This year's poster for the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival is possibly my favorite in the arts organization's whole eight-year run. It's by a Baltimore-based artist named Jasjyot Singh Hans, and it features a bunch of people on public transit, reading comics and zines. Hans's art is simple, but striking. There's something to the angles and the inky blacks and the confidence of the figures in the art that perfectly captures Short Run's energy. It was surprising then, when I emailed Hans, to learn that he's never visited Short Run — or even Seattle! — before. This November will be his first time as a guest. We talked earlier this month. If you'd like to join Hans as a Short Run exhibitor, you can apply for a Short Run table until July 31st.)
You do fantastic work with fashion and you draw powerful women, and there's something so meaningful about the way these women on the poster are taking up space on public transit. Seattle is relatively new to the train transit game—we just got our light rail about ten years ago, and ridership has exploded as the system has expanded, so the arrival of this poster seems to come at just the right time. I'm glad to see it spread all over the city to remind everyone that men's bodies don't own public spaces. Is this piece based on your own experience?
Firstly, I apologise for putting a NY subway visual on a poster for a Seattle fest! But I couldn't really find any clear reference for Seattle public transit! When you explain it, it makes total sense! I usually don't draw elaborate backgrounds, so this was a challenge. But I loved working on this.
I come from Delhi, which is one of the most unsafe places in the world for women. Growing up with an elder sister made me conscious of my privilege in terms of what spaces were accessible to me, for no other reason but because I'm male. And I find it almost embarrassing how men are allowed to navigate these spaces without question, and exercise power over who gets to be in these public spaces. So this was my way of subverting that idea.
Those braids look incredibly fun to draw. You've drawn similar braids in other pieces, and you seem to always take particular care in the hair of characters you're drawing. A lot of artists sort of draw hair as an afterthought, but you use the hair as a kind of kinetic force to draw the reader's eye in a really appealing way. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of getting the hair just right?
I'm Sikh, and as part of being Sikh, you wear your hair unshorn. So I've grown in a culture where all men and women have really thick, luscious and glorious hair. We usually braid the hair, and the men tie it in a bun on top (we worked the manbuns wayyyyy before they were cool). So seeing oiled, center-parted shiny long braids is something that reminds me of home and my people. That is the reason why it features in my work a lot. It is never an afterthought, but integral to the characters I draw. Having said that, I am really bad at drawing fancy haircuts because I've never had one and have little/ no connection to that idea. But I'm trying! and getting better at it :)
You're coming to Short Run this year for the first time — is there any part of the Short Run experience you're particularly excited about?
I'm keeping an open mind, and am just really excited to meet new people and see a lot of wonderful new work in a new place!
Are you debuting any new work at the show this year?
I am working on a zine project I'm excited about that I really want to debut at Short Run, but I'm swamped with commissioned work so I hope I'm able to finish the book in time! so I guess... MAYYYYBE fingers crossed