Female illustrators: How to incorporate mental health into comic books

Age: 22

Location: Vigo, Spain

Instagram Theme: Warm colours

Favourtie colour: Maroon

A place to visit: New Zealand (but really, anywhere cold)

Bea Gregores, 22, has been awarded with the Xuventude Crea prize for her work Ellipsism

Walls covered with graffiti. Unrecognizable smells. Hands covered in paint and traces of wood work on the floor. Just another typical day at the Arts department of a small university. At the Student’s Union, a bunch of first  talk loudly about some of the classwork they have to turn in. When I first see Bea Gregores, she is giving advice to some second year students on some of their pieces. Her big eyes hidden behind the round glasses look at me in curiosity while in her quiet and tender voice she says hi and gives me a hug.

At 22, Bea is now one of the rising stars of Galician graphic novel. Battling the stereotypes of the illustration business, the challenges of writing in a minority language and the discrimination of comic writers are only a few of her everyday problems. Her passion for creating stories which explore mental health and self-esteem issues usually clash with narration full of stereotyped female bodies in superhero adventures.

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Gregores portraits of female bodies challenges the style of most graphic artists.

 

Born and raised in the port city of Vigo, located in the North West of Spain, Bea tells me she was always attracted to storytelling and art, but it was not until she turn 12 that she began to draw. “My brother was quite a good artist at that time. I would be very annoyed because he always showed me his drawings for school competitions and I thought: ‘Hey, I can draw too.’ I started to do it on my own time and I got caught up in it.”

“Life is art and art is life. It’s like love, it’s different for everyone.”

Although her mum and her brother were always very supportive of her decision to study art, most of her relatives were not very keen on the idea. She tells me that most people don’t realise the impact of arts, that even though they don’t necessarily have a purpose of being, they are essential. “Life is art and art is life. It’s like love, it’s different for everyone.”

For Bea, all artistic creation should have as a base to transmit emotions, and to share your own with other people. “I usually write about mental health and image disorders because that’s what I have personally the most connection with.” Her creative process is mainly an introverted discovery of herself, her insecurities, problems and challenges.

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“My inspirations come from everyday life. A small girl playing with the birds represents the kidness that I want to transmit with my stories.”

“Don’t get me wrong. Not all my stories treat depression or anorexia as the protagonists of the story. They are more secondary characters, other narrative lines in the story, but not the main plot of the story.” In her opinion, the main problem with narrators and illustrators treating these issues is that they bring them to the extremes, to their ultimate catharsis, when in reality they are sickness that the patients have to carry on with their whole lives.

An example of her most recent work is the story Ellipsism, with which she was awarded with a €5,000 prize. She puts it as the tale of how she began her passion for graphic expression. “It is also a story about adolescence and all the changes that come with it.” Full of many artistic experiments ranging from the most realist images to the surrealist chaos, this work is an expression of Bea’s current state. “Because in my personal life I’m in a turning point, it is inevitable that my drawings reflect all those changes.”

Social media is the platform she chooses to publish her works for the moment, Instagram in particular. Unlike other artist, Bea does not like to brag about her creations. As personal moments of her life as they are, she feels uncomfortable sharing them in person, but Instagram gives her the distance necessary to engage with her audience without having to cope with her live reactions.

When I ask about future aspirations, Bea smiles and then laughs a little. She is in her first year of the Masters in Illustration and Audio visual Animation, but unlike some of her colleagues she has not sent any of her work to editors yet. “It is not that I’m afraid of being rejected. I’m more afraid of not trying.”

Despite all of the doubts Bea might have on her future career, she is certain about one thing: she wants to create content for children. To her, kids are a pure form of kindness and honesty. “We should all go back to our inner child from time to time.” She admits that sometimes she misses having that non-judging reality that most children have, because as soon as they grow up all kind of prejudices start to settle in their minds.

Related image
Fantasy and magic are some of the topics of Bea’s work. “Adults should recover that time where they could imagine freely.”

By the time an hour has passed, the Students’ Union is filled with second and third year art students and a variety of fresh paintings, left there to dry. Bea apologizes. She has to print some flyers for an upcoming event at the university. We walk together to the exit and while she puts on her big red winter coat, the smell of oil paint starts to fade away. We hug for the last time and the last thing I see before opening my umbrella is her tiny red silhouette disappearing in the rain.

 

 

 

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