Monday, 8 September 2008

Colouring Outside The Lines issue #4

*Issue 4* out now.
(A4, 60 pages)
Includes artwork and interviews from:
Rachel Crans,
Lizz Lunney,
Enid Crow,
Meghan Murphy,
Sarah Maple,
Allyson Melberg,
Maya Hayuk,
Sara Rahbar,
Tara Jane O'Neil, and
Leonie O'Moore.

Cover artwork by: Eliza Lazy/Sarah Maple (front) and SALUTE! (back)

+ Gallery artwork from artists based in: The UK, USA, Germany, Australia, France, Portugal, The Netherlands.

The zine is now available from:

& the Manifesta Distro (UK) at:

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Gallery artwork from issues 2 and 3

Issues two and three of the zine saw the development of a paper gallery in the early pages of the zine, prior to the interviews.
The gallery pages feature submissions from a wide array of kickass female artists.
These gallery pages have recently made it online (thanks to Elke at; check them out below.

Gallery artwork from colouring outside the lines #2 (August 2006)
Gallery artwork from colouring outside the lines #3 (April 2007)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Phoebe Gloeckner interview

Phoebe Gloeckner

* Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan. Northern United States.

* How would you describe your art? What art?

* Currently working on: Don't want to talk about it. Not because I'm coy but because it's frustrating me and I wouldn't know what to say other than to begin upon a long and painful description of my "process," which is no process at all. I fling myself into confusion and search the ground on my hands and knees looking for letters on the ground that might fit together to form words. I've never managed to work with any sort of “plan." Each and every project requires me to die each and everyday, and by the end I have no ego, no self esteem, no hope.... I'm round about that point right now.

* Day job: Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design.

* 3 Likes: Animal Crossing on my Nintendo DS, very long aimless walks, trying to speak foreign languages whether I have much knowledge of them or not.

* 3 Dislikes: committee responsibilities, gum-chewing human mouths, fathers-in-law when they're feeling cranky at me.

* Daily Inspirations: PipSqueak my three-legged cat, clever children, people like Anna Nicole Smith who look so beautiful that I just can't understand it.

* People & artists you admire: Paquita la del Barrio, Janis Joplin, Jiri Trinka, Frank Geeslin, Lori Lubeski, Bruce Botts, Milena Lamarova, Jiri Kalousek, Louise Suits, Jane Adams Clarke, Mary Louise Carpenter, Carlos, Levon, Richie Hazen, Sabrina Pickford, Guy Robichaud, Elizabeth Bianca, Jonathan Frid and Redd Foxx. And many many many many more so very many more, really it would take much too long to name them all.

* Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: honestly, at times I can tell you in certain terms that each and every sound distracts the hell out of me.

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This interview took place between March and April 2007. All images reproduced, with permission, from Phoebe ©

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I first became aware of your work via the piece ‘Minnie’s 3rd Love’ which featured in Diane Noomin’s 1995 collection, ‘Twisted Sisters 2.’ I must have read that strip hundreds of times since first getting it and every time it does something to my insides - still to this day.
I remember you once saying of your love and connection with Janis Joplin that ‘her performances seem to equalize the amplitude of my brain waves, her music makes me feel loved and understood’
In reflection of this, do you appreciate the ability that your art work has to connect with your audience?

Melanie, if you are hereby telling me that my work has made you feel loved and understood, I suddenly feel that I must deserve the space I occupy on this earth (oddly, this space moves with me wherever I go). I could hope for no better result.
However, if you're NOT suggesting such a thing, well, I wish my work had that effect- but it's difficult to achieve such sublimity.
Excuse me, I'm going to shut up and go work for a little- the story I’m struggling with now doesn't respond when I punch it in the face. It’s either dead or too mighty for me to take on. I can't tell. But it’s driving me crazy.

I read a lot of collections and anthologies of comics art, and a question that often crops up in the biographical index is that of the materials with which artists use to create their work. I’ll always remember the answers that GB Jones and Renee French gave in separate collections; GB Jones stated ‘a pencil and paper’, and Renee claimed ‘a black pencil.’
In looking at your work, it appears that you ascribe to similar basic requirements: allowing your talents and exquisite artwork a voice of its own, uncluttered by extraneous marks or techniques. Would you agree with this observation of your artistic process?

OF COURSE I would hardly flatter myself as you flatter me so I’ll leave out terms such as "exquisite artwork," and simply say that I try to use a tool as a means to an end. I've used tools that are quite simple and other tools that are more complex- although I must admit no tool is easy to master. By mastery of a tool, I suppose I mean that in the work, the tool is subordinate, of no consequence, really-- because it is just a tool-- it's the creator that supplies the song, the meaning, the beauty-- not to imply that learning to use the tool well is not essential, but that the "better" it is used ("better" will have a different meaning for every artist within the context of his or her own work), the less significant it becomes. I don’t limit myself to ink and pencils, although I love them. I also love cameras and computers and all sorts of recording devices.

You have had a wide range of artistic experience and practice over the years, presumably all of which have contributed to honing your individual ‘style’ of artwork today.
Which specific experience and techniques have you found most influential over your current ‘artistic style’?

I'm sorry. I forget what my current style is! I don't really mean that flippantly. Right now I'm in the middle of a project (finishing up one, and continuing on another- one is about the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and will be a chapter in a set of books to be called I Live Here. The other project is a novel-length book, and for both works I'm initially working 3-dimensionally)
Over the last few years, I've been re-tooling my studio, teaching myself new techniques applied to doll-making, furniture-making, photography.... I'm satisfying, in part, my fantasies of making stories that recall (for me, at least) the work of Ladislas Starevich (aka Władysław Starewicz), Jiri Trinka, and others--- eastern European stop-motion animators of yesterday.

Gina Birch interview

Gina birch

*Location: I was brought up in Nottingham but have lived in Bayswater/Nottinghill for the last 30 years.

*Currently working on:
I am currently working on some live footage for a Matador band called The Ponies.

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This interview took place at the end of April, 2007.
All video stills / images provided and reproduced with permission, from Gina Birch ©

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How did you first get started with art, and begin to produce the films / video-artwork that you currently do?
I was good at drawing when I was at school and I applied to do an art foundation course at Trent Poly in Nottingham, where I kind of fell in love with Fine Art. I was really into all sorts of things other than drawing and painting, like conceptual art, land art, performance art, Then I went to Hornsey art school in London, where I started out doing crazy things like jumping through huge paper screens and filming myself doing it, and making films where I would film an event project it and film the event again in front of it, simple things like walking down a corridor, or jumping in the air. This is where I met Ana and we started The Raincoats as the most vibrant thing happening in London at that time was The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Slits, The Roxy club in Neal street where we went 4 or 5 nights a week.
After we formed the Raincoats and it kind of took off, I had to take two years off from college, to tour, record and whatever we were doing with The Raincoats. I bought a super 8 camera and just filmed lots of stuff, light, water, people, some shows.
When I finally went back to college I made two longer films on super 8, which I graduated with and have no idea where they are now, lost I think.
Much later I went to do film at the Royal College of Art, but that was a very commercially biased course and didn't really nurture the art side of things, just made everyone very anxious about career prospects!

To what degree do you think that having arts qualifications, and learned techniques enables your current work?
Do you think that arts qualifications are necessary for people to explore their creativities?

So I have a BA Hons in Fine Art and an MA RCA in film direction.
Most of the techniques I have learned I have taught myself and also friends have shown me stuff. Of course going to college gives you the legitimate time to spend on 'exploring one's creativities' but the institution itself is not necessary. It is good to be in creative environment though and find some like minded people with whom to share ideas or inspiration or even just enthusiasm.

What is your process of video making for your live shows? Are your videos spontaneous and improvised, or more structured?
I recently saw you perform solo at Ladyfest Leeds, and part of your onstage performance included projected video artworks accompanying your music.
Are your videos created to accompany particular songs, or is the process of video making more coincidental for you?
Some are more patchworks of moods and others like the flowerhead one, was specific. In that one, I wanted to express the idea that when you are loved or in love, you bloom and blossom, but also I wanted to express the idea that love is very complex. It can be glorious, but it is often selfish, sulky and threatening.

