Heya! I’m Colleen, and I’m an illustrator living in London. I can honestly say that I spend 80% of my life at my desk, working on something creative! I’ve continually been drawn towards a couple of specific themes that definitely developed from childhood, like a love of animals and nature, folklore, mythology and storytelling. I love to read and create stories with characters that break the archetypal mould, particularly within the supernatural.
Let’s talk comics. You’ve created a few comics yourself, what do you love about this medium?
I actually got into comics quite late and I’ve only been involved with the medium for a couple years, but it’s definitely my favourite for so many reasons. There’s this quiet space between the text and the image where a lot of the meaning can sit. That’s the sweet spot; where the reader has to add their own interpretation - and it can change the whole story. Comics can be direct and candid, or abstract and complex, and the flexibility of this is what I find so exciting, especially at the moment. There’s no right or wrong way to make a comic, and lots of artists I’ve seen recently, such as Evan M. Cohen, Hel Covell, Jessi Zabarsky and Tillie Walden have been really pushing the limitations. Comics, as well as children’s books, graphic novels, and zines, are to me a perfect union of two things which inspire and fulfil me the most; literature and art.
The illustrations you create have another worldly appearance,and we noticed your comics have quite a mystical vibe to them. What draws you towards the supernatural?
A supernatural edge to a narrative or image gives it that extra spicy kick of intrigue. It’s fun to make people guess. So much about the world is rationalised and that’s cool, but I think it’s fun to almost relive a time when nobody knew what the hell was going on and people had to make stories to explain it all. It can add another dimension of perspective, and sometimes philosophy, to ordinary things. Growing up I would read a lot, and I remember being particularly interested in my grandparents’ old German fable and folklore kids books. They had this polished look to them but the stories get really dark! I’ve found a lot of recurring creatures pop up in my work, ravens, deer, moths and snakes to name a few, and a couple symbols from classic folklore and occult, such as crescent moons and suns, feathers, spirals, eyes, swords and hearts. A recent trip to Latvia also introduced me to some really fantastic stuff - there’s a lot of mythology woven into the culture, language and history that’s started to influence the way I apply imagery and even lettering into what I do.
You tend to use female muses in your work,what do you love about illustrating women?
Illustrating women feels natural to me. I’ve always been drawn to people as a main subject matter, but I’d say that the people who inspire me most are my friends, and most of those are women. I see so much strength and courage as well as humanity and vulnerability in these people, and that’s something I want to imbue within the female characters I draw. I suppose this focus on female muses is also a way I can explore personal issues and identity; a lot of the time the ladies I draw end up as alternative, slightly twisted versions of myself or my personality traits.
"I suppose this focus on female muses is also a way I can explore personal issues and identity; a lot of the time the ladies I draw end up as alternative, slightly twisted versions of myself or my personality traits."
What’s the weirdest comic idea you’ve had, and what was it about?
I had a weird idea not so long ago about a sentient time travelling dolphin- shaped balloon on a stick that just pops up in every era of recorded history and freaks everybody out. I never ended up making that one...
When did you first start creating and sharing your art work on the Internet?
I think I actually started posting stuff online first through DeviantArt in 2009! It wasn’t my art as much as bad photography but I remember really enjoying finding and chatting with other artists on there. Soon after that I started posting exclusively drawings and paintings onto Tumblr (R.I.P), but now Instagram is the main contender.
What advice would you give to budding illustrators who would like to self publish?
I’d say don’t overthink it! Find a theme or a topic that you love and that you think you’ll have a lot of material for and just try it out. Don’t be held back by what other people are doing or what you think you should be doing, sometimes it’s the more personal/freaky/unusual things that will relate the most to others and mean you come across best in your work. I’m still figuring it out, but it’s by trying different things that it gradually gets easier to recognise what you want to put out there.
Do you have any upcoming plans in terms of your work?
Lots of plans! I’ve usually got a whole list of projects. I’ve only just finished a comic about a recurring character duo of mine, a young Witch and her familiar, Martin the deer. I’ve made most of my comics to date with Martin & The Witch, and this one is the longest (and most tragic) I’ve ever attempted. I’m starting a couple of shorter stories which play with some darker themes, and I want to push myself in regards to making the stories a little more unnerving and creepy.
I’ve recently started getting into graffiti and spray painting, and that’s a whole new medium for me to learn. It’s also opened up a whole community of London artists to me, and I’ve had the best time meeting and painting with some talented people who have influenced and inspired me a lot, from local revered writers such as Arthur to amazing character artists like Zebra.
I’ve been really getting into painting and customising clothes and accessories too, which has been a fun sideshoot. It’s mostly been making my old boring stuff into something I’d wanna wear again, but I’ve created a couple of considered designs and done some screen-prints onto t-shirts too which I’ve been selling mainly through my Depop account.
Do you have any tips for getting your work ‘out there’ and noticed?
I’d say that for starters you have to try your damn best to believe in yourself as an artist, which is not an easy thing, but it definitely helps in the way you come across in person as well as online (fake it ’til you make it!). Being ‘noticed’ as an artist can differ depending on the artist, but personally the work I’m most drawn to is stuff that’s genuine, and has its roots in a place of sincerity.
It’s great to use platforms such as Instagram to share what you do virtually, but I’d say that connecting with people, especially other artists IRL, is just as important - don’t be intimidated! It can be really rewarding, particularly when you end up making cool new pals, feeling inspired and vibing off other creators. Get on down to some exhibitions, art fairs, pop ups, talks, lectures, festivals - anything. Anything you’re into. Be a part of stuff out there as well as online.
What is the best way for people to stay in the know about your work?
Best way is Instagram for sure, my main account is @colleenen. I have two other accounts, @abxs for customised clothes & accessories, and @blut_und_blume for drawings and paintings of naked ladies :-)
Last but not least, what goals do you have for the rest of the year?
The main one is to keep up drawing everyday! I’m hoping to go to some comic and zine fairs this summer, including ELCAF and SLCZF, and I’ve got exciting projects underway (on the DL!) later this year which I’m really looking forward to. I’d love to do a couple collaborative projects with different kinds of artists, and I wanna churn out some more comics and stickers as I’m hoping to table at some fairs and events later in the year.