Corinne Mucha is a Chicago-based cartoonist, illustrator and teaching artist. She is the author of three graphic novels, including “Get Over It!” published by Secret Acres. You can find more of her work at www.maidenhousefly.com
CICADA: Can you talk a bit more about what being vigilant about mental health means to you?
Corinne Mucha: I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. Over the past twenty years or so, I feel like I’ve learned a lot of the same lessons over and over. For example, a depressive episode isn’t going to go away if I ignore it or blame it on something external—it’s important to be as proactive as I can to reach a baseline of better mental health. I keep a running checklist of good habits that I know contribute to my overall wellbeing. When I’m feeling bad, I revisit the list, spend some time evaluating what I’m not doing and why, and try to get back on track. Some of it is really basic, like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and paying attention to my diet. Other things require a little more time, like exercise and meditation. After spending some time recommitting to this routine, I can reevaluate—do I feel any different? Or does even keeping up with these habits feel overwhelming? That’s when therapy can be really helpful. I have seen different therapists at different points in my life who have really helped by giving me a variety of tools to use on my own.
I have gone through long periods where depression and anxiety have felt like familiar (but annoying) companions, and I have also gone through periods where they have really disrupted my life, affecting both work and relationships. It’s important to me to stay attentive so that I can tell difference between the two, and to know when to ask for help.
Cic: What subjects inspire you most? What would you like to explore more in your comics?
CM: My first experiences with comics were making diary comics, and since then I’ve continued to be drawn to making work based on personal stories. My favorite thing about personal storytelling is playing the “association” game—making connections between experiences or anecdotes that might not seem to have a relationship. I also have a deep fondness for drawing faces on inanimate objects. In addition to making comics, I also work as an educator and illustrator. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time making drawings explaining concepts in particle physics, which I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. In general, I like using art to explain things, whether it’s to attempt to pin down a feeling, detail an experience, or illustrate theories on the origins of dark matter. There are more personal stories I’d like to tell, but I’d also love to keep using art for educational endeavors.
Cic: What are some tips for authentically turning yourself into a character in autobiographical comics?
CM: Learn to pay attention to your own unique thought process. Noticing your thoughts is not just an art-making tool, but a helpful mindfulness practice! Diary comics are a great way to do this, because you are not just recording what happens to you, but creating a system of noticing what is important to you. You won’t draw every single thing you do or think about in a day, so what will you choose to put on the page? Consistently recording stories over time will help you to get to know what your written “persona” is.
Cic: If you were reborn as a plant, what plant would you be and why?
CM: An aloe plant! Aloe plants are not only resilient, but they have healing properties.