To what degree does your performance require both music and art? Could you imagine performing your songs without visual accompaniment?
I ask this as I found that the two combined created such a fuller picture of you as an artist and performer. I almost cannot now imagine the songs without the visuals playing an important part in my experience as viewer, and my experience of understanding and “feeling” your songs and lyrics, and my emotional connections to both.

I have often performed songs without the visuals, usually different songs, that I can play with just the guitar, because the videos have sounds on them as well, things that I have recorded on my own or with other musicians and so they are specifically for shows where I can have a richer soundscape than just me and my electric guitar. I have only in the last few years dared to perform so nakedly, with just a guitar and it is very liberating because you don't need any extra paraphernalia. I have now invested in a projector and a small amp so that I can also travel with my stuff and perform in different places.

Do you find that visual artwork allows an avenue for people to connect more readily with your creativity and artistry since it is an 'easier' medium to access? By this, I mean to a more casual onlooker, do you think images are more immediate than say some lyrics, or emotions, or articulations; (and hence why MTV et al is so popular?!)
I like the visual side of things because that is what I enjoy making, and also as a solo performer it is nice for the audience to have other things to look at than just me!! Is it an easier medium to access? I don't know, I suppose it definitely connects with some people but not everybody likes the adulterated form!

I don't want to fall into the trap of assuming that all artwork created by women “must” be autobiographical if it deals with stark and acute emotions, but it kinda seems an important question to ask when viewing your work since you are there onstage, a part of it. To what degree does personal experience and autobiography influence or appear within your video artworks?
The first video I normally show is made up of a series of signs on the A1. I was doing a tour with Helen Reddington and I decided I would try to film every sign I could from North to South on the A1 and then layered them and made them into this beautiful ethereal landscape, of day and night, lights, signs, weather, rainbows etc and that is for the song “Where have all my lovers gone?”
The next one is not specifically for the song, but something that I started with a friend. He said he wanted to have a shoe camera so that he could film up girls skirts.. which obviously I thought was a great idea (not!) and I suggested we put a camera in each shoe and made a film of us walking, cycling, etc and we made few different projects with this idea and I used some of this footage (sic) for “You'll never get anywhere like that”.
The next one is me carrying a series of worldly woes, represented by a small cardboard box, which as my worldly woes, or baggage increase, so does the cardboard box. Ida with whom I was playing at the time, had an alter ego as a superhero of psychological problems, called 'Denise Danger' and Denise appears at the end to come and give me a fresh start and my baggage becomes very small and unworrysome again. I had used this concept in a video I made for New Order staring Jane Horrocks and shot in the North of England, but I wanted to do it again in a more downbeat way.
The one for 'Clutter' was made, when I heard a man saying he wanted to make a film of naked women cleaning and I felt strongly that I would prefer it to be made by women, so Ida, myself and a friend of Ida's who all liked to clean naked (sometimes) decided we would make the film and I made it into a trilogy so that it is (perhaps) less voyeuristic.
The video for “I'm glad I'm me today” is made up of some early footage that mostly I shot, but sometimes my husband shot of when my oldest daughter now seven, first came to live with us and how happy I was and am that I am now a mother.
The last one, for “Someone loves me” is discussed above.

At Ladyfest Leeds you spoke onstage about aspects of inspiration and empowerment. How important to you are events which celebrate, and importantly encourage female creativity and expression?
I am writing a song about it, because I think it is extremely important to have role models, inspiration and empowerment… a place to express oneself without feeling threatened or completely misunderstood.

To what degree was/has your creative and artistic output been supported and encouraged throughout your life?
Not very, I was teased relentlessly by my father and I always felt very shy of expressing myself or showing anyone my work. Ana in the Raincoats was always very keen for me to write and to sing my own songs and really encouraged me. I was cripplingly shy though and it is only later in life that I have developed rather an opposite persona that doesn't have any shy bits left and it's so much nicer to be that way.

Other than creating video artwork for your own work, you have produced promotional videos for other musicians such as Daisy Chainsaw, Solex, and The Pogues.
How have some of these projects come about; and how does creating videos for others differ from the process of creating work for your own projects?
I work with a variety of artist/musicians. I really like to collaborate. I may have the starting idea or the band and then we all chip in ideas which I then refine and try to bring to the screen.

What do you personally find are the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of being an artist?
I find it brilliant that generally I don't have a boss, I don't have to be anywhere specific every day and that I can express myself, go to shows, exhibitions, be inspired and it's all part of my job! The down side is when things aren't going so well, when I've been bored, depressed, heartbroken, uninspired, I have envied anyone with a job, I remember one day feeling so envious of the bus conductress that she had a regular life and a steady job and I felt like a whirling, sinking fearful mess!!

Jen Corace interview

Jen Corace

* Location: Providence, Rhode Island USA

* How would you describe your art?: I have the worse time describing my art, so I will try to keep it brief...The best I can say is that I am interested in the atmosphere of a moment. I draw figures...mostly women or girls...caught up in a scene where something is just about to happen or an event has already passed. I enjoy the tension that is created in not allowing the viewer to know what happens next.

* Currently working on: My second children's book with Chronicle Books and a solo show in the fall.

* 3 Dislikes: Litter bugs, smoking, wet paper (sopping wet paper)

* 3 Likes: Walking, time to myself, the ocean.

* Daily Inspirations: The shore, time spent out on my roof staring and looking, my friends

* People & artists you admire: My brother, my friends, Joseph Cornell, Carson Ellis, Apak, Jo Dery, C.W. Roelle, Evah Fan, Justin B. Williams, Jeana Sohn, Keith Shore, Amy Bennett, Amy Ross, and on and on and on...

* Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: When I am drawing or figuring out compositions: Sodastream, Bonnie "prince" Billy, Blonde Redhead, Destroyer, Yo la Tengo... When I am inking and painting: The Wedding Present, Deerhoof, more Destroyer, Of Montreal, The Kinks

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This interview took place at the beginning of April 2007. Many thanks to Jen for allowing me to reproduce examples of her artwork here.

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Hi Jen, how are you?
Right now I am doing great. I was really sick for three weeks, I couldn't shake it at all. It cleared up at the end of last week and then I went on a three day juice fast with my house mates and I feel better than ever.

How did you first get started in art, is it something that you’ve always been interested in and excelled at?
I grew up always drawing, always painting. I spent a lot of time in my room, by myself, door closed with pads and pads of paper. It's hard to say if a kindergartner or an elementary aged child "excels" at art. It was just something I always loved to do.

I read somewhere that you received a lot of parental encouragement over your artwork as a child.
I am really interested in what makes people be creative and put their ideas and work out into the world when so much is telling us not to, or that our ideas are not ‘good enough’.
Do you think that parental encouragement was instrumental in your belief in yourself, and in your work today?

The encouragement that I received from my mom in my early development definitively put me on the road to where I am now. She always enrolled me in after school and summer art programs and when the time came, researched art schools with me. So she created this momentum that supported the idea that art was where I belonged.
My mom passed away after my sophomore year of RISD. Her death turned my life and who I thought I was on its ear. But in the years that followed, in the re-evaluation and redefining of my life figured out how I wanted to work. I wanted my work to reflect who I was, to be personal. I didn't want to be defined simply by a catchy style or have to develop a style through dry, commercial jobs.

What is your current relationship to your confidence in your artwork?
Confidence is a funny thing. It ebbs and flows. I have a brain like anyone else and it gives me shit all the time. What it ultimately boils down to is that my art is where I get to work my insides out. It's me, my voice and who is going to do me better than me? Nobody.

I read somewhere that you have your own silk-screen studio, and have also moved from heavy acrylic paint work to more use of watercolours.
Which artistic techniques do you employ most often within your work, and enjoy using?
These days I am strictly a watercolour, pen and ink and spare use of acrylic type of girl. I am delving more and more into pattern and hand cramping foliage work.

