As the countdown continues toward the Lakes International Comic Art Festival next week in Bowness-on-Windermere (14th – 16th October 2022), here’s another in a series of interviews with some of the guests – a quick chat with colourist and illustrator Fiona Stephenson.
Fiona paints 1950s-style retro pin-up paintings traditionally in oil on canvas to keep that authentic feel and she works mostly for advertising and packaging companies.
Affiliated Equipment in Toronto continue to commission and display Fiona’s art on the side of their large trucks, other work includes Tesco’s ‘Along Came Betty’ cosmetics, Asda’s Sci-Fi bedding range and Rebel Wine labels.
In an earlier life Fiona trained as an Illustrator and briefly worked in TV, books and magazines before becoming a comic letterer and colourist for DC Comics, 2000AD and Warhammer 40,000.
Fiona still has links with comics. One of her pin-ups was on the cover of DC Vertigo’s first issue of Bodies, written by Si Spencer, and a pin-up version of Black Hammer (for Dark Horse) was a variant cover for the comic of the same name.
She currently co-owns a bar with husband Dean Ormston called Spiral City, which takes its name from the Black Hammer comic co-created by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormsto).
The pairs’ artwork adorns the walls in the bar and they plan to sell merchandise featuring their artwork in a shop on the premises.
What are you working on, comics-wise or illustration wise, right now, and when will it be published?
I’ve recently worked on a charity project called the Art of Ping Pong for my local gallery the Barnsley Civic. The idea is to ask various artists to paint/draw/create on a Ping Pong bat, the bats are then exhibited at the Civic gallery and are auctioned online for the Choose Love charity. The exhibition runs until November.
I was asked to view the contributions from a local Primary School and choose four favourites, their submissions were amazing and funny, lots of Super Heroes and nurses (a sign of the times).
Which comic or art project you’ve worked on are you most proud of – and where can people see it or buy it?
I really loved painting the cover for the first issue of Bodies, written by Si Spencer, published by Vertigo 2014 and soon to be a TV series featuring Stephen Graham. It was the first time that I could marry my two artistic lives, Pin-Up artist and part time comic contributor.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
I like to plan my day but it doesn’t always work out. Ideally, I like to get a couple of hours of painting in before dinner (lunch to southerners), I can get a lot done in a short space of time but I run out of steam and my attention levels drop. I attempt more painting in the afternoon and if it goes badly I then do admin and sort merch to sell in our shop. I rarely work in the evenings, it doesn’t suit me, I work traditionally in oil on canvas so the natural daylight is really important.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
If I had a deadline I used to be good at cracking on and getting the work done but since the COVID-19 restrictions, I’ve found it difficult to focus. Also, my husband Dean Ormston and myself recently opened a bar and a shop and it’s been hugely distracting. I also get distracted if the weather is nice, so I’ve been distracted for most of the summer, if I’m reading a good book I can’t put it down, social media sucks me in, the list is endless, it’s a wonder that I get anything done at all these days.
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
The internet has made it easier to hook up with fellow creatives and work together on creator owned projects, advertise/generate money through Kickstarter for instance. However, I think it’s probably harder to get published by the two big traditional publishers because their focus has moved to film, that’s where the money is so it makes sense business wise, but I’m not sure that they nurture young talent like they used to, I may be wrong on this.
Are you at all concerned by developments in “AI generated art”? What do you think might be its most significant impact on the comics industry and creators?
Personally, I find it disappointing when there is no actual physical piece of art at the end of a project. I don’t get the same buzz from digital and I think there will always be a market for artwork produced in the traditional way. That said, I think the younger people will dictate what market they want and old traditionalists like me will just potter along til I’m in the grave, leaving my nephews to clear out the clutter of pesky canvases in the attic.
What are you most looking forward to about coming to the Lakes this October?
I love meeting people so I’m looking forward to the social aspect, it’s my first convention since the covid restrictions, my last convention was 2019 NICE in Bedford which seems soooo long ago. I’m also really looking forward to the beautiful landscape, is there a prettier comic con location in the UK? See you all there!
Fiona, thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to seeing you at the Festival!
FIONA STEPHENSON ONLINE
THE LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL 2022
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will run from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th October 2022 – and is online at: www.comicartfestival.com | Lakes International Comic Art Festival Podcast: www.comicartpodcast.uk | Twitter: @comicartfestpod | Facebook: @ComicArtPodcast | Instagram: @ComicArtPodcast
Announced guests for 2022 are, in alphabetical order, include: Charlie Adlard, Dimitris Anastasiou, Mehdi Annassi, Lucie Arnoux, Bianca Bagnarelli, Alison Bechdel, Matthew Dooley, Ulla Donner, Oliver East, Karrie Fransman, Dave Gibbons, Paul Gravett, Kalle Hakkola, Jaime Hernandez, Eva Hilhorst, Bryan Hitch, Stephen L. Holland, Rian Hughes, Marc Jackson, Leomacs, Marine des Mazery, Vojtěch Mašek, Joe McGarry, Luke McGarry, Steve McGarry, Mick McMahon, Bill Morrison, Bex Ollerton, Dean Ormston, Jacob Phillips, Sean Phillips, Mike Perkins, Tim Pilcher, Ram V, Mollie Ray, Tom Richmond, Martin Rowson, Greg Rucka, Andrea Settimo, Katie Skelly, Václav Šlajch, Fiona Stephenson, Maria Surducan, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Petteri Tikkanen, Jörg Tittel, Twin Cartoons, Judit Vanistandel, Asya Voitenko, and Andi Watson
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All art © respective publishers and creators
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.