Laydeez do Comics Leeds, 25 Nov 2013

Hi, I’m Fiona Marchbank and I work as a freelance Illustrator and Designer and do comics projects for fun on the side. I was asked to guest blog at the Laydeez do Comics Leeds in November. I will say in advance, I’ve had a bit of time left alone with the sketches I did on the night before I’ve had to make this post, and might have gone a little bit overboard with the drawings. I regret nothing!

Thanks to Thought Bubble Comic Convention attracting artists (and attendees) from far and wide Laydeez was able to snag some artists who wouldn’t normally be able to make it up to Leeds but were here for the convention. The speakers were Gemma Correll, Paula Knight and Ian Williams.

First thing on the agenda was to wish Laydeez do Comics Leeds a happy 1st Birthday.


Unfortunately there was no cake, but there was soup on offer from the venue, Wharf Chambers, and that’s almost as good as cake.

Gemma Correll

Gemma was a requested guest through the suggestions forms, so it really can work to suggest artists you’d love to see speak at a Laydeez Event.


“I thought I would start with pictures of my pugs”

Due to needing to catch an early train home, Gemma Correll was our first speaker, before the usual introductory questions. She opened with photographs of her two adorable pugs.

Though professing to not be very good at giving presentations Gemma was very engaging, enlightening us with a large range of work from professional and personal comics to illustration work.

Refreshingly, Gemma’s illustrations also make use of comic styling, a light, graphic approach and integrated text and image. Though she claims they’re not ‘real illustration’ but she gets paid for them anyway.

Gemma’s work revels in it’s spontaneity. She doesn’t sketch her work first, rather draws the final cartoons straight on paper, as her work needs that freshness that can be lost in excessive planning, sketching and inking.


“They want to pet them, or ask if they can breath”

Gemma’s pugs play a large role in her comic work, where she has illustrated and made books about her pugs, and made little cartoons about their inner thoughts. Her book “A Pugs Guide to Ettiquette” is entirely from the point of view of her dog. Gemma also makes cat comics for Emirates Airline magazine.


“I like their look of disdain”

Gemma likes to put in comic diary format things going on in her life. She talked about how she was useless at sport, yet was currently trying to do more and showed us examples of her diary work about sport.

As a previous fan of Gemma’s animal work it was great to be able to see a more diverse range of her work, and be able to talk to her before the meeting as she had to dash off fairly quickly after her talk was over to catch her train. It was fab that she made the effort to stay the extra time after the convention to speak to Laydeez do Comics.

After Gemma’s talk we then had the introductory questions, which this time was about characters or people to add (or remove) from the Comics Hall of Fame.


“Godzilla is not to be taken seriously”

It was suggested that the balloon boob comic ladies of superhero infamy needed out of the hall of fame, and that Garfield, Tintin, Marjane Satrapi, Charlie Brown and the gang, Calvin and Hobbs, Jean Grey, Death from Sandman and Superman amoung others should be allowed in.

Paula Knight

The second speaker was Paula Knight, from the Bristol Laydeez do Comics. Paula was talking about her work on a graphic memoir, and her first slide was a scene from a motorway, chosen because it had “Leeds” written on a sign in the background.


“The thing about memoir… it inevitably includes personal info about secondary characters, like my poor husband”

Paula’s work deals a lot with what it means to be female, as well as adressing some tough issues such as pregnancy and Miscarriage.


“It’s not a very happy subject, but I enjoyed doing it”

Paula’s memoir (or the pages that were shown to us) really makes use of the illustrative nature of comics, sometimes needing to use no words at all to describe the storyline or feelings of the author. The illustrations are sometimes very detailed and sometimes very stark, using the right amount of detail to give impact to what she’s talking about at that time.


“There’s a lot of silence about miscarriage”

While her topic was often sombre and heartfelt, Paula was very engaging and remarked that “It wouldn’t be Laydeez do Comics if I didn’t mention Vaginas”

Paula’s memoir is due out in 2015, published by Myriad Editions. While we were shown a lot of work in process slides, I am looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Ian Williams

Ian Williams is a comic book artist, physician and writer. He was presenting a talk about his approach to using comics within the medical profession to help doctors come to terms with the everyday realities of their job.


“You did not own up to [mental illness]”

He presented us parts of his soon to be published book, The Bad Doctor. It is a fictional story about a rural GP but contains some autobiographical elements with Ian’s history in medicine. Previously Ian has published comics under a pseudonym, Thom Ferrier,  to avoid patients recognising themselves in his work.


“I didn’t want patients to know I made the comics and try to see themselves”

He also talked about his own struggles withing the medical industry and how comics have been his outlet for his thoughts about being a doctor.


