Willow Dawson

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Willow Dawson is a Canadian cartoonist and illustrator, whose works include The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea with author Helaine Becker (Kids Can Press), Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung (Penguin Books Canada), Lila and Ecco's Do-It-Yourself Comics Club (Kids Can Press), 100 Mile House (excerpts on Top Shelf Comics 2.0), the graphic novel No Girls Allowed, with author Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press), and Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate, with author Emily Pohl-Weary (Kiss Machine). Her works have been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.[1]
Her black and white comics art style is wonderful: bold and full of thought.[2] Dawson also creates painted stand alone illustrations which she turns into prints and sells on her Society6 site. The original art is created using acrylic ink and paint on recycled cardboard. Her illustrations convey a mood of whimsy and playful-uncanny.[3] Her work typically exhibits flowing linework and favours a 50's colour palette.
She is a member of The RAID Studio, The Writers' Union of Canada, Illustration Mundo, and JacketFlap.
Dawson was born in 1975 and grew up in Vancouver, BC. She currently lives in a creaky-old-house-turned-music-school in downtown Toronto.[1]

Growing Up[edit]

Dawson grew up in the area of Kitsilano, in Vancouver, British Columbia. She spent a lot of time in hospital as a child with severe, chronic asthma, during which she drew and made art. She credits her father, artist Clif Dawson, as her best friend, a continued source of inspiration and the reason she got into art in the first place. Her last name means son of the jackdaw (blackbird). Dawson and her father share a love of and fascination with flight, including birds (particularly crows) and airplanes.
Her parents purchased 40 acres (160,000 m2) of forest in 100 Mile House, British Columbia before she was born. Her father built a large cabin on a ridge and the family spent their summers there until the mid-late 1980s.

Art School[edit]

Dawson moved to Toronto in the late 1990s. She studied illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design.
Shortly before graduating, Dawson was approached by Kids Can Press to illustrate their upcoming project, eventually titled No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure. She has been illustrating children's books and graphic novels since.

Comics career[edit]

Dawson began her comics career by publishing 'zines and mini comics in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She eventually moved on to bigger projects, including the comic book Mother May I with Sarrah Young (Eve's Plum Press, 2003), submissions in the anthology Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks (Sumach Press, 2004) and Drawing the Line (DTL Press, 2004).

SMALL
Her autobiographical comic Small in the anthology Drawing the Line (DTL Press, 2004) tells in a nutshell, of the severity of her asthma through the years and the family's decision to try Homeopathy. This story spawned an interest in exploring more biographical and autobiographical material.

LET'S TALK ABOUT IT
In 2005, Dawson was commissioned to create comic strips for Deepa Mehta's documentary Let's Talk About It, a film about domestic violence with a special highlight on immigrant families. The strips were used as section breaks and to illustrate key moments. The film aired on Omni TV in several languages.

VIOLET MIRANDA: GIRL PIRATE
It was through Girls Who Bite Back that she met collaborator / author Emily Pohl-Weary. The pair were dissatisfied with the main female protagonists role in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and set to work creating a more realistic portrait of female pirates. The series Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate was a 4 issue comic book series published by Kiss Machine from 2005–2008, which drew inspiration from the lives of Anne Bonney and Mary Read, two of histories most infamous female pirates.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED
Dawson illustrated the 2008 graphic novel No Girls Allowed written by author Susan Hughes and published by Kids Can Press. The book tells several stories of different women across the globe and through history who dressed as men for various reasons. No Girls Allowed has received a lot of positive press, including rave reviews on Boing-Boing,[4] National Post[5] and the School Library Journal.[6] In 2008, the book received an Ontario Library Association's Best Bet for Junior Non-Fiction Award. It has since been nominated for The Cybils Graphic Novel Award, The Joe Shuster Comics for Kids Award, ForeWord’s Book of the Year Award, and the Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction.

LILA AND ECCO'S DO-IT-YOURSELF COMICS CLUB
Dawson's editor asked if she had any desire to create a how-to book on making comics for kids. Dawson created Lila and Ecco's Do-It-Yourself Comics Club, the story of three characters who learn over the course of this 100 page graphic novel, how to make their own comics. The character of Lila's mother is based on Dawson's homeopath, Laurie Dack from the Vancouver Centre For Homeopathy. The character of Ruby is based on Dawson's own sister, Shayla Dawson. Lila's artwork is inspired by the author's niece Gabrielle McKenzie. This book received funding from the Ontario Arts Council through the Writers' Reserve Program.

