oregon history comics: interview with BT Livermore


This Sunday, March 4th, the Dill Pickle Club is hosting a release party for Oregon History Comics: Vol. 1-10 at Powell’s Books (get the full details here).
Don’t forget you can pre-order the box set of all ten comics at our shop (just $25/ members, $30/ non-members).

We wanted to introduce our readers to the talented artists behind some of the new comics, so we asked each artist a few questions.  This week, we’ve been posting interviews to provide context for Sunday’s release event. Today’s featured artist is BT Livermore, illustrator of The Lives of Loggers, a 40-page work that focuses on Simon Benson and the history of logging in Portland.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your process for illustrating the comic.

A: My illustration process begins with visual research, being that it takes place in Oregon during a specific point in history. My drawing style is quite simple, so I find it really important to find out what the objects or people I’m drawing actually looked like before I start figuring out how to simplify. After that, I will draw small, thumbnail sketches of each page, to see the basic layout of each page and how those compositions flow from page to page. Once the thumbnail sketches are to my liking, I pencil each page onto bristol board to prepare for inking. I have the tendency to pencil a whole comic, or at least a large chunk of pages, before I start inking, to make sure I feel like I’m on the right track before the final step.

Q: Were you familiar with the subject of the comic prior to this project? What kind of research did you do while creating it?

A: I was familiar with the time in Portland’s history in which my comic takes place (1850s-early 1900s) beforehand. I write and draw a comic called The Life & Times of Baby Otto Zeplin, which just so happens to take place in Portland in 1900. I was able to use much of the reference materials I have already amassed in terms of Portland buildings of the time, and the fashion and everyday goods of average people. The bulk of my new research, however, was into the specific look and feel of the timber workers of the time. The library had a wonderful book of photos and history entitled The Loggers which was a great source of inspiration.

Read the full interview and see more images after the jump…

Q: What can be learned from the history told in the story?

A: I think a lot of Portland residents have a basic knowledge of Portland being a logging town for much of it’s history, but may not think much of it beyond the “Stumptown” nickname. I hope that my comic sheds a little more light onto how important the industry was to a young Portland, and to the lives of those involved it it.

Q: What challenges did this project present to you?

A:  This is the first comic I have ever drawn which I have not also written myself. That was more of a personal challenge to get past, but Sarah provided a great script to work from, so in the end it was a pretty easy challenge.


Q: What were the things you most enjoyed about working on it?

A: I’m a pretty big fan of drawing (and growing my own) facial hair. This comic is chock full of hair, which is always fun.

Q: How can we find out more about your other illustration work?

A: My other illustration work, as well as printmaking and sign-painting can all be found at bigtimeillustration.com.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Portland is full of transplants from all over the country these days. As one of them myself (I moved here from Minneapolis almost seven years ago), I think it’s important to take the time to learn some of the history and trivia of the city we now call home; it’s one of the reasons I started my Otto Zeplin comic years ago. I think this series of Oregon History Comics will go down as a wonderful jumping off point for a lot of recent residents to start their own research into what made Portland the way it is today.

Thanks BT! The comic looks great! We look forward to seeing you at this Sunday’s release event at Powell’s Books!

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