Filed under: my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration, writing
There are several problems associated with writing four graphic novels at the same time which hadn’t previously occurred to me.
For a start it makes each one take four times as long. (Who knew?) Also I have the issue of being able to give up too easily. You see, with just about every comic I’ve ever created, or any project at all for that matter, I usually give up about once per day. It’s sort of an organic part of bringing a project to completion: throwing one’s arms to the sky and declaring that what you’ve done is worthless, telling yourself quite authoritatively that it’s over, you can’t do it any more, before coming back twenty minutes later with a cup of tea and carrying on. Whilst writing four at once, I lose faith in each story just as one of the other stories (inevitably the one which I’ve left the longest without working on) starts to seem like the best idea I’ve ever had.
Now this might sound like a good thing, rotating through the projects, and always working on something, but it begins after a while to seem impossible to focus on one story for very long. If you’ve only got one thing on the go then eventually you’re forced to carry on with it and though you curse and swear and despair and kick the thing across the floor, soon enough the rusty motor kicks into gear and it starts to chug along by itself.
What I’m sure will happen is that one of these stories will begin to take precedence, and as I begin drawing finished pages it will become the only thing I work on, the other stories put on the back burner to be reconsidered at a later date. However, the biggest problem is that that I like I like them all so much I want to see them all come to fruition!
Unfortunately (or fortunately), though, ideas are only worth the time and effort you put into them. Ideas you don’t at least start bringing into being remain as just that: ideas.
I don’t like to discuss subject matter too much until a story’s completed. I tend to always regret telling
people my ideas before they are at least at the roughs stage. But I’ll tell you this much about these four
in utero graphic novels: one is set in the past, one is set in the very near future, one is set in the distant future, one is set… somewhere very surreal.
P.S. If you want to be an illustrator but don’t know how to start, you could do worse than getting a copy of Martin Ursell’s How to Illustrate Children’s Books, which, completely coincidentally, features me as a case study of an illustrator.
Click on the image to go to Amazon and buy it! —–>
Filed under: illustrations, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration
In this illustration for the latest issue of LIVE magazine I’ve experimented with using pencil alongside my usual inks. It’s for an article about the possibility of a non-white British prime minister in the near future.
I’ve also been thumbnailing a new graphic novel project. It’s coming together rather well, story-wise, and it’s going to be a long one. Maybe not Habibi long but far longer than anything I’ve done before. I don’t want to give away any details yet; not even the title, since it’d be a total let-down if I decide not to take this to completion, but when the time is right things will, of course, begin appearing on this blog.
The process of ‘writing’ that first draft is always extremely intense. Once you have the first draft you have the scaffolding: a leg to stand on, but it’s filling those blank pages with the raw stuff of thought, with only research notes to shore you up, that proves to me to be equal parts terrifying and cathartic.
Filed under: breaker's end, illustrations, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration
(Click the image for a larger version.) Just a recent scene from Breaker’s End. I thought this one would look nice with a splash of colour. I’m on chapter four of the finished art of the graphic novel now. It’s rather exciting.
Filed under: comic artists, comics theory, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration
Inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Seth’s Wimbledon Green, and a little bit of Irvine Welsh, I drew a comic called The Wonderful Experience straight in to an A4 sketchbook with no planning, character design, scripting or roughing. This is the method Seth used to create the entirety of Wimbledon Green, so I thought I could have a go at a short comic.
Now I’ve tried this sort of thing before; going straight in to finished pages, making the story up as you go along, and my god does it rarely work. Most of the time you get three pages in, declare that what you have done so far is irredeemably awful and is only going to get worse. Then you go away and watch the telly or something. You’re always so inspired when you start out, that’s the sad thing.
Only on two other occasions have I ever completed a comic using this method. In 2007 when I drew a 180-page comic called Wasp and Bee in just five days, and in 2009 when I completed a 24-hour comic called Or, which has since been lost/destroyed, but involved a weird collage of orange and white cardboard and very little story.
This time the ‘no-planning’ method came out fairly well. Although I sort of did plan quite extensively in my head as I got further in to it, but I refused to write anything down. I thought it might ruin the natural flow I had going.
Anyway, it’s a comic about a pitiful character trying to come to terms with his paralysing lack of sexual experience. This is very much me writing from the point of view of a character whom I dislike, but still feel empathy or sympathy for. This is something Irvine Welsh does that I really love, especially with the character of Begbie. He lets you get inside the head of this horrible, violent bastard, and you can’t help but begin to understand his actions just a little bit when you see them from his point of view.
Everyone is the way that they are for a reason, after all.
Click the image to read the whole comic.
