Virtual Memories Show 327:
Karl Stevens

“I wanted to be an artist but I didn’t know how, and comics were so accessible that I latched onto that.”

It may be a fine line between comics and art, but Karl Stevens‘ fine line crosses effortlessly between them. Karl & I talk about how his realistic drawing style and watercolors treat comics as fine art, and how that visual style complements his naturalist stories, especially in his recent collection, The Winner (Retrofit Comics). We get into his gateway from superheroes to art-comics, his recent commission to make comics that accompanied a Botticcelli exhibition at the Gardener Museum in Boston, his work as a guard in that same museum, the challenge of drawing his wife, the challenge of getting paid as a freelancer, and whether he regrets his his teenaged decision to devote his life to comics. We also talk about his upcoming book of cat comics, drawing gags for the New Yorker, being WAY too high to meet your idols, visiting the Words & Pictures Museum in ’90s Northampton (a.k.a. Comics-Mecca), his road not taken with Dave Sim, how short strips and gag panels have made it tougher for him to write longer stories, and plenty more! BONUS: You get the origin story of my friendship with Tom Spurgeon AND my recent crisis of faith! Give it a listen! And go buy The Winner!

“The way light hits objects is part of the story.”

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could make a comic that took the techniques of the dead painters I’d been studying?'”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Karl Stevens is a graphic novelist and painter. His first book, Guilty, was published in 2004 with a grant from the Xeric Foundation. He is also the author of Whatever (2008), The Lodger (A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2010), Failure (2013) and The Winner (2018). His comic strips appeared in The Boston Phoenix between 2005 and 2012 until an incident with an advertiser resulted in the strip’s cancellation. The realist comic artist has also co-produced the Phoenix comic “Succe$$” with Gustavo Turner. In 2016 The Village Voice began running his cat comic strip “Penny”. Stevens’s work appears in select art galleries and he has published numerous cartoons in The New Yorker. He was recently commissioned to produce a comic to celebrate the Gardner Museum’s Botticcelli: Heroines and Heroes exhibition.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Karl by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 325:
Boris Fishman

“Cooking is the only thing in my life that creates the same exalted transport that writing does.”

With his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes), author Boris Fishman explores his family’s Soviet Jewish legacy, his arc as a writer, and the glorious and varied meals that kept his family together from Minsk to Brighton Beach. We get into why creative nonfiction is his first passion (after publishing two novels), how he guaranteed his family’s disapproval by writing about them throughout his career, how he couldn’t leave Sovietness behind until he moved out of his parents’ home at 24 (despite emigrating from the USSR at 9), what he’d do if he quit the writing game, and why the recipes were the toughest part of Savage Feast. We also talk smack about certain books and authors, compare Malamud to Roth and Bellow, discuss the first (very not Jewish/not Russian) writer Boris became friends with, and explore the use of fiction to imagine alternate lives for oneself. Along the way, we make a life-changing pact, decide whether an MFA is worth pursuing, share book tour best practices, and conclude that Soviet Jewish guilt is exponentially more severe than Jewish guilt. It’s a whole lot of talk about books, food, and deracinated Jews! Give it a listen! And go buy Savage Feast!

“What makes me Soviet is not having spent my first 9 years in that country, but how many years I spent under my parents’ roof.”

“We read novels trying to sniff out what really happened, and we read memoirs what didn’t really happen.”

“I had this very smug idea that the recipes would be easy, because they didn’t involve creating sentences. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“The finality of one’s self can be devastating.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Travel + Leisure, the London Review of Books, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian, among other publications. He is the author of the novels A Replacement Life, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, and Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He teaches in Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City. His new book is the memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at my house on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of me & Boris and b/w photo of Boris by me. It’s on my instagram. Nicer pic with brick wall by Stephanie Kaltsas.

Virtual Memories Show 322:
Steven Guarnaccia

“I’m an illustrator. It took me a while to realize I was born an illustrator.”

On the eve of its New York City debut, illustrator (and designer and author) Steven Guarnaccia joins the show to talk about his Fatherland exhibition! We get into how he made the leap from 2D to 3D, the moment he realized he was an illustrator and not an Artist, what it was like to come up in a golden age of magazine illustration, the balancing act of professional and personal projects, the strong influence of the Pop Art on his work, the anxiety of the first time he got a color illustration assignment (he’s been around a long time), getting his first NYT assignment from Steven Heller, and why Seymour Chwast & Milton Glaser may be the Lennon & McCartney of their field. We also get into his love of letterforms, his ingenious idea for my next podcast/documentary series, the process of learning illustration on the job, how he taps his unconscious drawing to break out of creative ruts, the benefits of a two-artist household (he’s married to Nora Krug), his lament for the American culture of specialization, becoming the accidental archivist for Rooster Ties, and our ongoing competition for best-dressed guy at Society of Illustrators events. Give it a listen! And go see the Fatherland exhibition at the YUI Gallery in NYC!

“My father is just as opaque to me now as he was in life, but making Fatherland has enabled me to talk to him in a different way.”

“Who would want to only be an editorial illustrator and have other people feed you somebody else’s text?”

