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The Process of Making Comics with Andrea Tsurumi

by Kristen Radtke
September 13th, 2018

A creator of distinctive cartoons for both adults and children, Andrea Tsurumi’s linework is full of energy and heart. In “A Week After the Wedding,” she explores a shift in perspective while wandering, newly married, through a museum.

—Kristen Radtke

 

THE BELIEVER: How did this comic start?

ANDREA TSURUMI: A number of events converged: I got married and I had a zine deadline for INK BRICK, the comics poetry literary journal that my husband, Alexander Rothman, runs. He and I had been dating for twelve years, we’d been living together for most of that. We’d been planning the wedding for more than a year, so I’d anticipated the usual wedding planning stress but no real surprises, you know? But I hadn’t expected to think in a new way about changes to my family and being an adult in the world. So after the dust settled, I was walking alone around the museum, surprised by these unexpected feelings and also thinking about making a new comic, so I started taking notes and writing with that in mind. It came out as something bigger than the mini I’d planned.

BLVR: What’s your process like?

AT: It differs for different projects, but for this comic, I sketched with a mechanical pencil and wrote while walking around the museum, starting to shape the piece, then I went home and put it into rough order, which showed me which parts I needed to cut and which I needed to expand. I made more trips to the museum to sketch and also drew from their online archive. The comic went through a few drafts before submission, then more while working with the editor. Almost all the original sketches are the final (cleaned-via-Photoshop) art.

BLVR: Was any aspect of making this work particularly challenging?

AT: I was massively awkward about getting images of visitors moving through the galleries. Stealth is not my jam. I’m not fast enough to sketch people in place so I supplemented with photos, which, let’s be honest, is never not going to be creepy. People are always doing these lovely little things I want to draw, like the guard making funny faces at a baby, but I’m not bold enough to just capture the image and definitely not sneaky enough to do it without them noticing, which is why all my reference photos look like they’re taken from a hundred feet away. The museum wasn’t crowded, which made for great visits, but it also made it super obvious when I was looking at someone. It was really nice to go through the museum looking for these moments, though, because it changed how I pay attention to people.

BLVR: What drives you to create new work?

AT: There are so many things I want to make stories about, and also by writing and drawing, I get better at noticing what’s happening around me. It helps me process ideas and interact with the world, and I’m probably most comfortable when I’m working on something. And it’s how I support myself and our pup.

BLVR: Without naming any comics artists, what influences you most?

AT: This is an incredibly broad answer, but I like finding out about how people think and act (and how they act despite what they think, etc.) and how they intentionally or unintentionally behave in the world. That’s why I love character-driven stories and observing the contradictions and idiosyncrasies of how folks behave. That’s also why I find history, photo journalism, and comedy compelling.

BLVR: Which comic should we drop everything and read right now?

AT: Eleanor Davis’s Why Art, which just came out, and Molly Brooks’s Sanity & Tallulah, which isn’t out until October. Both of these are so good they make me shout things.

BLVR: What are you working on next?

AT: My second picture book, Crab Cake (about disasters and a crab who makes cakes) is coming out February of next year, and I just finished illustrating Gideon Sterer’s picture book, Not Your Nest. Comics-wise, I’m working on more essays like this one and a few longer projects that I’m taking my time with.

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