Recently, Art and Photography Editor, Shweta Pathare, interviewed Graphic Fiction Editor and Contributor, Michelle Wosinski, for Inklette’s blog. Read this informal interview to know more about ‘Mitch’ and view her work!
Inklette is now accepting Graphic Fiction submissions!
MW: Hey I’m here!
SP: Oh great, then. Let’s start! Can you please tell us something about yourself? Anything, really! Just so I can know you better.
MW: Okay sure! Well, I’m Michelle, obviously. For some reason, in creative environments, I prefer to be called Mitch. Well, not really a preference but I just got used to it and I kind of like it; both are really fine. It started because last year when I went to UVA’s Young Writers Workshop. We had ‘Drag Day,’ so I needed a ‘boy’ name. I chose Mitch and it stuck, even all the teachers knew me as it afterwards. Besides that, some simple facts I guess I could share are: I was born and raised in Luxembourg but I’m Mexican American (with a Polish last name in the mix), I’m bad at introductions, and I love gluten free banana bread?
SP: Oh! I love vanilla flavoured bread, haha. That was a great introduction, really! It is great to know about you.
MW: Thanks! You too I’m glad we’re doing this (: (also vanilla is very underrated i love it)
SP: So, Tell us something about your work, as in what inspired you to make them?
MW: Hm, well, in terms of why I started graphic fiction in general that’s a bit of a long boring story but I’ll keep it snappy. Basically I wanted to go to a writing camp (wow this again) and I found YWW, so I wanted to apply for fiction writing, but I ended up getting accepted for graphic fiction and nonfiction. I really loved comics and cartoons and it seemed like just the right combination of art and writing (two things I love to do) for me. Little did I know how much more it was than just a combination of the two, honestly it’s an amazing medium of storytelling and reading graphic fiction offers an experience unique from all other writing forms that I feel is grossly underappreciated. Anyway, that’s how I found my love for it, and ever since I’ve been obsessed with it.
SP: That’s great in my opinion! Combining your interests is a great thing to do. What kind of themes do you include in your work? What kind of topics do you try putting into the pieces you make and that you would want to include in your future work?
MW: I’m not sure if you can really tell from my work you’ve seen, but I think a lot of my stuff revolves around, I don’t want to say ‘human interaction’ because I draw dinosaurs and I wouldn’t want to limit myself, but yeah, interactions between people. I think dialogue has always been my strong point, and that’s partially why I love doing graphic. Showing a relationship and everything behind it and trying to condense it into a small moment of interaction, all the implications behind things people say. The biggest compliment anyone can give me is when they say, “their voices sounded so real, like actual people.’ I hope that makes sense? I guess I’ve never had to word this before. Relationships are so interesting, not just long term ones like romantic and friends and family, but even the short lived ones between you and that guy that you made 7 second eye contact with at the grocery line. Anyway, besides that I like to explore weird stuff like the first comic i ever made was about a dude who got stuck in limbo and was mostly just chilling there in the white space, dealing with coping with a brand new reality around him and the new people he met there. When I think of the sort of writing that I aim for, I think dream of dreams I’d want to be described as a combination of David Wong, Joseph Fink, and Lemony Snicket (even if those are all fiction writers, still working on building up my graphic fiction repertoire).
Shit, interviews are hard.
SP: Wonderful, being inspired by real life situations and putting them into a comic form really catches my interest! So, um, could you tell us about the form of comics that you have selected, they seem to be fun and doodle-like, refined drawing rather than realistic renders. Is it because you want add an element of humour to them, even while you take up topics which might be a little sensitive?
MW: Oh, I can actually answer this one! Okay, well, first of all I’m not gonna lie, there is an element of artistic ability. Don’t get me wrong I sit down for an hour and draw a realistic face, but
- I am not gonna spend that much time on every frame that’s just a blocker and time waster, and
- That’s not the point of comics! (at least not all of them)
There are so many beautiful graphic novels with AMAZING illustration, but that doesn’t have to everyone’s style, and not everything you make has to be an artistic masterpiece. It depends on the focus of the comic. Look at Chris Ware, an amazing cartoonist. If you look up his sketches they are incredible in technique and realisticness, but his actually cartoons are very… well cartoonish (they still are amazing drawings though). Comics are flexible as well, you don’t have to even be ‘good at drawing’ to make one or even to excel at making them, that’s a myth.
Also, yes I do think that the way that I draw has somewhat to do with humor. Every detail put into my comics are a choice. I think you can even see most of my comics aren’t even the complete same drawing style. My dinosaur comics are a great example, the first three frames of An Exchange was actual real life dialogue I heard in a library said by two women, I could have drawn anything I wanted to to pair it with, but I chose dinosaurs. Why? Because it just felt right; absurd but still made enough sense to not distract too much from the dialogue. It took a pretty bland, regular moment and shifted the context to make it interesting, not to the characters, but to the reader. I love that, the characters just living their boring ass lives obliviously, while we eat that shit up. Writing the manuscript line was the very last thing I did, I just thought the thought of a brontosaurus writing a manuscript was funny.
Okay, that’s long sorry oops.
SP: Don’t be sorry for that, it was good to know the thoughts you put in! Oh, and when I first saw ‘An Exchange’ I found it funny, because it was the dinosaur’s manuscript (brontosaurus) and that thought of him writing the manuscript was funny to me since he cannot really write a manuscript. Since you have spoken about ‘An Exchange,’ I wanted to ask you about another piece of yours that I found really interesting, ‘Mitch Memory.’ Could you please tell us about the thought process behind it and why did you select a gay topic for the comic?