There is a particular “look” to your work, a specific “feel” or “mood” that pretty much allows me to spot, or feel a piece of your work from ten paces! It appears that a lot of your work is consistently atmospherically based.
To what degree does the colour palette you use, or the scenes/scenarios that you create direct or dictate the atmosphere you require to portray a particular mood?

I don't think that one could work without the other, though I think that colour has a stronger hand. In various series that I have done, when the palette has been set into motion, I sometimes take a piece or two and alter the hues a bit. And just the smallest amount of tweaking can make or break an image within that series.

Thinking about mood and atmosphere, your own personal experiences must influence what you create. Do you find it difficult to create and paint when in particular moods due to how it may influence the ‘feel’ of a piece?
The images themselves pop up in certain moods. And so long as I can write it down or sketch it out in the moment I can generally get a honed drawing done at another time. It also helps that I have particular music that I listen to when I am just drawing. They are the sort of albums that occupy the right parts of the brain.

There’s something abut your work that appeals very much to the side of me that struggles with depression. Not to say that your work is in any way depressing, far from it, but it appears to me that there are undercurrents of sweet sadness within your work that tap into, or almost manage to nip under any smokescreen of happiness. Your paintings in that sense almost seem to know too much.
Whether it be snakes under foot, or a head turned away - hidden from shot, or a black sea current nipping at somebody’s ankles, an encroaching fog, or a ‘tub monster’, there’s always the darker side
just there on the sidelines. But yet it’s there in a way that is tolerable, not yet scary or out-of-control; however you know it has the potential to possibly rear its head.
This is my personal attraction to and identification with your work, though I realise it is completely subjective! You have however referred to how in creating your art it allows you to secure personal space and articulate your perceptions of loneliness, solitude, or reflection.
How easy is it to depict, or comment on darker themes of loss, solitude, loneliness, or nostalgia with a sense of subtlety, or sweetness?, thus potentially allowing your work to work on different levels of ‘mood’, or appeal to different audiences/age ranges?

Is it ever tempting to plunge headlong into the darker, very reflective side of things?
I wouldn't want to dive into one side over the is no good without the other. Achieving that sort of balance isn't a conscious thing that I do, that is how inseparable they are to me. No one goes through hard times without learning something or taking something with them that has the potential to develop into something better. And no one learns anything without going through hard times.

In reading about you (from places such as the biog on your website) there seems to be an almost uncomfortable duality behind your work.
You appear to be interested both in the flawless (“Jen can be found thinking a lot about the flawless nature of toast”), and the fallible, (such as the spiralling “overwhelming population of the world”).
Does creating your artwork create the space and refuge from thinking about the unsolvable duality between flawless and inherently flawed, and/or does it perhaps create the space to comment on that which you think about?
What are your thoughts regarding perfection and flawlessness within your own work? Is ‘perfection’ something that concerns you?

I get hung up on perfection in funny ways. When I start feeling my work, in my relationships with people...what is actually going on is I am trying to handle things too much, attempting to have a handle on the situation. It's not a conscious thing...and when I catch myself doing it I try my best to take a step back, re-assess the situation and re-approach it.
One of the most valuable things I learned at RISD was from a drawing teacher named Michael Monahan. He kept stressing that when you focus on a single part of a drawing that you find perfect...a nose, a foot, how the fingers lay together... it becomes precious and the rest of the drawing suffers. Because once you have laid down that single item and become attached to it there is no way that the rest of the pieces of the drawing will work with it. The only thing that can be done when this happens is to erase that precious item and work on the whole drawing at once.
While he was talking about drawing it applies to just about everything. But when it comes to how I draw or work out images I do my best to develop a whole body at once. And when it comes to the final image, I appreciate the unexpected as long as the unexpected doesn't look like slop. While I work with the same materials most of the time slight variances occur all the time. I'm not interested in tweaking and adjusting minor's the door that's left slightly ajar to insanity.

Your work has been described as having an ‘illustrative, childlike aesthetic, rife with apprehension and loveliness’.
Do you think apprehension, (and loveliness for that matter), is an important characteristic of artwork in order to allow audience interaction and identification?
I think that it's a part of a balance that I am trying to strike. Not a balance that cancels each other out and leaves a piece feeling flat but rather has both bookends with a scale in-between. So, maybe that enables people to interact and identify more. It's personal to me but it can also be personal and resonate with other individuals.

I read that whether working on web design, illustrations, paintings, or other media you have begun to work towards a more pared down aesthetic, less heavy, less “bright”, and embracing the delicate pencilwork under your paint.
How important to your current work is “the simple”, or aspects of minimalism?

What role for you does “the simple” hold, especially when thinking about other themes such as solitude and reflection? Does the ‘simple’ to some degree equate ‘honesty’ and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed?
The minimal aspect of my work on one hand speaks to the bare necessities of the atmosphere or emotion of the piece but also address my more basic concerns with composition and drawing.
I'm slowly building to more complex scenery and images. Very, very slowly. I think this year has had the most pieces with more than one person in it. Part of that comes from me and my own opening up to people in my life.
I also love negative space. I like playing with shapes. I like the spaces in between arms and bodies, between leaves, antlers, all sorts of objects.

I have interviewed artist Genevieve Castree within this issue. Genevieve’s comic books and music are distributed by a Canadian poetry publisher, which I think is hugely interesting.
In a similar way to Genevieve’s work, your exhibited work has been described variably as ‘elegant’, ‘endearing’, ‘narrative in nature’, and of your Swept Out To Sea exhibit I read a review that claimed, ‘the 26 small and elegant watercolour paintings sprawl across the walls in poetic cadences and tell of a watery world both dark and cool.’
In view to these observations, how do you view the relationship between visual, written and aural poetics?

What images or scenes pop up in my head are complete...meaning that I know what they sound like, what smells are there, what the temperature is and on and on.
When I pull together shows it starts off in a list that gets compiled over months, sketches come out of them, images grow, get pruned, moved around. As I move into the more final stages some pieces get completed, some don't. I continually surprise myself when beginning favourites don't make the cut and a dark horse pops up and takes its place. Pieces get to the gallery and then the arrangement and hanging gets done. It's in this process, of moving things around, adding and editing and more moving that I create overall feel and flow of
the show. It's a long evolution that creates the ultimate pacing and reading of the final show.

Of your artwork, you have claimed you create narrative pieces often including girls, animals, nature and the urban/rural contrast.
However, as mentioned above, you have also claimed your work to be ‘directionless’, and more atmospheric or mood-based. Since moving away from conventional linear/storyline approaches to painting, how have you managed to maintain a sense of narrative? Or what tools do you use within your work to maintain a sense of narrative?

I am walking away more and more from a tight narrative. When I first started doing shows and writing up artist statements I would get hung up on themes and explanations and talking my work to death. I think there is a greater narrative that spans all of the shows that I have done. But because I have been so tight in handling the beginning of it, I can't really see the larger story, not yet. I have been taking this year to just draw and loosen up. I want to get out larger ideas and then maybe start whittling down and pull all of the pieces together.

How many times do you play the dress-up dolls game on your website when procrastinating over work? I ask as it’s my new favourite de-stress activity!!
I actually don't go to my site very often. We (my brother and I) are going to re vamp it soon and I am hoping to make a site that I am more involved in. I love the dress up game, but I want to re work it. It's a matter of finding the time.

The fashions that all your girls wear are so beautiful. Secretly are they the clothes that you wish you had?!
Most of them are based on clothes I do have. Some of the patterns are direct scans of the fabric.

Do you enjoy working in many mediums (from children’s book illustrations, to website design, to illustrations for the Portland Mercury), and being able to cater your creative time and creative output to a number of diverse audiences, projects and age ranges?
What's worked out best about my career and the road that has led me there is the amount of choice of what I can work on. I feel like because I didn't hunker down right away into more commercial illustration work and cement my style right away that a lot of my initial work was for indie record covers. The great thing about the indie industry and d.i.y. culture is that it's so supportive and thrives due to word of mouth. As the records became distributed on a wider and wider basis I would get contacted by various people wanting help on their projects...and that was everything from web design, product design, work for non profits and charities. I met so many people and really got to get my hands in so many pots.
These days I am focusing more on children's books. I have had a hectic year, so I think slowing down a bit, just for a little while, is what I need right now.

