So full disclosure, I finished writing Soft and will soon start drawing it. I can only hope you’ll enjoy the end~
BTW I started posting Soft in Portuguese. Conte pros seus amiguinhos! haha I’ve wanted to do this for a long while, don’t know if anyone will even read it, but it’s there.
And it already feels like a thousand years ago, but I started the month finishing a couple old Priory of the Orange Tree fanarts, which are on my Inprnt now.
I also made an Evelyn/Celia minicomic from this scene that still haunts me, even after years of having read it. I only posted on Tumblr though cause I confess I’m not super happy with it… but maybe you’ll feel differently.
I’ve also been building characters with my patrons again, which is super fun! Yes, lots of updates this month! (Pity I had to link all the drawings because this thing was becoming too big to send orz).
Now let’s go to the annoying stuff. In face of the most recent and shitty news, I’m planning to leave this place. I’m looking for another suitable host, hopefully I’ll have moved next month. You don’t need to worry because the beauty of a newsletter is that where I go I can take you with me and you don’t need to move a finger. But also know that if at some point next month you can’t find this newsletter’s page on Substack, don’t be alarmed, I’m not disappearing.
It’s very tiring this whole online moving thing, makes you wonder if there’s even a point if it’s only a matter of time the dirty of another place will appear. But the stories here sound particularly bad and sincerely the official newsletters they send us give me bad vibes. Anyway, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts about it in the comments.
I guess I’ll also completely delete Twitter soon. I mean, I haven’t truly been there in years and the absurd changes just keep piling up. (I still haven’t warmed up to Bluesky because it reminds me of Twitter, which sort of triggers me…)
September’s guest is Claire Roe, comic artist from Scotland and great drawer of buff women (and just women in general really).
Let’s start with the good old: what works influenced you growing up?
Growing up I read and reread one single Spiderman comic issue that I got at an airport on a family holiday – that sort of kicked off my interest in comics. The art by John Romita Jr. had me captivated, so naturally I drew a lot of Spiderman.
One of my main influences in comics has been Rafael Albuquerque. I found American Vampire in a bookshop my first year of university, and let’s say I was HEAVILY inspired by his artwork as I was figuring out my style. I still love his work on that book.
Was there something or someone queer you felt pulled to before you even understood why?
Lets see, I loved Xena Princess Warrior and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a kid, they were on around the same time – both queer classics now. I watched the movie Stick It too many times, for the uh, stunts? I also loved the Millennium trilogy in high school. I can’t recall too much from the books but something about Lisbeth’s gender ambiguity drew me in. And speaking of Spiderman, I read and reread one particular storyline that included Black Cat (drawn by Terry Dodson)… very het behavior.
You studied animation, so I take that working in comics hasn’t always been part of the plan. What led you to it? Would you still like to return to animation at some point?
I didn’t even know that working in comics was an option! I read and collected some comics, but none of my friends read them, there were no comic shops near me, and I had no idea how they were made. With animation I had dvd bonus features to get an insight to the inner workings, and tried my hand at film making and animating with a digital camera and Windows Movie Maker.
While I was at university for animation, two tutors (a graphic design tutor, and an english tutor) had started a comics module. It was one class a week for one term, and my year was the first to try it. From that point on I saw comics as an option, I even got to submit a comic as part of my animation final because of that module haha.
After I graduated a local writer hired me to draw his comic, which gave me a LOT of valuable experience, learning what to do and what not to do. It paid pennies, but I really grew as an artist in that time. PLUS it basically acted as my portfolio.
No way I’d consider getting back into animation (sorry childhood me). There’s too many people involved, too many people to answer to. With comics there’s you, the writer and the editor, and 90% of the time those two people trust your vision for the project.
I’ve been following your work for years and your linework has always been super dynamic, but with time it has also grown economic in the best way. Are you the sort of artist who is intentional about these changes or just lets your art go wherever it wants?
Thank you! I was very intentional with that change. It was actually an editor (who I had worked with a few times at the start of my career) that suggested I use a thicker line and chunkier brush for a book we worked on together called Bury the Lede. So she really shaped the future of my art, to how it looks now. I had loved artists like Chris Samnee before then, but I never thought of taking my art in that direction.
Your vehicles and weapons are also something. Was it all We(l)come Back’s fault or a personal goal?
Yes, We(l)come Back’s fault! I was thrown into the deep end on that book, I took over for an artist who got dropped by the publisher. I didn’t know what I was in for, I just wanted a job. So drawing car chases and gunfights was trial by fire. [laughs]
If I’m not mistaken, you have stated you prefer for hire work rather than be part of the creator’s team. Which is contrary to what the advice usually goes. Care to share your line of thought?
I think it’s less emotional investment. Comics is a tough tough industry, so maybe I thought that being on a project for the paycheck would make it less devastating if that project flopped or got canned by the publisher. If that makes sense. But I’m on a creator owned project atm that I love, and this is the closest I’ve ever worked with the writer. Working with Jeremy Lambert on The Hollywood Special has been a game changer. And Foulbrood by Chris Sebela and I is also close to my heart. So I’ve done a 180. I want to retain the rights to these stories I work so hard on.
Doing work for hire is great for experience and getting your name out there to editors. With superhero stuff, unfortunately that story you’re telling doesn’t belong to you.
Do you have a routine process for the pages? What about character design?
I start off with the layouts for the issue. My layouts are quite detailed compared to a lot of other artists I’ve seen. I usually gather references at that stage and take any photos I might need for poses (my camera roll is embarrassing). I size up the layouts onto my page and start the “pencils”. I do them in 5 page batches – 5 pages penciled, send them to my co-creators to look at, then move on to inking those 5 pages. Rinse and repeat for the issue!
