Breena Wiederhoeft is the graphic artist behind Easel Ain’t Easy, a quirky and witty comic blog. Breena has been working hard on her debut novel Picket Line, which is now available for pre-order. Thomas Turner sat down digitally to chat with Breena to discuss how the digital, technologically advanced world we live in intersects with a vocation that is focused on a tactile, physical world of pen to paper.

Mediation: Graphic novels are a physical artifact. Someone was sitting and drawing on paper with pen. Yet, now, with Kindles and iPads, so much physical art like graphic novels is viewed on digital devices and computer screens. Do you see the transition of publishing to digital devices as helpful to graphic novels?

Breena: I can only speak for myself, and I can be a stick in the mud when it comes to new technology. I’m really skeptical. I appreciate the idea of digital publishing, and I know it’s caught on like wildfire for a lot of types of books. There is a lot that I like about it: it makes books more accessible, it makes it easier for authors to self-publish. My main hesitation at this point is that the devices don’t seem well-suited to the form of certain comics, wherein artists have taken the 2-page spread into consideration while designing the book.

[On the other hand] I’m cautiously excited about it, and I don’t want to be the stubborn writer who refuses to adapt,
especially considering that most of my business and my entire art career thus far has been enabled by new technology.

Mediation: I feel the same way. I feel like sometimes I cannot write at a computer, so I take out a journal and draw and color and write. In the trailer for Picket Line you are shown drawing by hand. Do you ever draw digitally? Is the technology there to do that? Or do you think that no matter what a pen and paper will always be the best tools to work with?

Breena: I have a Wacom tablet that I use sometimes, although mostly for coloring since I haven’t gotten the hang of drawing with it quite yet. It’s not a Cintiq (the ones where you can draw directly on a monitor) so it’s strange drawing in one place and seeing it show up in another. Also, I prefer drawing on paper that is portrait oriented (short side at top) and the computer screen is landscape oriented (long side at top) so that is just a little thing that throws me off. At this point, I do all of my drawing by hand, but will use my tablet to clean up drawings if needed.

A lot of artists draw far better digitally than I can by hand, so I think a tool is a tool. If I had more time I’d love to learn how to draw better digitally, if only because it saves on materials and time.

Mediation: Do you think drawing digitally changes your artistic approach? You certainly can’t see where you erase something or had to cover up a mistake. Does digital drawing lead to art that might be a bit “too perfect”?

Breena: I think for some people that might be a compulsion, yes. I think I’m far too clumsy a digital artist, at this point to become obsessed with perfection. In fact, I have embraced the imperfection in my own digital drawing/coloring. The images on my website that were colored digitally (the header, sidebar graphics) have color that goes outside the line. There are a few (rare) comics that I drew digitally that look like a 4 year old drew. So for me it has the opposite effect. But this is true in my non-digital art as well.