BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Carolyn Belefski told THE PULSE, "I'm inspired by what is around me," when asked what was the genesis of her eclectic webcomics series, Curls
. She's been drawing as long as she can remember and created the strip when she was a student at Virginia Commonwealth University
. Although she's stuck in the grind of a nine to five-ish day job, she still creates funny, webcomic strips. And she likes turtles. So I had to talk to her about her hopes, dreams and turtles! THE PULSE: A lot of our readers will be meeting you for the first time in this interview, so for those who don't know much about you, what makes Carolyn Belefski tick?
I'm inspired by what is around me. My interests: comics, animals, design, movies, pop culture ... come across in the comics I make. I like to commentate on the positive and negative things in a creative outlet. Everyone is surrounded by good and bad things. I try to take the good, the bad, make a big mix of it to move on. That's what keeps me going and makes me tick. Taking what you have and making something out of it. Otherwise I have nothing if I'm not creating.THE PULSE: So how did you channel that spirit and energy into webcomics, out of everything you could have used to represent yourself?
When I create comics, I create a world. The characters are my friends, and they represent and entertain me. Hopefully others can connect to them as well. The stories are very character-driven. Sure, there are creative outlets other than comics and multiple ways to represent yourself, but with comics everything feels larger, and it feels right and comfortable to me. I have been drawing comics ever since I can remember, so in a way I feel like the characters discovered me. One of my earliest memories is drawing and watching Bugs Bunny
.THE PULSE: Did you go to art school or have any formal training? Do you work in the arts as a "day job"?
I went to Virginia Commonwealth University
for a BFA in Communication Arts and Design and graduated in 2004. While at VCU, Curls
was published twice a week in the student newspaper, The Commonwealth Times
. That was when my comics really began to take shape and I realized it was something I could share with people. I have been working full-time as a graphic designer since graduation, and do comicsm and go to conventions in my free time.
Comics satisfy my creative urges.THE PULSE: So what is Curls? It's not about your hair, is it?
Curls is a gal who hangs out with a life-sized slice of toast and some adorable animals. She has a flipped hairstyle, so that could explain the curls, but it's her name, not her hair! Curls and the gang do lots of fun activities together like science experiments on brains, fishing, or going on vacation to the beach. The toast's name is Toast of the Town and he has two punched out holes for his eyes and a giant smile made of jelly. Other characters include: Pitter Patter (penguin), Turtle Neck (turtle), Conehead (bird with ice cream cone on head), and Applause (Siamese fighting fish). The best place to find us is online at http://curls-studio.blogspot.com
or visit our table at the conventions and exhibits we attend.THE PULSE: That is one eclectic group! Who or what influenced your creation of the cast?
For one thing, I've always had a love for turtles, so that probably influenced me. When I was younger they held turtle races at Burke Lake Park, and my parents always encouraged me to play outside and appreciate nature. I trained box turtles in backyard with soccer cones and created obstacle courses for them. They are the fastest turtles in Northern Virginia! Applause is an actual fish I used to own. I used to joke that he is a champion fighter in the waterweight division, and from there he became a character in Curls. The birds I enjoy because they have the ability to fly and see things from a different perspective. Pitter Patter can't fly, but always dreams of having that capability. In one episode, he makes a penguin kite so he could fly it. I think he is also standing on a cupcake or something while flying it. That's a tasty launch site.THE PULSE: How long have you been working on Curls? What prompted you to create that comic strip for The Commonwealth Times?
I started doing comics for them in 2002, but most of the early strips didn't have recurring characters or storylines. They were commentaries on what was happening on campus (MTV filming a homecoming special) or global news events (searching for Osama bin Laden). Seeing an ad for cartoonists encouraged me to submit a handful of strips and they accepted me. The early strips did not have a name, but Curls
was most likely created in August of 2003. From then on, I've been adding on as I see fit by creating new adventures and characters. Curls got to meet Dave Navarro
and make Carmen Electra
jealous early on in her career.
