Sina Grace is an artist and illustrator who has published Cedric Hollows in Dial M For Magic, about a sorcerer sleuth in Orange County, and is working with S. Steven Struble on The Li’l Depressed Boy. Most recently he has illustrated the book Among the Ghosts, written by Amber Benson.
Alex: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Sina: I think the real question is: when did I know I want to be a storyteller? I kind of always knew I never had the chops to call myself an artist, because my sister studied it so formally and was in rigorous art programs from high school through graduate school… but to get to the short of it: I was re-drawing and re-telling fairy tales and fables at the age of four on old Xerox paper. I was always drawn to stories. Further proof: in fifth grade, my intended career was “comic book illustrator.”
Alex: Who are some of your heroes who influenced you?
Sina: Right now, I die over Craig Thompson. I look at the work he and Chris Ware do- and by hand at that- and it reminds me that I can always push harder. I fawn over the artists of the Die Brücke movement (the only time I’ll be super snobby!). Then there’s Arthur Rackham, and nowadays I absorb all of the Skybound artists: Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, Charlie Adlard, Jason Howard, Ransom Getty, etc. Seeing their artwork day in and day out shapes how I draw.
Alex: What was the first book you published and how did it happen?
Sina: In high school I did a zine called The Roller-Derby Robo-Dykes vs. The Cannibals. It was partially as a project for my econ class, and then it was also to prove that I could finish a comic from start to finish. I think PRISM has a few copies of it. I actually did two printings of that book!
Alex: Do you like to write as well, or do you prefer doing artwork?
Sina: If I have a story to tell, I will go out there and tell it. The past year I’ve really dedicated myself to working with other writers and telling their stories, and it’s been sincerely great, and helpful in learning how to write for myself. At the end of the day, I would rather be my own boss, but being someone else’s employee helps my work ethic.
Alex: How would you define your style?
Sina: Amateurish! Hah… I would say cartoony with attention to little details.
Alex: Do you have a preference to what tools you like to use?
Sina: I use micron pens, smooth Bristol boards, and my life would be over if I ever lost access to these Pentel brush pens a classmate showed me during a life drawing lesson. Seriously, it’s like having a decent brush that you can take with you anywhere!
Alex: How did you get involved with Amber Benson and Among the Ghosts?
Sina: We had been friends for a few years, and she had gotten me Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for Christmas one year. As a thank you, I did a drawing of the protagonist Lyra with her polar bear buddy Iorek. She liked it so much, that when she decided to push forward with pitching Among the Ghosts, she called me and asked if I would do a few pictures with the proposal. That afternoon I started doing a ton of drawings of this little girl I hadn’t met, and all the ghosts she would be attending school with.
Alex: What was your process for illustrating the book?
Sina: Amber sent me the first draft of the novel, and I found moments that spoke to me, or that seemed interesting to have visualized, and would doodle those out for her approval. To her credit, she has never once rejected anything (if you can, do a book with Amber, it’s the best!). Once we had editors, they had me send a list of illustrations I wanted to do with short descriptions. Once those were approved, I sent in detailed sketches. There would be some back and forth on notes, and at that point I would work on the final art board. We got lucky because our editors loved the book and only wanted to make everything as awesome as it could be, so their notes were sincere and only made the book better. They saw what Amber and I were trying to do, and they were not working against that.
Alex: Do you confer a lot with the publisher and/or with Amber Benson
Sina: In general, or with the book? Heh! In both regards: yes. I love the people I worked with at Simon and Schuster, and it was super rewarding to have them guide the illustrations. Same goes for Amber.
Alex: How would you compare illustrating a novel to doing a comic?
Sina: A novel was a lot more work because there were more people to answer to. In comics, I’ve either self-published, or been a part of anthologies, or worked with Image… and every single one of those avenues is very hands-off. A novel allows you to do awesome illustrations and work around your weaknesses because you’re selling single iconic moments, whereas comics demand a certain fluidity and ability to draw EVERYTHING.
Alex: Do you know if there will be a sequel to Among the Ghosts?
Sina: I can’t say yet. People seem to like the book, and the drawings, so my hope is that I will be involved if there is a sequel.
Alex: Can you talk about your future projects?
Sina: I have a new comic book series I am drawing coming out February 9 from Image Comics called The Li’l Depressed Boy that I’m super excited about! Then I am working on a new graphic novel called Not My Bag, which chronicles retail hell in a very Black Swan fashion (pun intended).
Alex: If you had the choice, what would you like to do most in your work?
Sina: I want to continue doing the kind of stuff I did in Among the Ghosts, where the lines were dense, and the art was still whimsical. Honestly, I don’t know how I pulled off some of the stuff I did in that book. Blame it on the author.
Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Sina: I go to coffee shops and draw. Hobbies and stuff include reading books, and going to concerts and stuff. Also, I’m that Los Angeles guy who loves seeing movies in the theatre and making a night of it. Pretty lame stuff.
Alex: Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
Sina: You’re always a student. There’s no questioning that. The minute you admit you have more to learn and are willing to work on improving—that is when you will actually make leaps and bounds.
Alex: What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
Sina: I loved Pushing Daisies. That show is the perfect example of how you can push every single aspect of your production – the music, the sets, the costumes, the acting- to the limits in order to create the best looking product. R.I.P.