Shaping non-fiction characters.

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What was initially to be a short volunteer research project into a Vancouver cold case to support a theory championed by a retired homicide detective, became, for me [and continues to be], a 17+ year personal journey “to restore to now dead people the fullness and degree of complication of their lives. To restore their humanness back to their lives.” 

“That’s our work. To restore humanity to the human being that went before that don’t speak for themselves… You have the possibility of willing them to life; you have the possibility of waking the dead. You have to liberate your characters to their full human dimension whether they are historical or not… The characters exist in a historical reality… that makes our work a kind of 3-D chess game… To make the characters real, you have to permit a darker side.” – Ken Burns

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Photos by Julian Bowers

The distinction between life and lifeless is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks contain the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are an immortal part of us.

JOHN SEED, Thinking Like a Mountain

The objects are the context from which I draw clues.

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What happens when a case is very old, when much of its physical evidence is deteriorated or destroyed, and its main players long deceased?  How do we investigate?

For me it is all about the historical context.

When I work on Molly, I step into the 1940’s through books, research, primary sources.  And I do it through collecting vintage items.

The objects are the context from which I draw clues.

Now how I find these objects is a magical process.  Yes, I visit my favorite places like Salmagundi West in Gastown or Village Antique Mall in Fort Langley, but the objects themselves seem to choose me.

Can that be?

Do they hold clues?

Are they trying to tell me something?

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Photos by Julian Bowers

The distinction between life and lifeless is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks contain the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are an immortal part of us.

JOHN SEED, Thinking Like a Mountain

Daisy’s dilemma. 1947 and dark Disney imagery.

My current book project, Molly, is a creative non-fiction tragedy that centres around a suicide in 1947.

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Suicides were well publicized back then, often featured on the front pages of newspapers.

Searching online images “suicide, 1947,” the image that inevitably comes up is the photo titled “the most beautiful suicide“- a haunting and iconic image.

But as I scrolled down yesterday, I came across another haunting and shocking image— of Daisy Duck!  I just had to draw it!  What is happening here?  Daisy, are you OK?!

My Dad taught me how to draw Donald Duck when I was a kid, and those cartoons were some of Dad’s favorites.  I wish he were alive so he could discuss this heartbreaking, troubling and fascinating image with me.

I drew it from a screenshot from the 1947 animation: Donald’s Dilemma:

Donald’s Dilemma is a 1947 Walt Disney Studios animated cartoon directed by Jack King and starring Donald and Daisy Duck. It was originally released on July 11, 1947 in the United States. Although Donald is the official headliner for this cartoon, Daisy is the actual protagonist. The dilemma of the title is actually offered to her, not to Donald. – source

Daisy’s loss resulted in a number of psychological symptoms – she suffered from anorexia, insomnia and self-described insanity. An often censored scene features her losing her will to live and pointing a gun at her head. She decided that she would see Donald once again, at any cost, but failed to do so. That’s when she decided to go to the psychologist – and the flashback meets the actual time of the cartoon. – source

 

It doesn’t stop him. My death stops him. #graphicnovel study

Recall March 7, 2013, photoshoot at Salmagundi West for my graphic novel.

I am struck by the ability of my model, Jocelyn Louise, to convey, in a simple glance, the pain of my main character as she tries to escape the memories of childhood trauma.

Sins of the father
Sins of the father.

Asexual.

Living in church,

reading about God all the time,

getting callouses on my knees.

It doesn’t stop him. 

My death stops him.

– Maire MacLachlan

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China marker on newsprint.

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Jocelyn Louise as Molly.  Styled by Jay Fisher. Photo by Anna Thorsen.
Styled by Jay Fisher. Photo by Anna Thorsen.

COVER TEST

GRABLINE:

He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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With a faery, hand in hand… photo shoot for the #graphicnovel at Salmagundi West!

On March 7, 2013, I was humbled at the generosity of Salmagundi West owner Anna Banner who allowed us to use her store as a back drop for our latest photoshoot!

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I was joined by Jocelyn Louise (who portrays Molly) and stylist Jay Fisher…

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Jay, Jocelyn, Anne

… and my daughter Anna Thorsen who took the main shots (to be shared in the book).

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Anna, Jocelyn

Here are some moments I captured.  The focus for me was to emulate Molly’s restless travels.

