Amy Ahlstrom chats with SBC
Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2000
When a friend and I went to the Small Press eXpo in 1999 we ended up sharing a table with Amy, a very friendly comic artist and illustrator from Chicago. She seemed to know a lot of the other small press people. She had some very striking ear rings in the shape of wing-nuts. We traded comic creating stories and asked her about things like tipping, Internet access and medical care.
She publishes Sticky Crawler, a groovy anthology of her own material which ranges from Skater Girl love stories to the coffee inducted hallucinations of the spooky named Skull Baby. The mix of humour and thoughtful stories with some nifty grey tone artwork makes them worth tracking down, and so I figured she would be worth interviewing...
Darren Schroeder: So, what is your full name?
Amy Ahlstrom: Amy Marie Ahlstrom- one of a plethora of Amy Maries born in America in the 70's.
AA: Twenty-nine- luckily I went through the whole "almost 30" crisis early (at age 28)- so I can enjoy the last year of my twenties.
DS: What have you been up to?
AA: Working tooooo much, obviously; I took a 9-5 (ha! more like 8:30-6+) job for various reasons....also I'm trying to finish up one new book & start laying out another. Plus there's Karate class, volunteer work, trying to buy a building to live in with other artists, eating, sleeping, etc.....
DS: Favourite comic?
AA: Ooh, difficult question. Series-wise, it'd have to be Dan Clowes' Eightball, which only gets better and more complex with each successive issue. As far as graphic novels go, Craig Thompson's Good-Bye, Chunky Rice is my current fave. You can find out more about his work by pointing your web browser to topshelf.com. My other faves are Dirty Plotte by the amazing and formidable Julie Doucet of course, and I loved Jason Little's Jack's Luck Runs Out. And I rather like Kalah Allan's mini Jar of Pennies as well.
DS: Favourite web site?
AA: Lately, it's a tie between T.C. Boyle's home page (he's an amazing American short-story author/novelist- probably most famous for his book The Road To Wellville about the wacky American cereal giant Kellogg and his odd yet prescient natural health-care ideas, including lots and lots of enemas and semi-edible bran concoctions) and the site free.translation.com- I love to check out French sites & practice my translation skills.
DS: Were comics a big part of your childhood or did you discover them at a later stage?
AA: Hmm- well, as a child, I was a big Peanuts fan (r.i.p., Charles SCHULZ!) and used to draw pictures of Snoopy for my classmates at school. I took a cartooning class at age 9 through the local Park District, and I always wrote & illustrated my own books. I also read Mad magazine & Cracked. Then I lost interest in comics during highschool. Luckily, I was introduced to indie comix during my first year at college (V for Vendetta, Stray Toasters, Tank Girl/Deadline...) & I've been a fan ever since. I didn't start doing zines and minis until a few years later.
DS: Was art an important part of your education?
AA: Yes, yes, and yes. I was constantly drawing as a child, completely driven- even a ten-minute car trip required a pile of blank paper and pencils. I didn't have much of a formal art education growing up, save two great years of grade school art & a basic painting class-but I self-educated. I drew from life and magazines. I'm still teaching myself- I'm constantly trying to improve my craft.
DS: What made you decide to publish your own comics?
AA: Hmm. It seemed the most direct route to getting my work out, as well as being a good way to hone my skills (learning by doing)- I call it "growing up in public". Additionally, I hadn't yet found my voice & wasn't ready to start soliciting publishers. I'm finally nearly ready to pursue that avenue.
DS: What is the worst experience you have had with printers/photocopiers?
AA: One word: Kinko's. I absolutely HATE them. With a passion. They have almost always missed every and any deadline I've ever given them. Unfortunately, when I was living in Chicago, they were the only game in town- the only public facility with a Docutech (the wondrous machine that prints your book out via computer for lovely continuous gray tones). So I was stuck. But eventually, I got fed up & started demanding free jobs & credits for all of the bungled orders. So at least I got some free copies out of it.
DS: What materials and equipment do you use when drawing your comics?
AA: Paper-wise, I use a light bristol board. I sketch out the panels with a mechanical pencil, and ink with Black Magic ink. For brushwork, I use a triple-zero part-sable, part-manmade brush (Windsor & Newton), and for detail work and lettering I use Rapidograph pens. I'm still shopping for a good correction fluid- haven't found the perfect one yet. Once the pages are inked, I scan them into the computer, make adjustments to the images in Adobe Photoshop, and do the layout in Quark. If I'm doing color work, I add color via computer as well.
DS: I get the impression that you move around alot, does this mean you don't have a group of comic creators that you feel part of?
AA: I do move quite a bit, though I've only just recently moved across the country. In Chicago I was somewhat part of the scene- I've always sort of been a fringe person, existing on the periphery- but I'm now starting to get to know more folks in the industry. I think it's mostly because I've never completely been sure if this is the art form I want to fully embrace ( I have two degrees in Fiber Arts and used to make hand-illustrated quilts, plus I also write and teach). I'm looking forward to slowly getting to know the West Coast comix scene.
DS: What comics have you read recently? Why did you like/dislike them?
AA: Read the newest NON, which is a wonderful anthology put out by the nice folx at Red Ink on the East coast here in the good ol' U S of A. NON is always a good read- beautifully designed, lovingly printed, with an eye for fine-art comix narratives that possess both intriguing storylines and engaging art. Also read Top Shelf's latest anthology (being more book- than series- minded, I tend to read more anthologies...)- I found the circus theme a bit superfluous, but it reads like a mini-Who's Who of the best and brightest comix artists out there- nationally (American) and internationally. It's a must-have. The Top Shelf people always put out amazing stuff.
DS: If a film was made of your life, who should play you?
AA: Hee hee! Good question. Mmm- hard to say- maybe Juliette Lewis, if she'd be willing to cut her hair...
DS: How do you distribute your comics?
AA: In the past, I did so mostly locally and haphazardly. Currently, I'm no longer doing serial work, but my next book will be distributed by the publisher (Sara Ranchouse Publishing), and I plan to shop around for distributors for my next book after that. So the answer would be- through an independent distributor.
DS: I've read a few articles that claim that comics are the ultimate medium for creative self expression. What do you think about this?
AA: I wouldn't say ultimate as far as "creative self expression" goes- there are so many widely varying avenues to travel down... but I do think it's one of the most completely satisfying narrative art forms, in that you can tell a story on so many levels. Sometimes I'll opt to go the cinematic route, and aim to convey meaning pictorially, other times the written text is more of the focus. But it's the dance between the words and pictures that's so intriguing. Plus, for a modular person such as myself, it's great because you can create tiny little works of art in the form of panels, then also endeavor to integrate text and unify the page as a whole, effectively creating a series of little artworks AND (ideally!) a cohesive story. It can be a far more sophisticated medium than most realize.
You can contact Amy via email: comixgrrlSTOP-@-SPAMearthlink.net
A review of Stickey Crawler
Reviews at Squential Tart
Amy wants coffee? (Search for Amy on the page).
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