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DF Interview: CJ Draden brings dark tale to life in surreal OGN, Wooden Heart
By Byron Brewer
Artist CJ Draden’s graphic novel, Wooden Heart, is a difficult book to read. It is very personal, both for the creator and, as it turns out, the reader. It is quite unique and challenges a reader to dive deep into its shadows and lose oneself in its pain.
The story revolves around a man who has lost his wife and child during childbirth and is so deep in depression that he considers suicide.
Dynamic Forces caught up with Wooden Heart writer/artist CJ Draden and was honored to share a word with him about this very unusual OGN.
Dynamic Forces: CJ, I understand at New York Comic Con this year you were doing a bit of your fantastic painting technique on glass for the public to see. What was that all about?
CJ Draden: I like to paint live in front of people. I like to give people a little insider of how I work. I was privileged to see my absolute favorite contemporary artist Yoshitaka Amano do live demos and it was very inspiring. I guess I adapted that part of my show from watching him.
DF: Tell us a little about how you got into art – what it means to you, etc. – and from there, writing, and comic book writing.
CJ Draden: Well, I think that’s a good question. I never had a moment in my life where I said to myself, "I want to be an artist". The artist life just fit with the standard of life I want to live. Off the grid to a certain point, self employed, and in a perpetual state of learning good healthy information. I have a passion for traveling to different places of the world and documenting what I see. I guess you could say it’s impossible for a person to have a career in feeding the brain knowledge and imagination so the artist life seemed like the right way to go. I couldn't imagine spending one minute of my life here in this body on this Earth doing things I'm just not passionate about or learning things that I have no interests in learning. Our time here is limited and we are never guaranteed anymore time than the moments we are currently conscious of. I choose to spend that time reading books, traveling the world and creating images from my portal.
DF: For the uninitiated, tell us about your graphic novel, Wooden Heart, and what led up to it. You have said it was very personal for you?
CJ Draden: Wooden Heart is a very personal project. I only began building a sculpture of my version of Pinocchio, I had an idea for the story but once I got to a certain stopping point on the sculpture I wanted to do more with the project so the book was put into motion. The book was based on a poem I wrote called “The Wooden Heart.” The poem was about a very dark time in my life. For as abstract and cerebral as the book is, it’s pretty open to what I was dealing with.
That’s all I would like to say about it. I’ve moved on from that time of my life. For those that have purchased the book, I thank you for your support and I hope it speaks to you.
DF: And the characters in the book?
CJ Draden: There was only one character in the story. His name is Salvatore. He was a vessel for me to express myself.
DF: It took you a few years to complete Wooden Heart. Sort of a therapy, in a way?
CJ Draden: Yes, it took four years to complete the project. It was hard to revisit the events that inspired the poem. The other reason it took so long was because I was learning how to construct a graphic novel. This was my first book so I didn't have much experience. I stopped for a year to get some things in my personal life straightened out and focus on things I needed to learn creatively. Then at one point I almost abandoned the project because I was being too critical of the fact that I was being too vulnerable with this project. I finished it anyway; I always finish what I start.
DF: Now that Wooden Heart is complete and out there in the market, you have started on another of your unique graphic novels called Zero Mirror. What is its storyline?
CJ Draden: . I have started on a new book. I prefer not to discuss it, though.
DF: Can you tell us anything about Zero Mirror?
CJ Draden: The [only] other thing I’ll say is the project is based on Plato’s philosophy and Greek mythology.
DF: CJ, are there any other artists in the comic book field – or writers, for that matter – whose work you might appreciate or admire?
CJ Draden: Neil Gaiman's Sandman.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank CJ Draden for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Wooden Heart is available now.
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