Published on September 20th, 2012 | by Julie Davis0
The Animated Life of Grasiela Rodriguez
Describing Grasiela Rodriguez as an artist requires more than just a few words: she’s a graphic designer, webmaster, illustrator, painter and gallery manager. She creates chalk art and maintains a blog of her work at festivals, such as the recent Pasadena Chalk Festival.
Finally, as founder of Not Your Friend Comic Books, Rodriguez is also a comic book artist and animator who recreates her comic stories — complete with sound, music and voices — for her YouTube channel.
“I am always working on multiple projects at once,” Rodriguez said.
At the time of this interview, she rattled off her current projects, saying, “I’ve got two comic books in the works, and I am also working on a paper mache art installation for this year’s Day of the Dead Festival at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.”
Influenced by Pop Art, Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow art, Rodriguez remixes the familiar images of pop culture in her paintings and comics: TV icons, comic book heroes, record album covers, cereal box mascots, mermaids and cowboys.
The heroines in her comics -— the Bride in SPADRA: Ghostly Appropriations Of A Town That Time Forgot, the wisecracking mermaids and the semi-autobiograpical heroine of Lunatic Fringe — all regard the world with a dry wit and refreshing self-awareness.
“I tend to have a dark sense of humor,” she said.
Art Animal got the chance to talk with Rodriguez about her artistic background, interests and fantastically vibrant animated life:
Art Animal: When did you first begin creating art?
Grasiela Rodriguez: I was drawing as a child but didn’t pursue it professionally until I attended Junior College. I took an Art Appreciation class to fulfill my electives and ended up changing over to an art major!
AA: When did you first encounter Lowbrow art? What was the subject?
GR: Growing up in Pomona, CA, we didn’t have the art scene that we have today so viewing art was really hard to come by. A lot of it was in Los Angeles, which is where the movement began back in the ’70s. The movement has grown and is now a part of everyday pop culture, and if you are into art, there is no getting away from it.
AA: What is it about Pop Art and Pop Surrealism that particularly calls to you?
GR: The thing that I love about Pop Surrealism is the questions that enter my head after viewing it. For example, if I were looking at a watercolor of a flower I would just think, “Oh, that is so pretty.” With Pop Surrealism, it’s different. The crazy abstracted and delusional images seem to be the most interesting to me. The questions that enter my mind with those works are more like, “What is that?” and “Why is that?” I really like when I ask myself “why.” I find myself so attracted to the mystery of what and why these things are. I am fascinated by the style of the artworks as well as the techniques used by the artists who produce them.
AA: The mermaids in Lunatic Fringe and the bride in Spadra seem to be poking fun at iconic images of femininity. Is that right, or am reading it wrong?
GR: I love mermaids, so depending on the context, I do tend to exaggerate them. As far as the bride in Spadra, she’s also a little bit exaggerated. That is the beauty of making comics. You can draw anything in any way that you want.
AA: What made you choose the name “Not Your Friend Comics”?
GR: My comic imprint “Not Your Friend Comics” is actually a tribute to my friend’s little daughter, who passed away from a brain tumor a few years ago. Her father used to record her all the time and one day she was upset and said, “Fine then, I’m not your friend.” We all thought it was funny at the time so when she was diagnosed I wanted to preserve her memory forever. That’s why I did it. Most people do not know unless they ask (and some do sometimes), so when I tell people I am also remembering her and that is a nice feeling for me.
AA: Your comic Lunatic Fringe references a lot of ’80s music. What are some other favorites from that era?
GR: I love all of the ’70s and ’80s rock! It would be too many to list.
AA: How did you arrive at the two-color format for Lunatic Fringe?
GR: When I did this story, I felt that it was emotional, therefore I tried to associate the color pink to the emotion of love. I really liked the way it looked and decided to keep the style and change up the colors depending on the context of the stories and emotions. The Bride in the Stagecoach was done with blues because she is supposed to feel “blue,” so again I tried to tie in the color palette to the emotion that I was trying to invoke.
AA: Do all of your comics also have an animated version?
GR: I am trying to animate everything I print. I am currently working on animating the main Spadra story. The bride is already animated (that can be seen on my YouTube channel).
AA: How do you go about adapting your comics into animation? Can you describe the process?
GR: Well, normally I work as a graphic designer so I am used to working in layers. When I created my comics, I surveyed other artists to get their input on how they do their comics (and if you ask people you will find that everyone has a different and their own way of doing them). So when I started I decided to do it the way I know best, and that was to draw each image individually, ink it, scan it and then color it digitally in Photoshop. Once my images were done, I laid them out and added the text digitally. So because I had all of my files in “layers” (which is what you need to apply animation), it just made sense to make that the next phase after printing.
AA: Who does the voices in your animated works?
GR: I do most of the female voices, but the male voices I have to ask others to do them. I’ve tried recording myself to sound like a boy and it just does not work!
AA: You also run a gallery: EVE Gallery in the Pomona Art Colony. Tell us a bit about it. Is it inspiring to be working closely with other artists?
GR: Running an art gallery is a whole different thing. I enjoy bringing art to our community so that people can see an alternative type of art. For the most part, we try to showcase new and up-and-coming artists who are creating art with unusual subject matter.
AA: You also have a degree in e-commerce. What are your thoughts on using the internet as a tool for artists?
GR: I really enjoy website design and coding. I am a Webmaster for a few websites because I enjoy doing it. I am also the designer and maintainer of my own websites. I feel that the internet is a great way to market yourself if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
AA: What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps as an artist?
GR: I say, “do it.” Nothing can stop you. A lot of people prefer to “wait” until they feel their art skills are a lot better, but the truth is, we are our own worst critics. If I had waited until my works were better, I would still be waiting!