This week I’m interviewing a number of comics and zine creators in preparation for the two-day free Dublin Zine Fair at the SupaFast Building, near Capel Street. Today, Karen Browett.
Hi Karen, hope you’re well! I know you’re the comixer behind Astro Chimp and have made some band posters in the past, but besides that I haven’t a clue. I’m out of touch you see, made old by reading too much of Sir Rich Moorisselller’s unisex power fantasy comic The Midgey, published by Coke. Patrick Lynch said I should talk to you, and he’s really cool. How would you introduce yourself and your work to someone at The SupaFast Building next Saturday?
Your right, Paddy is awesome! I would introduce myself by a high 5 I guess? It’s my favorite hello.
I am a picture maker and appreciator. For the zine fair, Im representing Wereworms (Tumblr,Facebook) which is a four person art collective. We generally work in the independent music scene, making gig posters, screen printed merch and album covers, but also make art for arts sake together and have put together things like zines, prints of personal work and more. It’s great getting to work with such talented people. The idea was to form a design group of different styled but similarly minded artists that could be contacted by bands, promoters etc when they needed artwork or merch, and that they would be able to either send us a general commission, or personally pick one of our artists from the portfolios. We also sell our work through a growing number of outlets, so we are playing with the idea that we could offer a cheaper price on bulk merch etc if the band wanted us to distribute and sell a certain amount of the work ourselves. Beyond that, we just love working together, so we keep on making stuff anyway, and can often be found at stalls at gigs and independent media events selling personal and commissioned work. It’s a very open and free group with little boundries on what we do which I absolutely love.
The work I do with Wereworms tends to fall somewhat into the darker/psychedelic/more for adults brackets of art, and I get to grapple with graphic design and creative typography allot. This differs from the other side of my work which is largely as an illustrator. My style of illustration is more suited to children’s books and goofy comics, and is largely based on my stupid sense of humour. Astro Chimp was a really fun comic to do, and you have reminded me that issue 3 is long overdue. It’s about a monkey who was kidnapped and sent to space. Very literary.
A page from Karen Browett’s Astro Chimp – Wow
For my personal illustration work I would love to get more editorial work or a strip in a magazine, but at the moment am focused on a short story I am trying to finish illustrating. My Grandpa ‘Pop’ was an artist for The Dandy and lots of newspaper comic strips and children’s books, and growing up around him I decided that it was the best job ever, so I put myself through endless poverty on the quest to be able to do this full time too! Here is my blog of illustration work, and my general portfolio is up on behance here
You’ve just gotten back from another festival. What sort of relationship do you have with your punters?
I like to be as involved as possible. Especially since so much of the work Im involved in is to some kind of commission/brief. With Wereworms I feel it’s really important to keep up a presence by having stalls at gigs, markets and other events. With the gig scene, ourselves and the bands we create work for would work very closely and generally be very familiar with each other. We want people to be comfortable approaching us and able to be involved in the creative process. They can openly talk to us and view our work, and we can watch the bands and chat to the promoters, and therefore have a full comprehension of what they want. The art and aesthetics of a band are important and should tie together with the sound, and when a group of people have put so much talent and creativity in to such a personal and unique thing as a band, they usually have a vision of how they picture it on paper. You need to be able to pick up on where they are coming from and what they are trying to put across. Being an active part of the music scene that you work in is vital in that instance to understanding those you work with.
I come from the D.I.Y. punk scene, which has grown over the years to encapsulate a lot more than that, but has always been a really healthy, connected, creative and highly supportive scene. The message has always been that you can do things for yourself. If you love music, pick up an instrument and play it, if you love to draw or write, make some zines and put them out there. Whatever you want to do there is a network of people who are all tentatively finding their feet doing something they are interested in and love. Whatever you can offer or do is supported and encouraged, and people don’t need to worry about not being ‘good enough’ or being held back by external factors such as money for example. In the scene I grew up in, if you want to do something, you really just learn to do it. I wanted to screen print so I looked up plans online and build the equipment. Thats how I learnt what I know, no way I could afford the real stuff and there was no specific training about it at the time in terms of courses, and I couldn’t have afforded established studios I could have joined. Of course I was crap at it for a time, and the equipment I built had tons of unforeseen problems, but thats the only way to learn, and people are largely there to support that, not take you down. The D.I.Y. and generally the independent music scene as a whole is more of a community than anything else and it’s essential be be on both sides of it, to produce/create and appreciate/support. The work we make feeds directly from all thats around us and I hope can feed others in return. An artist who stays in the studio all the time is as useful as a guitar virtuoso who is to afraid to join a band. I believe that you have to continue to participate, or you allow yourself to stagnate and become full of ideas of things you would have liked to have done with people, work you would have liked to have been chosen for if you only were more involved with people. In short, without the people my work would cease to be valid and would stop growing creatively. So talking with people and being involved is essential.
