Cover of Pizza Pickles and Apple Pie, illustrated nonfiction by david rickert

Teacher-cartoonist David Rickert on PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE

On Oct. 31st your book, PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE came out from Kane Press – congrats!!! Tell us about the book.

It’s a non-fiction middle grade graphic novel that tells the history of everyday foods in a fun, lively way.

Cover of Pizza Pickles and Apple Pie, illustrated nonfiction by david rickert

You're a high school English teacher, and you're also a cartoonist. How long have you been a teacher? When did you decide to pursue comics seriously, as well?

I have been teaching for 27 years, the vast majority of which has been as a high school English teacher. When I was in high school I seriously considered going to school to become a cartoonist, but I chickened out. I did, however, make a compromise. I went to the Ohio State University which is home to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and also the place where Jeff Smith got his start doing a daily strip for The Lantern, the OSU school newspaper. Like Jeff I too did a daily strip while I was a student there, and learned a lot about comics and drawing from that. 

Once I graduated I focused on my job, but eventually remembered how much I enjoyed drawing comics. I grabbed my drawing table and old art supplies from my parents’ house and started doing some new comics which found their way into the educational market.   

David Rickert, nonfiction cartoonist and author of PIZZA PICKLES AND APPLE PIE

What was your favorite part of the process of creating PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE?

I love looking at historical figures and finding funny ways to draw them.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panels: comic about history of dessert

How does your experience as a teacher inform what you do as a writer and artist?

It’s made me very kid-centered in my work. I’m always thinking about what kids will find entertaining more so than adults. I try to make the kind of comics that I would have read as a kid.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panels: how to become a sushi chef comic

You're a parent as well as a full-time teacher and graphic novelist. How do you balance everything? How did you complete this book on deadline while doing everything else you have on your plate?

The biggest thing for me is that writing and drawing comics is the way I wind down, and something I look forward to every day. When I get in the zone with that, there’s no better stress reliever than that. It’s easy to prioritize work that has that therapeutic value to it.

Beyond that, I’m not going to lie – there were times when I was working on the book in school because it was more urgent than keeping up on grading. And there were also times when I would work in the evening after dinner instead of watching television with my family. But they are very understanding that this is something I wanted to do with my life and they see how much joy I get from it, too.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panels: comic about pickles

Given all your classroom experience, I imagine you must have ideas on how schools could use graphic novels and your books in particular most effectively. What would you say about that?

I’m a big fan of using original graphic novels in the classroom like Maus and Persepolis. I’m less of a fan of using graphic novel adaptations of classic works to make is easier for kids to understand the content. If graphic novels are to be thought of as a legitimate literary form, then teachers can’t just use them as a substitute. They need to be seen as valuable in their own right. 

Now that you’ve finished PIZZA PICKLES, what are you working on now? 

My next book is about the history of medicine.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panel (1)

Do you do school visits? If so, what do you focus on in your presentations?

I haven’t done too many yet, but kids seem interested in the process of creating comics from start to finish, and how you can create expressions by just altering an eyebrow or mouth. I also talk about the process of conducting research, how to create a food history comic, and other topics related to non-fiction and comics.

Where can people connect with you and find out more about PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE?

Go to my website: davidrickert.com. You can also go to Instagram: @rickertdraws. 

 Find out more about PIZZA PICKLES AND APPLE PIE here.


the deep wild life at the ocean's depth middle grade nonfiction book by lindsey leigh -cover image

THE DEEP!: An Interview with Lindsey Leigh

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

Hi, I’m Lindsey Leigh! I’m originally from Maryland and I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in a suburb between Washington D.C and Baltimore and my parents would often take me to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoo, and the Baltimore Aquarium, which definitely kicked off my interest in animal life.

