Miri­am Libic­ki is a com­ic book author and artist whose most recent col­lec­tion of graph­ic essays, Toward a Hot Jew, will be fea­tured in Jew­ish Book Council’s upcom­ing event, Ink Bleeds His­to­ry: Reclaim­ing and Redraw­ing the Jew­ish Image in Comics. Miri­am is guest blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil all week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribe series here on The ProsenPeo­ple.

The biggest tran­si­tion from being an art stu­dent to being an inde­pen­dent artist was what to do about colour. I had been a draw­ing and paint­ing major. I made oil paint­ings with lay­ers of colour­ful glazes, none of them small­er than three feet on a side. Then came grad­u­a­tion, and with it the end of giant, well ven­ti­lat­ed and stocked paint­ing studios.

I couldn’t be a painter any­more, if no one was buy­ing my paint­ings. I could be a car­toon­ist, though, if enough peo­ple shelled out $3.00 for a xerox­ed copy of my drawn thoughts. My first comix essay was drawn on water­colour paper, in graphite. It was nice and cheap to print, and the tex­ture of the orig­i­nal paper still gave a nice arty qual­i­ty. But some­thing was missing.

By the time of my sec­ond drawn essay, I was a year out of art school, and miss­ing paint­ing. I decid­ed to try to teach myself water­colours. It was a real­ly steep learn­ing curve. Oils com­prise of lay­ers and lay­ers. Oil paint is end­less­ly cor­rectable. Water­colours are like golf: who­ev­er can get to com­plete in the fewest strokes wins. Afraid of ruin­ing any good strokes, I pre-mixed colours and left well enough alone as much as possible.

My third essay was com­mis­sioned for an aca­d­e­m­ic anthol­o­gy. For some rea­son, print­ing in colour in a uni­ver­si­ty-press book is even more expen­sive than in a reg­u­lar book. Pages with colour are called plates” and they all hud­dle togeth­er at the mid­dle of the book. Any­way, I was back to black-and-white. I used graphite on paper again, but this had to be smoother paper cause the art was going to be shrunk small­er and I had so dang many words.

My sec­ond water­colour essay was a sequel, of sorts, to the first. I can see my increas­ing con­fi­dence with lay­er­ing colours to get more sub­tle colours. I even drew some low-light envi­ron­ments, the hard­est thing (for me) in water­colours. You can lay­er oppo­site hues to get rich neu­trals like human skin, but too many lay­ers and the results get mud­dy. I felt that I was achiev­ing nat­u­ral­ism, but at the expense of vibran­cy or strong points of focus.

When I came to tack­le pho­to-based water­colours again, I decid­ed to take the the­o­ry of com­ple­men­tary colours (blue-orange, red-green, yel­low-pur­ple) and just run with it. Instead of mix­ing colours, I could let them hang out and call atten­tion to them­selves. The result was decid­ed­ly non-nat­u­ral­is­tic, but hope­ful­ly it echoed my writ­ing, in using height­ened emo­tion to get at truth.

By the sev­enth essay, I was think­ing I could com­pile all my work up until then into a book. And a book, of course, would be most attrac­tive in colour. But this essay was one I’d been plan­ning for a long time. It was research and the­o­ry heavy, and I real­ly want­ed to get it into an aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nal. Which means back to pen­cils, right? UNLESS!

Could I do mono­chrome and bright at the same time?? I found an orange lac­quer ink that was real­ly fun to play with. It had red tones when it was dark, and yel­low tones when it was light, and allowed for a lot of range in between. But scan it in grey, and none of the dis­tinc­tions were lost.

I like how, in this col­lec­tion, peo­ple who know how to look can see the evo­lu­tion of my artis­tic skill over the course of the essay, and how form fol­lows func­tion fol­lows for­mat. (Try say­ing that five times fast.)

Miri­am Libic­ki is a graph­ic nov­el­ist liv­ing in Van­cou­ver, Cana­da. Her 2008 mem­oir job­nik! has been a required text in over ten uni­ver­si­ty cours­es, and her short comics have been pub­lished by Alter­nate His­to­ry Comics, Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty Press, and the Jour­nal of Jew­ish Iden­ti­ties. Libic­ki is a recip­i­ent of the Memo­r­i­al Foun­da­tion for Jew­ish Cul­ture Inter­na­tion­al Fel­low­ship and the Hadas­sah-Bran­deis Insti­tute Research Grant.

Hear Miri­am Libic­ki speak about her work togeth­er with fel­low graph­ic sto­ry­tellers Eli Val­ley, Amy Kurzweil, and Rock­et Chair Media at Ink Bleeds His­to­ry: Reclaim­ing and Redraw­ing the Jew­ish Image in Comics Thurs­day, Novem­ber 3, 2016 at the Muse­um of Jew­ish Her­itage. Reg­is­ter online for free admission!

Relat­ed Content:

Miri­am Libic­ki is a graph­ic nov­el­ist liv­ing in Van­cou­ver Cana­da. Her 2008 Israeli Army mem­oir job­nik!” has been used in over a dozen uni­ver­si­ty cours­es. She teach­es car­toon­ing and illus­tra­tion at Emi­ly Carr Uni­ver­si­ty of Art and Design. She also makes a line of hand-silkscreened shirts and met her hus­band while fol­low­ing a nerd-folk band on tour.