Illustration | Dillion Phiri | 6 February, 2017
We speak to British comic writer and artist Karrie Fransman about her work, inspiration, and participation in the Graphic Novels edition of the Creative Hustle. This interview is part of our ongoing collaboration with British Council Connect ZA.
Creative Nestlings: Please introduce yourself, tell us who you are and tell us about the type of a work you do.
Karrie Fransman: My name is Karrie Fransman. I’m a comic writer and artist who likes to tell visual stories in all kinds of places from graphic novels to newspapers, Ipads to Virtual Reality and from jewellery boxes to dolls houses. My two graphic novels, ‘The House That Groaned’ and ‘Death of the Artist’ were both published by Penguin Random House. You can see all my work on my website.
Creative Nestlings: Let’s talk about comics! How did you come to writing comics, where does your passion come from?
KF: Like almost everyone I drew and told stories as a child. I’d arrange my little action figures on a South African drum (my parents are both from Johannesburg) and act out scenes. I fell in love with visual storytelling again after reading ‘Ghost World’ by Daniel Clowes aged 20 and I am still at it 15 years later. Five-year-old me would be proud!
Creative Nestlings: How did you sharpen your skills? Do you illustrate, pencil, colour, and letter everything by yourself?
KF: Yeah- I do everything and I’m completely self-taught. I studied psychology and sociology at university, but I guess most of my stories are very psychological and sociological. The first comics I drew professionally were for The Guardian newspaper- an autobiographical strip. If I look back at them now I curl up in shame. I didn’t know what I was doing and had never coloured on the computer before! I like to think I’ve improved.
Creative Nestlings: I’ve been reading one of your work ‘The Night I Lost My Love’ and really enjoyed the story you told through it ! Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
KF: I started self-publishing my own comics (photocopied sneakily at work and stapled together in my bedroom) and selling them at comic conventions. There was a 4-page story in one of the first comics I made about a massive club night I’d gone to with an ex-boyfriend. I lost him in the crowd and did that thing where I kept thinking I saw him- the red of his top or his curly hair. But I couldn’t find him. I imagined that he’d split off into different versions of himself- the child, the lover, the friend. Freakish extremes of his character. It was from that tiny story that the 20-part serial developed. It was published in the Times newspaper and was my second ever professional gig. I dressed it up as a film noir murder mystery but I think the ending threw people as it turned out to be more of a psychological magical realism story. You can read it all for free on my website.
Creative Nestlings: Is there any exciting ongoing project you would like to tell us about?
KF: Yes! I was commissioned to write and draw a digital serialised graphic novel called ‘The Darkness Behind Our Eyes’ for the publishers Oolipo. It is written in 10 parts and has 25,000 words and loads of illustrations- some animated- so lots to get your teeth into. You download the app and can read the story in segments. It’s about a man suffering from insomnia who becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman who is addicted to sleep and entangled in a secret lucid-dreaming cult. They are star-crossed lovers – one trapped in a waking nightmare and the other in a dream world. It’s got lots of twists and turns so read it if you like ‘Inception’, ‘Blue Velvet’ and the likes. It will be out soon and the app is free to download.
Creative Nestlings: How is it like being a woman in the comics industry in the UK?
KF: It’s actually wonderful. When I first started I was one of the few girls at comic conventions, but now I’d say it’s 50/50 in the UK. We have Laydeez Do Comics– a global, women-led monthly event with talks from all kinds of fascinating comic artists. And Cake. Because that’s important. We also have a Woman in Comics page on Facebook that represents comic women from all over the globe. We need more names from the African continent so find me on Facebook and I’ll add you if you’re interested. And we just had a massive female-only comic exhibition called Comics Creatrix at The House of Illustration celebrating 100 female comic artists. This was just a couple of months after Europe’s biggest comic festival, Angoulême in France, failed to nominate a single female comic artist for their prize. Shocking! But it’s been a rallying cry to the global comic community to be better at representing all the massive amount of talent we have. I truly believe comics are the best medium at getting you to see the world through different people’s eyes, so I’d like to see more comics by people of colour, LGBTQIA communities, disabled and every other voice that is usually silenced in the mainstream media.
Creative Nestlings: At Creative Nestlings, We’re all about collaborations. What collaborations have you done in your artistic career and how important is collaboration for you?
KF: I am currently collaborating with medieval scholar Dr Hana Videen of Kings College London on a fascinating project. We are creating comics based on 8 stories from the middle ages that explore different kinds of experiences of embodiment. From the Green Knight to Mélusine- the serpent lady you find on your Starbucks cup. The stories from the middle ages were insanely creative. Plus they have some of the most wonderful examples of sequential art- illuminated manuscripts, stain-glassed windows, frescos on church walls and triptychs. Brilliant examples of visual storytelling that would blow people’s minds if they were created today.
Creative Nestlings: What is creativity to you?
KF: The ability to shut yourself in your room and play. To open your subconscious up in a truly self-conscious manner and to let it spill out into the world. It is the very opposite of ego and worrying what people will think of you! And that is something all creative folk must struggle with.
Creative Nestlings: You’ll be one of the panellists for the Graphic Design edition of our Creative Hustles series. Are you looking forward to Saturday?
KF: Very much so! As I mentioned my parents are South African but I was born in Scotland, so I have no links with the comic community there. I’d love to make contact with more artists there so if do contact me via Facebook or Twitter or via my webpage. Looking forward to e-meeting my fellow panellists too! Thanks so much for inviting me to join in.