By Jessica Liu
“I definitely have way too many ideas, and sometimes I need to focus on just one,” Nicolette Scrivner laughed. “It’s really hard for me to pick because I love them all.” These words capture the passion driving Scrivner’s art, passion evident in the hours of work and energy she devotes to writing and drawing comics. Bold lines and vibrant colors characterize her artwork, making each image eye-catching and captivating.
Scrivner doesn’t recall when her love for cartooning began—“I always used to draw on the walls,” she grinned—but she began transforming her comics into final products (publishing-ready comics fully drawn, colored, and written) this year.
Despite the complexity of her comics, Scrivner taught herself the craft, only attending studio classes to draw live models and refine her anatomy skills. The elaborate, time-consuming nature of cartooning requires Scrivner’s kind of self-drive, and her production process reflects this. “For me, it just starts with word vomit. Sometimes I make recordings, sometimes I write it down,” she said. Only when she roots out inconsistencies in the story does she move on to drawing the comic. This process involves sketching thumbnails, or tiny pages with rough sketches. Scrivner then creates full-sized sketch layers—increasingly detailed sketches imposed on top of each other—as well as inking and coloring.
Currently, Scrivner is in the process of creating a comic about heroes and villains. The planning process has taken a year, and she has worked on producing it for another six months, extensively writing, rewriting, and designing. After finishing, she hopes to publish her comic online, either by creating her own website or publishing it on a site such as WEBTOON.
Scrivener works with the goal of becoming an animator when she’s older. While she has backed off of the art form after realizing the episodes she saw on TV channels required dozens of animators to come to life, eventually, Scrivner hopes to delve back into the field: “I really like branching out and trying new things, and I don’t want to limit myself to one medium.” In order to further her animation skills, she hopes to attend art school. While stigma still surrounds art students, with many critics failing to understand the true nature of a job in the arts, Scrivner views cartooning as a viable career path: “There’s this whole industry out there. It’s not just that starving artist on the street trying to sell paintings. There’s so much more. Art is so much broader.”
Regardless of the effort required to produce a comic, cartooning provides Scrivner with a rewarding escape: “It’s my little space to go to and hang out in when things are tough.” This intrinsic reward translates to her motivation to create art. “I really like making people be able to feel emotions [and] create a world that people can escape to,” Scrivner said, adding that “I really wish one day that when people look at stuff I create, they feel inspired to create stuff like it too.”
While Scrivner hasn’t faced a serious barrier between her art and her race, her identity as an Asian-American has impacted her experience in cartooning: she noted that white people have composed the majority of the art classes she has attended. “There’s the stereotype that Asians are specifically good at cartoons or anime,” Scrivner added. “I don’t want people to have preconceptions about my work based on my appearance and race. I want people to like my work because it’s my work, not because I’m Asian.” With the COVID-19 pandemic, her fear of publishing her art online has intensified due to the recent increase in racism targeted toward the Asian community.
Scrivner also acknowledges the racial inequity existent in animation, citing examples of companies such as Pixar where connections help secure jobs. This hiring system has resulted in the animation and cartooning industry becoming white-dominated. “It’s important that there’s diversity in the industry because you need those different perspectives to create cartoons,” Scrivner explained. “This is what children are seeing and learning.”
Despite the racial divides in cartooning, Scrivner believes that she and other teens wield the power to bridge these inequities: “Art is very powerful, and if you want to make a statement or create a movement, there’s always options to do that.” Accordingly, she strives to represent diverse voices in her cartoons with characters of different races and genders.
Above all, Scrivner emphasizes the value of staying true to one’s own voice in order to tap into the inherent value of art, a tool used to shape the world and understand yourself and others. “You should focus on making art that you’re proud of and that you want to create,” she said. “Don’t let other people dictate what you make. Your art is yours and yours alone, and you can make it whatever you want it to be."