What do you get when you combine the prose power of Cecil Castellucci and the illustrative immortality of Nate Powell? Beasts. Not just the beasts that we read about in Greek & Roman mythology but the more pressing, unavoidable ones that live within us. This is exactly the theme that their newest collaboration “The Year of the Beasts” alternating written and illustrative chapters that bring a cross-genre fullness to Tessa’s complex story.
And how excited are we that Cecil and Nate offered to interview each other for YARN! WITH sketches for the book you won’t see anywhere else!
And we have to say–they asked each other WAY juicier questions than we would have thought to ask. So here’s Part 1: Cecil Castellucci Interviews Nate Powell.
Cecil: Nate Powell and I met at the TCAF (Toronto Comics Art Festival) three years ago. We got along like gangbusters and it’s been such a treat to now be working together. Since we live in separate states we thought it would be fun to interview each other.
Nate! You are a writer / illustrator first and foremost. I’m such a big fan of “Swallow Me Whole” and “Any Empire.” You’ve also worked with writers, as you did with “The Silence of Our Friends,” and with me for “The Year of the Beasts.” I’m curious as to how you approach breaking down a story and illustrating your own stories differently than when you work with a writer whose story you are illustrating?
Nate: The approaches are so different that I’ve discovered I’m able to do both simultaneously without too much headache. My own writing is very visual, mostly consisting of organized sketches, cut-out and rearranged phrases and notes, and brief, hand-written synopses that serve as the narrative’s blueprint. Dialogue and pacing are usually worked out as I’m actually penciling my stories. For comics I make with other writers, I find that working through a finished script reveals the parts of each scene that aren’t described or established by the writer. By discovering what isn’t already included in the script, I begin to understand both my freedom and responsibility to complete the world within the story. It’s really exciting, and makes for a truly collaborative effort.
Cecil: We both come from indie rock backgrounds. I know that it makes me have a real DIY attitude about being an artist in the world. How do you think that informs your view of making art and being in the world? What has indie rock taught you about how to survive the ups and downs of being an artist?
Nate: I’ve spent most of my life connected to the punk rock community, and along the way I’ve learned a lot about how to follow through on my work, the best ways to go about design, layout, printing, promotion, and even distribution of the things I make. Most importantly, though, is appreciating the sense of community that’s shared amongst creators, whether they make music or comics or movies or whatever. In the comics world, a lot of that translates to spending time at conventions with other creators, having real discussions with readers, listening to people’s criticisms, and even remembering that publishing companies are operated by people just like us.
Cecil: I write to music; it gets me into the mood of the characters. I’m curious, do you draw to music? Or while watching films / TV? Does that change with every project? What were some that you listened to / watched while drawing “The Year of the Beasts”?
Nate: I’m constantly listening to music while drawing—it’s been that way since I was twelve years old. For “The Year Of The Beasts,” here’s what I listened to the most:
Fat Shadow; “Foot Of Love,” Peter Gabriel; “Melt,” Dreamers Of The Ghetto; “Enemy/Lover,” Tammar; “Visits,” King Crimson; “Discipline,” Hugo Largo; “Drum,” Moby; “The End Of Everything “ and “Ambient,” Harold Budd & Brian Eno; “The Pavillion Of Dreams” and “The Plateaux Of Mirror,” Black Sabbath’s first five albums; and Anthrax’s “Among The Living,” and “State Of Euphoria.”
Cecil: I think you mentioned that you were inspired by some of the art techniques (such as the washes?) that you had done on “Silence of Our Friends” which you then used for “Year of the Beasts.” How does your approach to drawing a book grow and change from one book to another? Is there anything from “Year of the Beasts” that you think you’ll bring to your next project?
Nate: Usually, there’s some key change to the way I render lines or shadows, and I only become aware of that change near the book’s completion. I’ve become virtually addicted to using grey washes over a slightly more efficient and clear line, and I know that two of my upcoming books will definitely be using this method as well. With “The Year Of The Beasts,” I gravitated towards using more diagonal lines in my panel layouts, as well as having more panels run off the edges of the page. Those changes were really refreshing and liberating, and they’ve certainly changed the comics I’ve drawn since then. It’s really important to be aware of when you’re starting to get even a little bit bored with the way you write or draw or play music—it usually means there’s something you’d like to try for a change, but you’re kind of sitting on the fence about it instead of letting yourself feel the excitement of doing things in a new way, even if that means making mistakes.
Cecil: It’s always great talking to you, Nate. Hope we get to hang out soon.
Stay Tuned for Part 2, in which Nate interviews Cecil!
Cecil Castellucci is the two-time MacDowell Colony fellow, the award winning author of five books for young adults, and the YA and children’s book editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. Born inNew York City, Cecil lives inLos Angeles.
Nate Powell is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel “Swallow Me Whole,” which was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, the 2009 Eisner Award winner for Best Graphic Novel, and an Ignatz Award winner. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.