For character design, hmm. It starts with the character description, their personality, and what vibe me and the writer are going for. Then scouring the internet for references, and putting bits and pieces together into sketches. I might sometimes do colour for character design, but I love seeing what the colourist will bring to the characters. I trust their skills over mine on those matters!
In the era of burn out, we have been forced to rethink routines and our relationships to working on our previous hobbies. A long trial and error process. How have you been navigating that?
At one point, not very well. I completely burned out after working on We(l)come Back, because of Boom!studios and their grueling schedule for new artists. I don’t know how they are now, but I was pushed to my limit. Unfortunately I went straight from that project to working with DC on Batgirl, and I got dropped because I was falling behind. And I just stopped working in comics, stopped replying to emails, went MIA for a while. I felt exhausted and embarrassed, but luckily editors kept in touch and kept offering me work. So I jumped back in the saddle with slightly better schedules and pay. Nowadays I can’t work on a project that doesn’t have a reasonable time limit. I am with IDW atm, and my god, I have such a roomy schedule and fantastic editors. But I won’t be getting rich off comics, I don’t have the hustle and drive that a lot of creators do. I don’t even draw art outside of work anymore unfortunately, so maybe that’s my new version of burn out, no passion to create for myself.
Social media helped many of our generation to start a career but it also has costed us plenty. In the last few years many have readjusted their habits and the very platforms are changing plenty. What are your thoughts on this dynamic and how do you deal with it?
I’ve never been great at social media (it’s the social part that gets me). But I was lucky enough to get my fanart noticed by an editor on Tumblr, of all places. Then as my career started I used twitter as a sort of portfolio to get noticed, and direct writers and editors to my website. I think Twitter becoming a shite hole will really hinder some peoples careers, or make it harder for green artists to get a start in the industry. It was such a great place to get your art seen by editors for a while there, which is really unfortunate. I only post to my Instagram now, so if that app takes a nosedive, I’m not sure what I’d do. I guess I should join the new popular app! This sounds bad but I really just don’t care, the thought of it is just draining [laughs]
You share on social media your brewing hobby(?)(as a person who doesn’t drink I know nothing about it). How did it start?
I do! I’m not sure if people care about those posts [laughs] but I love it, so I share. It actually started off with foraging. I live near woodlands and there’s always something to look out for. Wild garlic for pesto, wood ear mushrooms for a stir fry, may flowers for syrup, and elderflowers for champagne. So I got into wild fermenting (using the natural yeasts on flowers and fruit) and created some really fizzy delicious drinks, with only a bit sugar and time (Those are alcohol free btw, so if you don’t drink but have fruits/flowers growing locally, you can ferment a naturally bubbly drink!)
I had always heard stories from my dad about my grandad making wine when he was younger, and he happened to still have some of the old equipment. After watching a tonne of Youtube videos, I moved on from natural yeast to proper brewing, making mead, cider and wine. I just love the whole process, making my little potions that I get to share with other people. I’m yet to make a beer though, that seems a little more daunting.
What’s the sapphic story (in any medium) that has your attention right now?
I haven’t read a whole lot recently, but I am deep into playing Baldur’s Gate 3. Shadowheart, Karlach and Lae’zel? They all have my attention! But especially Shadowheart. I also got a chance to see Bottoms, and that film is *chef’s kiss*. Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott really did that. Gay, funny, violent, absurd.
What would you like to see more in sapphic/queer stories?
Just more weird shit. Give me the problematic ladies.
Please, share where people can find more of your work.
If you want to be spammed by other people’s art, or want to look at my backlog of lesbian Dragon Age and Overwatch fan art, you can follow my Tumblr at pretend-animator.
Stuff I read
In the Roses of Pieria by Anna Burke
This book catered so much to my specific interests that I felt almost stalked by the author. The book follows Clara, a college professor, specialist in a fictional city state of Ancient Greece that would have been founded by a woman. She’s then miraculously hired to take care of the biggest private collection related to the said city. There, she starts transcribing and translating the correspondence of two individuals named Gata and Natek (you can check my decption of them). And let’s say from there the story becomes wild… I’m looking forward to the next book.
Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer
I think my favourite thing about this GN is that it’s of such rare historical honesty. We have such simplistic relationships with historical characters, they’re either heroes or villains (oops, but I guess that’s what we do with any famous persons…). It’s a tricky area and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but especially when dealing with people already departed, I don’t believe in simply erasing them and their work because they weren’t necessarily good people. I think we must face all the complex sides of it, like this work does (or Gentleman Jack, for example). In the end it’s hard not to feel bad for Patricia at times, her life certainly wasn’t an easy one. And I certainly feel grateful for Carol, a work that touched so many lives in a meaningful way.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Yeah, I’m often late to the party. Maybe polemic opinion, I think this is actually my favourite Wilsner’s book, it’s a pleasant feel good read that came at a good moment.
(I’ve also been catching up with Brazilian sapphic novels, it’s such a pity there aren’t translated versions for me to share here.)
Continuing my saga of transcribing Medieval documents…
I got a scam that went wrong! Some guy named Adam simply tried to validate a fake will but was caught (who would have predicted how that would end???). Pity they don’t dish the details, they don’t even say what’s his occupation (which is a basic information in these papers) or how he was or wasn’t related to the guy who died. Apparently he was only fined though, so I imagine not very poor.
There was also the acknowledgement of a bastard, which was a first for me in these, though I’ve had my suspicions before.
Silly names this month: Hugh le Frensh and many guys named Fraunceys.
See you next month!