YEM Twitter Author: Aatmaja Pandya shares what the process of illustrating “Slip” was like

Aatmaja Pandya is the illustrator of Slip. Slip is an emotional coming-of-age graphic novel writen by Marika McCoola. The novel explores magic, friendship and art. YEM was able to speak with Aatmaja about what it was like collaborating with Marika McCoola, the process of illustrating Slip, and advice she has for other illustrators.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you decide that you wanted to become an illustrator?

Aatmaja: Pandya: In high school! I was lucky to have some really great art teachers who helped turn a casual interest in drawing into a craft I wanted to devote my life to. At that time I was reading tons of webcomics and graphic novels, but I had been taught a fine arts practice. I figured illustration was the natural meeting point of comics and fine arts, and I still kind of feel that way. 

YEM: How did illustrating “Slip” come about?

Aatmaja: Marika and I met through a mutual friend in 2015. I thought she was a really interesting, put-together person (she still is) and I had read her first graphic novel and loved it. We stayed friends, and years later I was offered a chance to illustrate her next GN. I am kind of stubborn and prideful about my work, so I was never sure if I wanted to collaborate on a long-term project with anyone, but I leapt at the chance to work on my first book with someone I liked and respected very much.

YEM: What was it like collaborating with Marika McCoola?

Aatmaja: Very easy and rewarding! Marika wrote the script out panel-by-panel, and then gave me free license to adjust and interpret. The interesting thing about collaboration is that even on the pages where I followed the script exactly, I probably visualized things differently than Marika initially had. And I don’t write the way Marika does, so in the end you get a story that truly was born of both of us. I think that’s very cool.

YEM: What can you tell us about “Slip”?

Aatmaja: It is a bittersweet book about complicated feelings. I like to describe it as an emotional coming-of-age, an artistic coming-of-age, and a queer coming-of-age all at once. I can’t say that it has something for everyone, but I think it is the kind of book that will hit very hard for the right person.

YEM: What is the process of illustrating a book like?

Aatmaja: It’s just a lot of work, haha! I have a hard time explaining my process because a lot of it is internal. Particularly in early stages. I have to visualize the page in my mind and then spend pencils, inks and tones trying to capture that vision as best as possible. Besides that, you just have to sit at a desk for many hours at a time and draw things over and over again. Some days you just fly through it and some days you feel like a total hack. But the good days are just the best thing ever.

YEM: What is a message readers can take away from “Slip”?

Aatmaja: I don’t know if there is any one message or moral. I hope, rather, that people who are grieving another person, or a relationship, can feel understood by Slip. Though I think there are many excellent observations about the creative process in it that would be good to learn from.

YEM: How long did it take for you to illustrate the book?

Aatmaja: About three years? Some of the early time was lost to being really depressed. I’m lucky to have had flexibility in my book schedule and considerate people on our book team.

YEM: How long have you been illustrating for?

Aatmaja: As a professional, for 8 years. I’ve been drawing with serious intent for about 15 years, but I don’t know if drawings of video game guys from the bust up count as illustration.

YEM: What advice do you have for those who are wanting to become illustrators as well?

Aatmaja: Things have changed a lot since I graduated college, even though it hasn’t even been 10 years. I don’t know if I can speak to anything on self-promotion anymore. But the basic rules of artistic practice haven’t changed. Make a lot of work you feel strongly about, put it up somewhere for free, and tell everyone you know about it! Make artist friends with no ulterior motives. Find a way to become interested in everything and that will help you learn to draw it. Remember that becoming an artist is the pursuit of a lifetime!

YEM: Do you have a scene from “Slip” that is your favorite?

Aatmaja: Hm, there’s a rain scene at the end that came out exactly how I wanted it. I am very satisfied with that one, though I don’t know if it counts as my favorite… actually, I like the very first scene where Jade meets Mary. I loved drawing Mary’s first panel.

YEM: Who are some of your favorite illustrators?

Aatmaja: Hannah Krieger (All My Friends Are Ghosts) and Aliza Layne (Beetle and the Hollowbones). Coincidentally, these two also did the bulk of the tones in the book. I asked them to work on it because I loved their work so much, though, and I think they really took the book from 90% to 110%.

Aatmaja: I’ve also loved Kris Mukai and Sam Bosma’s illustration work since I was a student. I really like Kii Kanna, a BL mangaka. I read a lot of shonen manga and find a lot of inspiration in the energy of that. I love An Nguyen’s comics so much. Jillian Tamaki! And I read Himawari House and Artie and the Wolf Moon recently and thought those were such good books.

YEM: Are you illustrating any books coming up?

Aatmaja: Yes, I have an OGN coming out with Random House Graphic! There’s no publication date yet, but it’s called Check Your Texts and it’s also a story about complicated friendships and grief and regret. I’m tons of fun. 

And I’m doing some short comics this year now that I have time for it! All cartoonists should make minicomics once in a while for their health! 

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