Laydeez do comics are 5

I am Simone Lia. I am a comics artist and illustrator and the author of Fluffy and Please God Find Me a Husband! Both published by Jonathan Cape. You can find out more about me and my work from my website and blog I was invited to be the guest blogger for the big birthday…

What better to place to celebrate the Laydeez Do Comics 5th birthday than in the brand new swanky flagship Foyles store. I oohed and ahhed upon entering the building in the welcoming environment with its wide staircases and open spaces that allow you to read books in an informal and buzzy setting.

Taking the lift up to the 6th floor I was surprised when Guardian journalist Laurie Penny stepped in. I think it was her. She’s quite famous for being a feminist and having lots of opinions.  I didn’t want to gawp but from my peripheral vision I could see that she was standing right in my face looking at me. A bit intense.  I thought perhaps this was a method that famous people use to intimidate normal people.

Laurie Penny1

In the end it turned out that I was facing the wrong direction in the lift and was blocking the door. Classic lift faux pas.

The events room on the top floor is extremely slick and modern.  It wouldn’t have been a surprise if the evening had kicked off with Sarah and Nicola arriving on the stage on rising podiums in a fog of dry ice. They didn’t do that but instead emphasized the essence of what Laydeez Do Comics is about. And that is a place where the audience matters, everyone feels connected and a community is created.  Thanks to Nicola and Sarah; Laydeez is a welcoming forum for inspiration, creativity, sharing and learning.

Nicola made a rousing and inspirational speech that acknowledged the humble beginnings in 2009 in a place with a leaky roof.

Nicola, opening speech

Personally, I remember it as a cold, concrete floored room on Brick Lane, with rain filled buckets and dirty faced children, wearing rags who sang about pick-pocketing techniques and Nicola singing, I dreamed a dream.  At least I think that’s what I remember…

Laydeez has kept it’s integrity of connectivity and has flourished, impressively growing in numbers with branches throughout the UK and Internationally. Look at how many places it’s popped up at!


Tonight was a celebration of this and bringing together some of the organisers that run Laydeez here and abroad.  Before the speakers spoke we viewed Sarah’s epic home made birthday cake.  It would be the last of those cakes. From now on it’s going to be Foyle’s fodder.


Anna Brewer artist and the Glasgow Laydeez organiser, was the first speaker. Anna is from London, she lives in Glasgow and was in the States for 25 years. Through her work she explores areas that she lives and does very unusual and playful research as to what kind place it is that she’s living in.  She finds out the kind of chickens that live there and what kind of farming machinery is used.  Through making artwork she is able to connect and share her experiences with others and convey her own emotional experiences.

Anna Brewer

I loved Anna’s unusual outlook and the way that she, for example can compare combine harvesters to a line of chorus girls. You can see her sensitive and beautiful drawings here and more drawing here.  What resonated was Anna’s drawings of a little frog who sometimes, she describes, is a devil frog who voices what is going on in her head.  The inner critic.  I used to try and ignore him but now I let him say everything and it takes away his power. 

Anna makes artwork for her HP who, like a loving parent appreciates and values what she does.  At first I thought HP stood for Hewlett Packard.  Perhaps it was time for me to switch printer brand?  Epson just doesn’t do that kind of empathy.  But then Anna explained that HP stands for Higher Power.  My thoughts were that her work then not only becomes a gift to her HP but also a gift to the audience. It did feel like that upon viewing. Thanks Anna!

Next up was a slide presentation about the F Word project from Maureen Burdock, presented by Sarah and Nicola. Maureen Burdock runs Laydeez do Comics in San Fransisco. To see more of her work about and the F Word Project take a peak here

Louise Crosby who runs Leeds Laydeez do comics was next up to show us her work.  I had a massive blog fail at this point as I decided to draw in my sketchbook without taking notes/photos and listen properly on the recorder afterwards.  My recorder didn’t work and this drawing is horrible (!)

Louise Crosby

It was a great presentation, Louise talked about her work and accidental start into comics from her print making background and her new arts council funded project Seeing Poetry.  Louise has been illustrating the poems of Clare Shaw.  What struck me whilst listening and making awful drawings in my sketchbook, was the sensitivity that Louise brings to the relationship of image and poetry, particularly, I felt, honouring the silent and unspoken words of the poem.  You can see Louise’s seeing poetry website here.

