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  • Writer's pictureBen


Updated: Sep 26, 2021

In the winter of 2019 I attended Emily Haworth-Booth's Drawing the Graphic Novel course at the Royal Drawing School in London. Here are some pages that came out of it.

The character on the pages above appeared with virtually no revisions, pretty much in one go. She wears a hat all the time and carries a big bag, inside which she finds unlikely artifacts and creatures from history and literature. The sad-looking owl drawn in pencil in the top right of the right-hand page is based on one that appears in William Blake's Hecate The Night of Enitharmon's Joy (c.1795), which I'd seen at the Tate's retrospective show that year. Below is Blake's original painting, plus a detail of sad-looking owl.

I had a pair of toy owls as an infant, made, I think, of rabbit skin, like toys from some bygone era. I was obsessed with how soft and fluffy they were. I remember the sensation of touching them was almost too much to bear. Later, I was given another, larger owl. One day I decided to give this owl a hair cut with some scissors I found in the kitchen. I still remember the singing of the blades cutting through its fine fur, and how upset I was when I realized this would be a permanent change. Blake's owl, with its sorrowful expression, looks as familiar to me as a sibling. Below, my character finds Owly in her bag.

I suppose if I had to commit myself I would say this character is a version of my mother. My mother doesn't wear a hat these days, or carry a magic bag, but she does have a kind of spooky access to the animals and people that live at the back of our cultural cave. Below you can see my character talking to her cat - a direct reference to my mum, who has had more cats than I can count and has always treated them entirely as people. Another connection: when I was little I got teased at school by kids who said my mother wore "men's boots". My mother told me to tell them to stop being so sexist. It worked. Now I appreciate the fact that such boots have become a unisex item. I wear a sturdy brand myself and enjoy drawing them in the style of the late magician Tove Jansson, as in this picture of Little My biting someone:

It's probably evident that Jansson is a significant influence on the overall way I'm drawing this character.

Cat studies:

The goat didn't make it into the story. Below, my character parts the undergrowth and looks at a frog. I drew clouds of steam for her breath because it's winter. I borrowed the way these look from the brilliant Antoine Cossé.

Planning panel layout:

And two pages of more finished story:

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