I wouldn’t say there was ever a moment where I decided that I was going to be an artist, I just always made art! I was often drawing and making up my own wacky characters and creatures.

the deep's author-illustrator lindsey leigh as a child

On June 27th, 2023, you’re launching your middle grade nonfiction book, THE DEEP!: WILD LIFE AT THE OCEAN'S DARKEST DEPTHS – congrats!!! Tell us about the book. Where did the idea come from? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Thank you!

I have been fascinated by the deep ocean since I was a child because it is a place that seems so full of mystery with many animals still to discover. The creatures that live down there are so downright alien and strange, I was hooked. I have always had a soft spot for animals that other people consider a little odd or creepy, and the deep sea has no shortage of these wonderful weirdos. How could I resist making a book about a place that has carnivorous sponges and yeti crabs?

the deep wild life at the ocean's depth middle grade nonfiction book by lindsey leigh -cover image

the yeti crab interior spread from lindsey leigh's middle grade nonfiction book, THE DEEP: WILD LIFE AT THE OCEAN'S DEPTHS

My favorite thing about this project is that I just love communicating scientific ideas through the medium of comics to make the information fun and accessible to all.

Who do you see as the audience for THE DEEP!, and why is it a great book for them?

I basically made this book for my younger self who was a big nerd about animal facts and loved learning new information. I’m hoping this book appeals to the same type of kid, but I’m especially hoping it sparks an interest in biology for children who were not previously interested.

How do you start your day?

I’ve been trying to do a short meditation in the morning and then I make a cup of black tea with milk and sugar and get to work.

What tool has improved your workflow or creative process recently?

I usually ink my work with a nib pen, but it’s a slightly more time consuming process than inking with just a regular pen as you have to use the inkwell and dip the pen in, sometimes there are smudges.

nib pen and super black ink with artwork by lindsey leigh

With one of the current projects I’m working on, I needed to save some time so I started inking with a Kuretake ZIG cartoonist flexible pen, which has great line quality and I don’t have to bother with dipping it in ink. The nib pen still has a cool quality so I’ll probably keep using it on projects where I have a little more time.

the deep zig mangaka pen

You have a day job as a designer for Barefoot Books. A lot of creators are in the same boat (and very curious about how others do it): balancing a day job with creating books – and having a personal life, too! How do you manage everything?

It’s pretty tough! My design job has been great as I have gained a lot of insights over the past few years into the full publishing process from a different point of view, but it means I have to work a little harder to maintain both my design and illustration work at the same time.

If I’m working through a particularly busy period, I try to wake up at 6am to get a few hours of work in before my 9 to 5. When I get home, I usually take a shower and make dinner to break up my day, and then squeeze in another couple hours before I start to get ready for bed. I also typically will spend a lot of time working on the weekend as well.

I know this sounds like a lot but I do make room for “enrichment time”. I think of myself like a little animal that needs to go for a walk and socialize with other creatures to be healthy, so I take a walk or run around the neighborhood, meet up with some friends, or explore the Boston area. I have been trying to explore all the nature-y areas near the city that I can access via public transportation like the beautiful Middlesex Fells Reservation.

Middlesex Fells Reservation in the fall

What websites, podcasts, books, or creators are particularly inspiring to you right now? Where do you go when you need a dose of creative inspiration?

I’ve actually been reading a lot of adult literary fiction books lately, like the works of Ottessa Moshfegh and Sayaka Murata. I’m finding those to be very creatively inspiring (even though they’re very different from the child friendly work I have been making recently!).

What’s a favorite project that you’ve worked on so far in your career? What did you love about it?

The Deep! is definitely my favorite project so far, it’s just always been my dream to make a book about deep sea life and I’m thrilled that it actually came true.

lindsey leigh with interior spread about coelacanth from her book the deep

lindsey leigh's THE DEEP, interior spread depicting the sea pig

What does your workspace/studio look like? What aspects of it are most important to you?

Most of my work happens at my main work desk which has a large monitor for my digital artwork, but I also have a drafting table that I try to use when I’m drawing or inking something larger. It also gets me away from screens, which I definitely see too much of during my work day.

