Tommi Parrish


So, to begin, how old are you? How long have you been focused on comics as a medium?

Hey, so I'm 25. I've been sort of dabbling in things that vaguely resemble comics / drawing narratives/ for a long time, but I used to do these terrible abstract sculptures and paintings as well, all of them art school and angst themed. I started to focus all my energy towards mostly just making comics 4 or 5 years ago. I still make the sculptures in secret.

Interesting, you can still see some of that come out in your work as well. Stuff like this, seems sort of reminiscent of sculptural/3D work. Do you feel like having a background in other mediums, i.e. sculpture, helps your work process when in comes to making comics (finding new line forms/shapes, exploring space, etc.)?

Ha! That was a panel from an advice comics answer about patriarchy. Yeah, I guess its kind of reminiscent of a sculptural work. I mean, if you squint your eyes no one medium is really that different from the next. For me, the only reason I arrived at comics was because it was the form that facilitated what I wanted to say the best. Having a background in other types of art and having parents who are artists has helped me remove a lot of the romance around being a maker, which has been really helpful.

The notion of sex appears pretty frequently in your work. What is the importance of that subject to you, or do you feel like there is a message you are trying to communicate about it, using comics specifically as a medium?


My intention isn't so much to talk about the act of sex, but more so to explore different forms of eroticism and intimacy. It's an important part of my life, it takes up a lot of space in my brain and so just really naturally appears up in my writing. I tried to make a comic a few weeks ago about all the similarities between sex and art. How drawing is this kind of masturbation, how a need for control so often permeates the way we go about creating and the way we approach fucking. But it kept not coming out right. In terms of why I'm drawn to the medium of comics specifically its hard to say, without a doubt I enjoy the whole self-flagellation of it (they're really hard, no one really cares, they take a long time to make and a fraction of that time to read etc, etc.) but I guess they just fit my mind really well. I love the discipline cartooning requires. It gives me purpose and structure and a more or less healthy way to quiet my brain, so it doesn't always have to be about drinking or sex or moving house.

How long does it usually take you to flesh out a finished piece or narrative? Any specific process that works best for you? Like, sketching and then approaching it formally vs more improvisational techniques (or a combination)?

I'm in the process of trying to change my process. Normally I have an idea, turn it over in my brain a little, assess if the idea is lazy or boring, sketch out some thumbnails, and then start making it as soon as possible. I carry sketchbooks everywhere I go and draw constantly. I work every day. I talk to people about ideas a lot and recycle them for art. The moments between workable ideas for comics are horrible, its like my whole life starts to feel shaky, which is why I'm altering my practice. I want to establish a more stable, sustainable routine in the way I work, less like ‘OMG FEELINGS, now I'm not going to sleep for a few days until this is finished' i've lived like that for years and i'm over it. i'm trying to teach myself to work on longer narratives, bigger projects, so I can get better at character development and world building and stuff like that. At the moment I work best at night, which usually means all my drawings are bad the first half of the day, and then they get better when it gets late. Sometimes an idea takes a week or two before it's fleshed out enough to draw, and sometimes I should of waited longer and I ruin a good comic by only drawing half of what it could of been. So yeah, I'm learning to go slower, sleep more, draw the character a bunch of times before I start the comic, think of how I want the scenes to flow, what color palette and lighting would be most appropriate and what I want the narrative tone to be.

What is your favorite medium to use?

At the moment I use gouache and watercolor paint, fine-tooth watercolor paper and uni pin fine liners. Right now I'm super into penciling a whole comic in and then rubbing it out, so I can only faintly see the lead as a barebones guide and then painting over it. When there are no black lines defining one shape form another the colour choice is really really important. Its like this super fun colour puzzle.

Who/what are some of your inspirations?

My favourite cartoonist's right now are Dash Shaw and Olivier Schrauwen, the way they casually fold metaphor into their work is incredible. and the attention they pay to gesture, it kills me. I've been waiting for my Arsene Schrauwen to come in the mail from Fantagraphics for like 6 months now. Man, its gonna good when it get's here. There's so much to learn in comics creation. A lot of my friends are cartoonists and they're the people who have consistently inspired me and taught how to be better. Simon Hanselmann has been incredibly supportive for years. He's taught me to keep tight and consistent, to let panels breathe, to try harder. Marc Pearson is another cartoonist who's work I find really exciting, his writing is incredibly sensitive and weird and funny, you should check him out. Dylan hammond and Diego Ramirez are these amazing video artists from my home town whose work I love, also Elena Savage is an incredible writer and just a total bad ass. Lee Lai pays the most messed up intense attention to light and form and gesture in her work, you should definitely, definitely look her up. Also, this amazing woman called Simona Kapitolina who runs a record label called ‘girls who smoke poke', which represent queer musicians and she's just this total powerhouse of productivity and information. Also the cartoonist Sam Wallman, because he's knowledge of comics language is amazing and he's the best.

What kind of topics/subject matter should we expect from your new release coming from 2dcloud? Is there anything about this book you might be treating differently from previous releases?

This book is going to be much bigger and hopefully better then anything i've done before. Some of its true, some of its not. Its basically about all the things and people that make up a life, their individual stories, and kinda how everyone gets by. It'll be a bit about sex and a bit about families and a bit about art. i'm pretty nervous/excited.