Tagged: women in the arts

Dame of the Day: Josefina Pla

josefina pla

Today’s Dame of the Day is Josephina Pla (November 9, 1903-January 11, 1999).In the 1950s, Pla founded the New Art Group with fellow artists Olga Blinder, Lilí De Mónico and José Laterza Parodi. As a poet, art critic, playwright, painter and journalist, she is one of the most respected members of the Paraguayan artistic community.

Schoolin’ Life: Annie Koyama

In today’s episode of Schoolin’ Life, we meet publisher Annie Koyama.

Annie-1

 

Photo credit: Robin Nishio

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I’m a publisher of alternative comics, art books and zines in Toronto, Canada. I love working with and promoting emerging artists as well as more established artists. I am trying to curb my workaholic ways by taking at least one day a week off to appreciate nature and bad movies with my fantastic partner.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I was probably too busy just trying to get by since I’d left home during high school. Although I had already ruled out social work after doing some volunteer probation officer work, I was hoping to find some work in the arts. I was enjoying being a set painter for the National Ballet of Canada and Canadian Opera Company.

 In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I was the eldest of six kids and a visible minority. There was an expectation to excel for sure.

What was your first job like?

My first job when I was of legal working age was in a women’s clothing store in a suburban mall. I certainly didn’t fit in as the store sold spongy, synthetic clothing to middle-aged women. Customers would pee in the dressing room wastebaskets and I’d have to take the wastebaskets downstairs down a long, dark corridor to get to the washrooms. I was making some of my own clothing at that time so needless to say, I never used my employee discount.

What was your first apartment like?

I left home during high school and found a roommate to rent a cheap two bedroom apartment in a mixed industrial/residential area of town. I had to take two buses to school. The two most lasting impressions were that I learned to co-exist with cockroaches and silverfish. And the local cookie factory was nearby so there was a sickeningly sweet smell to the whole area all the time. To this day, I can’t eat those cookies.

Did you experience any big life changes?

I finished University, where I studied arts, languages and criminology; then I got a chance to travel with my sister and a friend of my father’s in Europe. I discovered that social work was not for me, which saddened me, but at least I could move on. I discovered that while I am a competent painter, I was not a really creative painter. However, I got a job at the National Film Board of Canada, which turned out to be my entrance into the world of film production. I loved working in film and felt as though I had found my niche. I’ve stumbled into virtually every job I’ve had in my life. My 20s was the decade where I tried out jobs in different professions allowing me to eliminate the ones that were not for me. However, being an A-type, decisive personality and a person who didn’t want to do a job unless I could excel in it, I was pretty merciless in terms of evaluating my skills.

In what ways did your friendships change?

I kept in touch with some friends from university, but there was no social media in the 80s so some people fell by the wayside when I met new groups of friends. People moved away for jobs afterwards and it was harder to keep in touch.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Whoo boy! What didn’t I learn? I learned that I’m good at cutting my losses in general which has helped me in other parts of my life. I often felt like the protagonist of “My Brilliant Career.” I turned down a few marriage opportunities that decade.

How did your relationships with your family change?

Growing up, I was close to several of my siblings, partly because, with six kids, we had to share bedrooms but having a bit of distance wasn’t a bad thing either.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I definitely experienced racism and sexism from an early age, but you have to begin to think about how you are going to engage with others during those instances. Being one of two female set painters and feminists in a union shop full of men was challenging but once I was able to prove myself as the job involved quite a bit of physical labor, things leveled off a bit. In North America, we tend to be viewed by what our profession or job is. It’s a narrow view and it’s always bothered me that there is more to people than what they do for a living.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

Because no job I’ve ever had was planned, I just stumbled into a variety of kinds of work. I guess you have to keep growing as you take on new challenges but I don’t recall that much changed emotionally. I feel as though I grew much more emotionally in my 30s.

How did you change intellectually?

As an avid reader and one who mostly enjoyed school, I had to continue to go from book smart to street smart. When you have the safety net of a tight family, you may be protected from making more mistakes. On your own, you fall more often but if you learn from each fall, I think you get smarter in a way that is more valuable. I still feel that you should surround yourself with people who you believe to be smarter than you in as many disciplines as possible. You can’t help but learn from them.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

As an eldest child in a large family, I always felt that I had to lead the way. I felt an affinity to the arts and figured that I’d somehow end up working in some art-related job as it was where some of my skills lay. What I didn’t notice consciously was that my organizational skills were becoming strong and that basis has served me in everything I’ve done since. I certainly became way more independent in my 20s.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

It’s difficult to avoid becoming cynical when you see injustice around you. I’m not a born optimist, so it’s really easy to become disillusioned by the shitty state of the world. Both my parents were interned during WW2 and their families lost everything they had and had to build again from scratch in a hostile environment. It would be easy to carry a chip on your shoulder after that kind of traumatic experience but, to their credit, they chose to go on with life. That kind of fortitude influenced how I try to endure the terrible things that take place in the world.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Since none stand out, there must have been too many of them!

