Regarding Art, Politics, and Freedom – Interview with James Albon.

“I wanted to write something more about fundamental human agency and the ability to be free and express yourself, even when you are being oppressed politically and creatively” – Written and illustrated by acclaimed British artist James Albon, A Shining Beacon is set in an eerily familiar near-future. The story follows a young artist who has to find herself in a world of tyrannical regimes and political and artistic oppression.

Published by Top Shelf Productions, A Shining Beacon is Albon’s second graphic novel following his debut, ‘Her Bark and Her Bite’. Featuring a totalitarian society, a dictator state, and political oppression, you would be forgiving for thinking that the graphic novel has been inspired by our own current political climate. Interestingly enough, James began work on the novel back in 2016, and never expected their to be a connection with reality.

As someone who grow up in the countryside of the North-east of Scotland James spent a lot of his time reading and drawing, and would go on to study illustration at the Edinburgh College of Art. After his graduation he would go on to study at The Royal Drawing School in London. Even though literature and story-telling has had an influence on his work, James didn’t get into graphic novels until he became an art student.

Alongside being a a graphic novelist, James Albon is also an incredibly talented illustrator, as he has worked for The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and has also published several illustrated novels.

Just recently I attended James’ book signing for A Shining Beacon at Asylum, where I had the immense pleasure of sitting down with him and catching up with him and his work. As a person, James is incredibly easy to sit down with and talk to. As an author and illustrator, his work, influences and background are  also massively interesting. During our conversation we discuss many different topics regarding his work and career so far, and the influences behind his new graphic novel.

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So, we will begin with a little introduction about who you are and what you do?

Well, I am James Albon, an author and illustrator of graphic novels, and also an illustrator in general. My new book that has just been published is called ‘A Shining Beacon’  by Top Shelf Comics, and it tells the story of a young artist in an authoritarian dictator state who is commissioned by the government to paint propaganda murals, and she thinks that it will be her dream job but then she realizes that the government are so much more corrupt and bureaucratic than she was expecting. 

You grew up here in Aberdeen, and went to university in Edinburgh. How would you say Scotland has shaped your career as an artist?

Massively! Growing up in the Scottish countryside was very fundamental to my development as a person. It is interesting the way it has informed my work in some ways, especially as a teenager, because drawing was a huge part of my life in the countryside, and having access to illustrated books and reading was an exciting way to accept. While the countryside is beautiful, it is a little boring if you are a teenager there. Then again, because I wasn’t in a city and wasn’t surrounded by the same mainstream culture that you would find in a city, I became interested in graphic novels in a slightly different way. I didn’t read a lot of superhero comics and graphic novels until I was a teenager, but I got more into comics later after I finished university.

So, the themes and landscapes of Scotland do feature a lot in my work. For example, in A Shining Beacon, the main character is from a rural region in the north of the country, which is not a real place but is loosely based on Stonehaven, which is where I spent a lot of time as a teenager. Then when she begins this big project she goes down to the capital city, essentially London, and a big part of the theme is this variation between the isolation and serenity with being part of the countryside in contrast with the chaos and connectivity of the big city.

Since you graduated, you work as a freelance artist and has that giving you the material to work creatively?

Yeah, I absolutely love being freelance because it is a really fun lifestyle for me and it means that you have complete control over your time. Being a freelance illustrator is really funny because the majority of my illustration projects are sort of editorial commissions, so there will be things for magazines and newspapers which are often very short deadlines, whereas working on graphic novel takes a lot longer. For example, A shining Beacon took two years to complete. So it is a really different timescale and I think that they balance each other quite well, because it is really nice to have a long scale project that is going on month after month which you can work on, while the freelance illustration work is less going on. It also means that you can put it aside and work on these other quick projects where you make the the art and see it straight away. If you do something for a newspaper it get’s printed the next day, so there is this really quick turn around between making the artwork and getting it published, which is something you don’t get with graphic novels.

So, I guess being freelance is really helpful because it means that you have freedom of your timescale to work on a graphic novel. It is also helpful because it also gets you into that bit of making art work for publication quickly which is really useful. If I didn’t have this editorial side of my work it could be quite easy to go in circles and keep making changes to my work, and just be really indecisive! Having editorial type projects where you have to finish them by a deadline and they have to be ready for print, even if you are not necessarily 100% happy with it, can be quite a good attitude to bring into a graphic novel. You just decide what it is that works and it is all on time and it helps you manage the process of writing a book. It is a nice sort of balance.

