Jamar Nicholas, a cartoonist and graphic novelist from Philadelphia, PA, kicks off his third decade of making comics with us by talking about his analog storytelling arsenal. Back in 1997, Jamar began self-publishing comics to an email list of approximately 100 people – today, his comic strip Detective Boogaloo (printed in Metro) has roughly 4 million readers a month. With all of his time spent drawing comics, editing drafts, illustrating and adapting stories, Jamar never gets tired of good old paper and pen.
SSC: So, what's your story? Tell us a little about what you do, your day job, and your creative projects that make you who you are.
NICHOLAS: I am a cartoonist and comic artist who is celebrating 20 years in the field this year! At day, I am the manager of a University Art Gallery on the east coast, and at night (and all time in-between) I work on projects or teach college courses on illustration, sequential art, and/or writing for comic books. I may be most famously known for my web and newspaper comic strip, Detective Boogaloo: Hip Hop Cop, and for adapting and illustrating educator Geoffrey Canada's memoir, Fist Stick Knife Gun.
SSC: Tell us a little bit about your stationery origin story. When did you realize that paper was more than just paper?
NICHOLAS: When I was super young my cousin would create military 'wars' on really cheap oak tag paper, something that my aunt (who was a teacher) would bring home from her classroom. I could never get the same feel when I drew on other paper—but right then, I knew that certain paper had a say in how your mark-making took place. Luckily for me, my mother was a commercial artist and taught me all about paper and why different types mattered. I've been a paper snob ever since.
SSC: What are some interesting ways in which you use analog writing/art/creativity tools to tell your story?
NICHOLAS: One thing that's vital to me in laying out comic book pages, is the middle-step of roughing out a page on 11x17" cheap copy paper. When I draw comics traditionally, I use 11x17" bristol illustration board, but working 'at size' on copy paper first let's me envision how my finished page will look without the visual guesswork of working from thumbnails does.
SSC: What's in your bag or on your desk right now? What's a typical Everyday Carry for you?
NICHOLAS: Right now, on my drawing board I have rough layouts for my graphic novel, Leon: Protector of the Playground. In my bag is an unruled composition book that I keep sketches and daily notes in. I brought a case of them awhile back and have been working through them. For writing and sketching, fine Pentel Uni-Vision black pens, and Paper Mate Sharpwriter mechanical pencils. The rest of my life is maintained on my Blackberry Passport Silver Edition. I catch some flak for being a Blackberry user, but that's their problem!
SSC: Walk us through your typical creative process?
NICHOLAS: If I'm working with a writer, I usually print the story script on 11 x 14" legal copy paper so I can make teeny thumbnail notes on the pages as I go through it. As I stated earlier, at some point I get to my rough stage on 11 x 17" copy paper, where, after that, I'll scan it into the computer, convert the line art to blue lines, and print on Bristol board. Then, I’ll ink with a brush, or a mix of brush pens, technical pens, and whatever else I can find that will make a satisfying line. If I'm working digital, I use Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint on my Cintiq tablet and avoid a ton of steps. If I can though, I like working traditionally as much as possible.
SSC: Okay, obligatory "desert island" question. You only get to have one paper and pen/pencil combination for the rest of your stationery using days, what's it going to be?
NICHOLAS: That's tough! If we're dealing with comics, a Canson Fanboy comic board, blue Col-erase pencils, and a nice Windsor-Newton #0 brush, with some Dr. P.H. Martin Bombay Black Ink.