Liz Adams interview

Liz Adams

* Location: Los Angeles

* How would you describe your art? A little place to escape to.

* Currently working on: A painting of a girl playing a flying keyboard and a dog singing

* 3 Likes: Playing with dogs, eating berries, soft pillows

* 3 Dislikes: Traffic, cream cheese, criminals

* Daily Inspirations: I like reading blogs and comics

* People & artists you admire: It always changes but I would say John Waters, Maila Nurmi, Gary Panter, The Royal Art Lodge, Daniel Johnston, Paul Reubens, Sarah Silverman, Howard Stern...

* Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: Internet radio

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This interview took place in March 2007.
All images are reproduced with thanks to Liz Adams © who gave me such a wide selection of images for this zine that I was spoiled for choice!

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Hi Liz, how are you? What are you up to at the moment?
I'm doing fine. Right now I'm pondering answers to these questions. Other than that I have been trying to get some paintings done and I am in the middle of illustrating an article for Teen Magazine.

When did you first get into art, and move to becoming an illustrator?
Ever since I was a little kid I was always drawing and making stuff up. In middle school I started making comics and in high school I was drawing things for little zines. I really liked taking art classes and decided to make that my major in college. There I kind of shifted my focus to making sculptural work. After graduating and moving to Los Angeles I started drawing and painting a lot again because my apartment was small and I didn't have room to do the 3D work. Around the same time I was working as a graphic designer and whenever we needed illustrations I would do them and it made me feel awesome. I then put together a portfolio and just started promoting.

How did you personally learn to access your creative and artistic talents, and gain the confidence to make art and creative expression your career?
Having confidence is something I have always really struggled with. I knew though that in order to accomplish my goals I would have to suck up any negative thoughts and put my work out there or else nothing would happen at all. I guess it is better to take a few risks than look back and wonder what things could of been like. Very cliché but true.

I read that at high school you played in bands, and from there formed your own all-girl band that you were in for quite a while.
What prompted your move from making and working predominantly within music, to your current focus on your visual art work?

Drumming for the Peeps was really rewarding and a major growing experience. I always knew in the back of my mind that I would eventually just be doing art though. After playing with them for about five years I wasn't feeling the same drive to do music that I always had. I was 21 and when we started playing I was sixteen. I just wanted to explore something different so I quit and moved from Phoenix to L.A.. I thought I would maybe join another band but I lost interest and just wanted to do art. Now my artwork takes up all of my time. I haven't written off playing music completely though. Maybe I will do a solo album when I'm 80.

Does this history relate to the description that your artwork now often gains, of being a ‘rock ‘n’ roll fantasy land’? Has your past involvement with music influenced your current creative production?
Very much so. But even before my involvement with the Peeps I was interested in music. As a child growing up in the '80s I was obsessed with the cartoon "Jem and the Holograms" and female bands/musicians like the Bangles and Joan Jett. I think these things kind of come through in my drawings and paintings. There is always a musical element.

Your work very often depicts cute, whimsical and offbeat depictions of female subjects (alongside animals and creatures too).
What fascinates you with women and girls?
Which aspects of femaleness, (or femininity?), and types of female characters are the most compelling and interesting for you to paint and draw?

Many of my images are loosely based on my own experiences so naturally I would depict a female subject. But honestly I love drawing/painting wild makeup, outfits, and big hair on women. It is corny but true! I like painting male subjects but I will admit I don't have as much fun unless they are aliens, have robot bodies or have huge muscles.

You work most often as a mixed media illustrator.
Which mediums do you frequently work in, and enjoy working in?

For my fine artwork it is kind of a mixed bag. I mainly use acrylics, watercolor, ink, and collage. I like to experiment a lot and plan on making some three dimensional pieces soon. In my commercial work I usually draw things out with ink, scan them, and color them on the computer. I sometimes will scan in other elements like a painted background to create texture.

How do you choose which pieces of work to exhibit in which spaces, and to which audiences?
Its really just depends on the show and the gallery. Some galleries like to choose pieces and sometimes it is all up to me. When I get to choose it all depends on what pieces I have on hand or if there is a particular requirements for the show.

Do you enjoy exhibiting at group shows, in comparison to solo shows? Does exhibiting in an environment alongside your peers provide any benefits to you as an artist?
I enjoy both. For the past few years I have really focused on being in group shows because it is a good way for an emerging artist to receive exposure and experience showing in different galleries. It's nice meeting new people and exhibiting in a group setting sometimes draws in a crowd who would not otherwise see my work. I am now really looking forward to having a solo show at Gallery Revisited in Los Angeles in 2008 as well as being in more group shows.

I’m aware that you’re very exhibiting work at the moment in the "Everything But the Kitschen Sync" exhibition at the La Luz De Jesus Gallery in California.
I am aware that this exhibition was a juried group exhibition. Is it daunting having your work, your personal creations, your ‘babies’(!) exposed to scrutiny, critique and jury decisions? Or for you is submitting pieces for consideration all part-and-parcel of being an artist?

Well, I try not to get too wound up about people scrutinizing my work. I have done it in the past and it is pretty pointless. I think submitting work gets easier with practice and is quite necessary if you want to show in galleries.

I think the first time I ever saw your illustrations, and where I still regularly see them, was amongst the pages of US zines and publications such as ‘Venus’.
What is your history with Venus zine?

I illustrated two different articles with Venus zine. One this year and one about a year ago. They have been a pleasure to work with.

Publications such as Venus cater to an audience of (predominantly) women, and are interested in promoting, supporting and encouraging alternative/indie cultures, music, craft, and art.
Are you particularly comfortable illustrating for publications with such an ethos? Is it something that you can identify with in terms of your own production?

I am very comfortable with it and it is something I identify with as well.

I think one of the first things that jumps at me when viewing your work (and the thing that jumps out at me from the page of a publication alerting me to the fact that ‘‘that’s a Liz Adams illustration!”) is the strong use of colour within your work; bright, visually astounding colour, bringing your beautiful girls and creatures to life on the page.
What has your relationship and experimentation with colour been over the years, and what draws you to the colour palate that you usually work with?
I love bright colors. A lot of it stems from reading comics, watching cartoons, and eating a lot of candy and cupcakes. There are positive, musical, and magical themes in my work and the bright colors lend to that quite nicely.

Do you get much feedback about your work from people viewing your work? Are you aware if other women have been encouraged and inspired, directly or indirectly, to embrace their creativity and artistry as a response to viewing your illustrations?
I get very nice emails and messages on myspace from time to time. It makes me really happy and it would be cool if someone was inspired by it.

What for you are the most enjoyable or rewarding aspects of working as an artist?

Getting ideas off of my chest and feeling productive. Setting goals and reaching them. Being in my own little world. Yep...

Elena Stoer interview

Elena Stoehr

* Location: Cologne, Germany

* How would you describe your art? Personal and reflective

* Currently working on: sending my new exhibition "Deconstructing Barriers" on a journey, a zine about Iceland and being able to afford a new camera :)

* Day job: I study Scandinavian languages, Finnish and English; my boyfriend, two friends and me recently opened a shop with records, crafts, books, zines and a vegan café (; I spend two days a week working as a translator and researcher for a TV channel

* 3 Likes: books, hugs, coffee and so much more

* 3 Dislikes: stupid people and more than I can think of right now

* Daily Inspirations: everything around me!

* People & artists you admire: Leslie Feinberg, June Jordan, Matthew Barney, Margaret Cho, Tori Amos and many, many more

* Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: changes every day... at the moment I like the new Ted Leo album, "Heartwork" by Carcass and "Under the pink" by Tori Amos

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This interview took place in March 2007. It was initially written for inclusion in The LadyPress, the official newspaper of Ladyfest Leeds.
It has been adapted for inclusion in this zine. All artwork printed with permission from Elena ©
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Hi Elena, How are you?
I am tired, but fine. Thanks for asking! :)

Three of your photograph exhibitions are being shown at Ladyfest Leeds this spring. Why are you interested in showing your work at specific feminist events such as Ladyfest?
My photographs have been exhibited at various Ladyfests before and I consider them a safe space to show my work because some of my pictures are very personal and intimate and I don't want to provide them to an environment that would make me feel uncomfortable.

