THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, PinkAppleJam! How did you get into art and why did you want to become an artist?
Laura Watton (aka PinkAppleJam): Thank you for letting me share the Spotlight! I have always enjoyed drawing, since I could draw. I was lucky to be encouraged by friends and family to do something with my artwork and I have found many good supportive friends who also draw along the way.
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
LW: I have always worked in some form of capacity as an illustrator since I was at university, my first income was from supportive friends in the UK anime scene. My first pro income was for a UK teenage magazine who responded to my art portfolio mailouts in the 2000s, before I even had a website. I have always had to do both full and part time jobs alongside my illustration. This is mainly to do with personal economic and health reasons. I am lucky to be able to work full time as a chronically ill individual as well as have energy to work on my own projects and commissions in my own time, that help bring in an income for me.
TCC: Which artists inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
LW: Akemi Takada, who is known for soft, pastel 80s artwork – adapted many character designs from comics into animation form urusei Yatsura to Kimagure Orange Road.
Kenichi Sonoda, his work is crisp and he is the energetic character designer of BubbleGum Crisis and Gunsmith Cats series.
Johji Manabe was the first manga artist I knew the work of, Outlanders is my favourite of his works, published by Dark Horse comics.
Miwa Ueda’s series Peach Girl was a game changer in comics for me, and my art took a drastic turn after being exposed to the works of Ueda.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird – I read many interviews in the back of my old TMNT comic collection about how they were so prolific in black and white comics, how they self published and created their own studios. Huge and inspiring influences, and I am so grateful to them for being so open about their experiences so I could see how things worked behind the scenes as a kid.
Capcom and Nintendo game artists – before we had access to the internet I bought a lot of video game magazines and studied the artwork from game instruction booklets.
Adam Warren, who was one of the first manga-inspired artists I knew of and set a very high bar for manga-inspired artwork; hugely influential works.
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
LW: The Sailor Moon fandom is intense in a really warm way. A lot of us are oldies, and the new kids embrace the diversity of it’s demographic. Sailor Moon herself, Usagi, is mocked for being a complete idiot, however she is a kind and supportive person who means the world to her friends and they mean the world to her too. There is a hidden social depth to that entire show that only becomes apparent after investing a bit of time in it; I find it a very comforting, silly show and return to it often.
TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?
I have been inspired by She-Ra and the Princesses of Power very much! I enjoy trying out new fashions on my characters too.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
LW: My job can be very time consuming and my fatigue is chronic, I do not have much control over that part of my life. However at the weekend I do my own thing to reboot on a Saturday, and I dedicate as much time as I can on Sundays to making comics or my own creations. I specifically book time off to concentrate on comics… most people go on holiday, haha.
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some artists use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
LW: BBC Radio 6 Music is my favourite radio station, otherwise I listen to a lot of vaporwave or any of the albums I’ve had since I was a teenager – the more familiar the sound, the better, as less distracting. I prefer music or ambient sounds over podcasts as unfortunately my brain either shuts out the podcast and I actually don’t recall what I was just listening to, or I just pause and don’t draw anything to listen to the audio dialogue!
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
LW: My dad is a silver-age comics collector so I was raised in a very comics-friendly environment. (The first comic I ever remember actually reading myself when I was about four was a Sugar and Spike Blue Ribbon DC Digest.) I used to help dad sell memorabilia at conventions in Birmingham in the 1990s, I was his table-helper, and that taught me how to sell behind a table. I then attended some anime conventions, my first was 1995-ish (‘DeContAnimeTed’), also in Birmingham, and then I tabled at a few conventions after those, with my friend, who sold the female-fronted fanzine we made as teenagers, ‘Anime Babes’.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
LW: After all these years, I still get a happiness buzz from fellow fans, chatting with them and sharing a love and excitement about similar things. I would absolutely leave behind the cripplingly long hours that conventions run for these days because four day weekends at 11 hours long or so, with few breaks, is a real joke.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
LW: Definitely any retro collectible stalls, as I love 80s Americana nostalgia and 90s anime shows, I love hunting for older treasures. I love to be able to fill in gaps in my manga collections and try out new series at comic cons as often there will be new releases on sale under bundle offers. And now clothes! Not just one size fits most t-shirts for guys but all sorts of geeky apparel; dresses, bags, tops and bottoms, overt pop art graphics to subtle patterns, it is so great to see such a range now.
TCC: With the lack of conventions, a lot of artists are taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – is this something you’re doing?
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?
LW: It’s a huge publishing gamechanger and I am so happy it is an option. Creators can be more experimental and buyers are often introduced to new types of stories and artists with relative ease. The model of needing a publisher and a marketer on behalf of a publication or a corporation is now not essential. The ocean has got bigger for sure, however I do feel it is easier to dip your toes into comic production nowdays than ever before.
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
LW: Issue 11 of my Biomecha comic is being printed as I write, with two more chapters to do (well, one long chapter but split into two parts). I started writing this series when I was at school so it is really time to wrap it up and work on some other titles, however it has also been such a big story to me for over half of my life now, it will be a little sad to finish it too. I have been printing chapters each time one is completed, and compiled into graphic novels. In my freelance life I have pitched a few things, but mainly I am working in a UK Covid lockdown just to make progress on my own thing, and not be hard on myself while everything is stressful for everybody right now.
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates?
Thank you for taking an interest in my work and let’s keep on making comic art!
Thanks Laura for your time!
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