Indie Creator Spotlight: Claire Connelly
COMIC LOUNGE: For those that may not be familiar with your work, can you us a brief run down on yourself?
CLAIRE: I’m Claire Connelly, I’m a comic creator and Illustrator. I’m best known for making off beat mini and alternative comics about sci-fi and dying.
I’ve written, drawn, and published the mini series Black Eyes, Down with the Ship: a collection of Comics, The Long Year, and Bird Song. I’m currently working on her sixth graphic novel Captain Lost.
I’m also known as the artist on the series Animals written by Eric Grissom, The Unauthorized Biography of Winston Churchill: a Documentary, and Cheese with Erica Schultz that are available on ComiXology. I’ve illustrated several short stories for mini comics and anthologies. As well have drawn several covers and pin-ups for comics floating in the comic-verse. COMIC LOUNGE: What was your first exposure to the world of comics?
CLAIRE: My first exposure to comics would be newspaper strips, like the Peanuts and such. I remember the Sunday pages being oversized and in color. There was also a small selection of comics at the grocery store like Archie and Disney comics.
Then when I got a little older I had Captain Underpants and Calvin and Hobbes, then I read a lot of X-Men and Simpson comics when I got a little older. I was coming to age during the ultimate’s line of marvel comics. So for better or worse I read a lot of those. But after a few years of reading super hero comics I was looking for something else. This was during the rise of Manga in America but couldn’t really find any series that resonated with me at the time.
Following that I didn’t read comics for many years until I discovered Mouse guard and Skottie Young’s Wizard of Oz early in college. I was lucky to have a professor who had a huge alternative comics collection and would bring me bags of books to read during class like Drawn and Quarterly, top shelf comics, and Fantagraphics.
COMIC LOUNGE: To me a see a little Lemire and Kindt in your art, Who were some of your artistic influences growing up?
CLAIRE: I’m definitely a Jeff Lemire fan. I was reading his book Essex County when I was getting seriously back into comics in college it was the first time I thought, “ Oh I could make comics”. I’ve never seen a comic drawn in such a brushy inky style. His style is so raw especially his earlier work. I like the abstract nature of the art that then makes a narrative image.
I’m also a huge fan of Mike Mignola, especially the way he builds up panel composition with the use of positive/ negative space and the use of Black. As well a Mobius for subject manner and composition, the long horizon off in background.
I also grew up in the Disney Renaissance and the rise of Nickelodeon then cartoon network. So animation played a huge role in my artist development. Especially shows like Rugrats, Samurai Jack, and Courage the Cowardly Dog.
More general inspiration would be the 80’s black and white boom, 90’s alt comics, and componentry small press culture. Some of my favorite publishers would be Top Shelf and No Brow. Both produce some truly beautiful books.
COMIC LOUNGE: I discovered your work from the Kayfabe channel. Has that exposure led to any new fans?
CLAIRE: Kayfabe has brought me some attention; I live on the east coast of the US. So it’s given some more west coast people a chance to see my work. I do a few shows a year but haven’t been able to travel to the west coast for a show yet. The Kayfabe channel is a constant source for me in getting a more in-depth education in comics and connecting with people who want to have in depth conversations about comics.
COMIC LOUNGE: What do you tackle first, story or art, when working on a new book?
CLAIRE: It really depends on if I’m working with a writer/publisher or not. When working with another collaborator I work in a very traditional American style of comic making.
First I get the script from the writer and start breaking it down into layouts and try to get through the whole script. Then I take the small draws and make them larger and more detailed, to send off and be approved by the writer or editorial. Then it’s a back and forth game until every page is approved before moving onto final art. Final art is a pain to change. Then I moved forward and start to draw the final art. I use some pretty standard tools when it comes to drawing, watercolor paper, pencils, brush, and ink.
I keep my pencils really loose and draw all the basic shapes. I draw all my details when I ink to keep my drawing fresh. I don’t like stiff dead looking art. So when I ink I try to keep the energy up and captured on the page.
Then I sometimes will watercolor or ink wash the pages. That’s why I work on watercolor paper. If not then I hand the artwork off to a colorist.