I am aware that your photography exhibitions have never been shown in the UK before. Where else have your works been exhibited? What do you hope exhibiting them in the UK will bring?
I have had several exhibitions at Ladyfests, i.e. in Nuremburg and Toulouse. "Street // Art" has been shown at the Trainspotting Festival, the Kafe Kunst Fest in Munich and at the university of Kaiserslautern last year, as well as during the Queer Fest in Rome. A few of my prints were exhibited at the Tiger Lily Café in New York and then auctioned as a benefit for Take Back The News ( Well, I never exhibited in the UK before and I am just curious what it will bring. Also, I am really looking forward to any kind of reaction because this is the first time there will be a discussion / workshop after the exhibition.

When did you first become interested, and gain your skills in photography?
Hmm, I can't really say. I have always taken pictures and I carry a camera with me most of the time. First, I only took pictures at shows. Then I started to walk around the city with my camera whenever I had the chance to. As far as “skills” go, I have never learned how to take pictures. So I am definitely not a professional in what I do. I just love doing it, that’s all..

As part of the exhibit at the aforementioned Ladyfest there is going to be a discussion group / mini-workshop where visitors can talk about your photographs and any issues they have raised. How important to you is the idea of your work being discussed and people talking about their direct reactions towards artwork, and your work in particular?
It's very important to me because normally, it just doesn't happen. People look at the pictures and leave. I don’t get any direct reactions to my work, except from people who know me. And the same thing happens when I go to an exhibition myself. I even started to take notes because I tend to forget all the details. That's also why I give my photographs away for free. I want people to take a part of the exhibition with them.

Your exhibition "Street // Art" concentrates on everyday sights, and the things that surround us on a day-to-day basis yet often remain unnoticed. What specific things do the photographs show? Where did the ideas for these photographs come from?
The photographs show political statements, ornaments, beautiful things or people and much more. They were taken in different cities, namely Barcelona, Berlin, Prague and Reykjavík. Most of them show stencils but also cut-out images and stickers. These are the things we often tend to ignore or overlook while walking around. I guess that’s mainly because we think we are already familiar with the environment or we just have so many thoughts in our heads that we forget our surroundings. Since I am intrigued with the idea of the flâneuse/flâneur, I love to walk around wakefully, even if that’s not always an easy thing to do. Those small treasures make me smile, i.e. when I went for a walk in Reykjavík last year and felt a bit lonely because I had been on my own for a week. Then I saw a stencil saying “Eat pussy, not animals” and burst out laughing. Basically, I am trying to show how these small pieces of art are able to make a change.
I am hugely interested in your idea that awareness and observance of such everyday objects, situations, and points of beauty have the ability to make each of us a "cultural producer". What do you specifically mean by this?
Oh, actually I meant that the making of street art itself is a form of cultural production. The idea I want to get across is not only observing such forms of art but being able to produce them. Street art is a form of art that is not supposed to be there. That's why I think it is so interesting and so important. Art in general has become so conventional and restricted. I see a lack of personal experience and sharing of thoughts in a lot of art forms and that is definitely something I miss a lot. Street art is able to give a voice to those who are often ignored (or want to be ignored) by mainstream audiences. It takes back the right to visibility and also shows the importance of taking control over things that have been taken away, i.e. one's opinion, one's right to be heard, one's body, etc. There is no filter or censorship involved. The same goes for zines and other forms of independent / DIY art.
But of course looking at street art is a form of cultural production, too, in case the things we see move us or make us think or maybe even give us a little push to produce something ourselves (whether that is street art, a zine, a painting, a photograph or any other form of art).

Reflecting on the above question, do you believe that we *all* have the potential to be cultural producers on an everyday level?
Of course! I also believe that everybody is an artist in one way or another. We are only taught that we aren't able to do certain things, i.e. that we are not able to be creative or that we don’t have “talent” for this or that. And unfortunately, that makes us think: “Oh, if I don’t have the talent/skills to do that anyway, why should I even try?”

How important do you think it is to encourage and empower us all to believe in our own creative abilities and potentials?
Very important! As I already said, everybody can do something! Whether the outcome is “good” or “bad” is only a matter of opinion anyway..

Another of your exhibitions, Suada, focuses on the beauty of small objects and details. What does the word "Suada" translate as?
"Suada" is derived from Latin and means "stream of words" or "tirade". Those pictures tell a story, namely what influenced or moved me during the months when the exhibition was put together. It also means that I am trying to create a dialog between me and the people who look at the exhibition, even if I am not there “physically”.

Do you find that being able to find the beauty in small things enables us to put our own lives into perspective - in terms of being able to remember our own individual existences and what they can mean in the grand scheme of things?
Definitely. Sometimes I get the feeling that people tend to be so obsessed with problems and worries that they forget what it feels like to appreciate small things. I am not saying that people's problems and worries are not important! But sometimes, when I start to complain about my job or university or any other kinds of obligations, I try to remind myself of something beautiful or something I love, like a cup of coffee, a book, a zine, a kiss, a hug and so on.
Well, I guess I am so happy and excited about those small things in life because I have had breast surgery twice (benign tumors in both breasts). After the first one, I developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and hypochondria. I was worried and scared all the time and I don’t even want to know where I would be now if I hadn’t started psychotherapy. Now I wake up every morning and I’m just happy to be alive and I sometimes feel like a child again… :)

You have stated that "Suada" also deals with other things that you were experiencing, thinking about, or dealing with at the time the photographs were taken. You specifically mention the notion of gender as a construct that can be played with. How important do you think it is that art, and specifically *your* artwork takes politically important issues such as gender constructs as a theme, or a focus?
I believe that art itself already takes politically important issues as a theme – consciously or unconsciously. But maybe my definition of politics is pretty diversified. I could at least find something political in most of the things I see. For me personally, the personal is political and I am trying to involve political awareness in all of the pictures I take.

How does "Suada" approach this?
“Suada” tells a story about a lot of things that moved me during a certain time of my life. It tells something about the artificiality of categories such as “sex” and “gender” (there is a picture of me with a moustache, womyn with suits on a coffee ad in Tokyo, etc.). It talks about sad moments, like the day we visited the Jewish museum in Berlin or the Jewish cemetery in Prague. It tells about travelling Japan and all the things I learned about life there. It recapitulates how Iceland’s landscape made me question myself. And it tells you about gestures, smiles, light, broken glass, the sky and so on.

Your most recent work-in-process is entitled “Deconstructing Barriers“. What does this title mean to you?
The title came to my mind when I listened to a song by Shotmaker entitled "Reconstructing Barriers". By putting this exhibition together and finding the courage to show those pictures to other people, even strangers, I deconstructed a barrier inside of my head. It’s hard to explain… Because I had such a hard time after the first surgery and decided never to make the same mistakes again, I promised to myself I would be brave when the doctor told me there was another tumor in my breast and that it had to be removed. I knew that I could only make it in case I was strong. So the exhibition is my way of closing the whole matter of worrying and being scared. I will no longer be ashamed of talking about it and it won’t dominate my days anymore.

In focussing on your own personal, private experiences of breast cancer, breast surgery, and scars (and the resulting personal and aesthetic effects) within the photographs, what discussion do you hope to raise with these works?
First of all, I do/did not have breast cancer. My risk of getting breast cancer might be higher than usual because my breast tissue tends to "produce" knots, but until now I was lucky. As for breast surgery and breast health in general, I found it really shocking that it is still such a huge taboo. After my first surgery, a lot of people –even close friends- turned red and changed the subject as soon as I started to talk about surgery. Which in return made me feel ashamed. Illness in general is still a taboo. Additionally, I noticed that I felt so scared and ashamed because of the relationship I had to my own body. I never went to breast check-ups or made self-exams. Actually my boyfriend was the one who felt the first tumor. I was so alienated from my own body that I didn't even notice that something was wrong! If I had known my body better and had been educated about breast health, I would have felt my tumor before it had a diameter of 3cm and the whole thing would have been easier.
So, I want to talk about the relationship to one's own body (especially womyn's bodies), self-exams, scars and why there is still such an unbearable silence around illness and trauma.

