Community. Engagement. Advocacy. Humor.
It is probably an open secret that I am a huge fan of Lawrence Northey's metal figures. I just can't get enough of the humorous characters he creates. When I found out that Lawrence had embarked on a new project, a comic book in which he features some of his sculptures (a marketing "stroke of genius", in my mind! ), I had to ask him some questions about that right away. Enjoy the interview!
BM: Please give us some background about your comic book "Approaching Nowhere":
LN: The story for me has always come first. Even in a commission situation, I try to get an idea of the client before I begin creating something for them; analogous perhaps to Frank Lloyd Wright's approach to building.
I believe that is why people's comments on my work is so often, "your characters seem so alive" or, "they have so much personality." It's because my figures all have their own story, I know them. My work has never been "just sculpture" to me, ever.
My story, which is the basis of this comic, is really the grandaddy story of them all. I wrote the premise for it way back in the early nineties. Until recently, "the story" was thousands of small scraps of paper stored in sketchbooks. After injuring myself and being forced to take it easier, my incredibly awesome, best friend/partner/wife, Julie, suggested I create this comic. So I did. My first attempts were pretty amateurish but I got better at it as I went along. I eventually reached a point where I was completely satisfied and that effort has become, "Approaching Nowhere".
This is a story in which humankind has mysteriously disappeared off the face of the Earth. A small group of robots, lead by Motorcycle Girl, are searching for a way to bring them back. The story begins with Motorcycle Girl and her Entourage journeying to the home of a deceased archaeologist, Thomas Wembley. In their search for answers they will uncover a hidden past.
BM: All the figures in the comic strip also exist as actual sculptural objects. What came first: The actual figures made in metal or the drawings in the comic strip?
LN: I struggled with this seemingly simple question for quite awhile. It's difficult for me to say absolutely where one begins and the other ends. I suppose the sculptures of the characters literally came first. My best analogy for the process I developed for the illustrations in, "Approaching Nowhere": the hands drawing each other by MC Escher (http://uploads3.wikipaintings.org/images/m-c-escher/drawing-hands.jpg)
BM: Do you sketch by hand or with a computer?
LN: I draw using a combination of both. The computer allows me to fulfill my vision without any compromise.
BM: Do certain personality types you encounter in your life inspire you to create certain characters? Can you give us an example?
LN: Absolutely, it also allows me to vicariously play act many of my own. To give you an example: the dichotomy of "Motorcycle Girl" is that she appears beautiful but, can be a fierce opponent if provoked.
"Speak softly, and carry a big stick", is how President Theodore Roosevelt put it. To symbolize this, Motorcycle Girl has on one hip a holstered weapon and the other, a lovely, heart shaped purse, which, when opened, reveals a music box. Many of Motorcycle Girl's attributes were inspired by the love of my life, Julie. The number fifty-six appears on Motorcycle Girl's right side, the year Julie was born.
BM: Do you plan to market the comic separately from the metal sculptures, are the comics a means to enhance visibility and sales of your sculptural work? How and where do you market the comic currently?
LN: I would prefer to exhibit the comic and display together. "Approaching Nowhere", dovetails with the sculptural display. The graphic novel is a way of illustrating the ideas which, have inspired my sculptural work from the start. I see the comic as a program given to an audience before the performance. My goal has always been to communicate and create accessible art.
BM. Do you think that the audience for your comics is different than the one for your sculptural work, or do they overlap?
LN: I think it's the same audience, I've been talking about this idea for a story ever since I started creating sculpture. Wise collectors have responded to the sculptural work but, then purchased it because of the story. They understand that at some point this thing will take on a life of its own and become a commercial property, they're getting in on the ground floor ;)
BM: What is your next project?
LN: That's a good question. Illustrating this story has been my motivation all along. The sculptures were my way of creating the story's characters. I have three more books to complete in this four part series, I think I'll focus on that for awhile and see what happens.
BM: Thank you, Lawrence!
Approaching Nowhere is available from IndyPlanet:
Lawrence Northey's website:
Images top to bottom:
"Approaching Nowhere" Comic Book Cover
All images: copyright Lawrence Northey