We watched a video interview between MK Comic Nurse and Nicola. Comic nurse runs the Chicago Laydeez.  MK is a nurse, a comic artist, illustrator, photographer and she talks a lot about comics. You can see that video here.

Paula Knight, who runs Bristol Laydeez do Comics talked about her upcoming book The Facts of Life, that will be published by Myriad Editions.

Paula Knight

Paula had been to a comics convention in Bristol in the mid-naughties.  She’d felt too female and too old but had found that there were similar people at Laydeez.  Old? Nicola asked. Everyone laughed heartily.  Paula found more than she identified with the type and content of work being made and shown at Laydeez do Comics.

Paula’s artwork is engaging, accessible and brave. She’s widely been exploring themes of fertility particularly with her own, in her artwork.  She showed us some drawing that she’s been making for The Facts of Life. Rather cleverly Paula made spin off comics to take to conventions, this got her involved in the event and she received feedback for the longer form of her work. She is very brave, I think, exposing such personal subject matter to a broad and potentially undiscerning audience. “I received interesting feedback” she said one man pointed at the artwork, pulled a face and ran away.” Another woman read through the whole book and pulled disgusted faces through out. Paula thinks she might have been offended but I wonder if that was the case, there was clearly something about the quality of the artwork that compelled the lady to read straight through.

Sarah Lightman, co-founder of Laydeez do Comics, artist, and curator is researching a PhD in comics at the University of Glasgow in autobiographical comics; “The Drawn Wound, Hurting and Healing”. She is also a new mother to Harry.

Sarah showed artwork from The Book of Sarah, her memoir that will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015.  It’s the unwritten book of the bible, “there is a book of Daniel, and there is a book of Esther, but not of Sarah,she says commenting that her siblings have the same names and she is the youngest child, wants what the others have. In her work Sarah draws parallels between herself, late(ish) motherhood and baking. Her biblical namesake and her book will intertwine the two characters, contemporizing and positioning her Sarah in the centre.

Sarah also talked about her touring exhibition of autobiographical artists –Graphic Details coming to London this September that will be showing work from artists that that you might not know of. Sarah’s desire is to change the culture so that as artists we are referencing each others work in talks and the papers that we write, and in doing so creating an art history that hasn’t been written yet.  She has a solo show in America September and October.  Last year Sarah was working on the Graphic Details, Jewish Womens Confessional Comics in Essays and interviews, published by McFarland later this year. Sarah is doing this to fill the spaces in the libraries with voices that have never been recorded before.

Maura McHugh (Splinster) Laydeez organiser from Dublin who was not there in person, had a powerpoint presentation. She has a life long interest in sci-fi and horror fiction and is among many other things, the co-writer of Witchfinder which is a five issue mini series published by Dark Horse Comics.  Maura says “horror has been good to me”. You can see Maura’s work here.

Finally we had the other co-founder of Laydeez do Comics, Nicola Streeten.

Nicola asked the question in 2008 – where are all the women in comics?  This is the issue that bonded her with Sarah Lightman and prompted them to start up LDC.   Nicola talked about her latest work which is a commission from The Collection Gallery in Lincoln.  They asked her to work with people who wouldn’t usually visit a gallery and Nicola chose to work with offenders in HM Lincoln prison. Working with other peoples’ stories rather than her own narrative brought about new writing challenges.

Paula had touched on this subject earlier. She’d been working with the transcript of a cancer patient for a research project called The Phoenix Project.  The man was suffering erectile dysfunction due to the treatment that he was receiving – having not met or spoken to the man, Paula’s question was whether she had pitched her sense of humour at the right level. Whether she was being sensitive to his story.

Nicola had a different set of difficulties of a more practical nature.  She’d planned to work with the children who were visiting their fathers. Everything was set up but she found that it was difficult for the children to participate. It was partly the age difference of the children (from 1 to 12) but mostly it was because the children had come to visit their Dads. Nicola had to adapt her approach and the angle that she was coming from, and was invited instead to work directly with a small group of offenders.

As part of Nicola’s PhD research she is setting up Graphic Cultures. It’s a website that will be a platform for comics works that engage with social and political issues. It’s being launched  with Dr Nina Burrowes, who has created a free comics book online telling stories of people who have experienced domestic violence and rape.

