There are MANY nonfiction graphic novels on the market now that explore different business industries and take a ‘memoir’-type tone—the words and pictures still work together to tell a personal story, but the comic is much more text heavy than a typical graphic novel usually is.
Nourigat’s I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation fills a hole in the graphic novel universe for those libraries looking for ‘art’ graphic novels about media, comics and art careers. She narrates her entry into a career as a story artist fluidly, like the loose style she learns to use for her pitches. Her characters and lettering are rounded and warmly drawn, just like the weather in Los Angeles. She makes no bones about this comic being an important source of career advice: in her disclaimer on page nine, she says this is, “one person’s experience,” and that it is “colored by my background, identity, and privilege.” This self-awareness sets a positive tone for the whole rest of the comic.
Nourigat depicts herself and her future colleagues in a loose, sort-of-slapstick fashion that lets you know right out of the box she does not take herself too seriously. Even though the panels are mostly boxy and consistently march at the same size across the page, page after page, there is enough variation to move the eye around and give the reader some relief from the HUGE BLOCKS OF TEXT. When she finally gets a job, the phone call that announces it shows her phone making a smiley face.
This graphic novel also serves as a young adult coming of age story, as this is Natalie’s first time moving away from her hometown of Portland, OR, her first time living alone, first time learning a new city, and first time trying to find “her people” in America’s second biggest city. The cost of living in LA, LA’s different neighborhoods that are accessible to most animation companies, and the traffic and weather are all discussed, with comical memories depicted guilelessly and hilariously. I was raised in Florida, and I found it priceless that she discovered the importance of air conditioning for the first time.
I think it will be useful to artists and students to have the stories of how guild networking helped Nourigat in her first few years of employment. Nourigat also spends several pages explaining the difference between drawing for animation and drawing for published comics. She advises her readers not to “get too precious” with their art in storyboards for animation movies, as the job is all about fluidly and quickly turning out sketches and boards, collaborating with other artists, and melding several artists’ styles together until the art director gets the mix he likes.
The A Few Things To Keep In Mind chapter is particularly useful for young artists moving to the big(ger) city. It looks at the whole LA picture, the seamy as well as the sparkly. She explains that LA is a city preoccupied with outward appearance—know who you are going in, and the town will not eat you up. Nourigat mentions more than once that she did not attend or graduate from art school, and how that didn’t matter. This chapter seems so useful to me that it’s worth the whole price of purchase. (It’s cheaper than art school, too!) My mom worked in an art school library for nine years, and I don’t remember any professor talking this much about the art business or career and personal advice. It’s like your best older mentor instructor took you aside and had the hard conversation and gave you the warnings, without scaring you to death.
Finally, in the chapter How to Break In, Nourigat gets to the information every young animation artist wants to know. She must be asked about this a lot, more even than Ralph Bakshi, because her perspectives on this are down to earth, encouraging, and full of common sense. The common sense extends not just to the amount of drawing and practice and yes, work it will take to break in, but also to things your parents didn’t tell you, like “how not to be *that* guy/girl,” telling her readers that “desperation scares people away.” She never considers for a minute any reality other than the reader, following her advice, might be the artist sitting at a Comic-Con table years later, giving the next generation artist career and portfolio advice. For the anxious 17-year-old art charter program student I used to be, that is heartwarming.
This title is suggested for all high school, academic, and public libraries that want to add it to their adult or teens section. There is absolutely no red flag content of any kind.
I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation
by Natalie Nourigat
BOOM! Studios, 2019