HeroesCon 2016 Part III by Scott Southall

Today’s post concludes a series that photographer Scott Southall has been so kind to put together and share with us all. Below Scott shares a photoshoot he did with artist Jen Bartel and cosplayer Chase Carroll. After the gallery, Scott also included an interview he did, so if you’re interested in learning more about artist Jen Bartel, read on.

Interview by Scott Southall:

Welcome back photography fans and/or comic book lovers. For my last HeroesCon post here on Snap It See It, I’ve got two things to share with you. First, I did my first interview ever with first time HeroesCon attendee Jen Bartel (https://www.jenbartel.com/ https://www.instagram.com/heyjenbartel/). Jen is currently working on Jem and the Holograms for IDW as well as a few other projects, and we sat down after one of her panels at the con to have more of a conversation about how she got started that meandered a bit than an actual interview. I tried to transcribe the whole thing as accurately as possibly, so please forgive any typos. (If my parts are more than a sentence, feel free to skip them. I have to learn to speak less on interviews.):

Scott: I have no idea how well that (side note: my iPhone) records things, so we will find out. And I have a list of questions because I knew I needed that, and hopefully…oh dear god, did I lose it? Probably. There is a good chance. I have too many things today. Alright, There is a good chance I lost my questions, so I will just try to remember whatever I can. So umm, first up, I remember.. Duh da duh… So I was looking through your website, just like, the about you section, so I know you got a BFA in art, and you’ve done a lot of art gallery work and stuff. So, did you always want to do comics more, or be a fine artist?

Jen: Oh, so it’s kind of interesting, because I went to school for illustration. And I thought that I was going to be doing editorial illustration, or that I was going to be doing children’s books, and I kinda dabbled in both for a while. Um, but there is this very, very big and quickly growing um, sort of lowbrow illustration based gallery scene that’s happening. I think it kind of started in California…

S: Like Gallery Nucleus?

Jen: Gallery Nucleus, 1988, a lot of those. And in Minneapolis, where I’m from, we have light grey art lab. And the owners of Light Grey, Lindsay Nohl and uh, Chris, her husband, are super incredible about curating their shows, like, the nice thing is Light Grey art lab is one of the few that are submission based. Cause like, Nucleus is fully curated, same with gallery 1988, and they don’t really take submissions, they kind of just, like, find their artists.

S: Yeah, Like through social media, or friends of the artists.

Jen: Well, yeah, they have ,like, entire teams of people who will do that.

S: Art scouts!

Jen: Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, it’s kind of difficult to get into those shows if you are just starting out. With Light Grey Art Lab, because they do calls for art, there’s so many people who’ve been able to contribute to those shows who have had no history of doing any gallery work before, and that’s kinda how I started doing them. Um, so yeah, the majority of my shows have been with Light Grey, um and they also come up with like really cool like themes, you know. So, I was sort of like, after graduation, just kind of like a tumbleweed, you know. I think a lot of kids are.

S: Trying to figure out that adult part that nobody prepares you for.

Jen: Yeah, that you paid a lot of money for and didn’t get. But yeah, so I did a bunch of shows for Light Grey, and I think my style started like veering into this like pseudo-illustration, sort of appropriate for comics kind of thing. And last year, I did a series of like fashion pin ups of like big comic book characters.

S: Yeah, I saw the Jubilee, and the storm and stuff.

Jen: And mostly I was just like messing around drawing, like you know, stuff I like to draw, and people noticed. So, I sort of fell into comics. I didn’t draw them with the intention of like, “I’m going to find work in comics”, I just drew what I wanted to draw. And, uh yeah that’s when the Jem and the Holograms team reached out to me. And it’s been a year since then, almost a year… yeah, almost exactly a year since I started working on Jem.

S: So this is fresh.

Jen: Um hmm, yeah, I think especially by comic standards. There’s a lot of people here who’ve been in the industry for 20 years, you know. Um, but yeah, I’m just a baby. Just a comics baby.

S: That’s one of the reasons I love HereosCon, because there are babies everywhere, and there are legends here too.

