"I refrain from calling myself a graphic novelist, since I’ve written one graphic novel. But I would say I got started as soon as I drew my first picture."
What first got you interested in art, graphic novels and illustration?
I was always interested in arts and crafts and drawing. I would love drawing cartoonish profiles in my notebooks.
One of the clearest memories that I have is my mother making a woman’s profile from the number 3, by adding an eyelash where the two bowls of the number meet, and lips to the bottom bowl, and a wisp of hair to finish off the look. I used to be so fascinated by that!
Apart from that I remember reading Archie Comics, and if I were lucky, the issue I was reading would have a how-to-draw a particular Archie Comic character.
How did you get started as a graphic novelist?
I refrain from calling myself a graphic novelist, since I’ve written one graphic novel. But I would say I got started as soon as I drew my first picture. I think when it came down to it, it was just deciding, okay, I want to do an illustrated book and this is what I want to talk about, and then you dive into the process.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have always struggled with having a routine of any sort. One thing that I have realised, is that writing or drawing is all about the practice. I keep trying to develop those practices. The longer you stay away from the work, the more daunting it becomes.
What is the creative journey from the idea to the finished product?
My process is a mixture of digital and analogue. The first thing was to decide the theme. Then comes mind-mapping, lists and brainstorming. Then I conducted surveys. Then I made a moodboard of inspirations, this can consist of visual styles, color schemes and content, even fashion trends.
I finally got to making my characters, which were quite a few drafts, this was on paper. Simultaneously I would also list out the different instances in Sarah’s life and just mapping out the entire book. Then I start taking things to the computer.
Friends and family would pose for me to draw various postures. I would roughly draw out scenes on paper and work on them digitally. The final prototype involved printing, sticking and binding. This is obviously a brief explanation, I am completely skipping the blood, sweat and tears!
"Your truth is often somebody else’s truth. My agenda is to be honest with how I’m feeling and just put it out there. Hopefully, others will connect as well."
Your book ‘Sarah: The Suppressed Anger of the Pakistani Obedient Daughter’ has a strong political and social message, do you have an agenda when you are creating your work?
One thing that I have learned is that no matter what art you are creating, the more specific to your feelings, you make it, the more people you will connect to. The details or facts don’t matter. Your truth is often somebody else’s truth. My agenda is to be honest with how I’m feeling and just put it out there. Hopefully, others will connect as well.
How did you get your work published?
I had written it in 2011, and it got published in 2015, as 'Sarah: The Suppressed Anger of The Pakistani Obedient Daughter.' This journalist Zahra Salahuddin had seen the book at a comic convention and wrote a piece about it, word then got to a literary agent in India, Kanishka Gupta, who then reached out to me. It was pretty surreal.
What are the challenges in becoming a graphic novelist?
It is very challenging! It took me a great deal of effort to make these illustrations. I keep going through a cycle of ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I really love doing this!’
What is the most satisfying part about writing graphic novels?
The most satisfying part about the novel was being able to make a drawing that does justice to the thoughts in your mind, and then having people respond to it.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to follow a similar path?
Create! Be patient! Believe in your work! Put your work out there! Also would be nice to have a good support system, because you will get frustrated.
What role do libraries play in your work?
The British Council Library has a great collection of graphic novels. I use the library to get away from the noise of the world. Sometimes I come to write comedy, or I love looking at books.
Which graphic novels should anyone who wants to pursue this as a career read?
Only the ones that fascinate you! I love books that talk about human emotions and struggles and I love children’s books.
A few of my favourites:
- ‘Habibi’ by Craig Thompson
- ‘The Big O’ by Shel Silverstein
- ‘Persepolis I & II’ by Marjane Satrapi
- ‘The Book of Memory Gaps’ by Cecilia Ruiz
- ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein
- ‘Big Nate’ by Lincoln Pierce
We’ve got plenty of graphic novels in our library collections, find them here
Find out more about Ayesha and her work:
- Follow Ayesha on Instagram
- See her portfolio at Behance
- Buy her book ‘Sarah: The Suppressed Anger of The Pakistani Obedient Daughter’