The everyday life of being a postgraduate working in an arthouse cinema is awkward, pensive and, most of all, very funny
Maria Flower is an artist based in Aberdeen, currently working in an arthouse cinema staffed by a group of other creative types. They’re all stuck in that post-university phase: very much in adulthood, but not quite in the real world yet.
Flower’s graphic novel A Cinema Near You is a collection of stories about her daily life in that workplace and how it forms the backdrop for her journey towards self-actualisation as a young adult. Told in cartoon strips that are washed in a Ghost World-esque bright blue, Flower uses this format to not only share humourous anecdotes but to explore personal themes of identity that would also be associated with graphic memoir. Even in its early stages, A Cinema Near You is a deft combination of two very different types of comicking, done very well.
Josh Franks: How did you get into making comics? Have you always been interested in them?
Maria Flower: I started making comics (along with a wide variety of supplementary creative projects) as a kid. My parents are artists so there was always plenty of materials and inspiration going around for me to use. As I got older I merged drawing with literature. It just became a natural response to want to draw/write down certain experiences.
JF: I was impressed by how much humour you’re able to find in the mundane parts of working at a cinema. When and how did you realise that this was the story you wanted to tell?
MF: Show me a part of everyday life that isn’t absurd and hilarious if you think about it enough. Working in the cinema is my everyday life and writing about it appeals to me probably out of a feeling of wanting to document and share fundamental experiences. The thoughts, conversations, events and observations that build up who we are generally come from the ‘mundane’. And I’m inclined towards the opinion that the purest, most truthful and unique story you can tell is your own story.
JF: Although there’s an overarching plot to A Cinema Near You, each page seems to be a self-contained strip with its own punchline. Were you influenced by any particular cartoons or cartoonists?
MF: I’ve read a lot of comics that I love. Creators like Daniel Clowes and Bill Watterson spring to mind but the list would be endless. I don’t think my work is particularly informed by any specific cartoonist, but more through general osmosis.
JF: Tell me about your creative process. Do you draw digitally or by hand? Are there any particular techniques you use?
MF: I draw by hand and scan the images, do minimal editing digitally then colour using a cheap graphics tablet. I try and keep my style quite loose and expressive and allow myself to change it up a bit depending on how I’m feeling. It probably sounds really sappy but I think letting yourself go with how you feel produces the best results. If I ever try and force myself to draw when I’m not feeling it, it just doesn’t work the same.
Read our interviews with the other shortlisted creators of the Laydeez Do Comics prize 2019: