Bristol-based illustrator Eva Malley made waves online recently with her viral zine about heartbreak, solidarity and bouncing back. We caught up with her to learn why it was a hit with readers and the role social media still has to play in getting noticed.
Everyone's been there. You're still reeling in the aftermath of a breakup, and then out of the blue, an update from your ex pushes you over the edge. This familiar feeling is expertly captured in Crying in The Club, an A5 zine and university project made by Eva Malley which recently went viral on social media.
Despite not being strictly autobiographical, the zine about wallowing in self-pity before being picked up by friendly strangers hits home because it's so true in life. "I've definitely cried in the club over exes before and had random drunk girls dry my tears," Eva tells Creative Boom. "When writing it, my two best friends, who were also going through long-term breakups, I mixed our experiences to create the zine."
Beautifully realised in Eva's distinctive style, the zine stands apart from the crowd with its pink and black colour scheme. Eva's fans will already know that her art is usually monochromatic, and Crying in The Club started as a black-and-white strip.
"I brought in the pink to create more depth and make it feel nostalgic and 'girly'," Eva explains. "I'm often told my illustration style reminds people of their childhood, but I approach more mature topics, so I looked through magazines and books from the late '90s / early 2000s and settled on the hot pinks.
"The zine's theme also incorporates a lot of love and friendship; pink seemed perfect to reflect those ideas."
It was a creative decision that clearly paid off, as Crying in The Club raked in views, likes and shares on social media. At time of writing, the zine has been retweeted nearly five thousand times on Twitter and has been viewed by a million users. Not bad going at all for a platform that has been going through turbulent times lately.
Speaking about why the comic was such a success, Eva thinks it connected with people because it deals with relatable topics. "Almost everyone I know has been through a similar situation, and a huge chunk of my audience is women in their twenties, so it probably resonated a lot with them," she says.
"It serves as a reminder that we can receive so much love and support from our friendships and communities, and not just romantic love, and I believe many people saved the zine so they can be reminded of that."
The success of the zine did not come as a huge surprise to Eva as it had already received a big, positive response on her other social media platforms, "but it was still very lovely and encouraging to see!"
In fact, the Brighton University graduate has a lot to thank social media for regarding commissions. "Going 'viral' kickstarted my illustration career three years ago, so it's not a new experience but always greatly appreciated."
Social media is a notoriously fickle beast, though, with accounts experiencing fluctuating engagement depending on the whims of algorithmic overlords. It's a concern that Eva appreciates and points out that fortunes change from platform to platform.
"I feel up and down about all social media platforms when it comes to sharing art," she reveals. "Twitter has definitely been useful for getting my work out there, but Instagram and TikTok have a greater reach."
This isn't to say that social media is no longer useful for artists hoping to get noticed. "It's definitely useful for me!" Eva adds. "It can sometimes be disheartening, but I tend to post my work on a few different platforms at once. What might not perform well on one could go viral on the other, so I think it's always worth trying.
"Some of my biggest client jobs came from art directors discovering me online; I also run an online shop selling my designs on various products, and social media has been great at promoting that."
Recently though, Twitter, once considered the "town forum of the internet", has undergone several changes. If you're an artist engaged with the site, you don't need us to tell you that Elon Musk's takeover of the platform has been controversial, to say the least. This has led to competitors like Threads springing up, but is this the solution that creatives are crying out for?
"It seems to be the next site artists are flocking to," Eva agrees. "I'm on there! I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing on there or what makes it different from Twitter (yet), but I'm optimistic. A new social media platform is a great way of reaching a new audience, so I will keep posting there and keep my fingers crossed for a good response."
In the meantime, you can pick up Crying in The Club, along with stickers, tote bags, prints and zines from Eva's online shop.
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