Corban Wilkin: Illustrator

Tough Competition
October 14, 2011, 11:45
Filed under: comic artists, comics theory, my comics | Tags: , , , ,

So that’s two competitions in a row that I’ve entered now, with my entry for the Observer/Comica/Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story Prize being posted yesterday, special delivery, since today is the deadline (I’m good at leaving these things to the very last minute!). It’s a short science fiction comic about the last two humans, stranded separately on the moons Titan and Callisto, and who can only talk to each other remotely.

It’s called Ripe and you can read it in the comics section I’ve set up. Cast your eyes left, and click ‘comics’ to choose from a selection of my most recent works, available to read in a single smooth column of goodness, rather than the atrocious ‘click link for page one, read, scroll, read, back button, click link for page two, etc.’ format that a lot of blogs present multiple-page comics in. I’ve always preferred a single long column for on-screen comics-reading as it means you can just tap your down arrow as you read, so as not to disturb the flow of the narrative. Scott McCloud, creator of Understanding Comics feels my pain and frequently speaks out against poorly formatted web-comics, especially in this article. Whilst I don’t know if I would word my objections as strongly as he does (from the linked article; ‘The page designs of most long form webcomics suck donkey dick.’) I certainly find myself in agreement with him.

That being said, I know the layout of my comics here could be prettier. Eventually I hope to set up a fancier interface that makes it as clear and lovely and natural to read as possible. Until then though, a single vertical column is a simple yet fairly effective way of creating a decent reading experience.

Regarding the Comica Prize, I found out from an interview I listened to between Paul Gravett and Stephen Collins that the quality of the entries improves every year. The feeling seems to be that a heck of a lot of young people, inspired by what comics can do from reading the new wave of graphic novels (stuff like Blankets, Black Hole, Persepolis), have decided to start taking comics very, very seriously and are set to produce things far greater than anything we have seen so far in this comics renaissance. It means that every year people who enter the Comica Prize are going to have tougher and tougher competition. I hope it drives everyone to new heights in their comics making.

Getting Comics Done
October 5, 2011, 18:43
Filed under: breaker's end, comic artists, my comics | Tags: , , , ,

A couple of days ago I sent off my entry for the Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel Competition. Above are some images I’ve cut from my comic, ‘Breaker’s End’. Here’s a blurb I wrote for it to give a quick idea of the story:

For ten years, Isaac and Chloe have lived out of a tent in an abandoned woodland. Chloe makes money selling decorated shells, but they are in their sixties now, and sleeping on the cold ground isn’t as easy as it was when they were twenty-year-old backpackers. Chloe would love to live in a warm house and sleep in a soft bed, and when the government introduces a bill to sell off England’s remaining forests and nationally owned land, it looks like living the life of the ‘travellers’ will become an impossibility. Can she convince Isaac, adamant that he will never return to society though he will never explain why? And could she ever hope to earn enough money to live, selling shells by the seashore?

You can see some of the complete spreads over at my portfolio and I intend to upload the first chapter as a whole eventually, in a format  that allows you to read it in one smooth column.

Right now I’m composing a four-page comic for the Comica Graphic Short Story Prize which I’ll be displaying here soon. Short stories are difficult to write, but hopefully it’ll shape up pretty well and be a decent entry into the contest.

Good luck to anyone else who’s entering. Last year’s winning entry by Stephen Collins was a tour de force of design and intense short prose. He set a pretty high benchmark; lets hope someone tops it!

Social Comics
August 4, 2011, 11:03
Filed under: comic artists | Tags: , , ,

I’ve attended various comics-based events over the past week inlcuding the private view of the Cartoon Museum’s follow up to the huge Steve Bell exhibition, an exhibition devoted to Doctor Who in Comics. Above is one of the pages of original art on display, of which there are many by a wide variety of artists. Dave Gibbons and David Lloyd both feature, as well as Alan Moore as a writer. As always, it’s incredible to see pages of original comics art. Very inspiring.

I also attended the Comica Social Club last week, a monthly meet-up at the Southbank Centre hosted by Paul Gravett, who fronts the Comica festival. I got to meet various cartoonists including Jon Lim who draws a webcomic called Vampires from Mars which I think has some incredible cartoon drawing. Also; Claude over at GronkComics has an impressive array of work, including some of the nicest mini-comics I’ve seen (drawn straight into ink in a sketchbook!)

