A pleasant lunchtime surprise yesterday: my friend Sonia Harris alerted me to a live-streamed conversation between legendary cartoonist brothers Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Adrian Tomine (The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist). I only came in about half-way through, but I doodled some blind drawings and made a few notes.
The brothers talked a lot about how they work. Gilbert works 8 to 5 and then he’s done for the day and goes and hangs out with his family. He has about 3 comics going at once, and sometimes he’ll make up a comic just to have a place to put a story that’s in his head.
Jaime said getting to the drawing board is the hard part, and he spends a lot of time avoiding work, “letting it swim in my head.” Tomine said he tells people that’s how he works: by taking his kids to the playground and working the stories out in his head.
“I’ve been drawing comics since I was five,” Gilbert said. He lamented how comics isn’t the “nutty frontier” it once was. “Old shit is great.” he said. “I’m addicted to having old comics around.”
“I feel like I’m a descendent of you guys and it’s important to make that lineage clear,” Tomine said. When he’s asked about his influences by younger cartoonists, he lists sources he thinks are obvious, but the young cartoonists scribble down the names in their notebooks, as if they’d never heard of them. Gilbert said the only time he was bothered by being copied was when cartoonists started copying cartoonists who copied Love and Rockets, and the link in the chain was lost.
When asked about tools or tricks, Jaime voiced hesitation about giving advice, because most of the time with the work, he didn’t know he was doing it while he was doing it. He talked about making drawings that nobody was ever supposed to see and drawing without an audience. “Trust your instincts,” he said. “A lot of times it’s the pen that makes you draw the way you draw.”
“’Til the last comic you draw,” Gilbert said, “you’re still trying to figure out how to make a good one.”
“Do it because it makes you happy,” Jaime said. “That’s why you did it in the first place.”