As we continue our interview series, our next creator in the spotlight is artist Willow Dawson.
Willow Dawson grew up in Vancouver BC and now resides in Toronto ON with her husband, Ray and their imaginary pet salamander, Mister Gargoyle. Willow graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her books include No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure (written by Susan Hughes, Kids Can Press, Fall 2008), Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate (written by Emily Pohl-Weary, Kiss Machine Presents) and her own self-published kids’ book: The Innumerable Obsessions of Purl McGee. Willow’s books have been supported by the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. She also plays the saw, keys and sings in the band, Little Brown Bat.
What part of a Canada are you from/where do you live now?
I grew up in Vancouver, BC a few blocks away from the ocean. I now live in Toronto, ON.
Were you a comics fan growing up?
Growing up I had a few Archie’s and Betty & Veronica’s but none of the characters ever really resonated with me. I also had one issue of Conan and one issue of X-Men. I read and re-read that X-Men comic because it featured Callisto, who I thought was pretty cool / bad-ass. As I grew older, I started to realize that most of the comics I was seeing on store shelves were being created for boys and I eventually lost interest. A boyfriend re-introduced me to the world of comics in my late teens.
Who are some of your creative influences?
Goodness… My father, Clif Dawson, is a huge influence, probably the biggest. Others include Beardsley, Klimt, de Toulouse-Lautrec, the Futurists, Dada, Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Julie Doucet, Craig Thompson, Fiona Smyth, Margaret Kilgallen, Christian Northeast, Edel Rodriguez, Yuko Shimizu, and The Heads of State. Tom Waits, Okkervil River and Nina Nastasia, among others, have also influenced me. And, of course, my husband Ray who is amazing with both words and sound.
Can you tell us a bit about your career as a comic book artist?
I started out self-publishing ‘zines of poetry and collage art and eventually graduated to comix. I am always proudest of my most recent work. No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes was published last year, I am also feeling really good about my work on my new webcomic 100 Mile House (see below for more on both).
Can you tell us specifically about the comics work you had published in 2008?
No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure is an 80 page graphic novel written by Susan Hughes and published by Kids Can Press. The book features 7 biographical stories of different women who, for various reasons, disguised themselves as men. Stories span time from the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut of Ancient Egypt to Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, a soldier in the American Civil War. The stories take place in Scandinavia, China, France and New France, Britain, Africa, Canada and the US (pre and post civil war). As you can imagine, there is a heavy historical component to this book which required extensive research and I was very lucky to have had the help of both Susan and our fantastic editor Karen Li. Another challenge was the limitation of pages allotted for each story. Some of these women accomplished so much in their lives, it was difficult to pack everything in. No Girls Allowed is a book that is very close to my heart. These are stories that so rarely get told, it was an honour to have been given the chance to help bring them to life!
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on 100 Mile House, a series of comix-style memoirs about my time spent as a child in the mountains of BC. It’s being published online on Top Shelf’s new webcomic site, TS2.0 (see the link below).
Do you have a website and/or blog?