About the Project
Living with Endometriosis is a digital comic I created for WePresent. The comic charts my journey with endometriosis – a chronic illness that affects 1 in 10 women, with some of the symptoms including painful periods and pain during penetrative sex. Endometriosis is under-researched and there’s little awareness of the condition, with the average diagnosis taking 8 years. Because of that, my process to the diagnosis, which thankfully took ‘only’ two years, was a very tough experience for my mental health. I also didn’t know a single person who openly said they had endometriosis.
Therefore, to cope with the pain and mental health struggles, I created an outline of my journey – I wanted to share my story, to be able to help others. I pitched my idea to the amazing Suzanne Tromp at WePresent and she loved it. With her help we refined the story and illustrations. I then worked quickly on both the illustrations and the words, to be able to publish the comic in time for March as it’s Endometriosis Awareness Month. The final comic has a scroll through format and follows my journey from experiencing endometriosis symptoms for the first time, to the diagnosis.
I was very lucky that I’ve pitched the idea and storyline to Suzanne and she was super happy to go with it. The technical brief for me to follow was to design the comic so that it can be read online by viewers scrolling down the page.
The project itself was a result of my research into all content and articles related to endometriosis, when I was seeking support and being able to connect to someone (anyone!) to be able to talk about the condition – it can be a very lonely experience. The materials that are available tend to me educational and informative, yet none of them go into personal stories of pain – both from a physical and mental health perspective. I was seeking something I could relate too and see myself within it. That’s what I wanted to create for others – that’s why although I’m sharing my personal story, it’s designed in a way that others can relate with.
For the project I first created sketches and pencil outlines on paper. I have then transferred the outlines onto Procreate and worked on layouts, colour and composition within Procreate.
First, together with Suzanne we defined the key chapters of the story. When it came to drawing illustrations for each chapter, that’s the initial stage of my process: it’s fast, very sketchy and intuitive. It’s in this part that the idea came up to draw physical pain as tangled black and white octopus tentacles.
After this stage, I then worked methodically on each illustration – on the information I wanted to convey, the feeling of the piece and then the composition and colours that will help communicate the message. In addition, the illustrations had to work as a sequence.
Once the key illustrations were created, and filled with colour, one of my favourite parts comes up – working on patterns. Patterns can add so much vibrancy, movement and emotion to illustrations, and together with colour, are my favourite storytelling tools. The final element was creating text boxes that communicate the written element of the comic, ensuring that they work together with the illustrations.
We had very short timelines to ensure that the piece is published on time, so it took about 3 weeks in total to draw the whole comic! And it didn’t help that I was still suffering from endometriosis and all its pains during the project – but I guess it kept me going, so that I can help others.
It was a fantastic experience working with Suzanne and WePresent’s story editors to communicate a personal story in a universal way, and to work with a sequence of illustrations. I also discovered my love for telling important stories in a comic/graphic novel way, and I’d love to expand further my endometriosis and wider women’s health stories into comics.
The project took three weeks from start to finish, and I’ve gone through 4 versions of it, before deciding on the final one.
As my style has evolved since the project, I would now work fully digitally on Procreate and go wilder with colours and patterns to highlight the emotions pictured. And since the project had an incredible reception since its publication, I’d also love to do more projects that matter – helping us feel better.
I’m only starting out, but what I’ve learned this year is to follow your intuition and focus on making work that matters to you.
I’m currently working on a proposal for a graphic novel currently titled “Raw” which follows women of various ages and backgrounds and tells stories of their women’s health experiences – from smear tests to menopause, endometriosis to fertility. All drawn in a colourful, modern manner.
My book “Raw”!
Favourite Thing to Draw
People, patterns, experiences. Real life stories with touches of surrealism and humour.
I work in my home studio in South East London. I adore this space – it has plenty of natural light and sketches of all sorts of works in progress on the walls. My ritual every time I sit down to draw is to light a ‘paper and sumi ink’ candle, put my favourite music on, look at my cherished figurine of Unikitty, and crack on.
It’s been incredible to win the award, and to see how many other entries covered stories that can be considered taboo – periods, freedom of expression, mental health. It fills me with joy to see illustration being used to help others and tell stories that manner.