Interview with Sarah Graley
If the contributors to As You Were #3 were all songs on a mixtape, well we’re not yet sure what the others would be, but Sarah Graley would absolutely, hands-down, without a doubt be the super cute twee song… and with a British accent to boot! Talk about dreamy!
But don’t take our word for it! Read on to see her colorful art, listen to her two bands, and discover why her art is (obvs) the best ever.
Interview by Natalye for Silver Sprocket
Describe yourself in exactly 11 words.
I couldn’t decide, so I asked my boyfriend, and he said: “Sarah Graley I’m lazy please don’t sit on me i’m fragile"—(sung whilst playing the guitar, good in person, less good typed out). I think “cute space cowboy fragile messy trash puppy cartoon drawing cat person” would also work too, though. That is a tricky question!!
What’s the story to how your art ended up in As You Were?
Mitch Clem emailed me, and I was like, “I’m on Mitch Clem’s radar? I gotta tell my mum!”
Your art makes use of a lot of color, particularly pastels. How do you make your art? What mediums do you rely on? Do you tend to stick to one way of doing things or do you like to experiment?
I pretty much use biros on printer paper for everything, but lately I’ve been using mechanical pencils on nice sketchbook paper. It’s kind of boring of me, but I love the basics! The basics are so good! Then I color everything on Photoshop. Aw man, I wish I had a way more exciting answer for that question.
Your comic, Our Super Adventure, details moments from your life. Have you always told your life through drawing, or did you ever have some kind of traditional written diary or journal? At what point did you begin using artwork as a way of documenting your day? And do you do something every day, or with less frequency?
I totally had a diary from a very young age up until I was about 17/18 I guess? Which is probably when I started drawing about my everyday [as opposed to] writing! I think that was around the time [I] was really getting back into comics and my first brush with autobiographical comics. I’m a really open book, which is kind of comforting to me to have everything laid out, but also terrible because I will overshare and not everybody wants to know your wedgie has peaked to irreversible conditions.
I draw everyday unless I’m really really tired. Then I just think about drawing instead. I just got the first volume of American Elf by James Kochalka and I’m thinking of doing a diary comic every day through October… Creating and sharing a finished comic every day seems kinda tough to me! Like badass tough, though. I wanna become badass-comics tough.
You also have a comic, RentQuest, which is pretty self-explanatory. What was the impetus for that? Do you feel a certain kind of freedom in making art that is somewhat removed from your own daily occurrences?
Haha! Well, some aspects of RentQuest are very loosely based around stuff happening in my life. The protagonist is bummed out because she wants to be a successful Warrior but doesn’t know how to get an agent to hook her up with quests, where I have the same problem but with being a freelancer and finding an agent for myself. Her housemate also changes into five cats. I live with four cats and one cat-like boyfriend. I guess we’re both slowly making portfolios for the things we want to do. I’m hoping I get an agent before my fictional character does, though.
When I was first drafting the comic up, I was really stressed about making rent and frustrated with the uncertainty of what to do next, art-wise. Fictional comics are really fun, because you can draw ghoul fights and outfits you wish you owned. I really like making up stories, so I started up RentQuest.
Your comic in As You Were #3 talks about removing negative relationships from your life. What made you decide to take this step? What sorts of challenges did you face? What did you learn about yourself in the process? And how is your life better now as a result?
This is pretty hard to answer eloquently! The toxic relationships I cut from my life were between me and my hometown friends, and consistently drama-filled. I guess when so much drama happens, it sort of becomes this dull hum? I got used [to] it and figured it was standard, although a lot of it still upsets me when I think about it. I moved cities, but still visited home a lot. There was always new drama.
I moved cities again, a lot closer to my hometown. One of the big issues for me was that I’d always visit home, but nobody would visit me. Near the time I realized these friendships were so toxic, I had started a band with my boyfriend Stef. I started hanging out with new people because of the band, and everyone was dead lovely! We played our first show in my hometown, and my “friends” missed it because they were drinking in a pub on the same street. We played our set and we watched our new friends play and then we all danced, and I was like, “Why am I trying to hang out with people who make me feel so bad, when there are people out there that are so great?”
(If your friends are actually terrible/you’re moving to a new city, start a band. It is a great and also very fun way to meet new and beautiful people).
Challenge wise, I’d sometimes feel like I was making a mistake, but then I’d remember the time they bailed on my birthday to put up a shed (like wow, c'mon) or one of them went through my email after we fell out, etc. etc. ugh rubbish.
