Noelle Stevenson Creates Worlds of Her Own
Noelle Stevenson has been ‘drawing since forever’ but she never expected her illustrations to gain the kind of notoriety they have now. Noelle, aged 21, has caught the attention of major publishers and her webcomic NIMONA is due for publication by HarperCollins in 2015 and has been nominated for a Harvey Award for Best Online Comics Work. She has also been awarded the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Webcomic of 2012 by Slate Magazine and the Centre for Cartoon Studies. She’s all the way over in Los Angeles but Youth Arts Online got to talk to the young, but already loved, illustrator.
Did you ever think your illustrations would ever be so popular?
Oh, no way. I mean, I don’t even think I knew this was a thing that could happen until it actually did. I always figured I’d get my work published and then I’d accrue a following – I never thought it would happen the other way around!
Was it always a goal of yours to create and develop a webcomic (one that is now due for publication in 2015)?
I’m not sure I considered making comics in general until my sophomore (second) year of college when I had my first comics class. I did always want to publish a novel, and write and illustrate my own stories, and then I discovered that comics gave me this voice that I didn’t have with just art or just prose, and I got really excited about comics. I already followed a few webcomics online and in junior (third) year I came up with the character of Nimona and I started doing these comic projects about her for different classes, a couple of pages at a time, and by the end of junior year I had the first 20 or so NIMONA pages done and I knew I wanted to finish it and make it a real story. And I was already posting the other art I was doing online, so I thought, what the hell, I’m gonna make a webcomic! And I did. And I still am.
What is the relationship between you as a writer producing a narrative for your comic – and you as an artist also licensed with the task of creating art for it? Is it important for you to be in control of both mediums?
It’s always about the story for me. I love to write, but I’m not convinced that I’m as good at writing prose – the art is just as important to me (if not more important) when it comes to telling a story. That said, I’m certainly interested in writing for comics that I don’t draw! I’d be considerably less interested in drawing a comic that I didn’t write. I think it would just be less appealing to have no control over the direction that the story is taking.
Is there anyone you model yourself after as an artist or anyone in particular you’d like to work with?
There are many amazing artists that I draw inspiration from! Edward Gorey and Quentin Blake are classic artists I grew up admiring. Among my contemporaries, I’ve been hugely influenced by my illustration teachers from school – Kali Ciesemier, Sam Bosma, Daniel Krall – and by a whole slew of other comic/webcomic artists and illustrators who post work online.
What advice would you give to other young aspiring artists?
Make stuff, always. Try and figure out what it is you want to do and do it as best as you can, even if you don’t know how yet. Do that and then put it somewhere where people can see – whether that’s a coffee shop wall, a gallery, or the Internet. Have a goal in mind – “follow your dreams” – but be flexible too – sometimes things will change and maybe your dreams won’t turn out exactly the way you imagine them, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t be good. Take opportunities even if they scare you. You have to strap your heart in for the ride and just do things.
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
At this point, I don’t even think I know. All I’ve ever wanted to do is to draw pictures and tell stories and pull people into the worlds I create and make people laugh or cry. That can take a lot of different forms and I’m open to all of them. A year ago I couldn’t have predicted the opportunities I’d have today, and a year from now I might be somewhere totally different. I’m taking it one project at a time right now, and leaving the future open. It’s a little scary but pretty exciting.