Luck from Yuck: An interview with human-like entity Kelly Coleman

May 23rd, 2018

You know who’s got demented denticles, a salivation issue, and salacious green skin? Kelly Coleman’s characters. Not her, though - the real Kelly is a pleasant human-shaped illustrator who’s starting work on their first longform comic. We talk about yucky things, Handmaggots, and finding your “voice”.

If we were knocking back some beers in a bar, how would you describe what you do?

We would discuss mutual interests until we strike on something we're both very enthusiastic about, and things evolve (or devolve!) from there. We end up laughing until it hurts to breathe - either from the talking or the drinking. Or both. Or just one or the other. The point is, laughing is mandatory.

You describe yourself as a Yuck Enthusiast…

I do! Yuck is a playful term. I don't find bugs and guts and stuff yucky - but I am aware that isn't a widely held perspective. Not everyone appreciates being reminded that we're all wet, bacteria-infested meat, and that's completely fine.

Gimme hair in weird places, flab, wrinkles, uneven teeth, the works! Celebrate that shit!

For me, I absolutely adore all the little things we're supposed to consider flaws which must be glossed over and smoothed out. Gimme hair in weird places, flab, wrinkles, uneven teeth, the works! Celebrate that shit! It's so fun to draw!

How do you come up with ideas for your work? And then, once you’ve got an idea, do you evolve or develop it? In what ways?

Most of my ideas are born from a fascination with a very specific thing, and what I think would be an interesting way to interpret said specific thing. Like... what if I drew a maggot but it had people hands?

Like... what if I drew a maggot but it had people hands?

What does Handmaggot do on a regular day? What is its personality? What does it eat? This might lead to other characters... like maybe Handmaggot has another friend and they hang out at the same bugpub, and suddenly I've got a whole bugiverse to explore! Sometimes the idea fizzles, sometimes I get a new thing to explore a meta-narrative with.

Or for something broader, I take my general interests and think about not just what I like, but what I don't like, and see what happens if I cut out all the stuff that I find uninteresting. Sometimes it doesn't work, but if it does, I just keep building on. It's always a matter of honing in on things that I absolutely love and then seeing how far I can push them. Everything is an opportunity to tell a story. It doesn't have to make sense or go anywhere, it just has to be fun to mess around with.

Tell me more about the idea of a meta-narrative underneath the yuck? Like, are you hoping to illustrate some great truth about the human condition, using snaggle-tooth monsters to tell the tale?

Through exploring concepts I find interesting, I guess I'm really showing anyone who looks at it what my own thought process is. I don't think I can reveal anything about anyone but myself, since I'm the only person I can really examine close enough for my insights to matter.

I hope that by showing others that you can explore weird, “yucky” concepts without it being a big deal, I can help someone get over the voice telling them they just couldn't POSSIBLY draw something self-indulgent and just have fun. If you're having a good time and nobody is getting hurt, why be ashamed? You're an artist! You can create literally anything you want! Go nuts!!

Remember, folks: you don't have to show everyone what you draw, but if you indulge yourself in making something weird and wild, you can bet your ass there is at least one other person on Planet Earth who is gonna love it.

The characters and the worlds you create… would you choose to live in them?

Absolutely! I only create stuff I'm really enthusiastic about, so if I could go fight tentacle monsters or be a weird bug inside of an even bigger weird bug, I'd be absolutely thrilled.

What I admire about your work is how it fully revels in its grotesque fleshiness. You’re so confident in your “voice”. Can you describe how you came to embrace your artistic identity?

It's been a long road! I've had to fight for my artistic voice since I was a kid, which I wish was an exaggeration, but my mother often disparaged the things I was inspired to draw and would lament directly to my face: "Kelly, why don't you draw something NICE?" and I'd be miffed, because I was happy with what I drew and thought it was not just nice but GREAT!

My stuff is the way it is because I am the way I am.

So I grew up internally defending my choice of subject (mostly weird monsters with big teeth) and when I got older, it was pretty easy to continue to ignore what others thought I that “should” be drawing and just draw… to focus on what I liked. My artistic identity is so completely ingrained with my identity in general I don't separate the two in my mind. My stuff is the way it is because I am the way I am.

As a kid I was always flipping over logs to find lizards and bugs, and as an adult I still get a thrill from that concept, peeling back a layer to see all the cool stuff underneath a banal exterior. We all know what's on the outside, what we're presented with and what we present to others. The fun part is seeing what's holding it all up!

Do you wrestle with the ‘marketability’ of your art?

Oh definitely! Obviously the bigger audience you are able to reach, the more chances you're going to have to shine... so it can be frustrating knowing that if I did prints of my work, I wouldn't be welcome at most conventions. Completely understandable, I don't want people unwittingly being exposed to something they aren't comfortable with, but it definitely does present a challenge in terms of marketing.

