illustrators

Absurd Little Universe: An Interview with Konstantinos Moutzouvis

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N: Hello, Konstantinos! Would you like to give a wee introduction about yourself?

K: Hello! My name is Konstantinos Moutzouvis, I came from Greece to Edinburgh about a year and a half ago. Last year, after studying something completely unrelated to art, I decided that what I enjoyed most is drawing so now I'm making comics and illustrations.

N: Cool! So what got you into comics and drawing? Has it always been a passion of yours, or is it a more recent thing?

K:I had always been doodling and drawing since I was young, but it was always different things and almost never comics. I went through a big graffiti phase that lasted I think from the ages 10 to 14, but just continued to draw stuff occassionally after that. I used to always like comics as a kid and would go to kiosks to get all the weekly Disney. After a certain age, I got really into shounen manga like Naruto and Bleach. In my teenage years, I mostly read manga and very few comics. It kinda remained that way until last year when I discovered the alternative comics scene. After that, I felt like a lot of stuff I would read had been made specifically for my taste, so I decided that this kind of thing is something I'd like to have a stake in!

N: Ah, I had a similar thing happen where I basically just read manga as a teen. Although I think you've incorporated those influences into your style really well especially with the grafitti lettering and street scenes, and the dynamism of your characters from the manga.

K: Haha cool! Yeah, I think doing a lot of lettering has rubbed off on me and feel the need to go back to it every now and then. I'm often thinking how I can squeeze in some angular unintelligible typography.

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N: I was actually going to ask you about your influences from the alt comix scene - I assumed when I first saw your work you'd been into alt comix for a long time because I picked up lots of stuff from the 60s underground scene and Fort Thunder in your work. Who were some of the people you first latched on to?

K: Unfortunately I haven't read much early comix stuff but I'm slowly getting there. My first huge crush was Jesse Moynihan, first from his stellar work on Adventure Time and then discovering his webcomic Forming. I love his type of humour and crazy melding of different mythoi. But what really urged me to actually make something of my own was reading Michael DeForge's Very Casual for the first time last year… and then every other thing he's made haha. It felt very much like it brought very fresh things to the table not just comic-wise but generally in the storytelling and visual aesthetic aspects of it.

N: Oh yeah! I love Jesse Moynihan's stuff, and Deforge is one of the greats. I can definitely see their influence on your work, especially in your sense of humour. I definitely agree with you regarding Deforge's storytelling - it's got this really nice surreal almost Kafkaesque style (not to sound pretentious), which I think is something your work has incorporated quite interestingly. I was always wondering about where you get the more surreal stuff in your work from. One thing Jesse Moynihan definitely does is incorporate esoteric writing and transcendental philosophy into his crazy sci-fi aesthetic. I wondered if you had a similar interest?

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K: Oh yeah, I've read quite a few stuff about Moynihan's interests in all that. I don't really have any inspiration in that area. I just try to think of stuff that might be absurd enough but also work. I try to think about what level of surrealism I'd like to see in a story that I would consume by someone else and try to hopefully achieve that. I think a lot of animation inspires that, so maybe that's my influence! Mind Game by Masaaki Yuasa had that kind of feeling and since watching that, it's been something I often think about.

N: Ah cool, I like that you kind of have this tension where the absurdity and reality of the comics are kind of pulling each other apart, it's almost a bit dadaist. Mind Games is also fantastic. Ah we might have to be careful or else, we'll just end up talking about anime we like haha.

K: Thank you! Haha yeah I know what you mean. Anime's like a conversation magnet.

N: I've been reading over the pages from your comic Hives and I keep thinking it reads like a psychedelic version of that storytelling. Would you like to talk a little more about the comic you’ve made?

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K: Yeah definitely! Hives is a collection of short comics and illustrations that I've been making for the last few months. I'd use the word 'absurd' to describe it? In any case, the longer stories are about school presentations that kind of end up bringing up personal matters, a pixie boy with a dead arm that seeks treatment from a very sketchy doctor and a shoddy documentary about collectors of sentient tooth grills! I've tried to go all out with different styles in every story and illustration so hopefully there's at least one thing that each person reading it might like.

N: Well - from what I've seen it looks great, especially loving the design of the pixie boy with the dead arm! I know this is a broad question but when it comes to absurdity, what do you think is the appeal for you?

K: No, that's a pretty reasonable question. A bit hard though, so I might end up a bit abstract. I think the appealing thing about absurd fiction is that it kinda throws you into a universe where you are no longer supposed to expect any outcome or event like you would in a more grounded story. It might make up new rules for the sake of humour, shock or just exploration and make little contained universes in each scene. I'm sure that sounded like hot air. It's a bit like building something in unexpected ways that twist stuff you might take for granted usually. I enjoy consuming stuff that makes me see that and hopefully I can achieve something similar with my own work.

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N: I think that makes perfect sense, and I think you do achieve that in most of your comics I've read.

K: Thank you! I'm glad you think so.

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If you enjoyed this interview, definitely look out for more works by Konstantinos. His work will be available at ELCAF 2019 and our shop in the future. He will also be there at our booth if you want to learn more about his practice and inspirations. For now, you can find (@korakonero) on Instagram to follow his activities and illustration work.

Friendships + Collaborations: An Interview with Eli & Sophie

We are happy to introduce Eli Spencer and Sophie Robin, two illustrators based in Scotland who are the next guests in our series of interviews running up to the launch. The two frequently collaborate on zines and illustrations projects. Their zines Infernal, Wyrm and Banshee will be available from us at ELCAF 2019.

