Mollie Ray on her next graphic novel, visual storytelling and creating effective illustrations
Like most people who strive for a creative career, Mollie’s ambitions date back to her childhood, when she harbored the dream of becoming an animator. In addition to sculpting small plasticine figures and creating stop motion films, she enjoyed writing and illustrating her own stories.
“I’ve always drawn, but I think the drive to tell stories in one form or another has always been an equal passion,” Mollie told Creative Boom. “That’s when I started moving into illustration and comics. I especially loved graphic novels as a way to tell captivating visual stories.
“I guess writing stories was a positive way for me to process the things I had been through, and I realized that this could, in turn, help other people who had been through something similar in helping them make sense of it.”
Among her creative inspirations, Mollie singles out sculptor and photographer Andy Goldsworthy as leaving a lasting impression. It was through her appreciation of the natural curves and contours of nature, which Mollie tried to copy in her garden as a child by playing with twigs, stones and plums.
In terms of visual storytelling, however, Mollie praises the work of Australian picture book author Shaun Tan, “particularly his beautiful, complex graphic novel The Arrival and his highly poignant picture book Cicada”. Katie Green’s graphic novel, Lighter Than My Shadow, also inspired Mollie by showing her how vulnerable she could be when creating and telling stories about her own experiences.
“My strongest work has always been the one I’m most emotionally invested in.”
Lyrics also play a big role in Mollie’s creative practice as they can paint vivid images in her mind that capture the essence of very particular feelings. It lends itself well to Mollie’s art style, which she describes as “whimsical with soft, rounded edges and intricate shadows.” She adds, “I like to think it compliments the harder subject matter that I often lean into in my own stories, making the often difficult concepts more digestible.”
Speaking of tough concepts, Mollie’s debut graphic novel, Giant, tackles tough problems head-on. “Giant is a silent graphic novel about my family’s experience when my brother was diagnosed with cancer,” she reveals. “The main character wakes up one day to find that he has physically grown to the size of a giant, which acts as three metaphors: the physical mutation of cancer; the feeling of being ‘the elephant in the room’; and the ‘giant’ the strength he takes with him after his recovery.”
Illustrated in black and white, Giant’s artwork captures the colorful, clinical world that Mollie lived in when her brother was undergoing chemotherapy. “Everything seemed to lack color, and even in my day-to-day life I felt like the world was going dark for me, and the daily tasks were overshadowed by this lingering feeling of fear for my brother.
“I think ultimately the black and white captured those memories and feelings better than the color illustrations, so I went with that.”
Thanks to her skills as an illustrator, Mollie can tell her story in Giant without words. So, according to her, what is the secret to creating effective illustrations, and how do they get their message across? “I would say the ability to guide the eye to the most important part of the illustration is extremely important, because it will allow you to communicate what you’re trying to convey in a much more touching way,” he explains. -she.
“You can do this by practicing composition, but also by understanding how to use light and tone, as well as color, in a way that directs the eye where it needs to go. I’ve found that if you limit yourself to three tones, you can still keep the intricacy in the detail if you want, but without distracting from the more important aspects of the image I would say the same with color: limit yourself to a specific set of two , three or four colors, with less vivid colors outside of the bright colors to allow the stronger colors to sing, will help keep the focus in the picture.”
She adds: “From a less technical point of view of drawing, my strongest work has always been by far the one in which I invest myself the most emotionally.”
The world of graphic novels and picture books is booming right now. When it comes to advising other artists interested in creating their own graphic novels, Mollie recommends starting with a short project and finishing it. “You’ll learn so much by finishing a project and letting yourself go through the whole process,” she says.
“In terms of writing the story, put your own truth in it to make it more compelling and for you as the writer to invest more in it. That doesn’t mean you have to write an autobiography, but for example, relying on your own feelings to influence your characters’ feelings will make them more real.”
Mollie also advises against over-complicating the basic idea. This can be helped by reading other works, separating them and understanding how they were created. It can then be applied to your own works and is a good way to take inspiration from your favorite creators rather than comparing yourself to them.
She also advises you to “plan drafts on old paper, so you’re not too precious about it – you’ll burn it! Writing is the process of redesigning over and over again. When creating your drafts, consider readability and consistency and experiment with interesting panels, give yourself rules later. Start by making a mess. Waste papers and sketchbooks are for making a mess!
“These are just a few tips and tricks I use to create my own stories, but ultimately you’ll find yours throughout the creative process.”