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

Probably realizing that I wasn’t destined to become a really good painter. That experience taught me to move on and not look back.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

I didn’t really have one in my 20s. I was certainly inspired by writers as disparate as Doris Lessing, E.M. Forster, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Yukio Mishima, John Knowles, P.G. Wodehouse, Fritjof Capra and John Berger. My mom was a music lover and took us to concerts even when we were pretty young, she instilled a love of music that I’m sure all of my siblings carry today.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Maybe the beginning of the AIDS crisis. I lost many friends to AIDS related deaths. It was unexpected, confusing and unbearably sad.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

I try not to look back but sometimes I wonder what would have transpired had I’d accepted a scholarship to a university arts program that was offered. I will always regret not travelling more due to lack of funds. You could travel pretty cheaply back then. I wasn’t as comfortable travelling alone then and if you waited for a friend, it wouldn’t happen.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

They’d all involve sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, so nothing original, sadly.

Schoolin’ Life: Sarah Klinger

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know illustrator Sarah Klinger.

Sarah K

Illustration by Elizabeth Baddeley

When you were in your 20s…

 What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I’m still not clear on my expectations for myself, but I was especially frantic in my early 20s. I saw what looked like two clear paths emerge before me. The first was to find a steady job at a company where I could work my way up, doing something I could stand. This is what most people I knew did, and it seemed like a sensible and realistic expectation—to be comfortable and somewhat unsatisfied existentially.

The second option was to pursue something I was passionate about, which I assumed would mean a very unpredictable and stressful existence.

 In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

As per my answer above, I think that society tells you that as an artist you must either suffer, sell out or give up art to be financially successful. Why can’t we have it all?

What was your first job like?

My first “real” job out of college was very much along the first imagined career path because it had little to do with my passions or interests. But I got to work with a lot of really smart, interesting and compassionate people, and that counted for a lot.

What was your first apartment like?

My first apartment was kind of shabby and not terribly functional, but I am still kind of in love with it. Kind of like most things in my 20s.

In what ways did your friendships change?

I didn’t expect my friendships to grow closer in my twenties—I figured that we would be too distracted by trying to carve out our places in the world. But, as I should have realized, that struggle makes having close friends even more important.

How do you feel society viewed you?

It feels like society views young people, young girls especially, as reckless consumers. In every sense. But I admit that didn’t try very hard to prove them wrong. Actually, I still feel that way.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

It’s such a cliché, but the more I see of the world, the less it feels like I understand it. I love to speculate and generalize about other people’s feelings and motivations all over the world, but my own experiences have been so narrow that I don’t have a good perspective at all.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

My collective family and friends were my biggest influence. Who else can you trust?

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

In my early twenties, I remember telling my mom that art wasn’t important because nobody ever died without it. Even if I could admit that art brings happiness to people and makes the world fuller, I wasn’t talented enough to make a difference.

But the more I traveled, the more I started to feel the obvious thing that people have been telling me forever, which is how lucky I am. I felt it more than ever when I took a trip to India with my brother. Another cliché, I know!

Most people (and women especially) don’t get to decide what they do in their lives, but I do. What an arrogant waste it would be to throw away my chance to do what I want. Does it even matter if art is important to the world? I’m responsible for what art means to me, and I’d be an idiot to let the opportunity pass me by.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Of course I wish that I had really felt this urgency to go into the arts when I was in college, or even high school. I might be much further along in my career by now.

But another part of my counters that maybe starting out in art would mean I didn’t want it as much? Ruminating on what I ought to have done is pointless because nobody grows in a perfectly straight line. Things just get better and better.

Schoolin’ Life: Eleanor Davis

For today’s edition of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know cartoonist and illustrator Eleanor Davis.

eleanor


Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

My name is Eleanor Davis, I’m 33 years old. I am a cartoonist & illustrator. I like talking, eating, and riding my bike. I spend a lot of time at my desk.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Oh God. I was a mess for a lot of my 20s. I had a lot of expectations and not a lot of them did me much good. I was torn between making art and making money and “making a difference,” I thought I somehow had to become perfect in every way. But in the meantime, I didn’t even know how to, like, feed and bathe myself. So of course I was miserable. Classic!