Just last night I attended another meeting of cartoonists organised by The Comix Reader, which also proved to be a decent social gathering of the London comics core. Visiting from Australia was graphic novelist Bruce Mutard, who seems to be a hidden gem of antipodean comics, with a beautiful line drawing style which reminds one a bit of Adrian Tomine.

Being Busy

New Blood came down… and up went New Designers. After being told the night before that we had a spot at the show, we had one hour to set up our exhibition, which was to open at 9am. We managed it though, and it turned out to be a great show, thanks mainly to Shane Noonan, who fronted the effort. New Designers is a huge show set in an enormous, St. Pancras-like building, and it mainly showcases industrial design, interiors, and so on, but there was a small section tucked away at the back for us illustrators. That’s the end of exhibiton season for me.

More recently I’ve produced some illustration for London’s big youth magazine, LIVE, with controversial themes and a bright yellow colour scheme. They will be published alongside articles concerning piercings and growing up too fast. The Beauty of the Dead is finished and printed into a promo-book along with other stories. Above is one of my favourite panels from the comic, and you can view more at my portfolio.

Since then I’ve been drawing out a lot of science fiction stories, most of which have gone well, but none of which I have ‘typed up’ into finished artwork yet. I’ve been reading Isaac Asimov and also Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy in between my scribblings, which offer great inspiration to the science-enthusiast in me. They, along with a great deal of non-fiction science reading, have borne the basis for quite a strong science fiction novel within me. Though I seem to be busy all the time, I hope to find some spare days to beginning drafting out my ideas.

Right now though, I’m working on the design and art for a new computer game. Can’t say too much yet, but it’s bound to be a challenging and exciting project.

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!

The Beauty of the Bates
June 11, 2011, 22:35
Filed under: my comics, the beauty of the dead | Tags: , , , ,

H.E. Bates, author of The Darling Buds of May and myriad other novels and short stories, is one of my favourite writers and a great inspiration in my own stories. He creates somber and beautiful little worlds, usually set in little English towns at the turn of the 20th century, and weaves some of the most real and emphatic characters I’ve found in fiction. He is also very strongly visual, and his descriptiveness can make his writing hard to digest at times. However, if we use images, visual description can communicate to a reader simply and instantly, making Bates’ style ideal for the comic-book form.

Hence, right now I’m designing a graphic adaptation of The Beauty of the Dead, a rather dark short story about an elderly woman lying on her death-bed with her husband ‘caring’ for her as the first snow of winter piles up outside. I first came across this story in a tiny library in the Suffolk countryside and I’ve since read it many times, gradually realising that I’d love to create my own interpretation of the story and really materialise the two characters. Additionally the book (The Beauty of the Dead and other stories) is long out of print and quite difficult to get hold of, and perhaps by presenting this story in a  new form I can make more people of aware of a fantastic piece of literature.

Over the last week I’ve been going through my extensive process of drafting the story into images, redrafting into a more streamlined sequence, and then going through and figuring out the design and rhythm of every page/spread, linking different parts together visually and making the design appropriate. Currently I’m working on what I suppose is the third draft, which involves quite fully realised pencil roughs, making sure that I know where everything goes within each panel and doing extensive reference drawing to make sure that everything can be drawn accurately.

Above are some character models which help me keep the characters consistent throughout the fifty-odd times I’ll be drawing each of them, along with some of the page plans which I have worked out for every spread.

Below you can see the opening paragraph of The Beauty of the Dead along with my first page of third-draft pencil roughs, which I will use as a guide for the finished artwork, which will be identical to the rough, but drawn much larger and more cleanly in ink.

