ShortBox is an expertly curated quarterly box of independent comics and art from international creators selected by Zainab Akhtar, a.k.a. Comics & Cola. ShortBox #7 includes Rosie Brand, a UK artist based in Los Angeles. She’s an illustrator, ceramicist, and comic artist, and she’s also currently an artist in residence at Project Art in LA. Her new book is one hundred pages of her comic Wizard + Soft Pig, a project that started as a webcomic. I was able to interview her about her upcoming book, her sculpture work, and what she’s been reading lately.
Your website mentions that you studied illustration—were you always also working in comics, and if not, what brought you to them?
I didn’t start working in comics or really know what a comic was until my third year at art school. I was introduced to comics via my peers on the illustration course, but I was always writing and drawing, and when I was shown that the two could go together, I was very excited and ready for the news. I am a small-town country girl and I spent most of my childhood sitting on a swing narrating my own stories to myself. Whilst my brother was reading super hero comics, I was quite content to play a game called “cows” which involved lying flat on my belly and eating grass.
I’m really fascinating by how consistent your style is across media—from sculptures to your illustrative work. Can you tell me a little about how you came to develop it and how you work in it?
I feel like that has only really come together in the last six months. It’s something I’ve been trying to cultivate for a long time. I’ve been working with both drawing and sculpture for a few years, and they had always felt like totally separate styles and worlds, and like my work was quite fractured and hard to pitch to anyone who didn’t know me—like I couldn’t really express what I was about.
I wanted to address it, so I started to approach illustration and image making in the same way that I work with clay. It became much easier the more tactile the drawing felt or the process was. My tools became thick brushes and globby inky paints or crayons and finger painting. Now I guess the two mediums feed into each other and both processes play a big part in my ideas. I am excited by the idea that my work doesn’t have to be defined as one thing. In the future I am hoping to push this method, bringing together 3-D and 2-D more to make my stories, ceramics and comics together! Ceromics!
What is the inspiration behind Wizard + Soft Pig, and who do you hope picks it up? (I also want to mention I really love the soft hand-lettering of Wizard + Soft Pig, so if you have any thoughts on that I would love to hear them!)
Wizard + Soft Pig mostly comes from interactions I have with my partner; one of us plays the “straight man,” the other can then be pig. I am most often pig. It’s everyday conversational things, barely abstracted into this soft, picture-book world. I hope anyone can pick it up and feel at home there. I want my work to appeal to both children and adults and exist in a space that eludes commitment to either demographic.
The lettering came very naturally out of the processes I was using to draw the comic: a medium sized brush and inky paint, and a felt tip marker pen for the smaller text, really just my handwriting. Super simple. With this project I discovered sometimes you don’t have to push and push to find something that works—it can be the first thing you come to. That’s what W+SP is to me in every aspect; after spending a lot of time in the past laboring over projects and overdoing it, it feels like a joyful experience.
You’ve done a mix of webcomics and print comics—what’s it like to have a webcomic going to print?
It’s really exciting! I started doing W+SP as a webcomic when things were going a bit slow, and I wanted to put something simple and easy out there that connects to people. Something that kind of feels like everyday life and can fit into that in its making. I’m really grateful for Zainab asking me to do more and to print it as a book, I can’t wait to have it exist in the physical world!
Do you have any other projects coming up?
I have lots of ideas for new comics brewing, maybe some more self-published stuff, I will have to see!
I’m also currently working on a year long artist residency with a non-profit organization in Los Angeles, which will culminate in an exhibition in the summer; I’ll be bringing together some drawings and sculptures for it.
What comics are you reading these days?
AHH. Love a chance to gush about great women in comics! The giants to me last year were Everything is Flammable (Gabrielle Bell) and You a Bike and the Road (Eleanor Davis)—they were so beautifully written, and made me bawl and laugh, and inspired me greatly to make more comics. Also since moving to Los Angeles I have discovered local artist Yumi Sakagawa, whose sensitive, meditative musings never cease to heal my insecurities. I’d also like to shout out to my friend Wai Wai Pang for bringing out Ripples with Peow last year. Wai Wai grew up in a small town that was close to my own, and this book captures the nuances of small-town England, in a loving and optimistic light, that made me feel wonderfully homesick and excited that great art can be made about the things I had always thought I needed to get away from to be “an artist.”
ShortBox #7 is available for pre-order until January 31st, 2017—and a pre-order is the only way to get a box! All titles are “brand new, debuting books” that ShortBox manager Zainab Akhtar has snatched up out of the waves to present to you, you lucky thing:
Boxes are only available once, and will ship out in March. Make sure to get yours ASAP! As for Wizard + Soft Pig, will you like it? See below~