Disambiguation and Exploding Wrists; an Interview with Vincent Stall
Comics deal with symbolism, drawings and words // ideas and things; this brain muck gets boiled down to cores. I can’t say I understand the purpose of art to any pinpointed exclusitivity, nor life for that matter. With that said, I do like seeing personal works come together — especially when they are removed from their more capitalistic counterparts. This is something that attracted Justin and I to signing up Vincent Stall’s “Things You Carry” on the 2dc docket late last year. Vincent’s gorgeous brush work and his unique, evolved take on narrative are what really got us excited that he was offering this new work to 2d Cloud.
Dealing with wordless personal works or art comics at large, deciphering them is like de-coding a puzzle. Constructing some kind of key-gen for the work is part of the pleasure, even if the meaning is not what the artist intended. Was this something that you desired for “Things You Carry”? Having the work be open to interpretation?
I’m not exactly sure when it happened but at some point I wanted the stories to emote a feeling rather than tell a specific story. The first story that I remember being conscious of this strategy was “Just Like That” for the anthology Rosetta. I wanted the enviorment to inform the story just as much as the dialogue and characters did, if not more. It worked as a story but the character was still front and center and the narrative followed a standard beginning, middle, and end. I kept working out this idea of a breathing world that culminated in a planned book for Top Shelf titled “Brass Tacks”. I had finished the pencil[s] and began inking the book when the perfect storm of personal failure, birth, death and a shit ton of confusion about it all hit. I was mentally depleted and every time I tried to work on pages I would end up getting overcome by all the personal baggage that the book had now unfairly come to represent. I was stuck and though not conscious of it at the time I walked away from a real world and ended up in Canyon Land, which became the foundation for “Things You Carry”. In the end the book was a way to spend time with my father and get past it all.
This is a long way around the block to answer the question but yes I was making a book that I hoped people would invest themselves in and find meaning for themselves regardless of my personal thoughts on the work.
How important to you is it whether the reader understands the work or what you intended? And if it is not important, what is the purpose of the work to you as an artist?
I certainly don’t want the reader to reach the end and say “huh”, but I also don’t want to lay out every thing and say here you go this is what you should think, this is how you should feel. I’ve reached a point in my life, my career where the sole reason to work is to work. It’s about getting lost in the panels, getting lost in the process and bringing the idea to life —it is pretty magical to me. Now I’m not above saying that I don’t enjoy any attention that comes with a published book but it isn’t what motivates me to make shit.
While I feel that, with some works, having the artist divulge too much can dispel some of the magic of discovery, it can also add something unique; a compass. When it comes to drudging around in artists heads they are pretty handy to have. For example, I remember hearing about Joshua Cotter’s Driven by Lemons; reading his interview on Robot 6. I wouldn’t say it was vital for one to read that interview prior to the book, but it added an interesting dimension to the work. Did you ever consider having a personal artist statement for the book be an actual part of the book?
For some, it might be helpful if there was a personal statement included in the book, but I felt strongly that it would have overshadowed the book as an experience. Since the books publication I have been asked to talk about the book and though it still makes me uncomfortable I realize that it helps frame the story for some. That being said I think it works well in a conversation but I’m not sure that it would be a[s] successful, [were it] delivered in a printed statement.
With having your solo show at CO exhibitions last year, how was it different in having this large physical space versus the comic book? What do you feel are some of the strengths of the two mediums, gallery versus comic book?
The gallery show was a chance to play with texture, sound, smells, and physical space in a way that would never be possible in a book. Smelling the piles of wood, being overshadowed by the sculptures all helped to create a physical representation of Canyon Land. The experience was bigger than the viewer so it felt much more theatrical. The down side to all this is that at some point the show comes down and that’s it.
What I have always liked about comics [is] how it will get out into the world and have a life all its own. It will be shared and reread at different times, you might outgrow the work itself but it gets to be part of you. There are important books to me personally and as we have all aged it is interesting how initial love for the surface of the books has grown into an understanding of why I like them.
In a 2008 interview on the Daily Crosshatch you were asked about some of your favorite things and you mentioned those little L’association books being a major influence on your work. I was wondering if you would care to elaborate?
The L’assocaiton pamphlets as well as early BULB publications were not so much an influence on the work, as they were on the mechanics and design potential of a pamphlet. They were more like [a] chap book than mini comics and their size made production affordable in [a] time before cheap laser and Gocco printers were available. The value to me was having finished books, it closes the circle on the creative process and makes it real.
I while back I came across that Gene Deitch animated adaption of The Hobbit. It’s probably a bit of a bastardization of the work, but it is damn gorgeous, thrown together in a crazy short amount of time. Have you this short? With your work at Puny Entertainment, have you ever considered throwing an interactive version of “Things You Carry” out in to the world? I am thinking something along the lines of the work down at Amanita Design like Machinarium or the their film Kooky, which they also made a children’s book companion to as well.
I’m not sure how compelling this would be as a game, unless the goal was to not be bothered by anyone and just wander around and discover things.
Quite some time has elapsed from when I was first composing this interview. On a separate occasion we chatted about some very interesting connections to Journey by thatgamecompany — but to avoid getting side tracked entirely, I can be succinct and just say, Vincent has been busy. Recent comics that vaguely fit in to his new narrative stylings post-TYC are projects like “Drifting Weightless“ (self published), and “Structure 12-23“ (an Uncivilized release). Please check those titles out (as well as “Things You Carry”, of course).
Thanks for spanning time with us Vincent!!
Right up until Vincent Stall’s wrist explodes, Vincent will be offering an original sketch inside your copy gratis. For specifics, order direct from the 2d Cloud online shop. And if you missed out by ordering elsewhere or buying the book at a show or shop, send King Mini a note and proof and he will make good. Act fast though, exploding wrists can happen at any juncture.