Thought Bubble 2014: 9th-16th November!


Embloggening by thoughtbubblefestival

Hello! We’re back!

Back after an exhaustingly good time at the MCM Expo down in the big ol’ city known as Londinium. While there we announced some new guests for TBF11, and generally had a jolly old time with Team Comics, as well as handing out some lovely new Thought Bubble flyers along the way. But we are now ensconced in the lofty spires of Thought Bubble Towers once again, and we have work to do, so let’s get this party/blog post started!

First up – tickets for this year’s convention are now up on sale, first 500 weekend passes sold confer guaranteed entry to our party on the Saturday night, and full details as to pricing and purchase options can be found on the website! We’ve changed things up a bit with the festival and convention expansion, so be sure to read all the details – makes life a lot easier for everyone.

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Next up, news of a competition for all of you out there with their sights set on being the next big thing in comics. The publisher Myriad Editions has launched a competition for aspiring graphic novelists and are looking for a first-time GN in progress, with the winner working with the publisher to complete the title. The writer who comes first in the competition also stands a chance of being offered a contract and seeing their title published.

On the judging panel will be author Ian Rankin, Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, author and cartoonist Ed Hillyer, graphic novelists Hannah Berry and Bryan Talbot, and Myriad Editions creative director Corinne Pearlman.

Full details on the Myriad Editions website.

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News has also reached us of a new arts event in Leeds taking place this month! The north’s first applied arts fair, LOOP Arts Fair, will take place June 17th-19th at Marshalls Mill, Leeds.

Keynote speaker on the Friday is James Jarvis “Born in London in 1970 and raised on a diet of Richard Scarry, Hergé, Judge Dredd and Albert Camus, Jarvis studied Illustration at the University of Brighton and the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1995. Since then he has gone on to establish himself as a graphic artist of international repute.In 1998 Jarvis designed the iconic toy figure ‘Martin’, unwittingly helping start the ‘designer’ toy phenomenon.” And they’ve also got open studios, talks, live art, workshops, printshops from TOY, Analogue Books, Drew Millward, Lizzie Stewart, Best Joined Up, Kibbo Kift and more! Tickets are on sale through their website.

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Finally, we’re welcoming a new Friend of Thought Bubble into the fold! This week’s super friend is the awesome Kayla Hillier, a Canadian comic creator now living here in Blighty. There’s a selection of her work below (click the images to embiggen), and a description of the lady herself in her own words under that. Give them a gander, eh!

Kayla Marie Hillier has been livin’ large for a little more than a quarter of a century. She hails from a small town – nay, village – of 600 people called Stoney Point or Pointe-aux-Roches which is found in the most southern part of the Canadian province of Ontario.

She spent 18 years of her life there where she became BFFs with the internet although she was limited by her dial up connection. Shhhhh shhhhhh beep bop boo beep shhhhhhh-

She left the nest to pursue “higher education” in the Niagara region at Brock University where she achieved a degree in both Philosophy and Film and managed to write well over 100 articles for the Canadian University Press. She left Toronto about a year ago to return to Manchester, England – as the country managed to woo her with an impressive display of overcast skies.

She digs comics, so she makes some of her own. Her work includes the now completed webcomic GALAVANT which documents her travels throughout the UK over a period of 3 months – she’s also involved in Julia Scheele’s 69 Love Songs, Illustrated project.

Kayla’s one of my favourite people in comics, and I’d really recommend checking her stuff out, or come along to Thought Bubble 2011 and say hi to her in person!

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That’s all for now, back soon with more TBF11 news and other shenanigans.
– Clark



Friends of Thought Bubble: Lynn Allingham by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey gang! I trust you all had a very enjoyable Free Comic Book Day at the weekend?

Well, it’s that time again, to swivel the spotlight and shine it on one of our many many Friends. This week we’re happy to welcome into the fold Lynn Allingham aka Tuckshop, whose jewelery caught my eye at last year’s Thought Bubble con. It’s quirky, and beautifully crafted, just check out the pictures below and see what Lynn has to say about it for a taster!

Well, where do I start, I don’t like talking about myself, but here goes… I am Lynn aka- Tuckshop and I design jewellery.

I started making jewellery about 3 years ago now, quite un-knowingly my sister got me started by handing me a big bag full of Fimo and said “here, see what you can do with that”, so I did and I have never looked back. My jewellery is heavily craft based rather than bead based, this stems from having a passion for just making things ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper!