I like that my desk has tools like my printer and scanner as well as books and tools within easy reach. I love my little trinkets that sit on the shelves up top!

lindsey leigh cartoonist workspace

What's your favorite medium, and why do you love it?

I started doing observational sketches in museums with a brush pen when I was in school and really fell in love with the fact that there was no erasing so I had to really commit to the line and I had to make my marks more intentionally. I think that really helped me develop my art when I was still learning and the ink process is still my favorite step in my workflow.

Early animal sketch by Lindsey Leigh

What’s an example of a past rejection or "failure" that ended up helping you? How did it help?

One of my dreams in college was to work in the animation industry as a visual development artist, but I wasn’t able to get much traction in that area and the competition is also very fierce because so many people are interested in doing those jobs. I think those rejections shifted my focus more towards comics and children’s book publishing, which I think is a great fit for me. It’s still a collaboration between myself, the editor, and the art director, but I feel like I have the freedom to create what I’m really passionate about, even if it’s a little niche.

When you’re feeling “artist’s block,” what do you do to get “unblocked”?

I usually take a break and go for a walk or do some other non-art activity so I can come back to work more refreshed. I also find that experimenting with a new medium is a good way to break out of a slump. I’ve recently been experimenting a bit with Posca pens and those have been fun.

Are you already working on a new project now, or do you have a dream project in the future? If so, what is it?

Yes, I’m currently working on a new book about cave animals and illustrating another book about animal germs and immune systems!

For a dream project, I love horror as a genre so it would be great to do something spooky at some point as well.

Where can people connect with you and find out more about THE DEEP!?

You can find me on twitter and instagram @linseedling and my website is www.lindseyleighart.com

The Deep! is available now wherever books are sold and also at this link!:
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/709331/the-deep-by-lindsey-leigh-illustrated-by-lindsey-leigh/


unaccompanied nonfiction graphic novel by tracy white cover

UNACCOMPANIED: An Interview with Tracy White

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

I’m from NYC and still live here. I don’t know that I ever decided to become an artist. I’ve just always wanted to draw and tell stories.

Tracy White, cartoonist, author of UNACCOMPANIED

On June 20th, 2023 your book, UNACCOMPANIED: STORIES OF BRAVE TEENAGERS SEEKING ASYLUM comes out – congrats!!! Tell us about the book. Where did the idea come from? What do you love about it?

Thank you! I’m really excited to finally have the book available to readers.

Unaccompanied is about five strong tenacious teens from four countries who risk everything they have and leave everything they know to seek asylum in the United States. It’s an incredibly dangerous journey and once they are here, another journey through the US immigration system begins.

unaccompanied nonfiction graphic novel by tracy white cover

The idea for this book was born out of my partnership with the Safe Passage Project. The Safe Passage Project is a non profit organization that provides pro bono legal help and other services to unaccompanied refugee minors.

Together, we created a comic that helps their clients navigate the legal system. While making the comic, I realized how little most people (myself included) know about unaccompanied refugee minors, the communities they come from, what they think about, why they leave, how they get here, and what happens once they arrive. So I kept asking questions and expanding who I spoke to until I had collaborated with folks around the globe and this book was made.

This book is important because it illustrates, through visual storytelling, the human side of the complicated issues around children seeking asylum alone -- while underscoring the hopes, joys and incredible strength these kids possess.

Who do you see as the audience for UNACCOMPANIED, and why is it a great book for them?

The audience is teens, teachers, librarians, anyone interested in immigration. Unaccompanied offers a way to understand an often politicized situation from a human perspective.

While we can’t walk in someone else's shoes, we can walk next to them. This book gives readers that opportunity.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread showing highway

You have some interesting upcoming events related to UNACCOMPANIED coming up. What will you be doing? Are any of them open to the public?

