BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
You'd think working at Pixar
would leave Enrico Casarosa
little time to do anything else, but he always manages to make the effort to create unique, original comics. Recently AdHouse Books
released his sequential art travelogue, Venice Chronicles
, a romantic love story, which details the time he spent in Italy with his girlfriend's family. Along with teasing Pixar's Up
, Casarosa told us what it was like vacationing in Venice, with his art supplies in hand. "I was truly excited to have time to explore Venice with my trusty sketchbook. The whole book was drawn in pencil and watercolors in my sketchbook, I wanted that feel of 'carnet de voyage'." THE PULSE: When I hear Venice Chronicles my mind races to California for some reason. Is that what your story is about or is there something else going on here? I know you live around that area ...
Eh eh, well while I do live in California (San Francisco) this book is about the real Venice, Italy. It's a travelogue, mostly taking place in the sinking city. The idea for this book started when I spent a month in Venice with my girlfriend's family. I did a lot of drawing around the city during my stay and then I started piecing together the story once I was back. I pretty much chronicled our vacation there and ultimately our love story.THE PULSE: I'd guess it was a great environment to create in, judging by how many classic works came from in or around that city ....
Oh yes, it's just a magical city. There's nothing like getting lost around the side street and canals of Venice. I am a huge fan of sketching outside from life, I've started this world wide event called SketchCrawl
a few years back and it is all about drawing for a full day around your city. So I was truly excited to have time to explore Venice with my trusty sketchbook. The whole book was drawn in pencil and watercolors in my sketchbook, I wanted that feel of "carnet de voyage". I was also trying to tell the story as facts happened around me, that is what I found exciting: trying to capture what was happening around me in real time. Of course it was sometime impossible, but when I was able it was pretty exhilarating.THE PULSE: What did your girlfriend's family think about your artwork and seeing themselves depicted in your works?
They loved it, they are a very "artsy" family. An architect and a painter/sculptor. In fact I bought Fabriano Sketchbooks (my favorites) for everybody and I dragged the whole family on a SketchCrawl day around Venice with me. Their wonderful drawings are in the book and so are my girlfriend's. They are very talented and they really became a big part of the adventure.THE PULSE: It must be cool to see your trip chronicled in such a way ... what inspired you to do this? Were you at all influenced by Tom Beland's True Story, Swear To God series?
I don't know Tom's work, but I'll sure look it up. Well I've done a few of these kind of autobiographical comics in the last few years. I self-published them in a couple of smaller books called "SketchCrawlings - Watercolors and comics of varying degrees of silliness". The first one I did was on one of those neat "24hours comic" day. I really enjoyed it and I caught the "autobiobug" that way. Links to these comics by the way can be found on my blog, they are (just as the Venice Chronicles) still available for reading in their entirety on the internet. They started as online comics that I shared on my blog
There is something really fun about sharing these comics as I make them, serializing them. But I also believe that reading and owning these as a book is a whole different experience. So I trust that readers, after having read part or the whole story online, might want to own the real thing.THE PULSE: I know I like having a book in print better than just having it available online. How did AdHouse get involved in the publication of this vacation?
I've known Chris Pitzer
and his wonderful AdHousebooks for a long while now (since the great Project Superior
anthology) and after self-publishing on my own for years I really thought I could use his help and expertise in getting this book out there. I also just love the way he goes about this business, it's more a labor of love than business for him. Lastly I'm good friends with Scott Morse
, he's got a couple of books coming out with AdHouse
this fall as well and we thought it'd be nice to have a presence on bookshelves together.THE PULSE: What were the challenges of making something like this? I mean, it's your trip, but obviously you couldn't include everything. How did you decide what to leave out?
Good question. Indeed I struggled through some parts when I was more emotionally removed from the material. It was Christmas time and I was trying to connect to the days of our Venetian summer ... not so easy. The way I got around that is making that struggle part of the comic. I tried to be transparent and say where I was with some of the material and whether I was blocked on some of these pages. That made it more fun and help me unblock myself more than a couple of times.THE PULSE: How did it feel when you saw the final version of the book and were able to read through it all in one collection?
