Artist Spotlight: Emma Weakley (porcelianDoll)

 

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While artists have always had Patrons, it’s the internet that has allowed the masses to become patrons of the arts. Likewise, the internet has granted artists of all types a means to showcase and share their work.

The web has created an environment where many good artists host their portfolios online. Using the web to display their work, they cultivate loyal fans and often earn a living from this fanbase rather than through galleries.

However, the quantity of art online means that genuine talent and vision is sometimes overlooked. Hopefully, our Artist Spotlight will be the equivalent of a quiet room in a busy art gallery, a place where quality artwork and webcomics can be displayed.

The first artist to feature in our Artist spotlight is Emma Weakley, otherwise known as porcelianDoll on Deviantart.

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It was the haunting quality of her work that first drew me. She manages to combine elegant morbid imagery with well-structured story telling.

The result?

Horror webcomics that will haunt you long after you’re done reading them. While some horror relies on shock and gore to make an impact, the comics of Emma Weakley take a more subtle route. They explore the reasons behind our often irrational fears.

For this spotlight, I will be focusing on two of her horror webcomics.

Kelpie: In the Kelpie webcomic, the theme is one of loss and inevitability. The loss of childhood, the loss of innocence, the loss of a loved one.

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The kelpie itself can be read as symbol of inevitability, dragging its victim down into the unknown. As children, we believe that becoming adults means we will be in control of our lives and fates. But the protagonist’s confrontation with the Kelpie marks the end of childhood and of childhood beliefs.

His encounter with the Kelpie is the beginning of his adulthood and the realization that being an adult, being aware of the unknown, doesn’t mean we can control it. But we can still try to understand it. By becoming an artist who obsessively replicates his experience, he seeks some kind of insight.

The message could be that wise men accept the inevitability of death, that ultimate step into the unknown. But they also seek to understand it so they can face it on their terms.

Of course, this is just one interpretation. The comic itself is layered with subtext and symbolism, open to multiple interpretations. What makes this exceptional is that the entire 12 page work is completely “silent” – it takes place without text.

Weakley’s strength as a story teller shines through. Her sequential story telling is powerful enough to convey not just a sequence of events but also the themes hidden behind them. A deceptively simple piece of folklore on the surface, the Kelpie comic, like the Kelpie’s pond, contains hidden depths.

Pig Girl: Having being enchanted by the Kelpie comic, I was curious to explore her other horror comic. I was delighted to find that it delivered the same impact. While Pig Girl is a more visceral and less haunting offering than the Kelpie comic, it’s still an example of quality horror.

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Like Kelpie, it conveys multiple themes through a neatly structured linear story. The premise is that of a murder victim turned murderer, someone losing their humanity in an attempt to look more human.

On some level, it can be seen as a comment of society’s obsession with beauty, with physical perfection. On another level, Pig Girl explores our inhumanity to social outcasts and the physically deformed. It reminded me of Kafka’s The Metamorphis, a tale in which a man is transformed into a giant insect. His ill treatment at the hands of others is an allegory for the dehumanization of the sickly or deformed.

Pig Girl explores similar themes. Seeing the deformed protagonist cower from hostile glances allows us to build sympathy for her. This sympathy remains even as she becomes monstrous in action as well as form.

The comic is meditation on the birth of evil. We watch someone’s odyssey from sympathetic victim to monster and find ourselves riveted even as we are repelled.

One of the pleasures of reading a webcomic is watching how the art and characters have evolved throughout the pages. Webcomics are a kind of informal evolution chart for creators’ artistic and  storytelling development.

Weakley’s artistic technique is solid. The angles used in both comics contribute to the chilling atmosphere. Using suspenseful shots and lighting, Weakley succeeds in creating a supernatural ambiance.  Her palettes are subtle, occasionally using bright splashes of color at key moments.

She keeps characters consistent and recognizable throughout each story. The body language and facial expressions of her characters are almost cinematic – you have a sense that each scene is carefully staged for maximum impact. Rather than diminish your reading pleasure, it enhances it. You feel as if you are witnessing a thoughtfully crafted play.

While Weakley is adept at depicting mundane scenes, her artwork blazes to life when she depicts the more visceral or surreal elements. Using subtle angles and shadowy lighting, she manages to draw the reader into both works.

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Implication forces the reader to become a participant in the stories. You don’t know the ultimate fate of the Kelpie’s victim, you don’t see some of the butchery in Pig Girl. But you imagine it.

That’s why neither story will let you rest. You can stop reading them but you cannot stop your imagination.

Long after you turn off your computer, you’ll find yourself wondering about the Kelpie’s victims and the bloody acts of Pig Girl. Such musings will haunt you like your own personal specter.

LJ Phillips
About LJ Phillips (82 Articles)
LJ Phillips is an ex-bodyguard and professional artist who has had three solo exhibitions. He has also published numerous articles and pieces of short fiction. His interests include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, over-analyzing pop culture and staring into the abyss. Currently he lives in SA and spends his free time working on his various creator-owned comics.

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