By Madeline Ricchiuto
If you don't know his name, you probably know his art or have seen him standing on the floor, painting on glass in the middle of The Block here at NYCC. I got the chance to interrupt CJ Draden and and talk a little bit about his graphic novel The Wooden Heart, his art in general, and a little about his next graphic novel, The Zero Mirror.
"Art is experience… There's a story to everything," Draden said about translating his work into a more narrative style for The Wooden Heart. He has to have some story in mind even when he works on a portrait, but with the graphic novel it was much more structured. "We have these ideas about what story should be," what films are like, what comics are like and so he had to narrow his focus into something more linear. "There's no wrong way to do anything."
"This is me. The Wooden Heart is very personal for me…" because Draden has always empathized with characters like Gepetto or Dr. Frankenstein. "Because you have to be a little crazy to think that" and make something that thinks and feels and is real out of an inanimate object. "Thats always been interesting to me."
"This book was like therapy," he said when I asked if any particular moments in the story were more difficult for him to put on the page in such a personal project like The Wooden Heart. He has working on this project for four years. "It was getting to the point where I was like "I'm sick of this shit… It was making me feel things I didn't want to feel so I'd out it down and then pick it back up because I didn't like how it made me feel… But then Stan Lee came onto the project and that was a real motivating factor for me."
Now that The Wooden Heart is finished, Draden plans to work on another graphic novel about Greek mythology, "its a business you have to switch it up," he told me. The Zero Mirror is a lot less of a personal project, though he insists "its still all the stuff I'm into" but without such a personal connection.