Stuart Kolakovic is a cartoonist and illustrator whose refreshing and beautiful comics currently focus mainly on heritage and family history. Despite a busy schedule, he was kind enough to take time out to be interviewed for this blog.
Stuart, please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Stuart Kolakovic, I’m 22 years old and I make a living drawing pictures for nice people. In between drawing pictures to buy the meagre amount of beans, bread, potatoes, noodles and pasta I need to sustain myself, I try to find enough time to continue creating little comic books for (in my opinion) nicer people. I usually do all this whilst listening to bizarre/horrible music that no one likes. I also, on now very rare occasions, scare old grannies on my skateboard.
Where can people see your work? I understand that you have a current exhibition in Manchester. What are the details and how did that come about?
A lot of people that are familiar with my work have no idea that I skateboard.
Manchester has got a really amazing tight and friendly skate scene and I got asked by Vic MacMahon of skate shop Projekts MCR if I'd be interested in putting a show up in their gallery space. They've exhibited some respected artists, but it's still funny when you get confused arty types stumbling into the skate shop asking if they know where the gallery is. The show, titled Never Been, opened on 8th December and runs until 3rd February, so if you're knocking around Manchester, go see it!!!
It includes a blown-up version of The Box, the strip that came second place in The Observer Graphic short story competition, two vending machines that dispense two different comic books and the title piece Never Been, one long drawing that wraps its way around the gallery wall (I haven't actually measured it, but I think it clocks in at around 9-10 metres long). It tells the story of a year in the life of a fictional late 19th Century Eastern European village. It's not a comic as such, but it still contains loads of loose narratives so the viewer can make up their own story or find little stories as they make their way around the piece. It was basically an attempt at me trying to have some fun, loosen up and be really self-indulgent.
I'll eventually try to figure out a way of uploading the whole thing onto my website and I have just started working on a way of making it smaller and affordable so that you can buy it from my online shop.
How did you first come to start making comics?
When I was a wee little nipper I read all the usual comics like 2000 AD and stuff from DC. Then, by complete fluke, one of my schoolmate's dads opened up a comic shop in the next town over in Stafford. We'd spend whole days in there from opening till closing pretending to help when in fact we'd just mess around, read all the comics and try and get as many freebies as we could.
I got real bored with the super hero stuff, but I remember being really impressed by some of the more alternative stuff, like the comics by Robert Crumb, The Tale of One Bad Rat, Maus and America (a love story that appeared in the Judge Dredd Megazine) . But it was during this time that I'd started to notice the more, er, ‘unwholesome’ aspects of comics. I remember that they employed this one guy who was obsessed with Catwoman and he'd creepily tell us that it wasn't just because of the stories, "...if you get what I mean." At the time I didn't get what he meant, although it was still unnerving to see a fully-grown man perving at cartoon boobs.
It was about this time (at around age 11 or 12) that I started to skateboard, and I remember I had the decision of whether I should continue hanging out at this comic shop or go out, travel and meet new people on my skateboard.
Fast-forward five or six years later and I was stuck in Birmingham waiting for a train. I decided to kill some time in Nostalgia & Comics around the corner from New Street, the first time I'd been in a comic shop in a long time. I found a complete copy of Dave McKean's Cages and was just blown away by it (which you can probably tell when you look at some of my earlier work). That book really got me into reading comics again, and then, at around this time, Jimmy Corrigan was available in one volume and I started finding more obscure stuff and it just got me so excited.
I've always loved drawing and making things (I even used to sell DIY screen-printed t-shirts and hoodies to shops), but always felt unsatisfied by the end result. I'd spend all this time drawing something and at the end of it, it would just be a drawing. Comics really opened up the possibilities of narrative to me. It sounds like a cliché, but you really can do anything with words and pictures. It's like having a whole film crew at your disposal.
But a hell of lot lonelier.
(Go to Part Two)