“I have a good memory. I suppose due to things that I cannot get out my head”

It was fascinating to hear Ian speak, especially as I come from a purely art background, and Ian approaches comics from a completely different perspective. His book, The Bad Doctor,  is yet another that I will be looking forward to getting my hands on.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay for drinks and a chat after the event as I had also spent the previous few days in a comics haze, first at the Comics Forum and then at Thought Bubble, and I was ready to pass out, but once again all the speakers were diverse and interesting and a good night was had, hopefully by all.

And here are some of the original sketches before I went a little nuts on them.

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I did my live drawing upon my recently acquired iPad, thanks to a wonderful piece of software by adobe, because as a predominantly digital artist I’m more comfortable with the ability to use colour and all that jazz, but mostly because I just got an iPad and I’m a gadget fan so I’m going to use this thing if it kills me.
My other work can be found on my portfolio.

Laydeez do Comics London, May 2013

rachaelballFirst up – Rachael Ball
Illustrator, comic book artist and blogger. Rachael Ball began her webcomic ‘The Inflatable Woman’ after treatment following a diagnosis of breast cancer.
At her Laydeez do comics presentation, she described how her zoo keeper, Dr Doolittle-like heroine ‘Iris Pink-Percy’ came about.
The story is “loosely based” on the author’s own experience, Iris too has received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Through Rachael’s surrealistic pencil drawings we see how Iris deals with this day to day (on first hearing the bad news, for example, she turns the volume control down on the world around her), the people she meets, the nightmares she has and her talks with the sympathetic penguins who come and serenade her beneath her window.
Currently Iris is about to begin her cancer treatment and her alterego ‘balletgirl42’, an internationally successful prima ballerina, has begun an online romance with ‘sailorbuoy39’.
Rachael uploads a new episode each month.
Follow ‘The Inflatable Woman’ and see more of Rachael’s work here:
Canan Marasligil
French speaking, Amsterdam based, translator and editor Canan (pronounced Janan) Marasligil is a multi-linguist of Turkish extraction and passionate reader of comics. She introduced us to comics and graphic novels from Turkey and the international comics festivals she’s helped to arrange. She believes that comics are a strong medium for freedom of expression.
As she grew up in Belgium, she said she saw the world “euro centrically”. This changed when she travelled to Algeria  and discovered some of the “other great stories happening out there”. This also fired her interest in comics when she fell in love with the work of an Algerian comics artist and translated her comic from French to English.
Canan spoke about the comics workshops she ran in schools as part of Islington Word Festival and how effective the medium was for helping young people to tell stories. She also showed us the comic she has written called ‘Muted’ which was illustrated through an online collaboration with an artist in Poland.
She is currently translator in residence at Free Word Centre in London and links to her work can be found here:
Isobel Williams
The final speaker this evening was Isobel Williams who presented a work in progress called ‘Pearls and Pills’. This is an autobiographical work which describes her experience with suicidal depression. “By the time I was 10 I knew I was depressed. I just didn’t know what depression was. It’s just something you can inherit”.
Growing up in the early 60’s she interweaves the news stories of the day such as the Cuban missile crisis (“Most people stock-piled tea and food. Mummy stock-piled sleeping pills”), Christine Keeler and the Profumo affair into her own family relationships and her inner thoughts of suicide by overdose.
She spoke of her early experiences with doctors and the drugs that made her hallucinate, a second suicide attempt at University (which resulted in her being unable to open a copy of Fahrenheit 451 for decades afterwards) and her decision in adulthood to get treatment.
Her life drawings can be seen here:
She’ll be presenting ‘Pearls and Pills’ to Graphic Medicine this July.
I’m Jessica Cheeseman. I make films (animations, documentaries, experimental), illustrate and paint.  Currently I’m cinematographer on a horror feature.

Making the leap to comics and graphic novels felt right and easy, I guess because they’re both sequential art. Last year I finished illustrating a collaborative graphic novel called Winterland. This year I’m planning a new one, probably drawing on paper instead of exclusively digitally.

Most of my work is available here:

It’s been great being this months guest blogger and I hope this short introduction to these three speakers will inspire you to check out their respective websites and substantial bodies of work.
I’ve always had a fantastic time at Laydeez do Comics and this month was no exception.

Medical May Meeting

Hi I am Marcia Mihotich this month’s guest blogger, mostly a graphic designer and sometimes illustrator.

Nicola Streeten and Sarah Lightman welcome us all to Laydeez do Comics May meeting. Tonight – analysis, medicine and illness and of course comics… Everyone introduces themselves and generates a bit of group togetherness this month’s question to answer is ‘what was the last really interesting conversation they had’. Hmmm, not so easy. Here is a mini sampling of the responses.

