Lise Richardson’s Folk Horror Inktober 2018
For those of you who have read Adam Scovell’s inspiring and enlightening Folk Horror book – `Hours Dreadful and Things Strange’ (2017) – will be well familiar with his list of definitive Folk Horror TV and Cinema and if you have ever wondered what those productions would look like as a charming sketchbook which almost act as a set of Folk Horror flash cards then look no further…..
Lise Richardson is an illustrator and comedy enthusiast based in Bath, UK. She designs posters for comedians, venues, and gigs as well as making books, zines editing The Independent Comedy Appreciation Society (it’s a nice magazine about thoughtful comedy written by comedians) This October Lise set herself an Inktober challenge inspired by the classics of the Folk Horror genre and fortunately for the rest of us she has put the results of this challenge into a lovely little zine.
Impressed by seeing her work on Instagram Folk Horror Revival got in touch with Lise to find out more.
Folk Horror Revival: Firstly can you tell us a little about yourself – your background, how you ended up as an illustrator and involved in the comedy scene?
Lise Richardson: I’ve been an illustrator on a broadly professional level for about nine years, give or take. I’ve always produced art as a hobby, but since I was about fifteen I’ve sold my work through commissions, online shops and at fairs and markets. I suppose I was never any good at anything except drawing, so it never even occurred to me not to try and make a living off it. I just finished my second degree – I did a BA in Graphic Communication here in Bath, having completed a four year vocational degree in Fine Art and Photography in 2014 back in Finland (I’m half Finnish).
I love comedy. I grew up on Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard and Monty Python. There’s not a huge stand-up scene in Finland, but I saw what I could live, and once I moved back to the UK I really wanted to see what live comedy was like on a grassroots level. We’ve got a club, Komedia, right in the centre of town, and after about eight months of anxiety over going to a gig on my own, I went and saw Mark Watsons tour show in 2016. Since then, I’ve seen… well, probably about 100 shows a year? I started running a terrible weekly gig in a pub with my partner in 2017, and off the back of that ran a venue for Bath Comedy Festival, then we got more ambitious and did semi-regular gigs in a slightly nicer pub, and then Komedia let us put on people’s Edinburgh shows in their Arts Cafe, and now I more or less live and breath live comedy.
Since I started going to gigs, I got to know a lot of “up and coming” acts, people working on their first Edinburgh shows and that sort of thing, and I started designing posters for them. I’m no good at stand-up (I’ve done a gig or two, and I think everyone who saw it can agree that I definitely Made an Attempt), so it’s a practical way of me being involved with the comedy industry professionally.
This year I started making a magazine with a deliberately clunky name; The Independent Comedy Appreciation Society. It’s really the culmination of my intense love for “alternative” comedy – I’ve grown tired of terrible club gigs and boring mainstream acts, so it’s me very earnestly (and I hope amusingly) shouting BE THOUGHTFUL! BE INTERESTING! at the world of comedy, with the help of a bunch of incredible contributing comedians, through the medium of paper and illustration.
FHR: Who are your influences/heroes?
LR: It’s interesting, I’d say as a creative my biggest influencers are people like Josie Long, Will Sheff, Moose Allain… funny, incredibly talented and earnest people who keep producing things because they can’t NOT produce them, be that art or comedy shows or music or zines. I find people who are giddy and excitable very inspiring, they make me want to make things and share them with people.
As an illustrator, I’m a big fan of Graham Humphrey’s work. I love old horror film posters, and I really enjoyed his promotional art for the first series of Inside No. 9… I wrote my first university essay about those! I think I tried to get away with writing about comedy for my design degree.
I went to a talk from Lizzy Stewart and just fell in love with her work and mentality towards producing work. She made a poster for Daniel Kitson, which impressed me so much I think I told about ten people within a day and then bought all her zines.
Oh, and overall my largest enduring influence has to be Reece Shearsmith. I’ve loved The League of Gentlemen since I was a teenager and I think he doesn’t receive as much credit as he’s due for being a multi-talented creative. His illustrations are incredible, they’re really characterful, kind of a Ralph Steadman vibe but he’s got his own strong style. Of course all his writing and directing and acting is brilliant as well.