She'll no doubt be running into more celebrities in the future.THE PULSE: So are you a comic book fan? Or more comic strip person?
Both. Recently I've been reading Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures of the 8th Grade, The Umbrella Academy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
, and Green Arrow/ Black Canary
when Cliff Chiang
illustrated it. I like the work of Amanda Conner, Bruce Timm, Tim Sale
, and Darwyn Cooke
. As far as the strips go, I do not read newspapers as often as I should. The current climate for newspapers is very sad and depressing. I stumbled upon a collection of Will Eisner's The Spirit Magazine
last week and purchased all the issues they had available from a small comic store. I feel like comic strips had their glory days awhile back. We need to bring them back to the forefront of our culture. Short and sweet. Comic strips have the ability of Twitter. The economy of words and shortage of space is what writing for comics revolves around.THE PULSE: What kind of challenges do you face working on your strip? Is it something that comes really easy to you or do you fret over things?
The characters are easy to get along with and I constantly think of things for them to do and have notebooks full of ideas and lists. It is challenging to work a full day with commute and also do comics on the side in my free time at night. I wish my comics didn't have to be treated like a side dish because I'd prefer to have them as the main course. Of course I need to focus on this becoming a reality and I think that is my struggle. So when I go home tonight, I will think MAIN COURSE! It's amusing to me that my actions outside of my day job are harder than my paying job. It's very backwards! I am still looking to find a better balance of work/life relations and time management with myself.THE PULSE: Do you have any collected editions of Curls?
I have four Curls books available on my Etsy site (http://cartooncarolyn.etsy.com
). The College Years collects some strips from my time at VCU. The Printable Brain and The Booga Fish each contain 24 strips dealing with those storylines and work well in a book format together. Applause: The Fighting Fish is a set of ten strips devoted to Applause. I want to publish a collected edition of every strip soon. There are over 200 Curls strips in my archives.THE PULSE: How did you decide the art style for Curls?
The art style has always been an evolution. I like the bold outline force field. In the past year I've been experimenting a lot with brush pens. I feel less rigid and more loose with brush pens. The brush pen lets me flow more and enjoy the movements. I've also been open to trying different pen widths for variation and a thick and thin line. I feel like there is a definite progression with my work that's very noticeable. My work is a zillion times better than it was a few years ago. I just gotta keep going with it. It can only get better.THE PULSE: Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
Ideally, I'd like to focus full-time on Curls Studio by creating comics and materials relating to the characters. For example, I've already designed a handmade Toast of the Town doll (check it here
). I'd like to build a base audience that is interested in the Curls comic strip and also love Curls so much that they'd be supportive of other ventures, such as animation and merchandise. The comic strip comes first, but I'm also attracted to creating a Curls world off the computer screen or the printed page. I'd like to have Curls be more consistent so I can build that audience and really amp up participation with the fans. This is something I have to work on this year and toward the future. My all time life goal is to have one of my characters become a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. To me, that is the pinnacle of appeal to becoming a cartoon icon. The characters in the balloons are used for years and years and are literally larger-than-life. The goal is to live forever.THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?
Kid Roxy, Black Magic Tales, and The Legettes are three comic book properties I share with writer Joe Carabeo. Kid Roxy and Black Magic Tales are companion books that start with the innocence of 8th grade and continue toward a life of crime, as the lead characters become career criminals. So it's exciting to see how that transforms on books that are parallel to each other. We go from the guiltless to the lawlessness.
The Legettes is a series that will premiere at Small Press Expo in September. The Legettes is a burlesque group in the dark and dangerous future where analog and digital are at constant war and everything we were ever afraid of has happened. While not on stage, The Legettes work as super secret spies who dream of changing the world. We put out a Sneak Peek #0 which features character sketches and profiles along with an interview and five page story in February at New York Comic Con and it did very well! I am pumped about The Legettes because it's something different. It's sexy and dynamite.