Filed under: comics theory, exhibitions, illustrations, my comics | Tags: art, books, children's books, comics, graphic novels, illustration, writing
‘The graphic novel’ is being worked on and will be for a long time, and that’s all I’m saying.
Although it looks this way, I haven’t, in fact, dropped off of the face of the earth, but I have been extremely busy (haven’t we all?), with, as well as ‘the graphic novel’, a full-time job which I might talk talk about in a later post.
Some of my work from Dreams of a Low Carbon Future is currently on display in The Cartoon Museum in Holborn and will be until 1st June 2014.
Have you ever noticed that to tell another about a planned project intended to be completed on one’s own steam, or a mighty ambition one has every intention of carrying out, often ruins the possibility of making said dream a reality? I read somewhere, at some time, that to explain a hitherto secret idea, for a story, say, to someone else actually gives us some facsimile of the pleasure we associate with great and self-motivated achievement. By revealing that we have every intention of writing the greatest screenplay in history we in fact feel that the friend we simply had to confess this ambition to thinks highly of us for planning to do so. We imagine to ourselves that they are in some way impressed with our plan and our motivation and it thereby robs us of the ability to make real what is already so comfortingly extant in the shared consciousness, which seems almost good enough to replace the real thing. Making something real takes a tremendous, in fact inordinate, amount of time and energy. Making anything significant must by necessity take over one’s life. If we can feel, subconsciously or otherwise, that we have already been a bit impressive to the people whose opinions we value then the effort seems futile. We’ll give over a chunk of our lives to creating or realising something, and to present it to those we first mentioned the idea to will be anticlimactic: “See? I told you I’d do that thing and look at me now. I’ve gone and done it!”
How much grander and more exciting to step out from behind a doorway and present a fully-formed piece of brilliance to one’s peers, the excitement of their response to this wholly unpresaged, fully, or perhaps, at least, mostly, accomplished idea a powerful motivator in the graft of hours upon hours doing the labour of creating the thing in reality. Rather than presenting a now-poorly-motivated shadow of a grandly (or, indeed, failingly) expressed idea, one instead has a grand statement, all laid out and out of the blue, with no grand idea that it tries in vain to live up to.
Resist blurting out every idea to your friends and peers; explaining your bold vision to them. An idea that is just an idea ought to be kept a grave secret until, through work, you ripen it and cause it to exist: make it ready to be enjoyed. Until that time, all you have is an idea and all of the experience in my short life so far has taught me that an idea alone is worth next to nothing.
Of course there are exceptions even to this rule: the idea for chocolate-covered peanuts, for example.
Above and below: VECTOR DRAWINGS. Remakes in fact of some old children’s book illustrations. I liked these and haven’t bandied them about enough yet.
Filed under: comic artists, comics theory, illustrations, my comics | Tags: art, books, children's books, comics, doctor who, graphic novels, illustration, sci-fi, science
Just a piece I neglected to post until now: an ink and watercolour inspired by the Doctor Who episode ‘The Eleventh Hour’, for a big fan of the programme.
The Doctor crash-lands in the back garden of Amelia Pond, and when he leaves, tells her he’ll return immediately. By the time he does get back to her, Amelia’s now a grown woman who’s been obsessed with him her whole life, even though, to The Doctor, very little time has passed. I liked the night-time tone of the greens and blues.
Once again, don’t forget if you’re in Leeds or anywhere nearby, come to the Thought Bubble Festival next weekend (23rd and 24th) and get your free give-away copy of the graphic compendium that is Dreams of a Low Carbon Future, featuring comics and illustration by myself, as well as a mixture of other comics artists, climate researchers, and school-children who have contributed their own work.
Filed under: my comics | Tags: art, books, cartoons, children's books, comics, graphic novels, illustration
On November 23rd, Dreams of a Low Carbon Future will be released at the Thought Bubble festival in Leeds. We’ll be there Saturday and Sunday the 23rd and 24th promoting the book so if you’re going to Thought Bubble then come and get a copy.
Dreams of a Low Carbon Future, with James McKay as editor, is a big collection of stories as comics, prose, and illustrated prose, which discuss the science and history of energy and present projected ideas of Earth in the future as a utopian/dystopian society, based on the different ways we may use energy and deal with climate change in the near and distant future.
Above is an excerpt from my comic in the anthology, which outlines a brief, general history of human usage of energy.
Filed under: breaker's end, my comics | Tags: art, books, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration, kickstarter
On Thursday the 22nd of August Off Life issue six comes out.
In it is my brand new four-page comic If Not Now then When?
Off Life is a really amazing comics periodical that’s featured such comics masters within its pages as Adrian Tomine and Tom Gauld. It’s available for free in London and Bristol if you find them in a hip coffee house or gallery, but I believe you can also buy them from Foyles on Charing Cross Road and London’s two best comics shops: Orbital and Gosh.
Off Life‘s slogan is ‘Comics for a lost generation’. I like to think I’ve captured that sentiment in my story. If Not Now then When is about a young woman who, with nothing going for her in life and her only friend moving away to Paris, skips town one day and lives out a pathetic little fantasy.
I’ll say no more.
The Breaker’s End Kickstarter campaign only made a quarter of its funding, unfortunately, but copies of the paperback book will still be available to anyone who’d like one. The details of how to get your copy will follow in my next blog post. I just need to iron out the details.
In the meantime, go and buy Off Life issue six!
For their generous help with the Kickstarter campaign, many many thank yous to: Paul Gravett, Alex Fitch, Mia Warren, Tom Lowenstein, Toby Litt, Daniel Humphry, Kenny Penman, Richard Bruton, Joe Gordon, and anyone else who helped in any way. Thank you!
Filed under: comic artists, my comics, soft teeth | Tags: art, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, illustration, writing
Of those four new potential graphic novels mentioned last time, I’ve written one as a prose-only novel, one has been ditched like yesterday’s baked beans, and one has been put on the back-burner since I still really want to do it.
The final one of the four has emerged as the victor (cue sound of cheering crowd) as I kind of knew it always would; which is much to my horror, as this is by far the most complex and difficult of the four. It’s probably going to be about seven-hundred-thousand pages long, and some of the first pages (above) have finally starting spewing from the end of my pencil. More on this as it develops.
Also working on short comics for two very different publications. I still think it’s ludicrously hard to fit a complete story into a few pages of comics. Nevertheless I will attempt to do so. Also it means that every page has to look really good since there’s so few of them. You can’t get by on the sketchy-sketchy hoping that the 300 pages will all support eachother like the sticks in a teepee. It actually has to be GOOD: shock horror.
I have a new cartoonist idol who has inspired me recently despite the great difficulties of writing a long book: Simon Hanselmann. Here’s his Tumblr, Girl Mountain. His main comic Megg, Mogg & Owl/Truth Zone is really worth a look (below). Great character designs, very funny, very deep. Mainly I love how loose and quickly-drawn it is. He seems to dash them off at an incredible rate, and this is particularly what inspired me. Sometimes the best things come out of spontaneity and letting all your ideas and wacky notions come through onto the paper without thinking too much about refinement or perfection. I love that. Also, the witch, Megg, is one of the best character designs I’ve ever seen. She’s ridiculously simple, but so well defined and characterful.
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.