Continuing our new season of small press interviews, this week’s interview is with Edie Owczarek-Palfreyman – better known as EdieOP – a prolific comic artist and illustrator. She works with inks, crayon and mixed media to create strange and macabre narratives. Tom sat down with Edie to talk about spontaneity in art, the comics medium, and her influences.
Your work has this really spontaneous feel to it, I’m not sure how to describe it… I suppose it’s like a giddy kid at a birthday, who was warned about the over consumption of sugary snacks but ignored those warnings and now – both adorable and terrifying – could power the household’s utilities for a week if only there was a hamster wheel large enough. How you pack that all energy on to a page?
Haha this made me really happy to read, it pretty much hit the nail on the head for a lot of my approaches to life including my artwork! I sort of end up with this approach with media too though, which can be a bad thing and I have to calm down otherwise it ends up being a mixed media rainbow explosion mess. I guess I’m just like that as a person so I don’t really have an off switch to apply to comics, sometimes though if I want to fit more in, I use finer nibs and bigger paper to squash loads in.
With all these mixed media materials, how much of the end result is planned? A lot of these mediums, such as watered paints or inks, are prone to doing things their own way. Do you outline for yourself “this might do this”, or do you just leap in and gamble?
It’s planned, surprisingly enough. I’m pretty meticulous with the media I use and have a fairly good understanding of how the inks/watercolours I use behave, and I have sheets of scrap to test on to make sure the colour and consistency stays the same. I also use pipettes and jars to measure the ink wash I use, so if I run out I know I can get the same mix. I can be a bit of a control freak, so if I have a ‘happy accident’ with the media I have to make sure I can repeat/recreate it otherwise it bothers me!
What’s your take on comics as a medium? Say, if you had to explain it to someone who hadn’t experienced them before…
There are a lot of opportunities. My background is in illustration and because I didn’t draw in the style of conventional or mainstream comic art I never thought I could fit within the comics industry, I always identified as a ‘narrative illustrator’ or ‘sequential artist’. It wasn’t until I met other artists and expanded my reading that I realised there’s a space for people working with more traditional hand-drawn materials and that most people probably don’t because it’s time consuming for larger projects (but I always think it’s worth it and I can draw super quick). So I feel like there’s something in it for everyone. There are opportunities for creators but also for readers, there’s so much out there for anyone to find their own world or space to relate to, then the opportunity for creators to relay their life experiences to a wider audience, and then also literary opportunities for people who can’t or don’t enjoy reading huge chunks of text.
So in short, for anyone who hasn’t experienced comics, just look around and rummage because there’ll be something there for you, it’s not just all superheroes although superhero comics are awesome.
Is there any area within that vast selection you feel could use some more focus or support?
I wouldn’t want to say really because it’s all so valuable. I’d just say I think people need to keep creating things out of love rather than feeling pressured to conform to trends or what they think works. Although I think using comics/story writing to support and promote literacy is a really important thing and could always use more people on board or creating new innovative ideas or ways to do this.
What / who are your influences? Is there anyone you would recommend?
Starting out I was heavily influenced by Frank Miller but obviously that doesn’t show in my work haha. I was inspired by a lot of children’s book illustrators and grew up with Shirley Hughes. I love the sort of inviting nature of kids books, and that they sort of have a tactile quality which I look to include in my own work but obviously you’re being invited into a slightly darker world than a traditional children’s book. I would recommend anything by Donya Todd, her stories are amazing and I love her work/colour palettes both traditional and digitally coloured, and Tillie Walden, her work is incredible.
You mentioned the “tactile quality” of children’s books. What is it about that authentic visual link to a medium that you like? I can’t really imagine your work holding the same character with a digital approach but – out of interest – would you ever move into using that alternative?
It’s funny you should mention, I did investigate avenues of creating of work digitally because someone seemed a little bit shocked I was colouring my comics traditionally haha. But I agree the finished result looked a little bit flat so I scanned in every single piece of collage paper I owned (240-something) and created some digital collages which I found had the same tactile quality my traditional work did! But I missed painting too much so I don’t do it very often, I probably should though people seem to like it!
What are you working on at the moment?
Top secret! Well, I can tell you, I’m working on a second full length book similar tone to Maleficium where I’m using a lot of ink and pen which is fun, I’m up to the storyboarding and development stage of that.
I’m also thinking I’m going to re-do/re-create Dangerfun, I don’t think I gave it justice the first time round so I’m looking to compile more stories for that and to give it more of a story line that you can follow.
Last but not least I’m working with a really talented writer on a comic which is really exciting! (I’m also making a load more short comics and restocking my online shop).