Corban Wilkin: Illustrator


A Travel Book Picture Book
May 15, 2022, 08:49
Filed under: illustrations | Tags: , , , ,

Is it really beach time?

Currently working with some talented people on a travelogue like no other.

Comics and diagrams, fantasy and reality, maps and diaries, history and the modern day, illustrations and photographs. This book is bringing together so many of the cool things you can do when images and text get together.

So often we use categories like ‘picture book’, ‘graphic novel’, ‘illustrated novel’, book formats with their own specific rules and design principles: a set of things that are allowed. But recently, we’re starting to see more and more crossover between those different formats. If the only rule is, “It’s images, and it’s text, on a page,” the possibilities might be limitless.

Can’t wait to share more :)

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Wabi-sabi

“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

Comics has a spontaneity problem.

Chris ware said that, unlike writing prose or playing music, it isn’t really possible to get into a creative flow when making comics, that the technical demands are too complex and the rate of creation too slow.

The classic way of drawing comics is pretty convoluted. Script, thumbnails, roughs, underdrawing, inking. In fact, almost all comics were traditionally made by teams of three, four, five, or more people all doing their own separate bit to cobble it together.

But what really matters? I care about dialogue and relationships between characters more than anything. Do I care about comics having stunningly beautiful artwork? Well, yes, to an extent. But most of the time, artwork that is too involved, too complex and eye-catching, actually distracts the reader from the story. In a comic, the drawings should be in the service of the story, not in the service of themselves. So when we agonise over every panel, trying to make it a work of art in its own right, we may actually be doing more harm than good.

In trying to find a way to make art without being neurotic about it, I’m making myself work in ways that force me to embrace imperfection. The way I see it, however hard one tries, the result is bound to contain imperfections.

In fact, the acheivement of ‘perfection’ in art is asymptotic, i.e. you can approach it, but never reach it, and as you get closer, exponentially more energy is required to make further progress.

Or in other words: the first 90% requires 10% of the work, and the last 10% of the work requires 90% of the effort.

So maybe it’s better to embrace imperfections rather than engaging in the desperate struggle to overcome them all.

I’m starting to realise that the attempt to iron out all kinks in a piece of writing or drawing is mostly a barrier to progress.

Wab-sabi is a concept originating from Japan that embraces the transience and necessary incompleteless of anything humans create. Starting from this idea leads one to principles of simplicity and finding natural approaches to creation.

I’m having a go at drawing comics with the most natural approach that I possibly can. Two projects I’m currently working on, my graphic novel Amy & Kay and a daily comic strip Faith in Strangers, are both drawn in pencil without much planning or any underdrawing, and with the intent to embrace imperfection as far as I can bring myself to do so.

When things go right, drawing this way looks more spontaneous and interesting than any laboured-over drawing. When it goes wrong, it’s imperfect, but somehow hangs together with everything else, and balances with the parts that are more successful or complete.

Make the unfinished and imperfect nature of the work part of its essence, like a painting with areas of blank canvas, or a song that cuts off in the middle of the climactic moment.

Thomas Gainsborough’s The Painter’s Daughters With a Cat. Unfinished, and all the more beautiful because of it. The loosely-sketched areas create a contrast that allows you to really see the more fully-realised areas. (This was probably not left intentionally unfinished, but still.)
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Faith in Strangers

On Monday 25th April, I’m starting a serial graphic novel.

Every day, I’ll be posting a new episode on my Instagram and my Twitter.

FAITH IN STRANGERS is a serial graphic novel made up of short scenes from a space base in the remotest regions of the solar system, where three entry-level astronauts are stuck together having strange conversations, getting ignored by mission control, and trying not to be driven mad by jealousy and social isolation.

It’s kind of science fiction, but not really. It’s more like a drama that just happens to be set on an icy dwarf planet in the trans-Neptunian outer reaches of the solar system.

Imagine being stuck somewhere so remote that there’s a 24-hour delay to communicate with anyone back on Earth. Now imagine being stuck there with two of your co-workers. Well now they’re your best friends, and your closest family, and the people you rely upon for your continued existence each and every day. So let’s hope you get along.

This is an experiment in drawing an ongoing comic and sharing the results online every day. I’ve never done this before. Let’s see what happens.