I’d like to think now that I wouldn’t put up with any rubbish from anyone, but luckily I haven’t had to since I stopped hanging out with that group. Now I just hang out with the cutest and best people and it is bloody lovely. 10/10 would recommend ditching your mean-as-hell friends. You don’t have to put up with that!!
In addition to comics, you also have a new job, play in two bands, and are working on making a video game with your boyfriend. What can you tell us about any or all of those things?
I am in a band with my boyfriend Stef called Sonic the Comic. We are indie pop with a lot of video game-y bleeps. We both loved Sonic the Comic (the actual comic) as kids, so we chose that name. We sing songs about video games and stars and sleeping in loft beds and such. I am also in a band with my friend Elly Kingdon and we are called Treetrunks, either after Tree Trunks from Adventure Time, or actual tree trunks, or how big legs are sometimes referred to as tree trunks? I forget which; I hope it’s all three. We sing songs about cutting your own hair, Sandy Cohen’s eyebrows, watching scary movies, and more. We play shows in cosplay and played our first show both dressed as Sandy Cohen, but I’m not sure people got it. I am not very musically talented at all, but both Stef and Elly are, so it works out. I provide very dumb song lyrics, out-of-time handclaps, and ukulele.
My job is incredibly unexciting! I work in a stock room and anyone else who works there will tell you how much they hate working there without any prompting. It’s sort of like a greeting. A very sad greeting. I’m only working there to make rent, but my contract will end in the new year and I will be able to return to drawing 24-7 and stressing out about bills again. I am excited!!
The video game is a little on the back burner. Stef said we should make it about vampire dads but then changed his mind. I am being fussy and not budging off vampire dads. It’s going to be an RPG and feature chiptune versions of our songs and our friends’ songs.
How long did it take you to “fine-tune” your artistic “voice,” or do you feel like it’s still a work in progress? What do you think are your strong points? What techniques do you feel like you could improve upon?
I think between starting to draw comics to present day, my artistic voice has become fine-tuned to what I’m about now! I started getting back into comics about six years ago, after discovering indie comics, small press, and autobiographical comics. My first diary comics used to be full-page, single-panel drawings with odd notes on my day. The more comics I read, the more direction and ideas I get for my own. I’m pretty sure I’m where I want to be now, although I’m sure when I look back on what I’m making now in two years time it’ll be very different. A lot better, I hope! Haha!
My favorite thing about illustration is that it’s easy to see the progress you make over the years.
I would like to do some more serious comics. I just need to actually do them. They’re all planned out in my head! But I think currently what I’m making and what I’m about is synced up.
I’m not sure about what my strong points are! ALL OF IT, all of the points are strong, I am great, my art is the perfect package, wink emoji. Techniques I could improve on? NOTHING! (But really coloring. I need to work on my coloring).
Aside from things like pizza and cats, what other things inspire you? Furthermore, are there specific artists, writers, musicians, etc. who inform your work or technique?
Cartoons! There are some incredible cartoons being currently made that are both visually and storyline awe-inspiring! I need to catch up on my cartoons, but I can tell you the first series of Gravity Falls is a masterpiece. I’m a big fan of C.H. Greenblatt’s work too, from the humor that gets put into his show, to the art style.
I find some movies very inspiring too! I recently saw The Boxtrolls by Laika Studio (they make their films with stop motion animation) and I’m still buzzing from the incredible character design throughout. They make me want to up my character design game!
Liz Prince, Marc Ellerby, [and] Lucie Ebrey are a handful of my favorite comic artists currently. Liz Prince really got me back into comics when I came across her work in 2008/2009? (Thanks Liz!) Lucie Ebrey does a daily diary comic and I’m so very in love with her style and comics. Ellerbisms by Marc Ellerby is one of my favorite comics. They make me want to make better comics!
Atom and His Package is probably the most influential musician on my work. Have you listened to his live album “Hair: Debatable?” I think that totally shaped me as a person, and as the majority of my work is autobiographical, I should probably thank Adam Goren too. Ha!
If you could do whatever you wanted and get paid a living wage to do it, what would it be?
I would love to be a storyboard artist at Cartoon Network/Nickelodeon/Disney/actually anywhere. I’m really not fussy. Hire me! I’m cute as heck!
Basically though, I just want to be able to pay my rent/bills with drawings! That’s the dream. If I could travel about and draw comics too while making rent, that would be even better!
Sadly, that’s all for today, but you can get an extra dose of Sarah, Tumblr style (here, and here, and here). And if you want the exclusive how-to guide on ditching your terrible friends and hanging out with awesome folks only, pick up As You Were #3 from our store.