How did you decide to become an artist?
I’m from Kippax, a small town near Leeds in the north of England. I grew up close to streams and a wood and split my time between being active and ‘laking out’ (playing with friends) and staying indoors drawing. I enjoyed the company of my friends but also loved being engrossed in my own private world of drawing TIE fighters and other imaginative stuff.
I became an artist because I enjoy writing, drawing and making stuff up. I still get a kick out of a good drawing or gesture, a line of dialogue or plot progression. There’s a lot of talk about the dopamine hit of social media, that little bit of pleasure from positive or reinforcing feedback. I think my brain is wired, or has been trained through practice, to get a little dopamine hit, or equivalent, from creating. Also, drawing and reading was all I really was interested in or any good at.
What does your workspace/studio look like?
It’s the front room of our Edwardian terraced house. It has a handsome period fireplace. I have a writing desk as well as a standing desk I cobbled together from an Ikea bookcase. I have an uncomfortable wooden chair for when I’m drawing and a comfortable chair for when I’m writing. I try and keep the clutter under control but as it’s a workspace I accept it’s not going to feature in a photoshoot in Elle Decor. I’m surrounded by books which makes me happy.
I’ve worked in a variety of spaces over the years, kitchen tables even a cupboard. I had my own building for a while. It wasn’t part of our country estate but a small attached laundry room that was just big enough for me and a drawing board once we’d taken the washing machine out. It’s always nice to be able to close the door and not be interrupted, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. Especially if you have small children
What’s your favourite medium?
As far as my own favourite medium to work in, obviously it’s comics. The alchemy of words and pictures. It has its own magic in combining the two. I have hopefully created something greater than the words and images separately. It is also really really hard to master. If it was easy I would have gotten bored and done something else years ago.
Where do you go when you need a dose of creative inspiration?
I have a bunch of prose books on the shelf facing my table so if I’m feeling a bit flat I’ll pick up a volume of Pinter or Beckett and read a few lines. Or Evelyn Waugh or Lydia Davis or whoever. They are distant enough from comics I don’t have to worry about being overly influenced.
What is your dream project in the future?
No one single project, I just want to make more books, tell more stories and get better at it along the way.
What’s an example of a past rejection or “failure” that ended up helping you? How did it help?
I’m not sure I subscribe to the idea that iron sharpens iron. I’ve never got a harsh crit or review and thought “I’ll show them”. My ego likes a good review as much as the next person and rejection still stings but I’m not really the type who when they receive a critical kicking, shuts myself away, weeps tears of rage and produces my masterpiece. I just keep working away trying to get better.
To be honest, I have enough self-doubt of my own not to get overly concerned about external criticism. Of course, I’m also small enough of a person to wish painful gout on my critics.
The only thing I used to do in the days of rejection letters was keep them as scrap paper, flip them over and sketch or write new ideas on the back.
That was my revenge. Keep making new stuff.
How do you maintain your art career?
For me, the best way to maintain a career is to maintain enthusiasm. For some that might be drawing Batman everyday for the rest of their lives. For me I like to try new things.
I follow my passions, hunches and interests whenever possible. Returning to personal projects and putting aside commercial concerns can help refill my enthusiasm for the medium.
What are you working on now?
Right this minute I’m working on book 2 of Punycorn, my middle-grade funny fantasy series. I’ve also written a script for a horror graphic novel. I’ve put together a print collection of my one-page strips that I post on my Patreon. I have a script for a sister book to The Book Tour written for when I have time to draw it.
I’m making comics.