I like creating miniature objects (mainly tasty foods he he he) completely from scratch. I research and play with new mediums to create items that are not easily definable or easy to replicate. I especially like it when people can’t figure out how I have made something (anal, I know!)

My biggest influence is probably Japanese craft, I love Kawaii and decollage and am always looking for new mediums in which to create the effects I want.

I was first introduced to thought bubble in 2010 by lots of talented comic friends and was very excited to have been accepted as a stall holder. Last year I designed a new range of comic inspired jewellery especially for the show and it was very well received, This year I am even more excited about thought bubble being a 2 day show so I can make lots of bigger and better designs, yay, see you there!

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I highly recommend checking out Lynn’s table at this year’s TB convention, for a full list of exhibitors who’re confirmed to appear so far please check the website. We’ll be bringing you another Friend of Thought Bubble next week!

- Clark



Back in Blog by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey you guys! Whole lotta TBF11 news and the return of our series of creator profiles here for you today!

The build-up to this year’s Thought Bubble is well and truly underway now, and we’re now able to start letting a few cats out of their respective bags. Their quantum wavefronts collapse, and we are able to categorically confirm that they exist, and are looking very healthy.

First and foremost – our shiny new website is now LIVE! To get a glimpse of all things Thought Bubble 2011, simply direct your browsers to www.thoughtbubblefestival.com, where you’ll be able to find guest announcements, information on all this year’s events, and a full listing of 2011’s many, many, exhibitors.

Speaking of guests, we’ve announced this year’s first batch of attendees, and we think they set the tone for 2011’s festival. Namely, uber-awesome, just feast your ocular cavities on this bunch…

Adam Hughes (Catwoman)

Tim Sale (Batman: The Long Halloween)

Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy)

Becky Cloonan (Demo)

Richard Starkings (Elephantmen)

Emma Vieceli (Vampire Academy)

Allison Sohn (Marvel/DC Trading Cards)

Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men)

Jamie McKelvie (Secret Avengers)

Boo Cook (Elephantmen)

Andy Diggle (Astonishing Captain America)

…with many more to be announced as the festival draws closer!

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As you may know, each year, we here in the lofty Thought Bubble towers like to throw the spotlight on a selection of independent creators in a series known, unambiguously, as The Small Press and Independent Friends of Thought Bubble. And this year is no exception.

Kicking off 2011’s entries is a creator who has rapidly become one of our very favourites. Almost too rapidly. But I’m sure you’ll see why once you have a look at some of his artwork. Glance southwards and you’ll be able to view a selection of pieces from the inimitable Luke Pearson, producer of the gorgeous cover for upcoming UK anthology Paper Science 4.

(Click images to embiggen)

Luke Pearson is an illustrator and comic book artist who graduated with an illustration degree in 2010. His comics can be found in anthologies such as Solipsistic Pop and A Graphic Cosmogony, music newspaper The Stool Pigeon, the self-published Dull Ache as well as scattered across the Internet. His first book Hildafolk was published by Nobrow Press in 2010. You can find all his work at www.lukepearson.com

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I really cannot recommend Hildafolk enough, pick it up at your local comic emporium and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Lovely stuff.

That’s about it for now, we’re expecting tickets for this year’s convention to go on sale in the next few weeks, and if you’d like to know the instant that happends then I’d suggest following us on Twitter, or joining our Facebook group. There’ll be another creator profile up same time next week, but until then – be excellent to each other!

- Clark



Joe List Minterview (and more!) by thoughtbubblefestival

Borag thung bubblets! It’s now only 9 DAYS until the start of this year’s festival, and we’re so excited we can’t think of any analogies to properly convey that anticipation to you, dear reader. In lieu of an apology please find attached to this – our final blog post before the Thought Bubble 2010 begins – a brand new minterview, and a whole host of news about events later this month. But don’t just take my word for it, enlightenment is mere sentences away…

For our final minterview of 2010 we talked to esteemed fellow Mr Joe ListGuardian Weekender defacer extraordinaire, and creator of the magnificent Freak Leap – who is a true Friend of Thought Bubble. For a transcript of our conversation, simply read on, and I can personally confirm that everything he say in there is 100% true.

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I’ve always enjoyed doodling; more recently I’ve tried to force them into various shapes, like boxes or hexagons, It’s a tricky procedure, but I’m getting there.

What led you to transfer the doodling onto the Guardian’s Weekend section?

Long train journeys and cheap pens!

Would you ever consider producing a long-form narrative comic, or do you prefer more condensed, self-contained story telling?

