MEET THE PRESS


We met with our authors and asked them a series of questions to get to know them and their work better. We then met with ourselves, the founders of Old Growth Press, and asked questions so that you could know us better!

Here are what the trees of OGP have to say.

NATALIE MARK 麥月明

What are you reading and/or watching right now?

I’m rewatching Naruto ( • 3 • )

This is my third time rewatching Naruto. I watched it when it was first coming out.

[NARUTO SPOILERS] 

… and I’ve been rereading two books: For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozke Shange. If you need therapy in a book and you’re a person of colour or you’ve been feminized or discriminated against I really recommend this book. The second book I’ve been rereading is Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White because it’s wholesome and in the spirit of being from the Prairies. Both books make me feel good but in very different ways. I like rereading books. Each reading holds a lot of value, even the books that didn’t do much for me.

Who do you hope your work reaches now, and throughout your practice as an artist and storyteller?

I want to make work about queer people, but I find most often that because my trauma isn’t surrounding queerness and is instead surrounding things like poverty, assault and abuse, that it holds value for any individual who has experienced similar private pain. I am a queer Asian person, so this also holds extra value for queer or Asian people who have these experiences.

Maybe this is a hot take, but most origins of discrimination and oppression come from white supremacy and capitalism. This also propels things like homophobia and sexism. When I am making work, I am a queer Asian person that comes from a place of poverty and trauma because of these outside factors that don’t get named but are addressed. Even in the comic, nothing is explicitly stated, but for people who come from similar places, who live in the Midwest or the prairies — they understand these things, especially from the perspective of a kid.

When you are poor, your parents aren’t able to supervise you. I have two siblings that I love very much, but I made the choice to not center that in the comic and to have my character be by themself. This is to show them experiencing all those things by themself. It’s a very chill take on aspects of my childhood. The people who are going to find the most value in this work or the work I make in general are people that don’t have the same experiences but come from similar places and or have been placed in similar situations. 


Do you have any advice you can impart to your younger self, knowing and being who you are now?

Be more confident in your skills, because even if you aren’t an expert at what you do, your goal as an artist, as a working artist, is to be worthy of the money you’re getting.  Even if you aren’t an expert in the context of what you’re working on, you’re an expert in what you’re doing. People come to you for your expertise. Have a better relationship to labour and money and creative work. Don’t treat your art practice as a boring job, find ways to still enjoy your artwork. 

Art can be emotional labour, so how do you price emotional labour? If you write about yourself or talk about your trauma. Just because you’re making work about yourself and your experiences doesn’t mean you have to exploit your trauma every time. The work should serve you and it should serve to take care of yourself first and foremost.


Can you tell us about the process of working on your story? What was your favourite aspect: writing, illustrating, or both?

I try not to separate writing and drawing too much. I write about trauma, which I'm sure a lot of us can relate to. It’s being able to visualize the thing you want as a story. You’re imagining scenes from your childhood and translating that to both words and writing, creating one thing that works together and is a beautiful thing. Generally, my process is very visual-based because I am also an illustrator. It’s basically writing, doing thumbnails or drawing the things I want to have appear.  Before anything was thumbnailed I had drawings of what I wanted. I knew I would want the cycle of seasons, birds, the feeling weather gives you in the prairies, and an absence of the city.

 

RILEY J. PIÑEROS

What inspires you? Who are some of your favourite people?

Life inspires me. Architecture inspires me! I love taking walks around neighbourhoods in the city and seeing weird little things and taking pictures of them. Those experiences and working through that inspires me.

My friends are my favourite people, they’re very supportive of me. I haven’t been going through the best time lately, but they have all been there for me and it’s been beautiful to see how the friendships I’ve cultivated are valuable ones. Those people are actively supporting me and it’s been really nice.


Can you tell us about the process of working on your story? What was your favourite aspect: writing, illustrating, or both?

My process for this piece was all over the place. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or how to do it. I was toying with the idea of writing about my experience as a trans person and as an immigrant, and how that has made things more difficult for me. I had to go back to my memories as a kid and explore what those experiences meant to me now.

Figuring out how to put those feelings into words was the first thing I did before I had a very clear idea of what I was doing. The first half took a lot to get started. One night I was in a really sad mood and was like oh, I can use this. As that started developing, I realized I had very specific imagery I wanted to use and I began to research what I needed.

