Josh Santospirito talks to Kate McKenzie about making comics in Tasmania.
How did you become a comic artist?
I always wanted to become a comic-artist when I was a kid … so, of course, I became a nurse. Then, one day, I suddenly felt the calling of the brush. Which is a bit like when a person hears the call of God and becomes a man of the cloth, except the cloth is more like an ink-brush, and the priesthood is swapped for the siblinghood of comic-makers … and, in fact, there is no siblinghood, because making comics involves sitting in a room by yourself for years on end. Anyway, I rediscovered drawing as an adult as a way of investigating, hunting, diarising, reinterpreting interesting things. I started drawing The Long Weekend in Alice Springs and it just grew and grew so I had to finish it.
What skills should emerging comic artists try and develop?
I reckon its important to also master concepts from other mediums – particularly graphic design, advertising, poster-design, film, prose. In comics these skills really help with layouts of comics, which helps convey the information and meanings and emotions of the story, and it’ll make you a better person generally. A better person!
What music do you listen to when you’re working?
I actually canNOT have music with words, especially when lettering a comic. I always ALWAYS accidentally lose focus and write a word from the song, which is excruciatingly annoying. I really love listening to the Necks when writing or drawing – their trance-like music is very effective at focusing the mind on the squillions of little decisions that make up the process of writing comics. But if I’m just inking over the pencils, I don’t need to focus quite so much and I can listen to anything, I’m a big fan of all sorts of things ranging from Holly Throsby to experimental screechy noise. I also make improvisational guitar recordings of my own … sometimes that’s nice to listen to.
Where was your favourite place growing up?
My favourite place? Possibly ummmm … not sure … maybe the Rivoli down at Camberwell Junction. It’s an old art-deco cinema not far from where I grew up. I loved going to movies and that old cinema has an amazing ceiling – its just beautiful.
Do you refresh your work by traveling or do you find staying in one place gives you more stability?
I have travelled a lot in my life, but I think I’m changing, and requiring more and more to stay in one place to get things done. The last few times I’ve gone travelling with Nadine, I’ve made a zine of our travels – sketchbook and daily comics and whatnot – it’s been really fun. We recently went to Far North Queensland, so I made a little zine about that.
What is happening for Tasmanian comic artists at the moment?
- Gary Chaloner is launching some stuff at the EWF Roadshow – which is connected to Gestalt (Perth), which is really exciting. He’s got numerous projects on the go, as always.
- I’ve started to curate a series of zine-comics made by Tassie artists called DOWN THERE. I made the first one in July and Tricky Walsh has one coming out in December (very exciting), next year we’ll have Tom O’Hern, Lindsay Arnold and MORE – mega-great.
- Speaking about Tricky Walsh – a few of her recent major projects have involved comics, they’re pretty friggin’ fantastic! One was in the recent Hobart Art Prize exhibition on the walls: they’re kind of wall-based spreads which cross the boundaries of form – somewhere between strangely emotive diagrams and sequential art. They’re really great!
- There is a bimonthly Comic-Book-Group that meets up to talk about a graphic novel that they chose on the previous occasion. It’s got a facebook group that you can join if anyone’s interested. It’s good fun. It’s mostly about eating chips and talking about the book.
- I must say – Christopher Downes, editorial cartoonist for the Mercury Newspaper (he’s also an amazing comic-maker) is making more and more and more EXTRAORDINARY cartoons & comics for the Mercury – the man is ON FIRE! Look him up if you can. He occasionally makes small comics which are really beautifully crafted – so try and nab one if you ever come across ‘em. Of course, Jon Kudelka lives down here and also works for the Mercury – who’s a National treasure.
- My graphic novel The Long Weekend in Alice Springs is now in its second print-run which is rad.
- That grand institution of Aussie comics “The Comic Spot”, hosted by John Retallick and Gary Chaloner has moved from Melbourne to Tasmania and is still putting out great podcasts on a monthly basis which can be listened to here.
What will you be getting up to at the EWF Hobart Roadshow?
I’ll be doing a comics-reading from The Long Weekend in Alice Springs at the Graphic Content event and hopefully going to see my old friend Jen Mills talk at the Digital Writers Conference immediately beforehand. I’m also involved in the Twitch Meets Stilts event on the Saturday at the Grand Poobah, which oughta be fun I reckon. Are you coming along?
Joshua Santospirito is a comic artist, writer and musician. He grew up in suburban Melbourne, has lived in Sydney, Alice Springs and Hobart. He has worked in mental health as a nurse for a number of years, working in Central Australian Aboriginal communities and in Hobart, Tasmania. In 2013 he started San Kessto Publications with his wife, Nadine Kessler.
Josh will be appearing at Graphic Content: An Evening of Visual Storytelling on Thursday October 31 from 6pm.