Through sheer stubborn refusal to quit, I've accumulated a following of people who are willing to pay for my very specific brand of Yuck. I've had more than a few people say that they usually don't like yucky stuff, but they really like mine, and I take comments like that as a huge compliment. Keeps me on brand!

Tease something that you're excited about in the future of your work?

I'm finally taking a real stab at longform comics! I've done a lot of short, free-form erotic stuff (both my own and for clients) that are all pretty much void of narrative, but I've got two big stories I've been wanting to tell and I feel like I'm ready to tell them!

I have a prequel for a larger concept (Dysfunctional Cosmic Horror With A Dash Of Horniness) all storyboarded up that I'm going to start working on in June, so I'm hoping to have that up on Gumroad for people at the end of the year. Blood and tentacles and yelling!! I'm excited to start actually drawing it!!

Going from short comics to a longer page count… what’s something that you’ve found was easier/harder than you expected?

Oh, boy, everything is a lot harder! My style is very loose, but a longer narrative requires structure... so I think the hardest thing is to have everything fully planned instead of just winging it for 20 pages and see how things go!

A great friend of mine, @voorheesvoorhees, helped me do storyboard roughs for this project, and I learned a heckuva lot in terms of making sure the dialogue and the imagery stay in sync. I tend to get really zoomed in on things so I can draw all the fussy weird details even if it doesn't really suit what's going on, so having a second perspective was really valuable.

How/where do you publish your work? What drew you to using that platform?

I publish most of my work on Tumblr. It’s one of the only platforms that you can freely post adult material, and where people can easily find it - or avoid it! A lot of the content I produce is VERY adult.

The only other platforms where you can do that with are furry websites, and only a small percentage of what I create fits under the furry umbrella. Twitter is all right, I just struggle keeping up with more than one social media platform!

(Laughing) “The furry umbrella” totally sounds like a euphemism for…

The hot new fetish all the kids are talking about.

Which established characters, writers, or artists do you tend to follow?

Anyone who has a strong, unapologetic voice. I like people who appreciate and acknowledge that we are all loosely held-together meat and that opinion reflects in their content. Usually people who do very detailed, grotesque art or address ugly subject matter in a frank way. I really appreciate strong shapes and dynamic poses/compositions. Bold colors is a huge bonus. If your work is confronting in some way, I'll probably be into it!

If something doesn't inspire me to start drawing or writing about it, my interest is going to be fleeting at best. I tend to prioritise the creator over a specific thing they've made. If I'm into someone's stuff, I probably like their characters, too. I see characters as a direct reflection of the person who created it, so I'm more interested in why that person created that character than the specific character themselves. That being said, if a character is big, ugly and has gnarly teeth I will love it unconditionally.

Are there some Tumblr-ers or Instagrammers you’d want to call out?

There are so many so hopefully nobody gets offended if I don't mention them, but I have a main five whose art I consume ravenously.

On Instagram: @moxie.saturday does these absolutely beautiful, surreal paintings with the wildest color palettes. Her work ethic and output is intimidating! @meanboss has dynamic poses and color that you can practically smell. @lecherousmoan is a bottomless font of bizarre and compelling stories and concepts. @voorheesvoorhees has some of the most insane lineart I've ever seen in my life and he is absolutely amazing to collaborate with.

On Tumblr, @bone-critter has striking, in your face designs that are a delight to stick in your eyeballs. These folks are all constant inspirations to me and I can't say enough nice things about them. Check out their stuff, you won't be disappointed!

How do you discover new characters, writers, or artists?

Generally through the people I already follow, since being a Yuck Enthusiast is a somewhat smaller market than 'mainstream' stuff. Sometimes I'll find an article while I'm researching a particular thing for my own stuff, sometimes it's recommended to me directly, but if it's yucky, I will eventually find it. I might not always like it, but I'll know where it is. For later. Just in case.

Grab your preferred music device and set it on random - what are the first five songs it plays? No cheating!

These are going to make me seem like I sacrifice goats in a room with newspapered windows and black walls in my spare time, but I swear I have more than just Menacing Noise on my playlist. The shuffle button is unduly calling me out here.

David Lynch - I Know
Wikluh Sky - Rigor Mortis
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement - Homes Built Over The Sea
David Lynch - Bad The John Boy
JK Flesh - Boundless Submission

Maybe the shuffle button is doing you a kindness? I’m sure there’s a bunch of Celine Dion’s music lurking in there...

Yeah, let's go with that. I am a normal human being who listens to human music, like music from fellow human, Celine Dion.

Do you have links for people to buy your work?

I have a Listography page with my commission information and a variety of other things like my work queue and links to my Patreon, Gumroad and Ko-fi. I'm determined to start getting more completed, original work on my Gumroad this year so STAY TUNED!!

I kinda feel like we should all make that wet flapping noise with our cheeks as our way of applauding you and your time in doing this interview, Kelly. Thanks so much!

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