Nicola: Enjoys watching Outnumbered. (Not really you talking though is it Nicola?)

Sarah: Her Grandmother is ill and has been talking to some fantastic nurses.

Julie: Busy bringing up 2 grandchildren but somehow manages to find he time to be writing a radio play.

Ed ‘I have a flyer’: Organising the London Zine Symposium

Philippa: As well as being a successful Psychoanalyst, and now a successful author is happy to accept introductions to her husband (Grayson Perry) for amounts in excess of £500,000. I guess the money minimises the narcissistic hurt.

Naomi: Teaches English Literature and ‘can’t recall any conversations that are any better than those with my daughter.’ (For some reason I assume her daughter is about 10 years old, actually she is Sarah Lightman).

Christina: Talking about how common medical topics are in Japanese Manga.

Nathaniel: At school so does nothing… but was talking about the difference in life expectancy in the former Soviet Union and the West.

Peter: Illustrator, talking about is Martin Amis misogynist? Yes of course Peter, but you know in a good way…

Ian: GP, printmaker and creator of overheard a really good conversation of a guy on a train making an appointment for his wife to see a gynecologist. Perhaps he thought it was some as yet undiscovered form of showing off.

Alex: From Resonance FM had really, really, really, really good conversation with Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes today! But we won’t be able to hear this until the autumn. Boo Hoo.

Kate Brown: Who is a super comic creator, wonders does everyone hate their own artwork? Probably, but everyone likes yours.

Someone had a conversation with someone who assured her it was going to snow today. (Did they say it was going to be in London? I am pretty sure it snowed somewhere today so they may have been correct).

Anyway enough of that…

Ashamed and bemused by our own fragility, we consistently underestimate how anxious everyone else is. Alain de Botton

Philippa Perry talks about her NEW book Couch Fiction. Not only does PP look very graphic and excellent she has the bonus attribute of a very clear speaking voice and is very articulate and amusing. (You will be able hear a podcast of this on Alex Fitch’s show on Resonance FM 104.4FM in the Autumn).

Philippa Perry signing copies of her book Couch Fiction

PP talked us through her book, the process of creating it and sharing many psychotheraputic insights along the way. In a not very connected way here are some of the things covered…

The book is a year’s record of sessions between Pat Philips a Psychotherapist (who bears NO relation to PP) and her patient James. PP in real life is MUCH more stylish.

OH MY GOD! says PP instead of having relationships with people in the real world we often have them in our heads… So the book is an insight in the world of therapy.

PP wanted to do this book because…

PP likes slice of life stories, like Harvey Pekar (and he doesn’t do his own drawing either).

– What is therapy like?

– Want to show off and heal narcissistic injury

– Wanted to produce a book I wanted to read.

PP is very dyslexic and say she really learnt to read through graphic novels.

Sketch PP sketched out the whole book with very nice wobbly little drawings on A4 paper. Then Junko Graat turned them into drawings acceptable for a graphic novel. PP used a producer for Couch Fiction. Someone who knows about how to present the book to publishers and get it all together. Manuscript is fine for a book but not for a graphic novel. She sent her book as a concept with some images and text to Macmillian who ignored it but when it was all done produced and looking lovely with the help of a designer they accepted it. The whole process took 5 years.

Some more insights from PP and the world of therapy:

– PP has a lot of cycle courier as clients. Lots of lycra. Lots and lots of lycra…

– People think therapists are non-judgmental.Wrong. They are. They’re only human.

– The unconscious is brilliant with cliches. If you look at your own dreams it’s oh so simple.

So PP says it got to be honest if it’s going to work and if it’s honest it scary putting it out there…

She whizzed us through the book and lots of well known and influential people really like it too… Alain de Botton, Suzie Orbach, The Guardian, Time Out… So will you.

Lots of clapping!

Then some questions from the floor:

Q: Were the drawing meant to be different throughout the book? Sometimes the are symbolic other times emotional, cartoon-y, not cartoon-y.

PP: The short answer is not sure! Junko may have done it on purpose. Or not. But if in doubt EVERYTHING is symbolic – it’s more poetic like that.

Q: Did you have conversations with Junko about the formating or transferring your sketches to the final product…

A: No

There was lots more chat about Junko, how they met (she does PP garden and reads her text books) her background – horticulture, product design, skills and working habits, and of course the many cultural differences between the Japanese and English.

