Capitol Hill — plus booze and ‘auto-bio’ admissions — at center of cartoonist’s work

Autobiographical cartoonist Tatiana Gill spent a large chunk of her life drunk — the unhealthy, embarrassing, blackout kind of drunk that you don’t remember in the morning.

“My drink of choice was two drinks: whiskey with a beer back,” Hill resident and occasional CHS contributor Gill said. Alcohol fueled her creative pursuits — and also became her subject matter.

Gill grew up on Capitol Hill and has been here on and off her whole life. She grew up reading TinTin and Archie comics and was influenced and inspired by comics from a young age. In middle school she became interested in Marvel comics like X-Men; in high-school she started reading comics from Fantagraphics and other underground publishers. It was around that time that Gill set her sights on a career as a cartoonist, a focus that continued through her years at Evergreen State College.

This month, things come full circle for Gill as the Capitol Hill artist is slated to appear at Georgetown’s Fantagraphics store on November 14 to promote her latest work.

Gill launched her career as a cartoonist in the mid-1990s, doing mostly illustration. She simultaneously consumed copious quantities of alcohol. She didn’t consider her drinking a problem — her sweet spot for drawing came after a drink or two. From there it often felt like the drinks were helping, though after three or four she acknowledges that was probably an alcohol-fueled delusion.

(Image courtesy Tatiana Gill)

(Image courtesy Tatiana Gill)

“I stopped drinking six years ago, I had drunk myself into the emergency room and was consistently black out drunk,” said Gill. Quitting hadn’t been on her radar before that, she instead embraced the dark humor of alcoholism. The darkly humorous cartoons she drew during those days are now available in book form.

First came Blackoutings: How I Quit Drinking. “I didn’t draw very much at all for years, and  when I did draw it was little pieces of raw emotion,” said Gill. “I drew little comics and put them online.”

Blackout became a hit on Facebook and a friend helped her publish it. Next came Omnibusted, featuring highlights of Gill’s drinking escapades from 1999 to 2009.

Then there’s the 500-page compendium Living in the Now, also available online. For more than two years, Gill chronicled her life through comics — one page for each day.

Gill’s other work includes Plus, a candy-colored collection of body-positive illustrations of women who don’t conform to western standards of beauty.

“Men draw traditional archetypes of western beauty,” said Gill. “I’d always drawn curvier women; a few years ago I gained a bunch of weight and that’s when this really started I started drawing bigger women and discovered this body positive movement happening on line.”

Gill self-published her latest book and will also be marketing it herself. “It’s tough because I work in marketing but I don’t like to do it,” said Gill who supports herself working as a contractor at Microsoft. “Drawing is my passion, so it’s an interesting balance.”

Sharing such intimate details of her life hasn’t gotten weird for Gill — not yet, at least. There is a lot of sex and substance abuse and lost dignity in her books.

“My mom did some tell-all auto-bio comics,” said Gill. “In my teens I was reading these auto-bio comics from women like Roberta Gregory who were telling stories about the trouble they got into last night, so I was like, ‘that’s awesome,’ it’s always what I wanted to do.”

Things got a bit more difficult when she got sober, though. She got quieter and didn’t want to share as much. “I used to be more like, ‘Boom, there I go, just got up on the bar.’” said Gill.

You can learn more about Gill’s work at tatianagill.com.

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