That’s sort of answered my next questions! How did the process differ when you were working on graphic novels compared to publications?

It is funny because one of the big differences is that with graphic novels I am writing the stories myself, whereas as an illustrator I am illustrating words that have been written by other people, which is mostly non-fiction. So, if it is a newspaper, it will be an article on finance or psychology or something that I don’t have a deep pre-existing knowledge of. It’s funny, because I studied Illustration at the Edinburgh College of Art and then I went on to study at The Royal Drawing School in London, and I feel like I have this very formal education about how to draw and make compositions work. I have this very academic understanding of how drawing works. Whereas writing is something I have always done since I as a kid, but I have never had any formal training as a writer, and apart from graphic novels I don’t have a lot of experience as a professional writer. So, there is this weird thing where I am suddenly in this position where I am writing my stories and sending it to an editor!

My first book, Her Bark and Her Bite, is drawn in color pencil and has a very different visual look to A Shining Beacon. I was really happy with the drawing, but not to sure what I was doing with the story and was unaware if it was any good. I then sent it to my editor, Chris Daros, who loved the writing but wasn’t too sure of the drawings, which was the complete opposite to me. That element of trying to be in control of trying to tell a story with words, as well as pictures, and being able to edit it all is quite different to the side of freelance illustration that I do. For example, one of my recurring editorial client publishes illustrations of classic literature, so just last year I done an illustration of ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck, which had such nice text to work with, but it also meant that I could not change any of the text, because it is Steinbeck and it is already perfect. In that sort of situation I am just responding completely to the text, and it’s really exciting text to respond to, but you can’t change it as you go. Whereas with your own work you can decide where the visuals and text work together. It’s a funny balance.

It’s funny that you mention John Steinbeck, because I read somewhere that classic literature is something that has influenced your work. As an author and an illustrator would you say that you are influenced by a wide variety of sources?

Well, there are two sides of the inspiration, because it is partly the visual side and it is also partly the literary side. In terms of visuals I am really influenced by a lot of different graphic novelists, such as Jillian Tamaki for example, who is an amazing artist. I am also influenced by historical artists, such as those from the twentieth century, like Eric Borden. Then on the literary side I was really influenced by a lot of books from communist Czechoslovakia. Books like, ‘The Unbearable lightness of Being’, ‘I Served the King of England’, or, ‘The Cowards’. They are all books that are kind of funny, and also tragic, and they are all about living under a dictator state which really ties into the themes of my new book. They had this approach of writing stories that were really funny, but also incredibly tragic, and it was really enjoyable and inspired me to work on this story. So, yeah I guess there are wide range of influences. I think, that with being freelance, you never really stop being influenced by so much, because you can’t turn off your brain. You can’t stop noticing exciting books and exciting stories that act as a sort of inspiration for your own work.

Outside of the art and comics world, who or what would you say has had the biggest influence on you and yourself creatively?

That is a massive question! Who is at the top of the monument? It’s really funny because if someone asks you, ‘what is your favourite band?, or, ‘What is your favourite song?’, there us never one clear answer. This is a bit like that because it is difficult to have one clear favourite.

I mean, I really love movies as well, and I am really influenced by them. So, another one that inspired this novel was the film ‘Children of Men’. That sort of British dystopia was a huge influence for me as well. Another huge influence for me would be ‘A Tin Drum’ by Gunther Grass, which is a really wonderful book.

I would also say I am influenced by a load of different artists from different periods. While I think that there are amazing contemporary artists and graphic novelists, one of the things I got out of being in art school was being forced to go and look at historical paintings, like renaissance paintings, and for a lot of my life this was not something that I was interested in. I always looked at historical paintings and thought that they were good, but I suppose I didn’t realize how clever that it was. I mean, we all say that Leonardo Di Vinci is a great artist because it’s what we all say as a culture, but being forced to study it and understand why his work become such a big influence. I also think it is  combination of looking at contemporary artists, like Jillian Tameki, and also looking at Rubins and Edward Borden, these sort of people have all had their own little bits of influence on me.

To be honest, it is very difficult to give a single, very big, monumental answer. I will probably wake up early in the morning and think, ‘that was the one thing!’. I would love to write a book as good as ‘The Tin Drum’, that would be one way to say it, but then there is so many other different influences. It is a very big and difficult question to answer!

