Sarah Lightman is a London-based artist, curator and writer. She completed an Art Foundation course at Central St Martins, attended The Slade School of Art for her BA and MFA, where she won The Slade Prize and The Slade Life Drawing Prize, and has a PhD from University of Glasgow in women’s autobiographical comics. She has extensively published her research. Her artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally.
Sarah co-curated Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, an internationally touring exhibition of 18 comic artists, that opened at 9 museums over 6 years. She edited Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews (McFarland 2014), that was awarded The Susan Koppelman Prize for Best Feminist Anthology (2015) and The Will Eisner Award for Best Scholarly Publication (2015), an Association of Jewish Studies/Jordan Schnitzer Book Award for Jews and The Arts (2016).
Sarah has experience teaching and guest lecturing at undergraduate and graduate level including at the Universities of Glasgow (2018 and 2011-12), Roehampton (2011, 2012, 2018, 20) and London College of Communications (2017). She has acted as an External Examiner for an MA at California College of the Arts. In addition, Sarah has led comics workshops at the Jewish Museum, London (2018), Glasgow Jewish Book Week (2018), Scottish Limmud (2019), JW3, the Jewish Community Centre for London (2012, 2013) and Koffler Centre for the Arts, Toronto (2011). She has also convened a Comics Study Day at The Slade School of Art (2014), taught at The Art Academy, London (2019) and is currently teaching “Drawing Graphic Narratives” at The Royal Drawing School.
Sarah also chaired the Women in Comics Conferences in 2009 and 2010, and, in 2009, co-founded Laydeez do Comics with Nicola Streeten, the most influential comics forum in the UK.
Interviews and Features
Sarah Lightman interview for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
“I have worked so hard on not feeling regretful. I think that both my parents had regrets in their lives and they talked about them quite often. Perhaps this was one reason that I had adopted a defeatist approach to many things. I have to work hard each day to live in my now, and not wish for another life. One thing I have found is that my emotions can be quite strong at times, and instead of squashing them with food and crying, which I do as well, I have to remind myself to draw and write and paint them out. Those terrible feelings can become beautiful art.
So the truth is, I can draw these things, they can be cathartic, but I do find some regrets and sadness still linger. And for those, I just need to be mindful each day and let them sit beside me.”
The Book of Sarah by Sarah Lightman is available to buy now.
Sarah Lightman for The Author, Spring 2020
‘These are the endless negotiations I have faced as an autobiographical artist and a mother: between my body and mind; between my tiredness and my dreams of drawing and recording; between what I want to say, what I can’t say, what I won’t let myself say.’
Sarah Lightman for Jewish Journal
Do you think Sarah was overlooked in the Bible, since there wasn’t a book about her?
SL: That’s what I argue. I felt about her story what I felt about myself — I wasn’t leading my own life. I was in someone else’s story. Like me, she was also an older mum. There’s contemporary literature written with her in mind. I found more as time went on. Once a lot of the biblical women began to become independent in the narrative, they were condemned and then ignored. Eve was condemned for wanting to learn more.
With Sarah, she gets absorbed into Abraham’s great narrative. She’s a conduit through which the Jewish people are born. It’s Abraham who learns her name is going to be changed. It’s Abraham who converses with God. Sarah is deriving power through Abraham. Even when she talks about her baby, she says, “Who believes Abraham could have a baby at this age?” She’s often qualified in relation to the male characters. Sarah has power in my graphic novel. Women can take control of how other women are being presented in the arts and give them power and opportunity.
Henny Beaumont for The Author
A new look for the Spring 2020 issue of The Author, with cover and inside illustrations created by Henny Beaumont, author of Hole in the Heart. The issue also features an article by Sarah Lightman on illustrating motherhood. Buy your copy online via The Society of Authors online shop.
‘I wanted to produce a [cover] image that was a warning, but also hopeful. A celebration of creativity and the imagination in the face of the imminent catastrophe that climate change represents. I wanted to capture the threat we are facing and, at the same time, show that writers and artists have a role to play, that they can have a positive impact on the way we think about climate change, and that we can be inspired to alter our behaviour.’ Henny Beaumont
Shortlisted: Communication Arts Illustration Competition 2020
'Sarah, Sarah, come out of the shadows', Kalina Kupzynska for Closure Journal
‘(Sarah Lightman) shares a sensitivity to the potential of the hybrid medium of comics for narrating mental states with comic book autobiographers such as Dominique Goblet, Birgit Weyhe and Regina Hofer; this sensitivity is what places The Book of Sarah alongside Goblet’s Faire semblant c’est mentir or Weyhe’s Ich weiss.
One can recognize leaps in time in the iridescent style of the drawings in The Book of Sarah; self-portraits mark the passing of time, where the text only vaguely indicates the temporal orientation. Text and image, although clearly related to each other, remain separate, panels and speech bubbles are not to be found. The pencil drawings, whose at times sketchy, at times extremely elaborate rugged materiality dominates the book, play a strong narrative role – they bear witness to stages in Sarah’s artistic development, marking the first-person perspective on relatives, books, places, herself. The handwritten reflections in first-person form bear witness to the search for self-knowledge, but this is only individualised by the tension created by the reference to drawings.
Graphic Memoir’ is an obvious genre ascription, especially because of Lightman’s recourse to the practice of diary writing. With its relentless introspection – intimate fears, longings, self-doubt are an integral part of the narrative – The Book of Sarah inscribes itself into the autobiographical strand of confessional writing.’
Read the article in full HERE.
