Character Focused: An Interview With Cartoonist Natalie Nourigat [Hire This Woman]
Hire This Woman is a recurring feature on ComicsAlliance that shines a spotlight on female comics creators, whether they're relative newcomers or experienced pros who are ready to break out. In an overwhelmingly male business, we want to draw your attention to these creators --- and to raise their profile with editors and industry gatekeepers.
Busy cartoonist Natalie Nourigat has worked on Deadpool, Bee & PuppyCat, It Girl & the Atomics, and many of her own projects including the webcomic Home Is Where The Internet Is. She's also worked as a storyboard and commercial artist. She's currently working on a graphic novel for Oni Press called Over the Surface.
ComicsAlliance: What kind of comic creator are you?
Natalie Nourigat: Writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer.
CA: What is your preferred form of creative output?
NN: I like to pencil/ink/color on projects where I collaborate with writers, and I like writing/penciling/inking/coloring/lettering my own stories.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
NN: I’m increasingly working all-digitally because it’s fast, clean, and travel-friendly. Manga Studio’s pen stabilizing functions, plus excellent brush packs like the one by Frenden, made the line quality disparity between paper and digital a non-issue in my eyes. Now, I love having a neat desk with just a computer and tablet on top, and being able to put those things in a backpack and create comics start-to-finish from any corner of the planet. Also, not having ink stains on my shirt! But I still carry a sketchbook and a few pens to sketch with on-the-go (Platinum’s carbon pen, a Pentel pocket brush pen, and a Pentel aquash brush with a gray ink wash inside).
CA: What’s your background/training?
NN: I studied business and Japanese at the University of Oregon, because I thought I needed a “real” job. Both areas of study have been useful in my career, actually, but the more direct formative influences on my art were having great art teachers in school and parents who encouraged my creativity. In high school and college, I was able to find good books and online resources to teach myself how to draw and publish comics. I entered Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga competition several years in a row starting at age 14, and I started a webcomic at 16 which greeeeeatly improved my sequential storytelling. In high school I got more connected with other artists via webcomic communities and local anime conventions. I also interned at Periscope Studio when I was a junior in college, which was crucial for learning how artists work and what a comics career looks like in practice.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
NN: I’m very character-focused. One of my greatest pleasures is pushing character designs, proportions, acting, and expressions. Another joy is drawing from life, because I find real people to be wonderfully unique and diverse and lovable. I work on a lot of storyboards in addition to comics, and I’m definitely influenced by American, French, and Japanese animation. I love action, comedy, and sci-fi, and despite a thick layer of irony I am hopelessly sentimental and optimistic. My favorite author is Charles Dickens, and I love when a story wraps up neatly and good things happen to good characters.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
NN: I drew two graphic novels, Between Gears and A Boy & A Girl, which I think I’m best-known for. I have a webcomic called Home Is Where The Internet Is that’s mostly about travel and autobio jokes. I’ve also worked on Deadpool, Bee & PuppyCat, The Thrilling Adventure Hour graphic novel, It Girl & the Atomics, illustrations for Disney, the Husbands comic adaptation, My Boyfriend is a Monster, and The Marvels of Money. I had a digital series with MonkeyBrain Comics called Tally Marks to publish 200+ pages of sketches from my year-long Eurotrip, and I also publish quarterly PDFs of my sketchbooks to Gumroad under the title Tally Marks.
Right now I’m working on my next book, which is a creator-owned project for Oni Press called Over the Surface. I am very excited about that one. I also storyboard and draw commercial artwork for clients.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
NN: About eight weeks when I’m doing everything myself, and about five weeks when I’m working with a writer and letterer.
CA: What is your dream project?
NN: I feel like I’m already working on one of my dream projects! </cheese> But seriously, working on my own story, Over the Surface, at a publisher like Oni Press where I have creative freedom plus editorial support plus a page rate…it’s pretty fantastic. I can’t believe I get to write and illustrate that for my “day job.”
In the future I just hope to work on more creator-owned books, work with writers who will push me to grow, and maybe dip my toe into a comic adaptation for a property I’m a fan of. It would be a ridiculously big project, but I do dream about getting to be the artist who adapts His Dark Materials.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
NN: Gosh, it’d be impossible to make a comprehensive list, but here are a few…
Bryan Lee O’Malley, Faith Erin Hicks, Fumio Obata, Ken Niimura, Aude Picault, Craig Thompson, Bastien Vivés, Madeleine Flores, Ron Chan, Benjamin Dewey, Joëlle Jones, Erika Moen, Ben Bates, Emi Lenox, Angie Wang, Jen Wang, Claire Hummel, Sarah Glidden, Boulet, Pénélope Bagieu, Nicolas Hitori de, Bannister, Hilary Florido, Gurihiru, Sam Bosma, Becky Cloonan, Brandon Graham, Leslie Hung, Clio Chiang, Hope Larson, Blutch, Benoît Feroumont, Kate Beaton, Jillian Tamaki, Lewis Trondheim, Madeleine Martin, Marion Montaigne, Alex Grigg, Isabel Greenberg, Naoki Urasawa, Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, Akira Toriyama, Jaime Hernandez.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
NN: So many…! In recent memory: Scott Pilgrim, Seconds, The War at Ellsmere, Just So Happens, La Royaume, La Page Blanche, Transat, Papa… (by Aude Picault), Habibi, Polina, Emitown, Girl Apocalypse, Koko Be Good, Letters to an Absent Father, Asterios Polyp, Persepolis, Super Mutant Monster Academy, and Pluto.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
NN: Periscope Studio would be hard to beat. I love going downtown and being around people during the day, versus caving it up at home. Something I dream about, though, is setting up an exchange program where studio members could trade places with artists from other cities/countries and work in each other’s studios and live in each other’s homes for a couple months now and then, so we could experience that cultural exchange and grow by working alongside artists from different places. I’m passionate about travel, meeting new people, and seeing how other people work. Discovering new places (and speaking new languages!) can be a good kind of challenge, and an incredible inspiration boost.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
NN: I’m just getting started! I have a ton of my own stories I want to complete, and I’m still evolving with every project. I’m very busy in 2015-2016 with Over the Surface, but I’m always keeping an eye out for my next project.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
NN: My homepage serves as my portfolio site. I’m also active on Facebook, and Tumblr, and Twitter, and Instagram.
If there's a woman who you think should 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.