I’m so glad you asked! The reason I made this book is to raise awareness around unaccompanied refugee minors, and to change the common media narrative of pity to the reality-based one of strength and fortitude.

Detail from UNACCOMPANIED graphic novel by Tracy White

My book launch will actually be a panel discussion around immigration/migration/borders and the power of storytelling to make a difference. Please come to WORD in Brooklyn on June 21st at 7 PM, to celebrate, learn, and also buy the book!

My author's proceeds go to the organizations that support unaccompanied refugee minors. Click here to RSVP.

What websites, podcasts, books, or other creators are particularly inspiring to you right now? Where do you go when you need a dose of creative inspiration?

Lynda Barry is always an inspiration. I really like Austin Kleon’s newsletter, it always leads me to discoveries, and I read a LOT of books.

What tool has improved your workflow or creative process recently?

The new tool (now a couple of years old for me) is Clip Studio Pro. It has a lot of options that make sense for cartoonists and for making books. I have barely scratched the surface of what it can do, but it does exactly what I need.

I especially love the navigation tool because I can rotate the canvas so easily when I draw. I know it sounds small, but for me it's huge and speeds up my work flow.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread

You teach comics at NYU. Is there anything you’ve learned from teaching young people the craft of comics that informs your own work?

I am so grateful to be a teacher. Talking through the mechanics of comics, reassessing the syllabus, and creating in-class exercises every year help me grow as a cartoonist because I rethink everything I’m doing.

My students all bring unique perspectives. For example, last semester one student did a beautiful wordless comic that took place entirely underwater using a traditional Chinese painting method she learned in China, and another student did a comic about a monster under a bed that had physical components to it.

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self? Have you had any "failures" that ended up helping you?

In general I’d say to my younger self, “It’s all gonna work out, and you are enough.”

For this project specifically, I was rejected by one publisher who supported the work but had to pass, saying the margin for error was too slim. Those words were always in the back of my mind and spurred me on to research more, reach out to more people with relevant lived experiences and expertise, as well as constantly check my own biases.

In the end, that comment was one of the most positive things anyone could have said.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread

Do you ever feel “artist’s block”? If so, what do you do to get “unblocked”?

I walk, I read, I watch documentaries, and I reach out to friends to find out what they are currently inspired by. I find curiosity to be my best method for unblocking.

You’re a mom of three, in addition to being a comics creator and a teacher. How do you balance work and art with personal life?

HAHAHAHA. It’s hard.

As an artist, especially when working on a big project, I need large swaths of time. I can’t dip in for twenty minutes here or there.

So I’m really thankful to my husband and our kids who would visit my mom on weekends so I could work. They even went on a week-long vacation with her at a critical moment so I could hit an important deadline.

Are you already working on a new project now?

Right now my focus is on getting this book out there to teens, teachers, librarians and anyone interested in the issues around immigration today and the power of storytelling to change things.

I’m really excited because I’ve already started visiting classrooms and have created two workshops for folks interested in non-fiction comics. If you're interested, details are at www.traced.com/workshops.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread, Rosa's village

Where can people connect with you and find out more about UNACCOMPANIED?

Please visit my website www.traced.com, find me on social media @tracedcomics, and/or sign up for my newsletter and get free advice on making nonfiction comics, book suggestions, and obligatory cat pics.


Interview with Elizabeth Jancewicz

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

I grew up in Northern Quebec with a family of artists. My parents always made sure to have lots of art and craft supplies readily available and were very encouraging. The dramatic snowy landscapes around me and the abundance of wildlife fueled my creativity and my love for both nature and art.

How do you start your day?

I try to give myself a quiet hour to wake up. Coffee, cat on my lap, and a book next to our picture window with the fire going (if it’s a cold morning).

Coffee making comic by Elizabeth Jancewicz

What does your workspace/studio look like? What aspects of it are most important to you?

