Jamie Squire is an illustrator and comic creator based in Glasgow. She creates comics on personal and feminist issues. We chat to her about feminism, instagram trolls and what’s going on in Glasgow.
1. Hi Jamie, please tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m living in Glasgow but I’m from Manchester. I’m 27. My hands are cold all the time and I’m listening to Kate Bush right now. I can’t drink coffee because it makes me loopy.
2. How, when and why did you start creating art?
Both my parents are creative so I had a lot of artistic encouragement – I have a purple Jacqueline Wilson diary that I was briefly dedicated to when I was about 10, and under ‘Dreams and Aspirations’ I’ve written ‘pop singer, vet and artist’ in that order. I don’t think it was a sequential list though, I probably thought I was destined to be all 3.
The first time I had to make a serious decision about my future was when I decided to do an art foundation course – I specialized in illustration, but if I’m being candid, I lacked any real work ethic and spent a lot of time eating Chilli Heatwave Doritos in the park. These days I’m practically glued to my desk drawing because it’s all I want to do. I never really thought I would feel like that while I was at university. What inspires me to keep going is the crazy notion that something that you love so much could be your job – I feel extremely lucky.
3. What’s your work process like? Are you analogue/digital?
Very much digital these days. I would like to spend more time using a sketchbook but I’m in a committed relationship with my Wacom tablet. My work process used to look more like me in my pajamas, hunched over the computer eating crisps and hummus, but then I started to get very bad back pain and also depressed. So now my work process includes some welcome stretching/walking breaks and forcing myself to get showered and dressed in the morning, even though I work from home. I get a lot more done when I give myself a bit of time in the morning and some structure that makes me feel like a human.
3. Tell us about the women in your art
My big sister had a stack of super 90s magazines in her bedroom, like Smash Hits and Mizz, all the good stuff. When I started taking drawing more seriously I used to pinch them and draw the celebrities; I copied characters from anime films too – all of which was fine for practice but I developed a pretty naïve way of portraying women – all perfection, all long flowing hair, all the girls I wanted to look like.
It wasn’t until I started drawing girls who looked like me, watching TV in their pyjamas, that I really started to relate to my work. Maybe that sounds sad? I don’t know. But I’m a lazy girl and I fully embrace that part of myself. I started thinking ‘why can’t I feel attractive with acne or a tummy or bags under my eyes?’ Liking myself and liking what I see in the mirror, is a work in progress, but the more I question what it is to feel attractive, to feel feminine, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin.
4. Would you consider yourself a feminist? If so, when did you first realise you were a feminist?
I absolutely consider myself a feminist, my mum raised me as a feminist before I even knew what the word meant. Simply, in my preteen mind, I knew that girls should be able to do everything that boys can do. Saying that, identifying as a feminist and saying it out loud took a bit longer. It’s embarrassing to admit, but if I’m completely honest, I remember thinking it wasn’t cool to be a feminist when I was a teenager – I had negative associations with the word, likely based on the ‘feminist’ stereotype in much of the media, which portrayed feminists’ as irrational, bra-burning, man-hating villains.
I suppose one of the first incidents that exposed me to the reality of sexism was when I was about 16 – and I know most, if not all, girls have experienced similar encounters. I had a music teacher who said some inappropriate stuff about my appearance and it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, but I thought that I should take what he was saying as a compliment, that I was being overly sensitive; eventually I told my mum about it and she told the school. I never saw him again and I realized that it wasn’t a compliment, it wasn’t something I asked for and I didn’t have to tolerate it.
It’s easy to convince yourself that sexism is a dated concept when you surround yourself with people who agree with your principles; I know that my friends and family keep me in a decidedly comfortable bubble. The reality is there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done before equality can even be a possibility, but despite the evident bullshit, I find genuine solace in the abundance of creative, talented people who still have such unfathomable strength, humour and tenacity in the face of so much adversity.
5. Would you consider your work to be feminist?
It’s not always intentional, but I like to think there’s a lot of myself in my work and so it pretty accurately represents my beliefs and my perception of the world. I’ve been consciously trying to make more work which focuses on my own social and political opinions.
I’ve made a number of comics and illustrations related to menstrual health and the politicising of people’s bodies. I recently read an article about the money made from taxing tampons as luxury items being siphoned into an anti-abortion charity who spread false information to people considering abortions; so I started to make work about using a menstrual cup (I’ve had mine for a few years now.) I wanted to spread the word that menstrual cups are not gross or scary! They’re safer and more economical and you can be confident that the money you’re spending every month isn’t funding the repression of biological independence. There’s so much stigma surrounding periods, that they should be something we keep secret, something to be ashamed of. I have younger sisters and I don’t want them to grow up in a world where they’re made to feel embarrassed about their bodies and the amazing things they do. (To clarify – I’m not saying periods are amazing, periods suck, duh.)
It can be a strange territory, in doubtful moments I’ll ask myself what a drawing can really do, there’s so many horrible things in the world and it can feel so insignificant to draw something – But it’s the way that I communicate and it’s what I know best. I had a great response to that work online and it totally reaffirmed my confidence that even seemingly insignificant gestures can make a difference, however small. Lots of people got in touch to let me know they were going to try out a menstrual cup so that was cool!
6. How do you deal with all the misogynist beef you get on Instagram for posting things like your hairy legs comic? The comments were NUTS.
Good question! It was a HUGE reality check for me when I started getting hate comments and messages. It really started with the comics I made about having body hair. I take comfort in the fact that every person who had something nasty to say about my leg hair had absolutely no solid argument to stand on. Their comments usually take the form of either troll-y stuff like calling me disgusting or gross or a gorilla, all of which I just find funny because I think my leg hair is cute; or feigning concern by saying that no man will ever want me because it looks like I’m not looking after myself, which cracks me up because the assumption that I would rely on a man’s approval to validate myself is ridiculous.
