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the visual narrative thesis projects: alison paul

Alison Paul is an accomplished storyteller, having seen two books published by Houghton Mifflin (Sunday Love and The Crow). Her style is simply stunning, with a combination of expressive characters, bold layouts and, at times, an enthralling diorama look.

We got a chance to ask Alison some questions about who she is, what she’s getting out of Visual Narrative and what to expect from her thesis.

Alison Paul storytime Where’s home?

Providence, RI home, but I’m a native Northern Californian.

What does visual storytelling mean to you?

There are no words to express this.

What’s your thesis project about?

EQUINOX is the story of a man in a lighthouse in the middle of the arctic circle. His days are long and lonely, and the memories of his beloved are everywhere, a constant reminder of his new life of solitude. He tries to find solace in his work, tracing the movement of the sun throughout the day and operating the lighthouse at the night, but it’s not the same without her. As the Equinox draws nearer, his spirits lift slightly, but the anticipation is almost worse. When the time comes, our sailor shaves off his months of beard growth and dons a full tuxedo and top hat. He locks the door to the lighthouse and, with the setting sun he walks into the icy water…

…but what he finds below is not the end, just another beginning.

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Why do you want to tell this story?

For years I’ve wanted to tackle a retelling of The Gift of the Magi. The simple story always held such a strong visual to me, much like a dog chasing it’s own tail. I wanted to take that metaphor and build a world around it, create a world whose very structure keeps our star-crossed lovers apart. Animation seemed like a natural medium to tackle this in; the movement of waves back and forth, the lighthouse spinning, and the ticking clock all are essential to the rhythm and tone of the story. In the end, when our hero walks into the ocean, the story takes an unexpected turn into magical realism. I personally think these flights of fancy work best either in prose (where your imagination can run wild), or in animation, where anything can happen.

Why did you choose the MFAVN program?

I have always categorized myself as a “storyteller”, and in the past that meant I’d have to split my time and studies between art and creative writing. Now I don’t have to!

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Who is your mentor for your thesis, “Cornelius and the Sea”?

Agnieszka Woznicka. I am so thankful to have had the ability to begin a relationship with someone I have been a long time fan of.

Where do you hope your work and thesis will take you?

To the moon and back. And by that I simply mean that I want to have an amazing adventure through the telling of this story.

Thanks for talking with us, Alison! We wish you luck as you wrap up your thesis. We’ll post the final project right here when it’s complete.