Jenn St-Onge is a Canadian, a artist and a woman on the upswing! She is currently working on the independent comic Finding Molly for EMET Comics in addition to commissions, fan art and pictures of cats.
Jenn took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with Major Spoilers across timezones and share some insight about how she broke into the elusive comic book industry.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Let’s start right off by talking about how you came to be a part of Finding Molly?
JENN ST-ONGE: I’m sure this is something that a lot of young artists will be happy to hear. I found a job posting for EMET Entertainment in Tumblr. It was basically a post saying that they were looking for female writers and comic artists, we’re looking to do more story ideas, so I sent off my portfolio to my now editor. She actually really liked this series I did for a gallery show I was in two summers ago that featured a lot of people with their cats and that was, kind of, where that idea started.
MS: How did you end up teamed with Justine Prado? How much input do you have on the scripts that you work on? Do you have the ability to make changes to Finding Molly‘s narrative?
JS-O: For me, I know that between my editor and Justine they’re like, “Yeah, tell us what you think. Lots of feedback if you want things changed.” but, I’m a super big control freak and I feel like as soon as I start suggesting things I don’t want to over-step too much, so they’re really open to it and it’s more me not wanting to get too much in anybody’s way. Unless there’s something that I feel is maybe a little thing in the script that isn’t going to take a lot of revision and needs changing, I try to not step on anybody’s toes in that department.
MS: You mentioned that you had work in an art show featuring people and their cats and, in the comic, Molly winds up drawing people and they’re cats, are there a lot of story beats in Finding Molly that are accidentally or purposefully autobiographical?
JS-O: I find that Finding Molly has been a very interesting project because, in some ways, I don’t feel like I connect with who Molly is at all because I’m a super big cat person – I love cats – Molly is a little bit less into cats than I am, but then, some of the other ways in her artist’s journey of not knowing where she was going to go with her work and not really having a plan and, then having something just fall into her lap and it’s like, “Alright, this is what I’m doing now.” and it actually be a very big opportunity for her, I can definitely relate to that. I’ve been very lucky in the last year with my work.
MS: How do you feel about drawing cats yourself?
JS-O: I’ve liked them a lot long than I’ve been able to draw them, that’s definitely one thing I’ll say. Drawing animals used to be a very big gap in my portfolio. I didn’t used to be very good at them at all and I feel like I got better at them even since I left college a couple years ago, but since about the last year [when] I’ve been going full-time with my art there’s been a huge learning curve and it’s funny because I’ve also started getting a lot more private commission traffic and everybody wants to be drawn with their pets.
You can’t mess around when you draw someone’s pet because somebody might be like, “Oh, they, kind of, drew me wrong.” but, if you draw somebody’s dog wrong they take it really personally. (laughs) I’ve had to learn on the fly and before Christmas I had mostly been doing cats this year – that was my main thing that I was working on – and, then over Christmas – my holiday sale that I did – everyone was dog owners and I was like, “Alright, I guess I’m gunna draw a million dogs now.” so, I improved a lot with dogs.
MS: How many cats have you managed to sneak into a single panel?
JS-O: I think probably in the second issue [of Finding Molly]. The first issue is just Molly taking care of the one cat, by the second issue she’s taking care of three little kittens, so there’s a lot of panels where I had to put all the cats into one shot – which is okay ’cause they were small. I also – I’m sure that this is something I maybe didn’t need to do – I made sure I patterned them really specifically and made notes on the files that I sent to our colourist, Carey Pietsch. I wanted to make sure that they were very specific-looking, so all their coloring would match up and they would always match up with the right personalities for each one. I think I maybe put more work into it than I needed to. (laughs)
MS: Are there any secondary characters that you are looking forward to exploring more in upcoming issues of Finding Molly?
JS-O: I feel like I have to say that it would be her friend Sarah. I feel like, right now, Sarah’s getting the short end of the stick in the story because she’s supposed to be presented as being, kind of, her hot friend who gets everything very easily, but to me, I see Sarah as somebody who’s worked really hard and she’s also had opportunities brought to her, so even though she’s maybe had a few doors opened for her she still works really hard to get what she wants and she’s actually a very responsible, good adult compared to Molly (laughs), which is the other thing.
MS: Who or what is the most fun to draw in Finding Molly?
JS-O: I do like drawing the cats because I have a lot of cats at home that are a lot of inspiration for me. Basically every cat that I’ve drawn so far has a little bit of inspiration from one of our cats that me and my husband own. We have five cats, so. There’s a lot. (laughs)
MS: Flipside, who or what is the most challenging to draw for Finding Molly?
JS-O: I would definitely have to say that it is a very background heavy comic and I know that when my editor had first approached me she said, “You know, this is based in Los Angeles … the backgrounds are going to be really important. Do you think you could do that?” and I was like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s something I can do.” and, then I got into and I was like, “Wow! There are so many backgrounds!” and it’s all urban setting, so it’s intense, but again, I feel like I’ve learned so much since I’ve been doing it.
MS: Do you have a specific location where you do your artwork?
JS-O: Actually, because I’m doing my art full-time I have a home office that I work out of, which can be a blessing and a curse because I’m sure that, like any person who works from home, on one hand I’ll just be locked in my room all day working, but then I come out and I have to do dishes, so it’s, kind of, hard balancing the time ’cause I’m always at home I’m always at work. There is no, “Oh, it’s five o’clock. I’m done now.” I can be working any time of the day.
MS: Final question, what advice do you have to aspiring artists?
JS-O: I think the most important thing for you when you’re getting start is produce a lot of work. (laughs) I realize that that can be a little bit vague, but for me, something that I feel has really benefitted me over the years is that I have a pretty quick turnaround time, so I have a really hard time focusing on something for more than a few hours. If I go away from a piece there’s a good chance I won’t finish it – good and bad sides of it – but, that way, if you’re clocking the hours, you’re getting the practice and you’re, hopefully, getting a lot of different material that you’re putting out because it’s funny nowadays how many people I talk to and they’re like, “Yeah, I did frank for this comic or this show and somebody saw it and now I have a job.”
Be prolific. Have lots of work to show people. Update your portfolio a lot and keep making new stuff because you want to stay relevant