5 hours ago
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Lizz Lunney interview
Location: Birmingham, UK
How would you describe your art?: Lots of different easy to digest cartoons, like sushi. Yum.
Currently working on: My next comic
3 Likes: Tea, dinosaurs, knitting
3 Dislikes: The num lock key, mornings, headaches
Daily Inspirations: Food, dreams, nightmares
People & artists you admire: Jeffrey Brown, David Shrigley, Art Speigelman
Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: Any Beatles, and Jeffrey Lewis.
Interview date: March 2008
Hi Lizz, how are you? What are you up to?
Hello. I'm good thanks. At this very moment I’m drinking tea.
One of the things I really love about your art is the immediacy of it. It’s almost like breakaway art; art that needs to be created there and then, in biro and on the back of an envelope if necessary, rather than ascribing to high “art” notions of painstaking creation over time with a ‘perfect’ or laboured product. How important to you is the access you have to making your art in the here and now, as and where ideas come to you?
Ah I'd say its really important. If I don't draw ideas down right away I just forget them! Often the first scribbled drawing is the best, I'll draw them up so they are more polished but I always like the original sketched one most as it captures the original idea. I also try to carry a sketchbook round with me but it’s always when you don't have it that you think of something you really need to save so have to draw on a napkin/plate/leaf/cat or whatever.
Is placing and sharing your work on your website either as an ‘online sushi to eat in or take away’, or as your regularly updated ‘today’s special,’ linked to such ideas of immediacy at all?
Yeah definitely. My online comic is often the first original sketch of something that I then develop for my printed comics. So its a great place to look if you want to see my ideas right away varying from initial drawings to final cartoons. Its a bit like an online sketchbook for me.
Do you think such freeform creation of art, and comix art, often expressed as a doodle, or a line drawing, is widening out understandings of what ‘art’ is and can be, and widening out individual’s relationship to comix artistry and art work? I guess what I’m asking is, did you ever previously feel a sense when viewing similar work of “hell, I can do that too, and I can be waaay funnier!”, and is that sense of inspiration something that you’d like to inspire with your own work?
Ahem. Well... I think art in general is always like this, through all periods of art you will find artists that challenge the idea of what is "art" so comics are not doing anything new. I think the fact that everything is becoming more commercial and throw away encourages freeform creation of art be it comics or graffiti and such like. In a way it can be good but it also means all the bad stuff out there is also getting seen and so it can be hard to find the good stuff amongst all the rubbish- especially on the internet. I never really think much about other peoples work, there are a few select ones that I like but I don't actively connect it to my work. I just enjoy them for what they are.
What are your thoughts on your “simple” style of art in terms of audience accessibility, and in terms of generating a level of innocence, and thus humanity and heart within your comics.
[By the way with these questions I am in no way AT ALL inferring that simple=inferior. Quite the contrary. Who wants an oil painting by one of ‘the masters’ (gag!) when they could be loving the self-defined mastery of your cartoon instructions on how to knit a beard, the adventures of disco rabbit, or my mate primate? I sure know my stance on this!!]
I don't really think of them like that, its all about getting the idea across. I developed my style originally from drawing left handed (I’m right handed) and also with my eyes closed. These kind of drawings are always more dream like and disjointed as you can't labour away at them too much. Now when I draw I try to capture the characters and stories in the lines rather than worrying about making them perfect. To me, the imperfect lines are perfect. If that makes sense at all?!
I read that you studied animation at University. How long have you been drawing static comix, and what made you wanna shift from animation to cartooning? What other forms of art have you practiced/dabbled in/enjoyed/experienced?
Yes I studied animation but I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil! Animation was interesting but a bit of a mistake now I look back, I'd have been better studying illustration. Although it was good because I learnt about storyboarding. I felt that the actual animating destroyed the immediacy of my drawings that I talked about earlier as you need to redraw images hundreds of times slightly differently for each frame. It is not as exciting as it sounds. I've done most kinds of art- painting, pottery, sculpture, photography, music, life drawing, etc etc. I'm pretty good at life drawing which often makes me worry that people see my cartoons and think I can't draw when the reality is that I actually just choose to draw this way because I like the way it looks.
