Nicola Streeten Interview
Next up in the UK Comics Snapshot Interviews is Nicola Streeten;
1 / Can you introduce yourself?
I am Nicola Streeten. I have worked as a freelance illustrator since 1996 with a relatively recent interest in graphic novels. I am studying for a Master of Research degree at The University of Lincoln and my area is gender and the graphic novel.
My background is a first degree in Social Anthropology that I studied after spending some time in Papua New Guinea. I later studied art and design for a year at Middlesex Polytechnic and really began drawing after the death of my first child in 1995. In 1999 I moved from London to Lincolnshire with my artist husband and our toddler daughter to a derelict Methodist chapel that we renovated to make into a live-work space. Then we set up a non-venue based contemporary visual art organisation, Beacon Art Project, that we have run since 2004.
2 / What drew you to comics?
It was the autobiographical ‘graphic novel’ that drew me, in terms of the form and also the subject matter that was being dealt with. I was one of the converts after Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan won the Guardian First Book Award in 2001. My illustration style has always combined text and image and had a cartoon look about it, forming one panel ‘gags’ rather than narrative sequences. I was interested in developing my personal practice to work with narrative.
3 / Who do you count as your influences?
Everyone. For here I will restrict my answer to three graphic novel works that have been most influential. Dragon Slippers Rosalind B. Penfold; Epileptic David B and Barefoot Gen Keiji Nakazawa. For me they are good examples of the power and possibilities that exist in the form.
4 / Can you describe your working process?
I don’t like to work at night because I miss stuff on telly, so I work in the day. I sketch out ideas and then redraw them again and again until they’re just right for me. Usually then I do a lot of leaving and returning, especially with narrative based work. There’s a lot to be said for stepping away from work and looking at it in a new light, it’s amazing how clear it is to see what isn’t working. I use a lightbox and usually for commercial work use photoshop to tidy and colour. I work with cheap photocopy paper and a .25 rotring pen. I like to feel more precious than the materials I work with.
5 / What does your workspace/studio look like?
My aim is to keep everything bare of stuff so I don’t get distracted… So here it is pictured as I want you to see it. I like to blend domestic and work so my studio is also our spare room, there’s a bed at the other end. I have my dad’s old drawing board.
6 / Explain what the Laydeez who do comics do.
No no no! it’s Laydeez DO comics as in Laydeez do lunch….Myself and artist Sarah Lightman www.sarahlightman.com run monthly meetings in London at the Rag Factory. These are graphic novel forums. The focus is on works of an autobiographical or domestic nature and on creating a friendly and creatively stimulating atmosphere.
It began with an idea of having a reading group, and we thought it would be brilliant to invite people from the world of comics and graphic novels whose work we like to give presentations. We introduced 10 min slots for creators to present what they do and also introduced an invited guest blogger each month. It’s been really inspiring and fun, we’ve all been introduced to some fantastic work and met some very interesting people.
It’s important to clarify that we are not a separatist women only group but we are women led. The key to the group’s success is the extraordinary diversity of backgrounds of the people who come along. For example filmmakers, writers, anthropologists, actors, academics, literary types, medics, graphic designers, fine artists, community artists, animators, illustrators, students, as well as people from the comics and small press world. Oh yes and everyone is welcome.
7 / What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a graphic novel, Billy, Me & You for publication by Myriad Editions http://www.myriadeditions.com/?location_id=195 in September 2011. It is about how I, and the people around me, made sense of the world after my two year old son died 15 years ago.
At the time I kept a written journal. I have revisited this to translate into a graphic novel. So it’s not being done from a raw perspective, but in retrospect. It is the most rewarding creative thing I have ever done and I’m enjoying the experience a lot. I have been publishing chapters of it in Liquorice Magazine, (starting in Issue 2) my family magazine, which I started with my then 11-year old daughter Sally in 2008 with contributions from John, my husband. http://www.liquoricemag.com
8 / What are your ambitions for the future?
I’d like to work on creating further graphic novels and developing Liquorice Magazine. I’d like also to continue to embed the personal into the academic and the academic into the personal. I look forward to carrying on with Laydeez projects with Sarah too.
9 / What advice would you give to an aspiring amateur cartoonist?
Was it the Hobbit who said the worst times make the best stories….so…go out there and if anything rubbish happens to you in your life just see it as good material.
10 / What do you think of the health of the UK comics scene at the moment, and what do you think it can do better?
It’s an exciting time. People are coming into the field from other disciplines and are bringing a lot of refreshing new viewpoints and influences. This is impacting on the subject matter and the form as well as how comic based works can be used. I think this is creating something of a zeitgeist by taking comics out of its fan-based ghetto into a wider world. I suspect the UK will begin to develop a unique voice in its comics, in the way it has in other areas such as fashion, art and music. It’s an exciting time.
Could do better?…er…to be read in a quiet voice…where are the women?
11 / Where is the best place to buy your work?
Liquorice Magazine is available from http://www.liquoricemag.com
And from the Liquoricemag Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/liquoricemag
Thanks Nicola! Now, pay a visit to Laydeez Do Comics, buy some comics and follow Nicola on Twitter!