INTERVIEW: Clio Isadora Returns to Her Final Year of Art School With Sour Pickles

The cover of Sour Pickles by Clio Isadora (Avery Hill Publishing, October 2021)

London-based comic book creator and illustrator Clio Isadora has been self-publishing risograph comics since graduating from Central Saint Martins art school. Her work has been exhibited in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Now, for the first time, she gets to hold her first published graphic novel in her hands with Sour Pickles, a semi-autobiographical story about a student in her final year at a prestigious art school.

The cover of Sour Pickles by Clio Isadora (Avery Hill Publishing, October 2021)

Pickles Yin tries to live up to her own expectations and the daunting task of transitioning from struggling student to struggling to find a career. Surrounded by colleagues born into privilege and nepotism, Pickles and her good friend Radish choose an alternative method of achieving their success… that doesn’t exactly go so well.

Here, Isadora talks about her new book and revisiting the past.

How would you describe your art style? What are your inspirations and how has your style evolved over time?

I find it hard to describe my own art style, I normally describe my drawings as goofy. To be honest I have difficulty expressing myself using language sometimes, which is probably why I gravitated to comics as a medium in the first place. Composition and quality of line are important to me and I often redraw panels over and over until I feel that they are coming across the way I would like them to.

One of my early influences is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I’m a huge Zelda fan and I used to love playing that game a lot in middle school. Anime is a really good source of inspiration for composition. I haven’t really looked for outside influence that much recently, but my style has developed by just working and producing comics. I used my self published comic series Damp Candy as a way to push my visual communication and build up to this point. My style has changed over time, my drawings used to be quite scary looking with wonky eyes and dotted teeth. They’ve definitely mellowed out over the years.

You’re very decisive with your color choices and use on a few powerful pages. What was your thought process here?

I tried not to overthink the use of colour in this comic. I picked the colours I enjoy working with the most, which were inspired by a particular Haribo sweet from my childhood. I decided to use a limited pallet of just three colours to give the comic some unity and I focused on colouring a small number of splash pages. The splash pages gave me more space to experiment and be playful, the pallet didn’t have to represent any real life colouring, it reflects the mood instead.

A page from Sour Pickles by Clio Isadora (Avery Hill Publishing, October 2021)

What do you love about producing comics with a risograph? What made you decide to take a different publishing route for Sour Pickles?

I really enjoy the vivid colours you get from risograph printing. They also bring in a really nice texture and the small imperfections of the process add to their charm. As much as I love risograph, for a comic of this length it wouldn’t really be viable to print it that way, particularly on such a large scale, so it wasn’t something I considered. Personally, I think it works well for self-published shorter runs and if I make more short comics I will definitely consider working with that print process again.

How did it feel to revisit some of the moments in your life in order to shape this story? How does it make you feel to see it all on the pages of your first published graphic novel?

I initially wrote the story as a way to process some tricky feelings, but it’s been nearly ten years since it all happened so the emotions aren’t particularly raw. A lot of my comics are semi-autobiographical, but I like to leave a lot of time after the events before I consider using them as the basis for my work. I think having some hindsight is an important part of my style of storytelling.

I think finishing the book gave me some sense of closure. I spent so much time re-examining and reflecting on such a chaotic time, but now I’ve completed it I no longer have to pull it apart to make sense. I’m glad that I was able to take those experiences and reshape it into something I can be proud of.

As a semi-autobiographical work, were you worried about how the story might go over for the people in your life whom you reference?

I was actually quite anxious about certain people reading it. I do worry about what certain family members would think of it, the book deals with some messy personal experiences that I wouldn’t usually share with them. After rationalising some of these fears, I realised they probably wouldn’t judge me and after the book came out both of my siblings told me they were really proud of me.

All the characters in the book were based on real people. Which felt a bit daunting if I potentially ruined any of my friendships, but before Sour Pickles came out I did speak to a close friend who’s featured heavily in the story. They said they weren’t worried about it as no one reading it would ever know it’s them, which made me feel a bit better about the whole thing.

Sour Pickles is available now from Avery Hill Publishing.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.

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