When working with myself I have less of an assembly line style. I mainly just work in my sketchbook, where I just draw, draw, and draw. I will work on character designs, layouts, and the story all at the same time. I’ll draw and write a lot of work I don’t use. But hopefully those ideas can be used for a future project. I try to approach each story differently based on length or time.
I try to be efficient and work on my stories in my head while I’m at work, so I can go home and just draw.
COMIC LOUNGE: How do you juggle your cartooning while also having to maintain a "regular" job as well?
CLAIRE: It can be difficult. It’s taken me years to figure it all out. I currently have a job that I work 6am to 2:30 pm. This allows me to have a shorter commute to work for less people are on the road that early in the morning. But I used to too work any time from 7am to 10:30 pm, which I was constantly in a whiplash state of exhaustion.
To me have a set time to work and sleep is the key to success for me. Sleep is important. I can get more don’t in 2 hrs. Being well-rested then 6 hrs. of feeling like garbage. I by no means have my dream day job but I’m working towards that.
I’ll prefer have my nights to work on my comics and art. I’ve always been a night owl, my mind works better at night. My day job is very physical, so it no longer takes me much thought anymore.
But I’m hoping soon to get into teaching but I’ll have to wait to see the direction the world is going in.
COMIC LOUNGE: What project is currently sitting on your drawing table?
CLAIRE: I currently have a lot on my table, no surprise! I’m working on the postproduction for my largest book to date Captain Lost. It’s over 300 pages and I’m currently scanning and cleaning up all the pages on the computer to get ready to publish.
I also just started my Inkotober/artober project Whispers at Whippoorwill. Which is a story about a local legend from where I grew up. I was told about a Witch that lived in the woods but she didn’t have a narrative, so I took it upon myself to come up with one based on the bits of her legend I could find.
For the whole month of October I will be drawing a page everyday. Which is my most ambitous month long challenge yet.
My other project is the 3rd issued of Animals written by Eric Grissom a long time collaborator. Which is set in a world where animals eat people. All the stories are very home grown and tie into a larger narrative about food production and ethics wrapped up in a character drama. I’m also working on an unannounced Sci-fi project as well.
COMIC LOUNGE: What's your primary way of selling your books? Do you self publish?
CLAIRE: I do a little bit of everything; I self publish, work with publishers, and make zines. I think it’s important to know how to do every step of the publishing process. That why I don’t have any road blocks in the way of making my work.
I enjoy working with publisher for then I don’t have to everything myself!
COMIC LOUNGE: What books/creators are you currently following?
CLAIRE: I’ve recently gotten into Manga. I’ve always been opposed to looking at manga for a lot of artists of my generation are heavily influenced by it.
I’m currently reading Berserk by Kentaro Miura. Which is a classic manga that’s 30 volumes. I’m about a third of the way through and it’s a technical marvel of story telling and art. All the art is so detailed and beautiful but serve all the horror aspects of the story. I’ve been studying the layouts and trying to capture the energy of the layouts.
I’m also reading Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue which is based on the life of the famous samurai Musahi Miyamoto. I really enjoy the pacing of the story and how the martial arts are illustrated.
One aspect of Manga I find interesting is the use of detail. Some panels will be drawn to death with details to show environment, space, and texture but then be followed up with more simplistic panels. Which I would try to do with my art.
I also just finished rereading then entire Hellboy series. Which was super fun to read in a few day period. It was really inspiring to see how Mike Mignola’s style changed through out the series. I personally like the strict simplicity of his later work.
Artists I also love are Scottie Young, Andrew Maclean, Tyler Landry, Zack Soto, Tara O’Conner, Sally Contirino, Kelly Williams, and Skinner. I would list like 30 more artists as well.
COMIC LOUNGE: For all the readers out there, where can they follow you to learn about any projects you might be working on?
CLAIRE: The best way to know what I’m up too is to follow me on Instagram and Twitter by following me @CKConnellyDraws. That’s where I’m always posting my drawing and videos of what I’m working on.
And you can also read my comics on my site ClaireConnellyComics.com where I hundreds of pages up waiting to be read.
As well as students needing help with making zine and comics projects can always send me an email for help at ClaireConnelly129@gmail.com