INTERVIEW: Jeremy Sorese

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For any readers that don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

My name is Jeremy Sorese and I am gearing up to be a senior in college come this fall. After that, I’m not quite sure what I’ll be.

You’re a student at SCAD. Are you studying comics? Illustration?

I started off in Illustration but switched pretty early on to “funny books”. I’m in love with illustration, but crafting comics has taught me a lot more about my artwork than if I had just stuck around in Illustration. Comics require an almost completely separate mind set than illustration, that is heartbreaking when it doesn’t work and exciting when it does. I think just being surrounded by really amazing comics people in college has helped tremendously. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for people like Becky Dreistadt, Coleman Engle, and Jon Chadurjian (to name a few).

What prompted you to switch from studying illustration to studying comics?

It was a combination of a lot of things. First off, I was hanging out with and working around practically all comics kids. The few that weren’t in the sequential department just did comics because that’s you were just surrounded by it constantly. I guess the bug just bit me hard. I wasn’t the only one though, my friend Michael Jewell was once a sound design major and now he does really wonderful comics. The illustration department at SCAD just felt so sterile to me. The one and only class in the department I took was actually really great because the teacher Durwin Talon is a comics guy at heart!(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durwin_Talon) It was an illustration class in name but sequential in principle and once I realized that it was hard to ignore the flash bulbs. Any class that discusses why Chun-Li’s silouhette works with her spiky metal bangles is secretly for comic nerds. The illustration department even tried to switch proffesors on me, replacing Talon with this guy who talked about how much money he makes do scientific illustrations for dentist offices and in a statement of sophmoric rebellion, I marched out of class and switched classes. The sequential department at SCAD has been nothing but wonderfully supportive and encouraging to me. Since switching, I’ve just heard horror stories of how frustrating that department can be. I still remember my soon to be roommate Dave Valeza (the nicest guy you’ll ever meet who’s super talented to boot) and I, hanging out in my dorm room sophmore year getting so riled about the potential in comics. He had gone all four years in illustration and had learned a lot, but it wasn’t what he was passionate about and had realized too late.

The thing you unfortunately learn is that just because you have a B.F.A. in comics or illustration or fashion design or whatever, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Your work has to speak on it own, seperate from your resume and credentials and G.P.A. Illustrators can do comics and comic-ers can illustrate but if its not good, its not good. Plain and simple.

As a student, I studied illustration but had an intense love for comics. My illustration professors spent a lot of time teaching the business side of illustration. I’ve always wondered if the business side of things are taught to cartooning students as well?

SCAD is all about ‘networking’ and our department has a number of visiting artists and editors that come twice a year to look through portfolios which is helpful in ‘networking’ but for things like filling out ones taxes, not so much. With graduation looming on the horizon, I’ve been trying to be proactive and figure out the technical stuff now, leisurely, before it becomes absolutely necessary. John Mander (http://johnmanders.wordpress.com/) has been posting a sort of step by step guide to becoming an illustrator which has been nice, but makes it feel deciptively easy. And I could have sworn that Jillian Tamaki posted something that included tax write offs for your inspirational materials on her blog but I could not find it, so I might be making that up.

For the upcoming gallery show I’m in, I had to price my work for sale which was a nightmare. Money makes me nervous to begin with and predicting what others are willing to pay for something I cooked up felt like playing the lottery, choosing numbers at random. There is a strange disconnect being on this side of the equasian though. The transformation from “student” to “professional” seems so cryptic, like everyone is divided onto the two polar extremes like a game of Red Rover. Trying to get from one side to the other seems so vague, like its just going to happen one day and I just have to be ready for it.

I’m always curious about influences and inspirations. You’ve got a really strong, unique style. Most of the comics I’ve seen of yours have these amazingly fluid, almost mind-boggling page compositions. Are there an particular artists that have had an impact on your comics and drawings?

Well, I’m trying to tone down the “crazy” a little bit. I think when I started doing comics, I was just winging it and trying anything to see if it would work. I had this mentality that if you spend a zillion hours drawing and crosshatching a comic page, it ‘of course’ must be good because of the ‘x’ number of hours I’ve put into it. I’m slowly figuring out that is not the case. I really love the trend in illustration where every nook and cranny has something of interest in it. Back in High school, I was obsessed with etchers like Gustave Dore and Albrecht Durer for that very reason. I even had a xerox of the Dore print where Don Quixote gets tossed by a windmill up in my locker for all of my Senior year. I’m learning now that the difference between an illustrator and a comic-er is that a comic-er draws just enough in each panel to keep the story moving where as an illustrator wants you to stop to savor each panel individually, which is practically sequential suicide. I’m trying to think of my comics pages as the opposite of a museum. In a museum, each painting (a.k.a. a panel) is fighting for your attention no matter how big or small, and by the end of your tour through this ‘museum’ you are exhausted because none of the paintings (I mean panels) were working together.