Publishing Alternatively
May 31, 2011, 18:55
Filed under: comic artists, paroxysm | Tags: , , , ,

Hot on the heels of the Steve Bell exhibition, I spent the weekend at the International Alternative Press Festival 2011, a zines, comics, and small press fair. I forgot to take photos, but it was a really packed out and pretty well-sized event, with tonnes of creators of every stripe selling their work. It was refreshing to see so much enthusiasm, like Hamish MacDonald who writes, prints, binds, and sells his own novels and has a podcast about making books, and Steve Tillotson who is hilarious as well as being a skilled draughtsman Also picked up a surreal wordless graphic-novel by Nicolas Presl, the kind of thing I wouldn’t have come across if I hadn’t been to the festival

Woodrow Phoenix (author of Rumble Strip) was there, along with Paul Gravett (head of the Comica festival), both whom I’d had the fortune to meet in 2009 at the London Print Studio in a discussion/presentation with several other comics people, as the culmination of a comics exhibition. I also shifted quite a lot of old copies of Paroxysm #1 and #2, and received a lot of self-published zines and comics in return. This is the first real convention I’ve been to, but it turned out to be a great experience and I’ll definitely be on the look-out for more in London as they come.

Meeting the Pros
May 28, 2011, 21:25
Filed under: comic artists, exhibitions | Tags: , , , ,

On Wednesday I attended the private view for the new Steve Bell exhibition: Bell Époque, at London’s Cartoon Museum which presented a retrospective of his work from throughout his career. It was a great exhibition which such a range of work. I didn’t realise Bell (who is the cartoonist and comic strip artist for the Guardian) was so skilled in so many different styles and media. Even though I found his style of humour alienating when I was younger, I’ve come to see him as a real master of the form. I also find his comics hilarious now, even though I’m never sure why! Despite the fact that he’s been in the industry for decades, his work is still so cutting edge; it feels like the work of a much younger, more rebellious and, indeed, angry cartoonist. Far from being an angry rebel, though, he seemed like a really friendly guy! I suppose he saves it for the cartoons.

I was also lucky enough to meet Bryan Talbot at the event. He’s the creator of Grandville and Alice in Sunderland and one of the great British cartoonists involved in creating novel-length works (the comics form I’m most attracted to). He told me about his beginnings in underground comics and his latest just-finished project, created with his wife. It’s great to talk to professional cartoonists who have been making comics for many years, just to see how they feel about their work, and get a glimpse into their wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Incidentally, I found out today that Myriad Editions will be holding a graphic novel competition for unpublished cartoonists, the first prize being the opportunity to publish your submitted work with them, and the panel of judges will include both Bryan Talbot and Steve Bell! They’re asking for 15-30 pages of art and a synopsis of the novel for consideration. This looks like it’ll be a great chance for aspiring cartoonists to get their ideas out there and it should give a lot of people the impetus to start working on that story idea that’s been in their heads. The Deadline is in October, which is perfect for me, as I’ve recently begun work on a new long story. I think I’ll be entering, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to make comics-novels to submit their work, as well.

[Photos via Fearnet and Varndean College]

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.

Looking Back

Ahoy-hoy. My name’s Corban Wilkin and I thought I’d use my very first post here to do a quick recap what I’ve been doing with my life recently.

I decided a few years ago and for no good reason that I wanted to make ‘graphic novels’ (also known as ‘big comics’) and, not being one to dream of ‘one-day-maybe-I’ll’ I just up and did it, drawing and publishing my first go at a novel-length story when I was 17.

Well we all have to start somewhere, and I started with 200-pages of scribbles called Wasp and Bee. Nevertheless, being a proud young scribbler I went on to work with writers, producing a fair few comics issues, and working with indy comics publisher Popcorn Peacock.

Last year I published the first two issues of my Paroxysm series, collections of short-story comics written and drawn by me and discovered that comics are hard to do. But I decided to forgo making the third issue in favor of a graphic novel I was planning, which eventually ballooned into a 300-page project. Ever the optimist, I decided to plough into it and try to complete the whole thing before dinner-time.

All-together the book took about four months of work, which anyone who’s ever made comics and isn’t Osamu Tezuka will tell you is really too fast for a graphic novel. Honestly, I’m trying to slow down my drawing now so that my work will begin to be of better quality, rather than just rushing out long stories like I have been doing. Still, I’m proud of what I achieved with A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers.

I will update soon about my recent projects and what’s coming up. I have too much planned to put it in this retrospective post, but check back as I’ll have loads of sketches and comics to bandy about, and I’m sure I’ll end up writing a bunch of nonsense about comics theory and creators I admire, as well.