IFOA: How long did it take you to complete Beverly?
Nick Drnaso: About three years. Then a few months were spent editing and revising some of the artwork and dialogue, and laying out the book with a lot of assistance from Tracy Hurren and others at Drawn and Quarterly. The release date was just about four years after I started the first page.
IFOA: What comes first, the written story or the drawings?
Nick Drnaso: I always begin with the written story in a document on the computer, but I usually start drawing pretty soon after the writing begins, so it’s sort of like the art is always trying to catch up to the written story. In a way, it’s good that comics take so long to draw. Moments of tedium – ruling out panel borders and scanning artwork – are actually the best times to really critically examine what you’re working on, to try and catch any overlooked opportunities or unexplored avenues.
IFOA: As you probably know, this year the Festival is highlighting graphic novels. What do you love most about graphic novels?
Nick Drnaso: That’s a wide open question. I’m actually having trouble answering that. Some of the best comics stir a feeling in me that is similar to a great film, sometimes they’re more akin to a great album, and some feel more in line with literature or poetry. Come to think of it, there are some graphic novels that read similarly to a photo album or a yearbook. Or a fine art monograph. So I guess that’s my answer. They’re great because they’re malleable. They can adapt to fit the whims of the artist.
IFOA: What artist or writer inspires you?
Nick Drnaso: A few weeks ago I visited Roger Brown’s home and studio in Chicago, which has been preserved since he died in 1997. He’s one of my favorite painters. It was surreal to walk through his home and see the way he adorned nearly every inch of his walls with unusual artifacts, pieces from friends and fellow artists, strange outsider art, toys, and other ephemera.
A short list of things I’ve read recently: Showa: 1926-1939 by Shigeru Mizuki, The Fiancee and Other Stories by Chekhov, Deep Blues by Robert Palmer and Bright-Eyed at Midnight by Leslie Stein.
IFOA: What’s next for you?
Nick Drnaso: I’ve been working on another book since January of 2015. So far it’s going pretty well. I’ll hopefully be finished by the end of 2017, but that’s just an estimate.