Dan Berry is a comics creator and artist we’ve long admired here on the blog, but he is also a lecturer at the North Wales School of Art & Design at Glyndwr University(where he is the Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication, lecturing on the BA (hons) Illustration, Graphic Novels and Children’s Books degree), helping the next generation of creators to hone their skills and find their voice in the medium. Any artform needs not only established, experienced creators, it requires a constant infusion of new talent, fresh blood, to keep the medium invigorated, and one of the pleasures of working on this blog isn’t just looking forward to new work from the writers and artists we know and love already, it’s coming across interesting new talent. To that end Dan has been kind enough to collaborate with us on a very special themed set of Director’s Commentary guest posts; we put a set of questions to Dan’s students, and over the next few days they will be talking to us about their work, and hopefully this will be just the first time we hear from some of these creators, and we’ll see them back in the future with more work. You can read the previous guest posts in this series with Tom Harley, Andrew Thomas, Brian Burke and Daisy Hillyard – today we welcome Heather Wilson; you can find out more about Heather’s work via her site and her Twitter:
FPI: What drew you to wanting to make comics?
Heather: It was an idea I got into my head when I was about sixteen after reading about Rachel Nabors being America’s youngest self-published graphic novelist. She really inspired me to think of myself as capable and to think of making my own comics as achievable. Having art teacher after art teacher tell me it was a terrible idea probably also made me more determined to pursue it!
FPI: What was your experience of the course?
Heather: I loved it. It was hard work and a steep learning curve; I lost a lot of sleep, I was always stressed and competing against deadlines right up until the last moment, I questioned myself and my ability, I cried about it sometimes. I loved it. Figure that one out! Moving hundreds of miles away from home, to a town where I didn’t know anyone, to do a course that had only been running for a year has been the best decision of my life so far!
FPI: What are you working on now?
Heather: I’ve begun research and looking for funding for an issue three of Clockwork Express, which is an awesome steampunk-inspired educational children’s comic that I worked on collaboratively with Charly Shepherd and Taryn Whittham. It’s a fantastic project that raises awareness of important female figures in history, especially the sciences. There’s more information about the magazine and what we’ve done with it so far here.
FPI: What are your ambitions?
Heather: Um, Girls’ Comics Revolution?
More short-term, I want the same as everybody else, to do what I love and make a living from it.
FPI: Explain your working process.
Heather: Well first, I get excited/angry about something. Then I make a colour-coded mind map and research the living daylights out of my topic; I read blogs, journals, books and magazines and gather images.
Thumbnails are important. Never skip thumbnails to get a job done quicker. It doesn’t work. I know.
At the moment, I don’t have a set approach that I use every time I make a page. Although perhaps that should be my aim! It depends mainly on what media I’m working with. Most of my work is mixed media including everything from pastels and watercolours to inks and digital. I love working with vibrant colours and experimenting with materials that aren’t prominent in comics.