Selves Portrait commissioned by Manchester Art Gallery
Who and what keep you inspired?
Stumbling across storytellers or artists who can see this grey, sad world and through their own magical lenses. They give a sense of awe and mystery back to life. I discovered the artist David Beck the other month who makes tiny automatons all carved from wood- entire operas and cinemas. The otherworldliness of it inspires me. I want to shrink to the size of a coin and crawl into his artworks. You can see his opera here: https://vimeo.com/21098282
Aside from your comics, you also branch out to create 3D paper cuts and/or sculptures. What do you personally find are the pros and cons of working traditionally and digitally?
For me the medium of my work is secondary to the message. That doesn’t mean I always think of the story first and the medium in which I’ll make it second. Rather that the using digital, paper or sculpture should be relevant to the visual story I’m creating. So ‘Behind the Mirror’ was built in a dolls house you could peep through the windows to read, and was all about voyeurism and femininity. ‘The Market’ was a story all about our relationship with paper money and was made from paper cut-outs. Each new medium offers different opportunities. Digital comics can be interactive and innovative. Paper comics can be tactile artworks. There are no good or bad mediums. Just different ones.
Death of the Artist published by Jonathan Cape, 2015
This year you published your second graphic novel ‘Death of an Artist’. Could you tell us more about this project? What stages did you take for its development?
‘Death of the Artist’ was an epic book. It’s a dark tale about a group of friends in their 30s struggling to leave behind their hedonistic youth. The book looks like an anthology with the five friends telling their stories across water colour, photographs and illustration but it is all written and drawn by me embodying five fictional artists. It was fascinating to draw, write and see the world through five different characters and it was awarded Arts Council funding so I worked with five actors in the photography section. We did the photography section first so that I could then draw the actors in four different styles. It was difficult but I knew that by the end of the book I was a better artist then when I began.
Pages from Death of the Artist published by Jonathan Cape, 2015
If you had a piece of advice for new illustrators, what would it be?
Get out of your studio and go and meet people. Illustrators are notoriously shy, as we spend our time drawing little worlds to hide in. But the creative industry is full of geeky folk just like us! Go to conventions and meet editors. You don’t have to sell yourself. Just talk passionately about why you love your medium and your enthusiasm will become infectious.
Page from Death of the Artist published by Jonathan Cape, 2015.
What’s next for you?
Good Question! I’ve finished a bunch of projects and for the first time in years have the opportunity to think about what my next project should be. I’m working on my first ever young adult neo-noir series which will be a little more mainstream than my previous books… but hopefully still a little dark and weird. It’s fun to try and remember what being a teenager was like and I’m loving reading all my old trashy teen literature as ‘research’! Do you remember Point Horror? Loved them books.