SPOTLIGHT: Ozge Samanci


Ozge Samanci has been making comics since she was a little girl growing up in Turkey. Drawing has always been her refuge, her mother’s harshest punishment when she and her sister were misbehaving was to take their drawing materials away. After finishing college then teaching for a few years in Turkey, Ozge came to the US for a Master’s at Ohio University then a PhD in Digital Media from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her prolific series, Ordinary Things, began as a daily letter to her friends, and combines drawing, painting, and various found objects delicately paired with contemplative thoughts on life and being. Her work is deceptively simple, where beautiful and sometimes dreamy images are layered with insightful and inspiring semi-autobiographical perspectives on life. As I worked my way through the over 1200 comics she’s created since 2006, they alternatively made me smile, or laugh, or pause to let the poignancy set with me for a few moments. A renaissance woman of the cartoon form, in addition to her organic and sincere Ordinary Moments, Ozge created 20 comic tiles for a UC Berkeley Botanical Garden installation, is currently working on an autobiographical comic about her life growing up in Turkey, and creates and collaborates in digital media making things like comic-generating interactive software. The text interwoven below is excerpted from questions I asked about her work and process, Ozge’s perspective on her work in her own words.

When I was in college I used to write letters to my close friends. I would give the letters by hand and watch my friends while reading them. If they giggled I was the happiest person. I dedicated my entire creativity to these letters. Later I started drawing my letters. I even made little comic books for my friends.

When I moved to the States at age 27, I drew about my first 10 days in the States and my friends enjoyed it a lot. A couple years later I decided to make a comic everyday and post it on a web site and that would be my drawn letter to my friends.

I had some English speaking friends in the States by then and most of my Turkish friends speak English, so I decided to make the comics in English. When many people whom I don’t know started reading Ordinary Things I was surprised.

I now have readers all over the world but mostly from the United States, Turkey, Brazil, and the UK. Since I started making Ordinary Things in 2006 I have been drawing in English. I can only speak Turkish and English. Maybe one day I may make comics in a made up language.

Before I came to the States I used to draw for a weekly humor magazine in Turkey. There is a big humor magazine tradition in Turkey. I had the habit of drawing 4 frames every week.

When I quit working for the magazine I didn’t want that habit to die. I wondered if I could draw one image everyday for a year. I tested that thought by making Ordinary Things. After the first year I increased the time I spend for each image and I began posting 3-4 images per week.

My other motivation was to make an autobiographical graphic novel. It was this perfect idea in my mind and I was never able to get started for fear of spoiling the perfection.

I decided to make something less serious just making one image everyday for finding the best aesthetic I could use for my book. It worked!

I discovered many things in those 6 years and I am using them in my autobiographical graphic novel, Dare to Disappoint, which will be released in 2013 or early 2014 from Farrar Straus Giroux.

When you do something you love it does not feel like work and you end up working all the time but it feels like playing all the time. I love all the things I do. It is good and bad.

I have wonderful time while working but there are endless deadlines in my mind that I can never catch. Sometimes work becomes like a fight. Sometimes it becomes an escape.

Once I asked a friend, “Am I compulsive?” and she said “If you ask that to someone who loves you they will say you are passionate. If you ask someone who does not like you, they will say you are compulsive.”

Joen received her Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Geography from UC Berkeley at age 35, where she received an honor’s designation for her thesis analyzing the cultural landscapes of cannabis clubs in the Bay Area. The research was funded by an academic fellowship, so you could say UC Berekely paid her to study pot. Joen lives and writes in San Francisco, blending her love for urban evolution and human culture with travel, and the exploration of emerging art. In the past few years she’s spent time in Paris, Rome, New York, Los Angeles, Ethiopia, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai and Washington DC. Joen was given her unusual name by her father, who took it from the author of a textbook on Gestalt therapy, and pronounced it incorrectly. He died 19 days later, never getting to experience the awkwardness the legacy of her name gave her. More from this author →