By Nick Eskey
Jennifer Crute is a native New York City artist, turned comic creator. She began her love for making art at an early age, surrounded by other creative people such as her mother and brother. Jennifer spent years drawing and painting, and later graphic design. From some prompting from friends, she found herself creating the very personal book Jennifer’s Journal: Volume 1.
The book has been named a “must have” graphic novel by the Atlanta Black Star and the Library Journal. Jennifer’s Journal is at times “funny, heartwarming, and downright depressing.” She exposes her herself in the rawest of fashions, showing all the good and bad that’s to be expected in real life.
The book has been available on Comixology, and since recently being published with Rosarium, now available on their website and Amazon. To celebrate the book’s publishing, I got a chance to interview Jennifer, talking about herself and her very personal work.
Tell me a little bit more about yourself?
I am a painter originally; I’ve done some gallery shows. I’m a rock music fan. I have a crippling fear of marriage, but I love weddings. I love all the fanfare, but I think it’s bullshit (hahaha). I love the dresses and the cake, it’s wonderful. Same thing for baby showers. I like kids, but… I like em. Oh, and my coffee table is a crate.
Even though I write about depression, I still feel embarrassed that I suffer from it. It is something that I am hoping to get over soon.
Do you see your art and your writing as a way to help get over it?
Oh yes, absolutely. It kind of snuck up on me really, especially with the comics. ‘Cause I had no intention of writing anything like a comic. Ever.
What got you into writing comics?
I write in a journal every day. Since I was in high school, I wrote in a journal. And as I was writing, I would draw little pictures. If the thing was really painful, I would catch myself in my little “violin phase” and make a funny; Kind of poke fun at myself. I would do these little doodles, and I would have a book with me of these doodles in them. My friends saw them and were like “You should probably put this all together in a book.”
What prompted you to make a career of being an artist?
Well that’s just been since the beginning. I was always someone that drew pictures. My mom painted, my brother drew. He didn’t draw comics, but when he was really young he would draw anything that was in the funnies. So, it was one thing that my mom could paint, because “that’s just what adults did” to me. But to see what my brother would do, I was like “Okay, you’re a kid. So maybe I can do that stuff too.” So, I’ve always wanted to be an artist.
This book is almost an autobiography of your life, and your family. What really made you want to publish it?
I had so many pages of stuff. Like I think I had over two hundred and fifty pages of material. I wanted to do something with it. I’ve pretty much written up until volume four. I had to split it up because I thought I was going to throw it all together in one book, but realistically that just wasn’t going to happen. AND I had a full-time job. So I was like “okay, let me stop being crazy.”
I’ve noticed the art style of reminiscent of “Sesame Street.”
I love “The Muppets,” hands down. I should make an altar in my room for them. But, it’s pretty much my entire house. My influence was definitely Muppets and Sesame Street. I also have a friend who kind of told me how to see the silly in the serious. And I also love “Arthur.” To this day I still watch it. I even watch it when I’m at work. I think it’s brilliant. It’s these simple characters that show real life emotions and situations. Even though their little kids, the way they let the story unfold it’s so real to me.
The reason I kept it… when I had a really painful moment, I saw it in a cartoon form, and it kind of took over the real memory of the event. So now it’s like I’m almost chuckling at this thing that use to make me feel “oh I wanna go home, and just lay down.” I kind of saw it replacing that depression with just laughing at it.
When I think of certain times that I’ve drawn, I always think of the drawing first, which makes me go on to the next level of “what’s going on, in life, in general.” Cause it’s not just me. I get letters from people saying that they’re so happy I’m writing about depression, and they’re glad that they can laugh at something.
It’s feature a few times in the book. What’s the story behind “Buddha Bear?”
“Miss” Buddha Bear. She’s like my adult imaginary friend. She’s an outgrowth of me leaving Christianity and moving towards the agnostic. She’s like a regurgitation of things that I’ve read about in Eastern religions, and for me now, normal everyday philosophy. I’m like “well if I’m giving off negative energy, I’m going to get it back. So why don’t I work on that.” She kind of calmly comes in and says, “You see this dirty glass of water?” She’s shaking it and then says, “This is you. You could be where the water sits calmly on top and the dirt on the bottom if you just stand still and shut up.” She’s usually not that harsh, but rather very calm. I’m hoping to compile a book of just her stuff, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
How was the journey for putting this book together?
It was a pretty common process, up until I was trying to get it ready for the first comic-con. And that was when I realized [to take] the advice someone had given me to split this book up to three or four parts. So, it was all come up until then. The nerve racking part was editing, because there were things that I wrote that I had no intention of sharing with anyone since it was in my journal. So all of these things were private, and I’m always joking about religion, and always joking about sex. Those are things that women cannot easily joke about, especially within my culture. I feel like I can’t say certain things without representing someone else. When I’m talking, or when I’m drawing myself in a certain way, it’s never going to be seen as me just drawing for myself. I’m always going to be seen as representing a whole. And that’s a tricky thing to get around. I think it’s going to be a long time till someone sees me as drawing myself, not that I’m trying to “speak for all black women.”
You said there’s going to be four volumes?
I have them written. I am still working with the first one, and I’m working on another completely different project. Completely different style, completely different subject. And that’s something that I want to continue on with and push out as fast as I can. It’s a book about my uncle who’s been a New York DJ for years, since the 1970’s. So I’m going to be working on that with a few other guys that I found that are artists, and into his music. So I’m probably going to take a little break, do that, and come back.
What are your hopes for this book?
I hope they’ll be able to see me, and possibly see themselves. That’s what’s been happening, and I hope it continues.
Jennifer’s Journal: Volume 1 is available through Rosarium, Amazon, and Comixology. Visit Jennifer at www.theartistcrute.com