From Astrophysics to Illustration: Interview with Hari Conner

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Etsy Shop: Here! - Patreon: Here!

Finding Home: Here! - Nyx: Here!

HJ - Tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do.

HC: Hey! I’m Hari, I’m an illustrator & comic artist, I spend most of my time making fantasy comics with LGBT+ characters.

HJ - When did you first start as an artist or rather, realized this is something you wanted to pursue?

HC: I studied fine art at school and I was always writing stories when I was a kid - I drew a few comics that were hundreds of pages long during class when I was a teenager. Actually when I left home, I went to study astrophysics for a couple years before switching to illustration.

It took me a long time to realise comics/illustration was something I could actually pursue as a job, and I feel like I’m only just now figuring out how to combine my fine art training and interest in comics.

HJ - What are your favourite tools/formats to use? I can see from your website you enjoy multiple mediums, both paintbrushes and digital?

HC - I normally do colours digitally, but do roughs or drawings in pencil first. If I’m doing plein air I sometimes try and give paints a go, too.

HJ - You have written and illustrated five comics - as well as a travel art journal - (feel free to pitch them to us), can you tell us a little bit about the best and worst experiences of the process? Was it different for each comic or did you find the same problems kept cropping up?

HC - Haha I think I’ve probably written a lot more comics than that! Right now I have 2 ongoing series set in the same world, one of which is finishing in September, and one that’s just starting; I sometimes publish wee artbooks as well.

They've been pretty good experiences so far. The art is worse at the start, but that's usually true of webcomics and means I'm improving; comics take ages to draw, but it's great when people get invested in the story.

The series that’s finishing is an all-ages fantasy adventure with a lot of video game jokes (Nyx in the Overworld). I got the book funded through kickstarter and it’s all done now. Probably the worst part of the process was having to do the last 20 pages in a week because of freelance deadlines, and not drawing the pages with proper bleeds. That’s my top tip for artists who might put their work into print of any kind: oh my god, think about bleeds first.

The new comic (Finding Home) is more serious and contemplative, with more ambitious artwork. It’s going to be about relationships, anxiety and small moments. There's also magic in it and a LOT of drawings of forests. The teaser comic I did for it has been received really positively, getting featured online and shortlisted for some awards, which is really exciting.

HJ - Tell us about your illustrative style - you appear to place an emphasis on vibrant colours, detail and focus on what I would call a 'friendly' features, such as your item concepts and how you draw your characters (no one appears gritty or harsh).

HC - I’m really into colours & busy compositions, as well as how comics characters can express really subtle emotions, or how something feels better than a photo. I’m influenced by really appealing/slick cartoony styles as well as representational illustrations which are really technically skilled. I think my styles have probably come up organically from that!

HJ - You have a shop, how have you found adapting your art into products?

HC - I basically just make the kind of products I like buying from other artists, like stickers or pins. Since my art is my job, I have to be careful that the profit margins are worth it, though, especially selling through shops locally. I try and do designs related to my comics that someone might still want if they've not read them!

HJ - Who/What would you say are your chief inspirations?

HC - Pretty much all the people I follow on social media are artists I get really inspired by, and I definitely think comics events and conventions have helped me find and connect to more cartoonists as well. Honestly there’s too many to list. I guess the plants in Studio Ghibli backgrounds and the cave music from Pokemon gold have been inspiring me for the longest, and stories that get emotions across. And like, virtuoso-ass illustrators and classical painters combining technical skill and good stylisation always floor me.

HJ - What themes do you like to focus on, if any? If the creation/thinking process quite organic or are you a planner at heart?

HC - I reckon the themes that come out in my work are really personal. My Nyx comic has a gender-nonconforming protagonist and is basically the comic I needed to read when I was about 14; I think my new comic is the comic I needed to read when I was 20 and dealing with unhealthy relationships and anxiety problems. I hope they have a positive effect on someone out there reading them, to some extent.

Planning - I used to only plan my comics in my head but now I script stuff out really fully. I think I’m still a bit of a physicist, I end up using a lot of graphs and spreadsheets when I’m planning business stuff. I don’t really plan the themes though, I normally just recognise them afterwards like, OH, that’s why I made that storyline.

HJ - What are your thoughts on the indie publishing community?

HC - Mainstream comics don't appeal or represent me much at all, really. I basically only know comics people who build an audience online/at cons and self-publish, which seems like the way to go for indie comics. They’re all extremely nice and it feels like a proper community, which is pretty good for me, since I usually spend all my time sitting on my own drawing.

HJ - Do you find promoting your own work difficult?

HC - Yeah, but I feel like it’s necessary, and you just have to fight the urge to present it in a negative way if you didn’t think it went well. I think all the illustrators I know are permanently unsatisfied with their work, and you just have to acknowledge that feeling and promote it anyway.

HJ - Do you have any rituals/routines/patterns when it comes to creation?

HC - For comics I normally get really excited about an idea and write it all down, then spend many years revising the story and actually drawing it. I drink a lot of tea and listen to a lot of audiobooks & podcasts while I work, and try and go drawing out in nature when I can.

(ALSO I've had problems with RSI from drawing so try not to do ridiculous 14 hour days any more, though I know the freelance life sometimes kind of encourages it - if you're reading this and you do that shit please!! look after!! yourself!!!)

HJ - I'm intrigued by your book cover re-imaginings and your item concepts, can you tell us more about those?

HC - The book cover re-imaginings were a uni project - book covers are something I’m interested in working in, and publishing is the area where I get most freelance work. The item concepts are pretty much because I like old school fantasy videogames and artefacts in museums - I went to a museum about Amundsen’s pole expedition last year and it had all these amazing objects, I love how objects can tell you a story about the person who owned them.

HJ - Are you attending any upcoming events?

HC - Yeah! I’m gonna be at Thought Bubble, LICAF and London MCM comic conventions this autumn. I should have a bunch of new stuff at Thought Bubble - a collab DnD zine I organised, some new prints, as well as a redone Finding Home teaser comic, & the Nyx book launching publicly for the first time.