Emi Lenox’s EMITOWN (www.emitown.com) is a sketch diary in which she drew pages daily, taken from her life for the whole world (or at least anybody with an Internet connection) to see. Her art style runs the gamut from cute to quirky to haunting to charming, but it’s always beautiful. And if you think reading about the personal experiences of a 20-something isn’t your bag, perhaps you should reconsider: while each episode of EmiTown is interesting unto itself, when taken en mass, it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a stream of experiences in which you can either happily lose yourself or become part of the journey.
A printed version of EmiTown — a huge 400 pager that’s being published by Image Comics, hits stores in November. In the world of the direct comics market, that means you should place an order with your local retailer now. 400 pages for $19.99 is a relative bargain in the world of original graphic novels. (Diamond Order Code: AUG100439)
Osmosis Online caught up with the Portland, OR-based Ms. Lenox, who took the time to chat about her influences, the upcoming book, and some of her future plans.
Osmosis Online: Is Emi a nickname or proper name?
Emi Lenox: Emi is actually my full first name. It’s a common Japanese name that my mother chose for me thinking it would be easy for people to pronounce.
OO: What’s your training or background in art? Anything formal, or just lots of practice? Do you have any particular influences?
EL: I have taken four years of High School art classes and then attended the Academy of Art University for about a year but that’s about as far as formal training goes. I practice a lot and try to learn and do new things so that I can expand on my skills. I know I still have a long way to go and the great thing about art is that the learning never ends!
Most of my influences come from comics. Jeff Smith, Craig Thompson, Akira Toriyama, Adrian Tomine, and Chris Ware inspired me.
OO: Your art style is so mixed in the book — was your art style in EmiTown mostly dictated by time constraints, or something else?
EL: Generally, I try to use the style that best reflects the emotion I wanted to get through. The cartoony stuff was used for a lot of silly things and then if I’m feeling particularly down, I’ll draw something really detailed because in doing that, it helps drain out that bad energy. Also, EmiTown is called a sketch diary because in a way it’s also my sketch book. If I feel like drawing a particular image in a different style then I go ahead and do it. The book for me was a little bit of a free-for-all for documenting my life. I didn’t want to be retrained by style, panels, or whatever.
OO: Any thoughts on how it stands as a book versus as a Web project? Since I read it in book form, it was sort of this massive parade of thoughts and consciousness, but I imagine a daily Web reader would have a different experience.
EL: I realize that 400 pages is a real whopper of a book, especially since there is no real storyline other than random happenings of life. I like to think of it in book format along the lines of ‘American Elf’ by James Kolchalka or maybe even ‘Carnet de Voyage’ by Craig Thompson. It’s not necessarily meant to be read all the way through in one shot but to be enjoyed in multiple visits perhaps. Each page could be enjoyed on its own or you can read as far as you like and are able to stop whenever.
I do feel that having it be such a large book can be beneficial since there are some long running themes that wouldn’t be able to be interpreted if it had been a smaller volume.
EL: I still drink it but I do it in smaller doses. When your day job is sitting in front of a computer all day staring at numbers, coffee seems almost a necessity. I now only pour half decaf and then half regular coffee and I feel it has toned down my anxiety quite a bit!
OO: I imagine you had to re-read a year’s worth of Emitown to produce the pending printed version. Do you have any regrets or any you are especially stoked on? Anything you totally forgot about?
EL: No, not really, and yes! I don’t regret any of it. It was however hard to see some of the older pages because my skill level was definitely a bit different than it is now. I don’t regret it because over time you can see how I evolved with my style and page layouts. They become a bit more organized as the book progresses. I’m pretty stoked to see it in print. I mean it has gone a long way from being in a private sketchbook to being online and finally in print! The day I hold the book in my hand will be an emotional one. I would imagine that must be what it feels like to hold your first baby.
There are tons of stuff I have forgotten about and the diary served as a reminder. In fact, that was partially why the diary started! I have the worst memory.
OO: What’s next for Emi Lenox, comic-creation wise? In the diary, you mention being in the next Popgun anthology . . . any other plans you can reveal? Any plans to get back into posting diary stuff at emitown.com?
EL: I still do plan on being in the next Popgun. I am HARD SET on creating a fiction comic next. Yes, with panels and a storyline and characters! I also plan on doing some more mini comics of some short stories to sell at the conventions next year. I have a bunch of stuff in the wings I want to work and none of them are diary comics!
Thanks so much for your time, Emi Lenox! Readers, please check out a few entries at emitown.com, and if you like what you see, contact your local comics retailer to pre-order a copy. It’s great on the Web, but few things can match the aesthetics of holding a hefty, beautiful book in your hands.