Graphic novelist, Nicole Georges, and her dog, Ponyo, seated in her Los Angeles studio.

Graphic novelist, Nicole Georges, and her dog, Ponyo, seated in her Los Angeles studio.

Claudia Meza/OPB

“I always thought I’d never be able to retire in LA and then I had to have a talk with myself and be like, ‘You don’t have to die everywhere that you live. It’s OK to live somewhere temporarily.’”

This was the pep talk that writer, illustrator, professor and podcaster Nicole Georges gave herself before moving to Los Angeles a couple of years ago: You don’t have to die there, and you can always move back.

Her move to Los Angeles was not an easy one to make. After living in Portland for almost 16 years, this is the place she associates with becoming an adult and a full-fledged working artist.

The cover of Nicole Georges' 2013 graphic novel, "Calling Dr. Laura".

The cover of Nicole Georges’ 2013 graphic novel, “Calling Dr. Laura”.

Courtesy of Nicole Georges

Georges put out two award-winning books while living in Portland, “Calling Dr. Laura” and “Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home.” She was also an integral part of the local independent makers scene, co-founding the Portland Zine Symposium in 2001, which brings thousands of people to the city every year. And working at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) for 14 years, first as the outreach coordinator and then as their very first comic book instructor.

In her free time, she volunteered at local public high schools and retirement centers, sharing with overlooked populations in our community a way to capture their own voice by making comic zines. Nicole Georges had made Portland the home she always wanted. And in the process, made it the city many people wanted to move to, but is at risk of disappearing.

Nicole Georges' gave us a tour of her new studio in Highland Park, California.

Nicole Georges’ gave us a tour of her new studio in Highland Park, California.

Claudia Meza /OPB

When I asked her if Los Angeles was feeling like her city yet, after being there for almost two years, she replied, “Oh no. Portland is my city. I’m like on a Rumspringa.”

The Nicole Georges version of a Rumspringa is not unlike the Amish adolescent rite of passage. You just have to swap out the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll for pitch meetings, book option deals and trying to cast the perfect dog for your upcoming television series. Because Nicole is in the process of having her second book, “Fetch,” made into a television series.

These types of opportunities to level up the exposure of her work were one of the big reasons she decided to head down to LA in the first place.

“I hit the limit of what I understood that I could do in Portland, there’s bigger crazier, weirder art opportunities in LA that I actually think my brain understands,” Georges said. “And that was kind of interesting to me.”

Nicole Georges and Rocco Kayiatos in front of Cena Vegan, a vegan pop-up in Highland Park, California. 

Nicole Georges and Rocco Kayiatos in front of Cena Vegan, a vegan pop-up in Highland Park, California. 

Claudia Meza/OPB

So when I was planning on visiting Los Angeles to do some reporting on a couple of stories, I knew I had to check in with Georges and her professional Rumspringa.

Full disclosure: I’m from Los Angeles, but very similar to Nicole, I too became an adult in the Northwest, so I actually don’t know LA very well — if at all anymore. I was hoping that in addition to filling me in on her exciting happenings, Nicole would reintroduce me to my old hometown through the gaze of a seasoned Portlander.

And what lined up with both our schedules was a punk aerobics class called Pony Sweat, think Jazzercise or Zumba but with dance moves and music that might actually get someone who would never feel comfortable in either of these classes to show up.

Jaquita Ta’le is an instructor and also deejays at Pony Sweat, a punk aerobics class in Los Angeles.

Jaquita Ta’le is an instructor and also deejays at Pony Sweat, a punk aerobics class in Los Angeles.

Claudia Meza/OPB

Nicole Georges also took me to an amazing food cart pop-up that she describes as a vegan taco truck bonanza.

“Every Tuesday and Friday in Highland Park, lined up with vegan donuts. I mean, yeah, kind of like if Food Fight just exploded,” Georges said. 

Georges also gave me a tour of her new studio where we were able to sit down and talk more about what it’s been like turning a graphic novel into a television series.

Listen to the full story in the audio.