22 August 2016

Behind The Comics (21) - Hetamoé

'Behind The Comics' continues, this time with Hetamoé. She contributed 'Trance Dream Techno' to š! #25 'Gaijin Mangaka' and tells about her process of developing the story.

Hetamoé // *1984, Portugal. Hetamoé is a visual artist from Lisbon and a founding member of the zine label Clube do Inferno. She works in a variety of media and is currently pursuing a PhD in the field of painting. Thomas no Shinzō by Moto Hagio and Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma are her top favorite mangas.

Hetamoé: I live and work in Lisbon, where I’m finishing a PhD in Painting. I have, for that reason, two separate work spaces: a desk at home, where I mostly write and draw on the computer with my graphics tablet (a Wacom Intuos Pro‎); and a small studio, where I paint and make everything that’s too messy for the house. Because I follow Parkinson’s Law − “work expands so as to fill the time and space available for its completion” −, I tend to be all over the place no matter what I’m doing. Often there are books, random drawings and stationary everywhere, which can be very annoying for those with whom I share space... I’m also overly sensitive to criticism while working on a piece, so I’ll shut myself at home or my studio and won’t come out until it’s complete! However, despite my best attempts at seclusion, I inevitably come across comments and advice from my loved ones that fill me with self-doubt and force me to rethink my practices. Though I’m reluctant to such destabilization, I know it helps me become a better artist, so in the future I’d like to control my insecurities and actually listen to more feedback at production stages. Below is a photo of my desk at home, where I made “Trance Dream Techno” for š! #25 ‘Gaijin Magaka’. I tidied it up a little so you won’t think too badly of me! 

My greatest challenge is stylistic schizophrenia. As I grow older, I’ve somewhat made peace with the fact that I am unable to stick to a single “voice”, but I still envy other authors who have a clear, recognizable style with a vengeance. Since defining which style to use is usually the most stressful and time­ consuming part of my process, I always leave a lot of time for going astray and making mistakes. Sometimes, this translates into throwing away work that is almost complete and starting over again, so I’ve learnt to be a bit uncompassionate towards my drawings. It’s not that those rejected materials are necessarily worse than the final result (some people might even like them better!), but I’ll sacrifice anything, no matter how pretty or how long it took to make, that doesn’t fit in well with my goals for a particular story. This happened with “Trance Dream Techno” – I brainstormed a lot for that. So much, in fact, that I made a whole zine out of the studies and preparatory comics for š! #25! You can check it out at Clube do Inferno’s website. Here’s a peek inside!

From the beginning, one of my guidelines for Gaijin Magaka was that I wanted to make something different from what I had done previously for š! #22 'Fashion'. Especially in terms of scale, I really wished to take advantage of š!’s small A6 format by doing something that I normally wouldn’t do in A5 or A4 sizes. In the end, I opted for a “one panel per page” solution. I feared this would somewhat contradict the idea of “manga” (which usually evokes elaborate and dynamic page layouts), but I’m very interested in those moments of sparse storytelling you sometimes get in shoujo or yonkoma manga. So I zeroed in on that concept of koma (“frame”), and the nostalgic “picture book” feel of old-school manga like Sakura Namiki, and thought about extending it into one, long comic strip (14 + 2 pages). Because the square panel at the center of each page is so imposing, I added three “extra” levels – page numbers and separate text at the top, emoji at the bottom –, so I could play around with meaning, unexpected relations and rhythmic disruptions. I also paid close attention to how panels would be read in the book, for instance, by articulating the front and back of pages (e.g. clean school uniform /bloodied school uniform), and added an omake at the end for good measure! 

To compensate for my drifting away from well-defined narratives, I try to create a structure of “sticky” intensities which can sustain a connection between panels, and (hopefully!) become intelligible to readers. Color is very important in modulating affect, and I’m at my happiest when given free rein in this department. Depending on the project, I will use traditional or digital media, or often a mixture of both. In “Trance Dream Techno”, I made the drawings in my painting application of choice, Paint Tool SAI, then printed them on tracing paper, messed them up a little, scanned the whole thing back and applied screentones and color on the computer to achieve this “mixed” digital and analog effect. You can see some of the prints above (including different layers for the omake and pages with text and emoji), and an example of a color study in SAI below. Whatever the case, I normally end up with fragments instead of unified comic pages, which I continuously edit in and out into different sequences. I keep private Tumblr blogs to store reference images and phrases collected from all kinds of sources (from arthouse movies to Geocities webpages), that help me flesh out narratives as I work and often spark interesting associations that evade logic and clichés. Or, even better, that push those clichés – for instance, sentimental quotes from shoujo manga or soft grunge shrines – into an uncanny territory of unfamiliarity.

In the end, like the internet meme, both painting and comics are all about being immersed in a “special feeling”. That’s what I strive for! (ノ´ヮ´)ノ*:・゚✧ 

If you haven't seen Hetamoé's contribution yet, better get š! #25 'Gaijin Mangaka' here! Soon 'Behind The Comics' continues with a look behind Aseyn's desk!


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