Jen: Yeah, and we all socialize together.

S: And that’s one of the reasons new people end up coming here, because somebody else might find your artwork, or you might meet at a different con, and they’re just like “oh, let me come here too”, and this con is really about artists more than a lot of other cons are. So you all get to hang out, or do panels and stuff. I like meeting a lot of “baby artists”, um, which I have, because there are some artists that…they’re not unsociable, but they have too many people to associate with. Like Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick, they’re lines…

Jen: You gotta wait in their lines for like two hours right?

S: Yeah, you need to camp out like you’re getting a new iPhone to go say hello. I think I got to photograph Matt Fraction last year, but it was after the show ended. Like, I just walked up and I was like “Oh, thank god, all the people are gone. Let’s try now.”

Jen: Yeah, it’s gotta be exhausting for them too. But yeah, comics is weird because there’s almost like this sense of, I mean, it’s not almost, there is a celebrity aspect to it. It’s very strange.

S: A lot of…I didn’t realize this until recently…there are a lot of articles on “why are comic book movies so popular now” and stuff. Comic book movies have always been popular. There are a lot of things, like um… there are movies that don’t seem like they are comic books (Side Note: I was trying to remember the graphic novel “A History of Violence”, but couldn’t.), but they are. I can’t even remember what some of them are now.

Jen: I know what you mean though.

S: But they’ve been around for a long time now. It’s not just the Superman and Batman, there have been other things, and along with that so many movies are based on books anyway. It’s like, there aren’t a lot of fresh out of somebodies brain original ideas for movies, it’s from a book or from a comic, and so…

Jen: Well, if I was making a movie, I would want to make it based off of a comic or a graphic novel because it’s like you already have your storyboard there. And that’s what 300 was. Literally, just like taken from the book.

S: Yeah, you could just hold up the book and be like, yup, I see this thing right here.

Jen: And it’s cool, but yeah, I mean, the reason why comics, I think, inspires so much other media is because that’s exactly what it is. It’s like a visual storytelling device that is kind of in its purest form, you know? And so, comics is like a movie without all of the frills: like, it doesn’t have a soundtrack, it doesn’t have effects, but it’s your storyboard, it’s your storytelling.

S: It’s a part of the whole process that doesn’t need actors, it can survive on it’s own. So…in that question that, I don’t even know if we got the specific answer to, so, were you leaning more towards like, fine art?

Jen: Oh yeah, I’m so sorry.

S: No no no, I love veering, so that’s actually fine. It actually gives us more of an answer.

Jen: So yeah, I wasn’t really leaning any which way. I didn’t think I was gonna be doing fine art, I didn’t think I was gonna be doing comics, I thought I was gonna be doing illustration work.

S: Yeah, ok, so yeah like you said it was like children’s books, or maybe something like for a magazine where they need an illustration.

Jen: Uh huh. Well, and such a big part of that is because I had always wanted to do comics, but it didn’t really feel like it was my place, or like my lane, I guess, because I’m a woman.

S: Because you weren’t a kid that was like drawing x-men comics all the time, and like Captain America…

Jen: Well, I wanted to.

S: Yeah, because I know, I’ve heard a lot of the stories where like there is a comic book artist like, I’ve always drawn this, and then, I just grew up and like maybe submitted something to DC or whatever. And like, with I remember the fashion ones you did with like Jubilee and Storm and stuff, you might like the characters, but you might not necessarily want to draw an x-men comic. Or feel like you fit in the people that are already doing it.

Jen: It’s not even so much that, it’s like, when I was growing up I loved x-men. Like, I wanted to know all about x-men, and I loved marvel comics. And I would have boys, like this is when I’m in like, you know, 3rd grade, and I would have boys come up to me and literally tell me like, “that’s not for you”.

S: Yeah. Boys are stupid that way.

Jen: Well, yeah, but historically, comics have been such a like male dominated industry that has made content for men.

S: Just like video games.

Jen: Yeah, so only recently have there been like more female creators like coming out of the woodwork and creating more content for girls.

S: Like Lumberjanes, and stuff like that.

