Interview with Kat Fajardo

Gabriela: "Oh, hi there, dear POME reader! Today we'll be talking about making comics with cartoonist Kat Fajardo. Kat, what was your first contact with comics?"
Kat:" I guess my first contact was when I was growing up and reading manga when I was in middle school. That was like my introduction to comics outside of Archie comics. My older sister had a bunch of Archie comics that she would pass down to me and I would read that."
Kat: "I went to a high school for art and i was training to become a fine artist. I did sculptures, paintings, but I didn't really come across anything I really liked. After school, I would hang out at bookstores just to pass the time, and I came across Jaime Hernandez's work, Love and Rockets, and I just fell in love. There was some sort of familiarity, I saw myself in those characters as a queer Latinx. That was my introduction to more indie, alternative, adult comics and from there on I decided to become a cartoonist. I loved reading comics, I definitely wanted to do this as a career. So I went to study cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York."
Gabriela: "It's funny you should mention Love and Rockets, because I interviewed other artists, Like Breena Nuñez, and they also mentioned this comic as a reference for the same reasons. It really shows the importance of being portrayed in the media, right?"
Kat: "It made sense as queer kids at that time of our lives, we didn't have anything else. We had some X-Men characters that were Hispanic or Latinx, but we didn't have anything that kind of resonated with who we were.
Gabriela: "When did you realize that your career was launching, in a way that you could really see yourself as a professional comics artist?"
Kat: "There are moments where you kind of look outside of your perspective. You're like 'Oh, I'm tabling at a convention that I've always wanted to table at, this is amazing, this doesn't feel real. I don't know if it's because as fems, as POC, we feel like we don't really deserve certain things. It just feels like there's a voice in the back of your head saying that you don't really deserve it, that you have to work harder just to prove yourself. I think that over time, you do start to feel like you're at that professional level."
Kat: "I guess for me personally, having a book deal with Scholastic where I can finally sit down and work, kind of proved to myself that I'm a professional. Sometimes I have to say it out loud enough for me to actually believe it."
Gabriela: "When was that? And what was the book?"
Kat: "I'm currently working on it right now. It's called Miss Quinces and it's a graphic novel for middle graders that's going to be released in spring 2022. But I think we got it accepted like two years ago, I forgot how long it's been. Me and my agent, we had a pitch ready for publishers, so she sent it out and some eidtors were interested. And from there on, it was avery long process of finally getting the book accepted by publishers. I think at that point, it started to feel more real than just an idea that I just had, you know?
Gabriela: "What are your main references?"
Kat: "I feel it always changes and I'm always getting new references, but I guess for me since the beginning, comics and manga really inspired me. And the CLAMP manga series I grew up reading influenced me a lot. I guess lately I've just been reading a lot of middle grade books to have some reference for the book I'm working on. Anything by Raina Telgemeier, her books are always fun. They're autobio graphic novels for children. It's always a delight reading her stuff, they're just full of life. And she does a really good job talking about embarrassing moments in her life that are really relatable. I love reading it and I can imagine being a kid and reading books like that, because it's so relatable."
Gabriela: "How does your creative process work?"
Kat: "It depends on what I'm working on. If I'm working on autobio stuff, I usually take my stuff from my diary or my journal and then just convert it into a comic, so it starts off with the script. I work with a script first, then I make thumbnails. Then, I do rough pencils, tight pencils, which I kind of trace over with ink either on the computer or on a light box. I color on the computer, along with lettering and doing the text bubbles and stuff. I do that process with most of the comics I make. Right now I'm shifting a lot towards digital drawing, so I would do a rough pencil and then I would translate to a tighter pencil on the computer. right now I'm using a lot of brushes that emulate pencil work, or like textures, which has been really fun, kind of experimenting, so I've been doing a lot of that. The process is just very simple, like ABCD, nothing too complicated. I would like like to experiment more, but sometimes when you're on a very tights schedule, you don't really have any breathing room to do that. But I feel like for every comic project I work on, I try to approach it differently in terms of process. I try to make it fun for myself sometimes."
Gabriela: "Besides the book deal, what would you consider your most important work?"
Kat: "I would say my zine that I made a few years back called Gringa, it was an autobio comic based on thoughts and feelings I had in regards to my identity as a Latinx living in the United States. The was the very first work I did based on personal thoughts. It kind of opened doors to me for exploring more of the medium of autobio comics and basically just having my personal life out there through comics, it was a nice experiment for me. And it opened a lot of doors professionally, too. It helped me make acquaintances in the industry and also make friends, and eventually led to my agent, which led to even more opportunities for me."
Gabriela: "What would you say are the difficulties and your favorite things about doing autobio?"
Kat: "I would say my favorite thing about autobio is that I don't have to think hard about what I have to write. For me personally, the script stage is the hardest. When you're doing fictional work, it takes a long time to kind of craft the story that you want to tell. But when it's autobiography, it's basically whatever just happened to you, or whatever you felt. It feels easier to translate that on paper. The downside of that, unfortunately, is the fact that you have your personal details out there. And unfortunately, I've had stalkers in the past, who really resonated with my work — which I'm very happy it did — but sometimes people can really attach themselves. They kind of don't know how to handle or process that emotion, and they get really attached to you. It becomes really scary because you're being vulnerable out in the world and someone kind of takes it in the wrong way. But those experiences have been very few. So, yeah, it's really fun to make work that people can resonate with a lot."
Gabriela: "And what are your favorite themes to work with?"
Kat: "I would say doing a lot of autobio work about my childhood. I guess I like to gravitate more towards exploring the past, and recently I've been working a lot on comics about my therapy sessions — I haven't really published them yet. For me, topics like that are very interesting because, especially in Latin culture, it's like we grew up thinking that it's taboo to do any therapy work or care for yourself. I had to learn the hard way that that's not the case at all, therapy helps a lot. Doing autobio comics has been helping me a lot. And I"m hoping it could help people in the long run as well. If they read my comics and kind of, you know, see certain patterns that they grew up with... Maybe it's because it's something I didn't grow up reading, and it's something I crave a lot, just to see people's progress."
Gabriela Güllich

Gabriela Güllich

Gabriela is a graphic journalist from Brazil. She likes loooooong readings, cute pets and talking to people about comics.
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