Last Saturday’s Safari Festival in Shoreditch, east London, played host to many of Europe and the USA’s brightest and best visual storytellers, including some of my personal heroes: Anna Hafisch, Antoine Cossé, Richard Short, Michael DeForge, Lando, Simon Hanselmann, Irkus M. Zeberio, Alexis Beauclair, and Donya Todd. I confess I blew more money within the first 20 minutes of arriving than I’d like to admit.
In among the zines and prints of illustrators and artists I’ve been buying for ages sat someone whose work I’ve admired from afar but never managed to purchase. Laura Callaghan’s illustrations of effortlessly strong women, sharp wit, and inimitable artistic flair have made me an avid fan of her Instagram feed, and apparently unable to speak to her in person. As I sidled over to her table to pick up a copy of Fancy 5—a zine I knew from social media stalking to be in perilously short supply—I started to mutter something about being a fan, and once having written about her work, but could hardly manage to get the words out before turning red. I grabbed the zine, paid my cash, then turned tail and walked headlong into another customer. I had intended to ask for an interview.
What happened was a rare case of die-hard fan-boying, whereby I’m left tongue-tied by an artist’s talent. The only other time this has happened was some years ago, sitting down to an interview with design legend Seymour Chwast. Having bottled my first question from nerves I spent 10 minutes flailing before finally regaining my composure. Had his PR not been sat behind me I’d most probably have upped and left. I felt like an ass.
All this is my attempt at an apology for not having more to tell you about Laura and her work, aside from the fact that I think she’s one of the best illustrators working right now. Whether or not you dig the pastel palettes and sassy scenes, it’s impossible to deny the sheer skill of her draftsmanship, her mastery of pace and penchant for a visual pun. Her illustration is innately of its time, but ridicules the absurdity of modern life. First and foremost Laura is a skillful satirist.
Fancy 5 brings together a selection of projects from 2016, including images made for Pick Me Up, V&A, and It’s Nice That, as well as some comics printed here for the first time. I wish I had an entertaining story to tell you about its genesis, Laura’s process, or an anecdote about her early days as an illustrator, but all I can offer is a recommendation that you pick up a copy while you still have the chance (there’s only 150 of them and I know they’ll go like hot cakes).