• Img_5872
  • Img_5823
  • Img_5824
  • Img_5845
  • Img_5830
  • Img_5834
  • Img_5831
  • Img_5835
  • Img_5840
  • Img_5846
Illustration

Karrie Fransman: The House That Groaned

Posted by Rob Alderson,

When we got our hands on Karrie Fransman’s widely-praised debut graphic novel we were eager to see what all the fuss was about – and boy oh boy it didn’t disappoint. It’s a dark tale of a woman moving into a shared house, and the cavalcade of characters she meets there, including a grandmother who blends into her surroundings like a moth and a man obsessed with diseased or dying women. But although there’s wonderfully-funny grotesque touches, there is a complexity and a depth to her creations that somehow anchors the whole thing in real life. We caught up with Karrie to find out more…

Hi Karrie. How long have you had the idea for this book in your head? Where did the inspiration come from?

Probably not long enough. I was in conversation with publishers quite early on when the idea for a book was still forming, so it was a case of selling something that was not yet finished – or blagging it as they call it in the business! But I was punished for my sins with a looooong, isolated year-and-a-half of having to live up to what I’d promised.

I guess I’d had fragmented ideas for the characters and shorter plots in my head for years before that. The inspiration for the book stems from my fascination with the wider theme of Western society’s obsessions and anxieties about our bodies. I studied psychology and sociology at university and was inspired by R.W Connell’s ideas that our individual bodies are ‘canvases’ on which the larger anxieties of the social body are reproduced.

And what better way to explore these bodily canvases than the graphic novel?

How fun was it coming up with some of these characters?

Great fun! My graphic novel pays homage to all the strange supervillans of the comic world, except mine are caricatures of Western society. They were inspired in many different ways. For example,   used to work as a creative in an ad agency whose client was a diet company offering 24-hour helplines.

‘Who needs diet advice 24 hours?’ I wondered, and I started to imagine a dietician on the graveyard shift answering an anonymous call at 12am from a woman in the middle of a midnight feast. The militantly hedonistic group of women called the ‘Midnight Feats Front’ are now in the book, tormenting poor Janet with midnightly phone calls where they whisper recipes Nigella-Lawson style down the phone. I listened to a lot of those food-porn M&S ads when writing their dialogue!

I love magical realism in literature when inner psychological turmoil is played outwardly on the character’s bodies. 

It’s very dark and feels quite oppressive – how did you create that atmosphere?

The only time you actually leave the confides of the house is during the flashbacks where you learn how the character’s past shaped them into these extreme caricatures. I tried to make each incident in the house a bit like a ticking bomb as we move towards the inevitable. But the book has a lot of humour in it – albeit dark humour!

How did you find the transition to the longer graphic novel format?

Each space I’ve worked in is very different. I started my career drawing a four panel comic strip in The Guardian’s G2, then moved on to a 20-part weekly graphic story for The Times and then created this 200-paged graphic novel.

I strongly believe each medium has specific possibilities and limitations that can shape a story. The House That Groaned plays with the features of a book: the die-cut cover draws you in like a voyeur, the pages are turned to reveal twists and I’ve hidden things in it that only make sense on a second reading.

With so much content moving online books need to play to their advantages – the fact you can hold them, touch them,and escape your e-mail while you read them!

Likewise I think narratives on iPads shouldn’t just pretend to be a book with page turns and lengthy text. Jonathan Plackett and I have been creating digital books that put the features of the emerging medium at the heart of the narrative: ie. using the touch screen or the accelerometer in the iPad – as with our ‘tilt’ comic The First Witch.

I’m kind of obsessed with exploring different media for storytelling and I try and fit stories in all sorts of strange places: jewellery boxes, dolls Houses, iPads and iPhones.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. Marion-fayolle-coquins-int-list

    When I sat down to write this article I was planning to discuss Ardéchoise illustrator Marion Fayolle’s impressive career to date; her numerous books for the likes of Nobrow and Magnani Editions; her editorial work for The New York Times, her textile designs for Cotélac and Kiblind and of course her very own illustration publication Nyctalope which she co-runs with Simon Roussin. And then I remembered she did a brilliant book of saucy drawings, Les Coquins, and decided to focus on that instead.

  2. Nick-gazin-run-the-jewelslist

    Vice’s New York art editor and illustrator Nick Gazin tells us his ideal clients at the moment are “adult film actresses.” He’s worked up some logo designs recently for Andy San Dimas, the US porn star, and he reckons he’d “be really into doing more art for adult film actresses. I just want to draw naked ladies.”

  3. Karansingh-mop-int-list

    The glorious coming together of pattern, shape and colour makes for a joyous experience and that’s why print designers are held in such high regard. Last week we commissioned Animade to turn three eye-poppingly good Pucci x Orlebar Brown patterns into trippy GIFs, this week we’re turning our attention to profiling creatives we believe are among the best around when it comes to working in this area. We are proud to present these #mastersofprint.

