Kate Brown is a british artist and illustrator with a passion for comics, she may not be able to make muffins, but this lady can draw. Elizabeth Clarke was the lady with the questions and Kate the one with all the answers….
Your style is very individual, can you give our readers a brief bio about yourself and your art?
"Hi! Well, my name's Kate Brown. I live in Oxford, and work full-time as a freelancer. Comics are my main passion and take up the majority of my time, but I sometimes get to do illustration and other things like that, too! Since I was little, I've loved writing and drawing, and comics became a way of putting those two things together kinda nicely. I started taking the idea of being a comicker seriously when I was about 16 or 17, when UK comics legend Al Davison came to our college and spoke about his work. It gave me a lot of confidence, and I really wanted to try and do it myself, too."
RazberryJuice is a magazine aimed at women, and so therefore we can't help but mention the fact you are a woman, in what was perhaps a few years ago very much a man's world. Is this still the case? Or is that just an old assumption on my part?
"It's true, I am definitely a ladyperson! Well, interestingly enough, when I was about 16/17 or so and started trying to take things seriously as I mentioned above, I began putting my stuff online, as we'd just got a family PC with the internets (magical). There were whole communities of people doing this, and the vast majority that I knew were young women. So, when I branched out into the non-internet UK scene, and was told that women making comics was rare, I was kinda shocked because I'd just been hanging out with all these women online, and a lot of the of manga imports I'd got into reading as a teen were by women, too. That said, I think it's correct at the moment to say that in certain pockets of the worldwide industry, there are more male creators. I believe said certain pockets are beginning to morph, though. I am very interested to see where everything goes in the next decade."
When I was lucky enough to be asked to interview you, I naturally did some research, and the first thing I thought when I saw your website was “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (I am that old that I remember He-Man vividly)! Whilst I hope I haven't caused any offence, I would very much like to know where your inspiration comes from, as your illustrations do seem to hark back to a time before everything was done digitally!
"He-Man! He-Man! Oh my god!! Oh wow, I'm not offended at all, I think that's brilliant. I grew up watching a metric fuck-tonne of television, sooooo many cartoons – Mysterious Cities of Gold, Belle and Sebastian, Willy Fogg, Ulysses 31, Dogtanian, TMNT, Thundercats, Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin, and, yes, He-Man! The golden age, basically. I think a lot of that is what seeded the love of storytelling with pictures for me, really. I love love love cartoons. I personally like to draw with a fairly simple line quality, with simple shading, and I try and keep everything as clear as I can… I think again, a lot of that comes from watching so much animation as a child, and from particular picture books I read (and still own). I'm a big fan of Sheilah Beckett, Rie Cramer, Edward Jeffrey and the artists who illustrated the Rupert Bear annuals…
things like that really appeal to me. In terms of my actual comic-work, I've been massively influenced by those manga imports I mentioned. Storytelling style and page layout-style, I refer to these books again and again. I loved the timing and creativity in Rumiko Takahashi's work; the pacing and vibrancy of Tezuka; the staggering and unsettling quality of Miou Takaya's work. They have been the biggest influences on the comicking side of things, for sure. I've been told a few times now that my work is quite cute, and that the stories I tell are often not very cute at all, and there's a jarring quality because of that. But, I don't really care."
Following on from the question above, can you give our readers an insight into how you go about creating a illustration?
"Sure thing. Well, it depends on what the outcome is to be, and who I'm making it for. My basic process for making a comic would involve lots of discussion with the editor I'm working with, and making little tiny sketches (thumbnail sketches) that help me and the editor/client visualise what the finished thing would "read" like. The most important thing with comics is to ensure they read well. It doesn't matter if you're the best artist in the world – if you confuse your reader, you're screwing it up. So, I try my best to pay attention to the clarity of the work. Once the layouts for the comic are reading fine, I'll sketch out the comic in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. The pages are printed out lightly onto Bristol Board, and quickly lined/neatened up with a mechanical pencil – usually a 0.7 or a 0.9 – and then scanned back into Photoshop to be coloured. I usually fill all the spaces with flat colour, and then add a layer of simple shade over the top of that in a blue or a green, and add a layer of texture – something like a scan/photo of some textured/coloured paper set at a low opacity, to take away some of the harshness the digital colouring gives. Usually a page takes me one to two days, depending on its complexity."
You have worked on some great comics, including The Phoenix aimed at children. Is the comic world alive and kicking, and taking its move into the online world well?
"The comic world is certainly kicking! I think everyone will have a different opinion on the industry depending on their own experiences with it. Personally, I think it's okay, and it feels like it's on an upswing to me. I am not massively well-versed in the digital side of things as an actual business, so I can't really comment on that! My partner recently got a tablet though, so I've been trying out more comics via Comixology, which has been really fun. I do feel like that side's opened up a lot more reading material for me."
The comic world is a fairly close knit one, what comics do you regularly read, and are there any you could recommend to our readership (even better if your illustrations appear!!)?
"Well, I read a variety of things, I guess! We've mentioned the Phoenix, and I really think it is worth checking out, especially as it's growing and growing, and now has its iPad app version as well. I pick up stuff from conventions or from friends a lot of the time – so, a lot of self-published stuff. I have literally boxes and boxes full of stuff dating from years back. Comic conventions can be a good way to sample the UK scene! I read some webcomics… I read Oglaf regularly (super extreme not-safe-for-work). I'm also catching up on the Walking Dead, Hawkeye and the new Young Avengers (I did art for issue #6! Yay!). I pick up lots of books too… recently I got some new Nicolas de Crécy and Charles Burns."
We always like to ask a few fun questions at the end of any interview, and so here are yours!!
Its Sunday afternoon, its pouring with rain outside, you are happily ensconced on the sofa, tea and biscuits to hand, what film are you going to watch? "If I'm on my own, probably something feel-good like The Highlander or something like that. I don't watch so many films these days as my partner isn't so into film-watching. We watch a lot of TV series boxsets, though. We binge-watched Cadfael recently. Cadfael is so awesome. He could cut you up and then totally heal you as well. In the RPG of my life Cadfael is totally in my party. I'd probably have Connor McLeod as my tank, too."
Cats or dogs? "I like both, but lean towards cats. As long as they're not mean cats. I like dogs a lot because they're so happy, but I don't like dog poo so I'm not sure I could ever take care of a dog. Small dog poo is okay, but not the huge poo from huge dogs. Sorry, that was a bit in-depth."
Which cartoon character best describes you. "Depends on what kind of mood I'm in. Either Wednesday Addams, or Batgirl from Super Best Friends Forever, usually. Or a sort of combination of both. Though if I'm around someone I don't know very well I can be pretty quiet and awkward."
What was the last book you read, and did you like it? "I usually read several books at once, and I also listen to a lot of audiobooks. I'm not sure this is a good or a bad way to imbibe literature… it means everything takes nine times as long to get through. One of the books I'm reading at the moment is called The Orphan's Tales: In The Night Garden by Catherynne Valente. It was lent to me by a friend and I think it's one of the most astonishing books I've ever read. I'm completely in love with it and having to ration it out because I don't want to finish reading it!"
danse-macabre.nu – my website
@autojoy – my Twitter