Karen Browett – Astro Chimp (2010)
What are you looking forward to most next weekend?
Seeing all the other tables. Im always amazed by the amount of talent at zine fairs and independent markets. Especially since in the various underground scenes, there is so much going on that you might not be aware of. Since the internet really took over, I find that while you can build connections fast online, lots of things become lost within groups of friends on social networking media. For example, a gig could happen where your favorite band might come over, but if you aren’t online friends with the promoter or one of the support bands, you might not even hear about it. Social networking is great, but people don’t promote things at as grassroots a level anymore, its more ‘sure I whacked it up on facebook/tumbr etc so people know about it.’ I see less physical zines, posters, stickers, freesheets etc around the place as the internet becomes more and more the platform for peoples work. Im really really looking forward to seeing all the new work and new artists and writers. I’m one of those odd people who when they like art or zines, they want to touch them, smell the ink, feel what paper was chosen etc. The physical heart and soul of the work really comes through when you get to hold, look at and leaf through peoples zines and art.
Im also really just looking forward to being able to talk to people into the same things and have a good buzz, there’s some really great heads involved, incredibly hard workers too who I have a lot of respect for.
Anything you’re dreading?
Counting. I hate that bit of stalls! Counting and change. It’s cold sweat territory when someone wants more than one thing, despite how used to this I should be! I’ll fill up on coffee and change and bring a calculator this time just to be sure of everything! If you end up trying to get anything from me, be patient with me if I look like I’ve had a lobotomy when you ask how much it is!
Karen Browett – The Road -part of a project drawing a page of comics from a page of film script
And finally – any message for the people out there, reading this, wishing that they too were a fashionable publisher, yet personally creative; cool and developing?
haha I don’t know about that! Honestly though, what you do is in your own hands. If you want to draw, print, write, publish etc, just find a way to do it. Don’t procrastinate or get caught up in the finer details and the things that hold you back. If no one will publish you, publish yourself as a zine or art book, contact people and send it out, bring it to small shops and events, do all you can with it. Don’t be precious about it. If its something you love doing, its not the only thing you’ll ever produce, so throw it out there and then keep throwing out more stuff again and again as you make it. There is no such thing as ‘not able to’ or ‘no point’ when it comes to having a desire to being creative. Subjecting yourself to those restrictions is usually a way of making personal excuses not to push yourself. To use a cliche, the world is yours. Try as hard as you can to spend as much time in it striving to do what makes you happy. If you want to be an artist as a hobby or a way of spending your free time, just do it, get it out there. If you want it as a sustainable career, work your absolute balls off. Live it breath it be it, because a billion other people do too, but if you put everything you have consistently into what you want to do, it will pay off. What starts small, if its worked on with all your heart and pushed, does go further and further every time you do it. Slowly but surely.
If anyone is interested in illustrating, specifically, I did a hnd in Illustration in B.C.F.E., co-ordinated by illustrator Margaret Anne Suggs, and honestly is was the most amazing course. It’s so encouraging, and the tutors are so full of knowledge, advice and guidance. It’s more like a family than a college there, and I grew about 5 years in terms of my work over the 2 years of the course. By the end you will have a full portfolio to show people and it’s well worth a look if your serious about trying to become a commercial artist in some capacity.
Thanks Karen. You can check out the awesome of Astro Chimp at Karen’s blog, and the WereWorms collective on Tumblr and Facebook.
The Zine Fair is managed by Sarah Bracken. Click through to her website.
The questions in this interview were built