Artist Interview With Nattosoup- Led by Kabocha

Usually I'm the one handling the artist interviews on the blog, but Kabocha kindly offered to interview me for the 7" Kara Volume 2 Kickstarter!  7" Kara Volume 2 launched on Kickstarter this week, and we're almost halfway to the goal!

Hi Becca! It's a pleasure to finally change things up -- but I figured now was a great chance to get to the questions that are really on everyone's mind...

So without further ado, let's get started!

First and foremost: Tell me a little bit about what we can expect to see in 7" Kara Volume 2, and what it's about! I *know* there's some cat riding, after all...

Volume 2 is where the story of 7" Kara really starts to unfold!  In Volume 1, I tried to set everything up, I introduce readers to Kara and her family, the dollhouse they live in, and her Lilliputian way of life.  When Kara finds out that humans are real, she takes off like a shot to meet one and ends up with more than she bargained for.  

In Volume 2, Kara and Naomi's friendship really begins to blossom, with both girls sharing aspects from their respective cultures.  Kara's eager to explore what human life has to offer, and Naomi is delighted to introduce doll-like Kara to treats like snack cakes, strawberry soda, and ham sandwiches.

And speaking of cat-riding, Kara's friendship with Naomi's kitten, Pancake, is also flourishing.  Pancake enjoys sneaking human food,which is ground level and accessible when Kara is around, and Kara is more than happy to wrestle with a friendly kitten.

It's not all kitten riding and strawberry soda though, as tensions escalate between Kara's parents.  Although her father has been laid up with a bad sprain, he's eager and raring to move the family out.  Her mother feels differently, and while she struggles to pack up the house alone, she's also trying to convince her husband to change his mind.

Kara and Naomi are also learning how to navigate the boundaries between Lilliputians and Humans, and things aren't always easy.  Kara feels responsible for making sure the family home stays safe, and that means keeping it a secret from Naomi.  And when Naomi tries to give Kara a bunch of old doll clothes, Kara blows her top at the insinuation that she might be a borrower.  Maybe there are bigger differences between Kara and Naomi besides scale.

Okay, that's pretty awesome! So, uh. What made you decide to choose watercolor as the medium for this comic? Do you think Kara would have the same feel to it if you did it in marker or on a computer?

I've loved watercolor for a long time, and when I first started working on 7" Kara as a concept, there weren't a lot of middle grade and young reader comics out there.  At the time, comics were still kinda this weird no-man's land in children's literature- libraries carried Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts if you were lucky and nothing else.  I figured the best way to get my comic into the hands of kids was to make it look like something parents and librarians were already familiar with.  I wanted to create something that combined all the best aspects of comics with the beauty of children's books, and I felt like watercolor was a great way to accomplish that.

I was still in graduate school when I started Volume 1, and I actually did marker and black and white covers in addition to the watercolor cover in order to allow me to decide which method would work best for the story.  While I think all three versions are great, I think the marker version might currently be my favorite!  

The one thing I HAVEN'T tried is a digital version of the cover- at the time, I really hated doing digital comic coloring, and really loved traditional media art.  Although I enjoy doing digital art more now, I still really love traditional media!  

A comparison of Chapter covers

I basically had to learn how to watercolor from scratch when working on 7" Kara.  This led to a lot of research, trial and error, and buying a LOT of watercolor supplies.  I really loved the process though, and wanted to share what I learned along the way with other comic artists and non-traditional watercolor artists, so 7" Kara ended up inspiring a LOT of this blog.  And I think doing Kara in watercolor has helped me stay interested- there's still so much I have to learn, and so many things I want to paint!

I'd never considerd that... Good points, good points. Well, with that in mind -- if you could choose a type of artistic medium for your members of cast to use, what do you think they'd select? I can't help but feel like Kara herself would enjoy non-toxic watercolor paint...!

Thinking about this question, I realized most of my characters practice some form of art!

  • Rowan enjoys sketching with charcoal on paper bark- mostly making maps.
  • Kara loves any art supply she can get her hands on- the more colorful, the better!  She uses pencil stubs, charcoal, and crayon bits, but she'd probably love non-toxic watercolors!
  • Meldina sews and embroiders- she's well known in the local area as a seamstress.
  • Naomi likes anime, so she enjoys using alcohol markers because of their bright colors.

Well, that all aside -- a more serious question now: Is there a particular age group you aimed Kara at? I know it's an all-ages comic, but I've always been curious if you had anything more specific in mind.

7" Kara was originally part of my Master's Thesis, which focused on how comics support children's literacy and can teach important reading skills.  The comic itself was designed to showcase ways to create challenge and reward within the comic page- challenging younger readers with slightly more advanced language, or with deeper concepts, then rewarding them with a mental break in the form of a beautiful and relaxing double page spread.  

Originally I envisioned 7" Kara as a read together comic; something kids 7-10 might read to their parents, or take turns reading together.  But as I matured as an artist and as a writer, there were themes I wanted to explore that while appropriate for younger readers, might appeal more to teenagers and adults, which led to the shift from emerging readers to a more general audience.

One last one, if you don't mind! Do you have any thoughts on the whole process of getting ready to self publish volume 2 that you'd like to share with everyone?

Volume 1 was my first self published longer comic, and before that, I'd self published plenty of minicomics and zines.  Every time, it's completely different.  Self publishing a zine at home, using your printer and a stapler is different from using a company like CreateSpace to print your volumes on demand, and both are leagues different from using Kickstarter to pay for offset printing.

The biggest difference between these projects is the amount of organization and preparation necessary.  When self publishing either at home or through CreateSpace, the preparation is mainly about laying out the book.  When preparing for Kickstarter, Volume 2 was laid out before the launch, but there was still a lot of preparation before the campaign could go live.  We had to write a compelling Story to interest people in backing the project while explaining how the money would be spent, determine rewards that would incentivize people to support the project, and record the Kickstarter video.  

For zines and Volume 1, I handled almost everything alone,   I did pay a friend to layout Volume 1 in InDesign, but I came up with all page designs and page elements.  For zines, I lay them out myself using Affinity Publisher- a program similar to InDesign but much simpler.  For Volume 2, my fiance laid out the book for the most part, and I focused on generating new assets as necessary for sections like Making 7" Kara.

This is a topic I want to talk about more, and have some posts planned to explore it in greater depth, for those interested!  I've also talked a bit about using Kickstarter as a person with ADHD, since there's so much preparation.

Thank you so much, Becca!

For everyone else -- Go back this wonderful book immediately. Like, right now. If you know a kid who loves to read and enjoys comics and cartoons, 7" Kara is bound to be a fast favorite!