INTERVIEW WITH CONOR CASEY
Conor Casey is a Toronto-based screenwriter and illustrator. His films have played at Sundance and SXSW. He's worked with Vince Vaughan, MTV, HBOGo, and Letterkenny. He's currently working on an Italian sitcom called "New School."
Follow him on instagram @conorcaseyart
Interview by Rebeccah Love
How would you describe your aesthetic?
All over the place. Evolving and unsure of what it is. If I had to use familiar words, I’d say infantile, abstract, minimalist, cynical, unintentionally ironic, angsty. I feel like my stuff is similar to sketches you would find on a troubled high school student’s binder. A student that wants to excel in art class, but would rather make funny comics for his fellow students, than actually apply himself in the class.
What's your history of involvement with visual art? Did you draw a lot as a kid?
Art was always my favourite subject in school, and my best grade. However, in grade 10, I drew a self portrait and did it very life like; like I really displayed my horrible zits and angry teenager aura and exaggerated my flaws. When I came into school the next day, the drawing was up on the wall in the “featured artists” display and I got an A+ on it. I demanded the art teacher take it down, because I looked so horrible, and I destroyed it. I was totally embarrassed, and didn’t do any art classes ever again. I continued to sketch, and would draw teachers and my fellow students, usually in a more comical way, exaggerating their quirks, and these drawings would spread around school. Recently, more out of frustration from a lack of screenwriting work, and the emotional uproar of a break up, I returned to art. It kind of called me, as cheesy as that sounds. I did one pie chart, and immediately had two pages of comic ideas, and was thinking, of course, this is what I used to do, until I got all embarrassed that one time.
How would you describe the imagery that you're drawn towards?
I love abstract stuff. Stuff that is all over the place. Also, I like stuff that feels like it’s anti something. I also, always prefer comedy that makes you cry as much as it makes you laugh. My preferred reaction to one of my comics is, “Ouch. That hurts my heart."
You work as a screenwriter. Do you find there is a lot of overlap in terms of skill set? How is comic writing similar to scriptwriting?
With comics kinda, with painting no. With comics, perhaps the biggest overlapping skill is the need to be clear with your message. Through TV screenwriting, (mostly for kids), I am often told to make things more clear. Often, what makes sense to me, is missed by the viewer. This applies to comics for sure. Also, the less words the funnier. This is something I struggle with. And ending sentences with the funniest word. That’s a screenwriting trick. But, really, they are totally different crafts. Screenwriting is a lengthy process with tons of people involved, tons of thinking and anxiety, and at the end of the day you hand over your blue print and your work is done. With comics, you get to do it all, without asking for any help, and then you see the final product. Finishing a comic has the same creative fulfillment as finishing a script, for me, only it’s impossible to get people to read scripts, and ultimately scripts leave me feeling empty, because they are a means to an end and one or two grammar errors and people check out. And I suck at grammar.
What are some of your favourite comics or cartoons? Who are some of your favourite painters?
MAD Magazine is my number one influence. Cracked, The Simpsons (old stuff), Richard Scary, Shel Silverstein, Beavis and Butthead, Garfield, Farside, Dilbert, my late friend Michael Kuchma had a comic about a lonely ghost that was really ahead of its time.
Painters: Uh… Kreighoff, Basquiat, Monet, David Shrigley, The group of seven, Picasso…I just have so much respect for any artist that can make something that catches my eye*
*I am not well versed in this area, and just only recently started really understanding what to look for and what I like… basically I like the legends, and I tend to lean towards Canadian art because it’s often about nature, and a good nature painting is fun to look at, right? I also really like Shrigley, because there is a weird morbid balance to his work that seems to connect with people. I think a good artist can put a circle on a page, and you’re like, "that was a sweet place to put that circle."
What, according to you, is the purpose of a comic?
To shine a light on something we can all relate to. To point out the absurdity of the day to day life we all take way too seriously. To make me feel a sense of accomplishment in my otherwise uneventful life.
What are you looking forward to?
Finding a comic style that I can stick to, and eventually working with acrylic paints. On a daily basis, I’m looking forward to the next moment where I have an idea for something. I get very scared that I will never get another idea ever again. I am about to do a water colour painting, so I am looking forward to that. I do them for therapy… and it feels amazing to finish one.