Clarice Tudor’s self-deprecating comics tackle themes of anxiety, friendship and Jeff Bezos
Through comic strips that are both hilarious and vulnerable, Clarice is “taking ugly feelings and making them more digestible.”
- Harry Bennett
- 7 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 5 minute read
Pulling on our ingrained familiarity with comic strips like Garfield and Peanuts, Leicester-based illustrator Clarice Tudor has crafted a practice rife with original, jubilant and flawed characters – often playing the role of your wholesome, supportive friend, as well as people you’d rather not know. They exist in an accessible absurdist world, coloured with a youthful wit that evokes the tone of Vine compilations and exhibits an opinion that is unapologetically her own.
When we asked Clarice what got her into illustration, she explains that “during my art and design degree at the University of Leeds, my tutor informed me that ‘illustration is not a real medium.’” She adds that she would “pinpoint that as the exact moment my eternally disobedient heart chose its vocation.”
In defining her work, Clarice tells us that her practice is rooted in self-expression. “Self-deprecating humour is my go-to, but every now and then, I’ll stop roasting myself and start roasting Jeff Bezos.” The characters Clarice creates, more often than not, aren’t people, but animals: “I gravitate towards cuteness and animals. I think people find it easier to empathise with something naive and innocent than (god forbid) a real human being, ew!” In removing the human from the equation, and in doing so removing the bias towards any one person you know, you are forced to consider Clarice’s commentary head on – “I’d like to give a big shout out to anthropomorphism for making it easier to look at ourselves,” Clarice says, adding “there’s something inherently funny about such ugly thoughts beaming out of an adorable face.”
Clarice’s desire to be understood is one of her main drives to create art, explaining how she believes “comic strips are often used to take a concept, thought or piece of commentary and reduce it into a format which is easy to understand, often humorous and (hopefully) easy to look at.” She continues: “I struggle to express myself coherently in conversation. As a result, when someone asks me anything about myself, I will respond with a reductive summary and a self-deprecating joke.” In classic Clarice fashion, she adds “guess what boys? Now it’s my career.” Realising that “these are actually some really sad sentiments to have shape your art,” what ultimately drives Clarice’s work is “taking ugly feelings and making them more digestible.”
What she finds most rewarding is “the way people engage and connect” with the work she produces – “it can feel like I’m providing people with resources to express things which aren’t always easy to talk about.” She tells us: “It thrills me that people use my art to express themselves even if it’s just them sharing it to their Instagram story with the caption ‘called out #mood’.” When asked what some of the highlights of her recent work are, Clarice says “the real highlight is making people chuckle. Call me a big softie but laughter is definitely my favourite sound. I can’t lie!” The heart that Clarice has, one of humour, kindness and care, bleeds through her work, becoming intertwined rather than contrary to the nihilism and self-deprecation throughout. The resulting work is joyous, hilarious and genuinely relatable, with a tone of voice that is perfect in archiving the modern world right now – a necessary perspective.
In discussing her visual style, Clarice discloses her troubles to us: “I struggle to keep a consistent style which is something I’m trying to work on at the minute.” Clarice finds it difficult when it comes to decision making, especially considering the semi-permanent presence of her work online. “I don’t know how people with established art styles just sit down one day and decide that experimentation is cancelled. I’m one of those people who is never satisfied.” It is this mindset, however, that keeps Clarice’s work exciting and fresh – “ I think that’s what they call ‘commitment issues’.”
Unexpectedly, Clarice tells us she began comics without any writing, saying “it took me a long time to find the confidence to use words in my work, which is funny now considering the words are the starting point for all of my comics.” The platform in which Clarice publishes her work has also changed. As Instagram has become more prominent, her work has become more condensed, telling us that “I used to be all about books, zines and self-publishing. It’s interesting how the internet as a platform has influenced my work. I keep catching myself catering to dwindling attention spans as well as shouting to be heard over the online noise.”
One thing that can be said for certain about Clarice’s visual style is literally emblazoned on one of the T-shirts she has made, inscribing “Drawing badly is the new drawing goodly.” When asked to expand on this, Clarice replies: “I Said What I Said.” Later adding that “it was partly inspired by loads of contemporary illustrators intentionally sacking off the regimented rules of ‘gOod’ drawing. Proportion? Perspective? Never heard of her.” Becoming one of her popular designs, it ironically took just 15 minutes to design. “In school, I remember anything that isn’t realism being considered dumb and bad. When you get to university, the only thing that is considered dumb and bad is realism.” Clarice explains that “on an art course, if you are caught doing a photorealistic portrait you will be shot on sight. I’m always telling people that you don’t need to be able to draw to make comics anymore. You need spicy banter.”
The future looks exciting for Clarice, with plans to show at Thought Bubble Comic Convention. “It will be my first proper comic convention as an artist so hopefully it doesn’t get cancelled.” She has also just started adding short stories to Webtoon, starring “Dog with Boots (seemingly everyone’s favourite character).” In the long run, Clarice expresses her want to make more books, saying that “I’ve self-published before but something official? Ooh! Something hardback with a little dust jacket and everything? Ooh! That would really make my mum proud. Who gave books jackets anyway? That’s outrageously cute if you ask me.”
About the Author
After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.