Insights into the process of a Creative Great
Few artists in the realm of webcomic creative absurdity have not been influenced somehow by Nicholas Gurewitch’s The Perry Bible Fellowship. I have. PBF was a force in my decision to jump aboard the uncertain ship of making webcomics. But among all the creators of brief wacky comics, Nicholas is undeniably one of the best artists, and without a doubt the most eclectic in style. His comics have circumnavigated the vast ocean of the internet, making port calls worldwide. Here is a brief insight into Nicholas’ creative process, a process that has kept PBF afloat for 15 years.
Some insight into Nicholas Gurewitch
How did you get started making comics?
I probably got started making comic strips when I was 4 or 5, when my Mom encouraged my siblings and I to tell stories by binding pages together to make books. I’ve been making visual stories as long as I can remember. The answer you’re probably looking for is: I started publishing the Perry Bible Fellowship in my college newspaper in 2001, after a short stint as a journalist for the same paper.
Where or in who did you find inspiration for your style? In your words, how would you describe your own style?
Who are my greatest inspirations? It’s a bit hard to say. Sometimes I look at my work and think that it shows the idealism of my Dad colliding with the realism of my Mom. Or, I see the idealism of my Mom colliding with the realism of my Dad. The idea of the “real” colliding with the “ideal” has been suggested to me by many artists. Gary Larson is probably most responsible for convincing me that a vast amount of realistic backstory can be contained in a single silly image. I think Bill Watterson was the best at showing you that sprawling backstory (or a powerful idea), and then cramming it into a summary panel or thought- right before your eyes.
Gary Larson is probably most responsible for convincing me that a vast amount of realistic backstory can be contained in a single silly image.
What is the best piece of advice you ever got from someone, about anything?
Advice which is generic in nature- ascribed by one person to another- is not nearly so important as the advice you fashion for yourself out of necessity- based on an intimate knowledge of what makes you tick. Not sure where I heard that, but I feel a lot of much agreement with it. If you can cultivate the addictions inside you to work for you, then you gotta notice that. If you can notice it, you gotta double it. Triple it. Quadruple it until good things happen. No one can see and feel your addictions. They are your beasts to tame. And if you don’t dominate them into submission, you’ll wake up 40 years from now realizing that they’ve been riding you to their destinations.
Tell us about The Perry Bible Fellowship
Your website mentions three others as part of the process of making comics. How does this consultation usually occur and what does it do for your comics?
I work with quite a few people when I’m doing a comic. Anyone who’s nearby, really- be it family members or roommates or housemates, and friends via e-mail. I’m not against taking suggestions from other people- especially if I sense that a collaborator can see my comedic blind spots. Especially toward the end of my weekly run, I would run everything by three of my friends -as if things were on an assembly line. Many ideas get shot down and modified in interesting ways through that process -and reborn as entirely new ideas. It’s necessary to distinguish between the type of absurdity which befuddles the mind in a ticklish manner, and the kind of absurdity which is nonsensical and cryptic. Working with other people -and witnessing their confusion or appreciation when they look at a sketch- that’s where I think some of the most important work is done.
Working with other people -and witnessing their confusion or appreciation when they look at a sketch- that’s where I think some of the most important work is done.
Which comic would you say had been the most popular on the net, and why do you suppose so?
The creative process
How would you describe your style?
“the clarity of obscurity”
What all do or have you used to create your comics?
I use a lot of different things to make the comics- it wouldn’t make sense to list them all, but the repeat offenders are ink and paper.
Can you describe your process of creating a comic from planning to scanning?
Again- each comic has such a different path to creation, so a summary would not be something I could give you. I will tell you that almost every comic spends a good long while as a sketch before the blue fairy comes and turns it into something real.
Which of your comics took the most [blank] to create?
Commander-Crisp- mostly because I painted the thing, and then did color enhancements on a dying computer. Each click required me to wait several minutes.
How do your chosen styles reflect the theme a given comic touches on?
I wouldn’t theorize on this matter. It’s different for every comic. More importantly, changing styles just gives me something to busy myself with. The affect it ultimately has on a reader is probably separate from the humor.
Thank you Nicholas Gurewitch for taking the time to respond to these questions. It’s always very intriguing to read about the comics we love from the artists who make them.
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