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Interview Jessica Martin

You are an actress, scriptwriter and illustrator. Can you tell something about your diverse career so far?

I have had a varied career in the arts which has been a lifelong evolution.My father was a jazz musician and I sang with him from an early age. I also loved watching old films as a child and would relive my excitement by drawing characters from the stories and imitating my icons. So it's not surprising that my creative journey took me into working as an impressionist, musical theatre actress and now comic creator specialising in the golden age of Hollywood.

What aspects of visual storytelling do you enjoy most?

The amazing gifts of visual storytelling could fill a book by itself. I always appreciated illustrations in books as a child. They could uplift dry prose and enhance the most brilliant stories. I felt disappointed as I moved into adulthood and saw that the grown up books seemed to find illustration 'childish'. For me visual storytelling is the ultimate immersive experience. The words give you a part of the experience and the picture can pull you into a deeper, metaphysical world. Why else would people want to stand in front of a picture in an art gallery and gaze for ages? When I rediscovered comics a few years ago and found an arena for me to express myself in art, it was an epiphany! For me it's like directing my own movie with cast , costumes and set without waiting for anyone else's approval or budget.

You have made a graphic novel about actress Vivien Leigh. What aspects of her character do you find most inspiring?

" Vivacity" is my second biographical comic. My first, "It Girl" was about Clara Bow, an almost forgotten icon from the Silent film era. " Vivacity" is a vignette about Vivien Leigh, a much better known actress. I wanted to convey her passion, fire and intelligence..all the unique qualities that made her more than just another beautiful film star. She never ever rested on her laurels. She always went those extra miles in her quest for perfection and in getting what she wanted in both love and career.

What is your opinion on the cultural climate in Britain?

The cultural climate in Britain is a mixed bag of hope and disappointment. Having started my career as a professional actress, I have grown used to the fact that the powers that be are always going to cut funding for the arts as their first target for budget cuts. Now that I am an artist as well, the need to find independent means of financial support is there again. I have funded my comics myself but there are other avenues. Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Patreon there seem to offer good sources of seed money. The wealth of culture is not suffering however. There are so many voices in the comics industry now, from small press to the mainstream. There are almost too many conventions and not enough room in my house to store all the books and comics I would like to keep.

Which artists, writers, actors have been an influence on your work?

The artists I have been influenced by range from the cinematographers of the golden age of Hollywood and portrait photographers like George Hurrell to the classic art of the Pre- Raphaelites, Mucha, the American artists Howard Pyle and N.C Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and comic art of Alex Raymond, Alex Toth, The Studio's Michael William Kaluta and Barry Windsor Smith to today's comic artists Mark Buckingham and Sean Phillips. My writing influences in the graphic novel field are Jaime Hernandez, Posy Simmonds, Alison Bechdel and Mary Talbot but my fiction tastes range from Jane Austen to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Stephen King! My favourite screen actors are Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, James Mason, James Cagney, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and too many others to mention here.

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