I’ve been wondering why it took me so long to work in comics, but perhaps the propensity for panels has always been there, lurking. These images are from my early career in illustration (pub. between 1997-2000) when I was churning out greetings card designs. The range for Lip International was my first big commission – a range of 32 cards, which progressed to stationery and kitchen textiles. They are made from torn paper collage (mainly Canson textured papers) with pencil crayon and paint for detail – my signature style until I had to put it to bed due to RSI (tearing thousands of tiny pieces of paper takes its toll over the years). The textile products were sold in Sainsburys and somehow made their way into the soap opera kitchens of Brookside, and Hollyoaks! I hate to admit watching them in my 20s, but it meant I could squeal with delight when I saw ‘my’ oven gloves and T-towels on screen (how deeply uncool). I barely watch TV now.
My agent called me ‘triptych queen’ and I still have a tendency to work in threes. The panel layout for my graphic novel is three rows deep with panels often occurring in multiples of three. (This suits my story because I had three miscarriages.) I’ve been arranging panels for my graphic novel in a strikingly similar fashion to some of these cards. I didn’t do it consciously remembering earlier work – but was rooting around for a card to send this week (I still have heaps of these things in in the loft) and the panel radar lit up! Maybe it had been there all along, waiting to resurface at a time when I could put it to better use.
My work back then was labelled ‘cute’ and ‘twee’ – something I’m running from now and want to avoid in my comics work. That said, it was a good living, and although I find this work cringingly insipid now, it served me well at the time. So, I’m happy to carry the propensity for panels with me, but the subject matter and cutesy style can stay in the loft.