I’ve only recently discovered Letty Wilson’s work in the stunning Cosmic release from Panels Comics that she is part of and it was about time I caught up with her AND more of her work.
What was the first title you worked on?
I think the first comic that was more than a page or a terrible webcomic I did was called the Hog Butcher. It was a little short story about a weird moose-creature and witches that I drew all in one sketchbook, and printed a very small number of (on the Humanities department photocopier!) for the first few cons I tabled at. I think it might still be on Comixology. The first proper published comic was a short autobiographical piece called What I’m Not which was included in Dundee Uni’s annual anthology of work by comics students. Before that I also did a couple of attempts at what is now my ongoing webcomic, Owl People – that’s a story I’ve been working on on-and-off since I was about 18.
How has your work changed since then?
I hope it’s gotten a lot better! I’ve been drawing comics pretty constantly for four or five years now and I hope it shows, but of course I’m still looking to improve all the time. I never went to art school so most of my drawing is self-taught, which means I’m always looking for what I’ve missed in getting my artwork to the next level. Back when I started my grasp of anatomy and faces was nonexistent, and I had only the faintest idea of how artwork was different when you were using comics to tell a story.
Studying comics at Dundee University helped a lot with opening me up to new influences and meeting people who were as passionate about discussing and experimenting with these things as I am. I can definitely see the influences of close friends in my work as it changes – even in stuff like the way I draw faces – I can look back through my work and see right when I met Faye Stacey, one of the other Panels artists, for example, because suddenly I figure out how noses work a lot better! Collaborating with friends has also taught me a huge amount about how story structure and writing and the nuts and bolts of narrative work. I’m incredibly lucky to get to work with some fantastic writers and I learn so much watching them.
Who are your main influences?
So many. I just mentioned my friends as big influences – I’m really lucky to know some fantastic artists and writers and their work is a constant inspiration – people like Faye Stacey, Norrie Millar, Hari Conner, Erin Keepers, Ryan King, Nathan Langridge, and so many more. Other big influences are Tove Jansson – I’m low-key obsessed with the Moomins but her other illustrative work is amazing too, I love her illustrations for the Hobbit. I love Evan Dahm’s work too, his simple character designs and gorgeous world-building is such an education. I think Rice Boy is a classic of comics literature. I also learned a lot from illustrators like Chris Riddell and Brian Froud, especially when I was young.
What comics are you reading just now?
Head Lopper by Andrew Maclean (colours by Jordie Bellaire), Mare Internum by Der-Shing Helmer, Ether by Matt Kindt and David Rubin (the first trade was out a few weeks ago), Audubon: On the Wings of the World by Fabien Grolleau and Jeremie Royer, and Chimerical by Catriona Laird. I always seem to read way too many books at once – there’s a few other web comics and ongoing series I’m also following but those are the ones that I’m completely engrossed in just now.
What’s the best thing about creating comics?
Getting to tell stories with pictures. I trained in writing, and I love written fiction, but there’s something so incredibly vital about putting narrative across visually, and all the million ways you can use that to show different things, angle the story differently. If ever a medium is an example of how a single story can be told a thousand different ways I think comics is that medium – look at all the different literary adaptations in comics form – there are a bunch of Shakespearean ones, and they are all so different, they are all able to draw totally different things from the source text in the choices they make with art style, character design, speech, pacing, every little facet of the big complicated machine that a comic is. I love playing with all these different aspects of comics and trying to use them to tell the story in the best possible way.
What are you working on just now?
I’m lucky enough to have been asked to contribute to a comic that Dundee University are putting out to mark the centenary of D’Arcy Thompson’s landmark text On Growth and Form. That’s been a really fun project to work on and I’m excited to be collaborating with some fantastic artists on it. Once that’s done I’ll get straight onto issue 5 of Cosmic – this one’ll finish off our first arc! I’m also drawing a web comic called Owl People – it’s a creepy mystery about fairies and eldritch detectives – which I work on whenever I get a chance.
Where can we see you next?
I’ll be at MCM London October 27-29 and Edinburgh Comic Arts Festival on December 2nd. And if you can’t make it to those I’m super excited to have a story in Secret Loves of Geeks, edited by Hope Nicholson and published by Dark Horse, which will be in comic shops all over the place next Valentines day!
You can check-in with Letty over on Tumblr, Instagram & Twitter and check out her portfolio over on Behance as well as her Patreon page. Go check out her Owl People webcomic too.