  4. Jg-street-demon-int-list

    Got the mid-week hump-day gloom, friend? Allow me to do away with it for you with a bumper-pack of animated GIFs by the talented hand of illustrator and animator Julian Glander. He once came up with a clever app which transformed colour data into sound for an eight-note synth and made us all into synaesthetes for a day, which was intricate and complicated enough to warrant a dose of fun to follow. A gang of tiny blob men whirling their arms over their heads at impossible speeds? Yes, please. A tiny man on a bicycle riding in tiny circles forevermore? Go on then. Great things are in the pipeline for this master of 3D shapes, bulgy eyeballs and jumping hamburgers. You mark our words.

  5. Tim-brown-int-list

    As a one-time news journalist (albeit at a very low level) I have a real affinity for reportage illustrators. George Butler is one of the best around and this new film by Tim Brown which follows him on a three-week trip to Afghanistan provides a great insight into his finely-honed talents. On his first trip to the war-torn country George was embedded with British troops, but he hungered to draw the locals whose lives had been so irrevocably changed over recent years. “I was always aware that over the walls there were millions of people getting on with their lives,” he says.

  6. Angiewang-int-main

    Angie Wang is FANTASTIC, she’s hands-down my absolute favourite new illustrator. Her work is an explosive, jelly bean-coloured tangle of cool girls, comic books, hair, nature and clouds: dreamy waves of cuteness and attitude floating along on the backs of ghosts. Some of her drawings may appear silly and adorable, but underneath the fuzziness is a melancholy wisdom of the world around her. She has an ability to capture what only the best kinds of comics do: aspects of life that are loving, scary, otherworldly and magnificent.

  7. Zeloot-int-list-2

    Look at the giant bulbous characters! The boy clamping his hand between his own giant gnashers! The tiny hairy willy floating in mid-air with a bunch of other body parts! This collection could be the work of one woman only and that woman is Eline Van Dam, aka Zeloot, a Dutch illustrator with a taste for the funny, the weird and the generally brilliant. She’s been hard at work of late with a stack of commissions for the likes of Vrij Nederland and The New York Times among others, all of whom are thoroughly enamoured with her unique style. As are we.

  8. Barzilai-int-list

    If you’re currently experiencing some love-related dramas allow me to gently suggest you don’t take them to Pauline Barzilaï for sorting. The French illustrator’s new project Les Peines de l’Amour, a sweet illustrated series on rose pink paper, takes a great sledgehammer to tender affairs of the heart, and smashes them all to pieces with a brutally funny satirical edge.

  9. Die-katze-int-list-2

    You don’t really see them in the UK anymore but there was once a time when fag machines populated bars, clubs, railway stations, street corners and children’s swimming pools so that everyone could readily get their hands on a dose of sweet lady nicotine at a moment’s notice. There’s still a few lingering in Switzerland though, so Daniel Peter and Alice Kolb have found a more family-friendly and creative use for them.

  10. Marta-monteiro-int-list

    Remember Marta Monteiro, whose series of Lilliputian heroines effectively encaptured all of our best Borrower-themed dreams last summer? The illustrator based in Penafiel, Portugal been busy at work since we last checked in, creating all manner of editorial illustrations for the likes of The New York Times and the Washington Post, not to mention some self-initiated projects which have materialised into beautiful books, like Sombras. Her work gives the impression of an illustrator still refining her style, which in her instance is immeasurably exciting, lending her a versatility and an authenticity few manage to successfully pull off. We’re especially enjoying the piece for The Man Who Knew It All, a giant-headed polka-dot dress-wearing lady borrowing the brain of another.

  11. Moonhead-book22-list

    It’s so reassuring to hear that a job at a top ad agency can be secured from an interview on no sleep, feeling “a bit spaced out.” While it’s possibly not the best career advice, that’s exactly how Andrew Rae landed a role at BBH, he told us in his talk at Offset festival. We’re huge fans of Andrew’s work, which over the years has included creating characters for the Mighty Book of Boosh, beautiful botanical illustrations and the wonderful, heartwarming and psychedelic graphic novel Moonhead and the Music Machine.

  12. Jasongalea-int-main

    I came across Jason when I was ogling at this poster for the Panache Spring Fling featuring White Fence, yet another ear-watering gig that I won’t be able to make it to because it’s across the Atlantic. Panache is a boutique booking agency in LA which represent bands like Ty Segall, Chris Cohen, Jacco Gardner, Fuzz, Juliana Barwick, U.S Girls…I could go on. In keeping with its roster it commissions the likes of Melbourne-based visual artist Jason Galea to make the posters and sleeves look as cool and apt as possible. Jason clearly knows what he’s doing with these posters, record sleeves and animations. This is the work of someone who has studied the music visuals of the past, sat around a Ouija board, reincarnated them, and smoked the spirits up in an acid-green infinity bong before splurging them out as art. It’s okay to rip stylistic qualities from eras gone by, but only if you, like Jason, genuinely love the music, and know exactly what you are doing.

  13. Andyrementer-sanmarinostamps-int-list

    Here’s some things you probably didn’t know about the tiny Republic of San Marino. It has no railway. Its 33,00 citizens enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world. It is famous for its stamps, which are widely collected by philatelists, or stamp collectors. This last revelation is the one that concerns us here, because we found out yesterday that illustrator, artist and long-time friend of the site Andy Rementer has just designed a set of stamps for The Philatelic and Numismatic Bureau of San Marino, themed around fantastical interpretations of 3D printing.