“Some of the very, very best in autobiographical comics are those that feel they have been written as much for the creator as they have for his or her potential audience. For me, Simon Moreton’s work falls firmly under that classification. Quietly uncompromising, it has a raw and admirable honesty to it that draws the reader in and fully absorbs them in the emotive and very personal slice-of-life episodes he recreates on the comics page”- Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier. Features in Andy’s “Ten UK Small Press Comics You Should Own 2012”
Simon Moreton is a cartoonist and academic based in Bristol, UK. He writes and draws comics and zines. His regular series, Smoo, is all about everyday life. He is one of half of Things in Panels, and also runs Better, Drawn, a blog where people can share stories about their experience of long-term mental or physical illnesses in the form of comics.
DIY VOICES is super happy to get to share this interview with Bristol’s very own Roxy Brennan; events coordinator at our vegan coop Cafe Kino, the talent behind Two White Cranes and generally awesome creative person.
Hi Roxy. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for DIY VOICES! Can you tell me how long you’ve been involved in Cafe Kino and in what ways? Say lots your role at the moment too!
I’ve been involved in Cafe Kino on and off for about 7 years. When it first opened in its Ninetree Hill premises I volunteered there. It was the summer before I went to university and I remember it being very quiet and mostly I’d just sit and read Middlemarch. My brother (Aaron) was good friends with all the Kino folks but I didn’t know them so well and I felt very shy of them all.
So then I went away to university for a few years and sort of moved between Bristol and Oxford a bit. But when I came back I was much less shy and I knew that the Kino folks were the kind of folks I wanted to spend time with. First of all I was involved in helping out with events and I learnt how to do to sound because I thought it would be a good thing to do (which it is, but its also very very difficult)
Then I got a job working in the cafe properly (making coffee, which is one of my favourite things) and since then I’ve been very involved. Its a workers co-operative so being a staff member there means you have lots of opportunities to get involved in running the cafe.
I’m now the events co-ordinator, which means I reply to people who want to use the space downstairs for cool events, as well as planning some of my own. Its a really really great job, because it means supporting the arts and creativity and its also really great for the cafe which means it supports my friends and colleagues and veganism, all my favourite things!
What’s your relationship /connection with Bristol?
Bristol is where I’ve lived for most of my life and I love it, largely because of the community that I am involved in. Everyone I know and love in Bristol makes something good. There are so many people working really hard to make it a better place and that is why I love it. I love The Cube and Cafe Kino so much. I was extremely lucky to grow up, as a teenager, around the people who make those spaces what they are, and that has really influenced me. I know that the things of value in this world are community and art, and that they don’t come from nothing - you need to work for them and that you can’t have one without the other.
Can you say more about the DIY and Independent scene, not just in Bristol, and how it affected you growing up?
DIY affected me immeasurably growing up. I remember going to Ladyfest and Bring Yourself Fest when I was 15/16 and it meant that I’ve always just assumed that people put on their own shows and play in bands. I really can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t, and even though I understand not everyone wants to, it means that for me DIY doesn’t at all feel like a political ‘choice’ as such but just the way that my life and my community works, which is great! This has really empowered me and made me feel quite strong.
I see the DIY scene sometimes as part love/part activism as it goes against or across the dominant social structures and industries (art music etc) can you say whether you’ve seen and/or experienced any of the burnout /fatigue /etc that comes from passionate people expending lots of energy and time in things they believe in? Do you have any ideas in how we can avoid burnout?
It easy to feel very tired and burnt out by DIY, and I know lots of people who do feel like that and I have at times just felt completely overwhelmed by putting on a show and felt that it totally wasn’t worth it. But then you go to a show, like the Pull the Strings event at Southbank earlier this month, that makes you feel completely inspired and privileged to be part of a creative community, even if it is hard work sometimes.
I suppose the other decision I’ve come to regarding burn out, is the importance of supporting art you really believe in. Even though ideally I want everyone who makes art to have a platform to express that, I am not in a position to facilitate that, and in fact capitalism is a system that makes that impossible. I want to keep art, especially my own art, as far away from capitalism as possible but that is almost impossible. Even giving away things for free seems to become tangled up in this insane system where writing a song is equal to some stupid thing called money. Anyway, so because of that it is not possible to support everyone’s artistic endeavour’s so for now I try to only put on shows where I really love the bands. But if everyone did that DIY would work really well, because everyone would put on their favourite band, once a year and we’d all have a really lovely time!
Lastly can you tell me about the creative projects and bands your involved in (time to blow your own trumpet etc)
So at the moment I’m involved in lots of bands - many more than ever before which is really exciting
two white cranes is my solo thing. I’ve been writing songs since I was 16 and I’ve been performing and recording under this name for two years now. I like not using my own name because it gives me the freedom to have other people be part of the project. at the moment I’m recording an album and I’m hopefully gonna release it on vinyl through stitch-stitch records which is real exciting. http://twowhitecranes.bandcamp.com/ trust fund is a band I play bass in at the moment. It is Ellis Jones’ band and I love playing in it so much. We get to play lots of fun shows and his songs are my absolute favourite things in the world, and he is basically my favourite person in the world so its pretty perfect. We’re on tour next week and generally playing tons of shows because Ellis is super popular (and rightly so).
acres is a band I joined last summer, playing bass. It is an indie-pop band and the songs are mostly by Matthew Cheney who is a song writing genius. Its very different to my other bands because the song writing is a little bit more collaborative which is really fun. We’re going on tour at the end of this February.
Grubs is a band I’ve just started with my friend Jake and Owen (from the band Joanna Gruesome). We’ve only got two songs but we’ve just recorded them so hopefully people can hear them soon. In this band I write some of the songs and they are much shoutier than my solo stuff.
