No, not THAT Creative Scotland, the real one, people making and doing stuff all over the place. Kicking-off our new series celebrating creative people working in Scotland, we spotlight political cartoonist Lorna Miller “Scottish political cartoonist for CommonSpace. Also The Guardian, The Canary, RSC, Bella Caledonia, Morning Star, Private Eye”. See her work on her own website here.
From a background creating her own comics in collaboration with other artists in the late 90s, Miller’s work has developed to straddle old and new media, print and digital design, children’s comics and political cartoons. Like the best political satirists her work is often edgy and provocative but has a cheeky humour that goes alongside that edge. We asked Lorna some questions about her career and her thinking.
What illustrators / cartoonists do you admire?
I admire all my fellow female political cartoonist friends including: Cinders McLeod, Martha Richler (Marf), Blue Lou, Henny Beaumont and Kate Evans because its such a slog and not just creating the work but trying to earn money from it and break into what is still a very male dominated profession. Being ripped off. Negotiating with editors. Challenging gatekeepers. Fighting to keep alive a tradition while newspapers fail and opportunities decrease. I feel incredibly lucky to have my weekly slot with CommonSpace every Friday now.
Can you tell us something about how your work? Your process?
The way I work is I go through twitter and check out the latest news. I’m often inspired by people’s reaction to news stories as well as the news itself. Sometimes I get an idea for a cartoon before the news breaks, it’s freaky when that happens. I get the idea of what I’m going to do pretty quickly because I’ve been training myself for a few years now. I look for images to use as reference on google search. Then I start sketching. I used to draw A3 size, lots of hatching and detail but lately I have changed to working A4 size and simplifying my work. I had to do this when I did the try out for the Guardian. They want finished art delivered in a few hours on the most up to the minute news story so you have to work fast. Sometimes I scan my pencils and make changes digitally. Once I’m happy I print it out then use a light box with a fresh piece of thicker paper on top. I pencil again, then ink the pencils with a dip pen and Indian ink. I leave it to dry as long as possible then I colour it with watercolours. When it’s all done I scan the art and tidy it up in Photoshop. I usually always have ink splodges and smears. It’s quite a labour intensive way of working. I could probably make it easier for myself but I love using traditional materials. My laptop is obsolete and just about hanging on in there because I can’t afford to replace it but ink never changes. I have a different method of working when I do design work as I like to experiment more with that
How hard is it to make a living as an illustrator?
I have struggled to make a living since the recession. Before then I had regular work for fifteen years as a digital colourist and illustrator for some of Britain’s best selling children’s comics. I also made a name in the 90s as one of the first UK women to have an anthology of my own comic stories published. This led to lots of illustration commissions from the US and UK. I had my son at the time of the recession, then I had post natal depression and it’s taken nearly ten years to start building my career again. I’m noticing now that when an illustration job comes my way I’m being offered less than I was getting 15 years ago. Other illustrators I know say the same thing. It’s hard to be creative when all you’re worrying about is how you’re going to pay the bills. Over time it wears you down more and more and I wasn’t very confident to begin with. I’ve always worked to support myself because I’ve never earned enough from my art to live on. I’ve recently started working for Common Weal and for the first time in a few years I now have a part-time wage rather than earning nothing some months. I’ve really enjoyed creating art for the campaign work Common Weal are doing because this was something I had done voluntarily as an activist before. As a way of engaging and connecting with people it has a big impact.
Contact us to suggest someone you know for the Creative Scotland series doing amazing work, whatever that is. We are looking for artists, writers, poets, photographers, illustrators, designers, film-makers, creators, innovators (etc).
Film and animation by Shaun Milne.