Kendal Calling: An interview with comic creator Gareth Brookes

LICAF 2017 Banner Gareth Brookes

The countdown has begun to this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th – 15th). The downthetubes “Kendal Calling” interviews continue with a chat with award-winning comic creator Gareth Brookes…

A man of many media, Gareth is known for his unusual approach to materials, using embroidery, textiles, lino-cut print, stencilling and even pressed flowers in his work.

Gareth Brookes was born in Woking and studied Fine Art at Newcastle University and The Royal College of Art. In 2012 he was the winner of Myriad’s first Graphic Novel Competition, with an extract from his graphic novel The Black Project (Myriad, 2013), a book executed in the mediums of lino-cut and embroidery. It went on to win Best Original Graphic Novel at the Broken Frontier Award and was longlisted for Best Book at the British Comic Awards. Original work from the book was featured in the 2014 Comics Unmasked show at The British Library.

Manly Boys and Comely Girls - Covers

Brookes started making comics as an amusing antidote to his art practice and within a very short time found they had completely taken over. Since then he has produced a number of self-published books, including The Land of My Heart Chokes on Its Abundance. His work is also published by collectives such as The Alternative Press and The Comix Reader, while his two-comic collaboration with artist Steve Tillotson, Manly Boys and Comely Girls, are available from Avery Hill Publishing. He has delivered workshops at The Eden Project and elsewhere.

Much of Gareth’s self-published output is handmade and his stunning second graphic novel, A Thousand Coloured Castles, published by Myriad in April 2017, is produced entirely in crayon.

You may recall I said it was a graphic novel whose content I described as “the visual equivalent of running fingernails across a chalkboard“, and recommended it. Highly!

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Gareth Brookes: I’m working on a UK/Korean exchange called Storytelling Cities, it will be presented at the WOW Book Festival in Seoul in September, it should be available online somewhere thereafter.

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Gareth: Right now my new graphic novel A Thousand Coloured Castles would be the thing I’m most proud of. Available in all good bookshops or on my website www.gbrookes.com if you’re on Instagram you can see some of my work on there @garethbrookes

A Thousand Coloured Castles - Cover

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Gareth: I’m at my best in the morning so any writing, planning or difficult drawing has to be done before the coffee wears off. The afternoon is for colouring in and photoshoping, the evening is for embroidery.

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Gareth: Getting to make comics all the time.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Gareth: Not getting paid very much. Having to endlessly explain that what you do hasn’t got any relationship to superheros.

A Thousand Coloured Castles - Sample Artdownthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Gareth: Other people/alcohol.

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Gareth: It’s easier in the sense that there are actual publishers around today, which wasn’t the case when I started, at least not for the kind of work I wanted to do. It’s harder in the sense that there are more people wanting to be comic creators, and because you no longer get thrown out of art school for making comics, the quality of the work (art-wise at least), has improved, so there’s more competition.

It’s worth adding that the gap between what it’s possible to achieve as a published creator as opposed to a self published one has narrowed considerably. So there’s some question as to whether being published is even the right thing for every creator.

downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?

Gareth: Yep, I’ve been to the festival several times, although I’ve mostly seen the inside of the Clock Tower and various pubs.

I hear there are some Lakes? I’m going to try and see one this year.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

A Thousand Coloured Castles - Sample ArtGareth: One of the things that has helped me develop as an artist is to visit overseas events once in a while. As great as the UK comics scene is, it still doesn’t bear comparison to Europe, North America or the Far East. Experiencing a big overseas con like TCAF or Angouleme can give you a good kick up the arse, and make you challenge yourself more as an artist.

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Gareth: I’m really loving Yours by Sarah Ferrick, published by 2D Cloud. It’s an abstract comic but it’s very engaging and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

downthetubes: Gareth, thank you very much for your time and see you in Kenal in October!

Book Your Festival Tickets Now!

• Book your tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year’s events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world! 

Web: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast | View the Festival Programme on Issuu | Download the Programme (PDF)

GARETH BROOKES ONLINE

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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