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Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s morefull of weeping than you
can understand.

The Stolen Child, WB Yeats

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MOLLY- A TRUE CRIME ANALYSIS

WEEKLY SERIAL

AT MOLLYGRAPHICNOVEL.COM

He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

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MOLLY- the graphic novel

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“Where white is black and black is white, I won.” #graphicnovel study #crowskull

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When Crow was white he decided the sun was too white.

He decided it glared much too whitely.

He decided to attack it and defeat it.

He got his strength up flush and in full glitter.

He clawed and fluffed his rage up.

He aimed his beak direct at the sun’s centre.

He laughed himself to the centre of himself

And attacked.

At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,

Shadows flattened.

But the sun brightened—

It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.

He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black.

“Up there,” he managed,

“Where white is black and black is white, I won.”

– Charles Bukowski

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Crow’s skull purchased at Salmagundi West:

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Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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Regarding Molly- importance of working titles and “acting as if…”

As I experiment with marrying text to illustration in my graphic novel, I am working from the end backwards, creating a working title and promotional mockup. Acting as if the book is completed, the project feels organized and allows me to create a skeletal framework on which to flesh out ideas. This framework can then be dismantled, contorted and altered as needed. It is not the final result by any means, but it is a great way to MOVE FORWARD. And I’m moving forward fast!

I have some exciting ideas as to how to present the finished work (format, paper etc) but first I will marry image to page and and image and pages to chapters and I am loving the creative process. Next up is ensuring all the permissions are in place for using primary sources, news articles, photographs and names within the work. And more photoshoots!

COVER TEST

GRABLINE:

He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

SYNOPSIS:

Who killed the Babes in the Wood? Artist, art therapist and researcher, Katarina Thorsen, makes her case as to the resolution of this historical Vancouver mystery through crime scene reconstruction, forensic taphonomy, historical archives, genealogical records, behavior evidence analysis, circumstantial connections and artistic interpretation. Katarina first immersed herself in the investigation in 2003 when she volunteered as a criminal profiler and researcher with the Babes in the Wood Task Force. She has remained dedicated to the case ever since.

Using a combination of text, primary sources, illustrations and photographs, Katarina now presents her research journey, equivocal findings and creative process to the reader. The goal is to identify the children whose skeletal remains were found in Stanley Park on January 15, 1953. Through rich and insightful imagery, Regarding Molly reveals a portrait of a troubled young woman in post war Vancouver. The reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusion as to the identity of the Babes in the Wood, their mother and killer.

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Following Katarina’s lead, readers will be inspired to search out their own stories using intensive genealogical research.

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AUTHOR’S BIO:

Artist/ art therapist Katarina Thorsen is passionate about the power of research and collaborative approaches to create solutions. She specializes in providing therapeutic art to at-risk youth and young offenders. Her own art work includes drawing, painting, crafting, journaling and street art and can be found in private international collections and on the streets of North America and Europe. She believes wholeheartedly in the healing power of art and its ability to build connections. Katarina resides in Vancouver, BC.

Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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The Babes in the Wood study #graphicnovel

The Babes in the Wood [1]

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My dear do you know,

How a long time ago,

Two poor little children,

Whose names I don’t know,

Were stolen away

On a fine summer’s day,

And left in a wood,

As I’ve heard people say,

Poor Babes in the Wood! Poor Babes in the Wood!

Oh! don’t you remember the Babes in the Wood?

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And when it was night,

So sad was their plight,

The sun it went down,

And the moon gave no light!

They sobbed and they sighed,

And they bitterly cried,

And the poor little things,

They lay down and died.

Poor Babes in the Wood! Poor Babes in the Wood!

Oh! don’t you remember the Babes in the Wood?

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And when they were dead,

The robins so red,

Brought strawberry leaves,

And over them spread;

And all the day long,

The branches among,

They mournfully whistled,

And this was their song;

Poor Babes in the Wood! Poor Babes in the Wood!

Oh! don’t you remember the Babes in the Wood?

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[1] “BABES IN THE WOOD”, retrieved September 14, 2006 from http://www.rjohnwright.com/babesinthewood.html

Mother Goose’s “Babes in the Wood” was first published as a ballad by Thomas Millington in 1595.

Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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Take Off the Amber, Put Out the Lamp #graphicnovel #research

Take the day.  Immerse.  Forget everything else.  Read.  Sketch.  Cocoon.  Trust the calling.

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Image in Vivian Maier: Street Photographer

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Today’s resources:

Jamison, K.R. (1999) Night Falls Fast- understanding suicide, Vintage Books: New York, NY, USA

Malooof, J., ed. (2012) Vivian Maier- Street Photographer, powerHouse Books: New York NY, USA

Appignanesi, L. (2007) Sad, Mad and Bad- women and the mind-doctors from 1800, McArthur & Company: Toronto, ON, Canada

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Photo by Rick Legal
Photo by Rick Legal.

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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These three hours that we have spent.. two shadows went along with us… #graphicnovel photoshoot w. @RickLegalPhotos

Recall Photoshoot Dec 3, 2012: A Lecture Upon the Shadow

Here are some MEGA TASTY treats from Rick Legal.

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As an artist/researcher/behavior evidence analyst, these photos fill every cell of my being with joy!  It is wonderful to allow a fellow artist the freedom to do his work within the context/limits of a vision.  Extraordinary.

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Jocelyn Louise, Jay Fisher. Styled by Jay Fisher

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A LECTURE UPON THE SHADOW.
by John Donne

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Recall that on December 3, 2012 was an evening of collaboration as Jocelyn Louise and Jay Fisher recreated 1947 and main characters from my graphic novel as they were photographed by the extraordinary photographer, Rick Legal, and as the entire process was documented by photographer and colleague, Nancy Kirkpatrick.

The book will include text, illustration, photography, street art, primary sources, documentation and collaboration.

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Jocelyn Louise. Photo by Rick Legal
Jocelyn Louise. Photo by Rick Legal

**NEXT STEP: MIND MAPPING THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK**

Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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A Lecture Upon the Shadow: an evening of collaboration on the #graphicnovel with @RickLegalPhotos and co.

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A LECTURE UPON THE SHADOW.
by John Donne

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December 3, 2012 was an evening of collaboration as Jocelyn Louise and Jay Fisher recreated 1947 and main characters from my graphic novel as they were photographed by the extraordinary photographer, Rick Legal, and as the entire process was documented by photographer and colleague, Nancy Kirkpatrick.

The book will include text, illustration, photography, street art, primary sources, documentation and collaboration.

Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jay and Jocelyn.  Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jay and Jocelyn. Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Katarina Thorsen
Photo by Katarina Thorsen
Rick Legal.  Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick.
Rick Legal. Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick.
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Julian Bowers
Photo by Julian Bowers
Photo by Katarina Thorsen
Photo by Katarina Thorsen
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
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Photo by Katarina Thorsen
"November 6, 1947" Photo by Katarina Thorsen
“November 6, 1947” Photo by Katarina Thorsen

I have been a fan of Rick Legal’ work for a long time and it is such an honor to have his work appear in my book.  As I write this, he is in the process of editing his images.  Here is a sneak peek:

Photo by Rick Legal
Photo by Rick Legal

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Jocelyn Louise. Photo by Rick Legal
Jocelyn Louise. Photo by Rick Legal

**NEXT STEP: MIND MAPPING THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK**

Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Photo by Nancy Kirkpatrick
Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

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Muse reawakened. #Vancouver #coldcase #graphicnovel

MOLLY- the graphic novel

Read updates at KICKSTARTER

Follow links at GRAPHIC NOVEL

Recreating 1947 with model, Jocelyn Louise, and stylist, Jay Fisher.

 

• Prepping the mindmap

• Gathering inspiration

• Collecting quotes

• Reviewing current work- written and drawn

• Creating new pieces

• Planning new photoshoot

• Documenting process

*Rethinking approach

• Full immersion imminent

She waved as she made her way to the back door and out to the fire escape stairs.  The firewood was stored under a musty tarp on the landing, and the hatchet [he] used to make kindling sat rusty and dull on top.  [She] never noticed the hatchet placed in that way before, not in all the weeks and months she’d been climbing these fire escape steps.  It was a sign, she knew, and though she wondered what exactly she would do with the hatchet if the footsteps followed her again, she snatched the thing up and rested it on her shoulder.

