Interview: Emma Fick

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For N13, we interviewed some of our contributors. We talked to writer and sketch artist Emma Fick about narrow mountain roads, tiny ancient churches and the symbiosis of writing and drawing. 

What was the first drawing you ever did?

Learning to wield a pencil is a slow and continuous process, so the literal answer is that my first drawing was a single line, making way to series of lines, making way to shapes, making way to more complex forms.

The first full drawing composition I can remember, however, was a certain Mr. Pickle-head. It consisted of a kind of oblong lump with a face in the middle, sitting on a throne, surrounded by abstract lines and shapes radiating outward to represent his eminence. Mr. Pickle-head was a force to be reckoned with — Mama and Papa told me so.


What was the scariest thing you have seen in Serbia?

I pretty consistently fear for my life in moving vehicles, cars and buses alike. Cars passing on narrow mountain roads, around curves, with a precipice dropping off half a meter to your left, and no seatbelts available… it’s terrifying. I thought I would get used to it. I didn’t.


The most beautiful thing?

I love the rural Serbian countryside. It’s incredibly varied throughout the country; below Belgrade is mountainous and varied and above Belgrade is flat and monotonous. I love the rolling hills and mountains of the South best, and I swear there is a certain light special to Serbia that comes in the Spring and Fall to illuminate the trees and fields just so. Tiny ancient churches are scattered but plentiful in these rural areas, and if you know the right person to show you, you can enjoy their half-forgotten, secret-feeling beauty.


What is one thing Americans think about Serbia that is not true?

I get a lot of Americans asking me if it’s dangerous. I think this is a remnant of the ’90s war, which is the last thing most Americans heard about Serbia. I think it’s also because a lot of times people think I’m saying “Syria.”


Where would you fly to right now if you could?

At the moment, I’m drawn eastward: Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia.


What inspires you other than art?

This is difficult, because I’m primarily inspired by the world at large, and art is a way to comprehend that beauty, to funnel the inspiration into something tangible and ordered. But I feel like I’m cheating if I say “the world,” so I’ll say: architecture, textile crafts, literature, people-watching.


How can you tell a story in images better than in words?

I use both words and images in my work, so I’m pretty loyal to both storytelling methods. That said, I think images are more successful at telling a certain kind of story. Off the top of my head, I think of chaos, miscellany, the momentary and the fleeting. Once you spend a page (or ten) describing something momentary or fleeting, once you write down and order all the things that make something miscellaneous or chaotic, you’ve sort of lost the essential momentariness of it, or else the sense of miscellany has been replaced by order because you’ve taken the time to neatly list it all out. With image, a whole story can be told in an instant, which can be a great asset: an image can convey miscellany without over-explaining or inadvertently structuring, and it can more easily maintain the mystery of a single arresting moment.

But I’m immediately thinking of examples that refute what I just said: T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” literary triumphs of miscellany and chaos, or Proust, whose legacy lies precisely in his ability to express the momentary/fleeting with (many, many) words. So clearly I don’t have a good answer to this question!

Read Emma Fick’s story and see her drawings in N13 today!

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