|(all images courtesy of LLG)|
Laura Lee Gulledge came out of nowhere in the comics field, and now has two successful young adult graphic novels out, and is turning one of them into a musical. She's returned to the area after a sojourn in the wilds of New York City and tells us about her methods and her new project, which has ten days left to go on Kickstarter.
What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
I write & draw graphic novels geared towards young adults, but I write them so they will also speak to adults as well. I feature creative characters, introverted protagonists, emotionally resonant stories, puns, and playful layouts.
How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
I use pen & ink & paper to create my artwork. I typically only use computer to add a layer of digital shading and then the final lettering.
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
I actually live in NOVA, Woodbridge to be exact. I’ve returned to the area after living in NYC for seven years. I originally grew up between Manassas & Dumfries....aka: “Dumassas.” ;-)
What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
I never took a class in cartooning or illustration, as in school I was focused on becoming an art teacher. So I took fine art classes like painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture. My cartooning was always something ”just for fun” that I did growing up for myself, my friends, and the school paper. Go figure that I never took it seriously, but I really didn’t think I was was good enough to go anywhere with it.
Who are your influences?
As a kid: weekly comic strips, political cartoons, Jim Henson, Disney films;
As an adult: Will Eisner, Craig Thompson, Alison Bechdel, Maira Kalman.
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
Taking a marketing or business class in school sure would have been helpful!
What work are you best-known for?
My debut graphic novel, Page by Paige! (It’s “a classic” as my agent loves to say.)
The artwork I made while teaching as an art teacher in Ghana back in 2007. Both the work I made myself as well as what the kids made. It was a challenging & humbling experience, but the work that came out was some of my most truthful & inspired.
You're working on a special project now - a musical based on a graphic novel. Oddly enough comics-based musicals were popular at the beginning of the 20th century and seem to be having a resurgence now, as Fun Home's success shows. Can you tell us about your musical Kickstarter project? How did it come about?
While I was working on my second graphic novel (Will & Whit) I was also doing a bi-coastal collaboration with my songbird Artner Lauren Larken. We were doing weekly cross-disciplinary prompts exploring themes of mutual interest, a 6-month creative "Artnership" we had been wanting to do since we first met in Brooklyn in 2008.
As Larken learned more about the characters I was working on, she felt more and more inspired! Lyrics started pouring onto paper and we decided to take out Artnership to the young adult musical level. After we recruited a composer to write the songs and I wrote a script, we were able to hold a debut production last summer at Ballibay performing arts camp in Pennsylvania. It still blows my mind!
We’re holding a Kickstarter right now to help us take our musical to the next level of development! It ends May 25th so please visit our site: willandwhit.com
Your graphic novel has a supernatural element with living shadows - how is that translating to the stage?
For a stage adaption of this magical-realism-style imagery we will use shadow puppets (perhaps shadow sculpture), dancers dressed in black, plus projected motion comics. The possibilities for the stage are pretty broad, which is why I’m excited to see what ideas young people come up with for how they want to tackle Will’s “living shadows.”
What else would you like to say about it?
My favorite part of the show is Hurricane Whitney (which is what “Whit” refers to in the book title) which is the storm that blows into town and knocks out the electricity. In the play the hurricane is personified as a group of punk girls personified called “The Whitneys.” They invade the show and lead the audience in an interactive body of sound hurricane before intermission. It tickles me.
We also incorporate LED props & costume elements in the show when the power goes out after the hurricane, since our protagonist Will makes lamps. This adds a fun STEM (aka STEAM) element to our show, I loved watching students learn how to make LED accessories & firefly lamps for the set.
Comic book movies are ridiculously popular now - any plans or hopes to adapt your work?
I could definitely see Will & Whit as a film, in my dreams as a stop-motion animated musical. I see Page by Paige more as a television show, mixing live action with animation. Some of the new stories cooking in the back of my head do feel suited for film, but I’m in no hurry to embark in that direction. (I figure I’ll master the transition to stage first before wrapping my head around going to a screen!) ;-)
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
Right now I’m itching to hop back on my new book project, which is an interactive sketchbook called How To Train Your Genius. It’s still in the baby stages right now, but I’m very excited! It’s the book I was looking for when I was a teacher, following in the footsteps of books like The Artist’s Way, Drawing on the Right Side of The Brain, and What It Is.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
Here are my tips for when you’re stuck, which is either at the beginning or around the 80% point....
Getting started: My mantra is always, “Start with what you know.” Start by making one decision, the ONE thing you know. Whether it’s one scene or a getting to know one character or mixing up one color paint, just pick a place to start and go one decision at a time.
Finishing: Take a break. If it’s art... look at it “new” by looking at it upside down, in a mirror, or taking a photo of it. Trick your subconscious brain into telling you what the art “needs” instead of clinging to the idea of what your conscious mind thinks it “should” be. If you’re writing....Put your script away for 3 months so you can forget about it. Then come back and write out what your story is about in 2-3 sentences. Now reread your script with the core essence of your story in mind.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
I think we will continue to experience an explosion of new voices entering the field, telling stories reaching more diverse audiences and bringing in fresh artistic influences. Comics is a haven for creatives who do not fit in the old molds.
I also think comics will gain more acceptance in schools, and will hopefully be embraced as a helpful educational tool, especially for reluctant readers and ESL learners.
What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
In the area I enjoy SPX, Awesome Con, and Baltimore Comic Con. Baltimore is probably my favorite show locally, non-locally my favorites are TCAF in Toronto and Heroes Con in NC.
What's your favorite thing about DC?
The free museums!
The TRAFFIC ugh.
What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?
National Gallery to visit all my old friends in picture frames.
How about a favorite local restaurant?
Founding Farmers & District of Pi.
Do you have a website or blog?
Do you have a website or blog?