You have spoken with me in the past about the awareness, and educational potential of these pictures (i.e. in the areas of cancer, self-examination, and check ups). To what degree do you think that art can work effectively as an educational and consciousness-raising tool?
Art can work effectively if it grabs us and produces some kind of emotion (shock, horror, amusement, happiness and so on). But it can only grab us if we allow it to do so. What we do with it is all in our hands..

As a real life, private documentation I know that you are personally aware of the ability that these photographs may have in challenging taboos and what may be deemed *too* private. Have you had, or do you expect reactions of shock, provocation, or discomfort within viewing audiences? What are your thoughts on this?
Yes, I have had those reactions. When I put the exhibition together, I made an experiment and put one of the pictures, which shows my bandaged breasts after surgery, into my myspace-profile. I was really scared to do that because now, everybody was able see the picture. Shortly after I had put it online, a friend of mine posted a comment: "Do you make provocative and shocking art now?" When I read that, I deleted the picture immediately. And I felt so bad. But that is usually the first thing that comes to peoples' minds: That I only use those images to shock or provoke people. Of course I do not. It's hard enough to share them with anybody because they show intimate things. By the way, I put the picture online again after some time..
Some days ago, I received a message from somebody I had only seen once. He thought I had had a "boob job" and sent me pictures of plastic surgery that had gone wrong. The message was supposed to be funny because he pretended to be one of those people that were able fulfil their dreams with surgery. I wrote him that he is an idiot and that I had surgery because a tumor in my breast. He replied saying he was so stupid and so sorry and that there are lots of serious illnesses in his family, blahblah. I didn't write back. I wanted to but then I realized that I do not have to care. If anybody gets those pictures wrong, that is not my fault. It's hard enough for me to show them to anybody.

Another thing is that what “Deconstructing Barriers” shows is often considered to be too private. That’s also where a part of the taboo around surgery and illness comes from. But I want to share my experiences and I want to learn from others. So nothing is “too private” for me..

I am aware that before it became a visual art exhibition, you wrote about your experiences with breast tumours within your zine.
What do you hope a visual art exhibition can represent and document that your written representations could not?
Well, of course photographs are more direct. When you read about it, you can probably not imagine what it looks or even feels like. The exhibition shows the wound from my recent surgery, as well as the scar from the first one. I guess normally you don't get to see that if you haven't experienced it yourself. Maybe it gets a little closer, touches and tells a little more than black letters on white paper.
At exhibitions, you make some of the exhibited photographs available to be given away for free, as prints. It seems to me that you are very interested in the democratic distribution and accessibility of art. Is this the reason behind your provision of free images from "Suada"?
Yes, it is. As I already mentioned, I would like people to take a part of the exhibition with them. It's a shame that art is often not accessible to everybody and has become such an "exclusive thing" in general.

Erika Moen interview

Erika Moen

*Location: Portland, OR. USA

*How would you describe your art? Friendly, bouncy, a little bit vulgar but always good natured.

*Currently working on: Collecting my "DAR" strips (journal comics) into a minicomic for the APE convention in April, coloring chapter one of "Dominion", beginning my first graphic novel (it's porn!) which may possibly be titled "Bojingo" but I'm not sure yet.

*Day job: Lady-of-All-Trades for the animation studio fashionbuddha (

*3 Likes: - My vibrator - Everything about comics (making them, reading them, conventions, fellow fans, etc) - Portland

*3 dislikes: - My partner, Matt, living in England - Fair-weather friends - Being insecure

*Daily inspirations: Colors, coffee shops, interacting with people, bus rides, pretty girls, tattoos, nature, street art, comics and cartoons

*People & artists you admire:
Leslie Levings, Matt Nolan and his family, the other members of Pants Press, Jenn Manley Lee, Linda Medley, Ellen Forney, Christopher Baldwin, Derek Kirk Kim, Jess Fink, Colleen Coover, Anne Moloney, Apnea and Lithium Picnic, Raina Telgemeier, Eleanor Davis, and so many more!

*Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: You know, I'm actually kind of music illiterate- most of the time I really don't know what I'm listening to, since mix CDs are pretty much my sole source of expanding my library. I do enjoy Ella Fitzgerald, Susan McCorkle, and generally ladies singing jazzy, flirty stuff. DON'T LISTEN TO COMEDY ROUTINES WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO INK. I made that mistake so you guys don't have to.
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This interview took place in March 2007. All images reproduced with thanks to Erika Moen ©
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Hi Erika, how are you? What are you up to at the moment?
Hey! Work is a bit slow right now, so I'm filling this out in the office of fashionbuddha-- which makes me feel a biiiiit guilty but I'm sure I'll get over it. Project-wise I've been dedicating my time to assembling a collection of my journal comics (DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary) into their first minicomic that I'll be selling at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco next month. It's a little frustrating, because I'm working with comics I've already completed when I feel like I SHOULD be progressing with my first graphic novel, Bojingo. It's going to be a book of short porno stories and sexysilly coloring (I guess I should say "colouring" since this is a UK zine, huh?) book activity things. And then on top of that I'm supposed to be coloring ANOTHER comic that my friends and I did together. It'll all get done eventually, I'm just impatient. Oh, and then there's these postcards and prints I need to draw up for promoting myself and selling online.... sigh!

When did you first get started with art?
Have you always preferred creating cartoons and illustrations over other forms of art? Why is this?

My mom says I've always drawn, but I didn't really GET INTO art until the 8th grade when I was about... 14? Batman: The Animated Series totally blew my mind in terms of its style and I got swept up into its online fandom, specifically the sect of Harley Quinn worshippers. I drew LOTS of fanart of her and posted it online, which led to me creating my own little character (who’s actually going to be appearing in my porno book almost ten years later!) and drawing up comics of all these Batman villains and fan-characters running around. The internet is what really got me drawing. I would get a really positive response to my fanart, so I'd go out and draw even more.
Back when I was a kid though, I was drawing comics-- even if I didn't realize them as such. I've found these booklets of kitty princesses and butterflies that were all speaking through word bubbles and doing shit that makes sense when you're a tiny person. Drawing pinups or landscapes or just... STILL images are really difficult for me because I really NEED to tell a story. Comics is (are?) the most natural form of communication for me. While I enjoy writing dialogue, describing a scene or the way characters are responding to each other is stupidly hard for me-- I just want to SHOW people what I'm seeing in my head. Communicating with others is really why I do art in the first place. I want to talk with people! I want them to see the things I see! I want to relate with others! Creating comics have very effectively accomplished this for me. People just PAY ATTENTION to images combined with words.
Has Jack Chick made it over the ocean to you guys? He's this crazily religious bigot who has the most hateful philosophies: men should dominate women, non-heteros are evil, role playing is satanic, etc. Completely nuts stuff that I would normally ignore-- EXCEPT that he uses comics to express his opinions. Because they're in tiny comics (about the size of my hand), they've become incredibly popular! If he were using plain text to spread his word, nobody would listen. But people just have to look at words and pictures when they're smooshed together. Which is not to imply that he's earning over converts (his comics are sought after because they're just so crazy and entertaining), but then again he IS getting attention from masses of strangers who otherwise wouldn't give him the time of day. That's what really draws me to comics: you can get people who are already closed to your point of view to read your material.

