Lavender and the Paisley Pack are invading the city of Berlin with us this year. On a sunny afternoon in March, we sat down with the wonderful Joris Bas Backer, who designed and illustrated the mascots for our festival, to ask some questions over a cup of coffee.

Hello Joris! So great to see you. When did you start making comics, and why comics?
Hello ComicInvasionBerlin! Thank you for having me. I studied painting before, and started comics in 2008. It was my way of expressing how I was back then. So, it was more like journal/diary comics, with myself as a main character. It developed over the last years to make more and more comics with stories from my head – they are still a collection of life bits, but with somewhat imagined characters.

I see. And, how is creating characters for you?
Understanding the role and nature of the character is important. It does take time, and I find that inspirations come easier, they almost flow into my head when I am not focusing too much on making them, you know? For example, doing house chores, walking through a forest…

Sketches by Joris

Yeah, giving room to our brain definitely helps! How was it to be asked to design a mascot for our festival this year?
When I was first asked, I was about to say no, haha. I had quite a lot of work ahead, and felt like it should go to someone else. Then, I slept over it and inspirations filled my head – and, I had to say yes!

And we were over the moon that you said yes! We love Lavender and all the animal characters in the pack, especially the adorable cavys* that seem to be passionate comic drawing artists. Could you tell us a little about them?
*We settled for the alternative name for guinea pigs with the Latin origin, after falling into a very brief rabbit hole about its origin – they aren’t pigs, nor do they come from Guinea!
I wanted Lavender to have sidekicks. There was a doggo character I made, and it somehow wasn’t as adorable as a sidekick for her as I wanted it to be. So, I am a parent, and we like watching reels with cavys on Instagram. I could say that this had a strong influence in making the decision!

I like that they are sidekicks, but also a strong companion to Lavender, like, drawing next to her on their iPad, helping her goabout all her comic shenanigans. They help each other, sometimes don’t agree with each other, but they are great together!

Sketches by Joris

Absolutely. Talking of the animal characters… is there a reason you chose animals to accompany the mascot?
I wanted a mascot that is not entirely human – especially because we have a lot happening in our lives just to deal with right now. I felt that it would be better to have something that is adorable and fun to offer a brief escape from reality.

Makes sense to me. There’s a saying in South Korea, “Cuteness will save the world”… Last question: Your cweapon(s) of choice for drawing? e.g. pens, pencils, paper…
I have a new favourite pencil to draw with: a black coloured pencil (Polychromos) from Faber Castell! I like the rich darkness of it, and that it is soft enough to draw with it! It has both the aspects that I couldn’t get from graphite pencils.

When it comes to inking, I tend to use the brush pens by Tombow these days. They have flexible nibs that can add good variations to the lines.

Thank you so much for sharing your process and thoughts, Joris!

Interview and photos by Amé Binnarä Kim