I grew up in the glossily mundane town of Cheltenham. I developed a fevered desire to draw very early, but was always reluctant to accept it as a lonesome endeavour and so exploited a range of improvised wrestling moves to persuade my brothers to draw with me.
I would tend to draw my favourite comic, cartoon and video game characters or fiendishly devilish machines, whilst my brother fixated on drawing buck-toothed beavers. Sadly his interest dwindled to nothing, whilst mine grew throughout school culminating in an A-level in art. At that time I was equally fascinated by John Piper’s intensely atmospheric architectural painting as I was the lightweight dynamism of Marvel comics.
I then took what must have seemed the natural step into studying archaeology at university in Nottingham. Whilst I may have been better served by studying art and design, the course developed a keen interest in past communities and especially their rituals and belief systems, which are central to my current comics project The Silver Darlings.
After university I took on a passion-sapping office job, which if nothing else convinced me it was essential to study illustration at Camberwell. I have graduated from the course.
Barring a few wilderness periods, comics have been a consistent part of my life. Probably the most significant moment in transforming my perception of comics was when my French friend presented me with a well-thumbed copy of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. It almost ruined a trip to Barcelona as I struggled to prise myself away from its incredibly compelling narrative, but it proved two things to me: firstly, a dog-eared and crumbling copy it confirmed that comics are something to be shared and enjoyed, not jealously sheathed in plastic. Secondly that when deftly handled the blend of words and pictures can provoke an incredible response.
I’m not sure whether individual people comprehend comics differently, but for me they provide a direct feed to my imagination. The impact great creators can deliver with a single panel continues to inspire me; Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Raymond Briggs’ Gentleman Jim are two phenomenal examples of this.
I find that almost everything I read or the visual art I enjoy leaves a trace in my work like a snail’s trail. Visually my influences are endless from artists and illustrators such as Ravilius, Geoff Grandfield, Miroslav Sasek, Quentin Blake, Edward Gorey and Jon Klassen, to comic creators such as Gipi, Patrick Mckeown, Mike Mignola, Hugo Pratt, Charles Burns and David Mazzucchelli.
Currently I’m working on a book called The Silver Darlings for Blank Slate Books’ Chalk Marks imprint. At 48 pages it’s the longest single comic narrative I’ve worked on to date and I’ve had to take on a lot of drawing challenges that I would previously have tipped my cap to and walked by. This book is where I would tenuously call upon the benefit of three years of archaeological study, centred as it is upon the belief systems of the historic herring fishing community (albeit in the relatively recent 1960s). More than anything it’s about growing up, in so far as accepting that your personal viewpoint is rarely the only way of looking at something. The artwork is very nearly complete and hopefully the book will be available in early 2012.
Aside from this I was lucky enough to contribute to the upcoming anthology Nelson, an inspired idea on the part of Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix. I was tasked with building upon the wonderfully imaginative and occasionally torrid life of the protagonist Nel writing and illustrating a moment of her life from the year 1999. Naturally I disregarded the dawn of a new millennium and instead focussed on Nel’s first experience of live action role-playing. You can see the results when it’s launched by Blank Slate Books at the Thought Bubble festival this November.
As far as the future goes I’d obviously love to make a living from drawing comics, although I’m under no illusion as to how hard it is to do so. Given the last year has been the longest period I’ve ever dedicated to drawing I still feel I have a huge amount to learn. At the moment, whilst the path is littered with rejected drawings, I feel as though I’m taking steps forward with everything I do. If the right opportunity were to arise I’d love to illustrate someone else’s story as I’m keen to really broaden my drawing.
In terms of future personal projects I have an idea in mind for a children’s comic story. I recently re-read James and the Giant Peach and Raymond Briggs’ The Elephant and the Bad Baby has always lingered with me, so I’d like to produce something that has a similar uncompromising approach to being young. I’m thinking of approaching it in more of a digital collage fashion, not dissimilar to a poster I did for the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
All images © 2011 Will Morris (http://whmorris.blogspot.com/)