Sarah Catherine Firth is an award winning artist, and creative business owner. She loves graphic story telling in all its forms – Illustration, comics, animations, graphic recording and films. She is currently working on her first graphic novel. Go find her on the internet: Website Twitter Instagram Facebook Vimeo
We asked Sarah for some Hints&Tips for the comic world, and here is Part 2! If you missed Part 1, click here.
How important do you think the avant-garde or ‘cutting edge’ trait of comics is? Both from the narrative and visual sides.
Experimentation and pushing boundaries excites me, whether it’s done visually, narratively or through format. I’m totally jazzed by the work of Lee Lai and Tommi Parrish. I love the way they explore gender, sexuality and relationships. How they depict how bodies can feel and move through space and not just how they look. Tommi’s books always have interesting tactile qualities to its shape, weight, size and paper, too. I think Brecht Evans also has a really rich way of using colour, space, and shifting planes to explore time and individual characters’ experiences. The newly released Winter Collection by 2dcloud is exciting and challenges the reader to question our definitions of sequential art, and expand the medium’s potential. Their upcoming Spring Collection also looks amazing. David Shrigley is a long-held love. I like how he works across [various] mediums and pushing the comic voice into the fine art world, showing that contemporary conceptual art can be any kind of art.
Do you find that drawing comics, which are incredibly solitary in their production, an enjoyable or difficult thing?
Because my creative business is action-packed and brings me into contact with lots of new and different people, topics and discussions, my art practice provides me with a blissful, quiet retreat. Graphic recording requires focus and switched-on listening all day, work that extends way beyond my comfort zone. If I did this all the time I would be totally exhausted. Other comic artists I know like to work at communal studios like SquishFace or go to cafés and the State Library to get their fix of people and noise.
In your opinion, what makes a compelling image, and how important do you think the narrative component is? To what extent does an image need to tell a story to be compelling? And how important is it for a comic image to have a narrative text component – can an image tell a story without it?
Comics are typically interplay between words and images, but of course an image can tell a story without words. I think that comics can work beautifully without words, look at Shaun Tan’s The Arrival for example. I’ve made comics that have pages without many words, such as Wake Up.
There is a lot of experimental work coming out where artists are breaking panel structure and switching between minimal line making and loaded frames, which I find compelling. I also get really excited by confident, dynamic line work. I was reading Cages the other day, and that has lots of pages of loose line work that captures expressions and gestures in a really captivating way. I also find a unique and personal voice really attractive; Maira Kalman for example, makes such charming images. Looking at them makes me feel more human.
As someone who successfully straddles multiple mediums, I’m interested to know what you don’t like, especially in today’s world where we are bombarded by imagery. Is there anything that really gets on your nerves?
We are so inundated with images, language, videos, stories, and most of these are made for one reason: to get you to buy something. This gets on my nerves. So, whenever I see something made by an artist that is cultural, emotional, political, or spiritual, I feel glad.
Your work is wittily observational and peppered with personal history. Is that what really inspires you and makes you sit up and pay attention to other people’s work?
Definitely. I like brave work. Transformative work. Honest work.
What stories, comics, illustrators or animations are you enjoying at the moment?
Leonie Brialey recently gave me the graphic novel component of her PhD, entitled Raw Feels, and it’s astonishing. She’s hoping to publish it in the future, and I certainly hope she does, so everyone can get their mitts on it. The work is deliciously minimal, honest and deeply personal. Reading it feels like a transcendent experience. Sam Wallman’s recent SO BELOW: A COMIC ABOUT LAND is a powerfully visceral example of how sophisticated visual metaphors can be comics.
For people who love alternative animation, I highly recommend going to MIAF, which is in June each year. THE BIGGER PICTURE is an extraordinary Oscar-nominated animation by Daisy Jacobs. The story follows the decline of her grandmother and is an impressive feat of painted animation. Here’s a film about the making of it. The man with the beautiful eyes by Jonathan Hodgson is a touching and haunting animated adaptation of Bukowski’s poem of the same name. My Mum Is An Aeroplane by Yulya Aronova is a delightful piece.
Video work and films I’ve been enjoying are Embroidery of Voids by Daniel Crooks. It’s clever, meditative and unique. The GROWTH documentary is another short meditative piece of glorious 4k storytelling. I adore Twin Peaks with its mix of the banal, the otherworldly, the absurd and the disturbed. I watch it every year in July. It’s a tradition. Some other rad things are Bad Things That Could Happen, the Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared films and Mirror Box: How Art Became Science is an interesting glimpse into the art and science of empathy.
Thanks for chatting to us Sarah, so many comic-filled paths to explore 🙂
Next week we’re catching up with comic artist and illustrator, Lee Lai, to find out all about her creative process, and why she thinks comics cut the mustard where nothing else can. Keep it locked!