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Laura Lee Gulledge has an interesting double life: She’s the creator of the graphic novel Page by Paige, which was published by Abrams earlier this year, but like many others in the field, she also has a day job. It’s a very unusual day job though: Gulledge is a scene painter for store window displays, and she worked on the holiday displays for several big New York department stores. She has posted some fascinatingly surreal videos and photos of the windows she worked on at her blog, It Needs More Glitter, and she told me that she painted all of the Saks windows herself, rather than working with a group, adding, “so you can recognize my inking style in the finished work.” Gulledge is working on a children’s picture book concept that is inspired by her Christmas-window work—a book that she would love to see as the starting point for a real store window, thus bringing the whole thing full circle. I was curious how she mingles her two careers in real life, so I e-mailed her a couple questions.
Robot 6: How do you integrate your graphic novel work with your store windows–do you have to set everything else aside when the holidays draw near?
Laura Lee Gulledge: Anyone in comics can tell you that there isn’t a lot of money in it, especially when you’re a new author building an audience. So working as a “holiday elf” for 4 months of the year has been a good way to supplement my income over the past couple years while working on my comic projects. Unfortunately, taking away time from a book when you already have a deadline (just so you can pay the bills) can be hard. With Page by Paige I gave myself only 7 months to draw it all out because I worked a season on Christmas windows, which was insane. For my next book I’m giving myself more time to draw it, so I might not be able to fit in another season of windows. It’s been a great learning opportunity to be a scenic artist, but ultimately I’d like to be drawing full time.
Robot 6: Are you working on a new graphic novel?
Gulledge: I’ve just started working on a new graphic novel called Will & Whit which features a new cast of characters in a summertime adventure, but with some similar underlying themes to Page by Paige. The main character’s shadows are “alive” so I’m especially looking forward to playing around with the whole visual style. Here’s the elevator-pitch-summary…”As lamp-building teen Willy begins another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of a whimsical arts carnival and a storm-induced blackout, which forces Willy to face her fear of darkness and the living shadows that shed light on her true self.”
Besides the graphic novel, I have lots of pots on the stove….I’m working on adapting Will & Whit as an interdisciplinary stage production with my friend Lauren Larken, fleshing out a children’s picture book concept, and working on turning some of my artwork into a rug collection through a NY textile producer.