The Process: Janet Lee on Illustrating a Classic

Prolific artist and illustrator Janet Lee's current project, in collaboration with our friends at Silence in the Library Publishing, is an illustrated edition of Pride & Prejudice. We caught up with Lee and asked her a few questions about her influences, the way she works, and her process for creating images from canonical texts.

With a classic work like Pride & Prejudice, that has so much material to choose from, how do you choose which moments from the book to illustrate?

Thankfully, I have prior experience illustrating two other Austen novels which were adapted for Marvel, and Pride & Prejudice is my favorite book. It's helpful to know a text by heart when choosing which parts to highlight.

My biggest problem has been scaling back. With unlimited time and resources, I would probably draw every scene in the book, which of course takes away from Miss Austen's amazing prose. So I tried to be methodical. First, I made a chronological list of what I felt were the most significant events in Pride & Prejudice. With some careful editing, I only had ten scenes more than were needed for this edition. I then, went through the list and marked the scenes I wanted to illustrate in color, and made a second pass to select scenes that would be drawn in black and white. I tried to distribute everything evenly, and now I have some additional scenes if we overfund and I get to draw more.

Pride & Prejudice
Pride & Prejudice

Is this project different from the things you normally work on? How did you come to be part of it?

Illustrated Pride & Prejudice is very different from my usual illustration work. Rather than drawing sequential, comics pages, I'm creating more classic, still pictures which highlight the original text. It's a different way to approach the art. In comics illustration, I fill the narrative role in our storytelling; the art "describes" the scene, the characters, the atmosphere. However when illustrating moments from a prose novel, the pictures are more of an additive, a filigree. They aren't necessary to the story, yet they exist to enhance our enjoyment of it. It seems like a small difference, but it's a significant change in how one approaches the task.

I became involved last summer at San Diego Comic Con. I met Janine and Ron from SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY PUBLISHING while I was in Artists Alley. We talked about my previous work and our mutual interest in creating a new take on Pride & Prejudice. I'm not sure what caused our paths to cross, but it was kismet.

Lee's studio
Lee's studio

What's your workspace like? How/when do you work?

 I work out of my studio, which is a small (often messy) room in my Nashville home. Until just a few years ago, I was a corporate manager with an artistic hobby that was growing out of control. I loved my "real" job, but it wasn't fulfilling creatively, so at first started selling artwork through galleries for fun and with the goal of paying for my art supplies. Before I knew it, I was asked to illustrate books. So my studio is an odd mix of art supplies and drawing tools. I still work in physical media, and I love constructing images as sort of original collages of my own drawings. So, pens, glue, scissors, and a bunch of snippets of paper.

Janet Lee (and cat)
Janet Lee (and cat)

Who are your influences? 

My degree is in British Literature. I stopped formally studying art in middle school. So, my influences are extremely broad. In fact, I'm a pretty firm believer that everything we see, experience, and love will inform our art. Some of my influences are, in no particular order: Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll, Frank Baum and William Wallace Denslow, Arthur Rackham and the Red Rose Girls, Rachmaninoff and The Violent Femmes, Alan Moore, The Bronte Sisters, Pan's Labyrinth, Craig Thompson, Juanjo Guarnido, Joe Hill, Stephen King and Frank Herbert, David Weisner and Shaun Tan.

Five Creators, One Question: Illustrated

The world of comics is colorful and diverse, exploring universal themes in visually engaging ways. And in this world, comic book artists are the intrepid explorers, condensing huge themes neatly into panels on a page. In celebration of Comics Month here at Kickstarter, we asked five project creators to answer one (not-so-simple) question with an illustration. Here's what they came up with.

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Researcher Hope Nicholson and Canadian Comics' Golden Age

The Golden Age of comic books is best known for having birthed superheroes such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But these characters are all-American inventions. At the same time, Canada was in the midst of its own Golden Age of comics. Spawned by a Canadian wartime trade prohibition known as the War Exchange Conservation Act, these two golden ages played out concurrently, but entirely independent of one another.

Many of the comics from this period of Canadian comic history remain in museums or private collections, but over the past few years, researcher Hope Nicholson has worked tirelessly to collect and archive two of these titles in book form. The titles are Nelvana of the Northern Lights, about a heroic Inuit goddess, and Brok Windsor, about an adventuresome doctor in a strange land. We spoke to Nicholson about her background in comics, and why preserving Canadian comic book culture is important.

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Tech Weekly: Make a Splash

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Need some reward ideas? Here are 96 of them.

Offering great rewards is one of the best ways to encourage support for your Kickstarter project. It's always good to offer copies of what you're making, signed prints, tickets to your shows, and things like T-shirts or totes. But extra-imaginative rewards can help make your project all the more memorable.

Looking for help thinking some up? Here's a start: we've come up with 96 possibilities for fun and engaging rewards. Some have actually happened, some we dreamt up on the fly — and all of them can be used as inspiration for your own project.

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A Few Tips on Maintaining Momentum During Your Project

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But if you're a creator anxious about your funding goal, it can feel nerve-wracking. We asked a few creators to talk to us about how they got over the plateau, and what advice they'd give to other creators struggling with maintaining momentum. (Hint: it includes using your updates wisely, and never giving up or going silent!)

Janelle Asselin on Making a Modern Romance Anthology

Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada
Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada

Romance comics were a massive part of the comics industry for decades, before mainstream interest shifted to superheroes. While romance never really went away, it did become marginalized. Now, editor Janelle Asselin is preparing to revitalize the genre through Fresh Romance, a monthly, digital romance comics anthology designed to showcase all types of relationships. In other words, it's a modern anthology for modern times. We spoke to Asselin about the creation of Fresh Romance and her publishing company Rosy Press.

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Discover Comics Anthologies

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Nevertheless, creators at Kickstarter consistently unite to create anthologies, proving that with some tenacity you can realize your vision, even if that vision happens to involve a whole lot of different voices. Here are a few comics anthologies that are live on Kickstarter right now.

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