Jack Snelling is a Brighton based Cartoonist. We met at the Brighton Illustration Fair in early November this year. Jack tells Artist Focus about his most recent “Football Noir” and his aspirations to be involved in the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency and to serialise his work more regularly in print.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a cartoonist from Brighton, via Weston-super-Mare. I grew up there and am low-key obsessed with the place. I actually recently found out that as far back as my great great great grandfather on my dad’s side, my family has been in W-s-M. But enough about Weston. I could waste pages talking about it. I have been trying to make comics since I was 9 and have had various stages of failure; my first outings include a series of Scrappy Doo comics, Stick Figure Death Fights, and a massively over the top sci-fi walking dead Image comic nightmare. I’m getting there now though.
Where do you find inspiration for your comics? Tell me about your most recent comic MNO.
MNO is a “football noir” (patent pending), following a woman named Lizzie as she tries to unravel the mystery that is her brother’s late night hobbies. It’s about long hours, seeing connections where there might or might not be, and following rules to absurd degrees. “MNO” is technically the concept, the stories actual title is “Midnight Official”. I work best when I have silly or arbitrary rules that I have to follow, so my hope is that I will end up with a series of comics with titles that start with M N & O. I think about bands like the Magnetic Fields or Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, who give themselves rules or concepts and try and build the work around that. So I’ll set myself the challenge of making a western comic, but it has to fit on two sides of A4. I enjoy being kept in a box and find inspiration in the box.
How does humor play a part in your work?
I think just by drawing very cartoony forms, there’s humor in that. I like trying to build people out of circles, or fit them in a square, or drawing the body parts separately and sticking them together to get weird proportions. I think that’s funny. I’ve spent a lot of time being very serious about things and am finally comfortable enough with myself to say, “actually I enjoy these things, just because they are silly or subversive, or innocent.” Also, just taking recognisable everyday things; certain facial expressions or actions, and reducing them to just lines and circles, there’s something funny about recognising that from these very simple prompts.
What attracts you to illustration over other forms of art?
I suppose the accessibility of it. Just by its nature, it’s meant to be understood and enjoyed on an initial level, and then if the audience chooses to, they can go deeper. There’s something attractive to me in trying not to be too obscure with what your communicating but trying not to patronise your audience. When I work in film, I’m often drawn to exaggerating and stylising the visuals, I’m trying to elaborate on the point of the film but what happens is that it ends up taking away from the overall message. I’ve found with my comics and illustration I’m becoming more and more conscious of clarity.
Do you prefer working digitally or by hand?
I like a mix of the two, sometimes I’ll set myself a challenge of making something 100% digitally (like Diddle or Watching a Dog Killer) or completely by hand (like Nome). I think I’m still finding that balance, of something that looks digital but is still made with a pen and paper. It’s not terribly important to me either way though, what matters is the result.
I like your project “frogs of note.” Frogs or toads?
Toads. If I could keep them as pets I would. That image was actually something I made so I could learn how a Risograph printer worked, its loosely based off of two old Japanese prints, that I adapted and combined.
What would your dream project entail?
I would love to be able to do something like the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency in Pittsburgh, just taking a month or two out and working full-time on experimenting and writing comics in an environment that is dedicated to it. Being able to control and toy with the different aspects of the production would be great too, like getting to use Xerox machines and Risographs and printing presses at my own leisure to achieve different outcomes and see what effect they have on the story, that would be great. In dreams…
Do you have any further plans regarding your artwork?
I’m writing the next issue of MNO and the story inside that is tentatively titled “My Neighbours Opinions”, as well as continuing writing and researching a much larger project which I’ve been jotting ideas down slowly for just under a year. But who knows. I’ve done some illustrations for a shop called Wickle in Lewes and we are working on developing them into a range of wooden toys. I am just taking the jobs as they come. I’d love to do some kind of newspaper strip or serialise something in print on a more regular basis, but the right venue has yet to pop up. Here’s hoping.
Instagram: @ jack.a.snelling
Words: Louisa Hunt.