(all images dipslayed in this artcile are the copyrighted property of Jade Sarson)
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I'm Jade Sarson, a freelance comic artist and illustrator based in Lincoln, UK. I create and publish Cafe Suada, a teastained webcomic about tea, coffee and romance. I also created For the Love of God, Marie!, a graphic novel about love, sexuality and a bit of religion in 60s-90s Britain. That one was published by Myriad Editions after winning the First Graphic Novel competition.
What does 'being creative' mean to you?
Expressing thoughts, feelings and ideas in a way that entertains or inspires others, I reckon. I have trouble verbalising thoughts in a way I'm satisfied with, I feel much more comfortable when I can use prose and visuals to convey ideas. For me, using comics and fictional characters to explore a variety of perspectives on life is the ultimate form of expression and creativity. I like singing too but ah, I'm not very good at that version of creative expression haha!
When did you realize that this is a passion you wanted to pursue?
When I was very young - I originally thought I wanted to be a children's book illustrator like Quentin Blake. I was turned off of comics for a while because I couldn't find any that interested me or looked appealing. Gotta love them bulky white heroes eh. But later on in my early teens I discovered manga with
it's myriad of female protagonists and fell in love with the medium. This led to finding Sweatdrop (a UK comic publishing group consisting of many women!) and realising I could make comics with the kind of
visuals and stories I wanted to see, so I got to work.
Do you have any rituals, routines & patterns?
Some working out and stretching before drawing for the day has become my morning ritual - it makes me feel more like I'm training my body to participate in some exciting sport, despite the fact I'll be sitting at a desk all day. Drawing IS like sport though - it's strenous, requires a lot of energy (especially if you ink like me, with lots of whooshy lines) and takes it's toll on the body. So I'm realising I want to keep my body healthy so I can draw for as many years as possible. What else... I often sing while I'm drawing to keep my motivation up, so I need to have good playlists going while I work.
What are you trying to communicate with your work, if anything?
Acceptance, I think, that all goals in life are noble pursuits whether it's to simply survive or to ambitiously leave your mark on the world. I forget this myself often, when I find myself looking down on others who waste time doing nothing, I think "You could be making something!" and I suppose I use my own characters to remind myself that everyone has their own way of doing things. I guess I've mellowed out a lot since my teen years haha. I just want people to enjoy life in their own way, and stop knocking other peoples dreams.
What themes do you pursue?
I like to create comics on a variety of subjects but usually they've got a British slice-of-life feeling, with an emphasis on personal
philosophies, comedy, romance, and/or often history.
How has your work/method/style changed over time?
I started out purely traditional but since I moved a lot of my process over to digital I've been able to improve and speed up a lot. I now only do my preliminary thumbs/sketches traditionally before inking and colouring on my Cintiq in Photoshop. I also used to be a ridiculous perfectionist obsessed with lots of detail, but I've become more enamored with stylised illustration now; I now prefer a piece that communicates a message or feeling effectively and looks cool, rather than perfect.
How do you promote your work? Do you find it difficult?
Yes, it's definitely difficult. I don't like interacting with people most of the time. But I set that aside for my work, and try to visit lots of events to show people my comics and convince them they're worth their time. I also use social media a lot, which often leads to procrastination but is essential to building an audience. I usually try to find like-minded people who like the things I like, and that way they realise they'll enjoy my work because we share interests. Sounds simple, but with so much demanding our attention these days it really
Do you have a favourite artist/artwork?
My favourite artist changes every week haha, I love so many that
have influenced me. I'm really enjoying Naoki Urasawa's work lately, especially Monster - an intense manga thriller that has an
incredible balance of quiet, relaxing, introspective moments with fast paced action drama and mystery! He is excellent at illustrating unique character designs and emotions. I really wish some publishers would pick up his older series with female leads though, like Happy and Yawara.
What do you like/dislike about the art world?
I HATE the elitism of fine art. I HATE the financial barrier that stops a lot of disadvantaged young people from pursuing a career in the arts, because it's just bloody expensive to invest in at the beginning. In comics specifically, there's a lot of equipment, time, and money you need to publish your first comics. I hate that I had to depend on the kindness of my parents for the first three non-profitable years that I was a freelancer, because I was taking art jobs that didn't pay enough to support me - and I hate that not everyone has that option, and may be forced to give up on art. I also hate that the art world often protects old white jerks with outdated notions and practises, who strive to offend and hurt with their art, rather than abandoning them to make way for interesting young creators - women, POC, trans people - who can offer far more interesting perspectives on the world in their art.
I LOVE that so many artists are making a career based purely on their own web-based audiences now, removing the need for middle men. I love that some of the elitism against manga-influenced art is disappearing because a whole generation of artists that grew up drawing manga are now key players in the industry. I love that small press comics is a thriving industry full of so many talented creators that I can easily get in touch with because of the internet, and that we can all be happy for each other's opportunities to create new things.
What do you like/dislike about your art?
I love my visual style, in terms of how I render my characters with energetic linework and draw interesting expressions and compositions. I'm also satisfied with how I render backgrounds and typography. However, I am still not 100% on what I wish for my colour work. I switch a lot between drawings with lots of lighting and shadow for atmosphere and drawings with simple flat colour or patterns, because I still don't know what I like more. Maybe I'll always like both, but I guess I always have that little doubt in my head when I finish a piece, like "what if I'd used THIS technique instead, or THAT colourscheme." There's always the ghost of a piece that could have been, but instead of dwelling I move onto the next piece and chase what I CAN do.
Does your work involve research? If so, what?
Oh yes a lot! Visually mainly, even though I draw in a stylised way I make sure that bodies, clothes, objects, places, everything has a real world feel. Especially in situations when I'm evoking a particular place or time, I want every element to scream "THIS IS THE SETTING". It mainly involves staring at and trying to memorise lots of photos or other illustration to inspire, but never copy.
What is your dream project?
I'd love to have free reign to create a comic with very experimental art and storytelling. Something on which I could take as long as necessary per illustration, whether it's half a day or a month. That'd be perfect. Unfortunately, that's not realistic, so instead I'm striving to create experimental work that's still marketable and sticks to deadlines hahaha. I'd love to adapt one of my favourite broadway musicals into a graphic novel someday, maybe. Just throwing that out there.
What couldn't you go without?
Anime. Sounds dumb but anime saved my life, on several occasions. I love manga, but sometimes a good anime series with real heart and a hopeful message is what I need to get my own hope and creative will back.
Where would you like to be in five years time professionally?
Financially stable, working full time on my own comics instead of doing lots of small comics with writers and having to teach workshops. Paid to be places with my work instead of paying to go. Not gonna happen, but why not dream.
What's your opinion on indie vs. mainstream?
I don't like how it's always "versus". It's a symbiotic relationship. Mainstream is how new creators find their passion, then indie is how they get their start. Mainstream sources new creators from the indie scene, who then go on to inspire more indies. That's how it works, buuut it does feel like there's a big divide a lot of the time. Indie is SO full of diverse content that would easily appeal to the masses, and deserves a larger audience, but mainstream still seems to focused on catering to just a small fraction of the real audience out there. Hopefully as the cycle of indies rising to mainstream continues, diversity will spread in both creators being hired and content being made, but it's very much an uphill battle.