 Lori Lansens Rush Home Road[1]



[1] Lansens, L. (2002) Rush Home Road, Toronto ON, Canada: Vintage Canada

#Graphicnovel update! Checklists, mindmaps, plotting out chapters, inciting incident… #startattheend

I love that all I am doing in my art and career feeds the graphic novel, even if I’m not working on pages in the book per se.

When I do my street art, I am utilizing the style and perfecting the technique and medium I am using in Molly.

When I am working with my Dad on our book, I am learning the ropes in independent publishing and utilizing the plan for the book with Dad laid out by Julie Salisbury to organize the way I present Molly.  Julie has an extraordinary ability to see the complete project and I will be using her teachings to organize the next steps.  Her Mastermind weekend intensive infused me with such clarity and confidence.

We start at the end– visualize what the book will look like.  Judge the book by it’s cover.

Truly liberating to allow the creative process to sustain itself.  Everything feeds everything else!

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher. My street art ready to be pasted by Jocelyn in Vancouver! I am tempted do the entire book as street art images- take the story to the streets!

Next steps:

  • “START AT THE END”
  • PLAN THE BACK COVER AND TITLE
  • MIND MAP THE ENTIRE STORY
  • INCITING INCIDENT
  • PLOT WHAT GOES INTO EACH CHAPTER
  • BOOK PROPOSAL/PRESENTATION
  • MARKETING CHECKLIST/ BUSINESS PLAN
  • FOREWORD/ TESTIMONIALS/ AUTHOR’s BIO
  • BOOK LAUNCH: proposed date January 15, 2013
  • BOOK LAUNCH EVENT
Utilizing my notes from Fredrik Thorsen’s lecture on story/script.

ETC!

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

Her Catholic childhood. #Vancouver #coldcase #graphicnovel

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

ASYLUM. #graphicnovel research

When I saw this book on my fave site, BrainPickings, I immediately called around the local bookstores and found a copy downtown.

From BrainPickings:

One of the 19th-century’s most notorious socioarchitectural phenomena were the “insane asylums” that housed the era’s mentally ill — enormous and stunning buildings whose architecture stood in stark contrast with the ominous athmosphere of their inner workings.  Fascinated by this phenomenon and its ghosts, photographer Christopher Payne set out to document the afterlife of those baleful buildings in Asylum: Inside The Closed World Of State Mental Hospitals — a compendium of images that peel away at a lost world and, in the process, offer a provocative portrait of the history of our (mis)treatment of the mentally ill.  A foreword by iconic neuroscientist Oliver Sacks frame the photographs in a sociocultural context of how these institutions evolved and what role they came to play, both in their time and in our reflections on history.

Observation window. (p. 103)

My friend, Darcy, and I poured over it, at once fascinated, sad, gleeful and horrified.  We talked about what it may mean to us, to any of us, to feel these conflicting emotions.

For me, there is such a visual metaphor in these massive fortresses.  No matter how large they were, they could not contain the anarchistic and primitive human spirit stripped raw by mental illness/circumstance/trauma/misunderstanding.  There was an attempt to contain and cure.

But what are we containing?  How?   Why?  What are we killing by “curing” as opposed to embracing and providing a safe haven, a nurturing environment?  And what about the seemingly failed experiment of outdoor asylums like the Downtown Eastside?

Endless questions.

Recommended viewings:

Recommended readings:

Recall: Molly’s brother died in Essondale

Planning a return visit to the Riverview grounds do some in situ sketches.

Essondale (now Riverview) research files

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

Many have been asking if they can still contribute to the graphic novel project.  YES PLEASE!  You can donate via PAYPAL here: DONATE

Creative process = flow = trust. #graphicnovel #crimescene #Vancouver #coldcase

I am letting the creative process flow through me as I work on the story.  Letting whatever comes out, come out as it needs to.  Editing will happen later.

TRUST.

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

Many have been asking if they can still contribute to the graphic novel project.  YES PLEASE!  You can donate via PAYPAL here: DONATE

On Becoming a Woman- vintage treasure. #graphicnovel research #Vancouver #coldcase

I found a glorious and heartbreaking book on ETSY at LOST BEAR STUDIO as I was searching for 1940s/50s items for my graphic novel research.

On Becoming A Woman by Harold Shryock, MD.

