Cambridge Graphic Artists At Work

It is a cold, wet day today. The chill of autumn is settling in here in Cambridge and I thought I’d stay inside to write about two fledgling graphic artists I recently had the luck to meet! As you may know, if you’ve been with this blog long, sometimes I stray from the tourist spots to showcase totally geeky experiences.

Life’s adventures don’t always have to be distant and exotic after all!

So, with my icy fingers clanking away on this awesome mechanical keyboard (it sounds like I’m punching along on a typewriter people!!!) I welcome all you geeks and travellers, geeky travellers and travelling geeks to meet Katie and Grace.

Katie likes to make illustrations and she’s working on a pile of graphic novels. This young woman, known online by the nom de plume Katherine Belle, is fantastic at bringing a life-like quality to her creations. I seriously love the glint in her character’s eyes as they go about their mischievousness.

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Grace’s preference and specialty is “adoptables” or character designs. I absolutely adore her chibi characters! She’s quite a shy young woman and it reflects in her artwork. Soft lines and chubby cheeks make her creations super adorable!

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I actually went and had a humungous chat with these two about their work and what hurtles they had to overcome for their art. Here are some excerpts from the two-hour conversation!

The Cost Of Work

Me (furthermore known as M): What kind of work do you have?

Grace (now to be written as G): I usually stick to just doing adoptables, which are character designs that people buy. So once they buy the adoptable—god it sounds like we’re selling young children doesn’t it? Right, paper children. No. Right so…

M: *chuckling* So is this done with ink?

G: It’s watercolour and pen. That’s all it is.

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M: So how much would one of these cost?

G: Well I’m not very good at pricing things so I got Katie to help me and she reckons that, because I spend about an hour on each, I should charge minimum wage (£5.80)…

Katie (furthermore known as K):*leans in* At least.

G: At least. And then material on top, but because I’m a bit under-confident that they’ll sell, I’m going to put a minimum price on them and then haggle at the CamCon.

M: Yeah, that’s actually very good to bring up—how you break down the cost—because I’m pretty sure a lot of people come up, look at the price and go, “what? (echoed by Grace) It’s just a piece of paper with a drawing on it.” But you actually do put some thought into the work.

G: Yes, I try my best to make sure that it looks individual and the design hasn’t been thought of before and of course, trying to keep them appealing to the audience.

I got potter’s paints for about £2 and then the pen was £1, but because the material I use can stretch out quite far I don’t need to charge too much for material. It’s a really small portion. So most of the chibis are about £5.

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M: When did you start drawing?

G: I think when I was very, very little I watched a Studio Ghibli film and then I started trying to do my own comic-y thing. And that didn’t go very well so I just gave up and started doodling and then art teachers got angry…had to do art *finishes with a shrug and small grin*.

M: That is a bit of a problem isn’t it? Sometimes in the art curriculum they don’t really accept this form of art.

G: They should really because in general anime and manga sell more than art does generally.

M: Really? Where did you find those numbers?

G: Internet. So I don’t know whether you can trust that. It wasn’t Wikipedia so you can trust it a little bit. I was trying to look that up for an argument so they’d let me draw manga, but I ended up just doing drawings.

M: So when did you start showing your work actively?

G: I started off showing friends and stuff because Katie, Rachel and I—we’re all very into it. So it was like, oh look at this, look at that and oh that’s amazing. Yeah, so we were all very excited and all happy about it, all watching and recommending anime to each other. And then Katie said she got a Deviant Art account and I said, oh what’s that?

Of course I’m very, very, very technophobic. And so Katie just sort of told me to set up an account and I started putting drawings up there.

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Here Be Art Thieves

M: Katie when did you start drawing?

K: I found how-to-draw manga book when I was about seven and started then.

M: How long does it take you to do a page for your comic now?

K: Anywhere from three to five hours. I start from pencil and then cover it in ink, then on Photoshop I edit out the pencil marks. Then I added the text and some mid-tones.

M: So how many stages are in each drawing?

K: Sketching, tidying the sketch, inking, tidying the ink, scanning, editing digitally on Photoshop, adding text and then that’s it.

M: So how do you plan to make these pages into a book?

K: There’s a program called Adobe InDesign and you just upload the pages up to that and make a PDF file and send that off to the printers.

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Visit her Facebook page for more artwork

M: How many comics have you created?

K: I’m working on three at the moment.

M: And they are online?

K: No. I’m not putting them online!

M: How come?

K: Well, if you put them online they’ll end up on sites where they take credit for it. Like Manga Fox, they just upload the story and then you’re like, wait. I made this story. I wanted to sell it as a book. Why is it on here?

And then you have to take them to court or something to get it removed. It all has to do with copyright issues. That’s why I don’t want to put my comics online. But even then, if you just put up your illustrations or art online you get art thieves. They’ll rub your watermark or signature off.

G: And they’ll take credit for it and then they might try and sell it off as a print to someone else. That’s another reason I don’t like the Internet.

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M: So if you were to do all your work online—how can you prove that it’s your work originally?

G: I know that when you upload it to Deviant Art it will record what day you put it up. So hopefully then if you compare it to the time they put it up and yours was before then that should prove it. We were also told that if you want to prove copyright, a good way is to put it on a memory stick or in an envelope, send it to yourself and then don’t open it when it arrives.

M: How does that help?

G: It goes through the system and if you put it on “record of delivery” then the post office has recorded it with a specific day and time.

M: So how come you can’t open it?

G: You can’t because then it’d show that you could easily put anything in there. If you do print you should put the original in the envelope and spread the copy elsewhere.

G: I think people don’t generally get into too much of a fuss when someone steals their work. They’ll put a mention in, but there is not a lot young artists can do.

K: They are inexperienced.

G: And no one what’s the hassle of taking someone else to court. They just have to quietly ask.

K: If not they have to report them to the site.

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You can also visit Katie’s Instagram page

“Squandered Skills”

M: Did you teach yourselves how to draw?

K: I think I’m self-taught yes. I didn’t really listen to my art teachers. I did listen for the perspective bits because that’s really hard.

G: They do tell you stuff that you can look up in books and I found that throughout art lessons I had already discovered this information.

K: Teachers should tell you where to look, but not tell you how to do it. That’s what teaching should be.

G: We had the small issue where we had art teachers that would tell you who to look up and what advise you how to get marks in your paper, but other than that they wouldn’t teach you the skills. If they were going to demonstrate the work to you, there was one teacher who’d do the work for you.

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A final piece by Grace

M: But the arts are supposed to be about personal creativity. Why is it that you go to school and your art teachers try to mold you to their idea of art?

G: I don’t think it’s the art teachers. It’s the curriculum that has been set that they have to sort of stick by.

In GCSE it’s about being able to replicate what’s actually there. So they look for skill over creativity. But then in A-levels they expect you to develop your ideas more.

If you look like you could be a potential forger then you’ll get good marks.

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A final piece by Katie

And there you have it! Some things to consider the next time you’re at a fair or convention viewing a young artist’s work. It’s not an easy world out there and we should do our best to support each other’s passions (especially if they are this talented eh?)! 

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