We had the good fortune of connecting with Book Karnjanakit and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Book, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I was younger and enrolled in an architecture school, I did not do well. Everyone was very devoted to the work. The lack of sleep was considered a norm, and if you have time to play around, you are being irresponsible. I tried to be the same way, but I ended up feeling miserable and I was unable to create anything good. Even worse, I always feel guilty that I was not as competent as others. But as I changed my career path to becoming a cartoonist and an illustrator who works with my own schedule, I discovered that everything I have learned was wrong. Whenever I try to cram myself with work, I do not create good work. But when I keep my schedule a little loose and enjoy other things in life like going for walks, reading comics, taking trips to hike at nearby parks, or playing video games, I can focus on work better and be really motivated to get things done. That being said, I sometimes still feel the guilt in my playtime. But when I realize that, I would try to chase that guilt away and stay present. It is a work in progress.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It still feels pretty unreal to think that at age 28, I am doing a dream job for my 6rd-grade self that I was too shy to share with anyone; I make comics and draw! The details are a lot different though as I used to like reading fictional fantasy or sweet romantic mangas as a kid but as a cartoonist, I create non-fiction, memoir, and slice-of-life comics. As I started my career, I was never sure what the strengths of my work were. I tried making many different things like styles, media, techniques, or genres. It took me quite a while to figure out that my strengths are actually not with the appearance of the art, but rather my own voice, my humor, and my perspective of the world that comes through. Once I understood that fact, I was like a dog that got off-leashed at the park: very free and very fun. The moment when someone reads my work for the first time and laughs or cracks a smile always makes my face feel warm and my heart beats a little faster.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First I would take them to the parks in the area. My favorite city park in Baltimore is Wyman Park that runs along the Stoney Run stream. It is situated lower than the streets so when you are on the trail, it feels like you are in the forest and not in the city. It is also a great birdwatching spot, especially during the spring migration when you can see all kinds of warblers. Then we would go to my favorite ice cream place called Taharka. Their Caramel Crunch flavor is just… *chef-kiss* After refueling, I would take my friend to stroll alongside the brick rowhouses. They might look similar but none of them are actually identical. The windows, doors, and architectural details are very fun to look at. If it’s too hot out, I might take them to the American Visionary Art Museum to see unique works shown there. And we will end the day with my favorite square pizza place, Joe Squared!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would never be here without the support of my parents, Pook and Am. They do not fully understand what I do, yet they unconditionally give me love and resources. I would also give credit to my best friend Kay and Ferrari, who have believed in me since when I was launching my career. In the past few years, the way I think of myself and my works also changed immensely because of the MICA Illustration Practice family; Whitney, Kim, Kiran, Abby, Yifan, and everyone else. Having a strong artist community that supports each other is really important. Lastly, I am very grateful for the love and constant reassurance from my partners, Drew and Hannah.