The information teenage women were receiving at the time regarding their physical, personal and sexual development was truly horrifying from my perspective now.  This is what makes this book one of the most frustrating and fascinating reads.  WOW.  Delicious and tragic.

And of course, the chapter on homosexuality:

ARGH!

BUT- what makes this book even more special are the margin notes by the teen, Laura H. [Full name is in the book, but for privacy, I’ll just use last initial].  It adds so much to the experience.  I wonder who she was.  Where she ended up.  What a window into this young woman’s life!

Handwritten “owners” name on the inside, as well as some notes, underlining, & check marks she made on certain sections of the book that appeared to interest her which adds to the character to the book. – LOST BEAR STUDIO

Make sure to check out other items at LOST BEAR STUDIO:

Lost Bear Studio is my Collection of Vintage finds. I collect housewares, jewelry, decor & kitsch… I love art and all things creative, colorful, upcycled, repurposed & recycled… I collect a variety of quality vintage and antique treasures. My specialty items include home decor, housewares, storage items (tins, boxes, ANYTHING with drawers) & vintage accessories and jewelry. I collect items that catch my eye, and bring them to you, in the hopes that my descriptions will give you ideas you can utilize in your own home. – A. N. Fowler, Lost Bear Studio

Jocelyn Louise as Molly. Styled by Jay Fisher.

MOLLY- the graphic novel

Many have been asking if they can still contribute to the graphic novel project.  YES PLEASE!  You can donate via PAYPAL here: DONATE

PHOTOSHOOT recreating October 5, 1947 #graphicnovel #Vancouver

On the anniversary of Molly’s suicide [November 6, 1947], I spent the afternoon with Jocelyn Louise and Jay Fisher recreating the mood of October 5, 1947– the alleged date of the double homicide.

I am so honored to work with these two- Jay is a master at styling the era, and Jocelyn channels Molly in a way that sends shivers up my spine.  We used the fur coat I ordered on Etsy.  Recall the significance of the coat.

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VANCOUVER CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT

REPORT Coroners BRANCH

TO: –

THE CHIEF CONSTABLE

DATE April 20th 1953

SUBJECT: Re Skeletons in the Park

D.O.                                  Jan 15-53

EXAMINED BY

L. M. M.

At 10:00 am this date, with Det. Green interviewed Mrs. C at the home of her mother Mrs. S.  As a result took Mrs. C and her husband to Stanley Park where she directed us to the vicinity of the skeleton discovery and described how on Oct. 5th 1947 in co. with an Air force man she had been walking up a trail from Beaver Lake toward Prospect Point and had come upon a woman with two children. 

The woman is described as 5’3-4, dark hair, fair comp. (suggesting Italian) wearing dark fur coat, full sleeves, with a scarf or something blue at the neck opening.  As they passed the woman on the trail she saw the woman was holding a small rusty hand axe in her hand and against the bosom of her coat. 

She called the [younger] boy, who was ahead on the trail back to where she and the [older boy] were standing.  The [older boy] was described as about 7 years fair hair and pale face, wearing trousers that were drawn in at the cuff a light brown or sandy color.  The jacket of the suit appeared to be rather dirty but she thinks the same color.  The [younger boy] seemed more lively than the [older boy]… darker complexion and wearing a reddish dirty jacket and light colored pants.  Both had dark caps, which she thinks were the kind that fastened under the chin.

Mrs. C and her companion went on to Prospect Point and then returned to the area of the Rose Gardens.  This would be about 4:30 to 5 PM.  When they were at a point where the drive divides to go under the main road, Mrs. C. drew her companion’s attention to a woman, running from the direction of the bear cages toward the promenade and although it was rather a cold afternoon the woman had no coat, a light colored sweater and skirt and had only one shoe on.  She is positive that the one shoe was flat-soled because there was no perceptible limp.

Mrs. C did not connect this woman with the one who was accompanied by the two children until she saw the pictured story in the newspapers.

At the time she saw the axe the first thought was of cutting Xmas decorations, but she discarded the idea when she realized it was only October.  She describes the woman’s voice as low and soft.

 

 

 

Many have been asking if they can still contribute to the graphic novel project.  That’s wonderful and very helpful!!!  The rewards will stay the same as on Kickstarter.  Take a look at the rewards on the Kickstarter site.  You can donate via PAYPAL by clicking DONATE