One of the joys I find in your work is the characterisation; characters such as Keith the Wizard, Leaning Rabbit, and especially Depressed Cat.
What part of your warped consciousness dreams these characters up!? And how central to your strips and books is the need for continuity of characters and character development, as opposed to one-off characters or one-off ideas?
I'm not warped! ha. No no, to me the characters don't seem that strange. They mostly just come to me right away, some are from dreams/nightmares that I develop into a story or character (eg. Gummy Cat in my mini comic YUM) and some are based on aspects of myself or people I know. But nothing direct or obvious. The characters seem kind of real to me. Not in a creepy way.
I think its important for me to have both types of stories that you mentioned- some characters are one off stories and you will never see the characters again. Others keep coming back again and again like the ones you mentioned and Hairy Midget Elf, Creep Garden Elf, Human Faced Cat, Dinosaurs on Holiday etc etc. It depends on the character, I don't really actively decide which I will lose and which I will develop- it just naturally turns out a certain way.
I find myself laughing at and feeling sorry for your characters in equal parts. Is it easy for you to convey your humour within your comics due to your characters being non-human? Is humour important to you as an artist?
Well, to me the characters are all human even if they are burgers, cats, pigeons etc.... I don't think much about the humour when I draw something because everyone has a different idea of what is funny. I usually test them on my brother to see what he thinks. I never try to be funny, it is all about the characters- if people want to laugh they can. If they want to read them with a miserable expression of doom and despair they can do that too. I just don't mind as long as they give me money! ha. No, really...I kind of think, if it makes one person laugh then its worth it. Even if that person is me, laughing like a maniac at my jokes... on my own... on a train....with people staring.
Your ‘Burger Love’ strip was short listed for the 2007 ROK comics humour competition. How did that feel to see one of your babies up there for an award?!
Hmm, well it was really cool but I’m not that precious about my characters. Its like... once they are on paper they are in the world on their own so if they do well it is their own merit not mine!
I am very interested in how and where women gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief -- especially in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty.
What is your personal relationship with confidence towards your work?
I think every person has both confidence and uncertainty in their minds. I'd say in general I’m pretty confident about my work because, like I said, I’m not precious about it. But there are always times when I’ve left things to the last minute and have a comic due to the printers the next day and its 5am and I haven't thought of a title I like yet and I’m thinking "This will be so rubbish!! no one will like it!! another comic for the bin!!!" or that kind of thing.
Were your artistic endeavours encouraged from an early age, perhaps giving you a sense of perspective over your productivity and its worth?
Yeah, my Grandad and Mom were both artists and so the house has always been decorated with family paintings etc. So drawing and making things have always just seemed a normal things to do that were actively encouraged. Those were the days, when you could make something out of a rock from the garden painted with a face and taped up with bits of string for arms and legs and everyone would be saying "oh that’s so great, did you make that yourself? Wow!" I still do that actually, but people are not so impressed these days.
I first stumbled across your work when your comic, ‘Party Animals’ was included in the reference section of the ‘Cult Fiction’ comics exhibition; a terrific touring exhibition stopping off at art galleries countrywide, exposing the artwork of a host of ‘cult’ artists, (largely comics artists) to a larger audience. It featured not only hundreds of exhibited artworks, but also documentary notes on each artist, plus a huge ‘library’ section of comics, books, examples, do-it-yourself handbooks etc etc. plus a space with pencils and paper for people’s inspiration to overflow. How important do you think such spaces are for celebration, documentation, and encouragement of ‘alternative’ forms of art?
Very important, it means the public can discover things that otherwise would only be known of by people with a particular interest in comics. It was a great exhibition. I discovered loads of new work I hadn't heard of too. I think I went to the Walsall one a few times and then I saw it up in Leeds as well.