Filed under: my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, competition, graphic novels, illustration
Last year I entered the Thought Bubble festival’s Northern Sequential Art Competition with Phoenix, and above are some panels from this year’s effort, Boundary. Click on the image to read the whole comic.
The aim of this contest is to create a single A3 comics page that tells a complete story, at least six panels, black and white or colour. Sounds simple, but the hard part is getting a coherent story (with a beginning, a middle and an end!) in to one page. My secret? A whole load of tiny panels. Chris Ware eat your heart out.
This one is about a young man who, to say the least, isn’t very well traveled. The drawing style was inspired by David Small’s Stiches, Joff Winterhart’s Days of the Bagnold Summer, and Seth’s Wimbledon Green (which continues, year after year, to be a big source of inspiration). As for authors who are inspiring my writing and storytelling right now, Alan Bennet and Paul Auster are the current big influences. No wonder this comic is so bleak (and listening almost exclusively to The Smiths doesn’t help, either.) It’s undoubtedly a far cry from last year’s entry to the contest both visually and in the tone of storytelling.
Anyway, what am I trying to say here? I hope you enjoy it. That’ll do.
Filed under: my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, competition, graphic novels, illustration
This is a panel from a four-page comic that may or may not be my entry in to the Cape Graphic Short Story Prize that’s coming up soon. I’ve actually finished this one well in advance of the competition deadline, which is a first for me; for the last three years I’ve entered this, I’ve been scribbling away up to the last minute and praying that my entry arrives in the mail in time.
Read the whole story here, in the comics section. I haven’t done loads of short stories lately (i.e. none), on account of working on the graphic novel, but this is a bit of a step up from all my past efforts at short fiction, even if I do say so myself!
I will be working on more stories for the competition though. Lets see if I can top this one.
Filed under: breaker's end, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration
I’m working on several comics right now, with a mind to entering one of them in to the (deep breath) Observer/Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2012. This is the competition’s sixth year and the fourth that I will have entered. Last year my entry was an s.f. comic called Ripe which you can read here.
The simple little panel above is from the strip I’m puzzling over at the moment, titled But I Can’t, about two girls who have an obsession with ufos and alien abductions.
What I really love about this competition is that, giving them a real purpose and a definite deadline, it forces a lot of languishing cartoonists to force something out. I suspect that for a lot of entrants it’s the first comic they’ve ever completed, or the first after a long dry spell. It’s a good kick up the bum to start and (wonder of wonders) finish a comic, which is extremely easy to not do most of the time.
The graphic novel (Breaker’s End) is on a brief hiatus, but I’m tantalisingly close to finishing chapter three, and well over half way through drawing the thing. It’s been a heck of a learning experience, this one, and I can’t wait to see it finished two years after first dreaming it up and scribbling out the first draft. Still a way to go yet though, mustn’t jump the gun.
Filed under: breaker's end, comic artists, comics theory, illustrations, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration
I’m working on chapter two of Breaker’s End at last, and really trying to pin down the right sort of style and aesthetic for the whole thing. I will eventually return to chapter one and redraw it, I think, since it was very much a rush job when I drew it last October.
All the images above from Breaker’s End are work in progress, only half inked with pencil lines still in there, but I quite like them in this state and thought I’d share. Oddly it does seem that sometimes inking a panel or page to completion can kill a lot of the life that was in the pencils. I recently read the graphic novel Local written by Brian Wood and drawn by Ryan Kelly. Kelly’s inking is very heavy and impressive, employing a wide range of techniques to get different effects, but at the back of the book, in a commentary about the art, he said something that rang true with me;
“Usually, my methodology follows something like this: I pencil out a face and it looks great. Then, I ink it and it looks like dook. Finally, I spend an inordinate amount of time nit-picking at the face with white-out, correction tape, and numerous power tools.”
Nevertheless, Breaker’s End is fully thumbnailed and I’ll be working on it steadily throughout the year. It’s shaping up to be quite close to how I envisioned it when I originally dreamed up the idea, so I’m going to keep working at it and see it to completion, come hell or high water.
I’ve also just illustrated three articles for the coming Spring edition of Live magazine, one called ‘Culture Awards’ about upcoming cultural events in 2012. Above you can see a couple of cartoon illustrations for that piece. On my portfolio you can see all the little illustrations for that article plus images for pieces about an agnostic visiting different religious buildings, and Facebook bullying/addiction.
Finally, I’ve been doing some work on a short film called Frank Filleh, about a great man who, working his way through solving all the world’s problems, loses his genius. I’ve drawn images for a magazine and book covers to be used as props in the film. More of these are on my portfolio as well.