REVIEW NEWS: SMOO 7 gets reviewed on Forbidden Planet International
SMOO 7 receives a review from Richard Bruton at Forbidden Planet International. He writes:
"Smoo #7 is … a further exploration of Moreton’s art, with so much going on in so few lines, it’s quite something to behold, creating more beautiful minimalism with an emotional, meandering narrative that’s evocative, beautiful, and far more complex than either the length of the piece, or its surface simplicity would lead you to imagine."
THIS IS THE NEWS: Avery Hill Publishing to release SMOO as book length collection
I’m excited to announce that acclaimed UK comics publisher Avery Hill Publishing will be releasing a collection of my work from 2011 - 2012. It’ll comprise SMOO 4 -6, as well as selected anthology work and an essay by me about comics, drawing and self-publishing.
As these zines are on their way out of print, I’m delighted that the work will continue to be available in book form.
Here’s some stuff that happened while I was away this winter.
Tom Murphy has written a three part feature for Broken Frontier on landscape comics, each respectively focusing on work by Oliver East, Jon McNaught (forthcoming), and myself. He explores, in relation to my comics, the links between place, memory and emotion. It’s a a thoughtful and flattering piece that certainly picks up many of my own preoccupations in my work - in particular trying not to tell readers that something happened, but instead ask ‘did this happen to you, too?’. Also it’s about Geography, and (as a professional geographer) I fucking love Geography, so my thanks go to Tom for taking the time to sit and think about my work. It means a lot. Read it in full here.
I’m honoured to say that SMOO 7 made two notable end of year lists. It came number 30 in Rob Clough’s Top 50 short-form comics of 2013. Rob’s been very supportive this year, and this is another piece of support for which I am thankful.
SMOO 7 also features in Andy Oliver’s ‘Ten UK Small Press Comics You Need to Own 2013' over at Broken Frontier. SMOO 5 made this list last year, so it's amazing to appear on it two years in a row. Andy writes that “quite simply, [Moreton] is one of the most important and intelligent creative voices in current U.K. small press comics.” Now that is an accolade I'm not sure I deserve, but that I certainly intend to work hard to live up to.
Over at Comic Book Resources, Alec Berry writes about Grand Gestures. He explores particularly the tension between art and story, author and audience. He writes:
"Grand Gestures … is so bare bones comics, it’s undeniably beautiful for how it meshes mechanics with its larger considerations of life and the universe, and in both arenas it demands a reader’s participation."
Another review of Grand Gestures comes courtesy of Jason Sacks at Comics Bulletin. He writes,
"Though he draws a world outside our windows, full of all the modern stuff and bother of modern life – boring meetings, long car rides, drinking coffee alone at a Starbucks, there’s a calm, meditative heart at the center of this comic: a feeling of transcendence, of meditation, and ultimately perhaps a feeling that our daily lives are suffused by a beautiful sort of calm, internal poetry as we go along in our everyday lives."
In the next months I’ll be focusing on my book-length work for Grimalkin Press, and I’ll be writing about it, sharing previews and talking about drawing and comics and things like that on this blog in the near future. I also have some exciting publishing news waiting to come out, too, so watch this space for that.
Until then, here’s to 2014. It’s going to a busy, important and strange year, I can tell already.
I was in a museum the other day sketching the artefacts when I realised I have no interest in that kind of documentation, of creating an imperfect facsimile of an item in pencil. That kind of drawing tries to hide the fact it is a drawing: this sketch of an item is the item, not a human made mark on paper.
I’m interested in drawing life, not from life. Capturing a moment that remains always a drawing, but also a story of the time and place it was made, is the goal. Not craft, not rational, realist aesthetics, but life writ large and always aware of itself as such. Fuck scarcity and ‘sketching’. Every drawing made is its own unique piece of life. Fuck ‘perfection’.
This is why anyone can draw. Reject received wisdom and find your own mark. Start by rejecting this ‘wisdom’ and go draw.
Grand Gestures. Published in May 2013 by Retrofit Comics, this is a 44 page silent story about falling apart and putting yourself back together. Review here. £4
Holiday. April 2013. A 32 page zine about a holiday to Spain. Mountains, rivers, beaches. Happy. Review here.£2
Blinking/Twitching a new split zine drawn with US artist Warren Craghead. I wrote him a poem and he drew me a picture and we each made a comic from it. UK debut, originally launched at SPX September 2013. £2
SMOO 6: Nov 2012. Life in change, reflecting on new routines, old memories, new houses, holidays and swimming late at night in the rain. Smoo #6 featured in Richard Bruton’s Top Ten Comics of 2012. Review on The Comics Journal here. £3
SMOO 7: July 2013. Bumper issue! Childhood, fields, forests, empty mansions, looking back, trying to move forwards. Comes in a package of 3 zines, a map and a letter.Review here.£4
Assorted badges, featuring geese, cars and my head. £1 or maybe free with a purchase. We’ll just have to see…
This is a new collection (review here) of early and recent comics by California-based zine maker Jason Martin. Jason has been publishing deceptively disarming autobiographical comics of simple potency for a number of years. He wrote the entire final issue of Papercutter and won an Ignatz nomination for his efforts. He’s a great artist and this is a wonderful way to be introduced to his work: £8
I’m selling 13 pages of original artwork from 2012. I need to raise some money, clear some things out and take stock. A lot of these pieces mean a great deal to me, and I hope they will do to you too. Much love went into each one.
They’re all A4 (210x297mm/8.2x11.7inches) on white Bristol Board, in unfixed graphite pencils
Each page is £50, including P&P, with discounts for multiple purchases.
THE SALE RUNS FROM TONIGHT UNTIL MONDAY 25th NOVEMBER 2013.