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Lizz Lunney. On the Road

February 14, 2014

Take Away!

I interviewed Lizz Lunney in November 2012, because her deceptively simple drawings told the most intriguing stories that made me both laugh and inwardly nod at the truth they had captured about life in general.

The life of an independent comic artist is a very challenging one, but Lizz is not scared of hard work and has had a very productive year and a bit. So I thought it was time to catch up. It wasn’t easy getting an interview, she never seems to slow down.

You’ve done quite a bit since I last interviewed you, including a video about your work. Tell me about that.

Yes, 2013 was a really busy year, I had a book published called Take Away! by Blank Slate Books.  I also edited The Hic & Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humour Volume 2 UK Edition with Joe List.

The video came about because my friend Sara Jackson is a documentary film maker and she decided to make a short film about my comics. She came to stay with me and basically just filmed my usual work day and did an interview with me about my characters etc. It was fun. It includes film footage of 6/8 Kafe in Birmingham and a cafe by my house where I sometimes go to work. You also get to see me in my usual work uniform PJs.

Have you ever thought of doing electronic downloads?

They already exist. My digital comics were recently released by Top Shelf and are available to download for iPhone/iPad etc. You can buy collections of all my previous comics on there including the sold out Depressed Cat book.

If it’s so difficult to make a living as an indie comic artist, why do you do it? Why not just get in office job where you can get steady and comfortable income?

Yeah, good question right? I ask myself that same question every month when I’m worrying about how I’ll afford to pay my rent. I have no answers but perhaps this comic says it all:

Reflection on life as an indie comic artist

Reflection on life as an indie comic artist

How many hours a day do you think you’re working on drawing your comics and putting them together?

It’s hard to say because some days I’ll spend the time packing shop orders and emailing stockists etc., and other days I will be non-stop drawing to reach a print deadline or something. I suppose it’s good to measure by pages. So far this month I have written and drawn 30 A4 size comic pages (in 25 days) but some months I’ll do more and others less depending on what other stuff is going on.

What have you been doing to promote yourself?

By tweeting stupid jokes, putting previews of things on Instagram, putting comics on my website and Facebook page, Tumblr, leaving flyers in shops and other places, going to conventions, doing interviews, shouting, crying.

When you go to exhibitions, what sort of things are you looking for in the work, as a comic artist?

I went to a really good comic exhibition in Prague last year with a stranger I was put in touch with on Twitter who likes comics. He did a great write up of the exhibition. I plan to do my own write up on my blog soon but like many things it’s been on my to-do list for ages and I just haven’t had chance to write it yet. I go to a lot of exhibitions, not necessarily comic-related ones and I’m not really looking for anything in particular in the work – just for inspiration. I went to the Grayson Perry’s ‘Vanity of Small Differences’ exhibition in Manchester recently which is an awesome, three part documentary on 4OD that accompanies it is well worth watching  I also went to an amazing photorealism exhibition in Birmingham that is on at the moment. John Salt is one of my favourite artists and I like most hyper-realistic paintings.  Clearly my comics are highly influenced by the photorealism movement.

Examples of cutting edge photorealistic mountains

Examples of cutting edge photorealistic mountains

Thinking about your work as a comic artist, your creations look very simple, because they are line drawings. But they’re trying to say quite complicated things.

Yeah I’m all about putting complicated ideas into their most simplistic form. I used to really enjoy summarising for the conclusions of essays at school. I think there are a lot of people in the world who try to overcomplicate the obvious. They think that it shows they are extra intelligent by adding in a load of big words, or that by overworking something it somehow adds to the concept. Really it’s a lot harder to take something confusing or complex and present that in its purest form, especially if that then means it can be understood on many different levels.

How far do you think the pictures carry the story and how much do you think words contribute?

The words are everything. I’m more interested in the writing of comics than I am in the pictures. If I read a comic that just looks nice but isn’t saying anything I find it hard to connect with the work. I think that’s why I spend a lot more time and care getting the text to say what I want it to say than I do on the images in my own work. I like word play and the use of language. The images in comics are there to support the text, they can add something extra or help illustrate an idea but it’s the words that are telling the story or joke.

A moment of self-awareness

A moment of self-awareness

You said you drop some of your books off in Berlin. Does your work sell well over there?

I’ve no idea. I have a book out in German published by Zwerchfell Verlag so I guess they are the people to ask about that. I love Berlin and go there as often as I can to take comics to stockists there. I have an exhibition there this year but it hasn’t been announced yet so check my Twitter and blog for updates on that.

At the Theme Park

Why is it worth going to convention somewhere like Sweden?

It’s worth going to conventions in all countries. Sweden is great, I’ve been to the convention there twice and it’s really interesting to see what the comic scene is like in a country that has a different view of comics than people seem to in the UK.

Do your experiences abroad affect your indie comic festival that you organize?

Yeah I guess so, I think any convention I have been to has gone towards the ideas we have implemented at Birmingham Zine Festival (BZF). The festival is on hold at the moment though, I needed a break from organising it to concentrate on my own work, but I’ve still been doing some events within the BZF name such as a panel I organised with Make It Then Tell Everybody at Volume Publishing Fair in Birmingham. I also did an interview for Make It Then Tell Everybody  myself recently too

Lizz Lunney Mountains escape from the page

Lizz Lunney Mountains escape from the page

  1. Great interview and brilliant drawings. Liz is very talented!

  2. Great interview 🙂 Thanks for the link, though I’m going to have to look over those posts and any the blog in general as I haven’t looked at it in months and put posts together in time snatched in cafes and libraries all over Prague in between lessons etc. I really ought to look over some more of Lizz’s work sometime – I tend to forget to read for pleasure and don’t tend to follow Twitter etc anymore.

    It reminds me, I have an interview with a comics publisher I did back in May or sometime I ought to transcribe, translate and put up.

    • Thanks. You have a really interesting blog. It would be nice to interview you sometime.

      • It’s a mishmash. I have a tonne of unfinished or ‘private-ed’ posts under the hood and I don’t much like looking at the ones that I have left in place. I have hundreds of stories and the like to rewrite, and writing or rewriting blog posts often appears to be a mere distraction. There are a few things I would actually like to write about though, so maybe I will try to revive it. I would be more than happy to be interviewed if you would find that useful / interesting. It would probably give some much needed structure to what I have to say 😀 My interests tend to change in a peculiar cycle of obsessive sprints. Currently I am avoiding a couple of writing projects by working on a competition to translate a lesser-known short story by Bohumil Hrabal. Today I picked up a wonderfully obscure dictionary of Bohumil Hrabal and finished watching Jiří Menzel’s exuberantly lecherous I Served the King of England. It’s funny, but since I suffer my usual problem of a total lack of creative types in my circle, I tend to view such activity as weird and obsessive – almost something to apologise for – and forget it might interest those out there who are similarly inclined. I suppose that, though I usually found it could derail me and throw me off on all kinds of tangents in addition to those I am already set off on by my wayward imagination, Twitter did also offer up a good handful of precisely those interesting conversations and interactions I tend to miss.

        Either way, I have banned Skype from my computer, but if you would like to try to give some kind of form to such ramblings as the above, an e-mail correspondence might work best for me, but I fear such a thing might have a tendency to sprawl.

      • Sounds intriguing. Don’t worry I’ve been trained to edit and we can make it an iterative process. Remind me of your Twitter name and I can send you my e-mail address.

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