The evening was concluded with some chit chat and then being booted out by Foyles staff. It was a brilliant craic, a proper celebration. I came away feeling very inspired and impressed by the artwork that I’d seen and was really impressed at the bold, yet humble vision of Sarah and Nicola.  They have succeeded in executing with confidence and excellence bringing people together and giving those who might be on the fringes, or unnoticed –  a voice and a platform.

So from everyone who has experienced Laydeez do Comics and been inspired or made friendships or been helped in any way,  a massive thank you!  Thanks to Sarah and Nicola and all the Laydeez do Comics organisers. Thank you for all of the hard work that you’ve put in.  We very much appreciate it.

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.

2013-11-26 16.33.592013-11-26 16.31.252013-11-26 16.32.09

2013-11-26 16.32.452013-11-26 16.33.592013-11-26 16.32.39

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 BRISTOL August 2012

I am Nick Soucek, a comics artist and I was the guest blogger for the Bristol Laydeez do comics which took place in August at Kino Cafe in Bristol. Here is what happened…
The guest speakers were: Paula Knight, Nicola Streeten, Sarah Lightman, Andrew Godfrey and Emma Mould, Simon Moreton and Katie Green.

Laydeez Do Comics May Meeting

So, it finally happened. I have been asked to be the Laydeez Do Comics Blogguest for the May event! A big honour, but also a big responsibility 🙂
Oh well, if I manage to survive the dreaded introduction + monthly question at the beginning of every Laydeez meetup, I can do everything 🙂

My name is Francesca Mancuso. I work as a web developer in London; I quite like it, but in my spare time I prefer more creative activities.
I’ve always loved drawing; I grew up watching every possible Japanese anime the TV was broadcasting (ie, loads) and reading all the manga I could read. Since I moved to London (from Italy) and met wonderful, talented artists/illustrators/writers, I’ve become more and more interested in graphic novels. The link to my website is

The first presentation was by Paula Knight
Paula has been a freelance illustrator for about 15 years. She has done a lot of children’s illustrations, but recently she is getting into the idea of writing a graphic novel.

Initially she worked with torn paper collage and pencil crayon, but then she had to stop for a while because of a strain injury for tearing a lot of paper!
When she started working again, she began using acrylics.
She has an agent, who often complained that the eyes of her characters were too cartoony. I personally found that they were perfect, but I am a big fan of manga and cute cartoony characters 🙂

She also illustrated a lot of books for education, e.g. safety. We were shown some examples of these illustrations, which were done for publication both in the US and in the UK. So to make the drawings work for both audiences, the person driving the car was sitting in the middle of the car, neither on the left nor on the right!
Then came some samples of illustrations from an anthology of stories for girls (Chicken Licken, Wifred Wolfred), some Christmas card designs for John Lewis (digital work), and an illustrated Korean folk tale (Fat Fox and Fine Crane).
In recent years she has started writing her own stories. She has recently signed her first 2 contracts as an author for picture books (Bright Agency).
The last part of the talk was dedicated to a short story that Paula entered for the Cape Graphic Short Story competition a few years ago. The title is “How a baby is made – an autobiography of finding out”. It was never meant to be a short story, more like a template for the graphic novel she is going to write. Still, it was surely a good thing for her to have a deadline to work to.

The story starts with Paula as a child, growing up and gradually discovering how a baby is made, which is quite entertaining. But it also includes the story of the 3 miscarriages she had, the last of which was quite painful.
I am personally looking forward to reading this graphic novel, I hope I won’t have to wait too long! 🙂

Alex Fitch
Alex presents the UK only radio show about comics every Thursday at 5pm on 104.4FM. All the podcasts of his interviews can be found at

He happened to work for the radio without having any training, starting many years ago working in a video shop in south London. He used to write reviews for the in-house magazine and for the covers of videos/DVDs. One day he tried to get himself fired by writing a terrible review for “A Shark’s Tale”… The review started with: “This is borderline, sexist, homophobic and racist…”… And he got promoted!

