Chris Ware is inarguably one of the greatest cartoonists of the last 50 years. In this short film produced by Ian Forster and Nick Ravich, Ware talks about the challenge of writing stories from the viewpoint of an African-American school teacher named Joanne Cole.
From his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, artist Chris Ware shares motivations and challenges for telling stories from the perspectives of others in his work. "I distinctly remember being told by my teachers, if you draw women, you're colonizing them with your eyes," Ware recalls of art school. "Do you not draw women and then maintain an allegiance to some sort of experience that only you have had? Or do you try to expand your understanding and your empathy for other human beings?"
Though it might be uncomfortable, Ware strives to write from a place of empathy, expanding his stories to feature characters whose experiences differ from his own. Among these characters is African-American school teacher Joanne Cole, who appears in Ware's continuing comic series Rusty Brown. "I have to try to somehow push my limits and my understanding of how I feel through other people in what I'm doing," says the artist. "You risk falling on your face doing so, but that's a risk you have to take."
Known for his New Yorker magazine covers, Chris Ware is hailed as a master of the comic art form. His complex graphic novels tell stories about people in suburban Midwestern neighborhoods, poignantly reflecting on the role memory plays in constructing identity. Stories featuring many of Ware's protagonists — Quimby the Mouse, Rusty Brown, and Jimmy Corrigan—often first appear in serialized form, in publications such as The New York Times, the Guardian, or Ware's own ongoing comic book series Acme Novelty Library, before being organized into their own stand-alone books.