Time to Reflect

Sep 1

"Eminence" 9/10 - By Heather L. Gilbraith
6.25” x 4.25”, four relief prints and envelope with glass bead latch.

This is the description as written on the colophon:

This work consists of four illustrations depicting 
women leaders from western history.

They are removed from their female embodiment 
and merged with the bodies of their male 
counterparts. In this way we can view the women 
in the context of masculine leadership and 
ability, separated from the signifiers and 
stereotypes associated with femininity.

They were designed and relief printed by 
Heather L. Gilbraith 
in the fall of the year 2013 at the
Emily Carr University of Art and Design 
in Vancouver, BC, in a limited edition.

This was the big final project of my Illustrated Handmade Book class of last fall. It’s taken me ages to scan and document it because I didn’t quite know how to do so. But I’m proud of it and I do want to show it off, so here it is, finally! Keep reading after the cut for more of my ramblings about it.

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In which Squishy decides my camera looks fun to jump on. :)

[Squishy is my female flame/harlequin crested gecko. These photos were taken last August, when she was two years old.]

I’m back from Neverland!

Hello, everyone! Sorry for all the text posts on my blog today. I just wanted to send a quick note apologizing for being absent for two weeks– I was in London and Yorkshire visiting with friends and family. Dennis and I just got back yesterday.

We had such an excellent time. Even though we only had a week and a bit in London, we sure made good use of it. We visited the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, the London Transport Museum, the Museum of London, the National Gallery, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London… and that doesn’t include all the wandering around we did in general taking in the sights and the city and all the excellent restaurants we visited. So good! (We were able to see the Natural History Museum and the V&A Museum the last time we were in London, but as was the case with most of these places we couldn’t see everything in just one visit. We have to go back!)

We were only able to visit Yorkshire for a couple of days (boo) and I spent most of it visiting with family (yay!), but we were able to visit the Hartlepool Maritime Museum to see the HMS Trincomalee (Britain’s oldest still floating naval war ship; spectacular!), as well as a quick visit to Whitby for fish and chips and Runswick Bay. Definitely not enough time… there never is!

(One of the highlights for me was finally being able to see the Yorkshire Moors heather in bloom, which is what I was named for. That was magical. I’m told that the heather had a bit of a rough year so they weren’t as bright as they should have been, but it still blew me away. The moors are such a breathtaking place. What I wouldn’t give to spend more time there!)

Anyway, I don’t have much to show here for my trip, unfortunately. We didn’t do a lot of resting where I would have had time to draw, and by the time we got back to our accommodations in the evenings I was shattered thanks to jet lag and being on my feet all day. I wasn’t even able to keep up with my written travel journal. But I’m home now, and I’m starting school again in a couple of days, so I’m sure I’ll have art-y things to share soon. I’d like to finish up that last WIP I posted sooner rather than later…

Now I have to get myself switched over from summer mode into school mode, which is easier said than done. I hope you’ve all enjoyed your summer or winter! Let me know if there’s been anything exciting I’ve missed. :)


Apologies, but I need to have a bit of a rant.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately - more so than I have in a while - and I’m starting to notice a really disturbing and frankly frightening trend. A film I watched last night had several female characters surrounding a main male character. Nothing new. Some of them were older women in their 30s. Some in their 20s. All presented as “attractive” to the main character and therefore the audience. What they had in common: thin, long body types. Big eyes. Tiny noses. Straight hair. The main female character - the girlfriend - was almost presented as a caricature. She was demure, cute. Put up with the antics of the male protagonist. Impossibly beautiful. And in the end, despite sleeping with a host of other women, he marries her.

In almost every movie I have watched lately, the kind of girl that gets the guy or is presented as attractive is so impossibly foreign to me that I almost feel like I should hate myself. Which is absolutely ridiculous - yet how could I or any other girl I know live up to it? All of the men in these movies are so varied in physical nature, in body type, in personality. The women at least are sometimes intelligent, out spoken and have brilliant careers of their own. But they have to be attractive in a wholly feminine and cute way first.

I am finding it more and more frustrating that all we are seeing is a regurgitation of the same woman over and over. She is in the music videos, she is on the album covers hand in hand with the musician, she is on the ads on tv and in the magazines. I’m sure she’s a really nice girl and I think she’s gorgeous too, but we are teaching an entire generation that she’s the only thing they should ever need or want to be. It’s so fucking damaging that I want to scream.

I walked past an ad for a new Nike store today. There were a line of people jogging towards the camera, looking appropriately fierce in their Nike gear. I was pleasantly surprised to see a variation in skin colour. Nice one Nike. And yet every single body type was the same.

You can look at the photos I take of myself and think that I have it pretty good - which I do to an extent. I know I am tall, slim. But I also hated myself up until about two years ago, thought my thighs were a curse because they jiggle and touch and my hips were bigger than my boobs, that my face was too long and I was never going to be “pretty”. I know girls in real life who fit the standard that we’re apparently supposed live up to and I used to constantly compare myself and beat myself up. Eventually I got sick of my own bullshit and decided that fuck, I was going to wear whatever I damn well pleased and work the hell out of the cool things about me like my long legs and big hair.

But I still get insecure as all fuck when that little reminder of that woman pops up.

I’m really angry that we all have to deal with this and nobody is doing anything to stop it. I see other women on tumblr perpetuating it to the point where I’ve had to unfollow some people for catering to this unachievable ideal. It’s not okay and I’m so absolutely bone fuck tired of it.

When I was learning to draw, waaay back in the early years of Elementary school, I learned how to draw one kind of female face and body. It was a little formulaic thing that my sister taught me. The girl had long eyelashes, a small, button nose and small chin, full, red lips, prominent breasts, and a tiny waist and high heels. It was silly and stupid, but learning that formula catapulted me away from drawing stick figures, which suddenly made me the best “draw-er” in my class. That was the beginning of me starting to see myself as an artist.