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'Infernal' by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

'Infernal' by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

Eli & Sophie: Hi Aki!

Aki: This is so weird because we’ve never been in a restaurant and speaking to each other like this before. The readers need to know that we exclusively hang out in each other’s flat.

E: In our pyjamas! *laughter*

A: Alright, why don’t you give a wee introduction to yourselves and your art practice?

S: Hello, I am Sophie. I did a foundation course in Falmouth for a year where I was exposed to a variety of creative practices like metalwork, painting and woodwork. I found that I really enjoyed illustration so then, I applied for the course in Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and graduated four years later in 2017.

A: That’s so cool! Do you usually go by Sophie or Soph? If I’m not wrong you go by @soph.robin on Instagram.

S: Ah, I get that a lot! I could not get a username with as Sophie Robin so I’ve been stuck with the online persona of Soph Robin for a while now. The Instagram account started off as a personal space to record trips I went on. Now, it’s turned into a professional art platform for me as people started reaching out to me regarding my illustration works.

A: Ok, I get it now. Never call Sophie ‘Soph’ in person, everyone! Would you want to give us a few words about your background, Eli?

E: Hmm, I guess I have a similar starting point as Sophie. We met on the illustration course at ECA in first year. We had the same reasons of wanting to be as far away from where we grew up as possible.

A: Was there a reason why you chose to study in Edinburgh? Is there anything about Edinburgh and the college you went to that has influenced your practice today?

S: The course in ECA was really traditional. There was a big focus on life drawing and printmaking. Every project started out with a heavy drawing theme. We did editorials, books and comics. These are the ones I remember, on top of the other terrible projects.

E: I agree! For me, I really wanted to be somewhere that was really pretty as well. I know that’s kinda shallow but I wanted to live in a city where I could walk around and explore. And honestly,I was obsessed with Edinburgh… since I was 16.

A: So, what was it like for you transitioning from a place like Edinburgh to Glasgow after graduation?

E: It’s fine, it’s just greyer!

S: And cheaper! There are also less touristy crowds.

E: I do find it hard here sometimes because the artistic atmosphere is centred around the art school and coming from Edinburgh, I do not feel any form of connection with it.

S: When we moved here, I was worried that we would be cut out from artist community because no one else moved here but it’s so nice that everyone in our flat is an artist. It makes such a big difference because we live within a creative environment. Through flatmates and friends, we participated in arty events like the Ghost Comics Festival, which was really nice.

A: That’s so interesting to hear! It seems like living situations are vital to your practices and I am guessing that living together for a while now has led to an artistic collaboration between the two of you?

E: We go back to the idea of collaboration when we are stuck within our own practices and do not know what to do next. Our first collaboration happened really spontaneously though. For our first zine together, we decided on contributing 8 pages worth of goat drawings each. That’s how it all began.

S: We’ve lived together for so long, we became such similar people that we have the same interests and look at the world in the same way. I’d like to think because of that, our drawings make sense with each other. We enjoy the same kind of spooky, witchy, nature-y and nasty kind of stuff.

E: I think we go through similar phases as well. When I look back at our zines, they look like little pictures of our phases together.

A: Do you want to elaborate more on what you mean by ‘phases’?

‘Wyrm: Book of Dragons’ by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

‘Wyrm: Book of Dragons’ by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

E: For example, we went through a phase of drawing dragons and so, we did for a good few months for the ‘Wyrm’ zine.

A: So by ‘phases’, you mean moments where you’d be obsessed with drawing specific imageries?

S: Yes exactly! I remember we made a zine when we both found ourselves obsessing our own reimaginings of ‘hell’ as well.

E: Yes, we were so invested in the imageries that came with the idea of ‘hell’. Somehow, we’re always thinking about the same things at the exact same time which is perfect for our collaborations.

A: So, would you say your collaborations come about naturally rather than something you had to force in order to be productive?

E: Yeah. I think the experiences that we had with our independently created zines were different to the one we had creating the ‘Banshee’ zine because it was also a collab with Out of The Blueprint (OOTB).

‘Banshee’ zine by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

‘Banshee’ zine by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

A: I can imagine! I was so excited for you, especially to see that an organisation was interested to work closely with both of you. I can see that there was an intervention of a more formal way of working than what you were used to within home grounds.

S: With Out of The Blueprint, they were very supportive but they would like to see us do what we would not usually do. It was funny because they wanted us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones but we didn’t.

E: Well, to be honest, I’ve never done exhibitions or print T-shirts before so it all felt new to me. Also, to be somewhere and be known as the artists-in-residence was big. Having been selling a lot of my illustration works online for a while now, it was nice to create riso prints as it is more of a physical experience.

S: Yeah, we’re usually trapped in our own little rooms drawing and perfecting our illustrations so it was nice to be in a different work environment. We have a tendency of not showing each other any of our drawings until the last minute but riso printing together forced us to see work together for every drawing and layer that needs printing.

‘Banshee’ zine by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

‘Banshee’ zine by Eli Spencer & Sophie Robin

A: This sounds like you had a huge learning experience with Out of The Blueprint. I am really excited to be sharing your works at ELCAF this year. For the fun of it, how would you summarise your works together in three words?

E: You go first. That’s my three words.

S: Our collaboration is… edgy, spooky and cute.

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If you enjoyed this wee interview, do keep a look out for these two illustrators who are currently based in Scotland. We look forward to more collaborations and exciting new works from them! You can also follow their activities on instagram as @eli__spencer and @soph.robin.