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I think society contributed to my idea that I had to be perfect, and probably to the certainty that I was not. Not sure why or how exactly. A lot of women seem to struggle with that idea, though.

What was your first job like?

My first job in my 20s was working at an ice cream shop. My co-workers and boss were all really, really nice. The customers were usually nice too, although they were mostly tourists. I ate way too much ice cream. In the winter, it would get extremely slow and one of my co-workers made me watch the whole first season of Sex and the City in the back on her laptop.

What was your first apartment like?

My first apartment in my 20s was kind of a pit. But it was on the second floor and you could climb out my bedroom window onto the porch roof and eat dinner and smoke cigarettes. When you jumped up and down in the kitchen, the whole building would shake.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Oh man, these questions are tough. I mean, yes! My husband and I moved from Savannah to Athens where we live now. We got married. I worked really hard at getting good at art, and I basically did, to everyone’s surprise. I decided to quit making art and work at a co-op, and that was good too, because then I figured out that I liked making art after all. I made some friends. I fell in and out and in and out of love, and in again.

In what ways did your friendships change?

I started to have closer friendships. Friendships were hard for me when I was younger, especially friendships with women, for some reason. I don’t think I really understood what being friends with someone meant; I thought it just meant “people who like one another.” Now I think it has something more to do with communication, trust, and showing people who you really are. I used to have a very hard time letting myself trust other people enough to be open with them. I also wasn’t good at letting other people know they could be open with me. Now I’m braver and my friendships are stronger.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

I’ve been with my husband, Drew, since I was 19, so I learned a lot about what it’s like to be with one person for a long time. We both have. We’ve learned that it’s really, really hard. We were co-dependent for a while and then we learned to be our own people a little more. We were distant for a while and then we learned to connect a little more. We communicated badly for a long time and pushed stuff down and then we learned to talk it out. Drew is very, very different from me: he’s quiet, and stable, and patient. I’m emotional, impulsive, and loud. We learn a lot from one another for that reason.

How did your relationships with your family change?

I’ve always been super close with my family, to the point that I couldn’t imagine wanting to be alive after my parents were gone. After I started getting better at making friends, I also started to be able to imagine a future where my parents were dead but I hadn’t offed myself. So I guess that’s a positive change.

We are still navigating the weird shift between parents-with-kids and parents-with-adult-kids. I hope I’m easier to be around than I used to be, but I suspect I am not. They are slightly harder to be around. They’re both retired now, & it’s like they’re developing their own arcane language just to use with one another.

How do you feel society viewed you?

A weird, spoiled, abrasive, wimpy, nerdy, asexual woman-child? Which is fine! I am cool with that.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I got a lot stronger. I started going to therapy and learned that self-hate wasn’t a good motivator. I learned to be kinder to myself, which strangely helped me get stronger, and helped me support other people more. That was good.

How did you change intellectually?

I got dumber! This is a really irritating thing for me. I’ve gotten a lot lazier, intellectually. I used to read more and stay more engaged with current events, partially out of guilt. When I stopped being motivated by guilt, I stopped doing a lot of things that really were good to do, like listening to the news. I’d like to change that. I don’t like willful ignorance, and I worry that my brain is getting soft.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

Simultaneously more masculine and more feminine. Weak and okay with it. More comfortable with considering myself “an artist” (although still – that word, yick).

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

My feminism got a lot stronger. I’m more okay with the upcoming apocalypse (not sure if this is positive or negative). More into meditation, hippy shit, etc.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Please do not make me think about this!

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

Disappointed that I couldn’t work faster, make more art, make more money. Disappointed I couldn’t be a better person, someone who somehow gave back. Disappointed daily in myself. Those things were bad, and they hurt, but I feel pretty good now, and it’s hard to imagine life having gone any other way.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

In my 20s? Personally or artistically? Probably my parents, and my husband, and my best friend, Kate. Like always, like now.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Ummmm. Good question. I was really, really excited about listening to the news in 2008 when the market crashed and it became ultra clear that the Republicans really were full of shit. That laissez-faire economics wasn’t just unethical, it was actively horrible policy. Why is anyone still listening to those idiots?

Camping in the Oregon woods with a bunch of wonderful kids’ book authors and illustrators I’d met over the internet was also really something.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Oh, Christ. I don’t know.

I wish I hadn’t signed the two-book contract for my first kids’ graphic novel. I wish I’d started going to therapy sooner.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

America elected Obama (good, great) and decided that meant we’d gotten rid of all racism (obviously horribly untrue).

Schoolin’ Life: Anna Raff

In today’s edition of Schoolin’ Life, we chat with New York-based illustrator Anna Raff.

