Elizabeth Querstret

Posted on December 29th, 2014

Elizabeth Querstret is a British comic artist and illustrator. She draws a twice-weekly webcomic, and her story ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ was included in our most recent anthology. We caught up with Elizabeth to chat about the pros and cons of autobiographical comics, the UK convention scene, and the importance of pushing yourself as a comics creator.

Your webcomic is very honest and autobiographical. What first encouraged you to record your daily life in comics form?

I’ve always kept notes and doodles of things that I encounter and strike a chord with me. For ten years I kept an illustrated diary that I kept hidden away, then someone mentioned that it was similar to published work that they had read. I was encouraged to share my work in the public sphere and for a while, I was puzzled by this thought. I couldn’t compute that people would be interested, as I purely created work for my own satisfaction. Now that I am in a strict routine of producing work, I find it incredibly therapeutic and rewarding. I consider myself to be a fairly honest and open individual so will always create work to predominantly please my own personal creative desires. I’ve had people tell me that they think being too honest is dangerous, shows signs of weakness and vulnerability. I on the other hand think this is an important quality that everyone should nurture – covering things up, telling white lies and avoiding truths makes me feel very uneasy and I like to project this in my work.

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Do you find it cathartic, or can it be frustrating trying to condense those daily moments into a single comics page?

On rare occasions, I can find it impossible to create anything if my head is not in the right place, but far more often than not, drawing is my sanctuary. It can be tricky to condense lots of thoughts into short strips, but I also find it therapeutic to reflect on the topic and enjoy the challenge to try and be concise. I get more frustrated that I can’t keep up with the ideas that are constantly forming in my head and even though I will write most thoughts down, I am forever forgetting ideas that pop into my head. I’m sure though, that if the idea is good enough – it will come back to me! (I say that to soften the pain of being so forgetful with my short term memory).

My Sad Tate Modern Visit

Where do you see your work progressing in the future?

This is a really tough question for me, I’d like to continue with my twice a week updates as I really enjoy these a lot. I have some new zine ideas that I am keen to get on and do – hopefully with some determination I’ll get these on the go soon. Additionally if I can find some time, I’d like to do some project ideas which are not autobiographical, but reflective of my sociological views.

You’ve exhibited at a number of conventions in the UK. Are there any which stand out as favourites?

For a long time I was terrified by the idea of exhibiting, let alone attending one. Who wanted to read my work and part with their money to buy it?

Standing in front of strangers with the work you have put your heart and soul into is terrifying, but I now look at this differently thanks to my first exhibiting experience. Last spring I plucked up the courage to approach Alternative Press for a slot; I found they were incredibly supportive and they kindly gave me a spot with the first publications table. This was perfect for me, it meant I was not alone!
I shared the table with three other creators in the same situation as me, and found we all had similar concerns. I spent the day realising I was not alone in my nerves and found my thoughts rationalised. Additionally, it was great to be surrounded by motivational and experienced creators. I think spending time to speak to others was incredibly valuable in realising that I shouldn’t worry about how my work will be perceived, as everyone has such varied tastes; there is always room in the comic world for something new.
Having a positive first exhibit then gave me the courage to approach others. I now find the whole experience is addictive. It is fascinating to meet people who enjoy something that I created initially for myself to enjoy. Every time I have applied for tables at events, I do worry a little that I won’t be wanted, that there isn’t a desire for my work and that it is terrifying being stood in front of my work while strangers quietly judge it, but all of this is out weighed with the fuzzy feelings I get from seeing people grin as they browse through my work or share their opinions with me. I have met some amazing people through exhibiting and it gives me an extra kick to do more – hopefully I will get to exhibit at a lot more events in 2015.

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Do you have any advice for new artists getting involved in comics, particularly in terms of self-promotion and exhibiting at conventions?

I found initially that everything was very overwhelming. I would compare myself to other’s level of progress and quality of work. I often told myself that my work wasn’t worthy or I wasn’t a ‘comic artist’, I still often think both of these things, but now I’m not so bothered by this. I say that if you enjoy what you are creating, then it is likely some others out there will also enjoy seeing what you do. Number one advice is BE BRAVE! Whether you like it or not, you need to make yourself be proactive in sharing and promoting your work. No one is going to come and discover you or do the footwork for you, you need to tell the world what it is you are doing – don’t be shy about it. I often worry that I am bugging people with what I am doing – I probably do – but now I’ve been doing it for 18 months, I’ve learnt that if people are not interested, it is easy for them to choose not to listen; but you will find plenty who are interested.

100% get yourself a website that has your most recent work on the homepage – you need to make your work easy to find and friendly to view. Then most importantly tell the world over and over and over where they can find it. Plug your work on as many social networks as you can manage in your time. I update my site at least twice a week and push this mostly through Twitter and Facebook, then occasionally on Tumblr. I’ve also found that Twitter is great for networking in the comic world and finding out what is happening. Without Twitter, I would not have done half the comic related things I’ve done in the last year.

If you have created Zines, then get your act together and start selling where you can. I’m not sure everyone would agree with me, but my two last main points are: don’t worry about creating the world’s greatest polished work (don’t be too self-critical), you’ll find that your work will evolve over time, but this will happen by continually producing work. Also, and finally, do it because you enjoy it! The comic world and comic people are a lot of fun – enjoy yourself!

Thanks to Elizabeth for taking the time to answer our questions! Elizabeth’s webcomic can be found at querstret.co.uk. She is also active on Twitter and Tumblr.