Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Guest Artist: Layla Lawlor

As the class segues into longer narratives and we work on the collaborative page project, to this end I had another local heroine drop by for a show & tell: Layla Lawlor has been in the trenches producing a truly impressive and prodigious amount of work for quite some time. Largely self-taught she's maintained multiple projects over the past decade, starting first by putting out minicomics of her series "Raven's Children" which have been anthologized into two self-published volumes of graphic novels, "Shadow of the Snow Fox" and "The Dogs of War." She shared some technical experiences with using a traditional offset printer for the former, and for the latter opting instead for a Print-On-Demand service. Lawlor also invested a lot of time and effort self-marketing her books by having tables at lots of comic conventions for direct sales. These days she has been working on a science-fiction series titled "Kismet," and essentially publishes it on-line.

Watching the evolution of her personal style over the years has been a real treat, and the discipline and passion with which she pursues her works is a big inspiration, and we were very lucky to have her visit the class. Using a lightbox, she will ink over her pencils, scan the line-work and then finish the pages in Photoshop. Lawlor's particular technique is also unique in that she doesn't script or thumbnail out any roughs for her panel/page layouts beforehand (barring troublesome instances that require it) - it reminded me of Stephen King's method of sitting down at the keyboard and just creating his books on the fly. Only an artist who is in complete command of their medium has the confidence to approach their work in such a way, a seamless expression and completely natural outgrowth of their creative process. Sure gives me aspirations, especially when I look at the torturous, convoluted method to my own madness. Conceptually, the hand-in-glove union of writing and drawing, simultaneously balancing the images and text while working is a zen-like place that is a sublime pleasure to attain. Or at least we try and remember that when sweating out another deadline.

One of my favorite side-ventures was a feature she created for a couple years that appeared in a free weekly publication/entertainment event guide put out by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner which was titled "Freebird."
Another admirable aspect of Lawlor's work is her diversity of interests which are reflected in the wide-ranging subject matter in her pieces: this series is probably one of the truer, funnier and most insightful portrayals of what life is like up here than anything I've ever read.

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