Name: Sam Hester
Type of Creator: Artist, Letterer, Publisher. Writer, etc.
I write and draw autobiographical comics about whatever I’m doing – these days, local stories happening in Calgary.
For about ten years, I kept an ongoing autobiographical comics journal in several mostly-unpublished volumes called “the drawing book.” I self-published the first volume in 2012, and there’s some bits of it up on my old website, www.thedrawingbook.com
I have contributed comics, sketchnotes, and illustrations to a handful of places, including Alternative Comics’ anthology “9-11: Emergency Relief,” and AdHouse Books’ debut anthology “Project: Telstar.”
These days, time permitting, I write comics about my kids and my neighbourhood, some of which I post on my blog, www.the23rdstory.com.
What was the first comic you read?
Probably Carl Barks’ Walt Disney comics. Later I read Archie and Tintin.
What inspired you to make comics? A specific story? Writer? Author?
I drew all sorts of comics-style stuff as a kid. Children’s literature inspired me (and still does). Real stories about real people and places inspire me – and stories with pictures are just more fun than stories without.
What do you like about comics? What is it about them that interests you? Inspires you? Moves you?
I like the way a combination of words and pictures changes the whole story for both the creator and the reader. In her long-standing newspaper strip “For Better or For Worse,” Lynn Johnston depicted life in Canada to millions of readers around the world through subtle visual and textual references that went hand in hand with the storyline. Comics are powerful communication tools!
What is the most important thing people need to know about comics?
Uh-oh – I have no idea. I’m no authority on comics at all. How about this: “Just because they’re called comics doesn’t mean there has to be a punchline!”
What comic would you recommend to a first-time reader?
I don’t know… maybe a comic that’s a children’s book, too? How about “Some Swell Pup” by Maurice Sendak, or the Chips & Jessie books by Shirley Hughes. Accessible, funny and beautiful too (you don’t need to be a kid, or have a kid, to read them).
As an artist, what medium do you work in? Pencils? Ink? Digital?
All three. I often start with a pencil (a long time ago, my mom had a whole lot of pencils with her name on them, from her office, and I ended up with all of them. Somehow they are exactly right – not too hard, not too soft. I’ve become superstitious about them and I only ever use pencils from this stash. This may become a problem someday, but there are still a lot left, so I’m not worried).
I ink with Pigma Micron pens. And these days, I also draw on a Wacom tablet. It is awesome! No more scanning!
As a writer, pen or keyboard?
The storyline is usually indistinguishable from the page layout, for me – so I sketch it all out and block in the text after I see where things will fit. These days I’m not writing long, continuous stories – for something like that, I’d write the story first (probably on a computer).
What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to work? Do you have a routine?
I sit down and wish it wasn’t already 11:30 PM!
I work as efficiently as possible – brainstorming, sketching, researching while I’m juggling other work that can accommodate that kind of thing – so that, by the time I sit down to work, I am usually ready to turn something out… because chances are, it’s the only opportunity I’ll get to do it.
Do you have a set work space? Where?
At night, I work at home when my kids are asleep. I sit at my grandfather’s old wooden desk, actually (it was HIS dad’s desk… which is kind of cool!) In the daytime, I work at the Commons, a totally wonderful co-working space in my neighbourhood (Ramsay). You will also find me working (and drinking coffee) at a few local spots such as Gravity and BITE Groceteria in Inglewood. I also really like working in moving vehicles (plane/train/bus), but that’s much harder – although not impossible – when accompanied by kids.
Do you listen to music when you work? Other background noise?
While I’m writing and sketching, I like quiet. Once I’m inking and colouring, noise is welcome!
There just isn’t enough time. And, I’m a slow worker. So, I have the eternal choice: produce a lot of sloppy, hasty-looking work (this is what seems to be happening currently), or produce a beautiful, amazing-looking artistic masterpiece just once in a rare while (this hasn’t happened yet).
If you had to pick one comic as a favourite, what would it be?
I don’t actually read a whole lot of comics (see above comment about how there isn’t much free time around here). It might have been last year that I happened to see a comic posted online by Lauren Weinstein about how she struggles to balance parenting and the drive to make comics. That sounds like the story of my life these days – so maybe that counts as my favourite comic right now. You can see it here:
And, I’ll mention “Drawing Crazy Patterns,” a self-published mini-comic by my friend Phil Dokes of Ohio. For two reasons: 1) It’s about life on the road following Bob Dylan’s Neverending Tour (a subject close to my heart) and 2) I have an inkling of the time, effort, discipline and self-scrutinization it cost him to put together this labour of love in his spare time… and to me, that is what making comics is all about. You can see it here (if you scroll down the page a bit):
What is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with and why?
I sure wish I was a better cook. Artists have to eat, too. It might as well be tasty!
What three words would you use to describe your work?
Autobiographical, sincere, sleepy.
What is your favourite place to go in Calgary?
I like my hood (Ramsay).
Future projects you are working on/would like to work on
Too many to list…
You are stranded on a desert island, you must have:
If I was really stranded on a desert island, I’d want coffee and a word processor. That would keep me content for a long time. If I could bring along the complete works of Margaret Mahy and Diana Wynne Jones too, I’d be in no hurry to get back to civilization!