Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
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BAKER'S DOZEN for 03/18/2009
Figures in the Sand
Manuel Auad on The Art of Alex Niño
Without question, The Art of Alex Niño was one of the best art books released last year. It's filled with images gorgeous and grotesque, all rendered in a dazzling array of styles by the sure hand of a master of his craft.
And yet, it's received little critical notice and few reviews, despite the fact that it presents some truly fine work created by one of the more revered and respected masters of the comics medium.
Given all of the above, and my belief that this volume deserves to be seen and read by a wider audience, it's my hope that the following interview with its publisher will help focus some much needed attention upon both the book and its subject.
Bill Baker: Let's begin by making sure we're all in the loop: Who is Alex Niño, and what about the man and his work mark him as an ideal subject for an art book?
Manuel Auad: Alex Niño is an artist who learned how to draw in a most unconventional way. Armed with a short stick that served as a pencil, he started drawing figures in the sand underneath his parent's grass hut in the province of Tarlac in the Philippines. From that humble beginning, and through hard work, he's become one of the most respected and admired artist around the world by his peers, so, yes, I would say he definitely is an ideal subject for an art book.
BB: Given that Alex is so well respected by his fellow artists, how important a figure is Niño in the history of comics, and what aspects of his career and catalogue helped him achieve that status?
MA: I think it's safe to say that Alex will unquestionably be written about when the history of comics is written. The fact that he is not only known in the comic book field, but also has worked in animation, storyboards, concept designs, advertising, and his paintings, he's beyond being simply prolific.
BB: Do you think that Alex has been overlooked to some degree by many comics historians?
MA: I'm not too sure if that's really true. If he has been overlooked by comic historians, you wouldn't know it by the legion of fans he has over here, the orient, and Europe. I think maybe they-comics historians-can't really pigeon hole him. Just when you think you know his style or mode of interpreting a short story or a graphic novel, he comes up with something completely strange and different. Not by design, but because he has all these other energies that gnaw at him.
BB: I'm glad you brought this subject up, because one of the things that struck me about The Art of Alex Niño is the diversity of styles on display, from the realistic to the impressionistic. What guided you in your choices of which images to use, and what surprises, or even difficulties, did that process present you with?
MA: My first thought was to try to show a wide spectrum of his art. I found it fascinating and exciting. Like having to pick a certain number of jelly beans to fit into a small jar and hoping at the same time to fit all the different colors. At times it was difficult and frustrating, but in the end it was such a pleasure to be involved in selecting the images.
BB: I was bit surprised that there wasn't a lot of his mainstream American comics work, which is perhaps more widely known, included in the book. Was that a deliberate choice on your part, or did it arise out of more practical concerns with copyright, etc.?
MA: The whole point of the book was to show a body of work that was unfamiliar from his American comic book work, so we didn't really have any of the problems that you typically might have encountered from copyright infringements--but I wouldn't have been surprised if we had!
BB: What about the short tales you did include? What made them perfect additions to what is otherwise a straight forward art book?
MA: There are four complete stories in the book. It's always a good idea to give the person who buys your book something else aside from page after page of art work. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it gives you a break, a pleasant break. Otherwise, it'll tend to be monotonous.
BB: Aside from a project with the late Byron Preiss, we've not seen a lot of new comics from Alex over the past few years. Has he left the field entirely at this point, and if that is the case, what kind of art is he pursuing these days?
MA: I don't think Alex has or will ever leave the comics or graphic novel field. Just recently, he finished doing a three-part series for Image comics called Dead Ahead. But because Alex is Alex, those days are going to be few and far apart now that he wants to devote his time painting.
BB: Considering the depth and breadth of Niño's catalogue, might we see another volume featuring his work in the future from Auad Publishing?
MA: We have already discussed this and he's hoping we can do another book devoted simply on his paintings. From what I've seen so far, that, too, will be an ideal subject for an art book. I know this is something Alex wanted to do for a long time. Something completely different. He has some great ideas on what he wants to do, and all I can say is that it'll be exciting.
BB: Well, what's next for you and the company? Anything planned you can talk about in any real detail at this point?
MA: At the moment I'm working on a portfolio/book on the Fourteen Stations of the Cross by Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956). It'll be about twenty pages altogether--fourteen pages of Brangwyn's amazing art, and four pages on the history on Brangwyn's work by the renowned Dr. Libby Horner from the UK, who is the world's leading authority on the artist.
And the other project that I'm hoping to do is about another famous American magazine illustrator who was known by his peers as "The Illustrator's Illustrator."
BB: What do you hope that readers get from this book?
MA: Pure unadulterated enjoyment.
BB: How about Alex? Is there something you hope that this book does for him, his art and his place in the comics' pantheon?
MA: That Alex will be always be remembered, respected, and admired as one of the--dare I say--greatest artist of his generation.
BB: And I've got to ask you again, Manuel, what do you get from doing these kinds of projects at a time in your life when most people are retired and resting on their laurels? What keeps you coming back and doing these books?
MA: My love for books, it's as simple as that. Some build huge buildings; others build bridges across wide rivers and gorges, while others try to reinvent the wheel.
Me, I love books. I get a natural high by finding material for putting a book together, to edit it, to lay it out, and then publish it and finally, to hold the first copy from the printer in my hand. And yet, in as much as I'm pleased, I'm a little disappointed at the same time. Pleased because I did it, disappointed because I feel it could have been better. It always feels like it could have been better. But the greatest joy of all is when I get a letter from some one who bought a copy of the book that tells me how much he or she enjoyed the book. I couldn't ask for anything more.
BB: Anything else you'd like to add before I let you get back to it?
MA: Anyone can easily get a copy from my website, www.auadpublishing.com, and anyone who mentions Bill Baker with their order gets free shipping.
And, as far dealers interested in carrying my books, they can go to my distributors www.SBSdistributors.com and www.DiamondComics.com.
[Editor Note: You can also find new and used copies on this WFC Shopping page for The Art of Alex Nino.]<< 02/18/2009 | 03/18/2009 | 05/06/2009 >>
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