Beth Davis interviewed Gipi : http://www.brokenfrontier.com/columns/details.php?id=697
Broken Frontier: You have a remarkable ability to capture expressive gestures – a finger tapping, a chin lifted – with such apparent ease. What inspires this?
Gipi: I'm pretty obsessed with the need to transfer life into the characters I create. I often ask myself where the idea of "life" resides in human beings. Which aspects or gesture should I choose to show to give the "idea of life" to the character I'm drawing? I think this "life" resides in the little gestures, in the ticks, in the little movements of an arm, or a hand. Personally, I'm really nervous and I'm always doing something with my fingers and I often find myself doing one thing and looking at another one. It's this idea of movement and confusion I'm trying to represent in my drawings. In my mind, movement and life go together, so I try to "move" everything.
BF: Sometimes you add sound effects to your panels, a scratch on the arm, a clatter down the stairs. Why do you do this? Is it meant to emphasize the otherwise quiet, or near-silent ambience of the scene?
Gipi: I think silence doesn't exist at all in the modern life, so I can't draw a scene without "writing" some noises inside it. It's really something natural for me. I mean, if you live in a big city, you'll find yourself always in the middle of some noise. These noises are often a continuous breath. When I draw a scene inspired by reality, I find myself automatically "writing" noises too. Also, noises break the rhythm of reading, creating pauses and little breaks.
BF: Please tell us a bit about the influences on your art.
Gipi: It's always hard to me to answer this question. I don't know too much about comics, but when I say this I'm always scared people would think I'm some kind of "snob European author."
Anyway, I feel myself very inspired by ancient paintings (paintings from Rome and Pompeii, for example, where I saw the best characters I've ever seen) and by movies, more than by comics, which I really don't read too often.
There have been some comics authors who inspired me, from Schulz to Pratt. These are the stories I was reading when I was a kid—stories that, I think, showed me that telling stories with drawings was really possible.
BF: Your work looks so effortless. Do you ever sweat over your work? Do you suffer at all? Where might we see evidence of this?
Gipi: I sweat all the time!
Really, I'm happy to hear that my work seems effortless, but it's really not the case. I try to have a natural drawing style, fast, without pencil, etc...but achieving this "effortless" style is a real effort for me. Maybe it's something more related to thinking and concentration than drawing itself. But either way, it's hard!
BF: Regarding Garage Band, grownups aren’t supposed to remember what it was like to be a teenager. How do you remember?
Gipi: All the much important things of my life happened during the ages of my adolescence. I spent those years in the road—I was pretty wild. I had a lot of experiences that not every teenager was having...pretty bad experiences, too. And these years are there, in my memories. I think that this takes such a central place in my work because I went through such hard times, experiencing things I never experienced later, in my adult life.
BF: When will we see your autobiography? I’m kind of kidding. That seems to be a prime subject for graphic novels. Have you drawn from your own experience in your work?
Gipi: I often draw from my experience. I was the singer in a hardcore band, and my father really gave me a room for my friends to play and so on. In all my stories there is a strong note of reality. Often I say to myself that I'm unable to invent a story from scratch. I love to remember things of my past and imagine something different coming out of the reality. But I always start from something that’s true for me.
BF: Would you say there is a consistent thread running through all your work, binding it into a whole? What is that thread?
Gipi: I don't know if there is a precise thread, but there are some "little obsessions": Destiny—what decides our lives? Why am I here to answer to an interview, while some friends of mine, from those "wild ages," are dead or are sick or in jail? What makes people make bad choices? At what point do people become bad people? Adolescence. Friendships. These are the things I've always found myself writing about.
BF: Garage Band seems to be about dreams, music, friendship, family, disappointment, coming of age, and healing. In other words, it captures so many personal, intimate, yet universal themes. It’s powerful. Not like a punch in the gut, but powerful in that the reader sees herself in it, and sees a way to love herself. In your view, what is the power of comic art?
Gipi:When I work within comic art, I'm free. I really feel free. There isn’t money to think of. There’s nobody I have to please. I'm alone. I can experiment in different languages, in different rhythms. I can stop time. I can invent new words. I can also leave errors on the page. I really feel absolutely free.
I think this is a great power. Each time I start a new story, I'm exalted by the thought that I can tell the story in whatever way I want. I can do as many experiments as I want and so on. I really love this.
When I tell stories in pictures, with the process of drawing and the time it takes to create a finished piece, I find myself understanding the things I'm talking about. It's something which happens (for me) only when I'm working on comics. I'm pretty dumb in the real life, but I become a little smarter when I tell stories.
BF: Garage Band is bound to earn you a crowd of American fans. What can we look forward to?
Gipi: Notes for a War Story is being published by First Second . It will come out in August. I love this book, I think it's stronger than Garage Band. It's about a more serious topic, too. And I hope my last book, S., will come out in the USA sometime. It's a special book for me, where I experiment with language, comics writing and drawings. It's a book about my father and his memories and the love I had for him.
-- With contributions from Pedro Moura/Lisbon and Karna Mustaqim/Jakarta.