web panel interview

Here’s my Writer’s Day sketch. …Ha ha, it looks like she’s attacking the monkey!

And here’s an interview I just did for Candy Gourlay at Notes from the Slush Pile:

Could you tell us a little bit about your blog, it’s purpose and its target reader? How do you present your public self? Is what we see of you online the real you?

I blog because I’m a terrible attention seeker. And I get so excited when I draw something that I want everyone to see it. I often think my artwork is more ‘me’ than the bleary face I present to the world every morning. I don’t do the Lemony Snicket thing of creating an entirely fictional person, although I have done that occasionally, just for a laugh.

When I was studying for my MA Illustration at Camberwell, our tutor had us keep a log book of our progress. I liked taking measure of my work each day, it made me more aware of the direction I was going. But at the end of the course, no one saw the log book except for my tutor, and there wasn’t any chance for outside feedback. I started posting my images on a blog because I didn’t have a website and it was an easy way to get some artwork online. But when I did finally get a website going, I kept my blog because it’s so easy to update and network. I see it as an integral part of my website. My website counter says I’ve had over 85,000 hits in six months. I’m not sure how many of those are legitimate hits, but I’m certain many of them have come to my website through my blog and its links.

I’ve discovered and connected with some amazing illustrators and comic artists through LiveJournal and the easily accessible ‘Friends’ page, that lets me see everyone’s posts on one page for a quick morning browse. For now, my target readers are other illustrators and editors, but really, anyone who wants to see more of my artwork than they can find on my more static website. My family look at it if I don’t get around to phoning for awhile. Eventually I want to appeal to a readership, but right now I’m more interested in what I can learn from other people and keeping myself focused. I even get to the point where I think, oh no, I must paint something experimental or go to an exhibition or I’ll have nothing to put on my blog!

Why do you blog? Is it a blessing or a curse?

It’s a blessing for the networking, the encouragement people have given me on my work, and the constant motivation to be doing something fresh. I’ve had commissions from people looking at my blog. And I’ve learned a great deal about comics and comic artists, since so many comics are only visible online, not in printed form. I like how reading comics online subverts publishers’ ideas about what they think we’ll read. The curse is that I can spend way too much time on it when I should be doing my work. And I sometimes worry about people nicking my stuff, and I try to label it to make it slightly more difficult. But that concern also motivates me to keep making fresh work.

How does blogging impact on your illustration work?

I’ve been trying to do a ‘morning sketch’ every day, something unrelated to any commission that pushes the boundaries of things I’ve tried before. The picture on one of my recent posts used a Photoshop paper-cut technique that one of my Livejournal friends posted on her blog. Mine turned out kind of ugly, but sort of funny, too. Posting it didn’t feel as ‘significant’ as posting it on my website portfolio. It’s something I did that worked in some ways and didn’t in others, but just keeping up a regular flow of artwork is good for me. I don’t like leaving large time gaps in my blog, so that self-imposed pressure motivates me to go do something. I get very encouraged when people leave comments on my work. When people see me, they often tell me they like my blog, but I’m amazed at what a small percentage of them actually leave comments.

How do you keep up with your virtual and online life?

I try to post something every day, but I don’t always manage it. Besides the ‘morning sketch’, I’m working through a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, and she has me writing ‘morning papers’ every day. It’s a little too much sometimes, doing half an hour of writing and an experimental art piece. I’m still trying to figure out how to manage it. I tend to ignore Facebook and MySpace unless someone sends me a direct message. I mostly use those sites to send people to my website and my LiveJournal blog.

Occasionally I get to meet virtual friends, who turn into real friends. It’s great when I show up at a party and I meet someone I’m ‘friends’ with online. We already have a connection and know each other’s work and have lots to talk about. My most recent example was a comic artist named David Lasky, who is a virtual friend of my classmate, Ellen Lindner, who originally got me onto Livejournal. When I started blogging, I looked at her friends list, liked David’s work and ‘friended’ him. We both posted and commented on each other’s work. I grew up in Seattle and it was nice having a link there. I saw he had joined a comics drawing group that meets in a cafe in the university district. When I found out I was going to be in Seattle, I commented on his blog, asking if he minded me coming along to the cafe to meet him and the rest of the group. We exchanged e-mails and phone numbers and I was able to have a really nice evening with them all. Now I think of him as a real friend, and would definitely look him up the next time I’m in Seattle.

What is your interest in setting up the SCBWI community blog? How does it work and what does it have to offer SCBWi members?

With my Livejournal friends, I saw a lot of them started up little challenges (or ‘memes’), to keep their work fresh, have fun and connect with each other. Illustrating and writing are such isolated activities; it’s nice to think there’s someone out there doing the same thing as you. One of our challenges was the Comic Jam, where anyone could jump in and add a few panels to advance the story. After posting my own panels, it was funny to see where someone else would go with it. And it gave me some great ideas for characters that recently have got me publishing work. Another friend was challenging people to draw portraits of famous women, and I got assigned fashion designer Iris Apfel. I’d never even heard of her, but when I saw her photos on the internet, I couldn’t wait to draw her! The portrait didn’t take me very long, but I think it came out well. Our current theme is a Mermaid Challenge, where people draw or write self-portraits of themselves as mermaids. No one needs to spend too long doing it, or get it exactly right, since it’s just for fun. It takes off the pressure of making a finished portfolio piece. Although sometimes they turn out better than something intended to be very ‘serious’.

Signing up is easy. All a person needs to do is set up a LiveJournal account. Then they visit the SCBWI community blog and click ‘Join this community’ at the top of the page. I’ll approve their membership, then they can start posting!

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