Late last year Non-profit Australian publisher Finlay Lloyd launched a new series of books with their Finlay Lloyd Smalls line. Amongst the first five books in the series were NY a graphic story by Mandy Ord and Nothing Ventured, a blackly comic graphic story by Natalia Zajaz. Nothing Ventured was my first exposure to Natalia's work and I really liked her loose expressive style of drawing and darkly humourous stories. I asked Natalia a few questions about her background and working on Nothing Ventured.
How did you get first get interested in comics?
When I was a kid I used to read stuff like Andy Capp and Snake, Hagar the horrible and Garfield. Whatever was lying around. I remember loving The Penguin Leunig, the one with the cover of a little man running along with a butterfly net trying to catch his head. When I was about 13 I got a Calvin and Hobbes anthology. It had an essay by Bill Watterson in the front about making comics which I found really interesting. He talked about being inspired by George Herriman’s backgrounds in Krazy Kat. I was super keen to get some Krazy Kat comics but never did. It’s still on my things to do list.
You studied art in Sydney, were you making comics then?
Yeah. I was really into the idea of wordless comics for a while. I was blown away by Shaun Tan’s work and so I copied his style for a bit. Then I met Leigh Rigozzi who lent me heaps of great books and taught me a lot about comics. I read a heap of North American anthologies and made some horrible, horrible autobiographical zines. Then I got into Norwegian comics and copied Jason’s style for a while. Towards the end of uni I moved into a house and met a guy called Adam France and we made some zines together. They were the most fun and the most funny. I found a bunch of them the other day when I was cleaning up and re-read them. Adam draws super fast and loose and doesn’t worry about stuff like spelling mistakes. Where his drawings are honest and spontaneously funny, mine often tend to be contrived and awkward. I’ve learned a lot from Adam.
How did you get involved with publisher Finlay Lloyd? had you started Nothing Ventured before they were onboard to publish it?
I met Julian through my boyfriend, George. Julian mentioned that he and Phil were planning to publish a series of small books by relatively unknown writers and artists and asked if I would like to be involved. I sent some old work down to Phil in Melbourne and they offered me 60-something pages to do whatever I wanted, which seemed like a pretty amazing deal! I struggled with the freedom and took way too long to get started. I was kind of paralysed for a long time because I didn’t want to fuck up such a great opportunity.
Was there much editing or revision involved in the creating Nothing Ventured?
Yeah, heaps. Originally I drew a single 62 page story. I sent Phil and Julian the storyboard and then spent weeks working on it. Once it was finished, inked and scanned I e-mailed it to them. They were enthusiastic but both said they liked the storyboard better. They liked the spontaneity and unfussiness of the sketches, so after that I decided to just draw as much as possible and stop worrying about it. After a few weeks I gathered up a big pile of papers and posted them to Phil for him to sort through and pick what he thought worked. There were a few bits that didn’t make it in, and a few bits that did, that I was kind of sad about, but I think Phil did a really great job. He took a giant pile of scribbles and made a book out of them! It’s been a really interesting process and I’m grateful to both Phil and Julian for pushing me in a different direction. I think the book turned out to be much more than it would have without their help.
Here’s some panels from the original story:
Images © 2014 Natalia Zajaz