If you’ve enjoyed David Nytra’s The Secret of the Stone Frog, an intricately drawn, fantastical tale of two children lost in an enchanted land, you might wonder about the artist who’s creating such scenes. His story and illustrations, seem to touch on influences like Hayao Miyazaki and Winsor McKay, while remaining truly original.
The New York Times, in a comic review, describes Nytra’s style as “a lush, loving cross-hatching that makes you wonder how his wrist is holding up.” Even though Nytra’s work is black and white, the reviewer writes that “the world is better realized than many full-color paintings. Dappled sunlight through trees and shadows on subway tiles are faithfully conveyed with nothing but masterly little black dashes.”
In fact, each of the pages in The Secret of the Stone Frog took Nytra up to a week to complete. All of those little black dashes add up. Nytra himself lives a life that many might consider to be outside of the ordinary. Born in 1977, Nytra has been drawing since he could hold a pencil, though he’s also worked in clay, wood, silk screening and animation. His short film, “A Night in the Gilman,” told the tale of a girl with mud instead of skin, sticks instead of bones, and a fish for a brain. And his graphic novel Ballad, an Edward Gorey-esque macabre story, showcases Nytra’s skill.
Currently, Nytra lives in 100 Mile House, a small town in British Columbia, Canada, with a population under 2,000 and an area of just over 20 square miles. Six months out of the year, the temperature regularly drops below freezing. Forestry and ranching are the town’s main industries.
TOON’s own Nadja Spiegelman interviewed David to find out some more about his childhood, inspirations for The Secret of the Stone Frog, and more.
Do you have memories of being in the woods with your brother?
A little bit. We usually did different things.
Did you ever get lost in the woods?
Nope. I really just made the story up.
Where did the idea come from?
I don’t remember. It was a while ago. I just pulled bits and pieces together from different sources.
Is this what your own dreams are like?
What do you tend to dream about?
I usually have boring dreams.
I usually dream about taking the bus to nowhere.
Is there any sort of real or imaginary adventure that you went on as a child that you can remember?
Leah and Allen seem so excited when they first take the train — do you remember the first trip you ever took by yourself?
You live out in the country, right?
Yeah, but I didn’t grow up here.
Where did you grow up?
Which do you prefer?
The country. There’s fewer people out here.
Are you afraid of bees?
I’m a little bit allergic.
Do you have a special love of candied cherries?
So…if you were to stumble across an orchard with something, what would it be?
Trees. Filled with more trees.
Do you remember any games that you and your brother used to play together growing up?
Not really — we had different interests.
What were your interests?
I just remember watching a lot of TV.
What sort of TV did you watch?
Nature programming, PBS.
Is there a book that you read as a child that inspired you? That you hope this book will be like for some child?
I just hope I put enough beasties in it to make it interesting. Usually kids’ books don’t have enough creatures in them for me.
Were there any books that did have enough creatures in them? That you liked?
Books about dinosaurs.
Check out more information about The Secret of the Stone Frog on TOON’s website.