Graphic novelist and illustrator Gareth Hinds (garethhinds.com) was a guest faculty member at Gather: A Community Retreat for Published Authors and Illustrators.
Gareth started out self-publishing. When his book Beowulf took off in the educational market, Candlewick Press offered to republish it. Since then, he’s created many critically-acclaimed graphic novels based on literary classics including King Lear (which Booklist named one of the top 10 graphic novels for teens), The Merchant of Venice (which Kirkus called “the standard that all others will strive to meet” for Shakespeare adaptation), The Odyssey (which garnered four starred reviews and a spot on ten “best of 2010” lists), and his newest, The Iliad. Gareth is a recipient of the Boston Public Library’s “Literary Lights for Children” award.
In a Teaching Books guest blog post, Gareth writes: “Drawing a graphic novel is a bit like making a film–on your own. The artist becomes the writer, director, production crew, costume designer, art director, location scout, cinematographer, the special effects team, the actors, and the editor.” (See full post here.)
As our guest on the blog today, Gareth answered five questions about his creative process.
What are some discoveries you’ve made around your own artistic process?
Gareth: For me, process is really the key to the work. It affects the results at every stage, and it defines the experience of creating the work. For good or ill, I tend to reinvent my materials and methods for the finished art for every new project — I’m always trying to improve my process and also trying to achieve specific new effects that the previous style didn’t do well. As I explore that, I both learn and grow, which is great, and spend a lot of time not producing pages, which is less great.
Can you identify a time when you made a creative leap? What were the factors that contributed to that stretch?
Gareth: When I encounter a scene that is particularly hard to tell in a straightforward way, unusual solutions emerge. Pretty much all my best pages — the ones that are most striking or that do things you couldn’t really do in any other medium — come from having to solve a really difficult narrative problem.
Does fear interact with your creativity? If so, is it friend or foe?
Gareth: I think fear (specifically fear of failure) is a stage in a regular cycle creators go through as part of the creative process, and while it feels more like foe than friend at the time, I think it’s just part of the process, to be expected and weathered. As a component of self-criticism, it can be a barrier to producing/finishing projects, but can also be a helpful or maybe even a necessary ingredient for pushing yourself to do your best work.
Is there one thing you have to remind yourself over and over again? (Why do you suppose that is?)
Gareth: Leave some breathing room in the story. I’m always trying to convey a lot of information in very little space, and it’s easy for that to lead to an overcrowded page. Often the pause, the silent panel where almost nothing is happening, can be the most powerful moment in a scene. But it’s hard to remember that when you’re trying to cover a lot of material and keep the page count from ballooning out of control.
Our workshop is all about taking our art to new places. In what way would you like to grow as a writer/artist? What would constitute a breakthrough for you?
Gareth: I’d like to explore different possibilities for picture book illustration and maybe reinvent my portfolio(s) for work that’s in a different vein or format from my graphic novels. I’d also like to get a better handle on writing for younger kids (younger than my current audience, which is roughly 10 and up). I’m really looking forward to learning from everyone else’s experiences, struggles and solutions!