CRUSHED (COVER PAGE): TRINIDAD ESCOBAR
graphic memoir excerpt & other visual work
Trinidad Escobar is a mother, poet, cartoonist, and educator from the Bay Area, California. Her writing and visual art have been featured in various publications such as Rust & Moth, The Brooklyn Review, The Womanist, Red Wheelbarrow, Solo Cafe, Mythium, Tayo, and the anthologies Walang Hiya, Over the Line, Kuwento, and more. Trinidad has been a guest artist and speaker at the San Jose Museum of Art, Pilipino Komix Expo, LitQuake, and The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. Trinidad teaches Comics & Race at California College of the Arts in Oakland, California.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOURSELF.
This will sound trite, but, like many artists, I started drawing and writing when I was very young. I was about four when I started drawing portraits and six years old when I began writing short stories in a journal. One of my most vivid memories involves a small me sitting at my small desk— a desk covered in art that I painted that same year— conjuring up a story about a young Hawaiian woman who saves an entire village from an erupting volcano.
I was transported to this world that I had created. I felt the heat against my face, inhaled sulfur and ash, and listened as families scrambled from their homes carrying their children and caged birds. In reality, I was not a creative genius. I was not academically smart at that age, either. My only gift at that age was that my imagination ran wild, and I let it. I taught myself that making art— even if the end result is shitty or unrefined— is magick. What made this possible was a ton of alone time. I was painfully shy, and tugged around a boatload of anxious thoughts and behaviors. Writing stories brought much relief to my life.
I went to San Francisco State University to study creative writing. Then, I went to Naropa University to study creative writing in graduate school. I wanted to combine writing with my love for painting and illustration; and comics was the natural route to take. I read tons of comics as a kid, so I couldn’t understand why it took me so long to get to this point. I’m here now, and I’m so freakin' juiced.
Please tell us more about your forthcoming graphic memoir! What was your journey in publishing your first book? Any thoughts or insights?
I’m currently working on a graphic memoir entitled CRUSHED. It’s a biomythography about my reunification with my birth family. As an adoptee politicized at a young age and raised with artists who were simultaneously activists, I wanted to initially write an essay about adoption. The project evolved and retreated into itself. It morphed into a much more intimate and vulnerable memoir that draws from Philippine politics and history, but also memories, dreams, and my family’s storytelling.
It has taken about two years to create this book, but about 2 years of prep to get started. I thought I knew how to draw, but went to California College of the Arts and learned that I had an assload to learn. I started from scratch and worked my way up to the book. I don’t know how good this book will be, but it is most definitely honest in terms of my current artistic ability and my adoptee story.
WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST?
My favorite artist, hands down, is Frida Kahlo. I mean Frida the woman, the artist, the visionary; not Frida the saint or martyr. She was an artist who painted out of necessity— from the heart and soul. In the words of a dear friend of mine, “Frida shows her pussy” in each of her paintings. I love that phrase. To me that means she shows her femininity and feminine power right there on canvas, for all to see, using technique that blew away the men of her time. In a world that hates femme, I can’t see Frida as anything less than courageous and skillful as fuck.
Lynda Barry, Kate Beaton, Emily Carroll, Marjan Satrapi, Isabelle Arsenault, Marguerite Abouet, and Jillian Tamaki, Brian K. Vaughan, and Tim Burton have heavily influenced my comics and illustration. Stephen King, Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor, Marianne Villanueva, M. Evelina Galang, Mariko Tamaki, Wally Lamb, Sherman Alexie, Sandra Cisneros, and Louise Erdrich have profound influence on my storytelling.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?
Dark Tower #1: The Gunslinger is, hands down, my favorite book right now. I’m late jumping on this train, but at least I’m finally on it, no?? I’m finishing book #2 now. It’s fucking with my dreams and I can’t get enough. The best comic I’m reading right now is Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda— an all Asian women team telling an Asian fantasy epic depicting the cruelty and power of women? Hell to the yes.
What's your relationship to process? To form?
My relationship to process is presence. Presence is preservation and sustenance. Some days sitting at the desk pencilling the same faces over and over, or figuring out perspective (and getting it wrong) is so fucking laborious thatI want to stab my eyeballs straight through the centers. Other days, I remember that there are two goals that I have for CRUSHED: 1) create something effective enough for just one reader to walk away from a spiritual adventure, and 2) conjure healing for myself by spending time with these characters every day. Discovering magick as a kid is special because the world will conspire to prove magick childish and illusory. Experience will try to snub out that light. Therefore, that kid has a giant responsibility to keep it breathing like a real, living thing. Sitting at my desk from 10pm to 4am nearly every night staring at these faces and moving my character through part of her healing journey is absolutely a kind of magick for me. Complete presence during these late hours is what it takes, and I am 100% down to put in that work if healing is the reward.
Everything about comics is form and breaking form. Comics is inundated with form. Each panel is a complete illustration, planned and plotted, packed with visual information, guiding the reader from left to right. Each sequence is meaningful. Each border and gutter is meaningful, thus leading to the entire composition of the page. The black and white balance of the page. The text to image dance of the page. Something so difficult to do is a welcomed challenge to me, and also, dialectically, I hate you comics. Making comics is hard.
If you could name a song that describes your artwork, what song would it be? What film?
"Your Way Home" by Lamb’s Ear. It’s a song I play when I’m on a road trip, alone and free on Highway 1, down the central coast. To me, it’s about honoring each fractured piece of yourself, and bringing them together to build a temple for your life.
A film that describes my artwork might be The Conjuring or The Babadook. These horror films are about families, strong women, witches and demons, depression, triumph and healing. I wouldn’t consider CRUSHED a horror story, but it has plenty of psychological horror and supernatural elements.
Last but not least: how does your familial history influence your artwork? Anything you'd like to add or say?
My familial history influences almost every piece of CRUSHED. For one, my adoptive family have their own long history. My adoptive father, Ephraim Escobar, inspired the honesty and labor imbued in this project. My dad has stuck by my side ever since I met my birth family. He has supported me, helped send remittances, and translated countless letters. He’s a saint to me. His stories will make up another book in the future.
Adoption is an inextricable part of my familial history. With the help of my father and husband I learned a textbook’s worth of information in a short amount of time (for an adoptee). Finding out Filipino family history requires digging and getting my hands dirty. There’s so much tucked away and hidden. This project is the end result of what I could find out about my birth family. It’s not my goal to “out” my families or air dirty laundry in public. My goal is to speak about what suffering people are told to keep hidden, and to heal through speaking. To heal through making.
I am rather lucky to learn this much. Many adoptees do not know other adoptees. Many are alone in their experiences. Those who want to learn about their families often can’t because of stupid adoption laws, or because someone close to them is withholding information. I am making this book to honor my experiences and my families’, but I also wish for at least one person out there who has known the true face of suffering to be hopeful after reading CRUSHED.
Graphic memoir excerpt.
Other visual work: (Left to right) River Goddess, Ylang, and Self-Portrait.