Lakes Festival Focus 2015: An Interview with Karrie Fransman, creator of “Death of the Artist”

Karrie Fransman

Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event – and we’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event in October, continuing the series with an interview with graphic novelist and comic creator Karrie Fransman.

Karrie’s comic strips and graphic stories have been published in The Guardian, The Times, Time Out, The Telegraph, The New Statesman and for The British Red Cross. Her graphic novel, The House That Groaned, was published by Penguin Random House’s Square Peg and her new graphic novel Death of the Artist was published by Jonathan Cape and has been awarded a grant from the Arts Council England.

She has spoken at and run workshops for The Guardian Masterclasses, TEDx, Central Saint Martins, The Hay Festival, The British Council, ARVON, The Free Word Centre, Scottish PEN, Latitude Festival, The Institute of Contemporary Arts and The British Library, and presented her work in Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Russia, Bangladesh, Croatia, Corsica, Finland, Lebanon and France.

Some of Karrie's work for the forthcoming anthology to be published by Broken Frontier

Some of Karrie’s work for the forthcoming anthology to be published by Broken Frontier

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

Karrie Fransman: I’ve been working on two six-page stories. The first is for the wonderful Broken Frontier Anthology which won an epic Kickstarter campaign. My story merges photography with drawing and is a little twisted. I’m currently working on a comic for the Arts Council England imagining what the world would be like without art. It’s a painted fairytale. I’m not sure of either publication dates but they should be out soon!

Death of the Artist - Cover

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

Karrie: My most recent book Death of the Artist was an epic feat to finish. It’s a dark tale about a group of friends in their 30s struggling to leave behind their wayward youth. The book looks like an anthology with the five friends telling their stories across water colour, photographs and illustration but it is all written and drawn by me embodying five fictional artists. It was fascinating to draw, write and see the world through five different characters and it was awarded Arts Council funding so I worked with five actors in the photography section. I knew that by the end of the book is be a better artist then when I began!

Art © Karrie Fransman

Art © Karrie Fransman

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

Karrie: My golden working time is in the morning but you never know when you’ll get into the flow and I’ll sometimes find myself working until the wee hours, lost in my own little world.

Art © Karrie Fransman

Art © Karrie Fransman

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

Karrie: Creating little worlds! It’s a control freak’s dream. Plus using the ancient art of visual storytelling to try and make sense of the life we live.

downthetubes: And the worst?

The isolation. Comics are so labour intensive and we all sacrifice hours and hours of our time at the shrine of the Great Comic God in the sky.

Truth be told, I should probably find myself a studio!

Art © Karrie Fransman

Art © Karrie Fransman

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

Karrie: Admin e-mails. Sending invoices. Re-sending invoices with PO numbers/addresses/your pet’s name attached. Interviews(!). Sorting out events I’m appearing at. Promoting events. Booking travel to events.

And Facebook. Bloody Facebook.

Death of the Artist – Promo Video from Jarbrain on Vimeo.

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

Karrie: I don’t think it’s ever been easy. Especially if you’re producing indie comics rather than ones for Marvel or DC. Jonathan Cape used to be the biggest mainstream publisher, but their list seems to be shrinking. Self Made Hero publishes a lot of great stuff. And new publishers like Bloomsbury and 4th Estate have stepped into the ring so hopefully that will mean more competition.

There is a wealth of talent out there but the publishing industry is being very cautious. It’s a shame as comics are the fastest growing sub-section of literature, plus they work beautifully both on E-readers and as beautiful, paper books. And there’s much more of a chance of them being turned into films. I wish the publishing industry would realise what a potential goldmine they are and invest in the genre more seriously.

Art for Over Under Sideways Down, a comic created for the Red Cross for Refugee Week in 2014, by Karrie Fransman

Art for Over Under Sideways Down, a comic created for the Red Cross for Refugee Week in 2014, by Karrie Fransman

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?

Karrie: Yes! I met Julie Tait on her first trip to Angouleme when Kendal’s Festival was still a dream in her head. I went the first year and was so impressed with how she’d made that dream a reality.

One thing I love about the festival which is that it is no confined to a dank, dark basement but spread across the town, inviting potential comic converts to come and play with us all.

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

Karrie: Ooh – would have to be either Lynda Barry  [best known for her seminal comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek] who I hear reduces grown adults to tears with her wisdom, or Eleanor Davis [creator of How to Be Happy, published by Fantagraphic], who is simply the best.

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

Karrie: As I mentioned earlier, creating comics is a very labour intensive and lonely task at times. crawling out of our comic caves into the daylight, meeting other comicing folk and hearing about life in their caves is always inspiring. And just chatting to comic fans and enthusiasts brings you back down to earth. I love it.

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

Karrie: I think in the UK there isn’t really a ‘comics industry’ as such, so unless you’re going to flog your wares in the US, France or Japan then you’re going to have to get entrepreneurial. There are so many untapped avenues for comics to thrive in – NHS comics in waiting rooms, educational comics, comics that help with literacy, community art sculpture comics etc.

Just find how your comics can help people to tell the stories/information they need to tell and you’ll always find work.

The Motherless Oven - Sample Page

Karrie’s recommended comics reading reading: The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis

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

Karrie: I’ve just returned from Edinburgh Book Festival where I joined the brilliantly talented Rob Davis on stage to talk about his latest comic, The Motherless Oven. He is truly breaking new ground with his dark tale of hopeless youth set in a bizarre dystopia.

There are some truly wonderful images in the book – knives raining from the sky, teenagers building their parents and ‘Deathdays’ instead of birthdays… but it is also strangely normal and above all the emotions ring true.

• Find out more about Karrie Fransman and her work at: or follow her on Twitter @karriefransman


Events at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 featuring Karrie Fransman:

Death of the Artist: Experimenting with Comics
Sunday 18  10.30-11.30 am  Comics Clock Tower  Tickets £8


• Tickets for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival are on sale now from the Brewery Arts Festival – Book Now
• Check out a digital version of the 2015 Lakes  International Comic Art Festival Programme here
• For the latest news on the 2015 Lakes International Comic Art Festival visit:
• Sign up for the Festival’s newsletter here for the latest news! 

Categories: Comic Creator Spotlight, Creating Comics, Events, Featured News, Features, Lakes Festival Focus - Comic Creator Interviews

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