One day I’d love to write a three part novel. I’d call it “THE HOUNDS OF INFERNO” and would be full of maps and diagrams, as well as big words, like Octopuscloth and fungreatfulness

Are you a fan of comics in general? Any favourites you’d recommend reading?

I am a comics fan, but I don’t read as many as I should, I highly recommend the following comics creators;

Dan Clowes;

John Allison;

Tony Millionaire;

KC Green;

Luke Pearson;

Jonny Ryan;

Lizz Lunney;

Seth;

David Mazzuccelli;

There are many more that I adore; I would probably give you a different list in half an hour.

So, do you consider any comic creators to have a direct influence on your own work?

I do, although I’d say a lot of illustrators and animators had an equal influence. I recently did an inspiration map, which may better explain this. [see below – Clark]


You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

I will be bringing Freak Leap again, and also my sketch book comic Guts, as well as a promotional book for my new web comic (also called Freak Leap). I will be bringing badges too, and some new stickers that you can have for free! I will also be framing some of my favourite drawings from the annotated weekender for the kind people of Leeds.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

YES, they are a lot of fun, shaking hands, buying and selling comic, seeing people’s confused faces when they quickly study a strange drawing you can’t remember including in a book. IT’S ALL WORTH IT.

Do you find your comics get a good reception from the general public? Do you think the UK is a good environment for nurturing local indie talent?

Well, I have never expected to be a big name, like Sir Roger Sunderfields or Derek P Saunders, but people seem to like my comics, as long as they aren’t lying to me.

And yes, I do believe comic shops are wising up to the inexhaustible power of the small press. A few large operators will now stock interesting books by the comic book wonder children of the UK. I saw a copy of Steven Gravy’s Acorn Diary next to a copy of Disney’s Invisible Space Aladdin the other day!

Well the UK small press community does seem to be packed with good folk, have you noticed any changes to the scene since becoming a part of it?

Good question, I got my UK small press license and ceramic Biro holder about a year and a half ago, and in that time, so much has changed. We’ve come up with a new secret handshake, had a number 1 hit single (with the instant classic, ‘Ink and Vimto’) and built England’s widest tree-house.

Finally – as ever – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Thought Bubbles my friend! Forever and all ways, Joe List

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Many thanks to Joe for taking the time to talk to us, you can also see his illustrations in the Answer Me This book, available at all good bookshops, and quite a few disreputable ones too I’d wager!

…And now for some Thought Bubble news! As you may have noticed from the opening paragraph of this post 2010’s festival is pretty close, so here’s some last minute highlighting of awesome stuff(tm)!

To start we’re super pleased that Kristyna Baczynski (another Friend of Thought Bubble) is putting on her debut solo show as part of this year’s Thought Bubble! We here at TB towers love Kristyna’s work, and we think you will too, so pop on down to the Hyde Park Picture House from November 14th to get a glorious eyeful!

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Next up, our friends at Momiji are inviting you all to bring your designs for their dolls to our convention! They’ll be running a workshop at their tables all day, and for £5.50 you can paint your own dolls and submit designs to be taken back to Momiji HQ and the creative team, with the potential that it’ll be put into production. As well as this 50% of the money will be going to the humanitarian charity Medicins Sans Frontiers. Super fun times and a worthy cause! It literally doesn’t get any better than that, y’all. Just drop by the Momiji table at Saviles Hall on Saturday 20th to find out more.

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Finally, a quick mention of our programme of FREE workshops and masterclasses as part of this year’s Thought Bubble Festival! We still have places left on a few of them, but they’re filling up quickly so move fast to avoid disappointment! Details as follows…