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A Graphic Sketchbook Novel
March 21, 2022, 15:09
Filed under: illustrations | Tags: , , , , , ,

The great cartoonist Seth subtitled his brilliant Wimbledon Green with the words, “A story from the sketchbook of the cartoonist Seth.”

Wanting an excuse to make some fun comics just for himself, he decided to put aside a bit of time each morning to draw a little comic in his sketchbook. Without planning ahead, he drew what came most naturally to him, and gradually a story emerged, eventually ending up as the complete book.

I’m working on something with a similar approach: a graphic novel called Amy & Kay.

Every page of this comic is drawn without any under-drawing. It’s just me and a pencil, drawing it as I go along.

Working this way permits a lot of spontaneity to come out in the drawings. The standard way of drawing comics, and the way I’ve usually done it (as detailed in my last post), is to create a careful underdrawing and then ink over the top of it. This is a tried-and-true method that’s served people well for countless great comics, but the results can look a little overwrought, and lacking in the focus and emotional immediacy that a spontaneous drawing can give to a character’s expression and gesture.

When I noticed that a lot of my sketchbook drawings and doodles were stronger than my more careful illustrations, I knew I had to find a way to make my comics more like my sketches.

I’m quite deep into this book, and I’m starting to see the result: a story in pictures where the drawings may not be technically perfect, but where the immediacy of the drawing hangs together in a natural way and seems to give more life and character to the story than I’ve managed to acheive before.

More info on the book coming soon! Until then, here’s a few snapshots from the drawing board in the last few weeks.

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Making a Comics Page, Start to Finish
March 21, 2022, 11:16
Filed under: illustrations | Tags: , , , , , ,

When I was giving school talks about Dino Detectives I spoke a bit about the process of going from script to full-colour artwork when making a page of comics. I thought I’d share here the examples that I used from the book, going from a script, to thumbnails, to scrappy roughs, to blue-line underdrawing, to the final line drawing. Then the process of layering the colour on, from background, to characters, then adding details, then shadows, and finally a few special lighting effects.

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Awesome Con 2021
September 10, 2021, 16:59
Filed under: illustrations | Tags: , , , ,

Big thank you to Washington DC’s Awesome Con for having me alongside Greg Neri to talk about our comic book, The Time Travelling Dino Detectives of Antarctica, releasing to coincide with the new big screen documentary, Dinosaurs of Antarctica, from Giant Screen Films.

We appeared via video along with a panel of scientists to talk about dinosaurs and comics, and also to show off some new drawings as answers to questions about life on the frozen continent (how do you take a shower in Antarctica?)

Attendees can take an epic journey back in time to a prehistoric world now lost to ice, with this sneak preview of the giant screen adventure, Dinosaurs of Antarctica. Meet the scientists, Libby Ives, Dr. Patricia Ryberg, Dr. Nathan Smith, G. Neri, and Corban Wilkin who explored the frozen continent’s glaciers on a quest to uncover its secret past, and learn how to draw a dinosaur with the award winning team behind the comic, “The Time Traveling Dinosaur Detectives of Antarctica.” (Panel details: “Dinosaurs of Antarctica” – 3:15PM – August 21 – Room 144AB)

https://geekinsider.com/awesome-cons-science-fair-brings-another-year-of-innovation-exploration-and-fun/

Huge thanks to Deborah Raksany from Giant Screen Films for organising this!

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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.



Feeling Nostalgic
February 21, 2019, 16:56
Filed under: drawing, illustration | Tags: , , ,

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Do you have any idea how big of a deal rap is in Poland?

It’s a huge deal. It’s practically Poland’s second national religion.

And for the obvious reason of not speaking the language, almost none of us in the English-speaking world have listened to any of it. But it’s like its own whole world of rap, with different styles, sensibilities, and lyrical themes to most rap coming out of the US.

Case in point: KaCe, who’s finally dropped his debut EP: Nostalgia.

Hip hop isn’t something my own art style would usually go with, but KaCe’s music is not your typical mainstream hip hop. The tracks are about a difficult personal journey and of finding the strength to leave behind the wreckage of the past, and the emotional beats on this album, combined with deeply personal lyrics, called for some iconic but grimy cover art with that kind of emotionally-charged storytelling feeling that you can get from illustration.



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!