Artist Of The Month: Elena Casagrande
n this wide world of comic publishing and collecting, there are few roles as important to the bottom line appeal of the medium than the artist. This is not to say writers don’t matter. Writers matter a lot (and as a writer I see no irony in saying that), but a good artist can do amazing things for bad or good writers that writers can’t necessarily return. On the one hand, a good artist can get you to buy a book with bad writing, and on the other hand a good artist can take great writing and turn it into a story that becomes legend. A good artist can take the concepts from the mind of a whole other human being, and turn them into a tangible force that can trigger and create memories and emotions as strong as any description. A modern day alchemist who can take the lead from a writer’s pencil and turn it into gold in your hands at newsstands, a good artist can tell stories visually that even the writer didn’t see and the reader couldn’t imagine.
Now I know that pencils don’t have lead, they have graphite, and almost all comic scripts are typed on a computer of some kind, and that most newsstands don’t sell comic books nowadays; and the ones that do, you wouldn’t want those copies anyway because they’re treated like garbage, but here’s my point: How much better would that metaphor have been if you saw a drawing of a pencil literally transmogrifying into a shining gold comic book in a child’s hand over the space of three panels? WAY better! Artists are the $#!% and we here are proud to throw our spotlight on another great one in our Artist of the Month column. This month we are featuring the phenomenal Elena Casagrande A.K.A. Lara West if you’re nasty (a Janet Jackson reference, I’m awesome). Hailing from Italy, Elena sharpened her chops at the Scuola Internazionale Di Comics in Rome. Nowadays she’s working on some small titles you might have heard of like Star Trek, Spider-Man, True Blood, Doctor Who, and my personal favorite, Suicide Risk from BOOM! Studios with Unwritten scribe Mike Carey.
We did a feature on Suicide Risk a while back, and what stood out to all of us here at Comic Attack was the originality of form and detail on display in every issue of the amazing title. If a good artist borrows and a great artist steals, then they must not have a word for an artist like Elena Casagrande who creates new visual moments out of worn tropes and well tread concepts, breathing new life into old tales, and keeping us interested in what comes next. We got to have a conversation with Elena recently, and here’s what she had to say.
Comic Attack: So how did you get your start as a visual artist?
Elena Casagrande: Well I’ve always loved drawing and telling stories but the first time I realized I could turn my passion into a job was when I was attending the International School of Comics in Rome. During that period I became David Messina’s assistant and thanks to him I knew the business side of American comics.
CA: I dig on a lot of Messina’s work. Who are some of your other favorite artists?
EC: I can tell you some names, casually: Marcelo Frusin, Mike Mignola, Eduardo Risso, Clair Wendling. There are so many… Edwards, Delgado, Johnson, Canete, Harren, Noto, Bengal, Stelfreeze, Pearson, Hughes, Carnevale, Andreucci…
CA: What is your favorite thing to draw?
EC: Women, absolutely…
CA: Well, what are your other passions aside from art and the female form?
EC: I like cooking, especially desserts; I love traveling with my partner and I’m a huge TV geek.
CA: I was thinking about TV the other day. I can’t have it around me when I work, but I find I do some of my best writing when listening to music. How about you? Do you listen to music as you create?
EC: Sometimes yes, but most of the time I have movies or TV series on in the background while I work, because I get the feeling I have people with me — they keep me company! I listen to music above all when I go out, either by car or walking, or in my rare moments of relaxation.
CA: What effect does music have on your artistry?
EC: Music distracts me — I begin to daydream, lots of different thoughts, but not work!
CA: Why “Lara West” as a pseudonym?
EC: Lara West is a character from a story I wrote years ago. I used her name on the Internet when I started to use social networks (and in email or chat before them). Then it became a misunderstanding, and most people thought it was my real name, so I started to use my real one, specifying that it was just a nickname.
EC: There’s Scott Tipton who’s now one of my best friends, Mike Carey, he’s totally a gentleman and working with him was a dream come true and right now Nick Abadzis who I met in person during the San Diego Comic-Con; he’s a wonderful person.
CA: How did you come to work on Suicide Risk with Mike Carey for BOOM! Studios?
EC: BOOM! contacted me by email right after I finished work on Hack/Slash, and I accepted, just hearing Mike was the creator of the series. I did a test page, competing with other artists; luckily I “won” and everything started…
CA: Do you have a particular sequence in Suicide Risk that was your favorite or most challenging?
EC: Yes, I’m particularly proud of all of the double-page spreads you see. I like working on them, it’s always a chance to do something very spectacular!
CA: Which of your works are you particularly proud of?
EC: The one I have yet to do…
CA: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re really excited about?
EC: Actually not, I’m very excited about what I’m working on right now… but there’s something else that I’ll be happy to be excited about soon, a personal project I can’t talk about… not yet…
CA: Spike vs. Angel in a fight. Who wins?
CA: Alright, pop quiz. Top three favorite things in the world, and go!
EC: Honest people, landscapes and umm…coffee.
CA: Finally, which would you choose for yourself: A lifetime of peace without freedom or a lifetime of freedom with no peace?
EC: Freedom with no peace. I can search and find peace in a conflict, being free; conflicts are the sad and painful part of a potential transformation and transformation is evolution. A lifetime of peace without freedom is something static and in the long term will be a kind of dictatorship. Sorry, only a very few words to talk about a very big question…
Friendly, nice, and super talented. We here at ComicAttack.net want to thank Elena Casagrande for taking the time to speak to us, and can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for us this fall. Be sure to pick up the third volume of Suicide Risk from BOOM! Studios out now; follow her on Twitter to keep an eye out for her upcoming projects.