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I realize it was a big question to answer! On to your novel – You are here with your second graphic novel, ‘A Shining Beacon’. You have already giving us a little run down of the story earlier, but comparisons have been made between the story and our current political climate. Was that intentional?

I kind of was and I wasn’t. When I started working on it, which was back in 2016, when Donald Trump was on the horizon and no one thought it would happen in the disastrous way that it has done, I had this idea that was inspired by reading a lot of books by Milan Kundera who wrote ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. I was also inspired by Stefan Zweig, who is a bit more of a well-known Austrian author, and Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is inspired by his writing. Zweig wrote this really amazing book called ‘Beware of Pity’, which is set just before the first world war. I was really influenced by these ideas of a dictator state and political oppression, and I wanted to write a book that was in a pseudo-Britain under a dictator state, even though it is not specifically Britain, and I was worried that people wouldn’t get it and that people wouldn’t react to it. Now, three years later, all of these terrible things have happened and suddenly people are reading the book and going, ‘So, it is set in Brexit Britain, it is set in the real the world!’. So, yeah I feel slightly vindicated, but also in a much bigger way I feel that this is a very tragic reality to live in at the moment.

In a way I was influenced by contemporary politics, but more than that it is a story about an artist who is commissioned to paint murals for the government, who then finds out that the government is really bureaucratic, corrupt and controlling. She figures out that she has been chosen to paint these murals, not because she is the most talented artist in the country, but because she is a young woman from the countryside who they think they can push around to paint what they want. As she becomes more and more disenfranchised with the government she is approached by an underground revolutionary group who are threatening to overthrow the government and promising that the world will become more free, rich, beautiful, and much better with them in power. Suddenly, we realize that when they get into power they turn out to be just as bad as the current government are. So, for the protagonist, it is not just a political choice between two factions, but it is a choice of her own moral independence and her own ability to act as an artist and make the work that she wants to make despite the difficult political situation.

So, to an extent, I wanted to write about something more fundamental than our contemporary political climate. I wanted to write something more about fundamental human agency and the ability to free and express yourself, even when you are being oppressed politically and creatively. In some ways I am glad that some people feel that the novel relates to their current political reality, but in other ways I hope that it has a more fundamental human side, where someone can read it in thirty years, and hopefully when Brexit and Donald Trump has all blown over and been forgotten, they will still feel a human connection to the themes of freedom, morality, and ethos.

It all sounds very interesting. Especially considering that we have seen politics being used in graphic novels before, such as V For Vendetta. So, it is a theme that tends to stick around for a long time and has been a long running influence for graphic novelists.

Absolutely! V For Vendetta is a funny one actually, because I have this slightly love/hate relationship with it, and with Alan Moore in general. I think The Watchmen was the first comic book that I ever read, I remember borrowing it from the library as a teenager and being amazed because I had never read anything like it before. So, I can’t deny that he is an amazing author, but I disagree with a lot of the things that he says. One of the issues that I have with V For Vendetta, is that it has this mentality where we don’t like the government, so we overthrow them, physically blow up the house of parliament, and get ride of everything that affects the way society operates. And then all of a sudden society will automatically get better. Whereas obviously, whether you are looking at the Russian Evolution, French Revolution, or any violent political revolution, you overthrow your civic institutions and then something has to fill that vacuum, and that something is not necessarily more positive than the previous. Sometimes, in the short term, if you use violence to overthrow the government then violence tends to be the tool that you continue to use when establishing your new society. So, going back to the question, I always felt like V For Vendetta brushed over what would happen after the houses of Parliament were blown up, and one of the ideas with my novel, especially with the revolutionary group, is that actually they will use violence to overthrow the government and they will continue to use violence even if they believe their violence is ideologically sound.a_shining_beacon_02

I think that is why people see that as being extremely relevant for today, especially when it comes to politics, because are the next people going to be necessarily better than what we have? We have seen that during political debates at the moment.

It can be difficult, and I don’t want to sound sympathetic to the Conservatives because they are all horrible, but I think running a country is a mind-blowingly difficult task. Running a community is a difficult task, but running a country is an even more difficult task. The notion that if one is unhappy with ones current political surroundings, then you should take action and be engaged and try and improve life for yourself and others, but it is very naive to say, ‘We will overthrow the government and everything will be better’, because you will realize how complicated the job that the government have been doing is. In a way, the book is meant to be an illustration of how complicate running and overthrowing a state could be, and I didn’t want it to be this moralistic book where they are good guys and bad guys, whereas in V For Vendetta for example, V is very much the morally good guy, even though he is a violent murderer and the government is all inherently evil. I didn’t want to give the reader the relaxation of being in an easy position where you are rooting for the good guys over the bad guys, I hope that the reader, while they will empathize with the struggle of the main character, they will also come out of it feeling that they have been asked difficult questions about how they themselves will respond in that political system.

