15 April 2014

Coalyard Ash

"Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."

Brandon Lee

28 March 2014

Sketchbook Catch Up

It seems unfair that followers on my social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) get to see blurry photos of work in progress (and lots of pics of my cat Ash) and those that follow my blog get to see mainly finished work. I am remedying that by collecting the snaps from the past week here for you, for better or for worse...

14 March 2014

The Windswept Tree

I was searching for some old artwork for something which might happen soon when I came across these original pages of The Windswept Tree. It was a small 22 Page, A5 self published comic I did for the 1998 Luxembourg Comics Festival (Festival International de la BD de CONTERN) a very long time ago now. There were about 50 printed copies and they had a car spray painted silvery effect on the card cover, achieved with the aid of a template cut from acetate. I had just finished doing The Goathland Diary comic and this was a technique I had employed for that, for the second print run at least.

The artwork pages to The Windswept Tree are yellowing and smell a bit mildewy so I thought it best to scan them for the sake of posterity. The strip is pretty much wordless because I thought that would breach the language barrier, my only claim to comic hobnobbing is  I sold one to Charlie Adlard and maybe one to Arthur Ranson on the tables next to me, and that was about it really sales wise. "It's all cartoon motorbike rats and policemen with big noses over here" I was told by someone perusing my wares.

The story of The Windswept Tree is semi autobiographical in that people that I knew at the time in the village appeared as 'actors' in the strip, which is basically a wind blown journey through the village of Goathland in North Yorkshire with me speculating in my own naive way, about what might be going on. The structure at the end of the strip where the little cat ends up, for those of you who have not ventured over that way, is RAF Fylingdales which exists and looks pretty much as I've drawn it.See, fact is stranger sometimes. 

Hey, you're still here. I liked the strip, it was done over two weeks I think and drawn with a small rigger brush. The last page doesn't really make sense and I probably should have ended it on page 21 instead.

7 March 2014

Wakefield Rooftops

A sketch of Wakefield rooftops and Town Hall Clock Tower as seen from Westgate Studios (the old Prudential Building). I took a photo from the studio B6 I was renting in 2007, with a small digital camera and remember thinking at the time the photo would come in useful one day. Seven years ago and a lot of development has happened in the city but Wakefield still has its gritty qualities above the skyline.

24 February 2014

Exorcising The Exorcist

I have always enjoyed the thrill of a good horror story, the safety net of the preposterous, entwined with absurd everyday occurrences. They are the best. The Psychological dramas that hint at the supernatural and then in the last act declare it was all in the mind to me, feel like a cheap trick.

As far as I am aware The Exorcist started life as a novel, was turned into a notorious film which caused decades long revulsion and now is a two part radio drama on BBC radio 4. This feels like event radio, a special time slot allocated late into the night, discretionary warnings, a cracking soundscape and the ominous subject matter add up to a sign saying “You have been warned and may not survive the show – The Management”. After the first episode I felt the radio version was a harder ride in the theatre of my mind, leaving the memory of the film feeling like a hideous, slapstick cartoon.

I first saw the film back in the late eighties. The way I remember it, Bletchley Cinema had a midnight double bill showing of Exorcist 1 & 2, I remember coming out of there feeling a bit nauseous and blaming the small tub of mint ice cream I had eaten inside. The films, the first one at least, had succeeded in scaring the life out of me while the second instalment was more like light entertainment. Waiting for us outside the cinema was a small group of placard bearers handing out leaflets in the polite manner of English people protesting back in the eighties would do. Rather than feeling united in Christian Love, this small demonstration added to the feeling that maybe demons do exist and possession is possible. It added to the legend for about 30 seconds as I passed on by, and then the reality of a 2 mile walk home at 2am in the morning kicked in.

P.S. Here is the original scan of the pen, brushpen and watercolour sketch I did, slightly smaller than a sheet of A4 paper and then textures and adjustments 'Photoshopped' over the top.

7 February 2014

I'm Watching the iPlayer...

The Three Musketeers

I can’t lie, I like The Three Musketeers (Sunday 9pm on the BBC) at the moment. The costumes and the sets look visually fantastic with cinematic grade photography and lighting, it also has a good looking cast (which, in my opinion would benefit tenfold from the inclusion of louche, seventies man Matt Berry riffing off Oliver Reed who in turn had great form with the Musketeers).

It has its problems though. No one sets out to write mediocre scripts, yet there they are. It shares a lot of problems inherent with shows like Merlin, Atlantis, Sherlock and even Dr Who. There is no story any more, just a series of ‘epic’ events happening under the shows title umbrella. I'm not an academic or even that knowledgeably about the intricate workings of bringing a prime time show to the TV, but like Politics, Banks and the Police Force I have enough vested interest and history in the way these things work and involve me to actually give a damn. And like Politics, Banks and the Police at the moment, the problems they exude have now affected the Majority, which is why this 'unrest' in culture is happening. If the Minority were in the minority then you wouldn't be feeling that pressure in your emotional heart (to the left just above your stomach) at this moment in time.

Nothing changes in these event shows, characters come to stage fully formed, poking a stick in the eye of storytelling. They do their ‘epic’ thing then take their bow and leave. It's not enough to drive these vehicles with a promise that in seven season’s time there will be an answer. We're in it for the long haul, for seven series sometimes in which there might have been something that happened that was memorable. But in the meantime we are left with magazine telly, pretty layouts, short succinct paragraphs and a desire for something a little bit meatier in the next episode.

P.S. The language thing, they are French Men, in France, doing French things. It's the way Dumas wrote it. The well mannered London accents that most of the characters sport kill the atmosphere. I am almost thinking it would work better with Gallic dubbing and English subtitles.