And a little bit about me...

Some fun facts

1. English people think I'm Canadian.

2. Americans think I'm English.

3. I'm French.

4. French people think I'm English.

5. Some people call me Canadian Cat.

Now the longer version...

Cat Byrne comic artist and illustrator in Todmorden UK

I grew up mostly ajusting to whatever new land my parents had moved us to... the USA, Japan, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Jordan and Switzerland.

By the time I was of age to start making my own way in life, I was living in Geneva. From there I moved to nearby Vevey to study at the Art Center (Europe). But 6 months prior to graduating, the school shut down unexpectedly, due to lack in industry funding, and in order to finish my Bachelors Degree – without needing to start over again – my only choice was to move to California and finish my studies at the parent campus in Pasadena. So it was, in 1996 I graduated from the Art Center College of Design, having just turned 21, with a BFA in Communication Design.

It was during my last term there that I took a course on web design – as an elective – mainly out of curiosity, but also because I remembered enjoying coding as a child (BASIC on my brother's Apple II). Little did I know that it would become the main focus of my career for 20 years.

While in Los Angeles, I mainly worked as an in-house web designer for a software company, and also did a bit of freelancing on the side.

In 2000, I moved to Santa Cruz, where I freelanced for 3 years, before moving back to Europe; this time, to Manchester in England.

For the weather and the food, OBVIOUSLY.

And also because a friend from my childhood days in Japan had set up a web hosting business, and wanted to expand into web design. It seemed too good an opportunity to pass up (the other option had been volunteering in the WWOOF organic farming program and travelling around Europe until I found somewhere I wanted to settle).

So I stayed in Manchester as the Creative Director of Sputnik Internet (now called Sputnik) for 5 years, after which I resigned so as to freelance again, and have more flexibility to start a family with my husband. Our son was born shortly after, by which time we'd moved to West Yorkshire – first Hebden Bridge, and then Todmorden.

So there I was, doing my usual "one stop design shop" design and illustration freelance for another 6 years, when the unease that had been brewing in me finally came to a boil.

I missed drawing.

Sure, I had drawn some things for people over the years – mascots, logos etc – but nothing for myself... nothing for the sake of drawing something purely because I enjoyed it.

I'd always had good intentions to start drawing again, but the design business drew energy from the same creative pot, and every day, by the end of each day, I was tired... uninspired... drained. It even got to the point where my mental and physical health deteriorated, in protest. I had burnt out.

I forced myself to do more creative things. At first this was designing accessories made with crochet from upcycled materials and oddments (I called the line "Oddmentals"... geddit?... oddments... mental. Oh never mind).

Anyway, I realised soon enough that while I enjoyed being more creative, I was still suppressing what I'd always wanted to be, since childhood, but felt like I missed my calling in life... I wanted to draw comics.

Perfectionism. It's both a gift and a curse. It can push you to constantly improve yourself, and it also can stop you starting anything because you're not up to the standard you want to be at. That had been my mental block for many years, and nothing was ever going to change, until I did something drastic about it.

So in October 2014 – age 38 – I started drawing again, in earnest.

I set myself the goal of making 1000 drawings – no matter how long it took, and no matter how rubbish they were – and posting them on a blog.

I've stuck to it, and at the time of writing this, I'm up to drawing number 807. You can see them all on the blog, here.

Yes, there are many – so many – pieces that really made me cringe at first. Just take a look at drawing number 1!

But I learnt from those, and most importantly, I learned to accept them – even love them for their flaws – and ultimately making peace with myself.

So where has this all led me?

At first I was drawing alongside my design work... and finally in 2017, I dropped the design business altogether.

Financially, it's been hard... leaving an established and successful career, and jumping into a notoriously poorly paid industry, in my 40s, and during a time when many people have less money to spend.

But it's been worth it.

I've started self-publishing my own comic – Mizzle – and my book on mental health and self-acceptance, Conversations With Myselves.

I've collaborated with writer Mert Yeygün on the dark and twisted Out of Hours Comics.

I've also collaborated with author Tom Burleigh on several projects: his comic Reluctance, the book The Window, and the illustrated poem Nancy, which appears in Blunderthrust.

2018 saw the introduction of my comic The Life of Ethel Death, published in the pages of Splank. This is my first commissioned comic, and I'm so incredibly proud of it.

I have helped Chris Browning from The Common Swings with the formation of the Calder Valley Scribblers – a local comic collective – and the organisation of Scribblecon, an annual grassroots comic-con here in Todmorden.

I've exhibited art locally, I've sold my work at stalls, and 2019 was my fourth year having tabled at Thought Bubble Festival (the first year, when my application was approved, I literally cried).

If you'd like to see what upcoming events I'll be at, my calendar is here.

I'm also on a number of social media, if you want to follow me there.


Art vs artist Cat Byrne 2018