Comic artist Paulina Ganucheau on finding inspiration, character creation and developing an illustrative style

By   Hannah Bickerton 6 min read

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Paulina Ganucheau is a comic artist and illustrator based in Virginia, US. She is the author of the graphic novel Lemon Bird Can Help! and co-creator of Zodiac Starforce and Another Castle. Other works include She-Ra: Legend of the Fire Princess and Wonder Woman: The Adventures of Young Diana. Paulina’s interests include watching pro-wrestling, cloud photography and following cats on Instagram.

Hey, Paulina. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you became a comic artist and illustrator?

Sure! Hi, I’m Paulina Ganucheau. I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’ve been a lover of drawing as far back as any child with a crayon. I had always loved comic strips, but I discovered my first manga when I was 8 years old. That’s when the real obsession began. My sister and I would make comics together and come up with wild stories.

From there I just kept drawing through high school and right into an art college. I majored in sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design. It was a wonderful experience, but I strongly believe that anyone can do illustration/comics no matter your skill set or education. I got my first published comics job three years after I graduated and 2023 will mark my ten-year anniversary as a full-time freelancer! It’s been quite a ride.

How would you describe your illustrative style? Do you adapt your style for different audiences and genres?

It’s hard to talk about your own style when it’s really something that just kind of happens naturally. I don’t think I ever once thought, ‘I want to draw this certain way,’ it’s more, ‘How do I be the best version of myself?’ That being said I think a lot of my influences still show through in my work. 

Growing up I was obsessed with Disney films, 80s cartoons, manga and anime. I definitely feel like I am a blend of all those things. As far as ‘adapting styles’ that’s another thing I don’t actively do. When I approach a new project, regardless of genre, I don’t try to morph or change myself, I just ask, ‘What would this look like in my Paulina Ganucheau world.’ If that makes any sense!

Which graphic novelists and comic artists inspire you?

Oh gosh, so many. Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, Hayao Miyazaki and Kosuke Fujishima are my long-time faves from my childhood, but as far as my contemporaries the list is endless! Chris Samnee, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Kendall Goode, Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky, Sweeny Boo, Hannah Vardit, Trung Le Nguyen, Savanna Ganucheau (my sister!), Kris Anka, Steenz, Rebecca Mock, Cory Walker, Jen Wang, I could keep going forever, haha. The talent that pours out of the sequential art industry just keeps me going every day. They all work so hard and forever inspire me to be and do better.

What are the stages behind developing a character’s image and how do you ensure consistency?

After I have a general idea of the character in my head, I usually start with collecting inspiration. I search for images that feel like the essence of the character or push me to be creative in any way. It’s one of my favorite parts and I do this before starting any project, not just character creation! 

From there it’s the sketching and exploratory phase. Sometimes when I’m creating characters I can nail them down in the first sketch, but others it takes longer to uncover them. It can occasionally feel like you’re whittling them out of wood! 

After they feel complete, for the most part, then I just let them evolve on their own. There’s never been a time where the character looks exactly like my initial sketch. They come to life on the page for me and it’s honestly wonderful to see. I try to be as consistent as possible, but again sometimes they have a mind of their own.

Can you describe the artistic storyboarding process when working with a writer and how this was different from working on your own graphic novel Lemon Bird Can Help!?

It’s honestly not that different as far as process, but I will say I really enjoy the freedom as far as being my own writer. With either scenario there are set steps to the comic creating process: script, thumbnails, pencils, inks, colors and lettering. It’s beneficial for both parties usually to stay aligned to these and consider each step fully finished as you go. But if it’s just me behind the writing and the art I have the freedom to change something on the fly if it’s somehow not working in one of the later art steps. 

I think it’s also interesting to write for yourself when you are a visual person. I feel so much more connected to the script and the sketch phase doesn’t feel as ‘unknown’ as it tends to temporarily feel when I’m working with a writer because I’ve built this world and written it myself. I know what to expect and have ideas already swirling around in the ol’ noggin.

What advice would you give to aspiring graphic novelists and comic artists?

It can be difficult to give advice on this because honestly and truly, it happens differently for every creative person, but if you want to make comics then you have to make comics. That’s my advice. If you want to be a comic artist, post comic pages online. If you want to be a comic writer, you need to write comics. If you want to be a comic colorist, post coloring samples. Just getting yourself out there is the biggest thing you can do.

Connecting with your peers who are interested in comics is also crucial. Go to conventions and meet people. Follow your favorite creators online. Read read read read comics! Just expose yourself to the world as much as you can. Breaking in can be tough, but it really is about who you know and how accessible your work is. Also, to any artist who also wants to write their own comics, but doubts themselves: don’t doubt yourself! I doubted myself for years and years. I thought it was something I could never ever do and boy was I wrong. If you know how to draw comics you can write a comic. Fight that fear and write that dream story you want to draw. No matter how good or bad it is. I will bet your intuition is so much greater than you think. 

And to all aspiring artists, no matter what you want to specifically do: draw for you. Draw what you love. Chase that creative dream and never forget the joy of it. Oftentimes we have to take part in projects to break into the industry or pay the bills that don’t exactly fit our true creative goals, but always take the time to be indulgent and just do art for you. Create what you would want to see. Make it fun. Make it messy. Don’t lose the spark!

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.