For my second post in the ‘Meet the Maker’ series I had the opportunity to put forward some questions to my collegue Sayra Begum who will also be at Tate Modern for the staff biennale 28th August to 3rd September.
Can you give us an insight into your creative practice?
I would class myself as an illustrator. Since graduating from Falmouth in 2016, I’ve been focusing on one project, Mongrel. I started writing Mongrel on my MA and it’s been the focus of my creative energy since. I have around 100 pages left to illustrate and I’m hopping it will be released in Spring 2020 by Knockabout Comics.
What was your pathway to this; hobby, a workshop, education, something else inspiring?
I became really fascinated with graphic literature in my third year at Plymouth. I was comparing Islamic manuscripts with graphic novels, using the broad definition of Islamic art. The pages either had to be based on Islamic culture, set on Islamic land or have characters that belong to the Islamic world. For example I compared pages from Marjane Satrapi Persepolis to The Ta'rikh-i Alfi, (History of a thousand years). Both these pages communicate horrific scenes of violence but Satrapi’s story telling is from a personal perspective.
The following year I became obsessed with women’s life writing in comic book form. I was interested in why so many women were turning to the medium to share such personal and honest stories when the medium has a long history of being male dominated. I researched the story telling devises the medium had to offer to creators and the drawbacks. And so inevitably I chose to share my own story in the graphic novel format, that’s Mongrel.
I couldn’t help noticing in both lines of research how the purpose of sharing auto/ biographical stories had evolved from providing people with an exemplary life, how we should aspire to live such as the life of The Prophet and Jesus, to sharing frank stories of everyday life. Something that’s more relatable to make us feel less awful about ourselves by that someone else has been through the same or worse. The Modern obsession with impurity.
Is there a story or a theme behind the brand/maker?
In my work I’m interested in exploring auto/biography with a focus on female and marginalised voices. I use personal narrative to provide a way in for the readers to experience a place, a way of life, a world which may not be familiar to them.
Can you tell me more about your process from idea to finished piece and do you work from home, outside or a studio?
In my home I have a little studio room where I have my large drawing table and desk, amongst all my other arty possessions. I’m really grateful that I have my own space to get away and focus.
My process starts in word doc. Not very exciting I know. I start writing the script, what each character is saying, directions for my future self when planning the layout and illustrations. At this point I’ll also be working from lots of scrap bits of paper when I’ve come up with ideas of what to include in the book.
In the next stage, I’ll start creating thumbnails, using the thumbnails to decide the pacing of the story, the layout and very rough outline of what I want happening in the panels.
I will then create a clearer draft, developing the initial layout and illustration in thumbnails. The drawing will become a lot clearer so other people can decipher what’s going on. Finally, it’s pencilling the illustration, darkening the outline, shading, scanning it into Photoshop to clean up then, dropping it into InDesign and placing the text.
What advice would you give to someone interested in working in this discipline/industry?
It takes a lot of hard work and persistence. You’ve probably already heard that a thousand times but it’s true. You will have to really love what you do to ride out the difficult journey and get to the publication point.
Are there any artists/makers you admire, what is your inspiration?
There are so many illustrators that I am influenced by … Marjane Satrapi, Craig Thompson, Lynda Barry, Dominque Goblet, Phoebe Gloeckner…
And Persian Miniatures…
To find out more about Sayra you can click through these links
If you would like to be considered drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org