Alex Nall, our resident cartoonist and a fixture at the CHI*PRC, just released his new comic book: Aloof#1 this past weekend. He was kind enough to share an excerpt from the book and answer a few questions about how Aloof#1 came to be. Read our interview below and be sure to pick up a copy of his book, available now at Quimby’s, Challlengers Comics and Uncharted Books.
Interview after the jump.
What inspired you to create this comic book?
Aloof#1 is a 36-page black and white collection of comics, illustrations, and ephemera from my sketchbook between the months of May and August 2014. Most of the work in the comic is made up of autobiographical tangents: childhood memories, idle thoughts, benign observations of city life, etc. I always keep a sketchbook in my backpack, mostly just for writing notes, doodling, or making rough drafts for other comics. I did a lot of traveling this summer and found myself sitting in the airport, sketching for long period of time. So, without even really meaning to, I started drawing a series of illustrations based around childhood memories, peculiar incidents, and moments of time that seemed to stand in the forefront of my mind. I added some post-it note doodles, a jam comic, and some doodles for variety. In the end, the comic sort of became a condensed three-month self-portrait- a temporary junk drawer, a place to store all the odds and ends in the back of my mind.
What personal experiences informed you in the creation of Aloof#1?
There are moments in my day where I’ll witness something interesting or a scene will come to play in my head. I’ll see the action evolve with a full set of characters and a fully moving plot, and I’ll think, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea for a comic’, but then time passes and I realize it’s really not. Most of the time, it’s just an insignificant moment in time and I’m more than likely assigning some larger meaning onto it… So, rather than looking for material for new stories, I decided to collect those moments and memories and ‘bring them to life’…The book is pretty much a paper and staple version of my old childhood bedroom closet: a place where I can safely stow away all the crap that I’m too sentimental to get rid of.
How many books do you want to create for this series?
I’m not sure… I suppose it’s indefinite… really, I want my sketchbook to be a place where I don’t have to struggle to create a narrative or find an interesting subject matter. I was back home recently and was looking through old college sketchbooks. Most of the stuff in them is pretty embarrassing, but in a way they were full of the kind of drawings and comics I like looking at- unmitigated, uncensored writing, naïve forays into autobiography/memoir/auto-writing, experimentation with different tools, mediums, genres, and drawing styles. As Noah Van Sciver put it in one of his comics, ‘I want to see the artist’s nervous breakdown happen on the page’. So I guess I wanted to resurrect that feeling of finding a place to escape and just draw what came to mind, good or bad, clean or sloppy, sentimental or stupid- just comics that play upon a moment of spontaneity. Hopefully, I’ll continue to get better at it…
Who are your influences in the comics industry?
I’m not so much interested in the ‘comics industry’ as I am the community that comics can create and provide. I moved to Chicago in order to seek out the network of young cartoonists here and haven’t been disappointed. There’s a rich, vibrant collective here that continues to morph into something new each and every time I step inside a comic book store. Everyone seems to be doing something different. It fascinates and overwhelms me at the same time. With the conclusion of Lyra Hill’s performative comix reading series ‘Brain Frame’, I was introduced to many new cartoonists whose work I had seen, but never gotten to know personally, as well as many artists I had never heard of. That series also made me recognize a new way of ‘reading’ comics with every show, and more importantly, gave me a milieu of new friends and cohorts to look forward to seeing again.
You often work closely with the wonderful folks over at the CHI*PRC, can you tell our readers when you’re holding another special workshop or reading with them?
Johnny Misfit’s a good friend and a great collaborator for many projects and workshops I’ve done in the past. I host a weekly drawing event- Saturday Night Drink n’ Draw, where anyone is invited to come and draw, enjoy some food and drinks and meet other artists. I try to hold a Drink n’ Draw at CHI*PRC (858 N. Ashland) each month, as a way to promote the creator’s space Johnny has made and to take advantage of the supplies and table space he can accommodate. Usually we end up making a collaborative comic to highlight the session. I think the next one will be on Saturday, September 20th.
When can we look forward to the release of Aloof#2?
Hard to say. If the second issue emerges as seamlessly as the fist did, then hopefully by the end of the year. I just want to continue writing and drawing stories that I think are worth sharing.
Alex Nall is a cartoonist and teaching artist. He was born in Galesburg and raised in North Henderson. He moved to Chicago in 2012 and has been writing and drawing comics since. He is currently working on Teaching Comics, a series that highlights his experiences as a teaching artist in Chicago Public Schools. More of his work can be found at http://alexnall.tumblr.com