Today’s comic, “Every Night You Go Home” by Jensine Eckwall, is a sci-fi comic about balancing personal and professional lives.
Interview with Jensine Eckwall by Natalye Childress for Silver Sprocket
Your comic is not as straightforward as some of the others; could you shed some light on what it’s about? Why did you decide to include what you did, and are there other things you considered including but that didn’t make the cut?
“Every Night You Go Home” has a pretty typical premise: the consummate professional comes out of retirement for one last job. This was my first time making an explicitly sci-fi story. In this world, a species of creatures called “horses,” (you can see them in a few of my other comics as well) has been all but exterminated. The protagonist, The Last Horse Hunter, is celebrated (by most) for her ethically questionable sniper skills, but is haunted, presumably by memories of her work. The memories, which eat at her mostly when she’s home alone, begin to follow her — to a hotel, and finally, into the field for one last top-secret hunt.
I made this story as an exploration of wrestling with personal problems alongside professional expectations, and the question of whether to disclose or not to disclose. A few other secondary themes arose, including outsiders not understanding the realities of an idealized career, and the inescapability of mental distress. I would have loved to make this story longer, and gone deeper into the world building that the comic touches on. I also wish I’d added a splash page at the end, of the character finally at rest in the void of space.
What is the BEST job you’ve had?
Currently I work full-time as a freelance illustrator, which, even with its challenges, is the best job I’ve ever had! I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been assigned some projects I’ve really loved. Recently, I completed two book covers for middle grade ghost stories by Canadian author Charis Cotter (Tundra Books), and being able to work on those really did feel like I was living the dream (if that means your child-self would think you were pretty cool).
What is the value or purpose in making art, for you personally?
Making art allows me to engage actively with all my favorite things (cartoons, art history, music, film, narrative, personal stories, etc. etc. etc.). I think illustration is just the coolest thing ever, so being able to have dialogue with that tradition is a privilege.
I’m also lucky to belong to a community of other illustrators, cartoonists, and creative professionals. They are my best friends and favorite people. I struggle with the decision I made to pursue art as a career for lots of reasons, but I guess it’s wise to just focus on doing my best for now.
Do you think artists have a social responsibility?
Yes, I do. Everybody does, before the contemporary explosion of direness in the US and after. However, artists face unique challenges and choices. I believe that artists have an obligation to be aware that every image they create gets added to the cultural lexicon and to the clutter of images that people consume every day, and that those images can either be reductive, even damaging, solutions that contribute to the single story, or their best effort to the opposite.
I don’t think that every artist needs to be making explicitly “political” art that may be disingenuous to their practice, but I do think that it’s a good idea for artists to donate their time and talents to causes they believe in, if they are able.
Some artists use their status as public figures to be vocal about sociopolitical issues on social media, and this has always been something I’ve struggled with feeling I don’t do enough of, for a bunch of reasons. I once saw someone on Twitter say that “not everyone is a fighter,” and that’s something I took comfort in, but, of course, don’t take as an excuse.
Now is maybe a chance to plug an initiative I volunteer for and helped develop — New Visions, a program of the Society of Illustrators, which “seeks to facilitate an ongoing conversation on a host of issues facing the contemporary illustrator; these include topics of diversity and inclusion, multiculturalism, and illustration’s role in a larger cultural context.”
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a few of my own projects between commissioned work — I’m in the initial phases of a follow-up to a series of watercolor paintings I made last year called Remember Who Loves You. I’m also trying to write my own picture book, which is really hard!
If someone liked your comic in As You Were, what would you recommend they check out next?
They can check out the picture book I illustrated, Almost a Full Moon (Tundra Books) and follow my Instagram and Tumblr for both completed projects and real-time process shots.
For more from Jensine Eckwall, check out her website and store and follow/like her on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.