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As a reluctantly evolving foodie (like many a middle-aged D.C. man, I believe), I was excited to hear about Robin Ha‘s cartoons about food at the Small Press Expo. Ha, who recently returned to Falls Church, chatted with Arts Desk about how she draws and gets attention from food lovers.
Arts Desk: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Robin Ha: I’m currently working on a Korean recipe comic on Tumblr called Banchan in 2 Pages. It’s a weekly comic that explains one Korean recipe in two pages of cartoons and illustrations. The other project I’m working on is a memoir about my immigration experience from Seoul, Korea to Huntsville, Ala., when I was 14 called Why, Oh Why, Alabama.
How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
I used to draw comics with traditional medium, mostly with pen and ink on bristol board. But recently, I’ve got a Cintiq, which is a tablet with a computer screen which you can draw on with a pen. So I’ve switched over to using computer programs like Photoshop and Manga Studio to make comics.
I was born in [the] 1980s in Seoul, South Korea and moved to the States when I was 14.
Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
I live in Falls Church, Va. I lived in NYC for the past decade and I wanted to have a bigger physical and mental space to focus on my work, so I’ve moved down to my hometown in Virginia this summer.
What is your training or education in cartooning?
I went to Rhode Island School of Design and majored in illustration. Most of my training in comics comes from my friends and colleagues in Brooklyn, New York. I have joined the cartoonist studio DrawBridge and worked with veteran cartoonists including Mike Cavallaro, Simon Fraser, Dean Haspiel, Becky Cloonan, Tim Hamilton, and many more. Their support and wisdom really helped me to improve my work and have more faith in myself. I’ve also learned from just reading and drawing comics on my own.
Who are your influences?
I have too many influences which I can’t name all. I grew up reading manga and manhwa and I started reading French comics when I was in college. I also get influences from fine art, films, and fictions. Yoshitaka Amano, Ikeka Riyoko, Shin Il-Sook, Maki Kusutomo, Mœbius, Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Peyton are some of my favorite artists of all time.
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
I have nothing I want to change in my career in comics so far. Whatever decisions I’ve made in the past, whether they were beneficial or not, were all good learning experiences.But I wish I can go back and tell myself when I was working in fashion industry to stop wasting time in fashion and start pursuing my true passion: comics.
I’ve done a shot comic for Marvel’s Women of Marvel series called “Inviserella,” written by Dame Darcy and drawn by me (left). My short comic collaboration with writer Natalie Kim, “Ching Shi: The Queen of Pirates” has been published in Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology. My Korean recipe comic, Banchan in 2 Pages (second from top), has been getting amazing attentions from foodies and comic book readers at the moment.
What work are you most proud of?
I’m proud of my friends and family. I’m proud that I have continued to pursue my career in comics no matter how many detours and hardships came in my way.
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
I would like to be a better writer so I can write and draw my own project and produce more creator-owned comics with good story and art. I have several stories ideas that I’m working on that are in many different genres, including adventure, fantasy, mystery, and children’s literature.
What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?
I take a break from reading or drawing comics and do something completely different, like playing golf, watching movies, going out with friends, cook[ing]. I need to step away for a few days in order to look at my project with fresh eyes, and usually it works.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
My [view of the] future is the same as my current one which is making comics and getting them published, no matter if it’s online, digital comics or in printed form. I’ll go with the flow to make it more accessible to broad audiences.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
Yechon. It’s 24-hour Korean restaurant in Annandale. It’s the best Korean food I had in the States.