ComixBox with Laydeez Do Comics! 13:30 – 15:00 Leeds Art Gallery Hepworth Room
16+ FREE
Laydeez do Comics is a comics forum, open to all, focusing on autobiography & domestic drama, set up by artist Sarah Lightman & illustrator Nicola Streeten. This is a fascinating opportunity to hear from an array of comics artists & academics, who each get just 10 minutes to share their work and research. The international line-up includes: comic artists Maureen Burdock, Francesca Casavetti, Monica Hee Eun Jensen, Rikke Hollaender, Karen Hansen, Ina Kjoelby Korneliussen, Edward Ross & academic Rikke Platz Cortsen. Please note places are limited, to sign-up email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Create Fun Eco Mini-Comics! 13:30 – 16:00 Leeds Art Gallery Tiled Hall
Ages 12 to 18. FREE
HI-EX’s Vicky Stonebridge will show you how to make your own handmade small story books using a variety of waste products, old magazines, scrap paper & packaging! Quick, easy, & fun to do. Please note: this is a drop-in workshop but places are limited, to sign-up email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Storyboarding & Portfolio Workshop 13:10 – 15:00 Leeds Library Exhibition Space
Ages 14-19 years FREE
Join concept & storyboard artist Steve Beaumont to find out how to create storyboards for film, video games or tv advertising. Plus bring your portfolio with you to recieve a portfolio critique. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Diarise Your Thoughts Workshop 14:50 – 15:50 Leeds Library Your Space
Ages 14-19 years FREE
Want to make a comic of your favourite gig, day out, or experience? Adam Cadwell can show you how! Well know for his Glastonbury postcard strips & his work with the Manchester Comics Collective, Adam will take you through the steps of making your own comic & recording experiences in comic form. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Tony Harris Art Workshop 15:00 – 16:00 Leeds Art Gallery Henry Moore Room
16+ FREE.
Eisner award winning artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) is one of the most critically acclaimed & respected artists working in the business today. This special insider look at his creative process will give an insight into how those award-winning comic book panels came to be & is a must-see for any fan of sequential art. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Grandville Mon Amour talk 15:30 – 16:30 Leeds Art Gallery Hepworth Room
16+ FREE
Comics Legend Bryan Talbot discusses his graphic novels Grandville and Grandville Mon Amour, and the venerable & ongoing tradition of anthropomorphic characters in illustration & comics from which they have grown. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Andy Diggle’s Breaking & Entering For Comics Writers 15:45 – 16:45 Leeds Library Exhibition Space
16+ FREE
Following the sell-out success of last year’s writing workshop, the former 2000AD editor & writer of such comics as The Losers, Hellblazer, and Daredevil will be here to pass on some tips & tricks that help separate the wannabes from the gonnabes. Topics include the value of your own initiative & the “DIY aesthetic”, as well as concept, structure, theme, pacing, conflict, exposition, how to pitch to editors… and how ‘not’ to! This class will conclude with a Q&A, so come armed with questions. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

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Finally, the amazing Adi Granov is raffling off his ridiculously awesome double spread cover from Incredible Hercules #138 in order to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care! Tickets, and further details, can be found on the website. You can also buy tickets from his table at this year’s thought bubble convention, and the winner will be announced at the end of the day (Saturday 20th November). Don’t miss out on a chance to own some superb comic book art, and help yet another exceptionally worthy cause in the process!

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That’s it for now, and probably until after this year’s festival. We’re super busy getting all the last little details squared away, and we’re thinking this could be our best Thought Bubble yet. Thanks for reading during the build-up and I hope we’ll see a lot of you at our various events from the 18th – 21st November!

- Clark



Philippa Rice Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Greetings bubblers! There are now only five weeks until this year’s Thought Bubble Festival (18th – 21st November), and to celebrate we have a fresh minterview for you, and some Thought Bubble news as well. We spoil you, do we not?

This week we talked to Philippa “The Juzzard” Rice, whose wonderful webcomic My Cardboard Life continues to entertain us here at thought bubble towers on a regular basis. Philippa’s entry into the Friends of Thought Bubble roster can be found here, and more of her work can be seen on her blog. Let’s rap!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I didn’t start making comics ’til I’d graduated from my animation degree and was looking for more accessible ways to tell stories. Prior to that, I always enjoyed reading comics. The first comics I read were probably from the comics section in the Sunday Times called “The Funday Times” which I used to collect in a ring-binder.

Was the transition from animation to static storytelling an easy one?

It’s a nice transition I think. And easier than say, animation to picture books. Because even though comics are static, the story can move through time quite quickly.

I have used animation in a few comics. It’s fun to have a moving panel or two but I’m not sure if it works really. As soon as there’s something moving in there, it distracts your eyes from reading the comic in the proper order. I’d like to experiment with that more at some point though.

So, what prompted the initial choice to create characters from cardboard and other materials, as opposed to simply drawing them?

Just experimenting with different techniques really. When I first wrote about Cardboard Colin I imagined him being painted, which seems a bit strange now.

Collage might actually be more straight-forward than drawing to be honest, because I don’t have to do any pencils, I just cut the pieces out, stick them down, draw the faces and other details on and that’s it.

How long does it take to create a new character? Does the physical making of them take longer than thinking them up?

It really depends on the character. Cardboard Colin doesn’t take long, but Silvia Foil is a nightmare to cut out. She blunts my scalpel. Cardboard Carl probably takes the longest because he’s made up of three different materials. Cardboard body, Denim jeans and a fabric beard. I remake them for every panel they appear in, so if it’s a comic with six panels and Carl is in every one, it will take lots of hours.

