Illustrator Rachael Ball has released her latest graphic novel Wolf on SelfmadeHero Press. The book is in her distinctive pencil sketch style and begins with the tragic death of a parent. Jon McNaught has also recently released a graphic novel that deals with family. Kingdom, from Nowbrow Press, follows a family who go on holiday and the graphic novel takes an atypical look at the themes of memory and childhood. Both comic book creators are at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to discuss their new releases in an event titled Families in Graphic Novels.

The event is chaired by artist and publisher Sha Nazir from BHP Comics and begins with both illustrators giving a precise description of their new books. This opens up a discussion about process and how to get visual ideas on the page. McNaught has a background in printmaking and this informs his style. The artist states that he is interested in putting little “vignettes” on the page and not necessarily looking to present a complete narrative to the reader. He is also interested in representing memory in obscure and abstract ways and wanted to capture recollections of childhood holidays. He mentions that people tend to remember the incidental moments of their life and do not always remember the excitement and joy that holidays can bring. “When I talk to friends about childhood summer holidays we always seem to remember the same things, such as service stations.” 

Ball also talks about storytelling techniques and how important it is to pace a graphic novel. “You need to create a visual image that is powerful on its own, but you can’t let that image hold the readers attention too much, as that will break up the flow of the story.” The artist also talks about her use of comic book panels and that she is not concerned with hard panel borders. Wolf in particular has a free flowing style and the traditional comic book format of panels and speech bubbles does not always fit to her own unique style of visual storytelling.

The event ends with barely enough time to have an audience Q&A. The talk was incredibly informative and showcased two excellent graphic novelists talking passionately about what they do.