I first encountered Eleanor Davis’s work in the form of Beast Mother, a fairy tale that thrilled me with its visual intricacies and thoughtful storytelling. Her work is colorful, imaginative, and completely original. She was kind enough to answer several of my questions, and share some of her work.
I’m from Tucson, Arizona, which means I get really excited by anything green, or when I see a ditch with water in it. Now I live in Athens, Georgia and I am pretty much excited all of the time. Growing up, my parents were cooler and smarter and more interesting than just about anyone else I knew, so I never tried very hard to make other friends (unhealthy). I spent a lot of time with them, and in small, dark spaces listening to audiobooks. My dad drilled holes in my bedroom closet because he was worried I’d be oxygen deprived from spending too much time in there.
Everyone draws when they’re little kids. It’s just that most people stop. I drew a lot, and I drew a good bit of comics. My earliest comic was about Little Lulu going into a haunted house. Two panels in her flashlight goes out, leaving me to only have to draw black panels for the rest of the comic. A classic cartoonist’s trick!
My parents have always been into comics (see above, ‘my parents are cooler than anyone else’). Our house was filled with Little Lulus, Calvin and Hobbes, Krazy Kat, old Mad Magazines, etc etc. When Manga first started coming over in the mid 90s my dad got into that and we had tons of manga kicking around.
When I was 14 my best friend Kate Guillen introduced me to alternative and mini-comics, including John Porcellino’s King Cat, Kevin Huizenga’s early Supermonsters, Lynda Barry, Dan Clowes, etc etc. I started making minis myself when I was 14 – I made over 20 minis before I graduated high school.
When I turned 18 my dad finally lent me his longbox of all his old underground comics, Crumb et all. I promptly got really drunk one night, came home reeling, and puked all over them. They were upright in the longbox and the puke went between each issue. Luckily they were in plastic bags, but some of them were still ruined.
Too many to list. Tove Jansson has been one of the main ones since I was tiny. Right now I’m really into those French guys, Sfar and Blain et all. I’ve been reading a lot of Borges and Virginia Woolf. My favorite music group is The Knife. And my husband, who is also a cartoonist, Drew Weing, and friends, and family, and the news, and insects on the ground, and growing things. Life, right? It all just goes into you, and it comes out in some way or another.
I mostly work in crow quill on bristol. Some watercolor and gouache. All the post-its I’ve done have been for these vast group-shows at Giant Robot where everyone draws on post-its. That’s fun because it’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you’re working on a post-it. Sometimes I get really irritated with working so small, so I do big mural projects with my friend David Mack. I do a lot of sewing and woodcarving as well. Mostly I just like making stuff. I like working with my hands.
Projects (That Panned Out and Did Not)
I’m really proud of the kid’s graphic novel my husband and I made together, The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook. It was a huge amount of work, a giant labor of love, and I’ve gotten lots of kids and parents saying they really loved it. But in some ways it’s a project that didn’t pan out, as well – it’s drawn in a style that I’ve moved away from, and I decided not to continue it into a series (much to the chagrin and annoyance of every kid who has asked me about it, ever). But I’m still very glad we did it.
I’m working on a long YA historical murder-mystery graphic novel with my Mom, who is a history teacher. It’s set in Samarkand in the 700s and it is going to be really, really good. Also keep an eye out for the last issue of the anthology MOME, #22, from Fantagraphics. It came out this summer and I have a short story in it.
Eleanor Davis’ website: http://doing-fine.com
Her sketchblog: http://beouija.blogspot.com/