'s lush inking and expressive characters, and Rosemary [Valerio-O'Connell] did such a brilliant job giving Beyond Bay Leaf a quiet, intense, atmosphere.
It's wonderful to see how everyone interprets such strong characters, but that wouldn't be possible without the foundation Brooke built! She really brought life into how everyone moves, acts, and interacts with their world. I can't even begin to fill those shoes, but I hope folks will enjoy my separate take on the 'Janes.
CA: For readers who aren't familiar with your work, what should they expect?
CP: My super short shorthand is that my original comics are generally about magic and empathy, which definitely fits the Lumberjanes bill! Visually, my goal is to pay attention to physical acting and expressions for characters, and really do my best to support and strengthen the dialog and emotional tone of the script. I do that thing where you subconsciously make the face you're drawing, so that's been fun for both me and anyone near me while I'm working who gets to watch me grimace. (Sorry, roommates.)
CA: How do you find your way in to the personalities of the girls?
I think every Lumberjanes character is written with care and empathy, which are so, so important to writing good characters. They're not perfect, but in learning about their backgrounds and where they're coming from, you get why --- and that lets me (and everyone, I bet) relate to them even more strongly.
I admire Jo's earnest geekery; Ripley's enthusiasm; Mal's courage; but I've also got a healthy dose of Molly's worries and April's tendency to think I know best. But I mean, I'm totally a Jen at heart: a little overbearing, and always at least a little frazzled and frayed, but I'm gonna do my very best to be there for you.
CA: Do you have any personal experience with wilderness survival? Are you an outdoorsy person?
CP: Ha! I'm actually a lifetime Girl Scout (I know there are more of you out there!), and I spent several summers at a camp that was very similar to this one --- minus all the fantastic elements. So consider that the equivalent of about the first third of the first issue of each new arc: I've done plenty of badge-earning ropes courses and overnight camping/canoeing trips, but no monster battles. And I make a mean campfire baked apple!
I spend as much time outdoors as I can during the winter to get every possible drop of our rarest resource, sunlight, but that's mostly in the Not Quite Great Outdoors, aka walking to and from the nearest city park.
CA: Which Lumberjanes badges do you think you'd ace, and which ones would be a struggle?
CP: I actually distinctly remember struggling with a knot-tying badge, and I have photographic evidence of the most recent cake I decorated, proving that if I managed to get that one, it would only be out of pity. I don't know what it is about icing tubes that turns me into a ham-handed clawbeast.
On the other hand, lanyard-making and friendship bracelets and bead animals were absolutely my summer camp jam. And I grew up on a steady diet of puns, so I might end up just badgering the council to let me write some terrible badge names.
CA: There's a lot of fantasy in your work, especially your minicomics, and the Lumberjanes have their share of run-ins with weirdness. Are there any fantastical elements you're hoping to introduce to their world?
CP: I'm really excited to get to explore deeper into some existing weird camp settings and build a couple new ones from the ground up! I love the novelty and discovery elements of fantasy stories, but even more than that, I'm interested in the way that people use them as a tool to explore interpersonal relationships in those new settings, which Lumberjanes does in spades.
Also, I'm not saying there's a werewolf in this arc, but if there were, I would be super stoked to draw the friendliest and also grumpiest dogwolf.
CA: What are you most excited for readers to see in your first issue?
CP: Ooh, tough call! I love getting to do deliberately slightly wonky drawings when a non-artist character draws something out; that's always enjoyable. But there's a brief volleyball scene and a confrontation at the end of the first issue that were really fun to draw, too!
I'm actually well into the second issue now, and I've gotten to peek at the script for the third — things only get better from here, and I can't wait for everyone to get to read these issues!
Lumberjanes #21 is on sale Wednesday November 25.