Filed under: illustrations, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, illustration
The LIVE magazine winter issue is now available across Britain with the front cover courtesy of me! This issue focuses on the youth protests and uprisings that have taken place over the last year in Britain and across the world, and it has numerous illustrations to reflect that, including my comic After the Protest.
You can see my cover illustration by itself as well as other LIVE magazine illustrations over at my portfolio.
I’ve got two big comics projects in the pipeline right now, which are both in the planning stages at the moment, but which I should be able to get stuck in to drawing come the new year.
That’s all for now!
Filed under: a plague of lighthouse-keepers, breaker's end, comic artists, comics theory, my comics | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, illustration
Drawing comics is a painful process. I wouldn’t recommend it.
My two new comics; After the Protest and Phoenix are now up for reading, and the first is going to be published in the Winter 2011 issue of LIVE Magazine, alongside feature articles about the youth protests and riots across the world that took place over the last year.
Phoenix was my last-minute entry into the 2011 Northern Sequential Art Competition. The competition requires you to submit a self-contained one-page story for an A3 page. I heard about it three days before the deadline, and after many unsuccessful attempts and much head-scratching I came up with Phoenix and did the whole thing in 24 hours.
The theme of the story perhaps says something about how I feel about comics sometimes. I don’t know if other cartoonists have experienced the same urge to burn things that I felt briefly after completing A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers at the end of four months of work. Thankfully Plague remained intact, but I have destroyed plenty of artwork over the years, and it always comes with wails of protest from friends and family, who insist that one is trashing the Mona Lisa when most of the time it’s actually just a pile of old sketches and juvenile drawings from years before that have no use to you now.
Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I wanted to post a run-down of my current process for creating comics. My methods have varied wildly over the years and will no doubt change again many times, but since Phoenix turned out to be an almost painless comic to create, I thought it would be the perfect time to show the steps I took to create this page.
1. So I dreamed up this idea, a very brief story with three characters in conflict over an action that one is threatening to take because they feel it is in their interests, but which the other characters don’t want to happen. Classic, very simple story structure. So immediately I sat down with a sketchbook and scrawled the thing out, not caring what the characters look like, not doing any real composition, just getting it down as pictures and words. (On the image above the comic starts at the top-left of the right-hand page. I ran out of space on that page and had to continue on the left-hand page.)
2. Being basically happy with the story (which 99% of the time you won’t be) I went ahead and created a full rough. This was done on a single A4 sheet, the panels were all measured, most of the details were put in, words were finalised, but most importantly, this is the stage where the composition is worked out. For each panel and for the page as a whole, I figure out everything like depth, shapes, light and dark, where speech balloons go, how much environment to draw in, etc. Here is where I get everything right, so that I won’t have to make creative decisions when drawing the final artwork.
3. I didn’t scan in the pencil layouts, but for the final artwork I measure out all the panels, translating precisely from the rough. This comic was drawn at A2 scale so all measurements had to be doubled. Then I lightly plot the positions of all the big shapes across the page that make up the composition. I draw in detail panel-by-panel next, though I’m not as meticulous about penciling in these details as some cartoonists. I feel more confident drawing with the ink afterwards so that’s when the details really start coming out. I use a size 4 Windsor and Newton Series 7 and completely undiluted Sennelier ink, which is very thick and black and will destroy many expensive brushes until you learn how to clean them properly. So I ink it all up, pretty cleanly in this case, starting with the panel borders, and then basically going from panel to panel. This is the mindless-labour part of making a comic really, but it’s still very enjoyable, especially since you can listen to music or audiobooks because you don’t need to concentrate very hard.
4. Finally you scan it in, blast the contrast so it’s all pure black and white, and then colour it digitally if it’s in colour. Colouring probably doubles the time it takes to create a page, but in some circumstances it’s definitely worth it. I create a new layer over my inks, set it to multiply and then colour away using a pressure-sensitive tablet (I can’t tell you how much nicer it is to colour with than a mouse/pad). For this comic I took an image of fire and selected two colours from the image to use. Taking cues from the duo-tone colouring of Seth, I used these two fire colours the represent all the colour and tone in the story.
Like I said, this is one of the most painless comics I have ever made. Somehow it seemed so easy. Most of the time it’s more of a case of tearing my hair out and constantly thinking that I should try a different story. Sometimes I’ll type out a script to work over, as in the case of Ripe, to try to perfect the dialogue, and usually I’ll have to redraft the initial thumbnail stage countless times.
One of my favourite posts from Craig Thompson’s fantastic blog shows the stages that he went through to create a standard page for Habibi. He actually does five drafts of each page, and they aren’t even in colour! No wonder it’s so good.