Elizabeth Querstret’s approach to autobiographical comics ranges from work that positively embraces the ideals of DIY culture (like her regularly updated diary webcomics) to more sedately paced narratives in the form of books like Walks with Lulu from Avery Hill Publishing. One thing that’s common to all her material to date, though, is her uncompromising yet always endearing honesty on the page. It forges an instant bond between reader and artist, ensuring an extra level of audience intimacy with her refreshingly idiosyncratic narrative voice.
Today we return to our series of Small Press Inside Look artist commentaries with a look backwards and forwards at the world of Querstret comics. Join Elizabeth as she discusses her autobio books, creative process, the humour of zines like Zoological, and an exclusive sneak peek at her upcoming new book…
You can read a full interview with Elizabeth Querstret at Broken Frontier here.
Enter My Working World
Woah! This seems so long ago now. Enter My Working World, is where my existence in the Small Press scene began. I began this zine with no idea of how it would evolve or what I wanted it to look like. I didn’t create it thinking it would be looked at by anyone other than myself and my partner. I did not know what a zine was until I plucked up the courage to show my partner what I had been drawing. He encouraged me to make a zine and I sat for awhile pondering what I should make. I conclude that the best thing to make is what I found interesting. I think this is pretty much my ethos in everything I create.
This zine is definitely focussed on the topic, rather than the format or appearance. My career, (like many I suspect) has been a constant battle of trying to find job satisfaction, whilst feeling like I can function in society. The stories in this zine are still as fresh in my mind and I have often shared them with friends. I wanted to get this vibe of story sharing across. The drawings were quick, whimsical, and I did not fuss over details. I felt that this simplistic approach helped reflect the personality I wanted to portray.
Read my review of Enter My Working World here.
Querstret Comics Updates
My comic updates stemmed from the zine-making. I am always sharing stories of my personal experiences and my younger brother always tells me that he thinks I over exaggerate everything. He insists that half of what I say never happened. Of course I disagree. I am not always confident or assured in myself, but I am very open, honest and expressive. I began making the comic updates to feed my hunger to create and share my stories with a wider audience. I loved the free style that I had used in Enter My Working World, as it allowed me to create as fast as I could think.
The process I use on my comic updates are very similar to my zines. I create updates without much prior planning, other than having a clear story or antidote in my mind. I like to think that these autobio comics are a pretty good representation of who I am, but certainly do not act as a gospel truth of everything that happens. They definitely do not define me. Generally they look at how I can get annoyed, frustrated, embarrass myself and generally do things because my brain tells me to. On the whole, I like to think they have a positive outlook – even on the negatives (as that is mostly who I am).
I don’t worry too much about embarrassing myself, or exposing myself. Like I said, my updates should not be taken as gospel truth. However, I also think, why should we not all be comfortable with being able to express ourselves openly and be okay with who we are (as long as we’re not offending anyone else in the process)?
I do also find that the process of making the autobio comics can be quite therapeutic and encourages me to look rationally over my emotional state. I am aware that I could potentially make myself vulnerable by exposing such things. Yet I will only ever share work that I am comfortable to share. For example, the comics I made that explored my anxiety were shared publicly after I had come to terms with the experience.
Read my review of some of the Querstret diary comics in print here…
This project was another example of how I create purely for my own personal gratification. There was a time when I was bed-bound for a couple of months. Initially I couldn’t do anything apart from think of pain and – surprise, surprise! – that is quite mentally draining. When I got to a point where I was able to think beyond pain, I’d lay in bed doodling on scraps, taking a photograph and texting it to my partner. In amongst these doodles I began to draw animals chatting on their mobiles.
All the animals were drawn by a glorious Bic biro and then as I managed to function out of my bed, I scanned these in and added colour. The whole process of thinking up ideas, sharing and actually putting pen to paper really changed my whole mental stability. Zoological was created to rescue me from a dark place. I never realised quite how much the process would help me deal with long term pain. I now look fondly on Zoological and always hope that the feelings I got from the process of making it are shared with those reading it.
Walks With Lulu
I think this could be my most favourite drawing I have done to date. The style here is massively different to that found in my comic updates. I drew this originally as a gift for the owner of a dog, Lulu. My walks with Lulu began on a chance encounter and led to a beautiful friendship with the dog and the owner. I had wanted to find a way of thanking the owner for allowing me to walk Lulu. The main process in creating this came from drawing with my favoured biro and simplifying a photograph I had taken on one of my many walks. I wanted to capture the bright autumn morning that I had experienced and I think I achieved this well through a combination of the composition and palette choice.
I realised that I had taken quite a lot of photographs of Lulu on various walks and began to draw these in lunch breaks and on train journeys. I would then add colour by night. It was surprising how quickly I managed to create all the artwork. I found the process highly addictive and rewarding. As soon as I had created one, I was done with looking at it and interested in creating the next one. Before I new it I had Lulu drawings all over the place and it was only then that I began to think about how it was going to all come together. I started to reflect on the walks I had, how they began and where I had been. I found as I jotted down my thoughts, they seemed to tie in really nicely with the images. It was then at this point that I had a better idea of what I wanted to ultimately create and I then created extra designs to plug the gaps in my newly formed idea.
Avery Hill kindly published Walks With Lulu and they were fantastic at making some suggestions. I found the process of having a professional opinion to consider very helpful.
Read my review of Walks with Lulu here…
You Can Come Back For Coffee But I Have To Warn You
This project was all about exploring a different style from anything I had previously created and also about humouring an idea that had brewed between my partner and I in the pub over a pint. The zine is essentially a love note.
Again, I was creating this to gratify my own creative needs, however this time I knew exactly how I wanted the content to flow when I began making it. I did not find making this as adventurous as other projects, but I was still curious to see how it would look once completed. I really enjoyed drawing from real life, as the zine revolves around the content of my bedroom.
It was a joy to spend more time over the drawings and look at the finer detail. The depiction of my bedroom is fairly accurate and you can in fact compare this against a photograph that also appears in the zine. I had wanted the overall feel to this project to reflect, endearing and naive undertones; which I think were achieved from the use of soft colouring pencils.
Work in Progress
In between my comic updates, I am currently working on a new project that takes on a whole new style. I am constantly looking to evolve, experiment and adapt and this is exactly what I am doing here. The plot for this project has been developing for a couple of years now, but I had never figured out in my mind how I was going to put the story down onto paper. Only now that I have worked out how the story will end, have I managed to establish a little clearer in my mind how I would like to creatively portray the plot.
This piece is yet to be named (well I think I have a working title) and it is another autobiographical story. I think this will be my longest project to date and I can see it evolving from my initial ideas. However, I definitely know that it is all about exploring how back pain has affected all elements of my life but not defined me.
The pages will travel through time, exploring different stages, chopping and changing through twists and turns. Everyone has life traumas and it is how you allow these to shape who you are. This sounds very heavy and intense and I suppose it kind of is, so the pages I am revealing are meant to represent this. I feel incredibly excited about this new project and very nervous about sharing new pages. However I am very pleased with the progress so far. I feel I have captured the emotions I want to portray, through the use of black and white tones only and by the style of drawing. I am looking forward to producing more of this over the next year, so watch this space!
You can also follow Elizabeth on Twitter here.
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