Rowser and Smith’s Wash Day Diaries (Chronicle, June) follows the stories of four friends in the Bronx through the lens of everyday self-care rituals.
How did this project begin?
Rowser: Josei manga inspired me, stuff about messy relationships, women in their 20s and 30s. I was like, “This is what I want more of”—but to see my friends, people who look like me. I love slice-of-life. The routine of “wash day” can take a long time, it could be an hour or a whole day. I wanted to show the fact that we’re taking so much time to care for our hair, when it’s one of the parts of our body that’s deemed ugly, and the radicalness of self-care in a society that says it’s unprofessional. And I saw Robyn’s art—and was immediately obsessed.
Smith: Hair has always been my favorite thing to draw, from when I was purely a portrait artist to getting into comics, and my goal is to represent as many different Black women’s hair as possible. Comics are about being able to lengthen a moment. It’s mundane in the best possible way. Mundane is usually said with a negative connotation, but sometimes people forget Black women do regular things. They make comics about Black women being extraordinary, which is nice. But I wanted to make comics about people who are tired—that is true to life.
How did the characters come together visually?
Rowser: I wanted to represent different types of bodies, and I would give Robyn general guidance: “I want her to be chubbier, have 4C hair type,” or describe fashion style. I didn’t have a head canon for these characters; Robyn brought them to life.
Smith: Jamila would make mood boards to represent a vibe; and Jamila, you wouldn’t say, “Can you make her ears bigger?”; it was more like, “Would this person shop at H&M?” Designing the group of friends, I thought of them as puzzle pieces that fit together.
The salon as a community hub is a theme in literature; were there models/inspirations you drew from?
Rowser: I used to get a Dominican wash-and-set and blowouts every two weeks. My hair was fried, but it was silky smooth and I loved it. It’s so lively. They’d sometimes literally be taking shots, playing music, dancing, loud. It’s a community and a family.
Smith:I grew up in Jamaica and the only comics around were in the newspaper and Archie. But as I read more comics, the few Black women characters would either have the same hairstyle or if they had canerows, it would just be a line on their heads. Jamaica is super tiny and you know everyone on the billboards, and on ads on TV, they look like us, it’s majority Black. I was used to seeing so many different Black hairstyles, the nuance in how people present themselves was ingrained in my brain. I wanted to show that.