Lakes Festival Focus 2017: An Interview with comic artist Oliver East

Kendal Calling Oliver East Banner

The countdown has begun to this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th – 15th). We’re delighted to continue our “Kendal Calling” interviews with comic artist Oliver East, who has previously been involved in numerous Festival-related projects.

Oliver describes himself as an artist whose work starts with long walks and ends in comics telling you about them. Recent work includes Take Me Back to Manchester, Rolling Stock and his latest work, The Lanky, created in partnership with the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, which will get its launch at this year’s Festival.

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

Oliver East: The Lanky, a comic commissioned by the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership to promote the former canal that ran from Kendal to Lancaster to local communities as a walking and cycling path.

The book tells the history of the route through various characters from the boatmen and families that plied the route over the years. It’ll be an A4 hardback full colour effort in airbrush and ink and will launch at this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Art from The Lanky by Oliver East

Art from The Lanky by Oliver East

Art from The Lanky by Oliver East

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

One of Oliver East's sketches drawn whilst walking from Helsinki to Tampere

One of Oliver East’s sketches drawn whilst walking from Helsinki to Tampere

Oliver: That’s tricky. I borderline disown a work not long after finishing it as naïve and embarrassing. My current or last project is usually one I’m most proud of mainly due to it being one book more technically proficient or risk taking than the last one. So, The Lanky is shaping up to be pretty decent.

People tell me Swear Down is their favourite a lot due to it being the most autobiographical.

No, actually, a recent experiment in Finland I’m super proud of. That. I walked 200 kilometres north from Helsinki, drawing constantly the whole way. Not stopping to steady my pad or waiting for something pleasing to draw. I’d never done it before and it was a massive risk. I made 820 new drawings in eight days. So it paid off and it’s informed my work ever since.

That’s the one. You can see examples of the drawings at I will collate them into book form at some point.

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

Oliver: The best working day is one where I don’t have a school run at either end of the day. I’ll get up and run 10k before eight am then work flat out till about five. Then that’s it. I’m useless after six. I can get three pages done in that time. Drawing wise anyway.

The writing will go through a draft or two. With The Lanky, I’ll already have sketches done out in the field. I’ll use these alongside research I’ve gathered from various sources to sketch out a page. I’ll then cut out a stencil for each colour: dark green, light green, orange, black and white. Then I’ll airbrush through these before creating another layer for the line.

Times this all by three and by six o’clock my hands are killing me and reaching for a beer!

Art from The Lanky by Oliver East

Art from The Lanky by Oliver East

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

Oliver: Children think I’m awesome

downthetubes: And the worst?

Oliver: The disparity between twitter followers and sales of new work.

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Oliver: Not much, really, I’m pretty focused if things are going well. If I hit a bump in the road then I’m ripe for a twitter spat to distract me.

I have chronic pain in both hands so have to take mini breaks now and then. If I have twitter up on my screen and see a spat developing or someone crapping on about something or other, I’ll chip in, like some grand master of the field. Until I’m slapped down by someone far more learned than me then it’s back to work.

Art from Take Me Back to Manchester by Oliver East

Art from Take Me Back to Manchester by Oliver East, available to buy here

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

Oliver: By a proper publisher? Given the state of some books on the market I reckon as long as you pander to current trends and go to a London college you should be good. You don’t need a publisher. If your work is good enough and you’re not too shy to put yourself out there, people will find it and buy it. Then, if you want one, a publisher will rock up and offer you a big bag of money. Careful though, as they’re not all sweetness and light and you may be best on your own. Why should young artists get published anyway? Earn your spurs and learn your craft.

Oliver East - Take Me Back to Manchester Sample Art

Oliver East - Take Me Back to Manchester Sample Artdownthetubes: 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?

Oliver: I’ve been commissioned by LICAF twice before and they’ve had a hand in The Lanky too, so we go way back. Growing up in Manchester, the Lake District has always been a favoured destination as a kid and, now I’m a dad, with my boy too.

My journey into comics started in Windermere. I’d tried to convert a two man tent into a pinhole camera and had taken it to a campsite to take pictures of caravans. Two weeks before my exhibition and I couldn’t get it working. The show ended up being snippets of conversation with caravan site owners explaining what I was doing and such.

It was then I realised I could write funny. My next work after that was my first comic.

downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Oliver: Warren Craghead lll. We’ve known each other for ages online and when we do finally meet there will be hugs. Big massive bear hugs. Whether he wants them or not.

I’ve already met him a couple of times but Simon Hanselmann is super charming and hard to resist. Plus he’s kind with the fags. I reckon Brian Chippendale and I would have a laugh.

downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Oliver: Giving us a place to come show our weird things to other weirdos in a safe space. That’s everything. Giving us a table to put our first scratchy efforts on and not being laughed outta town. Saying: “Oi, weirdo with your weird things. Come over here with all us weirdos and let’s be weird together”. I mean, they charge you £70 for the privilege, but still.

LICAF especially have meant that, for the past three to four years I’ve been making comics pretty much full time. I get up, have a stretch, draw all day then go back to bed. Repeat till I finish a book. And they’ve come back for more. I owe them so much.

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

Oliver: Be nice. Nice people get more work even with sub par comics. Be nice to work with. Answer emails on time. Don’t moan. Don’t be a dick. Don’t slag anyone off (in public. That’s what shows are for)

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

Oliver: Palace No.0 by Antoine Cossé. You can get it from the BAM Comic Shop at Bury Art Museum. You can still get Frank Santoro’s Storeyville on Amazon.

downthetubes: Oliver, thank you very much for your time, and the very best of luck with The Lanky and future projects.

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! 

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The Lanky by Oliver East will get its launch at the Festival on Sunday 15th October 2017 in the Page 45 room of the Comics Clock Tower. The launch of Oliver’s first barge-based book will be followed by a “Lanky Walk” and Masterclass (places limited) where participants will  join Oliver on a two-hour walk of the short northern section of the canal from Kendal. Experience the stunning landscapes, learn more about the stories within The Lanky and enjoy a drawing masterclass. More details and how to book here on the Festival web site – note that pre-booking is essential

Web Links

Oliver East’s Official Site: | Twitter: @olivereast | Instagram


More about the work of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership 

The Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership is a dedicated partnership of local authorities and national charities committed to celebrating, promoting and delivering the regeneration of Lancaster Canal and its communities.

Categories: British Comics, Comic Creator Interviews, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Lakes Festival Focus - Comic Creator Interviews

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