The Harbinger Online

Featured Artist: CJ Nelson

(F)GMG_1009Photo by Grace Goldman


Q: So I’ve heard that you’ve been working on a comic lately?

A: Kind of? [Seniors Audrey Nelson, Greta Miller and I] went to Chicago together recently, and we’ve been trying to come up with an idea of a podcast to do. So we came up with this idea of a podcast/comic that has to do with some guys who go hunting for cryptids in the Pacific Northwest. So that’s something. But I always have these ideas for a comic I want to do, and then just because comics take forever, and they’re a lot of work, I never quite dedicate myself fully to doing one.


Q: Do you have a current work that you’ve been spending a lot of time on?

A: I generally will actually do pieces pretty quickly, so I don’t spend like a month working on one thing. I’ve been working on a series of prints, and a lot of them have to do with Shakespeare plays and some other things I really like. There’s two “Hamlet” covers, a “Macbeth” cover. I generally like to do narrative stuff in my art.


Q: What mediums do you work with?

A: I do a lot of digital art – not quite as much lately. Lately, I’ve been doing India ink and printmaking, when I’m not drawing in my sketchbook. [And] intaglio printmaking, which is etching.


Q: What would you say you take inspiration from? You mentioned storytelling and Shakespeare.

A: I draw a lot of stuff from books that I read, and I also tend to draw a lot of inspiration from music that I listen to without really meaning to. I end up drawing a lot of trees and forests and stuff, because I like sort of folksy [music]. Sort of like your typical white-dude-with-a-guitar-sitting-in-the-woods-type music, which typically translates to me drawing people with trees growing out of them and stuff.


Q: Do you have a few [of these books] that you want to talk about?

A: My favorite series is “The Raven Cycle,” which I’ve read like three times now, so that’s been in my mind a lot. I guess [the way] that I started drawing a bunch of characters and stuff was that I used to bring my sketchbook with me everywhere, like in early middle school, and just draw Harry Potter characters constantly … I kind of like gothic or darker imagery; “Six of Crows” is a good summary of what sort of images I like. Magical, darker fantasy type things, I guess. I’m obsessed with ravens, so those show up a lot.


Q: Would you say that, in the future, you would like to do something illustrative?

A: Yes, definitely. I want to be an illustrator, and I would like to do a full graphic novel, written and drawn by myself, some day. Maybe a web comic. I was actually talking to my mom about this the other day. I was talking about how I see a lot of illustration in the New Yorker that I love, and she was like, ‘If you got in the New Yorker, we would have to take the pages out and put them on your grandfather’s grave or something’ Because that would just be the coolest thing ever, if I got to put my work in the New Yorker or even just a newspaper anywhere, just so people could see it.


Q: Does your twin also work on art? How did that start out?

A: I don’t really know. I think my earliest memory of drawing was that my mom had this tub of markers that she kept in her dressing room, and when she was getting ready for work, we would just sit on the floor and draw. I think I figured out how to draw before I could write, so I don’t really know. I think we’ve always just been drawing, both of us. I don’t think there was ever a point of ‘let’s be artists together.’ It was just in the back of both of our heads.


Q: Do you have similar styles or ever work on similar things?

A: A lot of people say our art is very different, but others say it’s really similar. I think we get a lot of inspiration from the same stuff, but some from different things. I’d say we have similar influences, but I think we’ve interpreted them differently so our art is recognizable. You can tell that she drew this, and I drew this, but you can tell that they came from the same place, I guess?


Q: Do you have some specifics of how they’re different?

A: I tend to do more clean line art. It’s hard to put into words. Our styles in the way we draw certain things just varies a little bit, like I draw noses differently than she does… I like things a little more flowy, and she likes things a little more sketch-y.


Q: What’s maybe the strangest place you’ve ever taken your sketchbook?

A: A couple years ago, I took my sketchbook to a play and just doodled. I’ve taken it to church. I used to take it a lot more places… Oh! I drew in the DMV once. That’s maybe the weirdest place I’ve ever taken a sketchbook.


Q: When did you start putting your work online and how would you say it affected the way you looked at your own art?

A: I started putting my art online probably in seventh grade, and it sort of made me more confident, but also sort of made me more self-conscious about my art, because then I started comparing my work to other things people have posted online. I think it pushed me to improve, because then I would look back on my old art and go ‘WHAT WAS I DOING? WHO DREW THIS? Why is everyone this skinny and look like they’ve been put through a pasta maker and stretched out? What’s happening right now?’ It’s funny to look back at your old art… you don’t really think you art has changed that much until you look at it.


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Yashi Wang

Junior, Co-Art & Design Editor Yashi is fairly normal outside of an odd obsession with fonts (her computer died from an overdose, so she had to downsize... to 423). She has a very theoretical love for furry animals, and a genuine love for creative writing, drawing, music, design and sleep, among other artsy things. Outside of Harbinger, she’s a staff member of the Freelancer, a violinist in SME’s orchestra, the Junior Co-Treasurer on Student Council, and the ... Read Full »

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