Thinking them up doesn’t feel like it takes very long, because I write things down in my sketchbook when I think of them.

What are your favourite comics at the moment? Are there any you consider an influence on your own work?

I just finished reading My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley. That was a goodun! I like autobio comics, they can be so touching plus they’re guaranteed to be original.

Most of my influences come from picture books or animation rather than comics. Like the way Lauren Child mixes together loads of different patterns and textures in the Charlie and Lola books. I’m a big fan of unusual materials or techniques, as in animations by Jan Svankmajer and Caroline Leaf. Also I enjoy any kind of silliness. I love those old silly symphonies cartoons, and also Spongebob Squarepants.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

At the last few conventions I’ve done I’ve had a diorama on my table. A 3D model of the My Cardboard Life characters in a shoebox. At MCM Expo it was a picnic, at UK Web & Mini Comix it was a tea party. My idea for Thought Bubble is that the My Cardboard Life characters are going to be having their own mini convention inside that shoebox and they’ll have mini versions of the comics, mugs, badges and prints that I’ve got on my table, plus some other surprise items (surprises for me too since I haven’t made them yet).

Are the characters in the shoebox environment ‘life-size’ versions of their online counterparts? How big are they in ‘real-life’?

Well the actual size of the characters in the comics varies a bit from panel to panel, but they are generally the same size as the models in the dioramas. Pauline is about 7cm tall and Colin is 4.5cm. The only real difference about the models is that Colin’s got wire legs and arms instead of ink lines.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I do! It’s a novelty for me to meet real, actual people who read my comics. Plus it’s a massive inspiration boost to see everyone else’s work.

Have you noticed any changes in the UK community since you started creating comics yourself? Is it different to those in other countries from what you’ve seen?

This is a tricky question! It’s difficult for me to judge. In the past two years that I’ve been making comics, it does seem like the UK comics community is changing and growing, and that people are talking about comics more, but perhaps I just feel that way because I’m gradually getting more involved myself.

No, what am I talking about, UK comics are going through the roof! Look at all the stuff that’s going on, I’m seeing events and workshops appearing all over the place. Look at Solipsistic Pop! It’s amazing. I don’t really know about the communities in other countries, but let me tell you, UK comics are hot news, and we are going to show them!

Finally – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

If they both asked me out on a date I’d go for the thought bubble. He’s kooky yet considerate.

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Thanks to Philippa for talking to us, and you can see her talking in person on a panel as part of the Thought Bubble programme which was released recently (segue!).

This year the festival has even more wonderful (and mostly free) events taking place around our centre-piece one-day comic convention! For full details check the website and if you’re planning on attending any of our limited place events then please e-mail thoughtbubbleinfo[at]googlemail[dot]com as soon as possible to book a space and avoid any disappointment!

This year we’ve also expanded the number of screenings being shown in association with Leeds International Film Festival, featuring a number of exclusives that you’ll have to see to believe! Yay!

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Related to this, our friends at Leeds Central Library’s Your Space are running a regular series of free manga meets for people under the age of 20. Full details on the flyer below.

That’s your lot for now, last few minterviews coming soon, and we’ll have some last minute Thought Bubble 2010 surprises for you as the start of the festival draws ever closer! Zounds!

- Clark



Howard Hardiman Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey you guys! Super special minterview time! Hold your shocked gasps until the end, please. This week we’re talking to Howard Hardiman (now an honourary Friend of Thought Bubble)  the excellent creator behind cutebutsad, whose latest comic project – The Lengths – is looking like it could be something very special indeed. In his own words it “will tell the story of Eddie, a young man who moves to London to art school, but in his quest to find himself, he finds Nelson, a muscled prostitute who he becomes infatuated with and follows into a world of drugs and vice and then his quest for absolution once he finds that it’s a life he’s not cut out for.” Powerful stuff, and from the previews alone the artwork looks gorgeous.

For more of Howard’s work I suggest checking out his website, and he’s on twitter too, but without much further ado, here’s the chat we had...

