The BSB Q&A is a continuing series of interviews with the people who make the books that we publish at Blank Slate, delving into some of the creative mysteries they solve every day, asking those nosey and impertinent questions that we wonder about and you probably do too.
Today it’s the turn of Barnaby Richards, who turns out deeply cross-hatched imagery from his lair in south-west London. He is the author of Beetroot, recently published by Blank Slate and Barnaby’s first graphic novel. He has things to say, and you can find out what they are right here.
Do you draw every day?
Pretty much. I tend to think in images – or rather, I’m better at developing ideas by doodling – so even if it is a day that I am not DRAWING drawing I’m still likely to be making weird hieroglyphic type doodlings on post-it notes, scraps of paper or occasionally even in a notebook.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I have sketchbooks in which I make the said odd doodles. I feel that drawing is like performing and because sketchbooks are like diaries I have no one to perform to there. I do a lot of preparatory drawing and I have recently become very preoccupied with storyboarding projects properly. I have a few sketchbooks in which I draw nicely – generally because I have been with people I wanted to impress. My notebooks are private though.
Describe your daily routine – do you need a special place to work, what do you need to have around you?
I work in the studio I share with Alice Lickens. Ideally she will always be around – stopping me from cross-hatching my drawings into blacked-out-square oblivion – but otherwise I’m good to go (as long as it’s quiet).
I try to take regular breaks during the process of making a drawing as I stop seeing my work properly. A little disengagement is important. Also, if there is colouring to be done – which I do digitally – I try not to spend longer than two hours at a time doing it. I get terrible headaches from it and – again – after too long everything just seems worthless.
Do you think of ideas anywhere or in some specific location?
There is a poem by John Clare which I cannot properly remember in which he states that the imagination is like a weed growing wherever it can. One thing that’s for sure, ideas need working on. It is one thing to have a great idea for a bit of dialogue but the BIG idea which is rich enough to spend many months investigating? Well, that is another thing entirely. Ideas sprout all over the place but they need to be nurtured in the studio. Most get discarded or transform over time into other things.
What do you hate drawing most (and what do you like drawing most)?
I use a couple of Rotring pens which can become temperamental. I have had to spend hours unclogging them. Occasionally one is stuck on some section of drawing constantly doodling in the corner to try and get the ink to come through. Oops sorry, I’ve read the question incorrectly haven’t I? I don’t particularly like drawing cars, I do like drawing devils.
What is your motivation for making your work?
A desire to communicate.
How much of your stories are planned and how much just happens on the page?
Things naturally change when you start drawing them. You have to be sensitive to these nuances and know when to follow their lead and when to keep to the narrow straight path that is your well-conceived plan. Generally speaking you must keep to the path otherwise you get lost in whimsy.
Does it always happen in the same way?
No. Well, it always feels like a bit of a belch – and depending on circumstance one must act accordingly.
What do you think your work says about you?
I hate to think. In Beetroot I generally depict myself face-on so it seems that I am addressing both the reader and who-ever-it-is I happen to be speaking to. I want it to feel direct. It is a technique Yasujirō Ozu and Ingmar Bergman used in some of their films and I wanted to explore it in comics. As I’ve said, I think drawing is a type of performance and telling the Beetroot stories has always felt a bit like a bit of a one man show too. As to what my work says about me I don’t really want to speculate. The subject matter is personal anyway. I’m really looking forward to hearing what people make of the book.
Do you feel guilty when you aren’t working?
Very much so but it is important to take time off to do stuff, engage with the world, and generally be plugged in.
Do you wish you were working in another medium?
I think that what is important is to communicate something and not endlessly experiment with different ways of saying the same thing. Find a medium that works for you and SPEAK!
If you were given a million pounds tomorrow, would you stop making comics?
Some ideas develop into comics best and some turn into other things. No, I would not stop making comics – they’re too much fun.
For more interesting thoughts and images from Barnaby just follow the link to www.barnabyrichards.com/