Hire these Folx: Sara Eileen Hames

a collection of landscape watercolor paintings featuring a harbor

Hire This Woman was a long-running series of interviews at ComicsAlliance overseen by Janelle Asselin. We’re happy to announce that from here on out, with Asselin’s blessing, we’ll be taking over the “Hire This Woman” mantle adapting it to cover any creators who don’t identify as men called “Hire These Folx.” Using the questions from the original series, we’ll be interviewing our favourite creators who identify as anything other than a man—the title of the column, naturally, will be subject to the subject—and having in-depth discussions about their work, process, and portfolio! Where the ComicsAlliance series ran as Q&As, our series will always be profiles.

Sara Eileen Hames is a virtuoso in a number of media—watercolor, line art, sculpture, and spinning among them—and luckily for those of us who get most of our art in mass-produced narrative form, she is also looking to do more illustration and zine work in the near future.

Since the narrative work she has already done is stellar, this will be a welcome addition to the field. Hames says about her work, “I’m a queer, non-binary femme human, making art of all kinds, and moving into comics and zines more recently. My work focuses on themes of emotional journeys, connections between people, creating atmospheric spaces, and combining the beautiful and the monstrous.”

Four paintings are arranged in a row with narrative qualities.
A watercolor series by Sara Eileen Hames as it appears on her website, saraeileen.com

Hames’s tagline for her work in all media is “aggressively beautiful things.” She says about her goals for her art, “I create work that is immersive; I want every inch of everything I make to be interesting. I gravitate toward what brings me joy—colors, monsters, flowers, clouds, people—and I try to make work grounded in emotions. I’m equally happy with tightly controlled lines and loose abstract washes, as long as whatever I’m making feels passionate.”

a picture of two llamas with expressive faces and clothing around their necks
Llama Dress Drama by Sara Eileen Hames

The focus on emotion in her work carries through the many media she employs. When I first saw her work, in her tiny sunlit studio during a regional open studio day, I was struck by how each tiny watercolor painting of a sky seemed like I could get lost in it. Each line drawing of a baby looked as though the baby was about to move, and each crocheted monster stuffie looked ready to cuddle. One wall of the studio was hung with an array of yarns, and Hames was alternating between chatting with guests and working at a spindle.

A sign near several tiny watercolor paintings reads, "Art! for $1 or 6 for $5"
Miniature sky paintings by Sara Eileen Hames for sale on her open studio day.

The studio environment as a whole was so immersive, in fact, that it took me a while to realize there were narratives on display. A few zines, which I purchased, demonstrated that Hames is adept at telling explicit stories in visual form as well as collecting images into groups. Additionally, Hames also displayed a series of watercolor prints that told a story, arranged like panels of a comic book.

Since Hames works in both two and three dimensions, I asked her how she selects materials for specific projects. She answered, “When I have a new project brewing, I usually test materials for it with two criteria: 1. How can I make this thing most like the idea in my head? and 2. How long will this take to make? I have been working more in pen, pencil, and faster watercolor styles as I move into making comics, because I’d rather have a comic out in the world than sitting on my desk.”

And while the breadth of media she employs is impressive, her first love was watercolor. That, in fact, is what has brought her to a rising interest in comics and zines. She explains that watercolor is “beautiful, it’s complicated, and it’s absolutely unforgiving. I’ve worked years to wrangle it into doing what I want it to do. I almost always paint in series, and I like to include narratives and unifying themes. This is how I came to zines and comics; wanting to make those narratives more explicit, and to bring in my background in writing.”

Her current projects are well suited to incorporating the narratives Hames values, as she is working on both a new zine series and a series of small paintings to debut at FlameCon. The painting series is of monster families, which demonstrate the way Hames’s work can be narrative in one image, and the topics of the zines will “include parenting, spirograph designs going on adventures, and queer community organizing.”

Four large, long-necked monsters bend their heads down to a smaller one, stretching to meet them.
One of the new watercolors in Hames’s new monster family series.

Since this series is called “Hire These Folx,” not just “Admire These Folks,” I asked Hames about her background bonafides, as well as all the questions above, about her process and priorities. Hames started talking art and writing classes as a child and then studied both subjects at Columbia as an undergraduate, following with a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Sydney. After that, Hames says, “I worked for several years in marketing, business development and banking, making art and publishing small projects on the side. I was also editor-in-chief (creator, designer, writer, artist, organizer) of #24MAG, an indie magazine that ran from 2012-2015.”

Of course, that educational and business background will serve her well when it comes to working collaboratively on comics, illustration projects, and zines. I, personally, am excited to see what comes next from Hames’s prolific output, which she generously shares on her website and art-specific Instagram. Whatever comes next from Hames, I can count on it evoking a strong and warm emotional response. She told me, “the most common question I get asked about my work (especially my painting) is ‘How did you make this?’ And I always want to turn that question around on people, and say, ‘Never mind how I made it—how does it make you feel?’”

Sara Eileen Hames is an artist who achieves her goals, not only in each individual project, but in creating a body of work that privileges feelings. Furthermore, her work is not about her own emotions; rather she privileges your feelings—the ones you have while you are immersed in her narratives.

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Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter and dog. She teaches writing and literature at Suffolk County Community College where she studies comics, kids' books, adaptations and visual culture. She is a former Pubwatch Editor for WWAC, and frankly, there is a lot more gray in her hair than there was when this profile picture was taken.