A photo posted by Anna Raff (@annaraff) on

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I expected to reach a certain level of success in my career as a graphic designer. But what that benchmark was, I’m not really sure, and I didn’t consciously set goals. What I most cared about was doing creative work that I found interesting and challenging, and making enough money to support my travel addiction which I’d honed during and right after college.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Because of my family background, my friends, and the creative industry in which I worked, I was surrounded by a group of very open-minded people, who weren’t necessarily adhering to any one set of norms or expectations. Even if they were, they weren’t forcing it upon others who didn’t fit in—this was New York City, after all. Also, I never pictured myself as a parent, so perhaps that eliminated a big element of societal expectations for a young woman like myself.

What was your first job like?

My first job out of college was designing corporate brochures and presentations at an architectural firm in London. I had travelled there with some friends, after enrolling in a work exchange program which got us to get 6-month work permits in the U.K. Before leaving home, I had sent out a few résumés, but this architectural firm was the only place listed in the program guide that was remotely related to my main interest at the time, graphic design. My résumé had this logo I designed in school at the top—I still have a copy of it somewhere. The logo is okay, but the rest of it is crap! Based on that, and their random needs at the moment, I got the job. Ironically, here I was, an American kid, so happy to be working in London, on Oxford Street, surrounded by all this fantastic, historic, architecture, but working for a firm that designed the most hideous, god-awful, American-style shopping malls. Also, this was all before desktop publishing, and despite taking a few design classes in college, my knowledge of manual typesetting was minimal, so I mostly got by on my wits and earnestness. Kindly, they offered to do the paperwork to extend my visa, but I knew I was done. The nice thing was, the job paid pretty well, and enabled me to do a significant amount of traveling afterward to perpetuate my postponement of looking for a “real job” back home.

What was your first apartment like?

The flat my friends and I rented in London was basic, but more spacious than my first New York apartment. We even found 400 pounds in an empty drawer when we moved it—that was a good day. We knew it most likely belonged to the previous tenants, but the jerky landlord would just pocket the money if we told him, so we used it against our rent. My first place in New York City—where I moved shortly after returning to the U.S.—was a small, railroad apartment in the West Village that would have been fine for one person. The landlord had put a thin wall down the middle of the bedroom to create two rooms, so my roommate and I could basically fit a twin bed into each, and not much else. Being the West Village, it was super noisy, especially on weekends. I remember motorcyclists tearing up the street several times into the early morning, setting off car alarms as they went. That was pleasant. Oh, and that was the first place I saw a water bug fly. Gross.

Did you experience any big life changes?

In my mid-20’s, I moved into another apartment by myself, which was incredibly liberating and empowering. Also, my best friend came out to me. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t figured it out, but it made everything make so much more sense. It really affirmed that he was (and still is) my best friend. This was during the AIDS crisis, and I remember the first thing I said to him was, “Be careful!” Then I think I told him how proud I was of him…at least, I hope I did. I’m still very proud of him.

In what ways did your friendships change?

Certain friendships that seemed very important in high school and college fell away, while others only got stronger. I came to terms with all that; it was okay for friends and friendships to evolve, and not always toward the same destinations. It’s better to let go, if it’s not working anymore.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

That I was completely naïve.

How did your relationships with your family change?

I’ve always been quite close to my family, so I think the only difference was that I was relating to them more as an adult.

How do you feel society viewed you?

As a geeky-looking, somewhat athletic, artistic, straight girl who didn’t really like girly things, some people probably put me into a box of some sort.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I started to learn about what was really important, but to be honest, I made much more progress with that in my 30’s.

How did you change intellectually?

By the end of my 20’s, I’d learned the complete suite of Adobe products…oh, and Pagemaker and Quark. That’s probably not what you meant.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

Through work, travel, and play my confidence got a boost. I played softball for my publishing company’s team, and that was great fun. I hadn’t played at all since junior high, and I’d always been quite good, but somehow in my teens, felt it was too “butch” —a very ignorant assessment, I might add. Once I joined this work team, I realized how much I missed playing, and how I identified myself as athletic, and that that was okay. It was also great fun to get up to bat against these teams, where the men would see a woman at the plate, and come closer into the infield. Then I’d proceed to whack the ball over their heads.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

Travel really made clear the isolation many Americans experience, having never stepped into another country and out of their comfort zone.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Drinking too much, and barfing into two plastic mugs while on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The most amazing thing is that the guy, who is still my best friend, carried the two cups through a moving train to the nearest toilet to dispose of them. In the middle of Siberia! And he’s still talking to me 28 years later. Now that’s friendship.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

