Artist in Residence: Paul Karasik

Find out what the Island’s cartoonist is up to this winter

For many Islanders, Paul Karasik needs no introduction. They know him as the man whose clever cartoons grace the pages of "Edible Vineyard" and many other Island publications.

However, many Islanders who know Karasik, may not know that he’s as acclaimed a cartoonist as he his. Not only has his work appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times, his graphic novel Paul Auster’s City of Glass (with David Mazzuchelli), was named by The Comics Journal as one of the “Best Comics of the 20th Century” and The Ride Together, a Memoir of Autism in the Family, (written with his sister, Judy) was chosen by the Autism Society of America as the “Best Literary Work of the Year.” Karasik also edited two books collecting the complete works of cartoonist Fletcher Hanks. The first volume, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets, received an Eisner Award in 2008.

In addition, Karasik has served as Board President and Development Director of the , of which he is a Founder. He is an adjunct professor at The Rhode Island School of Design, and has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, the Scuola di Comics Internazionale in Italy, and the European School of Visual Arts in Angouleme, France.

We caught up with Karasik, who recently returned from an international cartoonist meeting in Angouleme, France.

What have you been working on this winter?

I am on the home stretch of a 3-year book project with fellow cartoonist, Mark Newgarden. "How To Read Nancy" is a textbook on the language of comics through the deconstruction of a single "Nancy" comic strip from August 8, 1959. Everything that you need to know about making, reading, understanding comics is hidden within this single vintage comic strip.

What is your favorite tool to draw with?

I am very old-fashioned when it comes to drawing tools. I like a soft Ebony-brand pencil for my gag cartoons, pen and ink for longer work. I am very new-fashioned when it comes to refining work, and use Photoshop on occasion, when, for instance, I give a character too many eyes or not enough arms.

What makes you most excited about your new work?

To be finished with the darn thing! I thought that I would have been finished with this book a year and a half ago, but the deconstruction of this strip is like an endlessly peelable zen onion. With each layer comes new revelations to unfold, new dead alleys to crawl down, and new deadlines to miss.

How long have you lived on Martha’s Vineyard year round and why do you stay?

My wife, the artist, Marsha Winsryg, and I took a one-year sabbatical from our teaching jobs in Brooklyn and moved to the Vineyard. That was 22 years ago. We both had long ties to the island and felt that this was the right place to raise our family.

What about this Island inspires you?

I love going to work each day at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School. I am the part-time Development Director, but am constantly impressed by the enthusiasm, invention and conviviality of the students and faculty of the school. The administrators with whom I work are inspiring in their devotion to the school and they are a lot of fun to be with. Plus, the new chef is awesome.

How long does it take you to complete one drawing?

Some drawings take only minutes. Some drawings take months of sweat to make them look as though they took only minutes. 

Where is your favorite place to go for breakfast on Island?

My kitchen. If I am on the road, though, it is hard to beat the Scottish Bakehouse breakfast sandwich and coffee.

What kind of music do you listen to when you draw?

Like I said, I use old-fashioned materials. To go along with that, I generally listen to old-fashioned music. I like pop, jazz, and blues music from the 1920s and 30s. I know that many other cartoonists of my generation gravitate to music from the decades preceding their birth. Odd but true.

You recently went off Island to an international cartoonist meeting in Angouleme, France…what was that like?

Here on the Vineyard, people know me primarily as the Charter School guy. When I go to teach or appear at one of these comics festivals abroad, people know me for my comics work, which has been widely translated. It's weird to have these two different identities.

You can read all about how weird it is on my (infrequently updated) blog.

Michael West February 07, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Interesting portrait of a really interesting artist.


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