Today’s sketchbooks belongs to Andrea Tsurumi. She’s one of those across the board genius women and I’ve been looking forward to the to peeking inside her densely packed sketchbooks for some time. For those not familiar with Andrea, a quick synopsis: after graduating from Harvard with an English B.A., she moved to New York to work in publishing for a few years before getting an Illustration MFA from the School of Visual Arts. Since then she’s been raking in the comics awards (ahem MOCCA Award of Excellence) and has worked with such illustration clients as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Penguin Books, and Tablet Magazine. While thumbing through her books were talked a bit about her sketching and image making processes.
Hi Andrea, you’ve got so many books! It appears you love sketching. Is keeping a sketchbook important to you?
It is important to me, but not in the dream fantasy kind of way, like, you know, the painting on a cliff with the wind in your hair kind of way people think art should be. I sketch to literally catch the thoughts as they come to me. That is why there are there is so much writing in my books. A lot of the time I’ll be on the subway or at my job and or seeing something and I’ll be like ‘God, I gotta write this down’. Usually it’s something stupid, but the thoughts just accumulate and I need a place to put them. I need a place where I can think by drawing. Sometimes you have to draw out your thoughts so my sketchbooks become the home of my errant ideas.
I do see a fair amount of words in your sketchbooks. You were an English major in the past, so I wonder: do you prefer to think visually or narratively?
In the past I thought that when I planned stories or projects I had to write them down or that I could only write through them. For some silly reason it never occurred to me that I could draw them, or describe the stories through drawing. I had to learn that. Now my process changes a lot, I’ve done drawings when I’ve had everything in my head and I can produce images immediately. But then there are times when my ideas come slower. I have to circle them, write, and think and then the images come. A lot of it is just peeling away, thinking by drawing and spending the time doodling.
So just doodling is important to you?
It is. I always miss it when I’m not doing it. But sometimes I try to carve out a block of time to focus on doodling and it’s horrible because nothing comes out. It’s like, this should be magical. Why isn’t it magical!?
There’s a John Cleese interview about creativity which is totally right-he says you should set aside three hours for creativity. The first half and hour is a complete struggle and after your purge yourself of all internal junk, then the good stuff comes. I have a job, so it’s hard to commit to a straight three hours of creative time, but I keep John in my heart and strive to follow his words.