Name: Jack Teagle
Job Title: Artist and Illustrator
Clients: McSweeney’s, Nobrow, Converse, Minecraft, Landyachtz Boards, Neck Deep, Origin Coffee, The Big Chill, FHM, Front Magazine, The YCN, Zeit Leo, Bloomberg Business week, American Greetings.
Where do you work?
I work from home, but I also have a small studio next to where I live, inside a shipping container we used to use as a shed on the farm.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I really wanted to have my own franchise of comics, cartoons and toys. I also really wanted to be a painter – anything where I was making images and coming up with ideas.
Did you study? If so, how did it help with what you do now?
Yes, I did an MA at Plymouth University. It feels so long ago now. It was fantastic for developing my voice, but I wish I’d focused more on learning software and the business practice of illustration.
Did you try any careers prior to being an artist?
No, I just had part time jobs before that – bar work, working in a warehouse…
You moved away from traditional illustration for a few years. Why?
The work was starting to dry up, but then I think it was possibly because I was spreading myself too thin. The books weren’t well paid, and I’d have to work on them in my spare time, while working full time as a freelancer. My work suffered for it and to top things off, I worked on a nightmare book project, which then meant I had to cancel a book deal I had lined up with another publisher, to finish my work on time.
I made a lot of bad decisions, was too naïve, and burnt myself out. I think retreating to authorial practice was a defence mechanism. I had control over it, and for a time, I made it work by selling prints and comics through my shop. I licenced my imagery too, and work was quite steady with Front Magazine.
Why have you decided to go back into it?
I don’t have any more stories I want to tell, and comics are so time consuming. There’s such a high level of competition these days too. I was making less at fairs, my comics weren’t selling online. I wasn’t having fun anymore. A lot of people I’d meet at fairs were just interested in siphoning off information from me, when I just wanted to make friends and build a community. As you can tell, I’m pretty jaded by everything now.
Do you feel successful?
In a way. I seem to have a lot of fans, and a lot of people recognise my work, but I struggle to make ends meet. I’ve focused heavily on the DIY/comics/zine culture over the last few years, to my detriment, so I feel like I’m back at square one with being an illustrator. I need to find an agent, or network fast!
Are you ever compared to any other artists? If so, do you agree?
I forget who I get compared to now, but it’s usually spot on and I’m really pleased people can pick up on my influences through my work. I take it as a compliment.
What more would you like to achieve in your career as an artist?
To be able to make enough money to eventually buy a house. Just a stable, long, rewarding career, doing what I love. At the moment it’s just fighting back the self-doubt. I graduated during the recession in 2010 and I found it really hard to find part time work, so I jumped straight into being an illustrator and had a really quick burst of success, which then died down. This last year I’ve been picking up the pieces and trying to improve what I do.
What are the positive and negative aspects of creating self initiated work, such as comics, as opposed to commissions from clients?
Like with the prints I’ve made for RoomFifty, that’s where I find reward now. It feeds into my professional practice. Comics are great for creating a world, and for pitching ideas to people, but you can fast run out of steam, and relevance. The reward is that they’re a culmination of everything you’ve built on as an artist – Storytelling, pacing, draftsmanship and, in the case of indie creators, graphic design.
Are there any other areas, creative or otherwise, that you’d like to work in?
I used to make custom action figures for my exhibitions. I’d love to learn how to mass-produce moulded action figures. I love to paint, but it’s very hard for me to sell my paintings, so I’d like to return to that.
What attracted you to RoomFifty?
It enabled me to experiment with very high quality prints, and to dive more into digital work, trying to mimic my painted work, but with much more detail. These were the biggest digital images I’ve made, scanning ink shapes and textures at A2 size, which I then blew up to A1.
I like to make things difficult for myself! It was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot from the process.
How did you choose your pieces for RoomFifty?
I wanted to pick themes that have always been reminiscent in my work. A love of pulp adventure and sci fi covers, wrestling, pop culture, but also melancholy ghosts and spirits and lost souls. I would definitely say that the link is “pulp” or “adventure” for these images.
Your work is particularly popular in Russia. Why do you think that is?
It’s ironic. Just as I want to leave comics, I get pulled back in!
A publisher in Russia has started to publish my entire back catalogue of English published titles and self-published works. I’ve now had more books released in Russia than anywhere else. They’re hungry for books over there.
I think my popularity comes from the fact they’ve probably not been exposed to many independent cartoonists.
I even have a book we couldn’t find a publisher for in the UK or US get its first release in Russia. They like the story so much, they’re making a play based on it too! It makes it all worthwhile when you hear things like that.
Are you inspired by Eastern European Graphic Design?
I love that type of design. When I first started studying, I had a science fiction and horror poster book, and the things that spoke to me most were the Eastern European posters, especially the Polish posters. They were so inventive and bold. (My ghosts image is somewhat based on the Polish “Alien” film poster!)
I also got invited to a Polish comic festival last year as a guest of honour, and had 2 of my books translated and published. Every time you’re about to quit, your faith is restored once again…
You can see Jack’s prints here