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I don’t even know if I’m entirely sure what that means, really. When I was growing up, once I’d stopped wanting to be an astronaut, a mother, a vet or Spider-Man, I wanted to be a writer, then a poet, then while I was at art school I started getting into photography alongside writing poetry. I toyed with both, getting a few things published but never being happy, having a few exhibitions of photography, never quite being happy with those either, then I started doodling on post-it notes while I was at work and drawing very bad pictures of animals saying slightly random things. From that, I wound up selling a zine and some post-it notes in picture frames at the UK Web Comics Thing a few years back, then Badger sort of appeared and I suppose that’s a sort of skewed potted history of me. There wasn’t a moment when I thought, “Yes! Comics!” and I think I still spend more time looking at other kinds of art than comics, to the point where I feel a bit lost when other comics artists are talking about things they’ve read – I still feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do because of all the time I’ve spent looking at and reading other stuff, but get me on my favourite artists and writers and I’ll bore you to death with my geekdom.

So, in amongst the ‘other stuff”, is there any work that you’d consider an influence on your own output?

Well, I worked at the National Gallery on and off for a for a few years and I think now that I’ve spent the last year doing the MA in Illustration at Camberwell and taking a lot more time on drawing and composition, the influence that painting’s had on my visual language is starting to come through, so I’ve been finding myself going back to look at how Caravaggio used light and how how painters like Titian and Reubens use composition. I’m not for a moment saying I’ve got an ounce of their talent, but it’s really inspiring to have that resource available. I’m also a massive fan of the way some artists can create a sense of mood or spirituality through tone, like Rotkho or Van Gogh – the exhibition of Van Gogh and his Letters at the Royal Academy this year was amazing, particularly because they had lots of pages from his sketchbooks and it really gave you a sense of how he thought and there’s a slightly self-indulgent part of me that wondered if some of these artists might have found their way into comics if they were working now.

Um, other stuff. I love Klimt for texture, and I’m not ashamed to say I got a bit emotional when I saw his paintings first-hand in Vienna a few years back. I’m also a bit of a fan of Mapplethorpe’s photography, not just because there’s a lot of beautiful men in it, but because of how incredibly he uses light to lift subjects into a timeless place and I’ve been looking at a lot of that lately, too. That said, for The Lengths, I’ve been looking at a lot of photos of naked men, like Joe Oppedisano’s work, because it’s a territory I’m delving into there.

I’m still a big fan of poetry and I think there’s an influence there that endures, whether it’s Plath or Hughes (when he’s introspective) or the acrobatics of Gerard Manley Hopkins or the beautiful intellect of someone like Miroslav Holub, there’s something about the craft of poetry that still holds huge appeal to me and it’s something I think I will return to.

Books wise, I’ve been really excited by Scarlett Thomas this last year since Anna Petterson got me reading The End of Mr Y, and that book’s raised my expectations of what storytelling’s capable of weaving into itself, but I’d also have to say I’m a bit of a fan of slightly intellectually arrogant philosophical novels as a general rule, so I still go back to Hermann Hesse as one of the best of that genre.

I’ve also been reading The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker over the last year, which tells you an awful lot about how stories are constructed and what they’re for, archetypically, and that’s surprised me that it’s made me intrigued rather than horribly depressed.

Oh, I’m also a huge fan of stuff about science and I get far too excited about quantum physics and astronomy, but I can’t quite say that’s really filtered through into my comics, apart from a line in Polaroids from Other Lives, but who knows what might come in somewhere down the line?

That wound up being a bit of a list, didn’t it? I think the basic thing is that I’m excited by loads of things and I think the beauty of comics is that it’s a very malleable medium, so there’s, at least theoretically, room for all of these influences to worm their way in, so it’s a perfect place for someone who’s a bit of a synaesthete like me to be dotting around from place to place, falling in love with lots of things at once.

Do you think there’s an expectation that a ‘comic’ creator should be a font of geek knowledge – that the production of sequential art goes hand-in-hand with being a ‘nerd’?

Well.  I think there’s a stereotype that comics fans are introverts with no sense of a world outside of comics, which is really being exploded as the audience expands and becomes more literate and I think we’re living in a culture that’s increasingly visually literate and consumes an incredible amount of coded visual information all the time, so it stands to reason that we consume comics in a very complex manner. I think it’s only reasonable, then, that if you’re creating comics then you’re someone who’s also a bit immersed in the same way of thinking so that you’re giving the reader something that will stimulate them.

I know that I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to share things with an audience right from the start with what I’ve been making, but that’s also meant that I’ve been learning in public a bit and as I say, there’s times when I’m aware that that makes me quite exposed because there’s so many people who know so much more about comics than I do, but that’s brilliant when people are so generous with what they know, I really can’t take it as criticism; I can’t be blamed for not knowing what I don’t know.