HYENA IN PETTICOATS: THE STORY OF SUFFRAGETTE NELLIE MCCLUNG
Dawson was approached by Penguin Canada (through her first agent) to create a historical graphic novel about Nellie McClung, Canada's most outspoken suffragette who is credited with getting women the vote and (along with the other members of "The Famous Five") getting women officially recognized as "person's" under the Act. McClung felt that her time on the farm was the underpinning to her political and literary success, Dawson wanted the design of the book to mirror the design aesthetic at the turn of the century during the suffragette's formative years. She created page borders with banners inspired by the covers of 1900's farming catalogues and tiny, moving animals reflecting the theme of each chapter.[7] This book was reviewed in CM Magazine [8] and Quill & Quire [9] and others... This books also received support from the Ontario Arts Council's Writers' Reserve Program.

THE BIG GREEN BOOK OF THE BIG BLUE SEA
Dawson illustrated this science textbook which was written by Helaine Becker for Kids Can Press. The book contains science experiments about the ocean with an environmental message.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

100 MILE HOUSE
She is currently working on a semi-autobiographical graphic novel called 100 Mile House (excerpts published at Top Shelf Comix 2.0). The series is set in the woods of 100 Mile House, British Columbia and focuses on her friendship with her father, his influence on her artistic development and their shared love of the land.

Awards[edit]

Dawson won the 2008 Ontario Library Association's Best Bet for Junior Non-Fiction for No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes, published by Kids Can Press.

Nominations[edit]

  • 2008 Cybils Graphic Novel Award: No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press)
  • 2008 Joe Shuster Comics for Kids Award: No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press)
  • 2008 ForeWord’s Book of the Year Award: No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press)
  • 2008 Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction: No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press)

Book Tours[edit]

Dawson will be touring Prince Edward Island for the 2012 TD Children's Book Week.

Bibliography[edit]

Upcoming:

  • 100 Mile House (Top Shelf Comics, ongoing from 2008)

Science Books:

  • The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea (Kids Can Press, 2012)

Graphic Novels:

  • Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung (Penguin Books Canada, 2011)
  • Lila and Ecco's Do-It-Yourself Comics Club (Kids Can Press, 2010)
  • No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure (Kids Can Press, 2008)

Anthologies:

  • Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks "Levitation Girl in Good Afternoon America!" (Sumach Press, 2004)
  • Drawing the Line "Small" (DTL Press, 2004)
  • Comics Festival "Ella and Squid" (Legion of Evil Press, 2009)

Small press comics:

  • Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate (Kiss Machine, 2005–2008)
  • Mother May I (Eve's Plum Press, 2003)

Self-Published Work:

  • The Innumerable Obsessions of Purl McGee (2006)

Illustration clients[edit]

McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., Owl Magazine, Kids Can Press, Top Shelf Comics, Penguin Canada, YWCA Canada, LGBTQ Parenting Network, Metaviews, Jesse Hirsh, Filmblanc, Shameless Magazine, Sumach Press, Kiss Machine.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Willow Dawson, http://www.willowdawson.com/willowdawsonbio.htm
  2. ^ Broken Pencil Magazine, http://www.brokenpencil.com/reviews/reviews.php?reviewid=3230
  3. ^ Drawn!, http://drawn.ca/2008/05/03/willow-dawson/
  4. ^ Boing-Boing!, http://boingboing.net/2009/05/26/no-girls-allowed-gra.html
  5. ^ National Post Article, http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/afterword/archive/2009/05/02/toronto-comic-arts-festival-2009-q-amp-a-with-willow-dawson.aspx
  6. ^ School Library Journal Interview, http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/540000654/post/960034096.html
  7. ^ Dawson, Willow. "Space TV". Willow Dawson's Sketchblog. Blogspot. Retrieved Dec 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ Chychota, Julie. "Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung.". Volume XVIII Number 24. CM Magazine. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  9. ^ Gardner, Suzanne. "Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung by Willow Dawson". Kids' Books Reviews. Quill & Quire. Retrieved January 2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

External links[edit]

:Women in comics | Illustration | Graphic Novel | Children's Literature | Comic Books | Science books | Cartoonist | Willow |