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

I have put my beloved pie safe on craigslist!

 

Pie Safe: a cupboard with doors originally designed to store pies after baking.

Instantly add additional storage space to your kitchen with this absolutely charming, authentically aged pie safe.

It is rustic and naturally aged, with all original paint and details and of course- some wear and tear. It has not been fixed up, so has all its original parts and detailing and has a lovely “patina.” The screen is deteriorated on the right bottom panel. It is heavy. I cannot confirm age or type of wood.

The entire piece including top panel measures:

17″ width by 38″ length by 62.5 ” height

Top board sticks out a bit wider than the cupboard. It measures:
17″ width by 38″ length by 1″ height

The cupboard portion measures:
15.5″ width by 36″ length by 61.5 ” height

The bottom shelf measures:
14″ width by 36″ length by 1″ height

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Location:

West End, Vancouver, BC.

Provenance:

I inherited it from my landlord on the Sunshine Coast when I rented his mother’s home in Roberts Creek in 1996. His mother, Elsie, owned it. She obviously used it intensely- for pies, for eggs, for storage of various kinds. It would move from shed to house at regular intervals. When we moved in, we were warned that Elsie’s ghost still resided at the house and that she had rejected tenants repeatedly. Intriguing!

It was a wonderful house to stay in. I could sense her presence and it was joyous. Many pies were made in that kitchen. The house sat on the waterfront and had a large garden. Elsie’s son also told me she loved children and that her ghost had accepted our presence (my kids were 12 and 9 at the time) peacefully and happily. So he gifted me the beloved cupboard when we moved 2 years later.

I have used this cupboard ever since to store my treasures and trinkets, then it held my art supplies and lately my favorite books. This is my all time favorite piece; It is just so incredibly charming and I am heart-broken to have to part with it.

  
  
  
  
  
$850 OBO (you will have to arrange transport)

Craigslist link

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Pie Safe Comparisons:

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Pie Safes on Pinterest:

LINK 

I have coveted her for years. My doll from Salmagundi West

I have coveted her for years.  That first time I stepped into Salmagundi West with the my mom and saw her tucked in the cupboard (to your left as you walk in the door, on the north wall):

Every time I have passed the shop or entered the shop and now more often spend time in the shop, I have thought of her.  Taken a peek at her.

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And now I have her.  She is my Molly dolly.

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from Annie Besant:

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Huge thank you to Anne Banner, owner, for her hospitality and enthusiasm for all things curious!  Love you!

Check out Salmagundi West on Facebook:

Photo courtesy of Salmagundi West
Photo courtesy of Salmagundi West

Why use seemingly unrelated vintage photographs as sources for a true crime story?

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There is no end to the inspiration I get from looking at vintage photographs- through immersion comes awakened imagination.

The central characters in my graphic novel are real people but as I am doing an artistic interpretation of real events, I revel in the freedom to flesh out the central characters using old photos as a starting point.

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There is no harm in imposing appearance and character on the brothers and sisters, so long as we regard this as a mere device for solidifying Will’s physical background.  We are entitled to visualize him as a boy eating, singing and sleeping in the house on Henley Street, and its convenient to have him surrounded by something thicker than swathes of ectoplasm with name-tags.

– Anthony Burgess, Shakespeare

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Inspiration taken from the photographs of Vivian Maier

A great source for vintage photos in Vancouver BC is Salmagundi West

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Molly- A Graphic Novel Trailer

Editor, cinematography: Julian Bowers

Writer, researcher, illustrator: Katarina Thorsen

Visual therapy in Gastown: Salmagundi West- a collection of interesting things.

Recall I bought a glorious old doll at Salmagundi West in February 2011: Broken vintage doll as blank canvas.

I painted Frida Kahlo on it (big surprise): Broken vintage doll as blank canvas part 2!

Salmagundi West is one of my favorite shops in Vancouver.  It reminds me of Mystery Mister and Loved to Death in San Francisco and I am REJUVENATED every time I visit it, which happened today when my student, Amanda-Lynn, and I dropped in.

Amanda-Lynn posing in front of my portrait of her (pasted yesterday) on our way to Gastown.

Huge thank you to Anne Banner for her hospitality and enthusiasm for all things curious!

My glorious purchases today:

Check out Salmagundi West on Facebook:

Photo courtesy of Salmagundi West
Photo courtesy of Salmagundi West

Immersing oneself in history #graphicnovel #Vancouver @Kickstarter

PROJECT FUNDING HAS LAUNCHED on KICKSTARTER:

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

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

I believe that to best  research a cold case one must immerse oneself in the history of that time.

I was elated to receive my order from dashalee3 on ETSY on March 25, 2011.  The retro 1940’s gift tags add to my 1940’s collection of materials that create the atmosphere I need for my graphic novel which spans the era 1925-1953, with the main year being 1947.

set of three retro vintage tags for scrapbooking, gifts, and crafts… background is from an original weather journal from the 1920’s… retro illustrations are original and taken from a 1943 Life Magazine… vintage rick rack as decoration and vintage seam binding for hanging… two vintage buttons complete the look… illustrations originally to commemorate the war effort for World War II

I highly recommend this lovely online shop that is filled with vintage treasures!

There are so many sources that I have collected.  Examples of some of my illustration resources are:

photos…

coloring books…

maps…

advertisements, etc.

To help fund this graphic novel go to KICKSTARTER!

Note: All backers will receive a mention in the book (if they so wish).  Take a look at the fun rewards available for various donation levels!  In addition, backers who donate $100 and above will receive a signed copy of the book when it is published!