You should all check out “Between Gears” by Natalie Nourigat. It’s a great autobio comic that chronicles her senior year of college at the University of Oregon. She is incredibly talented and one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I interviewed her after catching up at Stumptown Comics Fest this year and she had some very interesting things to say!
JL: When did you decide you would chronicle your senior year of college in such a way?
NN: I read autobio comics (DAR, Ellerbisms, The Devil’s Panties, and Emitown) long before I considered making them. I was really inspired when I got to know Emi Lenox and saw how she had a comic diary that she could go back and read and remember, vividly, what had happened to her. I thought that would be a really special thing to have for myself, and the timing of my senior year lined up with that desire. I thought it would be a good time to document, and something I would enjoy reading much later. There was also a time when I thought Between Gears could serve as my senior thesis project, and that gave me the little extra push to try it.
JL: What is your creative process like? Do you have any rituals or guidelines you go through?
NN: When I draw, I like to have motivational music or funny podcasts on, and hot coffee next to my drafting table. When I write, I turn into a hermit and walk around my apartment in circles thinking through the threads I’m attempting to weave together.
JL: I’ve always thought you art looks like a cross between Avatar and Studio Ghibli. Who are some of your artistic inspiration?
NN: I absolutely love both of those things. I’m a fan of a lot of things; I take a lot of joy in other people’s creations. I have no doubt that each of them influences my work in some way. I enjoy a lot of American comic artists (like Joelle Jones, Faith Erin Hicks, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Ross Campbell, Hope Larson, Vera Brosgol, and Jen Wang), manga artists (Naoki Urasawa, Kiyohiko Azuma), animation studios and animated films (Pixar, Disney, Satoshi Kon’s work, various student short films—bless the internet), and other storytellers like Team Starkid and The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
JL: When did you decide that you wanted to work in the comics industry?
NN: It was my goal pretty soon after I started reading comics. A friend gave me Tokyopop’s first Rising Stars of Manga book when I was 13, and I started submitting to the contest annually in the hopes of scoring a 3-book deal with Tokyopop. By the time I was 20, I had drifted away from that goal a bit. I didn’t see concrete examples of people making a career/living out of comics. A lot of my online friends stopped drawing, and I felt isolated. That changed when I stumbled into Portland’s comic scene and met the members of Periscope Studio, where I interned and saw many different ways in which people made a life out of comics.
Read the full interview here!