I had a few disappointments at work, like not getting a promotion as I thought I should have, but I chalk that up to not asserting myself enough. These moments also spurred me on to seek out the next thing, the next challenge. And at some point, I realized I really didn’t want to supervise others at work, so I had to seek out positions that allowed that. By my early 30’s, I’d landed a job as a one-person design department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I worked for ten years, until I returned to school to pursue a career as an illustrator.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

Oh, definitely my parents. They’re just really lovely, interesting people who always made (and make) me feel like I can do no wrong…within limits, of course.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

When I landed a job doing design at a children’s book publisher. I had found the industry where I belonged, and it’s where I work now, albeit as an illustrator.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Perhaps I could have drawn more in my 20’s. At some point, I stopped making handmade cards, and other projects that involved illustration. It took me almost a decade and a half to figure out that I really should be doing that as a career. But perhaps I needed the time, I don’t know.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

I think that one about barfing in Siberia is a pretty good one.

Schoolin’ Life: Nilah Magruder

In this week’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know cartoonist and author Nilah Magruder.

nilah_headshotFULL

 

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I’m a storyboard artist, comic creator and soon-to-be children’s book author living in Los Angeles. I’m very much into creating stories. My job’s pretty great; I draw and watch movies, then go home and do more of the same. On occasion, I go out to hang with friends or my coworkers, but I’m kind of a shut-in who likes to stay home and lie around with my roommate and my roommate’s cats.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I was sure I would be an investigative reporter by now. Or maybe a business-savvy agent at a PR firm, wearing sleek business suits, living in a cool apartment with a massive kitchen in DC. Last thing I expected to be is an artist schlepping around Hollywood in jeans and hoodies.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I figured I’d go to college, get a degree, get a job, and that would be it. Step 1, step 2, step 3, profit. You know, the American dream (I guess?). I’m actually not sure what my endgame was. In school, starting your career seemed like this textbook, step-by-step process, and I believed that when I hit the right milestone that everything would fall into place and start making sense. I never hit that milestone. Eventually everything started making sense, but not in the way I expected.

What was your first job like?

I’ve been working since I was sixteen. My very first job was server at a restaurant, and I only stayed four months, enough time to make a bit of spending money. It was what could be expected: a bunch of kids goofing off too much while serving food to families and retirees for $5.25/hr. Some nights were fun, but I never missed the place. My first career-related job was freelance journalist for a local paper. I started my junior year in college (I’m still in awe that they gave a college kid a steady paying gig). It was a lot of fun; I wrote for the arts and entertainment section and got sent all over the county to speak with artists, writers, singers, dancers, and to cover events. I covered verything from fundraisers, to art exhibitions, to community theatre. I kept that job as long as I could, until I found a full-time position as a marketing writer and I didn’t have time to drive to Frederick anymore.

What was your first apartment like?
My first apartment was the one I lived in while I was attending Art Institute of Washington, in Arlington, VA (just outside of Washington, DC). I shared it with three other girls, and it was fine at first. Drama quickly set in though: lots of dumb roommate meetings and passive aggressiveness, and there was a cranky guy who lived under us that complained any time we so much as breathed or, y’know, existed at all. Writing about it now, it sounds like stereotypical apartment living, haha! It was tough, though, because I wasn’t working, I didn’t have any money and I didn’t like asking my parents for any, so there were times when I had no food and I didn’t know what I was going to eat. And I was lonely, so I took the train home pretty much every weekend. But I loved the city, despite all that.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Going to college was big. Studying in South Korea for a month was big. Starting my career was big. Going to art school. Interning at a large film studio. My aunt died in 2010. Those are the moments that stick out.

In what ways did your friendships change?

The friendships I have now run very deep, and most of them I developed in adulthood. I’ve never been the type that needs a huge social circle. I’ll cut off a relationship quick if I think it’s become toxic, but at the same time I’ve become more accepting of people. A lot of my friends are people I’ve shared important moments with, like the friends I made in Korea, and my art school friends. Others simply share the same goals and we help push each other along. My friends are all over the place. I don’t know how I’d get along without the Internet. I’m sure I’d be a lot lonelier.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

I’ve never had any! Never had a boyfriend, never even been on a date. That level of intimacy has been a curiosity at best, but I’ve never felt a craving for it. My only boyfriend was in first grade, and it lasted until the following day when we found out we were cousins. ;P

How did your relationships with your family change?

At the same time I got closer to my mom, I feel like I’ve grown apart from everyone else. I talk to my mom every day, and everyone else only now and then. It’s weird and sad if I think too much about it.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I’m not sure society noticed me at all.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I’ve chilled out, I think. Gotten more confident. I know who I am, I know my strengths and my weaknesses. Being aware of those things has made me more comfortable in my own skin. In my twenties, I was a lot angrier, a lot more prone to flying off the handle or falling into depression. I have those moments now, but for the most part I can manage them. I’m a little more flexible, more ready to accept whatever happens in my life and roll with the punches.