That’s not quite what you were asking, though, was it? Are comics people nerds? I don’t think so; I think there’s such a diversity of work being produced and a diversity in the audience drawn to the work that perhaps wasn’t there when the only comics you’d be exposed to would be superhero comics or newspaper strips that it’s less true than before to say that it’s a niche thing to like comics. I think the DIY Zine scene and the art books scene has brought a lot into the world of comics, just as the mainstream success of stuff like Watchmen has at the other end of the market.

Still, I only read Watchmen quite recently; I hadn’t liked the way the colours were printed and that had put me off, so I was late to the game on that one, but I don’t think I mind that much knowing that I don’t actually know the names of all the alien princesses in alternative Marvel universes. I think there’s room for all that and more.

I’m impressed when there’s people whose entire lives seems to revolve around comics, and the collectors and cosplayers scared me at first and now just amaze me. I just hope no-one’s too offended when I don’t know who that wig and codpiece combo’s meant to make you.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

Well, I’ll have the two Badger books and some of the artwork from the first book for sale and some of the short comics I’ve made over the last couple of years, but this last year I’ve had my head down to do a lot of development work on a new comic, The Lengths, which is my first foray into “proper” comics storytelling with words and a long story and panels and things, rather than the wordless tales for Badger or the graphic poems I made for Polaroids From Other Lives. The Lengths is based around interviews I did with men selling sex to men in London, so it’s quite a heavy subject and it’s one I want to do justice to, so I’m hoping to have something to show from it in time for Thought Bubble, but it’s slow progress, so if it’s not done in time, then we might just have to cope…

What inspired you to take on the – presumably quite dark – subject matter of prostitution in comic form, as opposed to, say, just publishing the interviews?

At first, when I did the interviews, I’d thought they were going to end up forming a play, and I got as far as having meetings with artistic directors at theatres about putting it into development, but it wasn’t feeling like the right medium for the material and I didn’t want to go ahead with it. I wrote a couple of articles around it, about attitudes that escorts have towards HIV, and I was quite pleased with those, but they were a different beast to telling a story, so I just kept the material for a couple of years until I didn’t have such a strong sense of being able to remember the people attached to each interview so I was able to approach it again as a story rather than as an account of real people’s lives.

I think there’s something really personal about comics that you don’t get from other media, so it seemed like the right way to do it, and making the characters dogs has a symbolic importance in the story as well as making it a more anonymous experience for the reader and for the people whose lives I’m talking about in the story. There’s still a lot of real events that will be in the comic, but it’s now much more of a story rather than an account and I’d like to hope that making it a bit more symbolic and emotional means that more people will be able to relate to what’s in it.

I would still like to use the interviews, but perhaps I’ll save them up for when the collected edition comes out and use a few of the transcripts then. There’s some really moving, funny and chilling things that came out in those chats and some of the guys I met through that process I’m still friends with now, so I’m hoping they’ll like the way the comic ends up.

Is Badger finished now, or might we see his inquisitive little face again?

Oh, Badger will be back, but I think he’s very much connected to a particular mood for me and he pops out when I don’t really expect him to, so we’ll have to see when he comes out.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

No, Thought Bubble is rubbish and all the organisers are mean. Ha, seriously? Yes, although I’m not sure how many events I could say are “like Thought Bubble” – it’s got such a good atmosphere and the crowd is really engaged with the comics and the artists there, it’s seriously one of my favourite events on the comics calendar of the year.

That said, the slumber party that Timothy Winchester, Lizz Lunney and Philippa Rice had at Caption will live in infamy.

Well, we can be quite mean sometimes. Do you think the UK general public’s ‘acceptance’ of comics in the mainstream has increased over the last few years?

I’d like to think so – I’ve only been making comics for the last few years, so I can’t really comment with any authority about any difficult wilderness years before then, but it’s been a very supportive couple of years for me and I’m really happy with how it’s been going. Obviously, I’d love to see a situation where we had more of us able to make a living out of making the work we love and I’d like to see Marc Ellerby being more stalked than Jordan and Tom Humberstone (see, I can get his name right sometimes!) nodding sagely on Newsnight, but let’s see, eh?

Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Actually, in The Lengths, I’m kind of going for neither, so the narration sort of floats in the background. I don’t know if that counts as captioning, if it’s a thought bubble the shape of the sky, or a caption box that’s the window of a District Line train.

Hmm, that wasn’t terrifically good at answering the question, was it?

***

Thanks to Howard for taking the time to talk to use, we’re really looking forward to seeing the finished copies of The Lengths, and hope you out there in the interwebs are too.

