Published on October 4th, 2012 | by Julie Davis0
Gender Benders with Comic Artist Chloe Dalquist
“The concept of Jamie’s character came from my own mental state in my late teens/early twenties,” explained cartoonist Chloe Dalquist, describing the inspiration for her comic Jamie the Trickster. “I was going through a phase where I wanted to be male, but didn’t identify as trans because I knew that if I actually did go through the pain and difficulty and expense of transition, I’d immediately miss being female! Then I realized that I didn’t just want to be a guy, all I wanted was the ability to magically be able to switch back and forth between sexes easily and could be one or the other whenever I felt like it, for however long I wanted.”
Art turned out to be the perfect outlet for these feelings. A constant doodler as a child, she began seriously considering art as a career in her late teens. She attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and graduated with a degree in 2D animation, even though she’d realized by then that animation wasn’t for her. Comics called to her instead. Inspired by works such as Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes—”I feel pretty confident in saying that I probably wouldn’t be a comic artist to this day if not for Calvin and Hobbes“—and Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, she began to create her own comics.
“Because, hey, in art you can make whatever you want and be whatever you want!” Dalquist said.
The first chapter of Jamie the Trickster was published on Dalquist’s blog in August of 2010.
“On the Internet at the time, a lot of artists were drawing themselves as the opposite sex for fun,” she said.
Following this trend, Dalquist had came up with a cartoony male version of herself, which led to the creation of the character of Jamie. But a problem was born with him: the need to draw the gender-switching Jamie’s female version, too, which essentially became a self-portrait.
“I was a bit worried that inserting my visage into the comic would make me come across as conceited or something,” Dalquist said, “but I finally just went, ‘The hell with it. I wanna do it this way! [Laughs] And Jaime was born.”
Art Animal met with Dalquist at SF Zine Fest. After the show, she took a few moments to tell us more about her comic series.
Art Animal: The character dynamics get very interesting when the main character switches genders. Was it your intent to give Jamie this power, to raise issues about how different men and women are treated or react to each other?
Chloe Dalquist: Yes, that was the plan! I wanted to do something that would show my belief that gender is largely, if not completely, a societal construct and we have the power to change the rules of that construct if we try hard enough and keep our minds open to new ways of perceiving things.
AA: Would you describe Jamie the Trickster as a fantasy story, a superhero story or magical realism? Or something else?
CD: I think I would describe it as magical realism, though it’s always been a difficult story for me to describe. Of course, I just had to go with something complicated for my first graphic novel. I’ve got ideas for other things that are so easy to sum up, such as “supernatural pirate
adventure!” or “sci-fi adventure!” but Jamie’s been difficult. I’ve mostly been describing it as “slice-of-life road trip story with a bit of magic.” But you know what? “Magical realism” is a lot easier to say. I think I’ll go with that one!
AA: Are any of the incidents in the comic based on your own personal experience?
CD: No, my life’s too boring for that. I think the only thing that comes close is the scene in chapter two where Manny, Vincent and Tye are about to enter a diner, but Tye is really hesitant about it. I have this weird phobia of just walking into a store or restaurant or some such place of business if I’ve never been there before. Usually I just have to walk past it and stare in a few times before I can feel comfortable enough to go in. I decided to give Tye that same idiosyncrasy.
AA: Are any of the characters based on you or people you know?
CD: Many of my characters have little bits of my personality or personality traits of my friends and family. For example, Ruby has a mixture of my stubbornness and my friend’s brashness; Tye has many of my neuroses; and Vincent is fairly similar to what I remember being like as a fourteen-year-old. In fact, his relationship with his father is a lot like the one I had growing up with my mother. As a result, it makes most interactions between Manny and Vincent ridiculously fun to write. Jamie, Todd and Manny’s characters just seemed to come out of thin air. Sometimes it’s more fun and challenging to write someone who’s nothing like you or anyone you know.
AA: You’re currently up to Chapter 2 of Jamie the Trickster on your blog. How long will the full story be? Have you already planned an ending?
CD: I’m planning at least ten chapters. I have a general idea for how the story ends, but even when I write things down solidly in a script, they still change quite a lot as I’m drawing and more if I want to modify the dialogue — which happens a lot.
AA: Would you say that you have particular topics or themes that you always return to in your artwork?
CD: Not that I’ve noticed, though one weird thing I always catch myself doing while drawing is not bothering to remain consistent about which eyebrow a character might raise in any given scene. That’s just another weird thing I do, though readers may no doubt find other recurring themes that haven’t crossed my mind.
AA: Can you describe your process? Do you draw your comics by hand or do you work digitally?
CD: I draw with mechanical pencil on 11×17 Canson comic paper, then I ink the lines with a brush and pens. I then scan the pages into my computer and color and letter them with Photoshop. It usually takes me about a week to do one page.
AA: Tell me about the Couscous Collective. How did you get involved with the group?
CD: I have a friend who was part of the group and through her I was introduced to the other members. We did many artsy and social things together and I collaborated on some projects with them. Pancha Diaz, one of the members, is the one who did the layout for the print version of the first chapter of Jamie the Trickster. In recent months I began sharing a table with Couscous at various conventions, so it seemed only a natural step that I asked to officially join and was eventually included.
AA: Are there any other projects you’re working on these days (shows you’ll be appearing at, publications, work you’re excited about)?
CD: Right now I’m trying to draw up as many illustrations as I can. I’ve had ideas for a long time, but hadn’t been able to do them until recently since working on Chapter 2 of Jamie the Trickster was taking up about 95 percent of my time. I’m also going to be exhibiting at APE [Alternative Press Expo] this year and should hopefully have some new things to sell along with my print versions of the chapters. I’m going to start writing out the third chapter by December at the very least, because though I’ve been happily playing around with my illustrations I can feel the need and desire to continue my comic nagging insistently at the back of my head.
AA: Are you currently a full-time artist? If not, what kind of other work do you do?
CD: Yep, I’m a full-time artist who does a lot of volunteer work. I’ve been trying to get a day job doing office/admin work, but we’ll see how that goes. One of my favorite volunteer jobs is working at the Cartoon Art Museum here in San Francisco and helping to manage the bookstore.
AA: What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps as an artist?
CD: Don’t give up. If you’re passionate about drawing, study as much as you can about it, draw, and keep at it! There were days I’d come home from art classes in tears because everyone else was so much better than me and I felt like I would never improve, but I just kept drawing until my skills improved by leaps and bounds. I’m still improving — or trying to — now.
Another important thing I would stress is to make friends in the art world. Network and connect! That’s been one of the hardest things for me to do as I’m not a very social person, but having contacts and support and a sense of community in the art world is one of the most valuable aspects you can have. Whether you have studios offering you jobs or friends endorsing your work to their contacts, it’s one of the most fulfilling things, especially when you’re able to give help and support to other artists in kind.
Follow the adventures of Jamie the Trickster at http://www.jamiethetrickster.com/.