As I continued to learn and develop my skills I continually reached for drawing that perfect woman, because that’s how I thought I should draw if I wanted to be “good”. If I was going to draw a beautiful character, she had to be “beautiful”, ie. like the lily-white skinned ethereal damsels in fairy tales, or like the models in TV commercials, or like the lead female characters in my Disney movies. I worked for hours trying to perfect my drawings of large, eyeliner and mascara-clad doe eyes that sparkled with innocence. I studied drawings and cartoons to try and learn how to draw the “perfect” waist to hip ratio. My character’s legs were always long and slender, and more often than not they wore high heeled shoes or boots. And all this when I was also angry at the fact that so few representations of girls and women out there were anything I could relate to. Even as I hated those depictions and longed for more variety, I perpetuated them in my own drawing because, hey, that’s what “real beauty” was, right? That’s who I thought I wanted to be, and therefore, who I wanted to see in my stories and drawings. Right? (My way of rebelling against the “beauty” paradigms when I was a kid was refusing to colour any of my characters blonde or with visible make-up, for horrible judgemental childish reasons, and also refusing to give them big boobs. Oh, I also drew them wearing high heeled boots instead of regular high heels. I know, so daring and forward-thinking of me, right?)

Needless to say, I had horrible self-esteem issues for the whole of my childhood and teenage years. I didn’t start to climb out of it until I stopped watching TV when I started post-secondary school and started actively trying to love myself as I was. It’s still something I’m working on.

The last five years or so I’ve been more and more cognizant of the fact that when I think of drawing a female person, the first thing I think to draw is a slender, fit character with a “pretty” face, usually white or Western European-looking, and with a sexually provocative swing to her hips. Because I strove so hard when I was younger to try and draw “conventionally attractive” people, it’s now become the default in my head and in my muscle memory, despite how much I intellectually loathe the fact that it is my default. I’ve been working hard to introduce varying body types, skin tones, face shapes, sexualities, gender expressions, and life experiences into my personal projects and work, but it’s something I need to continually work hard at and fix. It should be easy, really, but it requires a surprising amount of mental effort to reverse those stereotypes and “defaults” I hammered into my own head when I was a kid and just starting out with drawing. I’ll never be perfect, but I’ll always try my best to do better.

There’s nothing wrong with drawing “conventionally attractive”, slender women in sexually charged poses, by the way. The problem is when they become the default in our heads, like they did with me. And just like with my own experience as a kid, too much of one image perpetuated as “the norm” can be damaging to one’s self esteem. If it was hard for me, a skinny, middle-class, straight, white, mostly cis-gendered North American girl, imagine how hard it is for everyone

What does it say about our culture when games routinely bend or break the laws of physics and no one bats an eye? When dragons, ogres and magic are inserted into historically influenced settings without objection. We are perfectly willing to suspend our disbelief when it comes to multiple lives, superpowers, health regeneration and the ability to carry dozens of weapons and items in a massive invisible backpack. But somehow the idea of a world without sexual violence and exploitation is deemed too strange and too bizarre to be believable.

The truth is that objectification and sexual violence are neither normal nor inevitable. We do not have to accept them as some kind of necessary cultural backdrop in our media stories. Contrary to popular belief, the system of patriarchy has not existed for all of history across all time and all cultures. And as such it can be changed. It is possible to imagine fictional worlds, even of the dark, twisted dystopian variety, where the oppression and exploitation of women is not framed as something expected and inevitable.

When we see fictional universes challenging or even transcending systemic gender oppression, it subverts the dominant paradigm within our collective consciousness, and helps make a more just society feel possible, tangible and within reach.

- Anita Sarkeesian (From Tropes Vs. Women - Women as Background Decoration: Part 2)

Another pass on the dress/character today.

Another pass on the dress/character today.

Got this far with the dress sketching yesterday. Dresses are hard.

Got this far with the dress sketching yesterday. Dresses are hard.


Ok I went through and updated the colors for every single page of Vattu, and re-uploaded them to the site. Site colors for book 1 now match colors in the print edition, and some contrast issues throughout book 2 have been fixed. A lot of stuff that isn’t noticeable, but is much more readable now!

Did you know book 2 is finished? Did you know I’m about halfway through the biggest thing I have ever made and you can read it for free right here? Now u know

This comic is gorgeous and compelling. If you aren’t already reading it, check it out! It’s one of my absolute favourites, and I get so excited whenever another page appears.

Aug 9

left-handed: wolf in the woods. ballpoint pen, photoshop.
My right wrist has been in bad bad shape lately, so I’m back to working with my non-dominant hand until I finish a couple rounds with doctors.  Yesterday my personal challenge was fine detail x Ivan Bilibin.

So good.


left-handed: wolf in the woods. ballpoint pen, photoshop.

My right wrist has been in bad bad shape lately, so I’m back to working with my non-dominant hand until I finish a couple rounds with doctors.  Yesterday my personal challenge was fine detail x Ivan Bilibin.

So good.

Aug 7
Perspective… why do I do this to myself…
Any comments or crits at this stage? A lot of the details will change, such as the body posture, expression, cat, fashions, furnishings, etc. This is just a rough sketch. How does the layout look?I was hoping it would become a companion to “Wet & Windy”, but it’s becoming a bit more involved. Ah well!

Perspective… why do I do this to myself…

Any comments or crits at this stage? A lot of the details will change, such as the body posture, expression, cat, fashions, furnishings, etc. This is just a rough sketch. How does the layout look?

I was hoping it would become a companion to “Wet & Windy”, but it’s becoming a bit more involved. Ah well!