Another theme of the book is represented by a character who is a warden, a sort of police officer of the state, and as we discover more of his backstory we discover the way that he and his family have been disabused and oppressed by the state. Yet, he has still become a junior officer and an agent of the state. One of the ideas that I wanted to get across there, was that while we all love this idea of taking part in the revolution and thinking that we can ‘stick it to the man’, but when people live in politically demanding and oppressive scenarios quite often their instinct is to not violently leap and overthrow the government, but retract and try and maintain their own little bit of security, rather than doing the difficult work of politically resisting. So, I wanted to have a character that explores this idea, that sometimes when we are put into difficult situations by our surroundings, sometimes we do go along with them, and it is understandable and dependable to go along with them because it is what people do; People crave security and comfort and joy in life, and often violently overthrowing your government does not give you either of these things!

So, there is a lot of political themes that are not on the exact political scenario as ‘Theresa May’s Conservative government Vs Labour’, but they are on a broader idea of how people try to interact with political systems.

The main character of the book is an artist, and it is interesting, because we all associate art as being a form of freedom of expression and having your own style. However, in this context it is really constrained. We have seen art being used to promote patriotism before and political agendas. How would you define the relationship between art and politics?

Well that is a really interesting question, because people always say that art is about freedom and think that artists should be able to do what they want. However, very often, when people see a piece of art, or a creative en devour that they don’t like, they immediately say ‘I don’t like that, it should be banned’, and that could be about a  film that they think is too violent, or has a subject matter that they don’t feel is for the general public. When art doesn’t follow or support the reader or viewers political message, people can often turn around and say, ‘Well I don’t like it, we should get rid of it’. So, in this book, the artist is being used to create murals for over political reasons, and she has this long process where she keeps sending them newer drafts and the government keeps rejecting them for various different reasons. I wanted this to show the idea, that the majority of people might like art and they don’t necessarily know what sort of art they want, but they are very quick to say what kind if art that they don’t want. So, I wanted to reflect this idea of art being politicized in it’s own way, and being sometimes difficult to engage with.

I mean I suppose there is a lot one can say about that as well. I think there is the other thing, which is this notion that art should be this completely free expression of total liberalism, firstly often nowadays we have this specific idea of what freedom of art should mean, and that is a fairly recent notion, because a lot of historical art is made to serve a purpose. A lot of the classical paintings that you see in any major art museum were made for overt religious reasons, or political reasons. Take Macbeth for example, it was very much written by Shakespeare in support of Queen Elizabeth’s ancestor’s and to besmirch the name of Macbeth himself, because he is not an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth. A lot of art can be really good even if it does have cynical political aims, but that political intrusion into art is a lot more present than I think we sometimes assume, so that was sort of the inspiration for A Shining Beacon as well.

You were saying earlier that people think the novel is set in ‘Brexit Britain’, but you said that it’s not explicitly defined as ‘Britain’. Was it intended there for it to be left up to the reader to decide for themselves?

I just kind of liked the idea of it being quite ambiguous. When I first started writing it no-one thought that Brexit would even happen, we only had a referendum because David Cameron thought that nobody would want it. So, in a way it preceded the idea of it being Brexit Britain. I think that sometimes when one writes a book in a real setting, firstly you become roped into this level making everything very accurate, and I realize that I am bad for being on the critical side of this, because I remember seeing this film called ‘The Illusionist’ which is an animated film set in Edinburgh. I watched this film when I was living in Edinburgh and I became super conscious of knowing which street the character was on, but ended up thinking, ‘That’s not how that street looks’ and ‘The shop in the corner isn’t there’. It is a beautiful film, but somehow as a viewer I became weirdly critical of the details compared to real life. So, I think sometimes, if you set something in a real place you invite that level of criticism. Another big part for me was, I do a lot of observational drawings in my sketch book, and I had drawings from a load of different places that I wanted to include. If the city was a real city you are forced to make it geographically make sense, whereas if you invent your own city you can include all the scenes you want to, and from a drawing perspective that is really satisfying.

