I’ve decided to make this spotlights series a way of discovering new talent for myself. It’s incredible, the amount of female creators I just wasn’t aware of, and I’m ridiculously glad we’re doing this, as it’s giving me a chance to expand my horizon and let everyone else know about some amazing women out there in the comic world.
Today, we’re spotlighting Carolyn Belefski, creator of the webcomic Curls!
I’ve been skimming Curls for the past few days, and I kind of love it. There’s a fine line between cutesy and artistic that most webcomic creators have to skirt, and Carolyn does it well. I especially love Applause the fish.
Carolyn was awesome enough to answer our questions, so read on for those!
How did you get into comics?
From a very young age I gravitated to art, specifically cartoons and animation. One of my earliest influences was Chuck Jones and the Looney Tunes cartoons. I was always making art of some sort and started drawing my own comics and creating characters by fourth grade. When I was younger, My Little Pony, Barbie Fashion, and Disney’ Fluppy Dogs were what got me into drawing and creating cartoons. I studied fine art and illustration in high school and got a BFA degree in Communication Design from Virginia Commonwealth University. My college experience also lead me to re-discover comic strips because the school newspaper was looking a cartoonist and I applied for the gig. My comic strip, Curls, begin in print and was published twice a week in The Commonwealth Times. After graduation I attended my first comic convention, Small Press Expo. I volunteered for the event so I could get in for free, not knowing what to expect and urged to go by a friend in my art classes. After seeing all the amazing books and talking to the exhibitors at SPX, I got determined to take comics to a higher level. I started working more in-depth with writer Joe Carabeo and we both feel creating characters and telling their stories is a main focus in our lives. Our hard work has lead us to exhibit at conventions like New York Comic Con, Baltimore Comic-Con, SPX, Philadelphia Alternative Comic Con, and more.
Tell us a bit about the projects you’ve worked on.
I create the comic strip, Curls, which can be read online at www.curls-studio.com/curls. I also work with writer Joe Carabeo on the comic books, Kid Roxy, Black Magic Tales, and The Legettes. Curls is about a gal with mitten hands who goes about her everyday life while getting into adventurous situations. Curls’s friends include a life-sized slice of bread named Toast of the Town; a Siamese fighting fish named Applause who is a boxing champion in the waterweight division; and Turtle Neck, a turtle who likes to wear turtlenecks. From fishing expeditions, to mad scientists experiments, Curls and her pals challenge themselves individually and as a team to live each day to it’s fullest. Kid Roxy and Black Magic Tales are sister books to each other featuring the story of twin sisters starting with 8th grade adolescence in Kid Roxy and transforming to the life of career criminals as Roxy Monroe and her partner Dean Casanova try to become the most famous people on Earth in Black Magic Tales. The Legettes is a Blade Runner meets Cabaret inspired story of a dark and dangerous future where analog and digital fight to the level of universal war where humanity’s only hope become a group of burlesque dancers who try to save the universe. I also created Sketch Before Sleep, where I did a digital sketch every day for a full year. In addition to comics projects, I also take on freelance design and illustration projects.
What is your favourite work that you’ve done so far?
I can not select a specific favorite work that I’ve done, but I can say that Curls is probably my most well-known work. Most likely because it has been around the longest, as well as having a fan base since college. It updates twice a week, so I think it has the possibility of getting in front of more eyes based on multiple times of visibility and online accessibility. In 2010, Curls was nominated for a Friends of Lulu award to recognize cartooning for and by women, so I feel like that project has gotten more support.
Did you ever get advice about the field that you’d like to pass on?
My recommendation would be to draw and write everyday. Even it’s it’s just one tiny idea or a small 15 minute sketch. It gets you in the mood to work each day and progress rather than have you vision on hold. David Lapham has also said, “don’t be a hermit.” The way I view it is you can draw and write all you want, but if you aren’t getting out to show your work and meet people then no one knows who you are and you’re just working hunched over in your basement. In 2011, Curls Studio will be at the upcoming Philadelphia Alternative Comic Con (August 14), Baltimore Comic-Con (August 20-21), Small Press Expo (September 10-11), Intervention (September 16-18) and New York Comic Con in Artist Alley (October 13-16). We hope to be able to meet you answer your questions and give you advice in-person. There is also some helpful guidance from last year’s NYCC panel I organized called “The Other Side of the Table: Lessons from Creators.” The panel features Jimmy Palmiotti, Carla Speed McNeil, Bryan J.L. Glass, Raina Telgemeier, Joe Carabeo, and myself and can be viewed on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3j50D1gZMoc
What is your favourite thing to write or draw?
From situations to characters to themes, anything goes. Animals of all kinds are my favorite things to draw. I specifically like turtles and also like to draw puffy or wavy textures. I also like to draw facial expressions to show emotion. I feel like I’ve really progressed with the eyebrow lines in my characters over the past year and they’ve become much more dimensional because of this. It is amazing to me how one line or one stroke can completely change the character’s mood. To me, making sure the art fully represents the character’s feelings and their interactions with the cast is very important.
In an ideal world, in what direction would you like to see your project evolve?
First off, our goal is to get the books Curls Studio publishes in as many hands as possible. Ideally my life goal is to have at least one of my characters become a giant ballon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and become larger-than-life and stroll down the streets of New York City. I would love to see that happen and the visual I have in my head of the balloon is amazing, so whatever leads up to that level, I’d be interested in achieving. At the same time, I’m very much interested in retaining rights to the characters I create. Step by step, I’d enjoy seeing my projects advance and evolve to higher levels and growing the fan base.
Production Blog: http://www.curls-studio.blogspot.com
Curls Comic Strip: http://www.curls-studio.com/curls
Sketch Before Sleep: http://www.curls-studio.com/sketchbeforesleep
Carolyn & Joe Show Podcast: http://carolynandjoeshow.wordpress.com
Etsy Store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/cartooncarolyn
Thank you to Dee and Girls Read Comics Too crew for this “Spotlight on Women in Comics” feature. I’d like to say that if you like something as a reader or fan, please tell others. Word-of-mouth really matters when it comes to independent artists, writers, and creators. It is always meaningful to me when someone links to my work or tells a pal. This is the way our work grows. Never be ashamed to be proud of the things you like! Also please visit curls-studio.com to find out the latest info on our comic convention tour, listen to our podcast called The Carolyn & Joe Show, purchase items from the Curls Studio store, and read the Curls comic strip. We thank you in advance for checking out Curls Studio!