FHR: Do you consider your work to fit into the Folk Horror genre and if so what is it about it that you feel fits that label?
LR: I’m fascinated by folk horror, I feel like I learn more about the genre all the time but it’s also all so familiar. I used to be in a folk metal band as a teenager, and I’d do loads of illustrations of very pagan things influenced by the music I was into at the time (it’s more just folk without the metal for me these days!) – lots of forests and witches and standing stones.
My Folk Horror zine is a celebration of the haunting characters, places, and thoughts from all the films I watched, but in terms of illustration, it’s also an exploration of what I can achieve in black and white. For me, folk horror is all about old, familiar foreboding, particular places and faces and feelings. Illustrating those characters and things was a way for me to spend some time reflecting on the genre. Some of the techniques I’ve used are influenced by the style of woodcuts and engravings (particularly for the first illustration in the zine, for A Field In England), which feel very fitting as well.
FHR: What are your experiences of Folk Horror? Do you have memories of particular films, books or TV shows?
LR: I’m relatively new to the genre, but I do think a lot of things I enjoyed growing up have a distinct element of folk horror to them. A Field in England was the only film I’d seen before I started the Folk Horror Inktober project, but I loved it from the moment I saw it.
Probably my earliest Folk Horror memory is from a tv play that was on at my nan’s house in at Christmas in the 1990s or early 2000s. I can’t even remember what it was, probably a Ghost Stories for Christmas? I feel like it might’ve been Lost Hearts, because that felt very familiar when I got to it for the zine. Either that or I’ve made up how haunted I was as a kid by the sound of a hurdy-gurdy.
FHR: Do you think of Folk Horror just as a genre or does it reflect on your life more widely than just being a topic or style you have used in some of your work?
LR: I think once you get into the genre, it colours your perception of other media. What is Withnail and I, if not a folk horror disguised as a comedy?
I’m quite keen to write and illustrate a folk horror myself. There are some really great horror stories that have been produced as graphic novels, I adore In The Pines by Erik Kriek which is five different murder ballads in one book, a bit like an anthology horror. That’s something I’d like to try making – maybe not quite as ambitious as five stories in one for my first attempt, but I’m keen to try it.
A little while ago I went to a comic and zine fair in Bristol, and I really think zines are a great medium for Folk Horror. That feeling of a particular place or person or atmosphere frozen in time, that can really be conveyed through a zine. I bought Henry Miller’s Records And Tea zine, which is actually a radio show in book form, and though that’s not overtly a Folk Horror, it’s got the feeling of one. You know at the end of Children of the Stones, where Adam and Matthew leave the village, and pass Hendrick coming back, and there’s that ominous feeling of it all repeating again and again forever? Records and Tea has that vibe, but it’s a benevolent version of it. It’s the past contained in a book in the present. Of course, there are actual folk horrors in zine form too. I picked up Christopher Harrison’s The North! The North!, which is a fantastic and funny take on the genre.
There’s definitely Folk Horror to be found in live comedy too. Not in straight telly stand-up, but in fringe shows. A friend of mine (also an avid zine collector), Sam Nicoresti, he’s working on a show at the moment that is almost more Folk Horror than it is traditional comedy (but it is very, very funny). He’s got these puppets of the characters of his mother and father, and they are these deeply pagan, haunting figures that loom over the audience in the dark. The whole show has this unpredictable foreboding to it. The same could be said for Sean Morley’s show this year. It’s called I Apologise For My Recent Behaviour, and there’s this part (which I shan’t spoil entirely) where he creates this incredible cult-like atmosphere, it’s a very unsettling show that really plays with the idea of what live comedy can achieve. I think a lot of comedy performers and writers are toying with bringing other genres into their work, sketch groups particularly. The Death Hilarious have been doing it for a while, I absolutely adore what they do – if you enjoy the Americana Folk Horror films, things like Wisconsin Death Trip or The Carnival of Souls, I think you’ll love the intense atmosphere they create in a room. The Delightful Sausage are another great example – you know the idea of modern technology not quite coping with a kind of enduring horror from the past? Like in The Stone Tape, or Blair Witch Project? That’s what they do. It starts off silly and fun and then the mood turns and there are these brilliantly creepy pagan creatures (by softsoftworkshop on Instagram, their puppets are amazing) and concerning thoughts and it’s beautiful and dark and so so funny. So yes, I do think Folk Horror impacts the way I see other things in my life, and in other genres too.