When you set things in a real place, and you see this with Hollywood movies, there is a temptation to make it into a sight-seeing tour. So, anytime you see a superhero or action film, and they go to Paris, they always end up at The Eiffel Tower. It’s never in the suburb or on some ambiguous street! I think that can be a distraction, and I didn’t want to rope the story into where it had to go the House of Parliament and then it had to go to London Bridge, I wanted to have a bit of freedom with the world that I built. That world-building invention is really fun as a writer and as an artist, so being able to invent a new city was really sort of satisfying.

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As a reader that is something that I love, I think it just gives you so much more opportunities.

Absolutely! That is a really sort of interesting thing to look at, this notion of world-building and invention, especially in fantasy and sci-fi. This is getting tangential already – But, going back to art being political and everyone thinking that art should be free, if we take, for example, fantasy settings in video games or movies owe a lot to Tolkien and to this Northern European Pagan mythology. With the notion of fantasy you should obviously be allowed to do anything, if you want to set your fantasy in a city made of chocolate and jam, you should be able to! But, the details with fantasy always comes back to Elves, Orcs and forests. These are things that you go straight to. In principle everyone wants their graphic novel authors to be free and to do whatever they want, but at the same time audiences can have relatively conservative tastes about what think is the right setting for a story. Sorry. that went of on a tangent, but I just thought it was an interesting sort of parallel in a way!

This is your second graphic novel, with the first being ‘Her Bark and Her Bite’. How do these two books differ from one another?

They differ wildly from each other! I wish I could say that there was some sort of expanded universe going on, but no! Her Bark and Her Bite is a really silly story. It is also about an artist who moves to the big city.

I did notice this is a theme that does kind of connect both books! Was this a decision that you made consciously?

It is because I am really not inventive! It’s a funny one actually, but it is mainly because I am an artist. When I was in at school, I was in the Royal Drawing School, which is a very good school but has their own ideas about the art they would like their students to make, and that was always more on the end of big three meter wide oil paintings with serious subject matters. When I was there I kind of rebelled against that a little bit, and I was like ‘I am not going to do serious painting, I am going to do a really silly graphic novel!’. So, there was an artist in that because I thought I was making a statement about art, and in A Shining Beacon I am also making a statement about art. My next book is not going to be about an artist, but is about a chef, who in a way is an artist, so I’m still getting a little self-indulgent in my story-telling, I suppose!

But, ‘Her Bark and Her Bite’ is about an artist who moves to the big city to launch a career, and at first it is kind of lonely and isolated, but then she meets this guy who seems to be the perfect boyfriend. He is handsome, charming, popular, and everyone loves him, and they start dating and everything is going fine until he then gets a little pug for his birthday, who he starts to fall more in love with than his girlfriend. It’s really about a battle of jealousy between the pug and the girlfriend. So, it is about this crazy, colorful, fictional city where everyone is partying all the time, and living this luxurious, but slightly pretentious, artist lifestyle. Everyone in this city goes to art galleries and wears really flamboyant clothes, and they all call each other ‘darling’ all the time. It was an awful lot of fun to write, but it is a very different kind of story.

I don’t know if it is just me that has drawn these comparisons, but from what I have seen of ‘Her Bark and Her Bite’, it’s really reminiscent of the F.Scott. Fitzgerald era, and the kind of world he wrote about. 

That was actually a big influence! Even though it is set in the present day, there is a lot of that that influence in there. Oscar Wilde was also a big influence So, even though it is a present day there is that atmosphere, and visually, I really wanted it to have that richness and feeling of a rich and colorful world.

From what I can see a lot of your work has a really old-fashioned, almost retro feel to it. It’s all primarily water-colors, which you say is something that you prefer, was there a reason for you sticking to this sort of art style? 

It’s kind of just instinct. I don’t really work with the computer at all, so all the pages of the book are made as you see them, and then they are scanned through by PDF to my publisher. It is all handmade and there is very little computer editing, or computer coloring, which I know is now how many contemporary comic book artists work. I really like the manual side of being an artist, I really like working with my hands, and having real materials and touching paper. If you are going to sit down and spend half a year drawing page after page, you need to pick the medium that you take the most joy from because, it is a lot of drawing, and if you love the material that you work with then the year of drawing will fly by. Alternatively, if you choose a material you are not a fan off then it will quickly become quite difficult.