At the same time he started putting a few reviews in the internet. Also his flatmate was doing a degree in music technology and he had some work training at Resonance FM, so he invited him to the programme he was producing.
The station was thinking of doing a film show every week and Alex was asked if he wanted to contribute to this show.
He ended up doing the 3rd episode that they broadcast and in a few weeks he was broadcasting every week on Resonance FM.
It didn’t have to be just about film: every kind of narrative was fine, photography, history paintings, comics… Since Alex has always been a fan of comics, he started doing interviews with comic artists.
Paul Gravett was one of the first comics-related people he interviewed.

Soon Alex realised that the Films Show was becoming a Comics Show. He asked to change his show to a Comics Show and got permission. The new name was Panel Borders, mostly because all the other comic terms were taken by other people for websites and magazines!
The first big name he interviewed was Allan Moyle, and after that many doors were opened to him. Recently he has started grouping the shows around a single monthly theme.
Coming soon are medical comics, and next months’ theme will be superhero comics.

Alex is also doing podcasts for other people, like Sci-fi London.
Most important, he does the podcasts for Laydeez Do Comics 🙂

He also wrote a few comics, 3 in total, 2 of which were entered to the Observer Short Story Competition.
He commissions films reviews in comics format every month for a magazine call The Electric Sheep.

Jo Tyler
Jo worked for The BBC for 12-15 years, then launched a station called 6 Music in 2002. So her background was very much audio and music (originally a sound producer for the theatre), while in her spare time in London she was digging around comics shops, especially for independent comics.

She doesn’t draw comics herself, even though she claims she is inspired by the fact that you don’t need to draw beautifully to write a good story (same here Jo!).

She left her job because she wasn’t allowed to do what she wanted to do, ie playing with sound. So, without regretting leaving her job, she went to Sundland University and studied for an MA in Radio Production and played around for a year, partly making radio drama, specifically adaptations of the comics she really loved.

After graduating, she did a phD about different radio and the use of sounds in different ways. She called her work (in progress) Pictures to Sound.

The examples we were shown/made listen to were the adaptations of 2 graphic novels.
1. Salmon Doubts by Adam Sacks
2. Lobo published by DC Comics
I enjoyed so much listening to these tracks. It’s not something I can describe easily. I suggest that you listen to the podcast as soon as it is available!

Mary Talbot
Mary was welcomed with a big applause as soon as she was introduced 🙂

This is the first time she has given a presentation about her first graphic novel, written in collaboration with her husband Bryan Talbot who created the artwork. Wow, that’s exciting!

As an academic she has been teaching and researching about feminist linguistic and gender studies. She has now retired from academia.

The graphic novel is a graphic memoir, a combination between personal history and biography of James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia Joyce. It starts with her sitting on a train, reading a biography, falling asleep. The plot is a combination of coming-of-age stories, set in two different historical periods, both contrasted by social expectations and gender politics.

Why this connection between Mary and Lucia? Both the women’s parents are called James and Nora. Also, Mary’s father was a Joycean scholar.

Mary’s childhood is set in the 50’s, in Lancashire, in an Anglo catholic environment. She had four big brothers. She discovered gender only at school. At that time girls were segregated and secluded. Father was busy, always argumentative, talking a lot with quotation, Mary a little bratty teenager. The graphic novel explores the contrasting relationship between father and daughter.

I love the fact that Mary’s boards are coloured in sepia, while the scenes from Lucia’s life have a blue tint.

The story follows the fortunes of Joyce’s family. For a while they lived in Trieste (I know this very well, Trieste is my home town!). James was working as an English tutor with methods, that were as unconventional as his personal life. They moved then to Paris, where James found a publisher (Sylvia Beach) and a patron. Lucia was an accomplished dancer. Mary was a dancer as well, even though apparently a much less accomplished one: she didn’t last long, while Lucia did.

Lucia lived in a wonderful period, in the 20s, when she could be involved in a lot of experimental (modernist) dance, while her father was involved in experimental (modernist) writing. She didn’t get support though from her father for her dancing career. Both her parents very discouraging. She was told to stop dancing because it was too hard for her, an obsession that had gone too far.
This had tragic consequences for her. She spent most of her life in mental institutions.

The book is called  Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, is scheduled for publication by Jonathan Cape in the UK and Dark Horse in the US in March 2012, even though it is already complete! Boo, I can’t wait!