Kristyna Baczynski‘s work is immediately recognisable with it’s clean lines, graphic approach to detail, and slick use of colour. Basically I’m obsessed. The first comic of Kristyna’s I came across was her concertina mini Nine Lives – chronicling the misadventures of a rather unfortunate cat. So let’s get to it!
Nine Lives, still available on Baczynski’s Etsy for £2.
How did you get into comics?
I have always loved stories that are told visually as well as in prose, a thing which is perhaps seen as something you might grow out of. I guess drawing could be seen that way too. Stories and characters that manifest themselves in a visually immersive way have always enchanted me, and still do. I made books and drew characters as an escapist pastime right through my childhood; perhaps some of those crayola relics could be counted as comics.
The decision to go to Art College and then University to study art was the tipping point for this becoming my main focus in life. While in Leeds I hit the Independent and Small Press shelves regularly and picked up books by artists like Lilli Carre, Dave Cooper, Thomas Ott and Hope Larson who were drawing and storytelling in wild and inspiring ways.
I started making more comics during this time; one-pagers which I xeroxed and tacked up as mysterious freebies around Leeds. I began writing more and collaborating with other students to make zines and comics. It was (and still is) a pretty thrilling thing; making a few creases and cuts, adding a couple of staples and holding a book you created for the first time, and then setting it loose on the world.
Baczynski’s amazing flyer for our friends at Gosh!
You’re not just a comics creator though, are you?
I make illustrations and comics, working from my home studio in Leeds. My illustration work and comics aren’t at odds, but compliment each other in a similar way to client work and personal projects existing in tandem. I love that storytelling and character permeates into applied imagery and design and how this feeds back into comics, looking at panels and pages as design compositions too.
What’s your process like? Do you make copious amounts of notes or are you more of a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ girl?
Ha! A heady mixture of notes and pants.
With most big projects and comics I start out with lots of lists, jotting down words and initial ideas, and just get everything written down that I want to achieve or convey. I thumbnail like crazy, planning out tiny versions of page layouts and compositions, redrawing things until the idea seems to have a pair of muscular legs holding it up. Then I’ll redraw in pencil, head over to my lightbox to ink all the artwork and finally scan everything in before adding some colour and finishing digitally.
As a reaction to this more planned process, I keep lots of sketchbooks where I let my drawings roam free. I try out new materials and drawing tools, play with characters and shapes and keep things loose, experimental and weird. Sketchbooks are a real source of joy and entertainment for me as much as a creative playground. When bigger jobs or projects come in, I always turn to them as a resource for possible content. There tends to be recurring cast members that often get promoted from sketchbooks to comics.
You keep mentioning Leeds, your hometown and the city that hosts Thought Bubble every year. What’s it like having such an amazing event on your doorstep?
It’s super lucky that my hometown show is Thought Bubble. It was my very first comics event, way back in 2009 and really shaped me. By ‘shaped’ I mean kicked me in the creative butt and poured vibrant idea juice into my brain. That first show introduced me to a world of comics and talent that I identified with and was immensely encouraged by. Picking up the first issue of Solipsistic Pop and reading the introductory manifesto blew my mind. After that Thought Bubble I was lucky enough to be invited by Tom Humberstone to join the second issue of Sol Pop, which was my first ever published comic, and so it began.
The fact that Thought Bubble is open to anyone who buys a table is testament to its diversity and accessibility. It was my first proper taste of UK comics and independent publishing and shone a light on an otherwise gloomy and lonely post-grad path, spurring me on to make the things I make today.
Do you think more shows should ditch the curated approach to comic events?
Not at all, it’s really about appropriateness as both kinds of shows are essential. The fact that Thought Bubble is partly an open event means that anyone can join in and it keeps the world of comics flowing upwards from first-time zinesters to fully fledged superstars. It represents the diversity of UK and international comics in a way that you might not achieve with a curated show.
But, saying that, shows like TCAF and ELCAF are completely curated, and have a really clear vision for the kinds of exhibitors they include each year, always showcasing a powerfully exciting group of artists. When the organisers are passionate about being inclusive and engaged with who is out there and keen to pick out new talent, then it makes for a great event too.
[Note: Within days of completing our interview Thought Bubble announced their move to the curated approach.]
So after gushing over Thought Bubble’s open table booking, the festival simultaneously announces that it is moving to a curated approach! Classic.
I do think this is totally the correct progression for Thought Bubble, as last year the table allocations were bought up in two hours. A free-for-all, panicked rush to get tables such as that isn’t an inclusive and representative approach. A lot of people were disappointed and initially missed out, but the TB team did a lot to accommodate the reserves list with a whole extra venue being arranged. It’s that same consideration and love for the exhibitors that will no doubt mean that Thought Bubble’s curation is equally well put together.
And to finish with, pitch me THE comic you were born to make:
Intense! I’ve got stage fright… Type fright?
I would love to make a comic about my grandparents, as they are all survivors of the second world war. Each of them have astonishing tales of how they endured and escaped some terrifying situations in Ukraine, Germany and Italy. It would be a real honour to tell their stories, and show how their survival flourished into a thriving family which continues to grow.
I’m also dying to make a comic based on traditional characters from slavic folklore, but push it in a surreal and far-out direction. Hopefully I’ll get to make these dream books a reality soon.