Thursday, February 27, 2020

Meet a Visiting Cartoonist: A Chat with Ellen Lindner

by Mike Rhode

I've known Ellen Lindner for a long time, initially through her comics-collecting husband, but then directly as she moved back to the US and became a regular exhibitor at SPX. A woman of eclectic interests, she's done comics on conscientious objectors in England in World War I, 1960's Coney Island, and woman's baseball, as well as editing anthologies such as British women's collection, The Strumpet. She was in town a few weeks ago for her ex-studio mate Robin Ha's book-signing at East City Books and I was very surprised to hear that she was doing comics for the Washington Post. She did a Christmas strip for the Post's The Lily newsletter, so I leapt at the opportunity to consider her a DC-area cartoonist and send her the usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I have done a big mix of fictional graphic novels, graphic memoir and nonfiction comics. At the moment I'm working on The Cranklet's Chronicle, a series of nonfiction comics about people who aren't (cisgender) men who have played a role in baseball history. The last issue was about Effa Manley, the only woman in the baseball Hall of Fame.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Great question! I am working digitally more and more these days, but I still pencil and color using traditional media.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

Late 70s, Long Island, New York.

Where are you living now? How did you begin working for the Washington Post?

I live in beautiful upper Manhattan, New York, which is full of city parks. We even have a local seal! I began working for the Post's women's magazine, The Lily, thanks to a wonderful friend of mine, Lara Antal, who has created many genius comics for them.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I studied art history, French and art as an undergrad. Many years later I found myself living in London and did a master's degree in illustration. Over the years, though, I've racked up a lot of credits at School of Visual Arts, a big hub for comics. Those classes have been huge for me.

Who are your influences?

Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Jacques Tardi, Jessica Abel, Megan Kelso, Tom Hart, Glynnis Fawkes, Summer Pierre, and Jennifer Hayden. The latter three folks and I table together a lot at comics events and their help with drafts of projects in progress has been invaluable.

Lindner, Glynnis Fawkes and Jennifer Hayden at SPX 2019

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I'm definitely a person who loves to rue past mistakes and it's a tendency I'm trying to work on. But I always feels I've been too shy in terms of telling other artists I like their work. If you meet someone whose work you like, let them know! It's hard to put yourself out there.

What work are you best-known for?

Weirdly it might be for my current day job doing informational illustration. Thousands of people click on articles I've illustrated each day, even though they probably don't know it's me. It's definitely been the most eyes I've ever had on my work. I have enjoyed the challenge of illustrating everything from the best uses of tarragon to what it's like to work in military counter-intelligence. For a glimpse at these you can look at my Instagram, @ellenlindna.

What work are you most proud of?

I'm really proud of my current project, The Cranklet's Chronicle, which is about the history of people who aren't cisgendered men and baseball. Baseball has a long history of erasing the involvement of people who aren't white men, and there are so many stories to tell about owners, players, fans, and more who are or were somewhere else on the gender spectrum. The last issue was about Effa Manley, a woman who managed a black baseball team in New Jersey, and who is currently the only woman in the Hall of Fame. I found her utterly fascinating, and I hope readers will too!

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I have a secret project I'm working on alongside my day job and Cranklet's...It's a combination of memoir and how-to, and I'm really excited about it! It's an activity comic about how to navigate life as a person without kids.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

Wow, great question. I usually just try and power through! Taking a walk also helps, a lot! I work on comics and illustration pretty much every day, and if one project stumps me, I can toggle to another one for a while.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Oh WOW that's tough. Many more comics on mobile!!!

What cons do you attend besides The Small Press Expo? Any comments about attending them?

SPX and MoCCA are my big two, though this year I also did the Nonfiction Comics Fest in Essex Junction, VT and Short Run in Seattle, both of which took me to new places. Both were fabulous!!!
Panel from story in The Lily

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Ethiopian food! The museums! Union Station! Wait, do I really just get one?!

Least favorite?

Welp, I find DC drivers....unpredictable. I'll leave it at that!

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

I love the National Museum of African American Art and Culture! Wow, what an incredible place!

How about a favorite local restaurant?

Habesha, hands down! Such delicious Ethiopian food, located in the Shaw area by Howard University.

Do you have a website or blog? Also on Instagram: @ellenlindna

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