Podcast: Erica Smith on Girlfrenzy


Back in the 90s, when I was fairly new to Brighton, I had the good fortune to meet a woman named Erica Smith.

Erica was the force behind a feminist zine, Girlfrenzy, to which I contributed a few cartoons. There isn’t an awful lot on the internet about it, but what there is has now been bolstered by the addition of an interview with Panel Borders, the comics-themed podcast.

I listened to it at lunchtime today while I was on my run, and as I pounded past the i360 (Brighton’s stupidly-named viewing tower, under construction) I was gratified to hear a brief but complimentary namecheck about half way through.

Listening to Erica’s reminiscences, and those of the audience, I was reminded of how on the ball she was. I don’t think my (biro-drawn, unconfident) cartoons would ever had had such a wide audience without her energy and knowhow. A professional graphic designer, she put out comics that looked a whole lot more polished than the more usual photocopied, handwritten efforts of the time.

Not just that, but she organised accompanying events: spoken word evenings, gigs, exhibitions and comic fairs. All, like she says in the podcast, sorted out by face-to-face meetings or by post, for these were pre-email days. As I puffed along the seafront today, I castigated myself for not having even a fraction of her can-do attitude.

In the interview, Erica talks about time away from the comics scene. I also had time away. In my case, it was to do with full-time employment, followed by parenthood.

Now, Girlfrenzy made a point of highlighting female cartoonists, which at the time were rare. It’s been a bit of an adjustment for me, coming back to find that there are many, many vociferous, opinionated, talented, diffuse female voices in self-published comics today.

I mean, obviously it’s wonderful — but it certainly feels very different. These days I’m just one voice in a massive sea of women cartoonists. What? You mean suddenly I have to stand on my own merits?!

The funny thing is, I bet many of today’s young cartoonists haven’t even heard of Girlfrenzy. They should do themselves a favour and look out for back issues on eBay. Make sure you don’t get the DC Comics ones though. Therein lies a tale that I don’t think Erica covered in the podcast.



Snippets of conversation overheard on the walk to school

Walk to school by Myfanwy Tristram

Walk to school by Myfanwy Tristram

Our daily walk to school takes just ten minutes, during which we join the stream of other parents and kids stomping up the hill.

Sometimes—well, quite often—I overhear little bits of conversation. I thought they were quite nice all collected together.

That’s all. I almost added a third page, which would be about the conversations my daughter and I have, but that started feeling like a different piece. What do you think; does this feel finished to you?

Women of Lewes and Brighton

Women by Myfanwy Tristram

women by Myfanwy Tristram

These pictures are made by snapping women in the street with my phone, then working from the photos to paint a composite image on a A1 sheet of paper. The painting was done over a period of a couple of hours.

As I’ve just offered this idea to a potential client (painting their customers), I thought I’d better try it out and make sure it works.

I’m quite pleased with the results, and I’ve noted a few ways the whole thing could be easier, so it was worth doing a trial run.

Thank you – and sorry – if I photographed you yesterday! When I looked closely at the photographs, it did look like plenty of the subjects were looking straight at me, doubtless wondering what this strange person was doing pointing her phone at them.

Luckily, if the actual project goes ahead, I’ll be photographing people with their consent, and in a controlled environment.

And if it doesn’t? Eh, well… it’s all practice.

Drawing is bad etiquette during meetings

Colleagues by Myfanwy TristramI do worry that it’s really rude to draw people, especially when you’re in a meeting with them. Presumably if it were a meeting of illustrators, we’d all be drawing each other, so it wouldn’t matter. But it wasn’t, so I’ve probably broken every rule in the business etiquette book.

The thing is, I don’t always get a chance to attend life drawing classes, and it’s really hard to resist when there are all these people sitting (almost) still right in front of me.

And – this is the crucial part – I can draw and listen at the same time, honest.

After a weekend of meetings and drawing, these are the results. I wasn’t striving too much for accurate likenesses,  so I hope that if any of the attendees are reading, they won’t take offence. For me it was all about the joy of practising – and the joy of the meetings themselves, too, of course.

Colleagues by Myfanwy Tristram

[Above] Bit of Photoshop added for lazy colouring-in, at home.

Colleagues by Myfanwy Tristram

Colleagues by Myfanwy Tristram

Colleague by Myfanwy Tristram

Colleagues by Myfanwy Tristram

[Above] Biro, giving a particularly harsh representation of people who are perfectly attractive in real life. : )

Colleagues by Myfanwy Tristram

Trees by Myfanwy Tristram[Above] When the people-drawing starts seeming too intrusive, there are always the trees outside the window.