I have an office that I share with my partner. On my side I have a window that looks out onto a pond with a spot for one of our cats to lay in the sun. I have 4 different “stations”: my easel for oil painting, a small table for my laptop, a large drafting table where I draw and make comics, and a large desk for miscellaneous “other” art. Plus lots of shelves for supplies. And lots of art hanging all over the walls. Everything is always pretty messy, but I also know where everything is.

Cat comic by graphic novelist Elizabeth Jancewicz of The Touring Test

 

What’s your favorite medium, and why do you love it?

I go back and forth between a lot of different mediums, and I love that I have the availability to do so. At the moment I love oil paint for vibrant colours…

Northern lights with deer oil painting by Elizabeth Jancewicz

… but I love making comics for being able to express my thoughts through storytelling.

Northern lights comic by Elizabeth Jancewicz

What tool has improved your workflow or creative process recently?

Inheriting my dad’s drafting table has been a real help to my work and my mindset. Since I work from home, I love having a place that motivates me to be productive.

 

When you’re feeling “artist’s block,” what do you do to get “unblocked”?

Being outside helps me the most. Either for a hike or even just stepping into my backyard. I like the quiet and being away from screens. The fresh air reinvigorates my mind.

Winter oil painting by Elizabeth Jancewicz

 

What websites, social media accounts, podcasts, or books are particularly inspiring to you right now? Where do you go when you need a dose of creative inspiration?

One of my all-time favourite series is Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran. I love her storytelling and art style. I have all the books and I can read those over and over again.

 

What’s a favorite project that you’ve worked on so far in your career? What did you love about it?

My favourite project has been my ongoing comic, The Touring Test. It’s the first project I’ve worked on in years that has been completely and totally for myself.

The Touring Test comic by Elizabeth Jancewicz, about life on the road in a small indie band

What is your dream project in the future?

I’d love to have some published books of comics.

 

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

Don’t worry.

Couple in a field watching birds flock into the sky; oil painting by artist Elizabeth Jancewicz

 

How do you balance work and art with personal life?

I try to be very purposeful about scheduling personal time. If I don’t schedule it, it would be easy for me to overwork myself. It’s something I’m still learning to do.

 

What’s an example of a past rejection or “failure” that ended up helping you? How did it help?

I can’t think of one major rejection or failure, but I do try to keep a balance between optimism and caution.

Snow cat comic by Elizabeth Jancewicz of The Touring Test

 

How do you maintain your art career? Either in terms of marketing yourself, or developing multiple income streams?

My partner and I are constantly trying to think of new ways to push ourselves creatively. We spend about half our time touring in our band Pocket Vinyl, and trying to connect with people face-to-face at shows. To keep our fans engaged when we can’t see them in person, we have a Patreon account that we keep updated with news about songwriting and art. We’ve also started holding regular livestream shows from our home.

I take on quite a few freelance art jobs as well, ranging from personal paintings and portraits, to album covers and shirt designs for other bands, artwork and logos for local businesses, and illustration jobs for educational and historical publications.

I also have an art shop online, where I sell prints and original art.

Outdoor camping fire under the moon; oil painting by illustrator Elizabeth Jancewicz

Fox atop a boulder surrounded by raging fire; oil painting by artist Elizabeth Jancewicz

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve got a handful of commissions going at the moment: I’m working on a few final illustrations for a tabletop board game that will be released soon, I’ve got a t-shirt logo to make for a local book shop, I’ve got a handful of comic portraits to complete, and I just finished a set of illustrations for a book of historical stories for a First Nations community in Ontario.

And I’m writing and illustrating an autobiographical graphic novel about a big, crazy tour that my band did recently.

Sample art from Elizabeth Jancewicz's graphic novel about Pocket Vinyl's 50 states tour

Connect with Elizabeth Jancewicz:

www.instagram.com/thetouringtest
www.twitter.com/thetouringtest
www.facebook.com/TheTouringTest

See more art by Elizabeth Jancewicz!

Contact Me About Elizabeth