I am aware that you graduated from Pitzer College with a degree in Illustrated Storytelling.
That sounds like such an awesome course. Did you find the experience rewarding? How has that experience shaped your artistic output?
Yeah, I graduated in 2006! Illustrated Storytelling is, of course, a fancy way of saying 'comic books!!!' When I was choosing colleges during my senior year of high school, I decided that being an artist is not a stable career choice and I would not be pursuing it in my "higher education", so I didn't even LOOK at the art departments of the schools. At the end of my first semester at Pitzer I realized that I was going to be an artist, regardless of my common sense. On the upside: Pitzer is very encouraging of its students who want to create their own specialized majors, but on the downside: their art department is.. uh... lacking? I mean, they've GOT one. It's just not as intensive or expansive as I would have preferred. Anyway, I drew up a proposition for my Illustrated Storytelling degree (which was really a mixture of art and English majors) and got it approved with the help of my advisor, Al Wachtel. He was delighted with my proposal and really went to bat for me to get it approved.
My experience at Pitzer was VERY rewarding; it was very much up to me to get the education I wanted out of the resources they had to offer. Nearly every single class let me do a comic for my final project (including math!) which helped me come up with some very unusual books. Now I am looking for a graduate school to get my Masters degree because 1) I really want the intense GOING TO ART SCHOOL experience that Pitzer couldn't really provide, and 2) so I can teach art (preferably comics!) at other colleges.
I just want to SHOW people what I'm seeing in my head. Communicating with others is really why I do art in the first place.

Are you currently still working for an animation company?
I am! My first job out of college was to work as a Production Assistant for LAIKA on the Henry Selick's (of "Nightmare Before Christmas" fame) stop-motion feature film, Coraline. About a month and a half ago I quit after, uh, six+ months there and begun at fashionbuddha, which has already been an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience. Mind you, I'm not doing art for either of these studios. Originally I was hoping that working in an animation studio would be my entry-way into being a professional artist, but now I'm pretty content to do the non-art stuff at work and then go home and work on my own projects. Someday I would love to be paid to do comics and illustrations... sigh!

Do you find that your varied artistic skills and techniques are transferable between the mediums in which you work? Is the animation and illustration work comparable?
Weeeell, like I said above, I really don't get to use my artistic experience in the kinds of work I get hired for. It's a bit discouraging, because I identify myself based off of what I am doing and if I'm only employable as a non-art person it makes me insecure that all I'm good for are non-art tasks.
But then again, I'm learning how to work with video at my new job, and that's been a lot of fun.

How does working freelance (creating illustrations and comics for various publications), alongside your day job work out?
Do you find the time to do all that you'd like to do, in terms of creativity and productivity?
Yes! My new job at fashionbuddha is currently part-time, so I spend the rest of my time working on my comics. Plus, the majority of the other employees are also cartoonists, so there's a sense of having a comic community at work. My boss has also encouraged me to learn how to use Illustrator, InDesign, and other artist programs during my down time, so that's really awesome.

You create an online comic diary (D.A.R: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary) which is updated kinda regularly on the Webcomics Nation site. You have said that your journal comics are 'just like all the other ones out there' except that yours are more gay, and contain more farting!
How long have you been aware of other comic journals online, and do you enjoy reading others' comic diaries? Did this inspire your decision to publish this aspect of your work online?
I first became aware of journal comics through Drew Weing's ( in 2002? His is still one of the top best, even though it's stopped running. For the most part I enjoy journal comics as a genre, since I love peeking into other peoples' lives. I really love that you can honestly SEE someone else's experience through their eyes. They create a sense of humanity and community for me; allowing me to poke into their thoughts and relate to them. ...That said, there's a certain type of journal comic that bugs the crap out of me. Those cutesy, super simple ones where they eat a piece of toast and then go to sleep; ones where there's no sense of purpose. Comics that are created with no sense of purpose ON PURPOSE are fine! I just can't stand the stupid ones! That is my logical argument: I DON'T LIKE DUMB COMICS.
As to publishing online: that's not really something I thought about, I put them up online because it didn't even occur to me to put them elsewhere. At the time, the internet was my SOLE source of getting my artwork seen and even now that I publish my minicomics and have comics in some anthologies, the net is still the primary place where people check out my stuff.

How do you choose and remember what you'd like to depict from your day?
Anything that stands out to me during the day is inspiration for comicking, really. I take my sketchbook EVERYWHERE and am constantly scribbling stick figure scripts of my feelings and just the random things I see and hear. Once I was waiting for my bus and watched these two really posh women walking their tiiiiiiiiiny dogs across the street and then they both simultaneously scooped them up and put them in their oversized purses-- I can't explain how, but there was something ridiculously bizarre and absurd about it. After I got on the bus I sat down and started stick figuring it out and when I drew the last panel the girl sitting next to me says 'Hey! That’s just what happened! WASN'T THAT WEIRD??' It was totally rad.

Was it important to you to produce a comic journal online that was different from the majority of others -- And that it featured or represented gay lives and queer culture?
The only thing I was (and am!) hoping to do with my journal comics are relate the funny and universally human moments in my life with other people, I honestly hadn't even thought about how my strip is different from others until you asked! DAR does depict some queer culture since I am a queer lady, but I don't think it shows enough that it can be labelled a GAY COMIC-- especially now that I am dating a person of the opposite sex. Honestly, I wish I could gay it up a bit more.

For you, is the realism of lives (including all that aforementioned farting!) within your comics important to its overall success?
Hehehe, DAR really isn't very successful ;) It has VERY low traffic, which is understandable since I don't stick to a regular updating schedule. The realism/farting is definitely important to its tone and the type of people that enjoy it.

The works of yours that I am most familiar with are your self-published comics and comic-zines. I love how within and through these you have been able to approach and explore such topics as gender boundaries and stereotypes, queer culture, elements of love loss and hurt within relationships, issues of homophobia, sexuality, sensuality, masturbation and lesbian sex. That's quite a rostrum of material! And material that I imagine a broad range of different folks can identify with.
Wow, thank you so much! I'm crazy flattered.

You have spoken in previous interviews about how important it is to you to make comics as a method for social education.
How useful and natural do you personally think comics are as a mode for this sort of communication?
INCREDIBLY SO. I already rambled on about this earlier in the interview (sorry! I'm answering the questions as I come to them), but to summarize: people will read your (unpopular, oppositional, offensive) views if they are conveyed with pictures. Images are a powerful form of communication. I've had several experiences with people telling me they are homophobic (not using that word, naturally) but after reading my comics they actually sympathized with queers for the first time or better understood the difficulties that queer people go through.

When did you first begin self-publishing your comcs, and why did you decide to go down that route (as opposed to/alongside more mainstream publishing)?
Again, it never occurred to me to publish them any other way. Of course, now I'm dying to get them "officially" published, but back around... uh... 2002? 2003? I just wanted to have something to hand out at comic conventions.

Do you find that the personal selling, distribution or trading of your work within the DIY comics and zining "scene" allows you to connect more with, and gain a sense of who your readers and audience are?
The majority of my readers find my work online first and then buy the comics just to support me (which is RAD) but selling my minis at conventions is extra special in that I get to meet people face-to-face. My heart beats extra hard whenever someone comes up to give me any sort of positive feedback. I'm so grateful that anybody relates to or enjoys my stories, because that's the whole reason why I make them in the first place. My art is not done until it's been made available for an audience to see and respond.

I've read that you're a member of Pants Press. Could you explain to me how that evolved, and what you guys do with and within Pants Press.
Back around 2001 we all were posting on the same art forum and became friends through mutual admiration. We were all going to meet up at a convention and one of us suggested putting a minicomic together (which I'd never even heard of before!), soooo we did and gave it out for free to all our favourite artists. By the end of the convention Real Artists were actually ASKING us for the comic before we could offer it! It was pointed out that people wanted a group name so they could talk about us more easily and I suggested 'Pants Press'. We've got a website at
Originally we all gave feedback to each other on our projects and collaborated together and did the occasional group minicomic, but now that we're entering grown-up-ness and getting our careers started we're a group in pretty much name only. Some people have naturally gravitated more towards others and like any group of people there's drama flare-ups and talking shit. I dunno. It used to be really fun when we were in high school, now its more difficult and disappointing. But people know the name! So we still table together at conventions because people know to look for Pants Press.

