The winner and runners-up of the Cape/Observer graphic short story prize were announced in The Guardian over the weekend, with Alexis Deacon emerging as the recipient for his story, The River. Deacon is a well-known and highly regarded illustrator- largely of children's books, including an adaptation of Russell Hobans' Jim's Lion which is very sequential in nature. I came across his work at ELCAF for the first time earlier this year, and have been following both his blog and Tumblr; I really love his watercolours: they're intensely narrative and characterful, lots of strange beasts and ominous lands. The brief interview with Deacon accompanying the announcement states his desire to create more comics, and I hope that comes to fruition.
The prize usually also recognises one runner-up, but this year the position was awarded to two entrants: Beth Dawson and Fionnuala Doran. Dawson's comic deals with loss and grief, where Doran continues here interest in biography and history with an account of Constance Markievicz's life, the aristocratic Irish nationalist who was imprisoned in solitary confinement for her part in the Easter Rising (I like the ligne claire style she has adopted here). To be frank, my thoughts on the prize haven't changed much from last year, even as a fan of Deacon's and Doran's work -all 3 entries very much fit Cape's 'house style'- although I appreciate it holds a certain 'esteem' and function for artists. I often wonder to what extent publishers should diversify, whether they should aim to represent a variety of different artists and styles and viewpoints, or perhaps simply stick to doing what they do well. Either way, I do wish there were more entry-level competitions and opportunities for UK artists and writers.
Robert Ball posted his entry -written by Stephen Aston- for the competition on his website, along with some brief thoughts on why he enters: 'Will I enter again next year? Maybe. The competition can result in exposure that far exceeds the self publishing cul-de-sac I’m in, and provides a rare brief to respond to. And it’s fun to do.'