Hire This Woman: Artist Robin Robinson
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Cartoonist Robin Robinson writes and draws her own comics, including the currently ongoing webcomic Ushala at World’s End. In addition to her work in comics, she’s also an experienced picture book and middle grade book illustrator and sells prints on Etsy.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Robin Robinson: I think of myself as an artist primarily; pencils/ink/color are where I live.
CA: If you’re an artist, do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
RR: My output is all digital, but everything starts as a pencil-on-paper sketch. After so many years drawing, sketching traditionally flows the best for me. However, I need the freedom of digital tools for my finished work. It is great to be able to make both small and global edits without losing weeks’ worth of work. Also I love experimenting with color and texture, and probably would make only very very safe work if it all had to be traditional. Man, life without “control-z” or “replace color” would be a boring place.
CA: What’s your background/training?
RR: Funny story! I went to school for game art and ended up graduating with a children’s book portfolio. My twin passions are kid lit and comics, and I’ve been working in children’s books since graduating. At comic conventions I’m the picture book person, at children’s book conferences I’m the comic book person. I’ve actually been a rabid devourer of comics since elementary school, so it seemed inevitable for me to branch out from one kind of sequential art to another. Making comics feels like coming home.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
RR: I have two distinct styles. One is warmly textured retro animation-style painting. The other is an organic fairy tale aesthetic with more darkness than twee sparkles. Just don’t call me whimsical — I’m way too deliberate and practical to be accused of whimsy!
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
RR: On the picture book side, aside from indie publishers and web magazine illustration, I’ve also been illustrating for the online kids’ TV show Mrs P’s Magic Library for many years, and my first book with Penguin came out in 2013. On the comics side, I’ve contributed comics to the Tankadere comics anthologies, and have been publishing the feminist fantasy webcomic Ushala at World’s End for a year now. Right now I’m working on three projects that I can’t tell you about yet! Cross your fingers for the upcoming dark fairytale comic pitch I’m working on!
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to [write/draw/ink/color/letter/etc] a 20-page issue?
RR: Because I’m used to doing everything, it can take me 2-4 weeks to complete and issue, less time if I’m simply coloring or penciling, etc. I’m actually very serious about deadlines and tend to find good work patterns to get things done on time.
CA: What is your dream project?
RR: Luckily I’m already working on a webcomic that is definitely a dream project (albeit with a nightmare budget) but adapting classic young adult/middle grade novels is something I’d desperately like to do. Garth Nix’s Sabriel is a dream adaptation, as would be Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles or anything whatsoever by Diana Wynne Jones, my writing idol.
I’m very interested in working with prose, which is a big challenge, and I really like excellent prose meant for young people. Seriously, if someone wants to do a comic series based on any middle grade novel, I’d be all over that. Never-ending Story, anyone? The House with a Clock in its Walls? The Westing Game? I think that kids like comics and genre fiction for the same reason I do — they look transgressive but are secretly very substantial, and I’d like to bring some pop culture appeal to books that kids aren’t picking up any more.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
RR: This is a long list, so I’ll try to control myself. Junji Ito, Shigeru Mizuki, Charles Addams and Edward Gorey all fuel my gothic side; Moto Hagio, Hayao Miyazaki, Becky Cloonan, Fioana Staples, Craig Thompson, Terry Moore, Charles Vess, and Alan Davis for beauty; and Noelle Stevenson, Daniel Clowes, and Tove Jannson, for their economy of line and comic genius.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
RR: My two indispensable comic series are Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. I read them both very early and they’ve had a profound effect on how I see the world and on my work. As a kid, ElfQuest, New Mutants, Tintin, and the deceptively cerebral but still super-girly works of Japanese collective CLAMP were also my go-to reading. Strangers In Paradise is at once so classic and so experimental, and changed me forever. Leia Worthington’s Bold Riley made me feel like I could actually launch the feminist fantasy comic I now work on.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
RR: I am a very talkative introvert, so my own home office is kind of ideal, though I find a way to work with other artists whenever I can because, man, being both challenged and supported is pretty much the best environment I can imagine for doing creative work. When it comes to client relationships, I think mutual respect, clearly defined expectations, and prompt feedback really help projects get realized.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
RR: I’d like folks to know that I have one foot in classic kid lit and one foot in pop culture, so I can create appealing characters and rich worlds that still have a heart and a brain. I’m trying to make work that gets smart young women and thoughtful young men excited to explore new worlds.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
RR: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow me on my tumblr, thegorgonist.tumblr.com. My all-ages portfolio is www.robinillustration.com, and my less-than-all-ages webcomic is www.ushala.smackjeeves.com.
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.