Sarah Becan Interview
- Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Well, I have been in Chicago for a majority of my adult life, but I was born in Orange, Texas which is right outside of the border of Louisiana. However, I also lived in Wilmington, Delaware until 3rd grade when I moved to Dallas, Texas, St. Louis and also Wisconsin.
- How did your childhood or family life influence your career?
Interestingly, I was a picky child growing up and my mom was not a very adventurous cook, so I am not really sure how I became such a “foodie.” But, at the same time, due to my upbringing and not growing up in one city with one culinary tradition, has allowed me to discover new things in different areas and value them, I believe, more than people who grew up in the area.
- What do you mean by “new things” that people who grew up in the area did not value as much as you did?
Well, for example, when I lived in Wisconsin I would go to the common cafeteria and there would be stalls of food. But, one stall of food would always have a giant block of cheese. You can come by anytime and shave a little of the cheese off for your meal. The Wisconsin-grown cheese was replaced about 2-3 times per month. Also, when I lived in St. Louis, other than the pronunciation of St. Louis which I say very differently than most people, many people did not take the city’s deep fried raviolis as seriously as I did.
- What do you believe is an authentic food?
Food is very different in every different place. That is one important thing I learned from moving around so much. Another is that there is no such thing as authentic. Food is every-changing and ever evolving. For example, Chinese-American food can be deemed authentic, but it is authentically American and it is adapted and illustrated differently in different regions in America. For example, spam, which we do not even think of as a food anymore, has become an authentic part of Hawaiian dishes.
- I really enjoyed your comic-novel, Shut Eye. I was very interested on how you interplayed between the literal and figurative because I am aiming to do the same in my cookbook that I am creating.
Let’s see. There are a few cookbooks that you should look at, such as the Philosopher’s Cookbook or Jean Paul Star Trek Cookbook. I remember one scene asked what a philosopher eats for breakfast and had a picture of a philosopher with a cigarette and a cup of black coffee. I really had a great time creating Shut Eye. The best way to interweave the story is by loosely connecting the literal and figurative with a narrative. The narrative can either be illustrated or verbally articulated. This connection allows for more room to explore the nuances in each story and keep the reader engaged.
- What are your tips for students, artists or writers?
My first tip is do not cook while you’re angry. I wrote a Saucesome article about cooking a Christmas goose and the entire story was about locating the rack to cook the Christmas goose on. Also, when you are writing or reading or creating something, be sure to just go with it. Just accept the rules that are placed in front of you and just roll with what you have. Your intuition is always correct.
Shing Khor Interview
- Where were you born?
- Where did you grow up?
Malacca, Malaysia, and Cebu, Philippines, and a couple years in Milpitas, California.
- Did your family or a mentor influence your decision to pursue your passion in art and comics?
Not while I was growing up – but I certainly wasn’t discouraged from it. I was a pretty early adopter of the internet, and I spent a lot of time in internet fan communities when I was 13-18…being surrounded by lots of artist peers, even though I lived in a completely different country was really quite wonderful and inspiring.
My parents both became artists after I’d entered college, and now they are pretty excited and encouraging about my work.
- How did your career develop?
Slowly. Basically I kept on working, and progress felt slow, and if felt like I was getting nowhere, until suddenly all the little pieces I’d begun putting in place years ago started to all work together with all the pieces I was playing with now, and formed something vaguely resembling a career.
- What does your schedule look like on a day-to-day basis?
The work itself varies between comics and sculpting.
- How do you become inspired to create your artwork? Do you ever collaborate with others?
I collaborate frequently with others – especially as editor of Sawdust Press. Most of my job that does not involve publishing my own comics, is all about curating and finding cartoonists I love and who do work that I want to promote. We work together on producing a book that is well edited, and that makes their work shine as much as possible. As a sculptor, my primary collaborator is Leslie Levings – we’ve mounted several pretty successful art shows together.
- How did you become interested in creating zines? What do you think is special or unique about zines that separates it from other types of artwork?
I’ve always been a fan of producing work quickly and easily on paper, and at some point I realized there was a whole community around it. I love zones because they are such an efficient way of distributing a viewpoint(specifically more viewpoints from marginalized groups that are rarely represented in more mainstream media). Right now, I’m a bit obsessed over the idea of creating really beautiful small edition art zines…doing lots of handmade stuff that you could never reproduce in mass.
- What ethnicity are you? How does your heritage influence your artwork?
I’m Chinese by ethnicity, Malaysian by nationality, and also a naturalized citizen of the United States. When I write autobiography, it influences all of my artwork, but the identity I associate with is probably more “immigrant” than either Chinese or Malaysian.
- Your comics circulate around the themes of corrupt institutions and women of color. How did you become interested in these themes? And, do you think it is important for artwork, both yours and in general, to promote a social message?
Well, my dayjob was working for large corporations for a long time. And I am a woman of colour. I don’t think that it’s necessary for art to promote a social message, but if you feel passionately about anything at all, it’s gonna leak out into your work, and you should let it.
- What is a critical piece of advice you would give to aspiring artists?
Finishing your work is always better than perfecting your work. You’ll get better.
Two more interviews (professional ones) with Shing: