The Q&A: Andres Vera Martinez

By Peggy Roalf   Monday September 25, 2017

Q: Originally from Austin, Texas what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Cape Elizabeth, Maine?

A: I was actually born in a small west Texas town named Lamesa but was moved to Austin when I was a few weeks old. I grew up there. The two towns couldn’t be more different.

I now live along the quaint, lighthouse-sprinkled rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. We have walking trails and scenic views right outside our doorstep. After renting apartments and studios in Brooklyn for 11 years, having a home and studio to call our own is great.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: I keep a sketchbook to flesh out ideas and write, but I make most of my finished work digitally from start to finish on a Cintiq tablet these days. It’s more for efficiency and conservation of paper and supplies since my graphic novel projects usually are 100 plus pages. I love the sound of brushes and pencils on paper but technology has gotten so advanced, being able to mimic any traditional medium, that it’s hard to justify using all that paper to complete my books.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: My collection of family photos, toys and books. They give me something to gaze at when I’m losing focus and need a short break.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: For me, personal projects are never finished until they become commercially viable. Some ideas make it to this point, many don't. When a personal project finds a publisher, or gets funded then deadlines are imposed and that is when it is finished.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: I loved the Chris Claremont Uncanny X-men run for Marvel Comics featuring Dave Cockrum, John Romita Jr, and sometimes Art Adams and Alan Davis as the illustrators. The mutants were outcasts, discriminated against and feared because of their power. Although most of the characters, and all of the creators were white, I found a connection to these stories as a young person. Coming from a mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry made us targets for white people’s discrimination and hate. Later as an adult I realized their anger and fear stemmed from knowing that we are predecessors of Texas culture, the cowboy culture, music, food and even language. I saw my family take that abuse many times growing up so through the fantasy of the Uncanny X-Men I suppose I found an escape. Plus, the art was awesome!

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a powerful book.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A:I’d go back to pen and ink. The stark black on white is so immediate and bold.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: My life as a husband and father keeps me grounded. I make breakfast for four every day, drop off and pick up the kids from school, homework, dinner, and bedtime. The routine gives me something I can count on and fills me with joy that I am counted on. This helps me find my footing to continue creating and to be creative since the process goes up and down and can be unpredictable.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: David Mazzucchelli was a big influence on me when I was deciding to focus on making comics as a career. He helped me understand that cartooning is a medium of expression such as painting, photography and film that can communicate complex ideas and also be entertaining. His short story, Big Man, has stuck with me. In just a few pages, it taught me how to give characters depth in words and pictures, build a believable world with fantasy elements in it, and weave together an impactful narrative. It’s amazing.

Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process?

A: After graduating from the SVA MFA Illustration program, I had to take various illustration jobs mainly to help pay the rent. I did work in editorial, TV, and advertising Illustration for a few years. Although the work was always fun and exciting, the content was never my own so I decided to initiate my own project. I wanted to produce and share something that was meaningful to me. I found a muse in my wife’s childhood stories. This led to making Little White Duck: A Childhood in China with her. We were surprised by the attention the book received and proud to see it in many classrooms, libraries and stores. This book helped me focus on creating the types of stories I enjoy telling and showed me that there is an audience that appreciates them.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Carne guisada, frijoles y arroz with a side of menudo, flour tortillas, and ice cold sweet tea.

Andrés Vera Martínez is a cartoonist and illustrator. He is the co-author of the graphic memoir,Little White Duck: A Childhood in China. Andrés is currently working with National Book Award winner Neal Shusterman on the graphic novel,Courage to Dreamfor Scholastic. His clients include The New York Times, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, CBS/Showtime, and ESPN. Andrés’ work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3x3, Junior Library Guild, Slate Cartoonist Studio, School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, NPR, and The New York Times.

He will be at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus(CXC), September 29-Oct 1, tableing and also participating on a panel:Creators of Color & Industry. In April hewill participate in MoCCA fest 2018 in New York City.



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