Arts Desk

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Evan Keeling

keelingEvan Keeling is one of the Trickster anthology artists, a founding member of the DC Conspiracy comics co-op, and the person who puts together genre anthologies by the group. The next anthology, the fourth, will focus on romance. He also works for the Smithsonian, a quintessentially cool Washington job.

Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Evan Keeling: Most of the time I am really drawn to genre stories, like crime or adventure. My style is a bit silver age, but I am trying to modernize it some. I tend to jump around a lot with the styles I like to use. I tend to want to try new things and to tailor my art to the story that I’m working on.

WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

EK: 1976—I’m a bicentennial baby.

WCP: Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

EK: I was born and raised in D.C. and have lived on Capitol Hill pretty much my whole life.

WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

EK: I have a B.F.A. in graphic design from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. I’ve also taken a number of illustration classes. Most of my knowledge of the comics form I learned on my own or from friends.

WCP: Who are your influences?

EK: I’m really into Alex Toth especially his strong simple line work on some of the more obscure titles he did like Hot Wheels. I am also a huge fan of Guy Davis’ work and Frank Quitely. Recently I have been looking at a lot of Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad Magazine and afterwards work, trying to get a little more fluidity into the movement of the characters I draw.

WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

EK: I would have started completing and self-publishing comics earlier. I sometimes feel that I’m just coming into my own and really perfecting my craft now and that if I had been more disciplined earlier, I would be further along. But at the same time I might not have met the DCC and had that influence on my development.

WCP: What work are you best known for?

EK: I’ve done a lot of work on the DCC anthologies especially the last 3 (and the 4th is on the way) which I edited. I also have done a number of webcomics for the DC culture website Brightest Young Things. The most notable of those are “Tales from the District” and “Dahlia Dickenson Darling of Detection.” Trickster is probably the work that I’ve been in that has had the widest release.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

EK:I am always working on developing my craft so a lot of times it is what I am working on at the moment because I’ve now solved a problem that had been plaguing my art. I’m still very proud of my Trickster pages, though I probably won’t use the overly complex techniques I used for them again. I’m extremely proud of CrumbSnatchers, an all-ages book I drew and my wife Stephanie Butto wrote. I think my work on the new DCC anthology The Splendors of Love is going to look real good.

WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?

EK: I tend to jump around a lot and as I said before I really like genre stories. I keep thinking that the best thing for me is to do a one man anthology comic of short stories. I tend to want to draw a comic about anything that catches my interest; some notable ones have been Victorian magicians, cricket, and the history of a giant highway being built in a post-apocalyptic future between two domed cities.

WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

EK: Man, I feel like I have perpetual writers block. I’m great with broad ideas and concepts and can plot out a whole story during a walk home. But then when I get down to tightening up the details of the story, I struggle through it very slowly. The bad habit I have is that when I hit a snag or patch of writers block, I tend to jump on to the next concept. That makes it hard to ever finish anything.

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

EK: It’s clichéd but I’m gonna say digital media. I don’t think comics, as an art form will ever go away, people are always going to draw them. There will just be more ways to read/ get them. This could be a big resurgence for comics, making them more popular, but it could also make it hard to make any money creating them or it could be both.

WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?

EK: Well I’ve lived here a long time so I’m pretty dedicated. I like that DC is an active cultural center but at the same time there are nice patches of it that seem like a small town.

WCP: Least favorite?

EK: I suffer from a real bad case of “locals only” syndrome. Which is a bad thing to have in a town full of transients and commuters. So in general I have just learned to shut my mouth (except in traffic) and say that I like everything about D.C.

WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?

EK: I work for the Smithsonian so I tend to take people to the latest exhibit I have worked on. Other wise I really like the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art.

WCP: Do you have a website or blog?

EK: Yes I do… www.etkeeling.com

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