Vice Cartoonist Leslie Stein Explains What's Behind Her Diary Comics

The artist shares commentary on four pages of her new book, 'Present.'
Courtesy of Leslie Stein/Drawn & Quarterly

Readers of Vice online are already familiar with the diary comics of Leslie Stein; they've been appearing there since 2014, where her visually minimalist — yet expansive in terms of honesty and emotion — cartoons have won over fans new and old.

For everyone else, there's Present, a new collection from Drawn & Quarterly, which explores Stein's relationships with New York City, her family and friends, and herself. Combining some Vice cartoons with fresh material, Present is the ideal showcase for Stein's work to date — and below, she shares four pages from the book, as well as some thoughts on those pages.

Page 48: I wanted a feeling of lightness on this page to match the experience of flight as well as meditation so the colors and spatial relationships between images are very airy. The first image is from the light tunnel at O'Hare airport in Chicago, where I grew up. 

Page 79: Since I do a very minimal level of penciling/page setup before I lay down color and ink, I'm sometimes happily surprised by how a page turns out, or forms itself. This page showcases music and sound in a fun way since there's the collaged sheet music and the flies are dancing around that element and the rest of the page.

Page 83: I'm always trying to use color in a way that's emotive and adds to the story. Here's a pretty good example of doing that in a very straightforward and direct way. The character begins to feel shy in response to someone. Instead of having her cheeks blush, I made her whole being pink to showcase that. 

Page 103: I drew this page a week before the last U.S. presidential election, and I do want my comics to be a safe place of understanding and empathy. Ironically, the next week after the election I wrote a comic called Peace Sign that responded to the various emotions I witnessed as a bartender that week. I think I'm just working it out day by day, like everyone else.

Present is available now, with Stein currently on tour to promote the book. She'll be appearing in New York, Boston, Austin and Portland, Oregon, over the next month. Details are available here.

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