Jennie Gyllblad is amazingly good, has an astonishing control of execution, of affect, without her work ever seeming technical or over-produced. There is a freedom to her lines, an impulsive feel to her colors, that play into the effects she has obviously worked to achieve, freeing us from concern with the work she has done, to enjoy the art itself, freely, and openly.
There was an fetish-themed issue of Heavy Metal recently, and the only piece in the – admittedly strong – issue that felt to me as if it involved an actual human presence, was Gyllblad’s Frills and Folds, in which a woman pleasures herself, alone and intimately, before the focus pulls out enough we can tell she is in public, at a self-serve postal station. That issue includes work by Tula Lotay, Grant Morrison, Ed Luce, and Enkil Bilal, but Gyllblad, for me, is the star. The most humanity, the most presence, and the best textures. A lovely comic with a narrative that, related coldly as I do above, could not have convinced me how lovely it really would be.
Do yourself tree favors: Leaving this tab open, read a Jennie Gyllblad comic right now, come back and read this interview, then buy a new Gyllblad comic and read it.
Then, let’s proceed…
Travis Hedge Coke: Anything coming up you’d like us to look out for?
Jennie Gyllblad: Always! I’m hard at work with comics full-time, churning out pages like a well oiled, socially-starved, machine. The second Jenitales erotic comic is being roughed out, another issue of my fantasy comic Skal is in the works, and I’m plotting more short-form horror comics after Signatur– turned out to be my most popular story to date (yes, even beating the sex stuff).
The most recent announcement I made was the fact that three of my comics are now available on Comixology for the first time! So people can finally buy digital copies of Jenitales, Skal issue 1 and Signatur– over on that platform!
The followup to Jenitales will be Kickstarted when I’ve got it all planned out. The stories will be longer than 4 pages each and will have more of a supernatural twist to them, with it all being set in a magic shop in Britain! Currently aiming for that to happen early next year.
Hedge Coke: What comics do you read/reread these days?
Gyllblad: I’ve been on a real horror bender recently (which is what inspired Signatur-), re-reading Junji Ito’s Uzumaki and Gyo, along with catching up on my current favourite manga series I am A Hero. Amazing horror/aren’t-people-just-dreadful story.
My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi is one of the latest new comics I’ve read. It’s a great autobiographical story of a woman struggling with her mental health and sexuality, deciding to lose her virginity to an escort.
Other than that, I’ve always got books like Vittorio Giargino’s Little Ego and the Japanese gay erotic manga Massive to hand when I need some quick inspiration!
While we’re on the erotic-comic train, I should mention that I’ve been going through The Complete Iron Devil by Frank Thorne and Smut Peddler’s My Monster Boyfriend too. Great stuff!
Hedge Coke: What is your normal work kit for making comics? What tools or procedures do you prefer?
Gyllblad: I work traditionally, using mostly ink, watercolour and gouache (sometimes I’ll throw collage in there as well!). My linework tends to be done using a G-Pen with black (3) Deleter ink imported from Japan. It’s strong, quick-drying and won’t bleed when I then splash a whole bunch of other wet media on top!
A standard page tends to be lightboxed around 3 times, going from roughs on standard printer paper to pencil on the Langton watercolour paper, then ink, erase the pencil and finally go a little bit crazy with paint on top! I’ll scan the pages, shrink them on Photoshop and do final edits before it’s done.
Hedge Coke: When you draw a figure, do you work out their clothes first, their body, head?
Gyllblad: Totally depends on what that figure is up to! 😉 But in general, I will draw quick outlines of the anatomy first, then keep on adding detail using my lightbox and clothe them accordingly! If I’m doing more pin up style work or portraits, I tend to start from the head and work out from there.
Hedge Coke: Do you use a lot of reference material, or do you work primarily from your head?
Gyllblad: Reference is a clear winner! Drawing figures from reference is the absolute best way to go about it, in my opinion. You can exaggerate it and be creative, but having anatomy/clothing references as backup will make the artwork so much better. You’ll learn so much by referencing real life. Your brain can only invent so much madness itself.
The more you use reference, the more you inform your art, which is just a win-win situation all around, especially when you start playing around with creatures and fetishes that are impossible to replicate in real life. There are so many kinky things out there that you legit couldn’t do with a real human being, so when you wander into this territory, having your back pocket filled with previous reference work will make the task much less like stabbing around in the dark.
Hedge Coke: How do you create intimacy in a comic/image?
Gyllblad: I am all about the faces and body language. Facial expressions (especially eyes) is where it’s at. I also enjoy trying to guide the reader with my colour and patterns, so (if I didn’t mess up) some of the erotic pages should feel like exploring a person.
I love working with colours and creating layers (be it with drawn clothing or literally with collage!), to hopefully manage to guide a reader and make them pause for a second to take it in.
But the main thing I love doing – and I’ve been told I’m not half-bad at – is emotions. Especially high energy or dramatic ones.
Hedge Coke: Is there anything you know about comics now, that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Gyllblad: If this was a question of the business side of doing indie comics, I could talk your head off for an hour! (In short: always take at least half of the charge up front. Avoid the stress of chasing payment.) But if it’s more about the actual process – y’know, the FUN bit -, I’d say the usual thing that you probably hear from creatives all the time: Stop comparing yourself to others and get intimidated by it. We’re all on our own journey. And you can’t appeal to everyone, so make things that YOU want to make, and people who actually like YOUR stuff will come out of the woodwork. I’ve been told, gently, (ever since University) by different professionals that my work is either too rough/messy or not marketable. And for those people it wasn’t. And that’s fine. But now I’m starting to find the people who DO like my style and that’s brilliant!
It’s just taken over 7 years of graft to get to this point. It’s not something that happens overnight, or is even guaranteed to happen at all, but we only live once, so why not give it a shot?
Hedge Coke: What is your favorite sort of thing to draw? Least favorite but you’ll still try?
Gyllblad: Layers and fabrics and hair and organic things! Just lay all that on top of me and I’m a happy Jen!
Least favourite? Normal clean regular cars. The standard car that exists in the world today. Not cool sci-fi stuff or old beaten up trucks with some character to them. Just that standard normal ‘let’s go to work in an office block’ kind of car. If you want to see me lose the will to live, ask me to draw an Audi.
Hedge Coke: What do you think audiences most often wrongly assume about your work?
Gyllblad: The most awkward thing I tend to have to deal with is people assuming my work is for kids. Because I do things with quite strong colours and big expressions, plus the way I dress and act at comic conventions can give people that idea. I’ve literally had children come up to my table and reach for my erotica, and I’ve had to learn (the hard way), to put my comics quite high up so that small hands can’t go for them.
I was invited to do a talk about my comics at a convention (just as I had released the first Jenitales book), and the organisers didn’t put my talk as 18+, leading to the horrifying moment when I put my work up on the big screen and children literally GASPED in the audience while exclaiming: ‘THAT’S A BREAST’.
Guess I gave those kids some early education. God. Still cringe when I think about it.
Hedge Coke: Do you have any advice for today’s comics audiences?
Gyllblad: Support your indies! Be it by buying our comics at your local comic con, subscribing to our Patreons, or backing our Kickstarters. Honestly, the comics scene is absolutely booming with talent, much thanks to the internet making it so easy to be seen. Without the loyal support of my readers, I simply wouldn’t be able to paint a aerial hoop performer having a fire-stick dildo stuffed up her foof while being spanked by a woman wearing a strap-on. What a tragic loss that would be to humankind!
No, seriously, support your indies. We make all sorts of things. And I bet there’s something to suit your taste too.
Colour and Patterns: An Interview with Jennie Gyllblad
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