How and why did you get involved with the exhibition?
I went to the one in Walsall and saw a flyer to submit work. Then they accepted my comic and so it went touring with the exhibition. When I went to the one in Leeds was amazed by how many comics the resource space had accumulated. In Walsall there were about 5 and in Leeds there were like a million (approximately)
To what degree do you view your artwork, and your chosen ‘genre’ of art to be ‘cult’?
Um. Hmm. Erm. I think cult is something quite specialist with a small dedicated following so I’d say small press publications are quite often cult. However, I think something can get quite well known and still be considered as cult if it began in that way- like American Splendor or Ghost World. I'd still say these are cult even though both became mainstream films just because of the following they have and the way people view them. And the spin off merchandise too.
How important do you think it is that such ‘cult’ / ‘alternative’ / ‘lowbrow’ forms of art are increasingly exhibited within ‘high art’ spaces (here in Leeds the Cult Fiction exhibit was shown in the Leeds City Art Gallery next door to the Town Hall, rather than any independent gallery space).
I read that you are taking part in this year’s ‘UK Web and Mini Comix Thing’ for small press publications and their distros etc. Last year (2007) you also participated in the ‘Thought Bubble’ comic book convention, featuring more mainstream, or ‘big time’ (gag!) artists. As a self-publishing artist what is your connection to, and thoughts on acceptance within both of these sorts of conventions?
I like them.
What is your motivation for being present at, and being a part of such events?
I like them.
Have you seen an increasing role of women and of female creators and audiences at such events?
Yes, well there is a good mix really. I guess audiences are mixed more than creators.
What is your favourite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
I can't stop! Its always nice to get positive feedback and that encourages me to keep self publishing and updating my site so I’d say that is one of my favourite parts. I also like getting a comic back from the printers for the first time as its exciting to see your work finished.
Your work, alongside your online comics, has been published in three solo print collections (so far), ‘Party Animals’, ‘Tofu and Cats’, and ‘Waiting For Sushi’. How would you describe and explain each of these?
Waiting for Sushi was my first comic so it is an introduction to a variety of characters, many that reappear in Party Animals and on my Online Comic Sushi. Party Animals also has a few new characters and then Tofu and Cats was my attempt at two complete stories rather than lots of little ones. They are about cats, dinosaurs, burgers, tofu, monkeys, elves, unicorns, people, rabbits and more. They are all worth a read if you like that sort of thing.
How does online publishing differ to print publishing, for you and your work and creations?
Both have pros and cons, online is free and widely accessible so it is quicker and cheaper. However, actual comics can be sold and I always think its nicer to have an actual comic you can hold and carry with you, to read in bed/on the bus/in a tent/in the park, to caress the papery pages and talk to.
Animals and food seem to play a huge part in your artwork. Would you say that these topics are so prevalent in your work due to them being everyday, regular, local muses and inspirations - and as such it’s a natural progression for them to be such lynchpins in your work?
I just like food and animals.
Do you find that ideas and inspiration comes to you thick and fast, or is often much harder than people would think to be a prolific creator?
Nah. I work really fast, I can create a comic in a few hours if I’m in the right state of mind. I don't think this affects the quality either, often something I have spent a long time on doesn't have the same punch as something I have done late at night in a few minutes.
As well as other surrounding inspirations (food etc.) your locale has also inspired some of your artwork such as ‘Concrete Birmingham - a comic about post war architecture,’ which I think is fantastic.
Have the good people of Birmingham forgiven your critique yet?!
Birmingham is awesome!
What’s next up your sleeve?
I'm working on my next comic which I’m aiming to get done by May in time for Bristol Comic Con. It will be bigger and better than my other comics featuring all the regular characters and loads of new ones. I'm also working on Hairy Midget Elf toys. There are a few other things coming up, Threadless.com are releasing Tyger Tyger on a tshirt and I Dress Myself are doing a dinosaur T-shirt. I've also done some comics for the Topshelf website. So plenty of exciting things!