There are a bunch of scenes of my grandma’s hometown that I’ve never been able to go to because the guerrillas bombed the house my grandma lived in. I just went through Google Maps and found beautiful stills of the house that worked for me, so I could incorporate them into this comic. Even the city and school I went to as a kid - I went through all that.

It was like a trail of memories, not even my own, but memories of a past that I’ve heard about or experienced.  It was a very emotional process. I never learned how to navigate Bogotá. It’s such a maze there but it surprised me that if I Googled the name of my school I could find these pathways I had seen before. It was wild to revisit those places and have vivid memories of things that I haven’t seen in such a long time.


What got you into comics, or art in general, as a storytelling medium? Why?

I’m a very visual person — when I’m thinking of things, I’m thinking of it almost like a cinematographer.  That lends itself really nicely to comics. It’s a good way to express myself creatively so I can match words to images and they don’t necessarily have to relate. I’ve been writing since I was a kid but I never put writing and drawing together. Coming into OCAD and taking a comics class gave me permission to do that. It was really creatively rewarding to how I wanted to express myself. It allows me to get across what I want to say. With like both writing and drawing.

I really love Guillermo del Toro’s work. It’s hard not to — it’s so stunning. I’m also into really shitty 90s rom-coms. Especially the teen rom-coms. That aesthetic is so appealing to me.


Who do you hope your work reaches now, and throughout your practice as an artist and storyteller?

It mostly is for myself. There are things I need to explore for myself, but if anyone else sees my work and sees it for what it is and relates to it anyway, I would be happy with that. My goal isn’t to make work for other people, my goal is to make work for myself and that’s what I'm going to find meaningful and what I’m going to be proud of in the long run. But if anyone else who is like me, queer, trans, raised Catholic, an immigrant — if anyone can see that and empathize with that, and see that they’re making work and they’re putting it out there — if anybody sees this and feels like that it gives them permission to do what they want, then that’s essentially all I could ask for.

 

MISBAH AHMED

What inspires you? Who are some of your favourite people?

My favourite people? That’s an interesting way to phrase that. Definitely the friends in my life. I feel blessed to know a lot of talented, young creatives, and feeding off of their energy is really helpfulfor inspiration.

Favourite artists? I’ve been obsessed with Taiyo Matsumoto. I recently started reading his series “Sunny”, and I like the sensitivity in his work. The way he depicts darker themes with child characters, but there’s still a playfulness to it. I like doing that too. I love light-hearted stuff, but I find that it can move in a darker direction very easily. That comes from the way I see life.

What am I into lately? I just had this thought yesterday…after the zine I’m making now, I was thinking of making something about travel. Oh, my god, that’s kind of what this one is about too! I just want to draw more things that I haven’t drawn before.


Can you tell us about the process of working on your story? What was your favourite aspect: writing, illustrating, or both?

My process - well, I like to take a lot of pictures on my phone, but I also like it when I see someone, and I can imagine a story behind them. You know when you see someone on the street, or you meet someone, and you get a good feeling from them - you try to imagine what their life might be like.

I’ve been picking up reference using my phone and referring back to it later. I like using my phone because my drawing will end up being the better image, which doesn’t always happen when you use a proper camera.

I don’t focus too much on writing, because I don’t write. If I were to write, I would obsess about it too much. I’d try to make it, you know, “the best story ever” and then never finish it. I have to keep the writing very minimal in order to have fun with it. It works with my style to have loose narratives; I like having abstract images.

I sit down and I try and organize these stories and images, piecing it together, going through layers of work, and then refining. Actually, refining goes into the final work, partially due to running out of time, but also understanding what makes sense now that you’re here, sitting down and making it, seeing what needs to be excluded and what needs to be added.

As for the visuals, with this one, I was really interested in how I could further my use of pastels. Pastels were something I used for my last zine, which was my thesis zine. The way I made those images was a combination of pastels and digital work, whereas with this one, I wanted to see if I could make it all analog, just use graphite paper and pastel and try and keep it really cohesive and really simple. I wanted to have a lot of muted colours, and have it be about colours and textures alluding to a mood rather than present perfect drawings.


What drew you to comics (or art in general) as a storytelling medium? Why?

I took a course with Chris Kuzma [at OCAD] in my third year. I really enjoyed it. That was the first time I attempted making comics.

