Cougar Annie is the story of a legendary woman of Vancouver Island’s pioneer days. I did this comic as part of last year’s Comics and Graphic Novels program at Camosun College. The assignment was to choose a historical figure, and tell that person’s story in eight pages, and through that, some information about the period of history in which they lived.
Trying to tell anyone’s story in such a brief space is a huge challenge, especially someone who lived such a long and colourful life. There were so many adventures to choose from, as well as details of daily life on the island during that time! I finally decided that I’d have to narrow down the time period and focus the story. I chose the period of her life when she moved to the island to set up homesteading — but I still had to leave out a lot. I’d love to do it over someday, and put in all the parts I didn’t have room for.
The drawings were done first as pencils on Strathmore Vellum Bristol, then inked with a Pigma brush pen, and finally watercoloured with Cotman and Daniel Smith watercolours. I don’t really like using the watercolour on the Bristol, but it’s better for the ink than traditional watercolour paper. I’m on a search right now to find the perfect combination paper for doing comics.
If you are interested in reading more about Cougar Annie’s life, the book which was my primary reference is Cougar Annie’s Garden, by Margaret Horsfield. It is a compelling read, and conveys the flavour of pioneer life on Vancouver Island well. I also did a lot of research on the history of that part of the island, getting lots of other ideas for stories on the way, which will hopefully become other West Coast Tales eventually. So many stories, so little time!
What a delightful read, Karen. I’ve always loved the story of Cougar Annie and sometimes use it in my commentaries to tourists. Allegedly she was such a good shot that she amazed people by setting out to dispatch a troublesome cougar with only one bullet. “One cougar, one bullet,” she’d say, legend has it.
Thanks, Art! Although I feel kind of sorry for the cougars, I realize it was a different time. Cougar Annie was an amazing woman, with the skills and determination to live in a near-wilderness and thrive there. Someday I’d like to go visit her garden.