Another thing I experienced a lot of, which is equally misogynistic (but with a side of perv) is men messaging me because they have a fetish for women with body hair, if anyone’s curious why that would bother me – it’s not progressive to sexualize yet another part of a women’s body. It’s entirely pervy and inappropriate. I used to call these people out on Instagram but then I decided I didn’t want to give it my energy. I could pour hours into thinking of smart replies to people who say horrible stuff to me or I could put my time into something positive which will have more power. I think people who leave comments like that want me to waste my time getting into an argument with them; I don’t think they want me to ignore their comment, block them and keep making art about being hairy. So I’m going to do that instead!
7. Whose work do you admire?
I’m going to say Polly Nor – her work speaks to my soul! My favourites are her devil girls peeling off their skin suits. Her work is bad ass, she’s a bad ass, and I think personifying your dark side is so therapeutic.
I love Núria Tamarit’s pencil drawings, her work is really dreamy and fantastical. She nails every colour palette as well. I’m very jealous of people who are so skilled with colour – I tend to over complicate things
I think Frances Cannon is doing really wonderful things. Truly body-positive art can be quite a rarity but her work is so inclusive, as art should be, and she explores femininity, gender and sexuality so confidently.
Liana Finck’s drawings are genius.
I also really recommend the website ‘Women Who Draw’ if you want to stumble upon some lovely work – it’s an open directory created by two women to increase the visibility of female and gender non-conforming illustrators; emphasizing people of colour, LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.
8. Are there any books or films that have inspired you?
So many! I’m reading ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara at the moment. I was slightly intimidated by the size of it when it came in the post but it’s beautiful and sad and it’s making me feel all the feelings. I’m also reading ‘Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim’ by David Sedaris for utterly self-deprecating comic relief. He’s one of the only writers that makes me laugh out loud, even on the train. I love reading anything that makes me feel like I understand humans.
I’m also re-reading Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware. The detail in his comics is mind-bending and he hand-inks them all which is unreal to be honest.
Film wise I saw Raw recently – super gross and gory and hilarious. I read that people fainted at the screenings in Toronto because it was so disgusting. I love that stuff. Also, American Honey, I watched it not really knowing what I was in for. I hadn’t realized it was directed by Andrea Arnold who did also did Fish Tank – it was an experience, I believed every minute of it.
9. Do you listen to or watch anything while you work? Podcasts, music, TV?
Always! I have watched the U.S Office 4 times through. I also really like putting on dramatic animated films that give me childhood nostalgia while I work. Specifically Don Bluth animations at the moment – they’re so dark. Recently I watched All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Land Before Time and The Secret of Nimh. I like them because they don’t require a lot of concentration and they give me childhood feels. Podcast recommendations: Ear Hustle, Hot Brain and The Bechdel Cast. I only listen to music while I’m working if I’m sad to be honest. Maybe that’s weird.
10. Talk us through a typical day in your life.
I get up at 8. I eat breakfast. I do yoga for 20 minutes (great for my back pain even though I never want to do it ‘cos I’m lazy.) Then I shower and stuff. I run an online shop, so I’ll usually pack orders and go to the post office first thing in the morning. If I have time I walk through the park and look at dogs. The rest of my day is pretty boring to be honest – I have a cool planner now to keep on top of my commissions so I usually just work through as much as I can. It’s not very glamorous being an illustrator day-to-day but I still pinch myself that I get to do this as a job. Sometimes when I’m very busy with commissions I wish I had more time for personal work but it’s just about finding balance when you can.
11. What’s up in Glasgow? Where would you take us on a fun day there?
Glasgow is the best. Ok so my day is not very geographically convenient and mostly based around food – so food stop number one would be Café Strange Brew for breakfast. Then when we’re sufficiently stuffed, I’d take you to Category Is Books, which is a fantastic independent queer and LGBT bookshop in the southside. There’s also Good Press, another great independent book/print shop. I’d take you to the Hunterian Museum to look at the history of medicine and human anatomy (my fave bit, it’s morbid but so fascinating.) The best lunch I’ve had in Glasgow is the Falafel wrap at Kurdish Street Food, if it’s sunny (unlikely I know) we can eat the wrap in Queens Park and look at the swans (they just had babies.) Then we’d go into town and watch a film at Glasgow Film Theatre which is a lovely independent cinema, it shows all the good stuff. Errol’s Hot Pizza for dinner. I don’t tend to go out to clubs much anymore, but Glasgow has great pubs and probs the best house parties going. So onwards for a boogie OR if you just want to drink £1 multicoloured shots and laugh a lot, we’ll go to Cosmopol (touted as ‘worst bar in Glasgow’ by angry Trip Advisor people for some reason) and do karaoke. Although I think the Karaoke master has a vendetta against me and my mate because we requested Money Money Money by Abba and he never got around to playing it. Maybe he just hates Abba.
12. Any projects coming up?
I’m currently working on a large-scale comic piece for Graphic Encounters which will be on display in commercial advertising spaces across Manchester as part of SICK! Festival. The festival faces up to the complexities of physical and mental health. One of the exciting things about this work for me is that I got the opportunity to reach out and meet an amazing participant who bravely shared her mental health story with me so that I could make this comic. We’re both hoping that the visibility of the artwork will help to encourage conversation and break the stigma surrounding mental health.
I’m also in the process of illustrating a series of booklets for the Educational Institute of Scotland. It’s for a really amazing cause and I’m so excited to be involved but I’m not sure how much I can share just yet so I’ll keep you posted.
I’ve also written a children’s book that I’ve been keeping very close to my chest, it’s short but sweet. I don’t want to say too much in case it changes but I’ll say it’s about a dog. A dog and broccoli.