INTERVIEW: Theresa Chiechi on the creative process behind ITHAQA and DRAWN TO KEY WEST

When I firstly read Theresa Chiechi and Michael Watson’s Ithaqa, I was struck by how much storytelling was happening simultaneously on both the textual and the visual back of things. Sure, this is something that comics are supposed to be about, that wedlock between words and art. But that balance isn’t always achieved.

In Ithaqa, a Lovecraftian falsehood about inexplicable extinctions and coordinated investigations set to the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, both parts of the storytelling equation converse with each other confidently. A slew of that is owed to the depth of reputation and humanity found in Chiechi’s approach to art, which is strong enough to elevate Watson’s script while also adding brand-new features to it as it readies the story’s cast to face whatever cruelties lie ahead for them.

Michael WatsonIthaqa, by Michael Watson and Theresa Chiechi

Chiechi fetches a lot to the story in terms of ambiance and psychological feelings. Personas feel storied and puts seem mystic, inviting books to genuinely explore the comics page. There’s a kind of rhythm to the way references move from panel to panel in and around locales that can easily extend beyond the borders of the comics page.

I find this character to be a kind of signature of Chiechi’s work as Ithaqa resulted me to read her own autobiographical/ regional biography comic, Drawn to Key West, which she both writes and summarizes. This diary achieves something similar to what stands out in Ithaqa: It captures the human element of the tale and represents it as something organic, representing comic appear as a living document.

In Drawn to Key West, Chiechi explores the street performance culture that’s developed in Key West, Florida, specifically in a popular tourist spot called Mallory Square. The narrative contains interviews with street musicians together with personal tales as to what led to her eventually moving to Key West. It’s funny, honest, and instructive, rightfully a labour of neighbourhood history.

Drawn to Key WestTheresa Chiechi

The jump from Lovecraftian horror to neighbourhood history offers a unique opportunity to really explore one’s ability to be a diverse and adaptive narrator, something Chiechi already seems to have a good direct on.

I sat down with Chiechi to talk innovative process and just how it is that she manages to inject so much life into her illustrations.

Ricardo Serrano: I think it’s safe to say that, just by taking a glance at your work, you like playing with different visual forms. I don’t anticipate I assured two instances ogle accurately the same between Ithaqa and Drawn to Key West, for that are important. How do you approach style when starting a project?

Theresa Chiechi: A quantity has to do with the lead up to the actual illustrating. I experiment, look for references, look at the building of places and how to stimulate them is currently working on the page. I think it all comes down to worldbuilding and telling a narration with those smaller details one perceives when sought for references to fill the narrative with as much experience and reference as possible.

There’s a lot one can get from research, dainties of information that help guide the portrait. But there still comes a time when you have to figure out how it’ll work as a comic. That process is very rich in originality. Every little detail saw while researching facilitates, but choice what performs it into the story and what doesn’t was part of the process.

Ithaqa, by Michael Watson and Theresa Chiechi

Serrano: Ithaqa looks like you really wanted to capture the Twenties, peculiarly that ability of freedom and change that people belief would remain forever. And then you had to frame it in horror. How did you land on the final look for the comic?

Chiechi: I looked at Alex Toth, Mike Mignola, and Frank Frazetta, especially in terms of how they enclose their characters around rich installs. The things I wanted to include in Ithaqa were things I had moderately investigated in my other comics, like in History of the Ouija Board, as in capturing a certain ambiance and causing certain details help tell the story. So I made all of that and just let Michael’s huge write navigate me.

I like how the creators I mentioned approached their fixes as both terrific but also something you could stumble upon while taking a long walk somewhere. I surely craved Ithaqa to feel like that. Its attributes could walk into something completely unexpected at any turn if they are only trod long enough.

IthaqaIthaqa, by Michael Watson and Theresa Chiechi

Serrano: Let’s move on to a comic you both wrote and represented, Drawn to Key West. There’s a focus on attention to detail in this book that reminded us of Ithaqa, in a sense. It shows you’re invested in capturing story, lieu, and humanity through your artwork. In Key West’s contingency it’s through regional history and autobiography. What led to you developing your own book?

Chiechi: I’ve been coming to Key West for vacation pretty much every year since I was very little. So I grew up there. It’s always my favorite trip end. And so a big part of my formative times included watching the street performers at Mallory square. To me, Mallory Square is what shapes Key West so magical and appealing.

I’ve always precisely fucking really fascinated by the musicians there. A marry years ago–I think it was right after I graduated college, as I started developing my working career as an artist–I started thinking of street performers in a different light. I predict I ensure more of myself in their own homes. I started becoming more mesmerized, more plotted. Next thing I knew I was saying to myself I should make a comic about this!

I retain going to see Mallory Square one evening, going the idea that night, and then pulling an all-nighter in my inn office getting substance down on paper. I started writing the synopsis for the narrative and doing quick representations for the specific characteristics. I wanted you to introduced everything I had into that narration. And I conceive the more beings got involved in it, the more fierce I became.

Theresa ChiechiDrawn to Key West, by Theresa Chiechi

Serrano: What went into setting up the comic, then? Given its focus it feels like there was a kind of journalistic desire behind it as well. This means that interviews and research must’ve surely frisked an important role in your process.

Chiechi: I wanted to get as countless street musicians into the comic as possible, so I travelled and was just talking to as many of them as I could. I knew that if I could interview them for the floor, and they became a part of the project, then they would also become invested in it. Turned out that every performer was aroused to become a part of the comic! They’re natural narrators and just listening to them facilitated me contour the comic, lay out the foundations.

There are a lot of fibs to be told about the street performer community. To start, they’re fairly underappreciated. Not a lot of people know much about them or what goes into putting show together in a public space. And it’s interesting because the performance industry, if that’s the privilege oath, goes through like beckons of increasing and decreasing popularity.

Serrano: You symbolize specific to Key West or as a whole?

Chiechi: As a whole. There are a lot of different street performing hubs all throughout the country. New Orleans, San Francisco-New York not so much better anymore, but it had a bigger presence before. Boulder, Colorado is also a pretty big hub. Having said that, Key West is the only locate that performers can work time long. It compiles for a very popular spot. It spawns it unique.

It’s also a very competitive environment as well. It’s very hard to make a living there because it’s such a small spot to work in. Key West’s pinnacle sightseer season starts around Fall, when it’s cooler, goes up to May, and then extends into summer. If it gets too hot it might impact the amount of beings coming up to Mallory Square at any afforded night, which is another thing that needs to be taken into account.

Theresa ChiechiDrawn to Key West, by Theresa Chiechi

Serrano: How have recent events impacted Mallory Square? Does it change your story’s trajectory in any way?

Chiechi: Mallory Square has assured rather of a decline in terms of public interest. You have to factor in COVID, typhoon season, and other things to help explain that, though. It’s not due to the performers. But it’s not as big as it used to be.

COVID has interrupted a good deal, especially by limiting the amount of performers that can be at the Square at once. For a group of people that make their living off of accomplishing, it’s taken a ponderous fee. Waiting to see what’ll come after things start coming back into locate has brought up some important questions we all have to come to calls with.

The story I want to tell is still there and I’m working on telling so much better of it as I can. The performers have been so supportive and have even cured me get a few more interviews in by introducing me to other artists. It’s been a true-blue collaboration.

I just really want this comic to create awareness to the art form that’s on display at a nightly basis at Mallory Square and to kind of prolong and facilitate this community I affection so much better and I’m so enthusiastic about.

Theresa ChiechiDrawn to Key West, by Theresa Chiechi

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