The first time I made a comic I loved was with my friend Jisu- she is so good at drawing, and she thinks of the most creative, pleasing things to look at. We made a collaboration together called Wisdom Tooth. We made the first edition on newsprint - we only made ten copies, kept one for each of us, and sold the rest at TCAF [Toronto Comic Arts Festival] at the OCAD table. It was such a mess - the night before, we tried to put newsprint in a regular printer, which is apparently not a thing. It jammed a lot, and it stayed jammed, until two in the morning. Then it finally got going. But then we ran out of ink - the reason you don’t use newsprint in an inkjet printer is because it’ll absorb all the ink. We ran out of ink really fast, so… I took a nap [laughter] and woke up at 8am and ran to the store, got more ink, and we managed to print ten!

As so many of us I was raised with a love of movies. I’ve always liked telling stories because of that. That was what initially made me want to think in terms of a comic - film breaks down a narrative into several moments, and that’s what I like to do. After I took that course, I got increasingly obsessed with comics and zines. Now I prefer it over traditional illustration. It’s an easier way to create a narrative, instead of trying to force it into one image, I can let it be several. You have more control over the viewer's experience, too, and there are different ways to play with the composition, and- I don’t know, it’s too much fun! [laughs]


Who do you hope your work reaches now, and throughout your practice as an artist and storyteller?

I hope that my work resonates with people. It doesn’t really matter who. I want to make stuff that’s relatable to and understood by others, stuff that’s not too in my own world or own head. I hope that it conveys something — mainly that of beauty. I just want people to think, “oh, that’s beautiful!” because that’s probably what was going through my head, too!

I’ve been trying to understand myself more, recently, too. I haven’t studied philosophy, but I think my work has a lot of philosophical ideas, and I hope that shows itself to those who think that way, too.

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CLEOPATRIA PETERSON, Co-founder

Name three artists/authors/anyone who have influenced your work.

My friends, they make me want to be a better person. Every day I see them struggle and still put out the most beautiful content and it makes it easier to be like oh, ok, I can do that too. So they push me to be better in my craft and to take more risks which has really helped me grow.

Amrit Brar is just this force to be reckoned with and she puts out so much work and is so talented. We have the same vibe of nature and goth but she also just yelled at me for not making zines when I was new to this whole art thing and now here I am.

Peter Wohlleben writes about trees like they are a friend. I think about The Hidden Life of Trees all the time. Thinking about and understanding nature and how it’s this symbiotic relationship of community not only makes me want to cry but really helps me structure how I use nature in my art as a form of healing or a way to shape some sense of community.


It’s often said that artists tell the same story over and over until they finally get it right, which I don’t view as a negative thing, but rather an important part of an artist’s growth and personal identity. What story do you find yourself returning to, again and again?

Trees, always trees. I think the narrative changes but there is always, somewhere, a tree. I even noticed when I was doing photography, during my fashion degree, that my focus was always in the woods or on a tree. I don’t know if I can complete that ever. Sometimes I get tired of it but that’s an ego thing. There is so much beauty to be found in nature and I think love as well. So I think, as long as I look to that, I can always find some kind of narrative that can hold importance.


Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, ten years?

I really like to live in the moment. The real answer is that I wasn’t supposed to be this old. I’m glad I am, but it really caused me to have absolutely no clue what my goals were and what I would be doing. One year from now I’ll be finishing my second thesis. Five years, I hope this press thing will be still running, maybe I’ll be getting a master's in something, or teaching, if that works out to be a thing I want. Ten years - wow, I will be SO old. I don’t want to think that far, my mind can’t stretch it. I hope I will have hugged, petted, or been in the close vicinity of a bear.

 

TERRENCE ABRAHAMS, Co-founder

If you could describe yourself through your favourite books, what would they be and why?

I’d have to describe myself using Fire Bringer by David Clements-Davies, Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, and Small Arguments by Souvankham Thammavongsa. Fire Bringer for the deer; Autobiography for the searching; Small Arguments for the answers.


What do you want for the future of the publishing industry?

I want to see all stories told by the people who experienced those stories. That’s it. It’s deceptively simple, but is not, in fact, a simple desire at all.


What’s a project you would love to work on in the future?

I’d love to write a novel, a novel with a narrative that is open to the world and collaged out of love, water, and the colour green.


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