Traveling to Venice with Enrico Casarosa

Casarosa on The Venice Chronicles

The Venice Chronicles

Travelogues are a popular form of literature, depicting the sights, sounds and events that a person encounters while typically touring a foreign place. Travelogues are popular both in text and in comics – the most popular would be Craig Thompson's graphic novel Carnet de Voyage. Travelogues speak to a wider tradition of diaries – taking notes of your day for to look back on in the future; some are written solely for the author, while others have a wider intended audience. Enrico Casarosa's The Venice Chronicles is just that.

Created on a trip to Italy with his then-girlfriend Marit, Casarosa chronicles a trip back to his home country while exploring the popular sites and enjoying a vacation. But this book is more than sightseeing; it's romance, with Enrico and his now-wife's budding relationship blossoms while in Italy. And through it all, we see Enrico's own neurosis develop in the form of a hyper-active narrator that sometimes takes over the book – in a good way.

The Venice Chronicles is put out by AdHouse Books, and Enrico is also selling them directly from his website with a promise of a little drawing in each one. For more, we talked with the artist from his home in California.

Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us, Enrico. What prompted you to do The Venice Chronicles?

Enrico Casarosa: Well, I love to sketch when I'm traveling, plus I had done a few autobiographical comics in the last few years so when two summers ago I found my self spending a month of vacation in Venice with my girlfriend and her family I knew I wanted to draw a lot and sketch around that amazing city. I had a brand new sketchbook ready for it. After a couple of days and a few interesting encounters I decided to try and make a comic of the whole experience.

NRAMA: Was it difficult for you to find the time to get the full story down on paper while you remembered it succinctly?

EC: I drew right then and there as much as I could and those pages gave me a good starting point and even more, something of a structure to then add connecting tissue and new parts to. But no doubt sometimes it was hard to remember and even more importantly connect to the material. I had a hard time just retelling the story from a distance, what interested me most was trying to record as I experienced. I liked that directness, so my way of trying to get some of that honesty back in the work was making the present situation, months after the vacation, still part of the comic. Making my doubts and issues in making the comic part of the comic. A little bit ala Charlie Kaufman (screenwriter of Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). A self-reflecting and self-judging kind of writing.

NRAMA: This book is done in pencil with watercoloring over it – is that your traditional approach for something like this, and why?

EC: Yes I've been doing these autobiographical comics with pencil and watercolor since the first one I did, which was a 24 hours comic. The reasons have to do mostly with ease of use. I don't plan these pages, I go for it and draw them as I go, so the pencil is needed when I screw up and have to erase and redraw a little bit here and there. The watercolor part I got into more and more while doing these drawing marathons called SketchCrawls.; a day where you go out and just draw as much as you can, recording your day, it's become a global event now!

I started using these handy waterbrushes that really make it easy to use watecolors even just standing around. The water is in the brush and it flows out as you use the color. Really handy, not much set up needed. So I've really been doing more and more watercolors in that quick manner.

Lastly I should also mention I am a huge fan of Miyazaki Hayao and his amazing imageboards and watercolors are what really got me more and more interested in working in this style. There's something direct and fast in his approach, nothing too fancy. I appreciate that.

NRAMA:. Say someone reads this book and decides to go to Venice. What would you say is the must-visit place there, and why?

EC: Well it's hard to say if there's only one place you must visit. The main attractions are all kind of "must see" places. I'd recommend a little jogging in the morning. Venice is small, if you run thirty minutes you'll have covered half the city already. There's one thing you must though to really experience Venice: take a day or an afternoon to just get lost. Aim away from the crowds and the well known piazzas and just get lost in the calles. You're gonna find all sorts of amazing hidden little corners ... and have your own little adventure.

NRAMA: This book is a travelogue and a love story. Did you plan for it to be romantic?

EC: Well, at first I just knew that I was recording this vacation with my girlfriend and her family ... so no, I didn't plan it. If anything I was kind of lamenting the fact that we were having the most perfect vacation. A little mishap here and there can make a story a little more interesting. (see this other comic to get an idea:

But not much of that on our trip ... still slowly as I came back from the vacation and my life and our romance progressed it slowly and naturally took center stage. No big love drama, my wife and I happen to be just cut from the same cloth, I think that's what the story ended up being. Two people very lucky to have found each other.

