Drawing inspiration from the likes of Dav Pilkey, who created the Captain Underpants comic series, along with artists from the Golden Age of Animation including Betty Boop, Popeye and Walt Disney’s Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mhairi has been telling stories through her illustrations for most of her life. She created her first character, a green dog with an illuminated antenna and two tails called “Goblin Dog” at the tender age of 9. Her work was impressive enough even at this young age to prompt her Year 5 teachers to put her artwork on display in the school library. Progressing steadily from there she has written and hand illustrated countless comic strip stories based around Goblin Dog and his friends. J.K.Rowling-style she has created not just characters but whole worlds and has the complete saga mapped out in her mind, with each story building up to the dramatic climax she has all planned out.
Mhairi gets her inspiration for the stories in various ways, sometimes through friends suggestions or things that she might see, but most frequently the characters and their stories arrive in her mind fully formed just as she is about to drop off to sleep! “It can be a bit inconvenient sometimes!” she laughs, “But I keep a notebook at the side of my bed to write the ideas down quickly,” These ideas are not only original but also quirky and fun. Mhairi likes to use animals in her cartoons which haven’t been traditionally used in animation before, such as racoons and crocodiles, as well fantastical monsters from outer space with villainous ideas and mouths on their tails.
Illustration and storytelling have been a central passion in her life since she was a child and what is immediately clear is how supportive her parents are of her work, which is displayed prominently, as you would expect, on the walls. What you perhaps wouldn’t expect is the drawing Mhairi innocently created on the sofa as a small child which is still proudly in evidence on the leather cushion. Still only 18 years old, Mhairi has been accepted at Curtin University for an Art and Illustration Degree and some of her work is currently touring Western Australia as part of a collaborative initiative called The Sketchbook Project, organised by Propel Youth Arts, which provides the opportunity for young people to display and share their artwork and ideas to a wider audience.
Having such a strong and individual creative passion hasn’t always been easy and Mhairi recalls some difficult times during high school where she felt disappointed at being expected to produce more traditional art. “It’s harder to be creative at high school than at primary school. It’s easy to become discouraged but you just have to have self confidence and keep working at what you believe in.”
After just a short glimpse into her creative genius, along with her determination and vision, it is certain that she is heading for an illustrious career in the world of illustration.
Mhairi is based in Albany and her current work can be seen on her Instagram page @Mhairi_Harris
(All images are courtesy of Mhairi Harris and remain the property of Mhairi Harris. Reproduction in any media is only by prior arrangement.)