Interview: Leah Hayes

The Brief


Leah Hayes is a New York Times bestselling graphic novelist and illustrator. She has published several titles with Fantagraphics Books, including Funeral of the Heart and Holy Moly. Her latest work, Not Funny Ha-Ha, was listed as one of Forbes’ Best Graphic Novels of 2015. She is also a musician, songwriter, and music producer, and has released several albums with her band, Scary Mansion.

Which film would you recommend to our readers?
Persepolis, directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Persepolis has changed my life in many ways. It has taught me about the importance of integrity in art, family, and storytelling.

Which album would you recommend to our readers?
Façades by Peter J. Brant. One of the best albums to come out of the last several years, in my opinion. Brant is an incredible illustrator and filmmaker as well.


The following questions relate to our Perspectives column, in which two writers respond to an artwork that they are experiencing for the first time.

Are art galleries detached from the real world?
Some are, some aren’t. If they are, in my opinion it is because of how much they do or don’t reach out to the community, or how well they advertise, or what they charge for admission.

Can art erase history?
I think that nothing can truly ‘erase’ what has already occurred, but art can certainly reshape and affect our memories of the past, experiences, etc.

Could art end civilisation?
No one thing could end civilisation, but it could contribute to it powerfully and greatly.

Does art create a bond with its audience?
Not always. Sometimes it distances and isolates the audience.

Does art rely on interpretation?
I would say yes. Even documentaries, which attempt to explain or show reality, are seen through someone’s eyes.

Does narrative film rely upon empathy?
Not always. Many times there are unreliable narrators or storytelling that does not induce empathy from the audience. And that can be amazing.

When we perform in character, do we lose our own voice?
No, our voice is added to the character, and vice versa.

The art of discovery

The following questions relate to Silent Frame’s aim to celebrate the art of discovery.

For you, is artistic discovery a private or shared experience, and why?
Music can be a shared experience but for visual art, it is often private. I find my next ideas for comics and books when I am alone.

What is your greatest artistic discovery, and why?
When I discovered how to ‘let go’ of drawing realistically, and discovered my personal style. That was a scary, but exciting, time.

What arts-based activity do you most want others to discover, and why?
I want people to read poetry, write in journals, and sketch in sketchbooks as adults. These are things that we often stop after high school or college, but are forms of introspection and discovery that are very important.

More to discover

Leah Hayes: Visit Leah Hayes' site here. Listen to Scary Mansion on their Soundcloud page here. Read an excerpt of Not Funny Ha-Ha on the Fantagraphics site. Hayes has also been interviewed for LA Times and Paper Magazine

Today's recommendations: Persepolis (trailer), Façades (Bandcamp page).

Read more: Graphic novels