Geek Vibes Live Interview: ‘Ash and Thorn’ Colorist: Pippa Bowland

We strive to cover as many of the different creators that make up the comic book or graphic novel world as we can. From writers, to artists, and editors, we have talked to a representative of each talented occupation. All except one. As I have looked back over the interviews I have done, there is a glaring omission. One that I am pleased to reconcile now as we talk to Colorist Pippa Bowland.

Miss Bowland has worked on a number of different projects including Rebellion’s Sci-Fi Magazine 2000 A.D, Aftershock comics “You are Obsolete“ and most recently, Ahoy Comics Ash and Thorn. The latter is a five issue series alongside all female creative powerhouse team of writer Mariah McCourt, Artist Soo Lee, Cover Artist Jill Thompson and overseen by Editor Sarah Litt. The third issue of this series was released this week. With that in mind, it is our great pleasure to talk to our first colorist, Pippa Bowland. Thanks for giving us some of your time, Pippa.


GVL: So tell us a little bit about yourself. What was your educational background in Art and when did you first consider a career in coloring?

PB: My educational background is really varied and not just art based. I have always just loved to learn and be imaginative in as many ways as possible. Because of this, I last studied Fine Art at A Level in sixth form college many years ago. I loved it, and have continued painting, drawing, and attending the occasional life drawing class ever since for fun.

When reading comics or graphic novels I would always get excited the most about colours, far more than any other aspect of the art. Colours, like music, seemed to speak to me on another level. They tell the story in their own unique way. My husband Simon, who was already working as a letterer in the industry, encouraged me to take it further and try colouring a few pages myself just for fun in my spare time. I did! And I really enjoyed it! This then led me to enrolling on an online colouring course via Comics Experience with the awesome colourist Christopher Sotomayor. I started submitting samples of my work straight after that and have never really looked back.

Before the Art

GVL: Did you have other aspirations before you considered pursuing your art career? While my parents encouraged my love of drawing and art, neither ever thought I could make a career of it. Was your family supportive of your art?

PB: Ha! No! My parents freaked out at the idea of art making any kind of money (which is obviously ridiculous as artists are known for being poor, and what the hell even is a colourist? Surely that is worse than artist!) My educational background isn’t strictly art based either. I actually have a degree in English, in which I focused on literature and  creative writing. This frequently helps me in so many unexpected ways, as coloring is also a form of storytelling – it just uses colours instead of words or lines.

Before colouring,  I had what my mum calls ‘a proper job’ teaching English (and some art too) to grumpy teenagers in secondary schools. This prior ‘art teacher’ experience has led me to connect with Lottie even more. In fact, Lottie is my inspiration for every page. I like to imagine how Lottie would color these pages. Which palettes would she lean towards? Which brushes would she use to express herself telling this story? Should the style be clean or messy? Should the palette be subdued or bright?

First Break in the Business

: Who gave you your first break in the field and how did that come about?

PB: My very first break came with 2000AD, colouring a 5 page Judge Death story. I submitted some work to editor Matt (aka “Tharg”) and he said he liked my work, gave me a few valuable pointers on pages where I could improve. He said he would keep me in mind for future projects. A few months later he approached me with a one-off story in an all-female special edition. It was incredibly exciting! After that, work for 2000AD has steadily increased and I am still working for them today.

GVL: Being not familiar with how the coloring side of the business works, who decides the approach you take? Do you have a discussion with the artist and writer as to what type of color pallet you will use, or do you have artistic license on those choices?

PB: I do get a lot of freedom to choose palettes and styles, which is awesome! The collaboration of different creative minds is what makes comics so special. Everyone brings something unique and that should be utilised. I’ll begin by reading the script, which is always full of hints anyway, time / mood / season, etc. I’ll create a palette and play with the colours on the first few pages. Then I’ll send in some finished samples to the whole team. Following this, I’ll get feedback and we can tweak bits and pieces as necessary. It’s really cool to get as many different eyes on a page and interpretations as possible, but it is also important to have a team that trusts my colour instincts as well.