'Annunciations and Pedalos', Studies in the Maternal Journal
Studies in the Maternal, an online literary journal, have published a piece by Sarah Lightman, titled Annunciations and Pedalos. Sarah describes a curated selection of drawings, and how having a child has changed her art.
‘In the painting, the Virgin Mary is happily reading but is then interrupted by the arrival of the Archangel Gabriel, who announces her pregnancy to her. Duccio frames Mary in this protected, quiet and calm space just as her world is about to be transformed. I wanted to focus on this moment of interruption, at a time when I was beginning to carve out a space for myself as an artist again. In my experience, maternal interruption was not just a momentary pause in autonomy, lasting the duration of pregnancy. For me, the interruption lasted about 3 years. I wanted to warn Mary that she might not have that quiet time again and that it might take years until she could read a book of her choice. Perhaps, like me, Mary’s only reading materials and reading time during this period might be the Thomas The Tank Engine series.’
See Sarah’s artwork and read the rest of her essay on the journal website HERE.
Pop Matters, Best Nonfiction Books of 2019
‘While the art world is full of excellent artists, few have the comics savvy to construct the sort of complex narratives and image-text relationships that Sarah Lightman achieves in her graphic memoir, The Book of Sarah.’
British Book Design and Production Awards: Shortlisted
We’re thrilled to announce that Myriad graphic novelists Sarah Lightman and Olivier Kugler have been shortlisted in the British Book Design and Production Awards for their respective graphic nonfiction publications, The Book of Sarah and Escaping Wars and Waves.
The Book of Sarah in Glasgow Herald
‘It’s a very open, candid take on your own life and thought. How easy was it to put it down on the page?
I felt this very strong need to tell my story. It was almost an unbearable need. And I only felt a release when the words that circled my head were finally written down. Sometimes these phrases were like buzzing bees in my consciousness. Now they are on the page and it is such a relief to see and hear my thoughts and feelings in the world.
I also knew that if I made art then people would stop, see and listen. Perhaps I now understand my need to be heard was exactly what I felt my parents and family never did. They couldn’t hear my voice above their own needs and anxieties, or the background noise of the family home. But on the page I could write and draw as I wanted. I could be heard and hear myself.’
Broken Frontier Book of the Week
‘Sarah Lightman’s long-anticipated project is here and it’s been well worth the wait. Lightman is, of course, the co-founder of the vitally important Laydeez do Comics group and a former Broken Frontier Awards nominee for Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews.
Exploring the complexities of families, feminism, Judaism, motherhood and art this genuinely distinctive graphic narrative provides a fresh approach to autobio comics in a book that is deeply personal but always relatable. Look for a full review at Broken Frontier in the not too distant future.’
Sarah Lightman on Bookanista
‘The Book of Sarah is a project that has covered thousands of pages of diary drawings, from hundreds of sketchbooks, beginning in 1998. These drawings chart my childhood and sibling rivalries, schooldays and intense religious orthodoxy when I studied in Jerusalem, my years at art school, a failed relationship in New York, my marriage and most recently the birth of my son. The Book of Sarah is also a feminist reparative act. My namesake, The Matriarch Sarah in Genesis, is frequently portrayed as lacking her own agency, and slips in and out of her husband Abraham’s story. I, however, am the heroine of this Book of Sarah. Furthermore, as I am commentating on my own narrative, my own book of the bible, I am in sharp opposition to Jewish traditional texts that propose an almost exclusively male intellectual heritage.’
Sarah Lightman on Resonance FM
‘Sarah Lightman traces her journey from modern Jewish orthodoxy to a feminist Judaism as she searches between the complex layers of family and family history. Jude Cowan Montague offers reflections on inheriting her name from the literally apocryphal Book of Judith. Plus music from Jewish Manchester, London and beyond. Listen in full on Resonance FM HERE.
Turnaround Graphic Novel of the Month
‘Each drawing is annotated by Lightman’s own observations, together forming a tapestry of her life from a young girl in Hampstead to present day motherhood. Poetically poignant contemplations that, much like the book’s biblical namesake, can be drawn wisdom and opened on any page. A beautiful, resonant, gallery of a graphic memoir.’
Read the review in full HERE.
Jewish Book Week featuring The Book of Sarah
Sarah Lightman with a tantalising pre-publication copy of The Book of Sarah at Jewish Book Week, at which she spoke.
Extracts on motherhood feature in Studies in Comics
‘Harry was born 23 December 2013. Beautiful, loud, hungry. Clock of my day. Emperor of my household. At a conference on motherhood in London in June 2015 I heard Bracha Ettinger speak about ‘the three shocks of maternality’. It helped me to understand how much I am still recovering from my new reality…’
Extracts from The Book of Sarah feature in Studies in Comics (Vol 6, Issue 2), which also includes a report on contemporary comics by Jewish women co-authored by Sarah, Heike Bauer and Andrea Greenbaum.
Comics have given me a community
‘The most important role comics have played has been to give me a community. I love reading other comics and being part of this great surge by women to tell their life stories. I set up Laydeez do Comics with Nicola Streeten in 2009. We had no idea how many people would be interested in a comics forum that focused on autobiography.’ Read this fascinating interview with Sarah Lightman in Barely South Review.
Alex Fitch interviews Sarah Lightman
Alex Fitch interviews Sarah Lightman and the artists of the touring show Graphic Details in London at the Space Station 65 gallery (first broadcast 20 November 2014).
Sarah Lightman interview for Lilith Blog
Sarah discusses her personal projects, involvement with the graphic community and upcoming events, as well as novel, The Book of Sarah, with Danica Davidson in the article ‘Women’s Voices Through Comics‘ for Lilith.
‘The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!’