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gg: What media do you use to paint
your comics? I can't quite tell; is it
aa: Yeah, in the one that I just did
[this issue], that's gouache. I did it
all in pthalo blue and then there's
a brownish black. Then the Scheherazade
one is also gouache, just
black and white. But then, the
two in the first two volumes [of
Mome] are ink and watercolor, and I had to do them on separate
pieces of paper, so, there's basically
no original art for those.
gg: You did the ink and the watercolor
on separate pieces of paper?
aa: Yeah, because I wanted the ink
to be — I didn't want the black
lines to be halftoned so...
gg: Yeah, you wanted 100% black.
gg: Huh, so you did the watercolor
on essentially an overlay? Explain
the technique behind that.
aa: I've been using the computer a
lot lately. My printer will print onto
watercolor paper, so after I inked
the black parts, I scanned them
and printed them out in really
light blue, onto watercolor paper,
and then I painted with a brownish-
red wash. Then I scanned them
in color, and removed one or two
of the color channels, so the blue
guidelines disappeared. And then I
added a lot of gradients and things
in the computer too to make them
look like those Japanese woodblock
gg: I thought the story that appears
this issue, which I just read, was really
aa: Oh, thank you.
gg: And I thought your use of that
particular blue is stunning. Did you
use the same technique where you
did the black on a separate overlay?
aa: No, this one, I just did all on
one and so the black is going to end
up being half-toned. But I think it's
going to be OK.
gg: What are the different properties
of watercolors versus gouache? Do
you prefer one over the other? Does
one give you different effects than
aa: Yeah, they definitely give different
effects. I like them both for
different reasons, and then they're
both frustrating for other reasons.
Watercolor is a lot easier to make
smooth blends with; you can do
that with gouache, but it's almost
not a good idea because that's not
what it's suited for. I think I have to
plan things out more with gouache,
it's less of an intuitive process. In
that sense gouache can be faster
because you don't have as much of
an opportunity to mess with it. But
I have been doing a lot of paintings
recently in both, and that requires
some planning too, because I have
to do the watercolor first because
you can't paint watercolor on top
of gouache. And then some of
those paintings I feel would be better
if I did them in oil, and that's
something I'm going to try explore
a little bit someday when I have
From 'Space Taxi'
gg: Do you prefer to paint your
comics over pen and ink?
aa: I definitely prefer to paint them,
but it does take longer. That's the
trade off. But I think it's easier for
me to see in shades of gray than in
black and white. Getting the balance
of the page right is a lot harder
if you just have black and white
and I don't like crosshatching. So, I
feel like that's not available to me.
gg: Traditionally, it seems to me,
there's been a tension between painting
and cartooning, that is, most of
the painted comics I'm aware of over
the last 20, 25 years don't work as
comics. The painterly aspect almost
rubs against the essence of cartooning so that each panel looks more
like a frozen illustration than part of
gg: Your painted comics still retain
the qualities of cartooning — the
spontaneity, the elasticity — whereas
painting can smother those very
same qualities... you know what I
aa: Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm glad you
said that because I do think about
it a lot and sometimes I feel like I'm
failing at that, and that's mostly because
the painting takes so long. I
feel like it's possibly taking the life
out of everything.
gg: Yeah, that would seem to be
the danger. So, how do you think
you avoid that particular trap?
aa: [Laughs.] Well, maybe it's just
thinking about it and worrying
about it a lot. [Groth laughs.] Like
subconsciously it's gotten in there
or something, I don't know.
gg: Take the last story you did or the
story that's in this issue: Do you lay
down all of the black lines first?
aa: No, in that one, the black lines
were all at the end, they're on top