NRAMA: What does your wife, Marit, think of the book?

EC: She loves it. Though she did tell me more than a couple of times she thinks I was too easy on her and depicted her too positively. But you know, she's just modest ... and on my side I am certainly as biased as one can be. [laughs]

NRAMA: Your conscience steps in quite often to talk you up and down in the book. Is this something you visualize in certain moments yourself?

EC: Eh eh, well I don't actually visualize little versions of myself flying around me and talking to me. But I do often have two voices in my head chiming in on two different sides of arguments. One is ranging from unforgiving to harsh and the other is usually more encouraging and positive. The two little angels are perfect to represent the lively discussions that are actually going on in my head.

NRAMA: Do you have any other travelogues planned out?

EC: Not in the near future, but I have a sketchbook filled with watercolors from a trip I took to Japan a few years back. There's really not much of a story to it and I didn't draw any comic pages in it. I wrote notes and thoughts during that trip, so I might try and pull it together as sketchbook with some prose. We'll see if it comes together ... and if it makes sense publishing it.

NRAMA: Earlier you mentioned SketchCrawling, where people go out and do a day of sketching their surroundings. How did this originally come about?

EC: It came about one day as I was doing laps at a swimming pool. I get ideas that way. It was a friday evening and I just thought:"Tomorrow I am gonna go around the city and just draw all day!". And that's what I did ... I drew my coffee, I drew the tram I took, my lunch and a whole host of sights all around San Francisco. You can see all the watercolors here:

I did an amazing amount of drawing that way, it was really tiring but also really exhilarating. So after a few months I did one of these SketchCrawl days with some friends and after that it slowly snowballed into a global drawing event the "World Wide SketchCrawl". I made a website and a forum where all the different sites from around the world can get organized for the day and also share all the drawings after it. It's been really gaining momentum, the last sketchcrawl had more than fifty different spots on the planet drawing on the same day. It's really heartwarming seeing a community forming, no borders, all sharing the passion for drawing.

Here's the results of the last world wide sketchcrawl that took place a few weeks ago. The next one is on January 10th!

NRAMA: Taking off your organizer hat and speaking to you as an artist, can you tell us about your most recent sketchcrawl and what you get out of it?

EC: The last sketchcrawl was the 20th World Wide SketchCrawl, it was a bit of a milestone, after four years of doing these marathons. So I was pretty proud about that. Here in San Francisco we met in the Mission district and that is really the pleasure of these drawing days, enjoying and exploring the cities you live in. It's also always really great to see artists' sketchbooks at the end of the day. Get inspired by what other people saw and drew. It's really worth it, you gotta try it!

NRAMA: You're one of several Pixar artists who have moonlighted in the world of comics. Is there any camaraderie between you and the others about this?

EC: Oh yes, we certainly support each other's endeavors and we talk shop a lot. We share a lot from discussing which printers to use to booking tables at conventions. Good friend Ronnie del Carmen and I also made a couple of books together (Fragments and Three Trees Make A Forest). The little Pixar selfpublishing community has grown in recent years: Bill Presing, Scott Morse, Ted Mathot, Derek Thompson for example come to mind ... all the better more partners in crime! [laughs]

NRAMA: And what does Pixar management think of these extra-curricular activities?

EC: They are supportive, they know creative outlets can't be but a good thing for everybody. That is part of Pixar's culture, letting and actually helping people to cultivate their talents. Smartest management I've ever seen. Great people.

NRAMA: And before we go, I have to ask about one last thing. You did two issues of The Adventures of Mia. Any chance we'll see more of that someday?

EC: I am trying to figure out how to get back into that, I feel pretty bad I left The Adventures of Mia stranded at issue 2. The problem has been that my style and approach has changed in the last few years, but if I can still make that work for the world of Mia, I'd love to go back do more of it.

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