Patt Kelley

Interviewed in March of 2016 by John Cardinal

PATT KELLEY

Hometown: Norwell, MA    |   Current town: Dorchester, MA    |   Website: CLICK HERE

 

1. Patt, Tell us a little about where you’re from or where you grew up… and does it influence the type of art you’ve found yourself making?

I grew up in a suburb on the south shore of Boston. I was raised primarily by my mother who was a school teacher. She instilled in me the importance of Stephen King and Gary Larson in one’s life. My father was a bipolar alcoholic so that made things interesting. I think part of my coping mechanism in dealing with that was to retreat into myself and draw and write stories. 


2. You studied art at Mass college of art. Were you always interested in being a cartoonist? Was your style similar/same at that time, and if so how was your work received? What was the culture like there?

There’s video of me somewhere at like eight years old saying that I wanted to be a cartoonist or a professional wrestler. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would later grow up to be a total wimp, so the wrestler thing never panned out.

My style evolved over time. I used to do more realistic work. I’d look at pictures and try to reproduce them in graphite. It got boring. Being able to reproduce a photo takes a lot of skill but not much imagination. I turned to more of a cartoon style in college and then the two met somewhere in the middle and I’ve been just slowly working at refining it from there.
My work was received well at MassArt… I suppose. I was the quiet anxiety ridden kid in the back of the classroom for most of my college experience, so I think I missed out on a lot. 


3. Your style is energetic, expressive, elastic, and funny. Your weekly single panel strip “What’s for breakfast?” has always reminded me of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side.” Who would you say are your biggest artistic influences? Bonus question: How many more strips would you have to complete before I could buy a “What’s for breakfast?” daily desk calendar?

Yup, Gary Larson! Huge influence on me! I remember hearing my mother laugh every week reading the Sunday paper, and knew she’d gotten to the comics section and the Far Side. Even though I didn’t always understand the jokes way back then, I marveled at the power of a single panel comic strip to evoke an audible laughter week after week.

I’ve been doing WFB? For 267 weeks now. So I’ve got a little under a hundred to go before a full year desk calendar.

As far as other influences through my life there are way too many to mention. I had a really dope art teacher in high school who inspired me and honestly seemed to believe in me and what I was doing artistically. That was a huge motivation, and a big part of why I’m doing what I’m doing today. 

I was a weird kid. I used to look at books of dinosaurs with beautiful and elaborate paintings of brachiosaurus and dimetrodons. Hunches of what they might’ve looked like. I was in awe! Picture books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett and The Afternoon Cat by Pierre Le Tan. I was really into Garbage Pail Kids growing up and I loved Ren and Stimpy. When my friends were buying X-Men and Batman comics I was buying issues of Dark Horse Presents with Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man in it. I discovered indie comics Clowes, Burns, Tomine and my mind was blown! I guess what I do is an amalgam of all of those things, plus so many more.


4. Along with being an amazing illustrator you are also a great writer. “The Abridged History Of A Moon,” “Parasitic Twin,” and your latest “Fedor” are just a few of the titles you’ve tackled single-handedly. What’s your process like for coming up with new stories? Do you start with the visuals and fill in the dialogue as you go? Do you have a full script? … etc

Right now I’ve got 2-3 different books/stories rattling around in my head and existing as little notes in my phone and various sketchbooks. I let them grow and evolve until I come up with the linchpin idea that pulls everything together into a cohesive story. From there I write a script.
I imagine most of my stories as movies. I write a script with stage directions and camera shots and don’t deal with anything visual until the script is done. I’ll then thumbnail and move straight into the final version. I don’t do a lot of character design, usually no more than 2-3 sketches. I figure by the time I have a finished script I’ll know inside and out who the characters are, what they look like and the places they inhabit. 


5. A couple of years ago I came across your work on Etsy. I instantly fell in love with your work and ordered every book you had at the time. I didn’t realize we lived in the same state, let alone both so close to Boston. How much do you think sites like Etsy, Hire an Illustrator, Deviantart, and social media have changed the game for modern illustrators? 

That’s awesome! Didn’t even realize you’d bought stuff through Etsy! Thanks!
Social media has given anyone who makes art a platform to get seen, to put their art into the world. I’ve had a lot of opportunities, met a lot of other artists, and gotten jobs that never would’ve happened without it. 

It’s a lot of work, though. I see other comic artists tweeting like 30-40 times a day and wonder how in the hell they get any work done at all. With thousands of artists all waving their virtual hands in the air trying to get anyone at all to look at what they’re doing, it’s almost a full-time job just to stay relevant.  That’s the downside of it for me. I just want to draw pictures and write stories, but I have to post everything I do on Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram and Twitter. I’ve all but abandoned Flickr and Deviantart and etc. There’s only so much time in the day. As a thirty five year old curmudgeon every time I issue a tweet I want to vomit everywhere, but I swallow it back and keep on pushing.


6. Top Shelf recently released your book “What Am I Going to Do Without You?” digitally. Can you tell us a little about how that project came about, and a little about the book itself?

I’m really proud of that book. I had this idea of three kids finding a dead dinosaur in the woods rolling around in my head for a year or so before I wrote it. I wanted the dinosaur to be the backdrop for the real stories going on in that world. I didn’t want scenes of scientists or news reports, the action hero saving the girl just before the meteor shower hits. I wanted to focus on the people in their everyday sad, scary, funny lives. 

I finished the book and shopped it around to different publishers. Top Shelf offered to put it out digitally and I was psyched for the opportunity. Top Shelf puts out great books and I was happy to be a part of that. 


7. Your work spans a wide variety of subjects: Sideshow Freaks, Aliens, Monsters, Wizards, and Farts. What’s a subject that you haven’t had the chance to tackle yet? What’s next for you?

God, what’s left? One of the ideas I’ve got ruminating is a love story that involves time. It’s not fully baked yet, but I’m sure that’ll happen in the near future. Currently, I’m working on Scout #2. It’s a story about a girl who fights monsters and a guy who lives in a hole in the ground with the last dog in the world. The first one came out a while ago. Hoping to have the new one out by June.


8. Your workplace or studio; “complete and total disaster” or “super organized?" 

It varies. It’s not bad now. It’s a larval stage mess right now. I’ll probably clean it up when it becomes a pupa.


9. Please give us an artist you think our readers should know more about? Anyone, we should shine a bright spotlight on in a future volume of Chroma?

Three of my favorite local creators are Ansis Purins, Jesse Lonergan, and Jerel Dye. They’ve been putting out really great work for years. There are so many awesome comic artists in the city, way too many to mention. MICE is an awesome event that happens every year in Cambridge and is a great place to discover Boston and beyond indie comic artists who do amazing things.


10. Post-apocalyptic future… TV doesn’t exist anymore. In a last ditch effort to preserve the past you pick a TV show and draw every episode you can remember. What is that show, and please say X-Files or Knight Rider.

X-Files would definitely be great, there are so many good episodes!! I would however probably go with Lost. People complain about the ending of the show, but I’m fine with it. I re-watch the series every couple of years. I’m a total follower of the church of John Locke.