Off Life is a street press comic distributed free in Bristol and London. Initially funded by Kickstarter, editor Daniel Humphry and art director Steve Leard run live drawing events to support the publication. Last month they launched Yellow, an online project recording weekly news – a different artist will respond to a news story each week. We look ahead at Daniel’s week as the third of this ambitious series – by Takayo Akiyama – is published.
Where are you today?
I’ve recently started freelancing full-time, so am sat at a small desk in my flat in Brixton.
What can you see from the window?
Just a regular old residential street, although there is a chap outside washing his car with no top on. Which is a bit odd as it’s pretty much freezing. Maybe he’s trying to allure me.
Are you a morning or evening person?
Now that I’m working for myself, or freelancing or whatnot, morning and evening pretty much feel the same. At no set time do I have to put on trousers, unless I’m going out for meetings of course, and AM or PM there’s always work to be done. I actually get to go and see fellow human beings in the evening though, so I’ll go for an evening person!
What’s your favourite magazine this morning…?
I’ve recently been making an effort to go and meet fellow magazine makers for a chat and a coffee, swapping magazines, and subsequently found myself with a horde of amazing independent publications. Jacob from Popshot/YCN gave me Human After All’s Weapons of Reason last week and I can’t seem to put it down. It’s an inspiring title.
…and your favourite comic?
Oh man, well that’s loaded question! There’s a seminal 90s comic series called Preacher – kind of a cult, foul-mouthed road trip – which recently got optioned for a TV series by AMC. I somehow managed to get away with writing my undergrad dissertation about Preacher all those years ago, so have been pouring back over the comics – trying to work out how they’ll adapt certain bits.
Off Life has great content and strong production values. How does it work as a free publication?
Well a crowd sourcing campaign got the first issue off the ground, which was amazing given that nobody knew who we were, and from there it’s been a case of ad revenue and branching out with live drawing and meet up events. The two together just about keep the wolf from the door! We’re a very small team with low overheads and a clear idea of what we want from the magazine, which I think helps.
The next Off Life will be out in February and we’re currently accepting artist submissions and advertising enquires… so please do hit us up. Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge.
Comics remain primarily a print medium so your new online Yellow project is an intriguing development. Tell us about it.
Steve (Off Life’s art director) and I both work on a lot of other projects away from Off Life. Steve designs book jackets for Bloomsbury, for instance, while in the last year or so I created ‘One Thing I Know’ for Creative England.
It’s meant that we’ve always had an itch to do a project that included the wider illustration medium and that would give us a chance to put a more substantial title together. Through Off Life we’ve seen how powerful digital editions of magazines can be, about 60% of our readers access issues in digital rather than print, and so when dreaming up Yellow we wanted to plan a series that properly utilises both platforms.
So the idea is that for 52 weeks we’ll post a different artist’s illustrated take on the news at offlife.co.uk, one a week for a year, and then come December 2015 we’ll collect and publish all the pieces – along with essays and standalone art – into a weighty, high quality book.
We hope that this way, the digital will build interest in the print, which to me feels like a perfect combination.
Yellow feels destined to be a more consciously political concept than the magazine. Do you see it that way?
We certainly hope so. While Off Life does contain some political and social commentary pieces, there’s also a lot of work that is pure entertainment, or even art for art’s sake. And that’s totally fine because the magazine is about promoting comics and the artform, nothing more.
With Yellow we hope to showcase the true breadth of illustration and the ability it has to analyse current affairs from a different angle than written journalism or photography. That said, which stories are picked on any given week is completely up to each artist… so we’ll see.
At the moment we’re just overwhelmed with some of the artists who’ve signed up to take part – Ian Stevenson, Jean Jullien, Grace Wilson, Gavin Strange, Supermundane, Martin Rowson, Sofia Niazi… we couldn’t ask for better people.
Where would you recommend readers look for further comic inspiration?
I think the most exciting thing to have happened in comics over the last half decade is the rise of small, independent publishers – much like with magazines. Each have their own unique voice, style and sense of purpose. It’s allowed the comics medium to become far more diverse and perhaps given more niche artists a bigger stage. You can’t go wrong by looking up Nobrow, Great Beast, Jazz Dad, Breakdown or Koyama Press.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Tomorrow I’m going to meet the chap who launched So Young Magazine, a publication that pairs artists with articles about exciting new bands. You can’t beat an hour in the pub chatting print, so that’ll be fun. I’ve also got tickets to go see Run the Jewels at Koko on Friday, so looking forward to reverting to my 21 year old self and getting my nod on.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
I’m heading back to Bristol on Saturday to see a few friends and catch up with some of my old Bristol Independent Publishers and while that’ll be awesome, the Friday night train will undoubtedly be late, packed full and smell of ripe toilets. Yuck.
What will you be doing after this chat?
I reckon I’ll have just about earned myself a little break, so probably making a strong coffee and some eggs before getting back to hustling up freelance work!