As for other artists, Al Hirschfeld will always be my alpha and omega. I recently saw some Honore Daumier sculptures and lithographs and I forgot how amazing he was/is. Erich Sokol, Steve Brodner, Ron Mueck, Jon Hendrix, Lars Leetaru, John Currin, Kara Walker, and Pieter Brueghel are all illustrators/painters/people that are a huge deal for me. Its kinda easy to pin down what I like. Its all goofy gangly figures that all have spindly limbs and exaggerated features.

My first ‘real’ graphic novel was Blankets so Craig Thompson will always be near the top of my list. In college, comics really started to click for me with books like Vampire Loves and The Rabbi’s Cat by Sfar, Skim by Jillian Tamaki, Isaac the Pirate by Christophe Blain, the Dororo series by Tezuka and Uzumaki by Junji Ito. I think making comics is always going to be a struggle for me. Comics are all about the “big picture” and I have this nasty habit of falling in love with and getting lost in the minute details.

Are there any comics by other people that you’re really enjoying right now? Any illustrators you’re currently really into?

I spent most of the summer reading all of Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. I know the movie is good (you can’t beat that crazy tribal drum mixed in with the screech of a futuristic neo-japanese motorbike gang) but the book(s) were just a-mazing. I also read Gyo by Junji Ito, which I may even like more than Uzumaki. I’ve also been catching up on the journal-y comics Vanessa Davis has been posting on tabletmag.com. The most recent one she did, about going to fat camp was really wonderful.

We got to hang out a little bit at SPX 2008. Are you going to be at SPX this year? Do you get out to many conventions?

Most likely. Most of my family and friends all live in northern Virginia so its an excuse to see them. I’ve been going to SPX since I was a junior in High School so its sorta been a staple of my year. Now that I’m in college, I mostly spend the convention weekend doing homework. As for other conventions, SPX is about it.

You’ve got one more year of school. What comes after graduation?

For every moment that I realize that I’m graduating in a year and my stomach drops out, there are a handful of other moments when I get so impossibly excited about it. Each year that I’ve been a student at SCAD, I’ve known a graduating senior who has gone through this same moment of terror so now that its my turn, I’m trying to learn from their examples. Moving back in with my parents is out of the question, going to graduate school is not for me, and staying in Savannah is not even an option. I’ve seen friends do all of the above and just hate it. The unknown is just so intimidating that playing it safe feels so enticing.

I’ve been seriously thinking about moving to Chicago and a few weeks ago I visited and fell head over heels in love with the city. You couldn’t have smacked the smirk off of my face for the whole weekend. Despite getting drenched to the bone for the first day and getting the worst farmer’s tan the next, I really enjoyed the city. By the time I make my decision and move, I’ll be 21/almost 22 so in the grand scheme of my life this is not as huge of a deal as I have a habit of making things out to be. I’m just a simple guy who doesn’t want to own a car ever again. As for what I do once I’m in Chicago, I’m going to work my mild mannered Clark Kent day job, so I can moon-light comics and just hope for the best.

Do you have anything you’d like to plug? Go for it now!

In the beginning of September I will have four paper sculptures in the A.P.W. gallery in New York so please please please, if you are in New York, go to the show! After that I have a little five pager in this years Subterranean anthology put out by the always charming Alex Bullett and Andrew Greenstone. AND after that, I’ll have a more sizable story in an anthology being put out by Oni about Roller Derby girls. Each story in the book is written by an actual Roller Derby girl and is illustrated by some eager beaver like myself. My author’s sport pseudonym is “Chewblocka” and if that doesn’t convince you this book is going to be cool, nothing will.

Thanks a ton, Jeremy! Good luck with your last year at SCAD!

-Phil McAndrew

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3 Responses to “INTERVIEW: Jeremy Sorese”

  1. Elio Says:

    Great interview! Jeremy is one hot pocket, loaded with talent!

  2. SEQALAB – The definitive podcast for comic creators and enthusiasts » Blog Archive » Meanwhile… | The latest SEQA-related news Says:

    […] • In an interview, SEQA Undergrad Jeremy Sorese ’10 speaks about switching majors from Illustration to Sequential Art and the wide variety of artists that make up his influences. [Ink Mountain] […]

  3. johnmanders Says:

    Great stuff—Thanks for the link!

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