Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. This “Festival Focus” for 2018 is Kaisa Leka, a Finnish comics artist and adventurer who, together with partner Christoffer Leka, publishes autobiographical books about the nature of being.
When not drawing Kaisa is usually exploring the world on a bike, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Kaisa has been awarded the Finnish Comics Society's prestigious Puupäähattu prize and several of their books have received design prizes such as Grafia’s Gold Award. Kaisa also regularly contributes comics to several different Finnish magazines, covering topics such as feminism, disability and animal rights.
Kaisa, what are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Kaisa: I’m working on a travelogue about a kayaking trip I did this summer together with my partner Christoffer and two friends. We paddled in Russia for seven weeks, traveling from the White Sea to St Petersburg. The book will be published some time next year, depending on how long it’ll take me and Christoffer to agree on the design.
Which comic project you've worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Last year we published a book called Imperfect which was awarded two major Finnish comics and design prizes, so that makes me pretty proud.
Imperfect is the story of a bike trip from New York to San Francisco and it consists of postcards that we sent every day to Christoffer’s nephews and niece back home. It can be purchased from our site - pointlesssuffering.com (which also includes our blog from the trip) - and I’ll be selling it at the Comics Clock Tower Extra during the Festival.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Kaisa: I’m kind of bad at having a fixed work schedule and tend to do everything at the last minute, so I plan my days as deadlines pop up and try to fit in some time for naps and exercise.
What's the best thing about being a comics creator?
Kaisa: I feel that through comics I have a chance to get my voice heard, to show people that there are alternatives to the materialist worldview that’s destroying the planet.
And the worst?
Kaisa: I wish people cared more about books and less about bluetooth-enabled multi-function activity bracelets! I’ve always tried to constantly reach new readers with my work so that more people would discover comics and put their money in books, not gadgets they’ll get bored with in a week. I believe there will always be an audience for books as long as we produce the best and most beautiful books we possibly can.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Kaisa: I get easily excited about new projects and hobbies, end up spending tons of time on them, getting super frustrated and stressed out, and then dropping out and trying to focus on comics until the next thing comes along. So I guess the answer is: my brain.
Do you think it's easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Kaisa: I’ve always self-published my books and that has definitely become easier for your people to do. I started doing comics in the 90s when you had to print and staple and glue and mail and carry your comics to the readers. Now you can publish them online and find just the right readers for them, even if you’re doing something outside the norm.
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven't, what are you expecting?
Kaisa: I was invited to teach a comics workshop at the University of Cumbria in Carlisle last spring and really enjoyed my first visit to the Lake District! I was looking at the view from the train window, all those rolling hills and small towns and sheep at pastures and thinking ”I’ll have to come and do a bike trip here some time!”.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Kaisa: I’ve met Ulli Lust very briefly at the Stockholm Comics Festival once but I’d really like to invite her over for dinner and have a nice long chat about her work and travels.
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Kaisa: Festivals and events have given me work opportunities and tons of visibility that has helped me sell books. But getting to meet other comics creators at festivals is also something I enjoy, as many of them are quite interesting people.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Kaisa: Don’t wait for others to acknowledge the value of your work, just go ahead and publish it yourself! Stay active and you’ll find your audience, as well as other artists who will help and inspire you to keep going. And eventually everyone will have to respect you just because of the volume of your work. I’ve followed this method myself and it’s worked just fine!
What's your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Kaisa: I was super impressed by Mari Ahokoivu’s Oksi, which I just bought last month. It’s a beautiful big book about bears, mythical creatures and all the strange things living in the forest. It has English subtitles and can be ordered here.
Kaisa, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in Kendal.
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018. Tickets for the Festival are on sale now from: www.comicartfestival.com
KAISA LEKA ONLINE