Down to business: Thought Bubble

Comic artist Lisa Wood tells us all about life at the helm of Thought Bubble, Yorkshire’s largest comic-con event

Readers Digest: How did your business get started, and how would you best summarise what you offer? 

In 2007 I was working at the comic shop Travelling Man, and I wanted to start up a community event based around the things that I love: comics and sequential art. So I decided to hold what I thought would be a small event at Leeds Town Hall…  

Leeds International Film Festival came on board to support us and we thought maybe one to 200 people would attend, but we actually had 500 people show up and it was really well received. We had some great guests that year and really it snowballed from there. 

The festival itself is an arts and craft fair selling mostly comics, many of which are hand written, drawn and home made. Alongside our around 400 exhibitors we hold panels, talks, masterclasses, Q&A, screenings and more across a week of satellite events around Yorkshire in various venues, schools, libraries, galleries and other places.

Lisa. Photo by Andrew Benge

 

RD: What career trajectory led you to Thought Bubble? As an artist yourself, what lessons have you brought forward into the way you deal with other artists for the festival?  

Growing up I had literacy issues, and my dyslexia lead to me having a not-so-great education—I couldn’t read and write properly when I left school. The thing that helped me with this was reading comic books. I can read and write fine now but it was difficult for me learning at school. What I wanted to do was bring the love of that medium to a larger audience, to show that it’s a great educational tool and to create a platform to help children and adults with literacy issues.  

Me being an artist has made a big difference for us in terms of getting artists and writers along to the show, especially in the early years. Maybe ten years ago, conventions worked very differently, and we were often told that what set us apart was that we were a lot more considerate to creators and acknowledged that their time was incredibly valuable. We never asked for too much and allowed our guests to do as much or as little as they wanted.  

Also, we put a lot of effort into festival events outside of the convention, where artists can have fun, let their hair down and network. That’s incredibly important at shows like this—I know as an artist how solitary this career can be so we’ve been very clear from the start that Thought Bubble should be a place for likeminded people to get together.  

 

RD: How does your work compliment your personality? Which classic comic book character would you say you are most like?  

I get a lot of comments about my work, specifically about how much emotion people see in it. I love drawing people and putting a lot of focus on characteristics, facial expressions and emotions. I tend to make the facial expressions I’m drawing. If I’m drawing someone angry I really do feel that! 

In terms of comic book characters that I’m most like, its not exactly a comic book character but I associate very much with Napoleon Dynamite. All my favourite comic book characters are the classic superheroes, and I’m definitely not like them! 

 

RD: What does a typical workday look like for you? 

I’m very lucky in that I have a studio office in our garden, but I think my workday is pretty similar to a lot of people’s now that we’re locked down. Each morning I head to my studio/home office and start working on deadlines, illustrating both traditionally and digitally. I usually have a documentary on in the background or music/podcasts, but I tend to be alone in the room.  

I’ve shared office space with other people before, but I just can’t concentrate with anything else going on around me. I need to pull the blinds down and totally focus. 

The Thought Bubble team. Photo by Andrew Benge

 

RD: What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job? 

I love just shutting myself off and drawing—getting exciting new projects to work on. I hate admin, accounts and keeping track of stuff like that as I’m not very good at it. I’m not great at talking to people on the phone either.  

I can do all of these things of course, and I have to, but from the beginning of Thought Bubble I’ve always struggled with the business side, sponsorships etc. It's important we have people in the organisation who can take on those conversations as sometimes I don’t think I get my point across properly. I can be a little shy! 

 

RD: What do you like to do to switch off? 

Draw! I think its the same with anyone who makes a living from illustration. You get to where you get to because you just want to draw all day. I find drawing so relaxing, especially when I don’t have a deadline. My husband and I will watch a lot of films, and I’m lucky to live in Ilkley—we get to do a lot of walking with the woods and the moors nearby. 

 

RD: What has been the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt so far?  

As an artist, it’s definitely important to do your own thing and to do what feels right. Early in my career I would try and emulate a house style or draw things I thought people would want to see, but I think the reason my art is popular is that it is very different and unlike those styles.  

I would always say to any artist draw how you want to draw. The same advice extends through business generally—do what you're good at, what you enjoy and what you’re genuinely interested in. Being different is good and valuable, so don’t be afraid to deviate from the way things are done.  

 

RD: If you weren’t involved in comics, what career do you think you’d be in?  

I’ve always quite liked the idea of being a psychologist or a councillor as I’m very interested in human behaviour, wellbeing and doing what I can to make people feel OK. I think that’s the path I would have gone down.  

Here's an update for the Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival 2020 

For more of Lisa’s own artwork, visit Tulalotay


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