Thursday, April 24, 2014

Q&A with Alison Sampson on Genesis


I got to speak a little with Alison Sampson regarding the artwork in Genesis, her latest release with Image Comics. I was so in love with the artwork I just had to reach her. 

The Frog Queen : I absolutely fell in love with the artwork in Genesis. It is so whimsical and full of movement. I really do feel like the images move on the page and no, I certainly was not on any drugs. What was your inspiration for the artwork? How did you begin to sculpt Adam’s world? 

Alison : Thank you for picking up on the movement. That was a very strong intention. It is quite hard to carry through when there are several people (me, Jason, Jon, and latterly Nathan when he reviewed dialogue) working on the page, so I'm glad it comes across. The inspiration really comes from an idea about transformation, that the world can shift if I use composition in a certain way. It is what you picked up on. I worked as a perspective artist when I was much younger, and I have views on the value of so called "accurate" perspective. Such a projection is static. That is not how people see, except for at a single split second, so I wanted to do a bit more with the art.

I don't tend to be influenced by comics, as I have come to them too late in my 'art-life', but architecture and design work is a lot to do with composition. Much of what I am trying to achieve just comes from looking at the page. You look at it and put your pencil down in the right place and that is it. I can't hold this world in my head, it has to be made on the paper.

If I have to mention other artists in connection with this, it is more on specific page basis: Lebbeus Woods, Glyn Dillon, Tony Salmons, Nicolas Delort, Konstantin Novosadov. The cover is David Mazzuchelli (Batman Year One). I also reference the work of the architects Eero Saarinen, Sim Bruce Richards, the landscapes of the US west coast and the Case Study Houses, Jock's studio, Brandon Graham's whale, Sarah Horrocks' ostrich, Austin Wilson's sock, Matt Southworth's lighthouse, the Victorian and Twentieth Century children's books of my childhood and a whole load of other places and things.

The Frog Queen : When Adam’s wife begins to change due to his own imaginings, the contorted monster she eventually changes into disturbed me. I read a lot of Junji Ito which is full of body gore. Normal people contorted into hideous beings. I started getting flashbacks to John Carpenters "The Thing" when I read this part. What was your inspiration for that depicting that scene in such a way? It's disturbing but not gratuitous. 

Alison : I was very keen for a lot of body horror in this book and what actually happened was I had to tone my aspirations down, as the narrative moves so fast. I felt the best way was to show the transformation gradually, so it would be more traumatic, and it would be clearly explained. She loses her hair, too, which is a very upsetting thing for a woman.

There is a specific (though not explicit) reference for this page, a sequence by James Harren (that I can't find a copy of, otherwise I would post it here) with some quite specific body language against a background of trees. I felt this was so sad, and when we colored it our work, I gave the same BPRD page reference to Jason. On the following page, I had little space, so the layout has to work as piece, showing Adam's distress in an expressionistic way, as well as showing the transformation result. She's already shifting out of our attention as he tries to block her out, but it won't be for long.

The Frog Queen: In an interview with CBR you told them that you try to make the page beautiful even when things are going wrong. The destruction in the book is beautiful. With the wrong artist, this book could have been an outright horror. Was it difficult to make this world beautiful with all the chaos written in it? 

Alison : It isn't hard to make something beautiful if that is what you want to do. Something like this demands a very specific compositional approach, the kind of thing you see in the work of artists like Lebbeus Woods, who in the 1990's was depicting the horrors of war. I also had to make the architecture quite didactic, to help us on our way. Jason's colors worked very well to convey the mood, here, too. To some extent there is a kind of romance in dystopia, that someone can find a better way in amongst the ruins. That isn't what I wanted to show. This is the recession of hope, shown by showing less hope, *not* more destruction.

The Frog Queen: One last question, I like to ask all artists as of late, which artist or artists do you admire most?

Alison : The most? That's hard. Today, in this half-an-hour, it is Rob Davis, for his imagination, and professionalism, and for encouraging everyone, for making me laugh out loud on the train when I read (the nominated-for-two-Eisners) Don Quixote, and for the Motherless Oven (which makes me wonder), and for showing the rest of us how it can be done.

To see more of Alison Sampson's work please visit her Tumblr: http://alisonsampsonart.tumblr.com/