MW: That was actually an exercise from my summer workshop, I made it in about an hour. The exercise was to make a list of people you lost contact with and write everything you could remember about them, then choose one, change their name, and make a comic. I chose to do ‘Emma Berg’ because I thought it was a weird memory worth making a comic about, at least more so than the other people in my list. So yeah, if you didn’t know that is a completely true story from my childhood, I even showed it to my friend from the last few frames who gave me that ‘great advice.’ I think it’s funny because her first grade boyfriend actually turned out to be gay, ha, I didn’t put that in the comic, though, because it wasn’t really relevant. It was sort of refreshing to make an autobiographical comic because I’d never thought of doing it before, and I feel like this comic is very, very different from the style and tone of the rest of my work, but I decided to embrace it. The process of making it was very raw and I sort of loved it, making it so quickly and not overthinking it. Regarding choosing a gay topic, I didn’t really choose it I don’t think, it just sort of happened. I’m not hesitant to talk about being gay and I embrace (crave) any form of queer fiction to read so why not contribute. To be honest, I think writing about being gay and my childhood actually unconsciously inspired the style of the piece: the blocks of narrative writing above each frame. It’s more writing than I would ever usually do, and I think I was really channeling Alison Bechdel there, the lesbian queen of comics (look up her work you’ll see what I mean by her style, especially in her novel Fun Home). Anyway, childhood is weird and kids do weird shit, I’m more embarrassed about the lipgloss yearbook incident than anything else.
SP: I think that is great, being confident about yourself and exhibiting it in your work. Gives me inspiration. This makes me want to ask you, What do you like about your own work? Anything in particular that you would never change about your work no matter what? It could be the way it personally connects to you or maybe the way you come up with them or anything.
MW: Oh, wow, huh. I guess I tend to be very self-critical so I don’t think about this much, but I guess if I had to choose something I wouldn’t want to change about my work it would be its authenticity. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious or anything, but I just mean all my work come from a place of pure joy of creating comics. Whenever I make something that doesn’t come from ‘the heart,’ I guess, I just HATE it. I need to feel like it’s authentic to me, that I’m not doing anything for any other reason that because I love it. Even if I don’t love how a comic turned out, how it’s drawn or something just isn’t as good as it could be, if I can look back at it and remember making it and everything I put into it, I can’t not love it. And by ‘everything I put into it,’ I don’t necessarily mean hours of thought or work, but the intention behind it even if it’s a crappy doodle I made in a few minutes. Not gonna lie, even writing this I’m getting excited like I want to go grab a pen and draw something right now, like let’s fucking go. I don’t mean to give the wrong impression that making comics is all rainbows and butterflies (even though it kind of is), it’s annoyingly time consuming and frustrating as any other artform. I have stayed up hours and stressed cried over making a piece, and writer’s block is just as much of a thing. Worth it, though.
SP: You are very very VERY enthusiastic! Wow! Maybe 1 or 2 more questions, if you don’t mind. Can you tell us something about the way you make your pieces, as in the tools or maybe materials needed and how you prepare the final images?
MW: Every person is different, but the way I make my comics mostly goes like this: After gaining some sort of inspiration or idea, whether it be from real life or out of nowhere. I start with either dialogue or drawings, depending on what inspired me, it doesn’t matter a whole lot. I doodle for a while, I like to sketch the characters several times with little text next to them of things I think they might say to gain a better sense of their character and voice. Then I make thumbprints and more sketches, exploring all sorts of factors like the framing and angles and everything, before moving on to drawing the final piece. I draw it really big on A3 sketch paper no matter what the comic is, so that when I scan it no matter what size it is on the computer it will never show up blurry. I use a photo-blue pencil (which appears invisible on the computer when you scan black and white) and then ink over it with pens. I’m a pretty bad inker, I make a lot of mistakes, so then after scanning the final inked piece I clean everything up on photoshop. That’s basically it.
SP: That is a pretty good and tedious process. So for my final question, how do you hope to take this further in the future? Do you want to continue making them as they are or would you like to use this method and create such pieces for something specific?
MW: I would love to continue making comics regularly for as long as I can, and it’s something of a dream of mine to write a graphic novel, that would be amazing. Although, I think I need a hell of a lot more practice and experience as of now. I would also like to at some point make a series of strip comics or webcomics, possibly something to do with my dinosaurs, we’ll see. In terms of how else I could apply comics, I plan on going to university for animation (at least that’s the plan right now), which obviously is very similar in many ways. Making comics will definitely be useful for getting into animation, but I hope that I can gain something from making animations that will benefit my comics as well.
SP: Yes, as things proceed, you will have a clearer picture. 🙂 Thank you so much Michelle for these wonderful answers! I loved interviewing you 😀 And please keep sharing your work with us.
MW: Thank you! I also really enjoyed this, your questions were really great and I loved answering them, thanks for doing this.
MICHELLE WOSINSKI is an alumnus of the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop. She was a member of the program’s first class of Graphic Fiction and Nonfiction, which was also the first workshop of its kind in the country. Though german screamo music from the streets of Luxembourg can be heard at all hours through her bathroom window, which is as distracting as it sounds, she continues to work on her comics and art.
SHWETA PATHARE is an anime enthusiast who loves everything about her cats, family and friends. She believes that she will turn her imagination to reality with the power of her impeccable illustrations skills and her inquisitiveness.