Last week we showed you a brilliant comic series by BuzzFeed’s Charlotte Gomez that dealt with anxiety and the everyday scenarios people with anxiety face. As it turns out, many of you (and us!) related to the comic and so it opened up a conversation on anxiety that was well overdue.
We loved Charlotte’s work so much that we asked her a few questions about her anxiety comic, her illustration process and what we can expect from her in the future.
Can you tell us how you got into illustrating? What’s your background?
I didn’t really commit to illustrating until about five years ago, which wasn’t long after I dropped out of my Biology program at UCSC. I kind of felt that first-generation pressure to pursue a stable career, which art is definitely not.
Eventually I failed one too many physics exams because I had stayed up all night drawing, which turned out to be the push I needed. I moved back home, enrolled in a local community college, and just jumped into making art every day. It was a terrifying experience, but easily one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
Your illustrations on anxiety really resonated with our audience (and us), can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to create the series?
This series was a collaboration with Kirsten King, who writes a lot of amazing posts for people with anxiety. Her writing is incredibly relatable, so I wanted to make sure the illustrations would be too.
Anxiety affects every kind of person from every place imaginable, so I included a lot of diversity in both the people and the scenarios. I thought a lot of my fiancé, who also deals with anxiety, and tried to convey the sense that dread that can lurk in these ordinary situations. I was very glad to hear later on that the post really resonated with him.
Can you walk us through your drawing process? How does an idea form into a really cool illustration (for those of us who can’t draw a stick figure!)?
For me it starts with drawing as many thumbnails as I can, and figuring out the best way to do things early on. This stage is incredibly ugly and there’s a lot that gets thrown out before continuing, but I promise it’ll make a huge difference in the final.
I do most of my drawing in Photoshop now, and though it’s an incredible tool, the endless possibilities can really trip me up sometimes! I’m still trying to develop a clear voice in my work, so my process isn’t a process so much as it’s experimenting wildly. That’s not such a bad thing really—it’s lead to a lot of happy accidents—but it can be nerve-wracking sometimes.
Also, I kill things a lot. Like, ten hours in I’ll just trash something that’s not working. Not recommended, but sadly necessary sometimes.
What are some of your favourite illustrations you’ve presented on BuzzFeed?
There’s a lot that’s near and dear to my heart, but essay pieces have always been my favorite. It’s really satisfying to try and distill a long piece down to its core, and then communicating that visually. Two of my recent favorites are illustrations I did for Naomi Jackson’s and Kathleen Alcott’s essays.
Do you draw every day?
Now I do! Working at BuzzFeed affords me a lot of really unique assignments, so it’s always something different. I’m trying hard to keep drawing for myself as well, which isn’t always easy with a 13-hour work and commute day. Mostly it’s jotting down thumbnails on the train, and spending weekends working on my favorite.
What are you working on now? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I work with so many great writers, it changes a lot from week to week! Recently, I’ve been illustrating follow-ups to the anxiety post with Lara Parker on the subjects of chronic pain and grief. I’m also collaborating with my fellow Latinos in our LA office on two comic strips for BuzzFeed Comics, Awko-Taco and Empa NADA. It’s great to have fun and be able to represent people who don’t always get the biggest voices in media.
Love Charlotte’s work? So do we! Check out more of her illustrations here.