In Thought Bubble news – we’ve finalised the programme for this year’s festival, completed the brochure designs and will be officially announcing the full line-up of events very soon. Sunday’s workshops and masterclasses in particular are looking very strong, and Thursday and Friday’s academic conferences should be a fascinating insight into the more ‘serious’ side of comics.

Fresh minterview next week, just a few to go now in the run-up to Thought Bubble 2010, don’t forget to enter our comic competition, the deadline for submissions is Monday 18th October!

- Clark



Kristyna Baczynski Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Howdy Hey! A fresh minterview for you all to devour with your eyes. This week we’re talking to the super-cool Kristyna Baczynski, a previous Thought Bubble competition winner, whose entry into the Friends of Thought Bubble canon can be found here. I’d highly recommend checking out her website for further ocular delights! Spect-ocular!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

Sure, I reckon the seed was planted right back in my formative years – as I’m sure it is for most folks. Reading picture books: illustrations telling a story.

My mum would take us to the library once a week to check out some new pulp; a most treasured activity. It was here that I became enchanted with seeing an image illuminate a story – words transform into being; communicating with pens, paint and paper.

Do you think the general association with children’s stories is perhaps why comics are viewed with a certain amount of derision in some circles?

I think the idea that comics are any less valid as a communicative device than text-only books is ridiculous. Also, the thought that children’s books have nothing to offer if you aren’t a child is pretty demoralising.

Whether it’s a newspaper, hardback novel or broadsheet newspaper there’s still the same amount of shit you have to wade through to reach something you can connect with and find meaningful. Children’s book, comic or otherwise – there’s always a gem to be found – it just takes some looking.

If someone can dismiss a tome simply because it has an air of juvenility, then they are going to miss out on a heap of beautiful things. And by this breath cinema should then be equally scorned. It too combines language and image – but we don’t see cinema as being wholly tainted as juvenile and frivolous. It, too, has the potential to be profound, absorbing and immersive.

Comics are as versatile, descriptive and limitless as any other communicative tool – simultaneously linguistic, visual and most importantly valid.

…Nerve touched.

I do hate it when comics are dismissed as ‘kiddie’ stuff. Do you still read comics to this day? Do they continue to be a source of inspiration to you?

Absolutely – I read comics almost every day. And am continually inspired by their writing and ingenuity.

Your work tends to be infused with a sense of whimsy and a slightly idiosyncratic sense of humour, does this reflect you as a person?

An obscured and refracted reflection, yes… I am hopelessly enamored with language and wordplay, it is true.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

An amalgamation of avidity and unerring anxiety. But also a spread of new zines, prints, comics, apparel, oddities and assorted occular goodies.

The production HQ (dining table) will be thriving come November.

A fine selection! Have you always worked in multiple media?

Why, thank you.

Not always multiple media. It always starts with mechanical pencils, micron pens and paper – but the more I work the more I tend to turn my hand to. Staving off boredom and stagnancy with adventure and exploration.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

Absolutely. Thought Bubble 2009 was my first step into the world of conventions and fairs – a day which was so unutterably wonderful, I am forever convinced of my enjoyment for such events.

They manage to summon a treasury of interested, enthused and engaging people, which is rare and heartening… especially to studio-bound recluses.

We do attract an awesome bunch of attendees it has to be said. Any important lessons learned from your first outing?

That a fearful attitude is nothing but a hindrance. Staying indoors drawing is a solitary occupation that can make you a hermit. Going out and meeting a bunch of like-minded and talented denizens is the perfect antidote.

Do you think the UK small press community is welcoming to débutantes? How easy did you find it to establish yourself on the scene?

If there is a ‘scene’ I’m unaware of it, or already a happy member. It’s something quite abstract really, and I don’t know who, what or where it is… I’m just here drawing, printing, blogging and emailing. And I’m very lucky that some people have noticed my work and said some very lovely things. I am indebted to them all.

By making your own comics, you are already a member.

Finally – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

There is a necessity for both, and a certain loveliness to be achieved with none. Honestly, though, I think I’m a caption box kid.

…I’m going to be shunned as a defector now, aren’t I?

Rats.

***

While we’re never ones to call for ostracism following the denouncement of the humble thought bubble, we do find that those who partake in the act tend to meet their comeuppance. Mark my words. My ominous, ominous words…

In other news, our friends over at Comika are having an exhibition! If you’re in our nation’s fair capital you should go check it out. You know you want to. Details on the flyer (below)

That’s all for now! Check back soon for another minterview. See ya!

- Clark




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