Corban Wilkin: Illustrator


Touring in Tampa

 

Yes, that’s me up there, talking to a room full of people about drawing horses.

Last week I completed a schools book tour in Florida after Hillsborough County’s school libraries chose Grand Theft Horse as one of their Summer Slam books.

With Greg Neri, I did seventeen talks, and spoke about myself and my background in comics, the process behind creating Grand Theft Horse, and our upcoming project Time Traveling Dino Detectives of Antarctica. We also did book signings, prize giveaways, drawing lessons, posters, and more.

I met a lot of people, adults and kids alike, who were really enthusiastic about what we’re doing and are already looking forward to the new comic coming out.

Also, since it was my first time in Florida, I was grateful for the opportunity to see one or two alligators, swim in the Gulf, eat some key lime pie, and many other very cool Floridian things.

I’d like to say many thanks to Greg and his family, and to the brilliant Kimberly DeFusco for organising the trip. Also to all the great librarians in Hillsborough County for hosting us at their wonderful schools.

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Keeping a Sketchbook
March 1, 2019, 10:47
Filed under: drawing, drawing theory, illustration, sketchbook | Tags: , , , , ,

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Whenever there’s an event featuring a graphic artist of any kind and they end up fielding questions from the public, there are certain questions that always get asked, and probably the one you hear the most is:

“What would be your advice for someone who wants to be an illustrator?”

This question is usually posed by a starry-eyed youngster, perhaps even a small child, just dying to know that one, closely-guarded secret that will cause them to become a successful graphic artist.

Of course there are no secrets. Or if there are, I don’t know them. But there is a specific answer most people give to this question, and it’s a very good answer. I was recently lucky enough to attend the Harry Potter Book Night to hear illustrators Jim Kay and Chris Riddell in a panel discussion about their work, and Riddell, inbetween his usual bouts of very fast and impressive live drawing fun, was asked this classic question, and gave the classic answer.

The answer to this question is always, “Keep a sketchbook.”

That’s it. Usually followed by the suggestion to keep it with you at all times and draw anything at all, as much as possible.

And if you want to become good at drawing and figure out how to world looks and how to capture as much as possible with lines on a page, then there really is no better advice. The more you draw, the easier it becomes. But as simple and effective as this advice is, it can be very difficult to follow.

A little while ago I went through an intense period of sketchbook drawing for a few months. I’d filled two thick books and was in to my third before it fizzled out again. This is normal for me. I go through heavy periods of sketching, and then I leave it for a while. Basically it’s because doing it properly is so time-consuming.

Doing one-minute doodles of people on the bus is fine, but if you want to get stuck in and seek out and draw big, full, unique scenes from life, you have to commit to sitting there for a good long time. I tend to spend around an hour on drawings like the ones you see here. So when I do it, I have to commit to it, and go out and spend entire days working on this stuff. It takes a lot of energy.

My point being, I suppose, that if you take the perennial advice of keeping a sketchbook (and we all should), don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish off a thick book of fully-detailed, unique and exciting drawings every month. This stuff is hard, it takes time and patience, and the only way I’ve found to do it properly is to take a good, long look at the world in front of me and settle down into it as patiently and openly as possible.

 



Grand Theft Horse

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After working on this graphic novel on and off for four years, Grand Theft Horse has now been officially released by Lee & Low Books under the Tu Books imprint.

Written by Greg Neri, author of Yummy and Tru & NelleGrand Theft Horse is based on the true story of Greg’s cousin, Gail Ruffu, who kidnapped her own horse to save him from being raced to death by the syndicate that controlled him.

I’ve given a few updates on this book over the past few years, but I’ve been pretty coy about it. It’s a great release to finally see it out there and the physical edition looks great. Many thanks to Stacy and everyone at Lee & Low for making it happen and making the final book look so awesome.

It’s got some pretty good reviews, too!

 



Running the Home Stretch

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After a long hiatus, I’ve just finished drawing the gigantic project with G.Neri (author of Tru & Nelle), that’s been ongoing for some time. I’ve generated a four-inch-thick stack of pages with roughly the heft of a small child. Still much to do, but the complete, unedited thing is there, in a big box under my desk.



What Goes Around

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So cx88spvxcaah7wjthis is just one illustration for an upcoming info-comic-book, pamphlet, public-information type-thing, that I’ve been working on with the Supergen Bioenergy Hub. It shows energy crops being grown to produce bioenergy and reabsorb emissions released by the previous generation of energy crops, ad infinitum. Drawn with a brush and ink, but coloured digitally!

