Dawn Griffin : A to Z Challenge

D is for Dawn Griffin, an independent kid-friendly illustrator. She is from Cleveland, Ohio, which is almost in my backyard.
When I first asked her to participate in this project, she asked me several questions about myself like “Who are you?” and “Why are you camping on my lawn?”
Just kidding. I suppose there are creepers out there. So after she decided that I wasn’t a creeper, she answered my questions. Also, she didn’t yell at me when I lost the questions. I blame Google. It’s possible that the internet can make your stuff vanish, right?!
Anyway . . . check out her response and all of her websites.
Also, if your kids “borrow” all of your inappropriate comic books and leave them under the couch without the plastic covering or cardboard, Griffin’s comics could be a good starting point for their own comic book collection. Just do it. Comic book artists need love and support too.
1. What was the first thing that you were proud of drawing?

When I was 5 or 6, I wrote/illustrated my first book. I still have it. It’s made out of construction paper, stapled, glued, and paper-clipped. The title is “My Silly Day with Sally and Sue”. Alliteration at the age of 6. Not much else was spelled correctly.

2. What are you working on now?
I am actually in between projects. I just ended my 9-year run with “Zorphbert & Fred”, an all-ages comic strip series about 2 aliens, disguised as dogs, here on earth to study (make fun of) humankind. I specialize in all-ages, or kid-friendly, comics. My artistic style is cute but quirky, and I tend to be humorous but insightful in my writing approach. My next project will be much in the same vein, but a graphic novel format geared towards preteens. It will have a supernatural element to it as well, but still retain some humor and social commentary. The details are being ironed out, but essentially it’s a coming-of-age tale about a new tomboyish girl in middle school, who discovers a mirror that allows her to better understand her peers whom she doesn’t get along with well. The message of uniting rather than dividing, and general empathy for our peers is an important one to me.
3. Who has influenced you the most as an artist?
Whew, that’s like asking a musician which single band influenced them the most. The most diverse creative people open themselves up to a wide landscape of other artists. But for this purpose, I’ll name a few. My first memory is of Peanuts curtains in my nursery. Comic strips became a huge influence, stating with Schulz’s “Peanuts”, and trickling down to Watterson’s “Calvin & Hobbes”, Amend’s “Fox Trot”, and Johnston’s “For Better or for Worse”. As I got older, I branched out to underground comic like Pekar’s “American Splendor”, and the art of Robert Crumb had a role in my own style. But it also extends to animation of all sorts, some fine artists, and today I gather more and more fellow cartoonists thanks to the internet, that are groundbreaking and inspirational in their own ways.
4. Who is your favorite female superhero/villain/comic book character?
I’m really into Ms. Marvel right now. The re-imagining of her as a young Muslim girl, trying to fit in as a teenager while remaining dedicated to her family and culture, AND dealing with these crazy superpowers…. it’s a recipe for a complex and topical story. Highly recommended reading.
On the more indie side of the pond, I also love the Rat Queens. Talk about powerful women, kicking butt, taking names, all wrapped up with witty writing and suburb art to boot.
5. Do you think people expect a certain type of art from you since you are female?
I do think cute art is expected. Thing is, my work is pretty “cute”, but has enough quirky sophistication to it, that it surprises adults who at first glance wrote off my books as “kids stuff”. I figure– if adults can fully enjoy a Pixar movie that is also kid-friendly, why not comics? I write with adults in mind, I just happen to make the content appropriate for kids too.. which, coincidentally, is what kids like about my comics. They don’t pander. Calvin & Hobbes is one of the last great comic strips for just that reason.
But just in general, women are a severe minority in this field. At conventions, I’ve had people wander up to my table and ask “When will HE be back?”, assuming I’m just watching the table for the male artist. Awkward! So really, just the fact that I’m a woman who creates ANY kind of comics is still somewhat shocking. The good news is I’ve seen more and more women join me in tabling at comic cons now, so that ratio is going up.
6. How often do you go to comic book conventions? Do you enjoy conventions?
I hit maybe 15 shows a year, in all varied sizes. Almost every major city or media market has one nowadays. And living in Philly, I’m quite lucky, as between here, DC, Baltimore, NYC, and Boston… I can drive to all these different shows. My biggest “problem” is conflicts! But yes, I do love working these shows. I like meeting online readers, introducing kids to comics, interacting with fellow geeks, and networking with other cartoonists/artists. It’s a place where I feel more at ease, being “among my people!”
Plus, there is no high better than finding out you have inspired others, your work has spoken to them in some fashion. It’s what I live for!
7. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Slightly more introverted. I think comic cons have brought me out of my shell, and I can “turn it on” to sell books at a show, but otherwise I need my space and quiet time (drawing!) to find my zen-happy place. Throw me in a party of people I don’t know, and I’ll just go hang with the dog. For those like me who are into the Myers-Briggs personality test, I’m definitely an INTJ. That makes me about the most left-brained artist you’ll meet.
8. Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere. Comics, obviously. Children’s books. Animated movies. Regular movies. TV shows. My overflowing coffee cup.
9. What do you do if you have writer’s block?
Good question! I step away. Which can be hard, as I’m extremely focused and hate pushing off deadlines, even if self-imposed. Take a walk, chat with a friend, read, watch TV. But much like finding love, it comes when you least expect it. And usually when you can’t find a pen OR something to write on.
10. Have you had any interesting or awkward experiences since you’ve been an artist/writer?
Hmm. In being kid-friendly, I am terrified of accidentally drawing something phallic or suggestive, or having a punchline that could mean something else entirely. Last thing I want is angry parents with pitchforks at my door. So, when I ran a kickstarter to have plush versions of my characters made…. and added a level where the plush had a working zipper with a tentacle inside…. and made a animated GIF showing the zipper coming down and a tentacle popping out…..
uh, yeah. Hindsight. Although NO ONE said anything. People are too nice.
11. Beverage of choice?
Daytime: COFFEE.
Nightime: whiskey cocktail, Old Fashioneds are my current obsession. Is that hipster irony?
12. When was the last time that you dressed up for Halloween?
Gawd, years ago. My husband and I went as the couple from Office Space, as he looks a bit like Ron Livingston. I look NOTHING like Jennifer Aniston. But I had my flair.
13. What do you want people to know about you?
See questions 1-12?
Or maybe this is where I shamelessly promote? Was that the cue? I’m oblivious. Smack me next time.

You can find my portfolio at http://dawngriffinstudios.com, read my comics at http://zfcomics.com, buy my kids book series athttp://abbysfanclub.com, and get some useful free tips, articles & a podcast at http://webcomicalliance.com. You can also bribe me with ice cream. Just an FYI. Use the power for good, at least.


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