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NAOMI NOWAK: A PAINTER'S LIFE FOR HER

MM: How old were you when you began to draw?

NN:I drew a lot when I was really little, like most kids, and then forgot all about it when I became a teenager. In my early teens I had a really active social life and a lot of friends. Then one day, when I was about 16, I got sick of it all for some reason and became a bit of a loner. That's when I took up drawing and actually made an effort to learn it properly. (Still making that effort!).

MM: What were your early art attempts like? When you look back at them, do you see the potential that you'd eventually begin to tap?

NN:Mostly I just tried to draw like artists I admired. Looking at one or two of my old drawings I wouldn't say I exhibited any extraordinary talent but when I look back at a couple of years work I'm happy with the fact that I seem to be learning pretty quickly and recognizing my own mistakes.

MM: Were you a doodler? Did you spend your time in school creating art rather than paying attention to your teachers?

NN: My last year of high school (or the European equivalent of it) I had this big notebook where I was supposed to take notes on all my subjects. At the end of the year I handed that book to my art teacher as my "official sketchbook", apologizing for the fact that it contained a few scattered notes on French verbs and algebra. I got a really good grade too, I think ... So yes, I was a doodler.

MM: At what point did you first notice comics? Were they something that you immediately felt a kinship for, or did it take time?

NN: I don't remember when I first noticed them! They've always been part of my life. My mother would take me to the library a lot when I was a little girl and besides novels like "The Secret Garden" and Roald Dahl's "Mathilda," the comics were my favourite and I would make my poor mom carry kilos and kilos of them. I read lots of Tintin, Spirou, Asterix... Anything I could get my hands on really.

MM: How did paint become your primary medium?

NN:: It's very sensual and I think that's why I'm drawn to it. I appreciate beautiful clothes and good wine in much the same way. I enjoy doing digital colours and playing around with Photoshop as well, but I don't think it can ever replace traditional media.

MM: What artists influence you most as a painter? What artists influence you most as a sequential artist?

NN: The most inspiring artist for me right now, both when it comes to comics and painting, is the Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. In his best films every shot is like a painting or comics panel that I would like to draw. Also I think a lot of the art I looked at when I was little still influences me; my two favourite illustrators were Ivan Bilibin and John Bauer. Add some manga, a little low brow, some abstract fine art, 80's kitsch and a lot of European comics on top of that and you have my current influences covered I think. :)

MM: Do you have a preference between doing paintings and creating sequential art?

NN: Not really! I enjoy them both and for me they are a natural continuation of each other, they influence and inspire each other. I do have periods where I prefer one or the other though, like right now it's definitely comics.

MM: You live in Stockholm... what sort of artistic community exists in Sweden?

NN: I'm probably the wrong person to ask. :) There is a budding comics scene I guess and definitely a lot of amazing illustrators. I think the whole scene is pretty segregated though. The "underground" scene or what ever you may call it sticks to its own haunts and the fine artists and recognized illustrators hang out somewhere else. I'm not even sure where! This might be the case anywhere you go though, I wouldn't really know. I've had the good fortune to meet a few people here who are passionate about comics just like I am though and that helps tremendously.

MM: Europeans tend to have a much different perspective on art and comics than Americans. Has that affected the perception of your work as it's been adapted overseas?

NN:: I've only been published in the states so I don't know how to answer that... I wish I could, it's a really interesting question. Sweden is very small so I chose to write in English right from the beginning, intending to perhaps put some comics on my website. I agree though, attitudes are very different which is why I recently chose to leave my favourite city in the world (New York) and move back to Europe.

MM: I'm surprised you've only been published in the States. Is there a timeline for seeing your work appear in Europe?

NN:
I very much hope to see my stuff published in Europe someday, but I'm not sure when or where that will be. There have been some whispers about it, but nothing definite enough to mention yet.

MM: You now have two graphic novels that have been released, and they're quite different from one another. What did you learn from doing them, and where do you think your next one will take you?

NN: I learned a lot about perseverance, flexibility, taking criticism. I also learned a lot about myself and I think (here's the cliché of the day!) I learned that I'm not alone. Comics are a very direct means of communication and knowing that people relate to my work has meant the world to me. I should hope they are different from one another - I'm definitely very different from who I was back then. The first comic was about looking back to understand where you come from, the second one was about looking forward to find out where you want to go. The one I'm working on now is about looking outside, at others, at the world and it's very strange arrangements... A natural third step, hopefully.

MM: What advice would you give to an artist just beginning their career?

NN: I'm just beginning my career myself! A couple of things that helped me so far though: Look at as much good art as possible, in every art form. Find someone knowledgeable who likes your work and believes in it but isn't afraid to give harsh criticism. At all cost, avoid people who make you feel downright bad about your work and who, under the pretence of "giving you honest criticism", put you down and make you feel worthless. Be patient and work hard (the most difficult one! I struggle every day...).

MM: What other artistic mediums are you curious about? Do you see yourself trying any of them?

NN: I would love to do animation some day, stop motion especially. I hope I get to try it out! I really want to learn oil painting too. I think, if I work hard this week my reward will be new oil paints...

Check out Naomi Nowak’s amazing work at her website!
Buy Naomi's books from NBM Publishing!

Marc Mason

 



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