Corban Wilkin: Illustrator

Moving Forward

It’s been a while since I’ve posted since I haven’t had a great deal of news lately about the work I’m doing. Strangely this is the product of working very hard and consistently on a project! In this case it’s The Beauty of the Dead which is almost finished; I’m hoping to have it done today in fact. Above you can see my always-cluttered work-space as I finish inking the remaining pages, as well as photos from the New Blood exhibition, one of which shows members of the public apparently interested in my work (not family members planted there by me; I promise!)

The exhibition seems to have gone off without a hitch so far, and it comes down on Monday (4th July). After that it’s all comics all the time for me. I honestly have so many projects I want to pursue right now I don’t even know where to start, including a large-format sci-fi comic, redrafting a novel I’ve sketched about a homeless couple, starting a new one that’s been brewing in my mind for months now about a forbidden love in a modern war-time setting, starting several short-story ideas I have… The list goes on.

Does anyone else ever feel worried that their ideas will start to slip away from them somehow if they don’t grab them and do something with them right now? Does anyone ever feel as though they are pulsing with creative energy but that they have to bring it under control and let it burn slowly over the long period it takes to create comics (or any kind of art)? I hope so. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Exhibiting Twice
June 9, 2011, 19:30
Filed under: exhibitions, the old man and the sea | Tags: ,

This last week has been my degree show at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. I displayed some of my recent work along with all the other graduating illustrators and various other arts courses in the same large hall. I showed pages from The Old Man and the Sea, as well as my children’s book Stewpendous! and a plethora of other work. There was some fantastic photography as well as a personal favourite of mine, the Sonic Arts exhibits, which always has work of great technical prowess and can be quite thought-provoking too. The show generally was a great success and was full of visitors over the whole weekend. You can see the official website of the communication arts section of the show over at Unfolding Talent.

From July 1st-4th, and in the same building as the graduation show as a matter of fact, I’ll be displaying a smaller selection of work at the D&AD New Blood festival, a showcase of graduate art and design work from universities across the country. This one focuses only on illustration, animation and graphic design. I visited last year’s show and there was an incredible range of work, so it’s well worth going to.

Doing Adaptations

We all know how bad movie adaptations of literature can be, and I’m fairly sceptical about comics adaptations of prose. Regardless, I seem to have produced a few myself over the years, the first being a full-length translation of Brian Friel’s Translations, an excellent play set during the British colonisation of Ireland.

For some reason I thought it would be really simple and appropriate to turn a play into a comic. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Somehow I overlooked the fact that plays are chock-full of dialogue, and my comic became something that at times resembled an illustrated script!

I wasn’t satisfied with doing things the hard way just once, though, and went on next to adapt Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, a radio play and epic poem set in Llareggub, a fictional town in Wales. I thought it was a beautiful text, and there were so many great characters to draw. I really tried to get the vibe of a little Welsh town and these quirky characters Thomas populates it with.

More recently I created a complete but highly abbreviated version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I compressed 100 pages of text down into 22 pages of comics and, with the story being something of a fable this allowed the strength of the plot to shine through in its most distilled form.

It was tough to work through but very enjoyable. I’ve learnt that making an adaptation comes with many of its own difficulties, not least of which is wishing to keep the piece true to the soul of the original. On the other hand I find that merely illustrating the story leaves a lot to be desired. Instead, what I try to is focus in on particular thematic aspects of a story and really bring those forward, cutting out what doesn’t fit with the ideas I see in the story and perhaps even synthesising new parts when necessary. I cut out quite a few characters from Under Milk Wood, for example, and combined two young female parts to make Lily Smalls (the girl with the bad skin and curly blonde hair) into the emotional focal-point of the comic.

Since I write my own work, too, it’s wonderful to learn from these great writers by analysing their work and retelling it in my own way. As it happens, I’m beginning work on another adaptation just now, of a short story by one of my favourite authors, H.E. Bates, but more on that later.