Ask anyone in the industry and they will tell you, an independent illustrator who concentrates (in the main) on comic production is a rare thing indeed, thats why we were so pleased to meet Sally Jane Thompson.
RD: Give our readers a bit of background on you please Sally.
I did fine art in uni in Canada - drawing, photography, video - during the course of which I started watching anime, then reading comics, and drifting more and more towards illustration and comics. It was hard to integrate it into my practice in uni, but by now (at the end of an MA) I've found a number of researchers and events around comics theory/philosophy/academics, so I get to bring all the things I love together! At the moment I make comics, do workshops on comics, and, uh, research comics. Yes, it's a hard life I know!
She drew this one just for us☋
RD: Some illustrators say working on a comic is the hardest thing ever, what is your opinion on this. And why comics and not individual works?
It's definitely true that someone used to doing single illustrations will probably find comics harder than they expected - but hopefully they simply take it as a challenge! While doing single illustrations (especially manga/comic pinups) they may have had little need to draw someone eating, washing the dishes, walking around...you're constantly needing to draw things that you've never had any reason to draw before, to portray time, events, movement. To this you're having to add a different visual awareness in creating effective layouts that flow and lead the reader through they story. Plus, when working on single-creator stuff, you're a writer as well. But all this is what makes drawing comics so varied and interesting - at least for me, it's why comics are a perfect fit. I don't have to choose between being a writer or an artist...and I even get to design characters, clothes and environments, select shots, do research...it's a hugely dynamic form.
On the flip side, I'm trying to do more work on single illustrations! Communicating a lot in a single image is a very different skill, and I admire many illustrators for their ability to fit a lot of depth and content into one image. So hopefully you will see more individual works from me in future in addition to the comics.
RD: What are your tools of the trade?
I'm in love with my Pentel brush-pen, which comes everywhere with me. It takes ink cartridges but has a real bristle/brush tip. I've also recently managed (with lots of cleaning product and effort) to get my father's old rotring technical pens working - I think they're 30 years old or more! Most of my comic pages start out with blue pencil (easy to get rid of in Photoshop) and then get inked with a variety of ink pens, but I do love to experiment, and want to improve my painting, both digital and traditional.
I can certainly ooh and aah over fancy art supplies with the best of them, but one of the nice things is that you don't really *need* anything expensive for comics - Rymans make really cheap fineliners that actually have a nice bit of give, and I often draw on the back of already-used printer paper so as not to waste any!
RD: You tend to mostly concentrate on female characters - is there a reason for this?
I won't deny a certain amount of "write-what-you-know" defaulting...I should probably try a male main character sometime to stretch myself. But I'm also very bothered by a lot of depictions of female characters, in many media, so I hope to do my little bit to add to a literature of female characters who are interesting and real and come with many kinds of shapes and talents and flaws and personalities. Aesthetically speaking, women are lovely to draw - but I try and find a balance between enjoying making lovely drawings, and trying to avoid objectifying and stereotyping.
RD: Tell us about "Lazy Sunday".
I do a lot of short comics, vignettes, experiments...so in the new year I'd like to give them all a home in a weekly webcomic. It won't be a single running narrative, although I'm sure as it develops some themes and characters might re-appear, and a good chunk will likely be journal comics (both things that really happen and things that only happen in my head...)
RD: How long have you been teaching art in schools?
I started doing workshops a couple of years ago, and really enjoy it! I'm hoping at some point to have the opportunity to do something with more than one session - so I can really help people get their teeth into a project!
RD: What have you got in the pipeline for the future?
In the near future I've got a couple of personal projects I'm hoping to carve some time out to finish - a book and an illustration project which will hopefully be an exhibition when it's done. I feel like my work has grown a lot this year, and I'm hoping that will lead to some bigger projects that I can spend a longer time with. I'll also be launching a side project doing custom alternative wedding art, and doing more conventions with small press merch. And who knows what will come along - some of the best things come as surprises!
RD: Red Peppers or Peanut Butter?
I am such a fan of red peppers I could munch them whole like chairman Kaga in Iron Chef! In fact I love them so much I have done this picture as a tribute to this fine vegetable.
RD: Thanks Sally- The Pepper was a random off the wall thing, were so glad we ended on a question that gave you that much culinary joy to answer it's a first for us- "all the best".