‘Aren’t rules made to be broken?’ Artist of the Week: Alice Clarke
We explored the beginnings of graphic novel illustrator, Alice Clarke, and discussed her youth, her crowdsourced project, and challenges facing the graphic novel industry today.
Alice spent the first decade of her life in Brighton, and decided from a young age art was the outlet she wanted to pursue in life. Although she made her way through the Tintin series when she was little, it wasn’t until she moved to Texas she discovered her love of comics at 12-years-old.
“My library in middle school in Roundrock, Austin, Texas had manga on the shelf which I had never, ever seen before. It was my entry point into comics as a medium and I’ve been hooked ever since.” Alice is now immersed in comic books 24/7, working in Dave’s Comics in the North Laine, with Brighton being a place where she has always felt comfortable to express herself.
Alice struggled to narrow down her wealthy list of artistic influences. Tthose who had a profound impact on her and her work included Canadian creator best known for the Scott Pilgrim series, Bryan Lee O’Malley. Another huge influence was Araki Hirohiko, who created the world-famous Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
“His confidence with line and the way he just throws his figures on the page is so fun, and I love the concept that there are no set or canon ways to colour. No rules!” Alice said. Jillian Tamaki inspired her work both visually and thematically. She added: “She features a lot of LGBT characters and themes in her books, especially young girls struggling with themselves, and it really struck a chord with me.”
Now, in the little spare time she has, Alice plays a lot of video games and is very interested in fashion and makeup in between working at the comic book store and illustrating: “I don’t think I really considered myself an “illustrator” over an “artist” until I was in Sixth Form doing my fine art A-Level, slowly realising I was most definitely not a fine artist!”
Alice explained how she believes graphic novels dedicate themselves to a narrative expressional form in art. Although, she highlighted the similaritity with this style, and fine art: “Obviously, there are still ‘rules’ for making comics. For example, playing out pages, but aren’t rules made to be broken?”
In her most recent project, Alice has begun working on her first graphic novel, Star Bright, funded entirely from public donations. Although she printed a 12-page zine last year which sold out, she has never undertaken a graphic novel of this size.
Working closely with writer and friend, Rob Zwetsloot, the pair collaborated to create an all-age appropriate story with LGBT characters set in contemporary England, following a young girl named Zoe and her extra-terrestrial friend, Star. They have been working over the past three years together to make this six-chapter book a reality.
Alice explained how nervous she was to start her first crowdfunded project: “Two-thirds of Kickstarters are unsuccessful and 83% don’t even make it past a fifth of their funding goal, so I was super prepared not to make it. We funded in four days and I’m so grateful for the support.”
As a reletively new term, Alice discussed some of the challenges around the ‘graphic novel’. “The industry has always had and still has a real toxicity problem, and marginalized creators (women, non-binary & other LGBT artists and writers, POC) often really struggle to get the recognition they deserve and are often faced with violent hostility, online especially. We can’t grow with people like this in our industry.”
She hopes wider appreciation of graphic novels and comics can extend outside the realms of superhero narratives, to involve more inclusive pieces too. Alice has nominated Clair Letton, a mixed media fine art painter and printmaker, for next week’s feature.