I really like how the book turned out, the printer did a great job. At 144 pages with the nice hardcover it really has the nice heft I wanted. It wasn't easy to get the colors right, the paper I chose absorbed a lot of the color. So we had to do a couple of rounds of proofs to get the saturation and contrast right, but it paid off to take the extra time to get that right. Given there's always a moment in the first few minutes you look at the book you've worked so hard on in which you always find a couple of tiny things here and there that bug you, but that is something that happens to all of us ... a little perfectionism. Nobody would notice those things the designer might ... so I've been really happy with it. And I can say, given I just debuted the book this weekend at APE, that a lot of readers really like the look and feel of the book too. And yes I had to read through the advance copy I got it back from the printer, I couldn't help it.
THE PULSE: How was working on something like this different from your other comics?
Well the Venice Chronicles was done in part right on the spot, during the vacation in Italy and in part later once I was back home. I was drawing things around me as I saw them, I then filled in the missing parts of the trip during several months. It took a little while to finish it and I tried to make some of what was happening in my life after the trip also part of the book. So it was an interesting and certainly different way of working than I'd ever tried. The challenge was keeping connected with things that had happened several months before.THE PULSE: What did you do to reconnect or jog your memory of some of the things you forgot to catch on paper the first time around?
Mostly I'd look at photos to try and get my head in the right place. I'd also really try to make the present situation I was facing part of the retelling of the trip. So for example when I was a little blocked, I decided to make it part of the comic too. By talking about the block I slowly got started again and went back to Venice in my head.THE PULSE: It sounds like nice memories to have ... do you plan on chronicling future vacations or trips in this format?
I always carry my sketchbook and watercolors with me, so I'd certainly like to chronicle more travels. In fact I have a notebook of watercolors from a Japan trip I took a few years back I'd love to pull together for publishing. But not all trips make for compelling stories. The Japan trip for example would make a very different book, something closer to an actual carnet the voyage, with watercolors and maybe some thoughts in prose on the side. But yeah drawing what's around me is something I love to do, I'll hopefully be an old man still doing this.THE PULSE: I know your "day job" is with Pixar. What do you do for that group?
I am a story artist here. Been at Pixar for seven years. Worked on Ratatouille and in the last couple of years on the upcoming "Up". We're excited about that one, it's coming out next May. It's directed by Pete Docter (director of Monsters Inc) and we're almost done with it. At least on my end of things.THE PULSE: Very cool. What's "Up" about?
it's an unusual movie, it's about an old man (70 plus) and how he finds himself in the middle of an unlikely adventure in south America. They already have a website for it with a little teaser trailer. http://www.pixar.com/featurefilms/up/
it's been a lot of fun to work for Pete. It's a movie with a lot of heart. You'll see ...THE PULSE: How was APE? Did you have a lot of fun?
It was a lot of fun. I love APE, I like its size, I like the building (it's rustic) and I really like the kind of books and ware you can find at it. It was great to start hearing from some of the readers of Venice Chronicles too. It's really heart warming to hear the first impressions. You make these books but you never know what people might get out of it. Will they find it funny? Will they enjoy the story? More than a few friends and customers seemed to really enjoy it, so I am really happy with that.THE PULSE: What about other comic projects? What are you working on?
Well, there's a few different books I'd love to do, one is the Japan Carnet de Voyage I mentioned. I look forward to finishing that. The other project I'd love to get going again is The Adventures of Mia, a comic I left stranded at Issue 2 a few years ago. I still hear about it from some readers and they're right ... incidentally Mia has a tiny cameo in the Venice Chronicles.
But it's hard to tell exactly how much time I'll have on my hands, the day job often can require a lot of my time, I just wish we had 48 hours days. [laughs]
PULSE readers can get The Venice Chronicles directly from Enrico by visiting this link: http://enricocasarosa.com/wordpress.1/atelier-fio-bookstore/