So, it’s really just because I love the material of water-color and paper and I am also influenced by these historical artists who I feel an affinity for, such as Eric Ravilious, and in a way I am trying to empathize with somebody who was alive a hundred and fifty years ago. Somebody who is long dead but has this tradition of drawing, and not to get very spiritual and melodramatic, but there are these cave paintings in France that were made from the same principles, and there is something nice about looking at something and making marks on paper and having this connection to history from doing that.

You mentioned a little bit earlier that you are working on another novel for the near future. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have planned for your next project at the moment?

Well, it will be in the near future! I can tell you that it is about restaurants. In a way it sits between my last two books. A Shining Beacon is very serious and Her Bark and Her Bite is very silly and comedic, and it kind of sits between both because it is about fine dining, but there will be murder and serious drama in there, but also some fun and luxury. So, thematically it is somewhere between the two. It’s about two brothers who move from the west coast of Scotland to London to start a restaurant, and bring some of the awesome organic cooking to London. When their restaurant becomes more popular than they were anticipating, one of the brothers loses his ideals and forgets his roots as he becomes consumed by this world of fine dining and wealth, and the other brother has to bring him back. That’s the main core of the story. It will be interesting to see how it turns out, I have written the script at this point and I am in the middle of a rough draft of the firs book. It will take at least another year to finish.

It takes time for these things to get finished and then it takes the publisher about 6 months to get it published once you have handed the final draft in. So, there is quite a long, slow process. It’s actually funny for me because I finished A Shining Beacon 9 months ago, and now I am promoting it. In a way it is really good, because when you work on a book for so long you become completely caught up in the world of it, and it takes that 6 months to take a step back and realize what you have created.

Do you have any other art work planned that doesn’t include just graphic novels?

The illustrations happen as they go along because they are commissioned by clients. If a magazine calls me up and asks if I can draw some pictures for them, that is more based on client demand, which is really nice. Now this is very, very far in the future, but I am sort of working on a children’s book and I won’t really get my teeth into that until I am a lot further in the graphic novel. I want some space between the two because I don’t want to bite of more than I can chew and get lost between two projects.

Children’s books are a funny thing because, for a lot of illustrators they are just the most fun medium to work with, you do 32 pages of beautiful illustration with very little text, so you can really tell the story through drawing which is really good fun. I graduated art school back in 2012 and I have always wanted to do a children’s book, and it has taken the last seven years to get to a point to start thinking about what I could write a children’s book about. The nature of those books is that you are always working with very light-hearted subject matters, and it doesn’t make the creative process any lighter, that this still need to be very rigorous and serious, and it has taken me this long to think I am ready for that.

You never know, we might chat again two years and I will be like, ‘I have a children’s book coming out’. Or, maybe I will be like, ‘I abandoned that project long ago!’. You never know, I might be an accountant……no, I am joking!

Actually, I finally have an answer for your earlier question about the biggest inspiration on my work, because although I am not a novelist I guess in a way they have influenced me the most. The two novels that I would like to emanate one day is either ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov or ‘The Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace, because they are just absolutely mind blowing in their complexity and interest and excitement. That can be on top of the big pyramid of artistic influences! They are like Batman and Superman fighting each other on the Empire State Building, these two novels are fighting each other at the top of the pyramid.

One last question which I think follows on quite nicely. We have been talking about art work and it leaving a lasting legacy, what would you like people to think about your art in the future?

I would like people to remember how handsome I am……I’m just joking. I guess that is another difficult question, in a way you want to be remembered for quality and being an interesting author. I have never been compelled to write popular work, I don’t need A Shining Beacon to be developed into a Marvel type film that sells a billion tickets, I don’t mind if my work is not widely known but I do hope that people are excited and interested by it. I guess I hope people who read it are inspired to write their own comics and the cycle of people making comics for other people to read will just continue endlessly. That is actually a very good and interesting question. I find this question difficult because last month I was at Toronto Art’s Festival and you meet a lot of people who are starting work on their first graphic novel, and maybe they see me as someone serious who has had their books published, therefore I must have it all worked out, but I still feel like a first year art student. I feel like I still have so much more to learn from other peoples legacies, I still very much feel like a young, inexperienced student.

For those of you who are yet to check out his work, I highly recommend you do so. I managed to pick up a copy of A Shining Beacon at his book signing, and his illustrations and story-telling are really easy to invest yourself in.

A Shining Beacon is available in stores and online. You can also keep up with James over at his website and Instagram

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