There was also a discussion about formats. I didn’t contribute to this at the time but people – avoid A4 at all costs. No one, really no one (I mean designers and book people) would do anything A4 given the choice unless you are on a micro budget or are perhaps are doing some kind of self published zine thing, in which case it is sort of ok. Strangely A5 and A3 are not burdened with the uncoolness of A4.

PP is now working on the next book hurrah! and taking a year out to to do it. (Otherwise known as CPD – Continuing Professional Development). It more about a day in the life of a psychotherapist. It will cover many clients and different issues and of course her own life which is a disaster – with her husband Bob, who owns a chain of cycle shops (lycra a continuing theme).

Thank you Philippa, that was really brilliant.

Ian aka Thom Ferrier

Ian is a part-time GP in North Wales in a town with the dubious distinction of being the 3rd worst place to live in the UK if you are Gay.

He draws comics about being a GP under the name of Thom Ferrier. Ian is a very funny man and spoke about the stress and difficulty of being a GP and sometimes feeling like a failure.

He was always into art at school but went to medical school and trained as a GP. We saw his lovely landscape inspired painting and prints.

Ian says ‘I started drawing comics but felt I needed a pseudonym, so my patients wouldn’t know it was me…’

His comics cover ideas like what if your doctor is gradually becoming psychotic not you?

What if your patient is a former bully from your school who may or may not recognise you? (a pretty good reason for the pseudonym).

And what’s it like to be continually burdened with other peoples problems?

Ian has always been into comics and of course lots of people with illnesses or conditions have written graphic novels so he came up with With some funding from the Wellcome Trust Ian has set up perhaps the first conference about Comics and Medicine on June 17th.

Ian is now taking a year off after to being unable to arrange a sabbatical to concentrate on a larger graphic work called The Fear of Failure. The main character is a female GP. So it’s less obviously autobiographical, obviously. Lois is 40 something, single, has issues with food and fitness. A regular girl I guess. It is being released page by page on the web.

Ian then showed a pretty funny picture of a man with his head in his hands surrounded by the text I AM A SHIT DOCTOR. We all liked that a lot and more laughter from everyone when he told us that when he asked a fellow doctor/friend ‘don’t you ever feel like this?’ The answer was ‘No.’ Aurgh, yet another reason to feel inadequate.

So there you go, Ian TRYING to debunk of the myth of the super godlike doctor. But we’re not having it as most of the initial questions were about being a GP not about Ian’s graphic oeuvre… We are all obsessed by this I guess.

There was a discussion about the choice of a female for the GP rather than a male as Nicola particularly felt that many of the failings of this character would be put down to the usual female ‘issues’ as opposed to the stress of the job.

IW says: Medicine IS a macho profession and showing weakness is not really done, Lois is tough but she’s not there to be a polemic about medicine.

Q:Someone else asked Is ‘bedside manner’ a myth or does it really exist?

Ian says: Empathy is real, but is it useful? It burns you out, you carry the burden, internalise it, it grinds you down, it’s mentally and emotionally knackering. There’s a lot of burnt out GP’s out there.

PP adds the professional touch ‘Pass the pain (ie share it with someone, or if it’s really bad take a year out).

Alex commented on another of Ian’s books being halfway between a comic and an artist’s book. Yes it’s true, it has many lovely qualities, the format, the paper and quality of printing.

And they were all gone when I wanted to buy one. But you can go to the conference details below.

Comics and Medicine:

Medical Narraives in Graphic Novels

17 June 2010

Institute of English Studies,

School of Advanced Study, University of London

Speaker 3 Columba Quigley, MD FRCP, MA graduate in Literature and Medicine, Kings College, London

By her own admission the only person in the room not working on a graphic novel. But aspiring to of course…

Columba spoke about how her work in clinical medicine with ill and terminally ill patients made he want to find and explore ways in which their stories could be heard. She thought of comics – with their combination of images and story.

Is suffering ineffable? is pain ineffable?

We don’t know but she spoke about Funky Wickerbean, Lisa’s Story by Tom Batiuk and Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar. All stories which deal with illness and death in a moving and empathetic way.

Lisa’s Story which was spoken of as one of the first graphic novels about cancer was published 12 years AFTER Our Cancer Year.

In Our Cancer Year. You don’t even really like Harvey, there’s no great happy ending or sense of triumphalism but you do feel along with Harvey that he has been changed or transformed by his illness.

There was general discussion about other public depictions of illness, John Diamond, Ruth Picardie… and how ‘trauma’ has become part of the public consciousness post ‘Diana’.

Opinion seems to be the graphic approach has huge potential – but as Columba says ‘look at Harvey Pekar, who did he write that for it’s certainly not for self help’.

Thoughtful stuff. What a great evening.

Thank you Laydeez do Comics.