Interview with Robin E. Mørk
1/You illustrated Dolan Morgan’s “Investment Banking in Reverse” delicately, but with purpose. Would you tell us about how you chose which passages to illustrate?
I think this was the hardest part! Dolan’s story was really visually and thematically complex and rich, so I was pretty spoiled for choice.
I started by just reading it, without any deliberate thought to the illustrations. I just gobbled it up, no note-taking or anything, and then later, I tried to think of what parts had struck me most. I knew I wanted to do the fish in the bucket right off the bat; it was such a poignant metaphor for the world Dolan had created. I also was pretty sure I wanted to do something with the umbrella-decked tree, which was such a fanciful, hopeful image. Plus, umbrellas are such a great shape to draw.
The last image took me longer to settle on- I was torn between something to do with the father’s boxing match with Carl Stanley, Father Raymark’s sermon, and the protagonist’s father’s sacrifice at the hospital. In the end, after much sketching and considering, I decided that the hospital stay was the best choice, for a few reasons: it was the flip side of the umbrella tree, in that it was also an ill-fated grab for hope, but instead of being backed by optimism and naïveté, It was more about fatalism and denial. It was also further toward the end of the story, which kept the illustrations from getting all bunched up at the front.
2/Through these images, you evoked all the levity and tragedy in Morgan’s tale, balancing cruelty with whimsy–the bleeding fish with his curious stare, the umbrella balancing playfully on a withering tree, the delicate hand hooked to an IV. Was your decision to render the images in this ironic style indicative of your awareness of this balance?
I think that the choices I made in rendering the images were absolutely impacted by Dolan’s beautifully complex prose, and the conflicting moods he evoked. I felt like so much of the story was about the tenacity of hope, even in its most ill-fated hour. I wanted that to come through, so it was important for each image to look fragile without being ridiculously grim.
3/As an illustrator, you’ve been inspired by classic works of literature. Are there any contemporary works that have made you want to take up your pen and brush?
I want to illustrate The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster so bad I almost can’t stand it. I have no illusions of outdoing Jules Feiffer, (the original illustrator, and a legend in his own right), but the work calls to me. I would also love to illustrate Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a personal favorite of mine, or Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is another.
I’ve recently been reading some China Miéville, namely Kraken and Un-Lun-Dun, and his work would be amazing to interpret visually. I remember the first thing I ever read by him was a short story called “Viae Ferae”, and that would be a treat to work on. (Anything I say about that story could be a spoiler, and it’s such a great story that I don’t want to do that, so I won’t say any more!)
4/Sum up your work in apt in five words: go!
Balls to the wall, bitch.
Robin E. Mørk’s illustrations can be seen in the first print issue of apt, which can be purchased here.