According to us, this young, Minneapolis-based phenom is no mere comic artist. Caitlin Skaalrud is a poet, philosopher, and all around art genius. She runs her one woman show under the name Talk Weied Press, with the help of an ancient printing press named Maisie. We asked her a few questions about what it's like to amazing, and her answers blew us away. You will want to own one of these comics. Definitely check out her website and her store.
Paper Darts: What in life motivates your work, to inspire or upset you?
Caitlin Skaalrud: Lately, it's been just the shocking drainage of time—watching it speed past and spending it on projects and comics. I want to spend as much time as possible doing the thing I feel I'm here to do. I'm well aware of how young I am, but the sensation of losing time to all these things has scared the hell out of me. Work and commute and the brittle chunk of time I take just attempting to fall asleep at night kept eating into time spent focused on creating. Days would pass without touching pen to paper in a productive way, or zero progress on some project, and at the week mark I'd already be completely stir-crazy in my own skin.
There's some deep disconnect in me between the outside and the inside. The inside is creating. Talking to myself, seeing myself in ways that don't make me anxious or self-conscious. The outside is almost everything else—day jobs, grocery shopping, cleaning the damn house. Which is perfectly enjoyable—but it's like going without eating, or sleeping. And periods spent without drawing or working in my studio send my heart this panic signal, "We're trapped out here. We're disconnected from ourselves. We're gonna wither up like a plant without water, so get your ass back in there." There's a healthier balance to be maintained in that, but I haven't mastered it yet. And it's not an easy thing to do.
PD: What do you feel is the role of the artist in society?
CS: The role for an artist is to sit halfway inside society and also halfway outside it, to form a bridge between the self and the collective, to interpret ourselves and the bigger picture. To act as shaman—the tribe medicine man. Of helping figure out the human experience and the bigger "mysteries" of life, or at least easing the process of figuring those things out for ourselves—but that role as it was originally is pretty obsolete now. Society doesn't crave knowledge through images or stories—we can Google the hell out of anything we want. Certain mysteries have been solved, and most of the rest fall to scientists and doctors and psychiatrists. We don't value artists as a society to help solve those issues to the same degree, so how we appreciate artists has been changing. Entertainment is a huge part of what society wants from art, and society doesn't specify that it needs to be quality art that is also entertaining. So entertainment that is passable art becomes the new standard for "art." But artists don't really even notice that. They just keep plugging away, as they're encoded to do in this ancient way. They create art whether or not society is tune with them.
PD: How did you discover your talent for art?
CS: There was never a singular point—like a lot of people, I started drawing as a kid and just never stopped. On New Year's Eve once as a seven or eight-year-old kid at hotel in Duluth, I passed on going swimming downstairs with my family and their friends' kids. Rather I opted to stay in the room alone and draw for a few hours. I was as happy as a clam. I remember it being enlightening to recognize the impulse and put socializing on second tier of importance below making art. Points like that I understood perhaps I ticked differently and my priorities were being structured differently—around nurturing this creative thing I heard in my head, constantly—but there was never one eureka moment. I'd been interested in drawing and storytelling since before I can remember and they grew organically into each other for years.
PD: Who is your favorite artist right now and why?
CS: Eleanor Davis' work I'd know for a long time, but it wasn't until revisiting it, having spent time dealing with my own mind/body issues that it really began to resonate with me—which is crazy to begin with because the beauty she puts into line and composition and color is a knock out. It's gorgeous to look at and there's real substance. She's clever and witty within that aesthetic in one moment and transitions straight into heartbreaking without losing the former. It's incredibly human lifelike without being literally human and lifelike. We're all visceral and spiritual things, and trying hard to keep a certain shape and not always solid and always a little funny and pretty beautiful. A long way of saying she's great.
PD: What are you reading at the moment?
CS: The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer. I'm rereading it, which is a rare thing for me to do outside comics. I found it on a shelf while housesitting a friend's huge, beautiful old farmhouse with their shaggy dog at the height of summer. It's this gay western about an orphan who falls in love with his father—and one of the most beautifully written things ever. I only later found out Spanbauer was as poor as a subway rat and drowning in alcohol and cocaine while writing it, but it's got this profundity and beauty wrapped up in the messy, sprawling, joyous, confused human song of life. I can't claim to have gleaned everything from it the first time because I was drinking all the wine in my friend's huge old farmhouse and moving from room to room to read and drink some more.
That sits on top of my copy of Tony Millionaire-illustrated Moby Dick, which, like most half-literate Americans, I've been attempting to read for a long time.
All rights reserved to Caitlin Skaalrud.
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