Kat Fajardo: Latinx Illustrated


EHN Staff
Kat Fajardo: Latinx Illustrated
Gringa_33

Artwork from “Gringa!” by Kat Fajardo

By Vicente Guzman-Orozco

“Gringa!”, Kat Fajardo’s short comic about identity has found unexpected levels of success since it debuted little over a year ago. The artist recently took some time for an interview with El Hispanic News where she discussed her best-seller, her professional and romantic partnership, and her current and future projects.

El Hispanic News: “Gringa!, introduced at the Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo last year, is described as “one Latina’s struggle with cultural identity, based on your own experiences. What kinds of reactions have you gotten that were unexpected? How did your family react to it?

Kat Fajardo: Honestly when I first posted “Gringa!” on Tumblr I wasn’t expecting any kind of reaction from people. I felt like stories about Latinx assimilation weren’t very common in school or in the media. So when I believed my comic would be ignored online, I was shocked to see it getting lots of recognition so suddenly! Since then, I still get heartwarming messages from readers who loved and identified with my comic! My favorite ones are from first generation children with incredible stories of their parents’ immigrant experience in the U.S., happy to see a comic that understands and respect their parents’ struggles. And of course I cry like a baby every time I read them! As for my family, I didn’t tell them about “Gringa!” up until recently. They don’t really understand comics or the zine community, but they liked the fact that I’m connecting with my roots again. As long as I don’t forget my origins or (god forbid) my spanish, they’re content with whatever I make!

EHN: When did you start drawing, and when did it start paying off?

KF: It all started back in middle school, I ran this weird business of drawing Pokemon for classmates in exchange for cool erasers. I thought it was a sweet deal!
Later in high school, drawings transitioned into comics where I got this silly notion that I could make comics for a living. But during college I wasn’t quite happy with my own work. It felt as if my comics was missing an important element, and I couldn’t understand why that was the case. As an experiment I started using ideas and rants from my diary sketchbooks to create a autobio comic which eventually became “Gringa!”. As a result, after finding my “voice” I made it my goal to create more work that represents my Latinidad. Gringa_3

Whenever I go to cons, I love meeting strangers who have read “Gringa!” or “Superstitions” online, often sparking up conversations about their own experiences. It’s helped open doors to meeting amazing PoC creators and editors who have the same mission of bringing more diversity to comics. As of now “Gringa!” is my best-seller online but I’m currently focused on a graphic novel which I hope will become the next promising project for me.

EHN: You are one of the editors of the La Raza Anthology. How did you meet co-editor Pablo Castro, and how did LRA come about?

KF: I met Pablo three years ago when we were students at the School of Visual Arts both studying Cartooning. Like me, he makes comics but his work is always engaging and funny. We started dating and since then we’ve been inseparable, becoming each other’s editors and toughest art critic. After “Gringa!”, I really wanted to organize a zine that captured the same spirit and message as my comic but from a perspective of other Latinxs. With Pablo’s support, we became editors of La Raza Anthology in hopes of adding more representation of Latinxs in the art scene. Once we sent out a call-for-submissions on Tumblr (translated in Spanish & Portuguese thanks to nice volunteers), we received an incredible amount of submissions from artists and writers of all ages from the U.S. and parts of Latin America! It’s our first huge project and to present 130 pages of beautiful comics, illustrations, poems and proses by unbelievably talented Latinxs is such a huge honor. We’re expecting to launch our Kickstarter for the book on August 1st!

EHN: With the explosion of digital media, fan art and the popularity of animation, how do you see the future of illustrative art and how would you encourage young people?

KF: I can’t stress enough how important it is to post your work online! I’ve talked with editors and publishers who favor working with artists who are actively posting artwork online, whether it’s a finished piece, fan art, work in progress, etc. You may have a great idea for a graphic novel but they want to see if you’re productive and motivated enough to work with them. More importantly creating work about your struggles and accomplishments especially as a minority is so vital. We need more diverse voices telling their stories and pushing the right representation in the media. So I encourage all creators to be more honest in their work even if they fear rejection because their work is not considered the “norm”.

EHN: Portland has a great culture for zines and a history of independent publishing. Have you been here? Where is “Gringa!” sold in Portland?

KF: Unfortunately I haven’t gotten the chance to visit Portland despite hearing about its awesome art & zine scene! I would love to visit someday – maybe even possibly live there based on what I’ve heard.
At the moment I don’t have “Gringa” in Portland shops but I would love to change that very soon! Until then I have both digital and physical copies at my online shop at gumroad.com/katfcomix!

EHN: We would love to have you, “Gringa!”, and all your future work. Thank you for your time!

For more of Kat’s work visit her website (http://www.katfajardo.com), her store (https://gumroad.com/katfcomix), and the La Raza Anthology page (http://larazaanthology.tumblr.com/).

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