Susie Cagle wrote and illustrated “Sea Change,” a stunning story about California’s Salton Sea, for Symbolia’s preview issue. She also drew and designed our interactive cover. Download Symbolia on your iPad or subscribe via PDF edition today.
What is one tool of your trade that you couldn’t give up?
A .7 mechanical pencil. I actually draw the majority of my finished art in thick, softish pencil on plasticy translucent Duralene vellum, then scan and crank up the contrast to make the lines darker. Drawing in pencil allows me to keep my lines loose and expressive; when I use ink I get nervous and uptight, and it shows.
What is your office/studio like? Where do you work best?
I use my dining room as a dedicated studio, with one analog side of the room (drawing table, painting taboret, easel, etc) and one digital side (desktop computer, Cintiq tablet, scanner, etc). It’s the room with the best natural light in the apartment, with close proximity to the kitchen for snacks. I kind of need to be able to make a mess when I’m working — to trim down big sheets of vellum and watercolor paper, to lay notes and sketches out in big lines, to toss gouachey rags on the floor as I paint. I don’t work very well in cafes; I always feel like people are looking over my shoulder. So much pressure! I make lots of mistakes, and I like the freedom to feel comfortable doing that. That said, I do love to draw from life too, especially in parks and on public transport. The trick there is not being noticed…
How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve been working as a journalist and publisher for many years. As a longtime fan of illustration and comic art, it seemed like a natural fit — my development as a comics journalist has been a really organic shift in my work over the last three years. It’s the most deeply satisfying stuff I’ve ever done, and it takes full advantage of the current disruption in modern media creation, production and dissemination. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to have been labeled “comics girl” at journalism school.
Oakland-based multimedia journalist Susie Cagle has worked with the Atlantic, Guardian, Truthout, and others. She hopes to return to the Salton Sea soon, maybe this time for a swim.