Graphic novelist, teacher, Storybird artist. The multi-talented Nidhi Chanani is an inspiration, as anyone who has taken a peek at her Graphic Novels course will agree.
But who is Nidhi Chanani? What made her pursue a career in comics? How did she come to create a graphic novel like Pashmina?
We sat down to interview her about her inspiration, her work, and her advice for aspiring artists and writers.
Pashmina is full of vibrant personalities that practically leap off the page. What inspires you to create such well-rounded characters?
Nidhi: I borrow a lot of that from myself and how I interact with people, but I also listen a lot. I listen to how my friends are talking to each other. If I’m writing younger characters I listen to young people who are hanging out at a cafe. How are they relating to each other?
So your characters imitate real life, but what about the look and feel of your art? Where does that come from?
I read a LOT of comics, whether it’s Marvel or DC Comics, whether it’s graphic novels put out by First Second or Drawn and Quarterly. In any comic book shop you go into, you can pick up one comic next to another comic and they’re wildly different both in style and in composition, and in how the story unfolds.
“I read comic books for pleasure, but I also study them.”
How did you bring all of your inspirations together to create Pashmina?
“It wasn’t a story idea, it was just an experience”
Do you have any advice for creators trying to get their work out into the world?
Sharing your work is really important. How I started was blogging. I put everything on my website and I sent it out to a small mailing list of family and friends.
“I sent out a drawing every single day for three years.”
It gives you feedback from a community who gives you that encouragement, that love that you need to keep going. It holds you accountable.
A lot of writers on Storybird aren’t necessarily visual artists. Can someone write a graphic novel if they’re not a “good” artist?
You don’t have to do art to do comics. You can be the writer and team up with an artist. There is no rule that says that you have to write and draw a comic completely. You can definitely just pursue writing.
“Doing things that you haven’t had experience doing before and pushing yourself, always pushing yourself, will help you grow.”
And drawings don’t have to be complicated. You can do stick figures! You can even use the same drawings for many years over. Ryan North is an amazing example. He’s been doing Dinosaur Comics for I don’t know how many years and literally it’s the same six panels, but the writing is different and it’s hilarious.
You said it took you four years to complete Pashmina, and you rewrote your manuscript EIGHT (!!!) times. Did you ever want to give up?
In the process of creating Pashmina, there were so many low points where I wanted to quit. I just thought “Why did I get myself into this.”
Going into a comic book shop and looking at all the people who had made comics, I was like “All of you are crazy! Why would you ever do this?”
So, what do you tell yourself when you’re facing a creative block? What advice would you give to someone in the same boat?
“The number one piece of advice that I would give somebody is to start small and to finish what you start.”
How did pushing yourself pay off? What was the most rewarding part of conceiving, creating, and publishing your own graphic novel?
Being able to connect with somebody and have it be a part of what they understand about my community and my culture—it’s amazing.
“The best thing about seeing Pashmina out in the world is meeting readers who connect with the story. That’s just something that you can’t imagine.”