Drawing on Hope
Local author and artist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm shares the joys of his job.
Where it all begins – Jonathan’s notebooks show how the author plans his next project.
“E isner Award-nominated author and artist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm makes comics spotlighting huge moments in history, including Apollo 11’s mission to the moon and the creation of the first atomic bomb, often delving into the darkness of the past to find “the bright side” for our future. Andrew Krop sat down with the Flathead Valley native to learn more about his creative process.
A: How’d you get started as an author and illustrator?
J: I’ve always drawn comics, but I realized not only did I want to do comics for a living, but I wanted to do nonfiction comics. I liked the idea of figuring out ways to tell these old stories in new ways for new audiences. After college, I made hand-printed comics and sold them at shows, and at some point, I ran across an editor at a publishing house who was looking to hire someone to illustrate a graphic novel about the atomic bomb for cheap. Pretty soon I was also writing the thing. That was my foot in the door, and I haven’t stopped since.
A: What do you love about your creative process?
J: Whenever I get writer’s block, I stop typing, pick up a pencil, and start drawing. I start sketching and new ideas come that I want to write. And when I get tired of drawing, I can switch back to writing. I love that it’s this medium that can slip in and out of different modes of creativity, and it all works toward the same goal.
A: How does it feel when you’re “in the zone” of your creative flow?
J: With writing, it’s kind of a fugue state that never lasts as long as I want. I usually don’t notice I’m “in the zone” until it’s already gone. If I can manage to sit and write for an hour without distractions, it’s a triumph. But with drawing it’s a very different experience. I’ll sit down at my desk in the morning and look up and it’s nighttime, and I’ll have forgotten to do anything that day other than draw. It’s like a place beyond time, which is very exciting! Whereas with writing it feels like a battle that leaves me kind of wrecked and exhausted. But it’s the exhaustion of a hard day’s work where your body is sore, but your mind feels clear.
A: When you tackle such serious historical subject matter, how do you keep things “on the bright side”?
J: I never set out to write about dark, heavy subject matter. It just turns out when you’re writing about modern American history, there’s a lot of darkness to cover. But I find hope in staring unflinchingly even at the darkest moments. There are these pinpoints of light: good people who found ways to fight for a better tomorrow. My work is as much about exposing and confronting the heavy stuff as it is about revealing these transcendent moments of human goodness. If you’re not telling that story, you’re not telling the full history.
A: What’s your favorite part of your job?
J: If you told me when I was a kid that people would pay me to sit in my room and draw whatever comes to mind, I would have thought that you were playing a trick on me.
Photos by: Kenny
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