FHR: Can you give an outline of the content of your Inktober 2018 zine release and how/why you ended up creating it?
LR: It’s a month’s worth of illustration as part of the yearly Inktober challenge, plus a couple of bonus drawings I didn’t share on my social media. The idea of Inktober is to produce a drawing every day, it doesn’t have to be in actual ink but that’s what it started off being. It’s all about developing your mark-making skills, or improving your drawing practice if there is something you know you’re not particularly strong at. For me, it was a way of keeping myself accountable for a month, and becoming quicker at designing a single image in one sitting. There’s a list of official prompts for Inktober, but I had recently bought “We Don’t Go Back”. It’s not so much a straight list of film descriptions, as a collection of personal reflection relating to every film and tv show on this massive list and that’s what I based my challenge on.
We got through 33 items on that list, which is only a fraction I know, and I drew SOMETHING based on each one. For some, it was like a quick poster design (Murrain, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, The Stalls of Barchester), and for others it’s more like a study or snapshot of a particular scene (Häxan, Wisconsin Death Trip, Baby). For a lot of the illustrations, it’s me pushing myself to consider design elements even in quick drawings.
I’d wanted to see so many of the films for a while, initially because I wanted to see what The League of Gentlemen were referring to in their shows, and following that, out of fascination for the genre. My partner sourced an incredible amount of them online and from the library, so it was pretty budget friendly as a project. I never got my hands on The Wicker Man, though.
FHR: What is next?
LR: I’ve just finished work on the next issue of my quarterly self-published comedy magazine, so immediately next is producing badges to go with that, and sending out copies to subscribers. I’m taking part in a little pop-up comic and zine fair I’m helping out with here in Bath, on the 8th of December at Komedia. It’s a kind of charmingly DIY alternative to the big Christmas market. The Folk Horror zine will be available there, as well as all my other books and cards and whatnot. It’s all in my online shop too, of course.
In terms of projects, I’m working on a children’s picture book at the moment. I’ve done some illustration for kids but nothing in the form of a book, so I’m giving that a go. My mate Jenny Grene, who I work with on comedy colouring books and cards, is really good at illustrating for kids, and I find her work really spurs me on into experimenting outside of my very particular comedy niche. That’s kind of why I made the folk horror zine too, I feel it’s important to keep trying new ideas and finding new audiences. I’d hate to keep trotting out the same thing year after year. I used to be quite a prolific pet illustrator a few years ago, and then I produced a dog-themed flipbook that went a bit viral, and I practically stopped drawing dogs overnight. I think any hint of success drives me a little mad. A varied practice is important, and I think producing the Folk Horror zine gave me an opportunity to step away from comedy for a moment so I could get out of a kind of mental rut.
FHR: Do you have any particular artists that have left an impression on you (not necessarily Folk Horror)?
LR: At the moment I’m really into Richard Todd’s illustrations. He’s a comedian, and I only recently discovered his work – he had a fantastic poster in Edinburgh this year! I’m annoyed I didn’t find a flyer of it actually, I collect illustrated flyers. Well, all flyers, but the illustrated ones are my specialty, I wrote my second dissertation on them (which is a more accessible topic than my first, which was about comic foregrounds, those things at the seaside that you stick your head through and it’s your head on the body of a lady in a bikini or a bodybuilder). Illustrated posters are wonderful. I’ve got a bunch around the house, there are a couple screenprinted ones for Machynlleth Comedy Festival designed by Drew Millward who does brilliant super detailed work, and it’s really fun.
You can order Inktober 2018 (33 illustrations, 36 pages total. 120mm square booklet – roughly the size and shape of a CD sleeve, except a lot thicker and printed on nice thick recycled paper. Black & white) from (https://www.liserichardsonart.com/)
SHOP WITH JENNY GRENE: (https://etsy.com/uk/shop/liseyandjenby)