Jen: Yeah, and it’s cool. Not that I think that my content can’t be consumed by boys, like I think that’s totally ok. But, if I think about how much stuff I grew up having to look at that was made for boys that I just had to be ok with, well, they can do the same.

S: Yeah, there was um, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen, there’s a web series, cracked.com, and they do a thing called After  Hours where they talk about things. One of them, they were talking about the Ninja Turtles, and like how each of them are like the four humors, all of them have a temperament to them. Like Donatello is logical, Leonardo is the leader, Michelangelo is reckless. And one of the people on there was saying they should have had a female analog for it, especially for a cartoon. Like, there should be a girl version, there should be some female Ninja Turtles, and there really wasn’t. But, when you think about it, there are other things that fit that same type, and one of the things they mentioned was Sex and The City. Because all of those characters are exact analogs of the Ninja Turtles

Jen: Right

S: But, you can think it exists in another kind of media, but like you were saying, like for cartoons or comics, it didn’t exist for that specific medium at the time.

Jen: Yeah, I know. So, I mean, it’s cool seeing all of it kind of grow now.

S: Yeah, the growth and inclusion (is good), because you get new kinds of stories and stuff, things you wouldn’t have gotten in a comic before, which I love. I love variety.

Jen: Yeah, for sure.

S: So, where are you from, you said…

Jen: Minneapolis.

S: And so, one of the things I was wondering… this is one of the questions I had, which I forgot. Was that a place you wanted to get out of as quickly as possible, or did that inform your art a little bit, like a place you always want to go back home.

Jen: Oh! Oh, ok, where am I from. Where am I currently located: Minneapolis. Where am I from: Korea. And yeah, I mean I think it did inform a lot of my work. Like, I like to think that my work takes a lot of like Eastern and Western-like visual aesthetics, and kind of marries the two. Cause I feel like, there’s a lot of people who create work that’s like purely anime influenced, and that’s cool. But I don’t, I think my work fits kind of  somewhere in between the two, you know, like: western comics, anime, and then in the middle you have like kind of what I do, and that’s always been a goal of mine. Um, yeah, I mean, definitely growing up in Korea has influenced that. I had a lot of access to like comics, and like Japanese and Korean manga and comics and cartoons and things that people in the states didn’t have access to.

S: Definitely didn’t.

Jen: And yeah, and vice versa, I didn’t have as much access to western stuff, you know. So, yeah.

S: That’s pretty cool. I know certain places, like where I’m from, I’m from Columbia, SC, I always wanted to get out as quickly as possible, but I’m stuck there, still, so it’s ok. I’ve learned to live with it a little bit. But I know, certain places like, um, sometimes people live in a place they don’t mind. Like, they always wanna go back home, and they love the culture they had.

Jen: Um, yeah I sort of, I view Seoul, Korea like the way that most people view their home towns you know, like I’m over it. I don’t really wanna go back. It’s an amazing city, and like, we went, my husband and I went back to visit a few years ago, and it was great, but I’m just like, I’d rather travel somewhere new than go back.

S: So, if there was any comic, you…they reached out to you for Jem and The Holograms.

Jen: Yeah.

S: If there was something you could do, what would you want to do?

Jen: Oh god, I don’t know. I mean, like I feel really conflicted about this, because I love Jamie’s art so much that like, as a reader, I just want see Jamie do Wicked and The Divine and nothing else. But as an artist, that’s like the book that I would want to draw. But, just for like one issue. I don’t want Jamie to like not draw that…

The second part of my post was a photo shoot 3 HeroesCons in the making with Cosplayer Chase Carroll. We discovered each other via social media after HeroesCon 2014, but kept missing each other. This year we finally got together, and we had a mini photo shoot outside of the convention center to capture Chase’s amazing Batgirl costume. You can check out some of Chase’s past creations or just say hello by heading over to her Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/simicmimic/

Thanks for stopping by to see the adventures I got into at HereosCon this year, and I hope you’ll be back next year for my 2017 roundup. Feel free to check out my first two posts about my trip, and have a look around at the other wonderful photographers here on Snapitseeit.com.

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