Several other artists have been working on the project alongside me, including the brilliant John Swogger whose blog is extraordinarily active and interesting. Check him out.

More on this project soon. Also, A Dream of a Low Carbon Future, shown in my last blog post, is out in print and digital format.

Here’s a review of it.

 



Keep Dreaming

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Take a look at just-a-few panels from my comic for the upcoming graphic anthology novel science book educational kids thing, A Dream of a Low Carbon Future, presented by Leeds University’s Doctoral Training Centre in Low Carbon Technologies.

The book’s a multi-character exploration of a future Britain shaped by climate change and showing how human society can use technology and new ways of living to adapt to a changing world.

The story I worked on is about a girl out of time, obsessed with a past which everyone around her sees as obsolete. It’s a sort of central narrative which ties together other parts of the book.

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Colouring In

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All I’ve been doing for the last month is colouring comics digitally, but I’m finally done, and not a moment too soon. I need to get my hands back on some physical drawing stuff before I lose my mind!

Above: an unused illustration for A Dream of a Low Carbon Future. Looks like brown crayon in the lower part there, but it’s just pixels.



Inkin’ it Large

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I’ve been in the habit, for a long time, of drawing TOO SMALL! So right now, working on the Low Carbon Future graphic novel project with Leeds University, I’m drawing these pages at the largest scale I’ve ever done for a comic, and I have to say, it’s very refreshing.

These pages I’m doing are to be printed around A4 size (210x297mm), which is large, so I’m drawing them at something like 500x720mm, not far off A2, which is gargantuan. I think people used to draw comics on paper that large, to be printed on big full newspaper pages, and they scanned them with those massive old drum scanners you don’t see anymore.

Admittedly, I am making this easier for myself by using the ‘french graphic album method’ of drawing two half-pages and then printing them together. It makes having the thing on your drawing board a lot less cumbersome. Anyway, more on this when it’s looking finished.



A Way That Works

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My graphic novel project with G. Neri has been in progress for a year now. The end may or may not be in sight, however.

I’m actually now redrawing a number of early pages. I started drawing the book at too-small a size, and I decided I wasn’t happy with it, and reformatted to a weird paper size I’m cutting myself (I’m envious of US paper sizes, since the standard formats we get here in the UK never feel quite right (or maybe I’m just that picky)). So I knew I needed to come back to those pages. Since I’ve had something of a deadline extension, I’m able now to go over some of this huge project and spend a bit more time on what’s be2en some truly tricky drawing.

In addition, I’ve been writing a ton of comics short stories, which has been a lot of fun.
Redraughting and drawing them up is a different matter, though. That’s the curse of comics: it’s all so time intensive, but I’d love to find a way to draw my comics quick n’ dirty in a way that works. At least I’m not an animator.

Currently obsessed with: Toulouse Lautrec’s sketches and drawings. He’s very much an illustrator’s fine-artist. Drawings have to have outlines or my puny mind can’t make sense of them.

Also: Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor. Which I’ve read about four times now and may be the most novel-like comic I’ve ever read. Nothing else I’ve seen by a single creator is as successful as this at giving you the scope and depth of a novel. I understand it divides opinion, mostly due to the kitschy nature of the eponymous sculptor-main-character’s art (according The Comics Journal, anyway), and I’d noted that, too, but in book on this scale, there’s bound to be criticisms of some elements. But the thing as a whole: wow, it’s a great comic.

And that’s Corban’s totally-late-to-the-party review.



Patience is Passion Tamed
June 28, 2015, 16:28
Filed under: comics, graphic novels, sketchbook | Tags: , , , , , ,

One of the things that used to cause me no end of frustration when I would draw outside, from life, would be the necessity, sometimes, of drawing buildings. They’re always there, looming above us, often dominating the field of view. You can ignore them for a while, drawing a person here, a tree there, but if you want to depict any scenes from the modern world, buildings and architecture have to get in on your compositions.

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve actually taken to drawing buildings: somehow having gained enough self-assurance that I can feel comfortable sitting for long periods of time putting together an office block line by line. When you start to embrace it, it becomes something meditative and fulfilling completely in its own right. These days, in fact, I tend to enjoy sketching urban landscapes more than people, who have the highly disagreeable habit of moving around.

Below: a few pages from a small sketchbook that survived a recent trip to the West Highlands with only moderate water damage.

Meanwhile: back to working on the sketches for my graphic novel collaboration with Greg Neri.

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