How did you change intellectually?

I feel like I’ve gotten dumber sometimes, haha. Like I knew more when I was younger. But I’m savvier now, less apprehensive of change or new experiences. I think a lot of my book intellect’s been replaced with life experience.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I’ve always been “the artist.” That hasn’t changed much. I’ve always been a fly on the wall, too – it’s what made me a good journalist!


How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I’ve become much more aware of oppression and hypocrisy in government policies, of the struggles that people face across populations. Growing up black, female, and lower class has exposed me to a lot of prejudice, but it’s made me more compassionate, too, so I’m glad for that. Funny enough, I was cynical when I was younger, but these days I’m more optimistic.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

I’ve had so many, how can I be expected to choose only one? Once I was riding a bus in Seoul and wasn’t prepared for the hard stops it made. I fell back and stepped squarely on this woman’s foot. She screamed loud enough for the whole bus to hear, of course. The worst is I didn’t know how to say “sorry” in Korean, so I feel like I never fully conveyed my regret.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

I didn’t win some award in art school. Well, that happened a lot in art school, haha. I was so determined to succeed and prove myself, but for the particular accolades I’d set my eyes on, my work was never quite good enough. I was good, but not the “it” person I wanted to be. These days, it feels silly that I was so stressed about it, but I cried a lot of bitter tears over it at the time.


Who was your biggest influence and why?

My mom, I think. I didn’t really have role models… no one I wanted to emulate. My dad’s an alcoholic, and there’s not a lot I care to remember about growing up, but my mom did everything to give me and my brother a somewhat normal upbringing. She was the person I had complete and unshakable faith in.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

9/11, perhaps. There aren’t a lot of moments over the decade that I remember with clarity, but I remember that day. I lived three miles from the Pentagon. I was walking to class that morning and a fire truck sped past me, and I thought, “Whoa, where’s the fire?” Next thing I know, I’m at school and students are scrambling because the city’s about to go on lockdown. It was also the year I turned nineteen, and it’s around that time that I was starting to think about the world around me and my place in it.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Still wish I’d done a semester abroad in Spain. I was a transfer student, already overloading on credits to make sure I graduated on time, and study abroad would’ve thrown off my schedule. I didn’t want to risk graduating a semester late. I’m glad I got to go to Korea, though – I almost chickened out, so I’m really glad I stuck with it.

Dame of the Day: Jackie Ormes

Jackie Ormes

Today’s Dame of the Day is Jackie Ormes (August 1, 1911-December 26, 1985). Ormes began her career as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, but later became the first black woman cartoonist. After she relocated to Chicago, she wrote and drew for the Chicago Defender. She returned to Pittsburgh with a great body of work, and her comics of Torchy Brown, Candy, and Patty-Jo ’n’ Ginger ran in the Courier for years. Ormes also created a franchise of dolls based on her characters,  Patty-Jo and Torchy. After she retired, she continued to contribute murals and produce fundraiser fashion shows for the south side of Chicago.

Schoolin’ Life: Julia Wertz

For today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know cartoonist Julia Wertz.

julia

When you were in your 20s..

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

None. I had no expectations for myself or my life in my 20’s because I was really just living day to day. I was constantly surprised by any successes I had; none of them were what I would call “planned.” But most of the things I did were unexpected and caught even me by surprise, like moving to New York or becoming a cartoonist. They were very sudden, impulsive choices and were not part of my plan at all, although I didn’t really have a plan. I found that if I didn’t have any expectations, I was alright with whatever happened. There was nothing to be disappointed by since I didn’t expect anything. I still operate that way.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I’ve always felt slightly at war with society and its expectations of me, as a woman. Like I said, I didn’t really have expectations of myself, but I certainly can’t deny that there are societal standards for women, and everyone really, such as the basics of being in a relationship, having a steady job, having kids, etc…I’m 32 and have gotten along fine, and happily, without those things. Luckily, we’re living in a time when going against the norm is becoming normal, and those old standards are fading. It’s not so weird anymore to have an unsteady job past your 20’s, or to decide not to have kids. Going against the grain is more acceptable now, but I’d still be doing it even if it wasn’t.

What was your first job like?