Tools of the Trade

GVL: I assume, and I could be absolutely wrong, that coloring these days is completely digital in nature? Is that true and if so, is there a certain program that is your go to software? Of course, if it is NOT true and a more traditional technique is used, how does that work?

PB: Yes it is completely digital! Although I love traditional techniques, it is completely impractical for colouring work, as there are often tweaks and edits that need to be made on multiple pages, which would be too time consuming. The only instance when I might revert to using traditional techniques would be if creating a subtle background texture using paints, which would then be scanned in. I love the look of traditional art though and use / create brushes that emulate a more traditional, as opposed to digital style. All of my work is done using Photoshop and a 24 inch Cintiq pro.

Ash and Thorn

GVL: When did you get approached to work on Ash and Thorn and how did they pitch the project to you?

PB: Sarah Litt (our wonderful editor) approached me about working on Ash and Thorn last year. She sent me an email with a very brief description or the plot and some of Soo’s art. It was a no-brainer. Soo’s art is gorgeous and the story – wow! It got me really excited! It was something I would definitely love to read, and so would my friends. It’s just such an awesome concept. When I read Mariah’s script I loved it even more. It’s just perfection. I’m so happy to be a part of it.

GVL: Miss McCourt mentioned to me that she has more stories to tell with Lottie, Peruvia and Ash and Thorn. If that were to transpire, and more books were to be done, would you be interested in continuing that project?

PB: YEEEEEEEEESSSSSS. The whole team is brilliant, the story is a total winner. It absolutely needs to come back. I need more Ash and Thorn stories to read. And if they offered it me, I would instantly jump at the chance. If it comes back and for some reason I am not on colouring it, that wouldn’t be my choice. I would still go out and buy a copy though because it is so flippin’ awesome.

The Team, the Team…

GVL: You, along with Mariah McCourt, Soo Lee, Jill Thompson and Editor Sarah Litt have brought a new kind of hero’s tale into the comic world. One that gives the older hero their chance to shine. How was it working with such a talented group of artists?

PB: It has been brilliant from start to finish. As I said earlier, the whole team really gels together and I have so much respect for everyone involved. Mariah’s writing is so funny and warm. I have to have a cup of tea and baked goods when I start work on Ash and Thorn, because reading her scripts feels like a treat in itself. Soo’s art is so full of life and energy, and she has been so helpful with her feedback on my colours throughout the process. Jill’s covers are just beautiful and match perfectly match the tone of the story inside. Sarah is also such a wonderful editor. Thoughtful, supportive and all-round brilliant to work with. I feel very lucky to have been a part of this very special team.

Future Projects

GVL: Do you have any new projects on the horizon you would like our followers to know about?

PB: I am pretty busy right now and have new projects on the horizon for the Judge Dredd megazine, Rebellion, Aftershock, Top Cow and Dynamite. I’m not sure which projects have and haven’t been announced yet, so I’m kinda wary of saying anything. But keep a look out – I’ll be around!

A Dream Job

GVL: So let’s finish with a hypothetical question. You are given the opportunity to color any comic, any company, any genre and give it your own color flair. Which comic book or comic character is just waiting for your interpretation?

PB: Oh wow that is such a tough question! There are so many legendary comics out there that I have read and loved for years! But, to be honest, I would get the most excited about working on new, fresh projects where I can put my own stamp on a page with no prior expectations about how it should look, or who worked on it last. I wouldn’t change the comics I have read and loved, but equally, I would never want to copy them or feel overly influenced. It’s easier to say which genres I am most drawn to, which are fantasy, horror, science-fiction. But god that sounds like such a cop out! Ok. Stuff it. Wonder Woman! 😃

GVL: Thank you so much for giving us your time and for becoming our first and best colorist here at GeekVibesNation.

See also
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Have you been following the story on Ahoy Comic’s Ash and Thorn? If not, see what the fuss is all about by grabbing up the 3rd issue, on sale now. While you’re at it, you might as well get issues 1 and 2, wherever great comic books are sold. 🖖🏻

Also check out our interviews with Ash and Thorn writer Mariah McCourt, and artist Soo Lee.

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