David Lasky is a Seattle artist and teacher who has been making comics and zines since 1991. He teaches both kids and adults at 826 Seattle, Richard Hugo House, Seattle Art Institute and with Arts Corps. His work has been published in The Comics Journal, The Stranger, and many anthologies, including Best American Comics 2006. His comic series, Urban Hipster, was nominated for the comic-book industry’s Harvey Award.
Did you draw as a kid? How did you learn? Who helped you? I drew as far back as I can remember. My mother encouraged me a great deal. I also had some good art teachers in school. And occasional there would be a neighbor who painted or took photos whose work I could look at. But I didn’t know any cartoonists as a kid.
When did you publish your first comics/zines? Did you sell them? I published my first mini-comics in early 1991, and sold them at Comic Relief in Berkeley, CA. This was before the Internet, so I would also submit them to a magazine called Factsheet 5, which listed all kinds of zines and comics that people were selling.
Do you think kids should try to publish online instead of paper? Online comics (and writing) is nice because it gets ones work out there quickly and without the expense of printing on paper. But printing (or photocopying) on paper creates something that stands on its own and could potentially be kept around and mulled over by the reader. So both ways of doing it have their benefits.
How is teaching kids different from teaching adults? Kids are usually less inhibited about trying new things. Many adults will not want to take my class because, they’ll tell me, they “can’t draw.” Kids won’t worry (as much) about what they think they can or can’t do. If they really want to draw comics, they’re usually willing to give it a try.
Any tips for kids who want to become comic artists? Practice, practice, practice. Practice drawing, and also writing. Learn about storytelling. Study the comics you like reading to see how they were made. Also look closely at movies, books, TV shows, etc. — to see how they tell their stories. Don’t just copy the drawings of artists you like. Learn how to draw from life. Practice facial expressions and “body language”. And don’t let yourself get discouraged. Believe in what you’re doing.
Drawing is kind of solitary – I know you’ve done comics jams, could you explain how those work? Comics jams are one of the great challenges for a comics artist. Two or more cartoonists gather together (OR: work by mail, which is much slower). You draw a panel on a page, and then pass the page to someone else who is asked to draw the next panel in the story. Meanwhile, someone is passing a page to you, and you have to decide what will be drawn in the next panel on that page. Pages are passed until all the panels are filled up. Sometimes the results are hilarious, sometimes just… weird.
Can you recommend some books for us? Scott McCloud’s two books are great: Understanding Comics and Making Comics. For manga, I really like Draw Your Own Manga: All the Basics by Haruno Nagatomo. And its sequel, which is called Draw Your Own Manga: Beyond the Basics. And for zines, this is a nice book: Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? by Esther Pearl Watson.
David made a wonderful zine on how to make your own zines, you can download it here.