My first real job was when I was 16. I washed dishes and then waited tables at a pizza parlor in my hometown. My first job in my 20’s was the same- waitressing at a pizza parlor in San Francisco. I was an excellent waitress but I hated the job. My first non-waitressing job was being a cartoonist, which I started doing professionally at age 25. I still do that job, and I work from home, which is great, but it’s also the fastest way to drive yourself crazy. I worry constantly that I won’t be able to maintain it and will have to go back to waiting tables, because that’s all I’m qualified to do. I have no computer or people skills, so if I can’t keep making it as a cartoonist, then I’m fucked.

What was your first apartment like?

My first apartment was an in-law unit on the outskirts of San Francisco. I had two dude roommates; one was a hippie pothead musician and the other was a straight-laced business major. I only lived there for nine months until I found a studio because I can’t live with other people. Not because of them; I’m just a terrible roommate because I hate sharing my space or being inconvenienced by someone else in my personal space in any way. If I’m not fucking someone, I do not want to live with them.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Being diagnosed with systemic lupus in my early 20’s was huge. I was really sick for a long time grappled with being told my disease was chronic and incurable. It’s probably the reason I didn’t create any plans or expectations for myself, since being sick derailed me for awhile. After that, I just kinda went with whatever was happening or whatever crazy idea I had. Moving to New York was also a huge and very impulsive change. I was planning on leaving San Francisco but staying on the West Coast and almost overnight, I just decided to go to NYC for no reason. But coming here has helped shape my career in a way I’m not sure I could have done on the West Coast.

What did you learn through your friendships and romantic relationships?

The biggest thing I learned is to trust my instincts. If you suspect someone isn’t trustworthy, that’s not coming out of nowhere.Listen to that suspicion and proceed carefully. Also, people I was interested in during my 20’s are very different than people I’m interested in my 30’s, so I’m glad none of my relationships from my 20’s lasted. People change a lot during that decade; it’s good to let yourself grow and change.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

Part of my 20’s was spent learning how to actually feel my emotions instead of push them aside. “Feelings aren’t facts” is an important phrase I learned, meaning just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true. Feelings aren’t concrete, and they will fade or change soon, so there’s no reason to be afraid of them.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I don’t think it really did. I’ve kind of been the same person for forever. I’ve never really had a “crisis of identity” or been unsure of my opinions and tastes.  I’ve definitely changed opinions after further educating myself in certain issues, but I’m always felt very confident with my identity.  I’m not always happy with it, but I’m confident in it.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I became a lot more aware of how many political and cultural things are pure bullshit. I always suspected that as a teen, but I didn’t really have the education or tools to back it up, but in my 20’s I had more time to research, look into things, and affirm that suspicion.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Probably the time I drank a bottle of whiskey and crashed my friends car into an outhouse while on a camping trip.  Then I ran off and hid in the woods for an hour.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Quitting drinking was the most defining experience I had in my 20’s. I became a lot more open to the world and people and I softened up a lot (in a good way).

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Not really. It’s cheesy to say, but all things that could be chalked up as regrets are just part of becoming who you are and learning valuable life lessons. So I don’t really regret anything.

Schoolin’ Life: Beldan Sezen

For today’s Schoolin’ Life, we get to know videographer and graphic novelist Beldan Sezen.

Beldan

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

Okay, I’m a graphic novelist and I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I’m into comics, graphic novel, sequential art, cartoons, name it whatever you want, I dig it. I freelance as a videographer, image manipulator and care taker, all jobs which have given me enough space to start my graphic novelist career. My days (and nights) are often spent in the studio.

 

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade? 

I don’t think I had expectations.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Which society?

What was your first job like?

I started working as lab assistant when I was sixteen. At nineteen, I decided to go back to school so I could apply for a university program. In my twenties, I was studying and had, in addition to a study grant, various side jobs to support me.

What was your first apartment like?

I had a tiny room under a roof in an apartment shared with three other students. It fit a bed, a desk, a closet and bookshelf and had one small roof window. The kitchen was so disgusting that I lived off instant Chinese noodle soups and pizza for quite a while. No, I didn’t feel the urge to clean the kitchen since the other two housemates were fine with it and the third never really showed her face. I was happy and proud to call the room my own.

Did you experience any big life changes?

I came out in my twenties and I moved to a city in another country. I’d say that’s big.

In what ways did your friendships change?

They changed from superficial drinking buddies to more honest and sincere friendships where I could be more like myself. I made some lasting friendships in my twenties.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Languages. And, in the first part of my twenties, through my male relationships, that I really should be with women.

How did your relationships with your family change?

I became more independent and less involved in family matters and expectations.

How do you feel society viewed you?

Oh I dunno, pick a label…

How did you change emotionally and intellectually?

Emotionally and intellectually, my eyes opened to a much bigger worldview and I’m very happy about that. Since then, I no longer feel the need emotionally to belong to a nation or let myself squeeze into an ethnic concept.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I had my coming out in my twenties, as a lesbian and as a woman of color.

