I’m still trying to catch up from being out of town (not to mention getting ready to leave town again for a bit), so I’m happy today to hand this post over to fledgling New York City writer and illustrator Nicholas Gannon, who formerly attended Parsons The New School for Design (where he learned that “coffee and cigarettes at 3:00 am make you feel pretty crappy”). Nicholas, it seems, is finding his footing in the field of illustration by experimenting with stories and art over at his site, Dreams in Doldrums, and his monthly publication, The Doldrums’ Press. Here he is at The Doldrums’ Press, but you’ll note, if you read closely, that he doesn’t always look so startled and, quite possibly, panic-stricken. Perhaps he just needs some coffee? I can help. (It’s not quite 3AM as I type this, and I won’t give him any cigarettes. I can do my best, though I do find surprised and fearful people quite interesting, in point of fact. So. Either way, I think we’re set.)
I’ve invited Nicholas to tell me a bit more about his art and writing. As you’ll see for yourselves, fans of Gorey and Dahl may very well enjoy Nicholas’s wry, macabre style, one that’s not afraid to embrace the doldrums with a dollop of camp, a little bit of poison and pathos, and some tragic twisty-turns. Or, as he puts it below, the “real world at a 45-degree angle.” (Oh, and Snicket fans would approve, too. I feel sure of this. And perhaps Lemony would come along and say something like, “if you don’t like this, you should be smushed by a falling truck from the sky.” Or something similar.)
See? You’ll read more about him below, but for now, meet Archer B. Helmsley:
Nicholas: The Doldrums’ Press is an online paper I created to help tell my stories that revolve around the world of Archer B. Helmsley, a young boy who dreams of great adventure but rarely makes it past the windowsill.
The way I like to work, which is in little ideas here and there, fits the newspaper well. I can put small, incomplete ideas out there for people that otherwise would just sit in a pile on my desk. While the paper tells a large story, it also allows for me to diverge and tell little ones along the way.
(Click to super-size)
Adélaide is a dancer, who lost a leg when a flock of birds chased a bakery truck into a lamp post, which collided with Adélaide across the street. While Archer prefers to sit in his room dreaming, Adélaide was out actively pursuing her dreams of being a great dancer. As it happens, Archer is somewhat responsible for Adélaide’s accident.
I like to write down little ideas as they come. Many of them don’t have a purpose in the beginning, aside from my desire to put them down. Afterwards, I stitch them into different stories I’m working on. Creating a story linearly is difficult for me. The lack of clarity keeps me interested and I love the surprise when things come together in a way I didn’t necessarily intend.
It’s similar for drawing. If I have an idea for an image, I don’t worry about the context. I know it fits somewhere and I’ll figure that out later. My sketches are more dear to me than finished images. I find it hard to recreate the energy of a spontaneous sketch with a completed image. I’m working to find a way to merge the two that works for my world.
My favorite ideas come from life. Where I grew up in the countryside of upstate New York, there was an Italian-style villa that an Italian man had built for his wife, because they were moving to America and he wanted her to have a little taste of home here. When the villa was completed and they were ready to move, she divorced him.
There are so many beautiful vignettes that happen everyday in the real world, and I love to make them my own and put them into my work.
The first book I ever loved was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I think I read it three times in a row, cover to cover. I liked that he addressed you as the reader and never spoke down to you. I loved his dark humor and all that good stuff.
I want my stories have that similar magical reality to them, sort of a real world at a 45-degree angle. It’s point-of-view, really. We all see the world in different ways and some people, like Archer, see it a bit more magically than others.
My work is done basically with lots of pencils. I was never very good with a paintbrush. I like that I can easily take them with me wherever I go and switch back and forth between writing and drawing. I suppose it’s a question of what materials you feel at home with.
I love pencils.
All images are copyright © 2011 by Nicholas Gannon and used with permissions.