In terms of collaborating with others, you have also had work featured in many anthologies, including 'Flight', 'True Porn', and 'Unsafe for all Ages'. Do you enjoy the process of contributing to anthologies, and showing your work alongside others as part of a collective venture?
I LOVE collaborations. Love them like you would not believe. I already know the stories and images that are in my head, which is personally bor-ing. But when I get to work off of someone else's ideas? ZING. It really lights me up creatively.

How fun has it been working on so many 'adult' anthologies?
VERY FUN. Growing up I was really sexually repressed (My first kiss was 6th grade. My second? 12th grade) so I've really revelled in discovering how utterly delightful sex and sexuality are. I love drawing naughty pictures and finding fun porno.

One of the comics that you stressed was the most difficult for you to make, and then put on your website for all to see was 'Examining My Racism'. The honesty that you displayed within this comic, and your explanation that you intend for it to examine your own prejudice and forge a better understanding of what you need and intend to address to change within yourself is quite an extreme and exposing, yet important example of comics acting as (personal) education. I think that it would be really useful if more people, and society itself, was more open to externalising institutionalised prejudices as a route towards realisation, education, understanding, and ultimately changing them. Why did you personally decide that it was relevant, and important to publish this comic on your website, despite your personal discomfort?
Like I said earlier, my art is not finished until it has reached an audience-- I HAD to put it online, otherwise it wouldn't be done. It's easy to put up stories that endear you to people, but it's kind of unfair to invite people into your life and only show them the good qualities about you. It didn't feel fair to only put up the 'good' stories about me, it felt misleading. My autobio comics depict ALL aspects of my life, not just the enjoyable stories. I dunno. I have hella 'White Person Guilt' and still feel uncomfortable with that story existing

What other projects would you love to do further down the line – do you have any 'dream projects' that you'd like to achieve?
I want to make my porn comic!! Halfway through this interview my friends suggested a new name for it: Sweetbox. I am totally digging on that, since it's the name of a flower but is also so ripe with mental images. Yeeeeeah. Sweetbox.
There's also a story I have very ROUGHLY laid out about my tattoos, but I don't think I'll get to work on that one for a long while yet. Right now I have to finish all the other comics I'm working on. Oh! And there's this children's story about a duck that swims through the bottom of a pond that I've had in my head for YEARS now. Sigh, I wish there were more hours in the day.
My ultimate goal is to be paid to draw comics. That would be amazing. And validating. I've been told repeatedly by my peers that I don't draw well enough, but comics are what I honestly love. I don't WANT to do anything else.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Melanie! Holy moly, it took me two days to fill this puppy out.
Good luck with everything!!

Karen Constance interview

Karen Constance

* Location: Brighton, UK

* How would you describe your art? Colourful and delightful

* Currently working on: A book.

* 3 Likes: Cycling, hot weather, white wine.

* 3 Dislikes: Flying, airports, people calling me Karen Lollypop.

* Daily Inspirations: Books, magazines, music, tv, looking at all the freaks.

* People and artists you admire: Right now the Clayton brothers, Michael James Maxwell, Bruegel, Durer; it changes all the time

* Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: Anything by Ghedalia Tazartes, Smegma, Sun city girls. Sometimes it’s cool just to paint in silence.

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This interview took place on the last day of February 2007. Images reproduced with permission from Karen Constance ©

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Hi Karen, how are you?
What are you up to at the moment?
I'm great, just drinking some wine, you know.

How did you first get started with art and progress to working in the mediums and ‘style’ that you now do?
Were you always aware that you wanted to work within creative mediums when you were younger?

I always drew when I was a kid, every day for years I drew (nothing but females with different outfits on, row after row) but as I got older I lost interest, and for a lot of years I wasn’t doing anything creative then I started to get back into it when I was in my late 20s but I didn’t start painting until I was 30. I suppose when I was a kid I did want to do something to do with the fashion side of art.

Is paint your preferred medium to work within? Has this always been the case?
It is now but as I said before I was only into drawing in pencil apart from the odd black marker pen.

I am aware that your band, Polly Shang Kuan have played at Ladyfests, and you are set to exhibit some of your artwork at this year’s Ladyfest Leeds. How important to you are events which celebrate, and importantly, encourage female creativity and expression?
I’m all for encouraging anyone to express themselves, whether it’s through art or music or whatever their thing is, be it male or female.

Did you receive much encouragement throughout your life for your art, and developing your skills?
Not really, I was the middle child of 5 and my parents both worked. A few teachers tried to get me to stick in more at art but I just wanted to get the hell out of school as fast as possible. I get loads of encouragement from my husband Dylan who also does art and music.

Polly Shang Kuan are primarily what I would (naively?) call a ‘noise’ band, and your artwork also tackles some quite sinister themes – incorporating imagery depicting the darker side of nature and humanity; blood, anatomy, decapitation, poison, excess, tears and danger. In this sense then, both appear to be complex and challenging.
What is your view of creating such “difficult” (for want of a better word) art, and the challenges it creates in audience engagement?
Are these challenges a conscious decision within your creative process?

I don’t think of my art as challenging or difficult, if people choose to think that way when they look at them then it’s whatever is going on in there minds that’s setting those wheels in motion. To me my art has a lot of humour in it.

You have worked collaboratively with other artists, such as the 20 double sided card prints in a handmade wallet that you made with Lauren Naylor. How does producing, or creating artwork collaboratively or alongside other artists benefit your work, or personal creativity?
I love collaborations, I’d like to do more, I find it exciting waiting to see what the other person produces or puts over your input, I’m talking both about art and music.

For me, one of the most engaging pieces you’ve created, which may be viewed as somewhat provocative to some audiences, is the painting of a squirrel eating a baby’s head.
As a mother, do images such as this one come from personal fears prompting your imagination?

I expect that if I had a child I’d have nightmares about creatures stealing and eating her! But then again, I’m a very paranoid person!!
Actually these images are usually collaged together before I paint them so its not like I decide right, I’m going to paint this squirrel eating a baby’s head, it came out that way because it looked good first as a collage so its not coming from any fear angle, though it would suck if Elkkas head got ate by a squirrel.

How much does your personal life and family life influence your work?
I’m sure it does, but I never look at a painting and think, ok, that’s when I was feeling this way or that.

Your work features a lot of imagery from nature. I have spoken with artist Genevieve Castree earlier in this collection of interviews about the horrors and realities of the natural world, and how brutal nature can be. She spoke of how her depiction of nature tries to remove the sugar-coating of life, and gets more to the ‘tough love’ aspects of truth and reality.
To what degree do you agree that art should depict the reality and honesty of life; both nature, and humanity (regardless of how ‘surreal’ the portrayal of it may be in your own work)?

Art can depict whatever it wants, that’s one of the things I fucking love about it, its like cartoons, anything can happen.

I have a friend who claims that her complete excitement over trips to the countryside and seeing animals, specifically farm animals, comes as a life long legacy from growing up in London.
By creating so many paintings featuring subjects that are half human and half animal (such as human bodies with animal heads), what do you think it says about the interactions between humans and animals, or perhaps your own interations with nature?
Shit, I never really thought about it, though now I look around at my paintings and there is a lot of human/animal content. Maybe its saying fuck you man, from the animals point of view.

Your work seems to me to take some influence from science, both medical science and physics/chemistry.
Where did your interest or fascination with science come from?

My Gran was a nurse so had some really great medical encyclopaedias that I remember flicking through, then Dylan bought me these amazing science magazines that I always refer to for influence, they never fail.

There appears to be some interplay in your work of alternate meanings, especially regarding “cult.” Whether it is ‘cult’ as in religious sect symbolism, or ‘cult’ as in images of popular cult ‘icons’ such as Mr T, etc.
Do you enjoy challenging meanings and playing with understandings within your work?
Erm, I think maybe I’ve drank too much of that wine...

What for you are the most enjoyable or rewarding aspects of creating art?
I enjoy every part of it, the beginning when there’s nothing on the canvas right through to knowing that was the final stroke. It’s also a good feeling when someone wants to pay you for it.