Being aware and more importantly admitting to my sexual and cultural identity did change how I take space in general and in my daily life. I went from being defined to defining myself. I was engaging in a life of my own instead of submitting to one dictated by the terms of the societies I live in.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

It broadened. Luckily!

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Asking a police officer in Manhattan where I could find a cab to go to my hostel because I had that cliché in my mind that it wasn’t safe in NYC. He laughed at me, pointing out that it was just a block away and that I could easily walk! Yeah, I felt embarrassed.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

I think being part of an activist women and lesbian scene did shape me tremendously. It gave me acknowledgment and strength. I saw everyday role models who didn’t look and act in a passive, submissive way but did what they wanted. I hardly ever question myself in regards of gender roles, if I can do things or not. I just start doing and see how far I can get.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you? 

Yes, the rise of Neo-fascism in Germany in the early nineties. It narrowed my perspective and shook my confidence. After a year or three of actively working to fight fascism (in the streets, and in theoretical discussions etc.), I couldn’t see anything else and felt there was nothing else for me to do but fight. It was a very narrow minded and claustrophobic, slightly paranoid feeling which was harmful to my well-being.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Uh-oh, Frank Sinatra lurking around the corner…Regrets: I had a few but then again to few to mention… I had some periods where I was lethargic. It feels like I wasted my (precious) time which I’d rather not have done. Then again, it goes as it goes.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

Too many, so I made a book out of all the stories. The final product, Snapshots of a Girl, will be published this fall by Canada-based Arsenal Pulp Press.

Schoolin’ Life: Amy Hwang

For today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we catch up with illustrator and cartoonist Amy Hwang.

AmyHwang

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I’m a project manager for the architecture department at Eileen Fisher. On the side, I draw cartoons for The New Yorker and have an Etsy shop that sells cat drawings and thank you cards for special needs teachers and therapists. I’m also a single mom to my 4 year-old daughter who is on the autism spectrum (hence, the special needs thank you cards).
I spend my time working, drawing, parenting, and trying to figure out what chores in my life I can outsource. When I have spare time from all of the above, I try to have a social life. Thankfully, my friends are as busy as I am.
I live in Westchester County, NY, but when I was in my 20s, I lived in Manhattan.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I hoped to live in a 1-bedroom apartment by age 30. This never happened.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

The pressure to be financially self-sufficient was often at odds with the pressure to be in a job I enjoyed.

What was your first job like?

I worked in a small architecture firm in the Garment District. Every morning, I’d have an egg and cheese on a roll, and for lunch I’d go out and try not to spend more than $5. Other times, I was drafting architectural plans on the computer.

What was your first apartment like?

I lived in a studio in the West Village. It was tiny, but I always had a constant flow of house guests and friends visiting.

Did you experience any big life changes?

I didn’t change much throughout my 20s, but when I was 29 I decided to start submitting cartoons to The New Yorker. From that point on, I had a nonexistent social life because I no longer had free time.

In what ways did your friendships change?

They stayed about the same, though I suspect some were friends because they needed a place to stay when in town.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

It’s important to trust your gut rather than to rationalize your decisions.

How did your relationships with your family change?

My relationship with my parents stayed the same. With my sister, we grew closer because we realized we were the only ones who had the experience of having our parents as our parents.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I have no idea. I don’t think I ever cared.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I grew a thicker skin and became mellower.

How did you change intellectually?

I became less intellectual, if anything, though I did go through a month or two where I started doing the NY Times crossword puzzles.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I’ve always been who I am, and in my 20s, I would say I changed very little.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

My worldview was pretty set by the time I left college.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

I was at a dinner with friends and told a joke I couldn’t remember very well, so it came out unfunny because I said everything in the wrong order.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

I don’t want to say my entire 20s was a disappointment, but I was fairly aimless and had no real goals for myself, personally or professionally. Now I’m more careful with how I prioritize people and things in my life. I try to make every minute count.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

I lived across the street from the Corner Bistro, which is a cheap but good burger place. Often my friends and I would get our burgers take out (avoiding a potentially long wait for a booth), and eat on my roof deck. It was affordable and allowed us to feel we had something better than everyone else. This was my 20s – living paycheck to paycheck and trying to make my life feel richer than it was.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

I don’t believe in regrets because you can gain insight from all the good or bad or inaction that occurs in life. But I probably could’ve done without the chorizo sausage I ate in Barcelona that gave me food poisoning.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

Nope. Not much happened in my 20s. Ask me about my 30s, and I could write a few books. And I’m only 36!