“There are projects we make for ourselves, hoping that they get published, but we don’t stop making them.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Steven Guarnaccia is Associate Professor at Parsons School for Design. He is a former art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page, and his illustrations have appeared internationally in books and magazines, on greeting cards for the Museum of Modern Art, watches for Swatch, and as murals for Disney Cruise Lines. His books introducing children to modern architecture and design include Cinderella: A Fashionable Tale, The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne, all published by Abrams. Steven has authored or co-authored numerous books on popular culture, including Black & White, A Stiff Drink & Close Shave: The Lost Arts of Manliness, and Hi-Fi’s and Hi-Balls: The Golden Age of the American Bachelor, all published by Chronicle, and he is the co-author with Steven Heller of School Days, and Designing for Children. He has had solo shows in New York, Milan, and Toronto, and his installation, Fatherland, has traveled to Bologna, Barcelona, London Berlin and Tabor, Czech Republic, and is now coming to the YUI Gallery in NYC. His drawings for the exhibition Achille Castiglioni: Design! at the Museum of Modern Art were published as a book by Corraini Editore. He has received numerous honors from AIGA, the New York Art Directors Club, the Society of Publication Designers, and other professional organizations, and was a Hallmark Fellow to the Aspen Design Conference.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Steven’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Steven & our pants by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 321:
Nina Bunjevac returns!

“Making art is like an alchemical process for me. I want to take shit and make gold out of it, metaphorically speaking.”

Back from her Fool’s Journey in France, Nina Bunjevac returns to the show to celebrate her new book, Bezimena (Fantagraphics)! We talk about the graphic novel’s unique and weird structure, Nina’s abrupt decision to leave France and come back to Toronto after a year-long study of France’s BD publishing industry, and her upcoming tarot project and her explorations into the history of occult mysticism and esoteric philosophy. Along the way, we also get into fixing the financial model for comics-makers, the value of big publishers, her growth as a writer, how Bezimena helped her address past episodes of sexual assault, her joy that Canada legalized weed while she was away, the story of her collaboration with Antonio Moresco, how to make an Alchemical Kitchen, and plenty more! BONUS: I explain how to tip the housekeeping staff at hotels! Give it a listen! (our 2014 podcast is over here) And go buy Bezimena!

“I like small, intimate bookshops that smell like books, not yoga equipment.”

“I treat tarot the same way I treat my dreams, as symbolism.”

“I realized that my approach to writing is very poetic, and I now approach writing as poetry.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Nina Bunjevac is best known for her internationally acclaimed books Heartless (2012) and Fatherland: A Family History (2014). She lives in Toronto where she draws and teaches. Her new book is Bezimena.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a Marriott in Toronto on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Nina by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 320: Seth

“The drawing of the comic is where everything is discovered.”

After more than 20 years, Seth has completed Clyde Fans, his grand meditation on family, business, and art (Drawn & Quarterly), so let’s celebrate with a double-episode! First, Seth & I talk at a live event hosted by the Strand Bookstore, where we get into how his approach to art and storytelling evolved over that 20-year span, the one element he hated keeping consistent throughout the process, why serializing most of the work helped with revision, and how comics have become a subset of his studio process. Then we follow up with a one-on-one conversation during Toronto Comic Arts Festival, discussing his next project, whether he likes organic projects like his Nothing Lasts memoir or more fully formed stories, whether he owns a pair of sweatpants, the realization that he wasn’t writing about his father but about himself, the artist’s responsibility at the signing table, his decision never to research the real Clyde Fans business, the maddening acceleration of contemporary culture, the one character of his he feels affection for, his dream of writing a play, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy Clyde Fans!

“When you’re in the studio, you think, ‘This is the real me’; you’re not seeing yourself reflected off of other people.”

“My wife is a barber, and she told me that being a barber isn’t about cutting hair, it’s about talking to people. People don’t come up to me at signings because they want a signature; they come up because they want to have a moment, an experience.”

“There’s a quality of keeping art private that represents a sort of power. I wonder, if I was independently wealthy, would I keep all my artwork to myself and not release any of it.”

“I’ve been writing about myself, when I thought I was writing about my dad. I should have realized that 10 years ago.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Seth is the cartoonist behind the comic book series Palookaville, which started as a pamphlet and is now an occasional hardcover. His comics have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, and Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. His illustrations have appeared in numerous publications, including the cover of The New Yorker, The Walrus, and Canadian Notes & Queries. He is Lemony Snicket’s partner for the series All the Wrong Questions and he designs several classic comics reprint series, notably collections of work by Charles Schulz, John Stanley, and Doug Wright. His other comics include It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken: A Picture Novella, George Sprott: (1894-1975), and Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World. His new book is the collected Clyde Fans. All his books are available from Drawn and Quarterly.

He was the subject of the National Film Board documentary Seth’s Dominion. Seth lives in Guelph, Canada, with his wife, Tania, and two cats in a house he has named Inkwell’s End.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Strand Bookstore off of their sound board and at the Toronto Marriott Yorkville on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of me & Seth by me. It’s on my instagram. Not sure who the fancy b/w pic is by. Oh, and here’s a bonus picture from our evening at the Strand Bookstore, of Seth with R. Sikoryak and Adrian Tomine!