An interview with comic creator Tim Bird.
Whilst perusing the small press sections of comic shops and the small press areas at festivals like Comica and Thoughtbubble I have come across a few new and interesting artists worthy of wider recognition. One of these artists is Tim Bird. Having previously appeared on Beardrock (under the comics review section for his work on the really interesting ‘Grey Area’ published by Avery Hill http://beardrock.com/eyebrow-art/comics/grey-area-while-city-sleeps-issue-1 ) I decided to reach out to him for an interview.
He has a fresh approach that flies in the face of punch up comics that fill the comics shelves. He can easily be compared to a Jeffrey Brown or a James Kochalka with his indie sensibilities and slice of life honesty. He approaches his work with an interestingly different eye, always the observer and very rarely the antagonist.
Have a read of this interview and then head over to his website www.timothybird.co.uk or his publishers www.averyhillpublishing.com to find out more.
Could you let us know what background you have in art and comics? Who influences you?
I don’t really have much of an artistic background - in fact I studied chemistry at University! Comics have always been a big interest, though – and I’ve always drawn cartoons and comics in my spare time. I grew up reading Tintin and Asterix, then got in to American indie comics by the likes of Adrian Tomine and Daniel Clowes when I was a teenager. It was only relatively recently, at Thought Bubble in 2010, that I discovered the scale of the UK self-publishing scene, and decided to give it a go myself!
As for influences, I decided to draw an online diary comic after reading Adam Cadwell’s The Everyday. I’m a massive fan of Seth’s artwork – particularly his use of light and shade. My more recent comics are influenced by the likes of Simon Moreton and Oliver East – both of whom use landscapes and locations to define their work.
It seems that you choose to show rather than tell? You use sparse dialogue? Personally I love this and wondered how you came to this technique?
Two films that have really influenced me are Patrick Kieller’s London, and Finisterre by Paul Kelly. Both films feature long, still shots, and are voiced by an unseen narrator with very little dialogue and I thought these techniques would work well in comics. I’m still keen to include captions of text because I think this helps create a sense of rhythm and interest to a page, but the more I write, the more interested I’ve become in trying to depict a sense of place, rather than tell a story about people, so there’s been a shift towards the imagery being the focus.
Grey Area seems like a 'Geographical Slice of Life'? How did you come across this particular style? How do you approach and choose a subject?
I’m a big fan of the psychogeography writing of Iain Sinclair and Will Self, and wanted to see if I could create something similar in comics. The subjects for each issue of Grey Area – London at night in issue 1, and the British motorway system in issue 2 – are a combination of personal experiences and interests.
There are themes that keep cropping up in my comics, which I’m drawn to time after time – the urban landscape, transport, the suburbs, folklore. Issue 3 is about the Thames Estuary, and it’s been important to me to walk through the places I’m writing about, to experience the place and to document it directly in photographs, which I’m using as reference.
Where else can we find your work?
I still occasionally post diary comics on my website (www.timothybird.co.uk), and would like to do more. Grey Area is published by Avery Hill Publishing, and that’s available from their website (www.averyhillpublishing.com). I draw a comic strip called Effra Tales for a local paper – The Brixton Bugle. It’s a free paper, available throughout Brixton.
What have you got planned for the future?
I’ve just finished a book called Infrastructure, which is a series of illustrations of London’s transport infrastructure. Hopefully it will be available from Avery Hill Publishing soon. Issue 3 of Grey Area should be finished soon, too. I’m working on a comic called Bullpen with a writer called Luke Halsall – it’s one of the first times I’ve illustrated someone else’s writing, so it’s quite a daunting experience! I hope to keep drawing comics, and to keep enjoying doing it. I’d like to improve my artwork as much as possible, but the best way to do that is just to keep drawing!
What else are you currently reading? Other comics and other media?
I’ve only recently discovered Oliver East’s comics through his latest book Swear Down, and I thought it was great, so I intend to catch up on his previous work. I don’t often read superhero comics, but I’ve just finished reading The Black Beetle – No Way Out by Francesco Francavilla and I thought the artwork was stunning. I’d love to be able to draw in that noir style!
In terms of other media, I’m reading The View From The Train: Cities and Other Landscapes by Patrick Keiller, which is a collection of essays.
Many thanks Tim. A real pleasure.
Since chatting to Tim he told me that he had sent a mixtape to Jeffrey Brown (who I compared him to in this and a previous article). So just for fun (and with Tim's permission) I thought it would be worth sharing. It's a funny old world.