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artist interview – lize meddings and the sad ghost club

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It’s easy to feel alone when you’re going through it. Artist Lize Meddings certainly felt that way before she started her online comic series The Sad Ghost Club in 2014. As someone who’s always felt all the feels, she often found herself wondering how everyone else seemed to get out of bed in the morning just fine.

When Lize started sharing her emotions on Instagram in the form of an illustrated ghost, she realised countless others related to her experience. Since then, Lize’s Sad Ghost Club has validated and comforted many who’ve struggled with their mental health (a perfect example of how art can make a difference!).  

Late last year, she released her first long-form comic book. Also called The Sad Ghost Club, it's a touching depiction of everyday anxiety and the truly life-changing effect of being seen and heard. We heartily recommend passing on a copy to your mates – and your younger siblings while you’re at it.Hi Lize! Who are you and what do you do? Hello, hello! I’m Lize Meddings and I’m an illustrator, comic artist and the creator of The Sad Ghost Club, a project centred around positive mental-health awareness. I live in Bristol in the UK and love it – it’s a wonderful city.

Have you always been arty? I think so. I remember getting those ‘How to Draw Cats/Animals/Manga’ books as a kid and never following the steps because I wanted to create my own characters. As a teen I got really into making my own animations, which kind of morphed into comics as I realised I could tell stories a lot quicker by drawing them instead!What kinds of things do you enjoy drawing and painting most? I love painting anything nature related, but find buildings really hard to draw (I pushed myself with the book and the amount of buildings in it!). I think something natural is easier to add more expression to – you can go with the flow more – whereas buildings and man-made things are harder to make abstract. I also love drawing animals and humans, too. If I could only draw or paint one thing forever, it’d be rabbits. 

Tell us about how you started The Sad Ghost Club and what inspired you. I made the first official Sad Ghost Club comic in 2014 and it was just me venting about feelings I was struggling with. And then I made a few more comics, and people started to respond very positively, which I was surprised by. I just wanted to process my own thoughts to begin with, but I became very inspired by the community as I continued. Having people say, “This made me feel better!” was all the feedback I needed to share as many stories and struggles as I could to help people feel a little less alone.How did you land on the character of the sad ghost? I actually made a comic about Halloween, which was about two characters: someone dressed as a ghost and someone dressed as a skeleton. So I guess that’s technically where it came from! The character kept popping up in my sketchbooks and then morphed into the mascot for the Sad Ghost Club. I had originally sketched ideas for the ‘Tired Eyes Club’ but ‘Sad Ghost’ seemed to fit better! I really felt like a sad ghost at that time, too, drifting about after finishing uni, not knowing what to do with myself.

What was the process of creating the Sad Ghost Club book like? Was it the first long-form comic you’d done? It absolutely was the first long-form comic I’d done, and that in itself was very daunting! It was a really fun process, but I really struggled at the beginning. Creating a world that made sense for a character that has no backstory – and needing that character to remain as anonymous as possible – was a real challenge. Once the story got finalised, it got a lot easier and I loved making the artwork. Starting 243 pages from scratch and slowly chipping away at it was very rewarding. The book does such a wonderful job of expressing how anxiety can feel. At the same time, anxiety can be so different for everyone. Is it challenging having this responsibility of representing mental health issues? The responsibility can be really daunting. I had to remind myself that people have liked the work I’ve made for all these years, and there’s no reason to think it would suddenly change with the book! All I can do is represent my experience, the same way as when I started, and hope that it resonates with people.

Do you think conversations around mental health have changed for young people since you started The Sad Ghost Club? The conversation has changed, but it’s very hard to know if those changes aren’t just within my circles. It seems more acceptable to talk about mental health – as it should be! I made the first comic because it was something I wasn’t really seeing online. But now it feels more commonplace, which is amazing. I think people are quicker to notice if they’re struggling, and that just wasn’t something I experienced 10 years ago. I felt really inept at handling things everyone seemed to do easily, and now it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s anxiety. That makes total sense.” Awareness leads to understanding that we all find some things harder than others, and that’s not our fault – we might just be struggling.What other things would you like to see change in regards to how we think of and deal with mental health? I think as the conversation keeps going, we could do with sharing stories of when mental health symptoms can be a bit scary or extreme, through a non-judgemental lens. Sometimes anxiety can come out as anger, sometimes it can verge on hysteria. Those symptoms can still create a distance for the sufferer if no one is really prepared to see that. So the more we talk about that and how to deal with those intense emotions, the more accepting we can be. The less we judge how these feelings express themselves, the better equipped we can be to help support our friends.

Why do you think the Sad Ghost comics resonate with so many people? Because we all have feelings, and even the most happy-go-lucky of us will still experience days that feel harder than others. I think reminding people of that is what has resonated with so many. It’s cathartic showing that at least one other person (me) has felt that way. It feels a little less isolating. And as the community has grown, it’s got to the point where I share a comic and there’s people in the comments sharing their stories, advising others, sending support and affirmation. It’s a real joy to be a part of. What’s something you do for yourself when you’re going through a hard time? I’m all about escapism. I try and distract myself as best I can, usually with video games or reality TV. If it’s a day where I have to do things, I’ll give myself an hour to feel it and then hope the tasks feel a little more manageable after. It sounds corny, but learning to go easy on myself has helped so much. Accepting that these days happen, and hopefully tomorrow will be a bit easier. Those around me really help by confirming that a break is fine when I’m beating myself up over something. I’m also a big fan of having a dance break if I’m feeling stuck. 

Anything else you’d like to tell frankie readers? Write down your feelings! And if you can make art about them that’s even better! There are so many stories waiting to be told, and your experience so far is probably a lot more relatable to others than you think. No one can tell your story but you! Also, The Sad Ghost Club Volume 2 comes out in January, 2022. 

The Sad Ghost Club by Lize Meddings (Hachette Australia, $22.99) is available now.

If this post has brought up bad thoughts and you’d like to chat to a professional, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or find support and resources via Headspace and Beyond Blue