Her Peculiar World: An Interview with Karrie Fransman
Karrie Fransman is published in the Guardian, makes mini comics and also publishes her work online. Bugpowder decided to have a chat to her and this is what she said:
Can you introduce yourself for the benefit of those unfamiliar with your work?
Yup, sure. Hello there! I'm Karrie Fransman, a 27-year-old Scottish girl with scraggily hair and a little bump on my finger (from refusing to hold my pen like an adult). I've been drawing comics for about four years and scribbling pictures and telling stories since forever (another symptom of refusing to act like an adult, I guess). My comics are mostly autobiographical, with a chunk of magical realism. I also do an autobiographical comic strip for The Guardian each Friday on the back of [their tabloid-sized supplement] G2 called My Peculiar World.
Please tell us a little about your comics. You've been published professionally, but continue to self-publish. How do you balance those two aspects of your career?
Well, I still have a full-time job as a creative advertiser so I’m kinda juggling three aspects of my career at the moment! I started out getting published in the Girly Comic anthology, then moved onto self-publishing and selling at all the usual conventions beginning with B (Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham...why does no-one hold one on Barbados?). Then sold for a short while in Camden market at the infamous London Underground Comics stall. Recently I’ve been focusing on publishing online and getting my new website up and running with stories, strips and blogs at www.karriefransman.com (designed by the lovely Phil Spence.) Phew!
I'm rocking a bit of a superhero lifestyle at the moment: advertiser by day/cartoonist by night ...along with all the other passionate comic artists out there I guess! But I'd love an eight-day week for just a bit more time to do the arty, experimental comics.
How did you get your stuff in the Guardian? Did it take a long time? Did you submit your strip to any other papers?
Ha ha! Everyone wants to know this. Well, firstly, I found out the address of Steve Bell's grandmother and then found a length of rope, a large sack and…nah, just kidding. I simply sent off ten samples of my comic strips to the editors of thirty-five newspapers and magazines. I'd set myself a goal of writing and uploading one comic strip a week since January 2008, so I had about twenty to choose from. I was just lucky that my favourite paper got back to me rather than the Daily Mail! But I'm a firm believer in upping your number of submissions and thus upping your chances. Art is so subjective.
Please tell us something about your working methods. About how you get and record your ideas, and the process of putting a strip together.
As my day job involves coming up with ideas, I've got a bit of a case of mental diarrhoea. It's sorting the good from the shit that's more difficult. So, um, the ideas part is easiest for me. Every time I have an idea for a strip, hear a conversation, have a memory from something from my childhood, I write it in my mobile phone. Then I add it to a veeerrry long list on my computer of ideas for strips (and art works/stories/plans to take over the world). I try to be quite disciplined in telling a story in a strip. Often there are two or three jokes I want to put in but I make sure I only do one. I have to fight against my tendency to want to cram everything in; strips are such small spaces.
I can tell when a strip excites me 'cause I can't wait to draw it, but my ultimate criteria for choosing what to draw is whether or not I think people can relate to it. I believe as an autobiographical comic artist it's important not to be too self indulgent!
Now for the science bit...I'll scamp up a few scribbles of how I want to map the strip out. I have a guide-line template I use that's roughly 30% bigger than the final version. I try to mix it up a bit with varying panel numbers and sizes. I then get to my favourite bit, good old-fashioned drawing (usually curled up on the sofa with some kind of food stuff in my left hand). I use one of those clickity-click pencils and then ink it with a plain old black biro. I like the varying softness of line you get and they're easy to...erhum... 'borrow' from work. Finally I hit the computer; scanning it in, shrinking it, neatening it up the scribbles, deleting the food stains and colouring it in Photoshop CS. That's my least favourite bit as I can't equate the freedom of drawing comics with the oppression of sitting in front of a computer for three hours with your eyeballs slowly drying to a crisp.
The whole process takes about five hours per strip. I really should try and cut it down; time is money after all. But I like the whole hand-made, crafty feel and so I try to avoid too much computer corner cutting. Still, at the end of the process I have to force myself to step away from the computer, stop doing final tweaks and go play outside in the three-dimensional world, where the ideas come from in the first place.
Which cartoonists are you enjoying at the mo'? Small press or otherwise.
Whoo-hoo. Great question! I get so excited about all the brilliant comic artists out there and all the directions they're moving the medium in. I've got so many crushes. At the moment I'm loving Eleanor Davis. She rocks and is really true to her small-press roots. Her smallest doodles have so much psychological maturity and such big stories in them and she's got a grasp on design and colour that I'll never have *sigh*. I'm also reading a lot of old Posy Simmonds at the moment as I want to have her career! It must have been even more difficult making it as a female cartoonist in the ‘70s. Then there's Mark Stafford who I was really awe-struck to have the fortune of meeting the other month. Lee Kennedy is another natural. Fantagraphic's anthology Blab is always a great place to see what's happening where art meets comics; comics with collages, history comics, silhouette comics. The possibilities are endless. Most of the other artists I rate sit on the boundary between art and storytelling: The Clayton brothers, Marion Peck and my absolute all-time favourite Paula Rego. Not to mention picture book artists like Kit Williams and Maurice Sendak. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! They fill me with envy and energy.
What are your thoughts on the indie comics scene in this country?
I love it. It was my first introduction into the comic world and I love meeting all these creative, eccentric, cartoon-type characters at all the conventions, and seeing the weird lenses through which they view their world. The Web and Mini Comix Thing was my first con and there's still mounds of brilliant, creative work there and at Caption too. The underground scene's been an absolutely essential environment for me to learn, experiment and play in. My only frustration with the UK indie comic scene is that more people are hiding at conventions and not getting their brilliant work out there. There is an increased awareness of graphic storytelling among newspapers, the film industries, publishers, boutique shops, literary festivals etc, which we can all be grabbing with both hands. Plus getting indie comics out of conventions and into the big, wide world means reaching a more varied audience. When I sold my comics at conventions I’d get mostly white, British blokes, from twenty-forty, who’d been reared on a steady diet of DC and Marvel, where as when we set up shop in Camden it was 50/50 girls and boys and anyone from grannies to goths to, um...gothy grannies.
Karrie Fransman, thanks for your time.
Check out Karrie's website here.