Working in: The Arts is the second comic, terrific-looking anthology from the CHIP Collective, a team of dedicated, enthusiastic comic creators who aim to create informative graphic novels, raising awareness about varied subjects to as wide an audience as possible, on top of creating their own works.
Following up on Living With Cancer: Our Stories, published thanks to crowdfunding back in 2019, raising funds for Cancer Research UK, this new project is currently seeking £8100 in backing on Kickstarter, with a under a month to run.
Preview pages we’ve been treated to – some teasers shared here, which are work in progress, look great, offering a smashing taste of the comic, which aims to highlight the huge variety of potential career paths and opportunities within the field of the arts.
The various strips, drawn in a variety of styles, aim to show that there’s no one way to break into the creative field, and to break stigmas and negative stereotypes surrounding working in the creative field.
If you’ve been following the research conducted by former Comics Laureate Hannah Berry, which in part led to the creation of the Society of Authors Comic Creators Network, then you’ll already know some of the pitfalls of chasing a career in comic creation, issues such as low pay and poor treatment by some publishers not confined to our medium. But there are many opportunities, too, and there’s a indisputable exuberance to the stories and art in this anthology, a welcome take at a time when the ongoing pandemic has left many reeling and perhaps uncertain of their creative worth.
“We’ve developed this comic during COVID because we felt that during this time especially, the field of the arts has been neglected particularly on a government level,” say CHIP Collective’s Ashling Larkin and Cat Laird, “despite the arts being heavily relied on in the past year and a bit to keep people happy and entertained during the various lockdowns.”
For this comic, they’ve interviewed nine creatives, all working professionally in the arts: Jacqueline Briggs (Illustration); Jennifer Clarke (Textiles); Angus Dunn (Animation); Alannah Eileen (Fashion Photography); Eve Greenwood (Comics); Tomas Hermoso (Photography); Rory Jobson (Games); Kirsten Manzi (Jewellery); and Hannah Moitt (Graphic Design).
“We turned those interviews into comic scripts, and we’re working with nine comic artists to bring those stories to life,” Ashling and Cat explain.
“The comic artists themselves will also share their own personal experiences of working as a creative professionally in one-page comics.”
“As visual information has become something that almost everyone has access to create and consume, it’s vital that we invest in employment and fair pay for designers,” Jennifer Clarke says in her interview, a colourful craft warrior, illustrator and accessories designer based in Dundee and working under the business name SPILTHdesign.
“So honoured to be featured in the Working in the Arts anthology comic,” says graphic designer Hannah Moitt.
“While I was [at university] I realised that one of the things that I really enjoyed about design was taking things that were complicated, and making them simpler for as many people as possible.”
“Being present in a room of thousands of people going crazy when a trailer for something you’ve worked on is shown is something I’ll never forget,” notes games Concept Artist Rory Jobson.
One of the aims of CHIP Collective is to encourage fair pay for artists, as so often they are faced with people who disregard the amount of effort, time and practice that goes into the creative process – especially in comics – which leads to artists being underpaid, underselling themselves, and sometimes even being used for “exposure” without pay.
Working in: The Arts aims to directly tackle that perception of the creative field, so all of the project’s “stretch goals” will be pay rises to all of the artists involved in the comic, both the creatives interviewed and the comic artists drawing their stories. Each stretch goal will give the artists an additional £10 on top of their base pay, up to £100.
Any monies made in between or above stretch goals will go towards printing more copies of the book, and going towards CHIP – related expenses, such as future projects and finally building a shiny new website for the collective.
Working in: The Arts is looking to be a wonderful celebration of creatives, told in style by some rising comic creator talents. What we’ve seen exudes a positive, infectious enthusiasm for the arts in general, aptly timed at a point when some in government seek to dismiss its importance.
Earlier this year, the Office for Students, the independent regulator for higher education in England, ran consultation on funding decisions for the 2021-22 academic year they have been directed to make by the Department for Education, requiring a 50% reduction in funding for university courses on performing and creative arts. The proposal was met with widespread condemnation. A petition organised by Public Campaign for the Arts opposing the cuts described the reduction in funding as “a targeted attack on arts subjects” and received more than 165,000 signatures.
With this in mind, for me, it’s never been more important to hear creative stories and support their work, particularly as the pandemic continues to impact both economically and personally for so many.