Saturday, 31 March 2012

Another Attic...

I am starting on my next dream comic strip, it involves a duel with two 17th century gentlemen in an attic. I am trying to keep the original drawings together in a Moleskine (A5) sketchbook to keep this one a bit more focused. The last bit ‘Die at Midnight: the hunt’ sprawled on for months and lost a bit of it’s mojo. This one will be more of a short, vicious jab to the shoulder.

Attic 05

Attic 04

P.S. Since I last wrote a few jobs and Easter (which I had totally forgotten about) have come my way, so the time I thought I had to do the dream comic has been allocated to planning… and eating chocolate. The working in a Moleskine thing kind of evaporated too, I find working on A4 paper is a lot easier to scan and with no centre stitching to contend with either. I am thinking of working direct with an Artline Calligraphic 2.0 Pen as used in the image above. I used to use these chisel tip pens all the time, I used them for diary comics and for the line work for the large-scale street banners I did a few years back. They have a lovely line which can be used thick and thin and the ink quality is a very satisfying waterproof matt black. I loved the pen but I found with constant use the barrel of the pen was wearing a dent into the side my middle finger, so reluctantly I stopped using them… however. I found that Cult Pens now stock an Ergo version, with a black barrel. I have a box on order, they can’t be any worse than their white barrelled finger boring counterparts.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

There's Something in the Attic...

I have had a good few days of late involving meetings which hopefully will keep me busy over the Summer. The intense heat continues, which for now is great, although a bit of nightly rain would be nice for the plants. Helen finished her canal drawings (sketches from 36 fishermen platforms) yesterday and in great documentary style I was not there to witness or mark it with a drawing of my own.
I sat out in the garden in the brightest of Suns drawing this made up attic scene for my next dream comic strip which has a duel to the death. It occurred to me what I like about drawing, film, art, comics, books... and that is shadows, the hidden shapes within shadows. It all seems to fit.
As I write in a note book, the biggest bumble bee ever (seriously, it's the size of a mouse) drifts on by followed by our saggy backed cat, I had better intervene for I know who will come off worse if the two of them connect.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Afternoon by Barnsley Canal…

Went out with Helen for another hours drawing this afternoon. Soon discovered after arriving at fisherman platform 14, that I had left my sketchbook at home with a bunch of stuff I had taken out of my bag from an earlier meeting. Luckily I did have an A6 diary with me which I enjoyed using and I think, went into making a half decent sketch for once.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Morning by Barnsley Canal

It’s true the what they say on the radio, Spring is here. Spent another hour outside with Helen by a bit of disused Barnsley Canal as she sketched her way along the fishermen platforms. Although the sun was out it did get cold in the shade. Sitting drawing does not generate enough body heat no matter how well wrapped up you are. Again as yesterday, I felt like my drawing was not up to scratch, so moved around taking photographs. I made a comment yesterday about Photographers not spending as much time in front of their subject as a drawer, this is of course a huge generalisation. Photographers can spend lots of time in front of their subject, waiting for the right light or for the right event and so create  a memory of place and time.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Layout Vanishing Points in Photoshop

I had to do a quick amendment to the strip I'm working on today. For the life of me I couldn't get the angle of the scene I had in my head from the writers notes, down on paper. I was getting frustrated from 'standing still'. Normally I would just sweat it out until I hit the right scene with scribbles on sheets of paper. With the deadline being set for today I didn't have that luxury and I wanted to employ something a bit quicker than luck and serendipity. I have seen this process done elsewhere, using Photoshop to make grids and draw in vanishing lines for perspective. Over the top of those lines I drew characters on separate layers so I could re-position them for the scene. At one point I thought of downloading Google SketchUp and creating a little 3D scene, but with that deadline looming and not really knowing how to use SketchUp I thought better of it.

Now I have the scene set I can print it off and with the use of a light-box draw it to look like the rest of the strip (which has been drawn in pencil with Photoshop colour over the top). This may seem a long winded way of getting something small done but sometimes the act of seemingly moving forward can overcome that standing still frustration.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Moebius 1938 -2012

Jean Giraud aka Moebius died yesterday morning. His inspiration on my work started in my teens and early twenties. I was sending samples of bad comic strip art to all the big publishing companies and all the small companies’ in-between and was rejected universally by all. I think I know why, because they sensed I was trying too hard to draw , that there was something false in what I presented to them. I love comics; never been able to concentrate on a novel or even a short story for long, so comics was where I got my stories from. There was television but at that time TV was a family activity. Comics felt like they were mine. My teenage world, my secret and my little bit of ‘I know something you doesn’t’.

As a teen I read everything. The Beano, Dandy, Victor, Warlord, 2000Ad, Roy of the Rovers, Battle, Marvel and DC imports when the card shop or newsagent in the new undercover concourse could get them. I fell out of love with superheroes real quick. Their universe was huge and it felt like another clique I was trying too hard to bust into, I really loved Sci Fi in comics. Other worlds, better worlds, stranger than life worlds and I think this is where my love for European Comics came in, introduced itself and never left. I can’t remember the names of the comics I read into my early twenties although Tintin would have been in there as a teenager, if I searched the internet I could probably rediscover the titles, the American reprints and have a right old nostalgia fest. Nostalgia is one thing I don’t do.

I am not sure where I first saw a Moebius picture, I wasn’t cool enough to have seen the original Metal Hurlant but Heavy Metal was reprinting Euro stuff and then there was the Westminster Comic Mart I attended frequently, aiming for the Fast Fiction table first.

I tried a lot of things when I was younger, not the usual stuff that young men get into, I was too busy drawing and getting a few things printed in fanzines. Football, motor racing and sport in general bored me. I was shy and nervous around everyone never mind girls.  No friends to lead me astray either. I might have supped a can of shandy on one heady summer’s night but it was the company not the liquor buzz I enjoyed.

Meditation, Spirituality Churches, yoga, Kung Fu they seemed to suit my personality, which wasn’t social and didn’t involve alcohol. When I became aware of Moebius’s work it talked to me, here was an artist describing states of transformation. Floating souls, other worlds, other shapes… and it all kinda fitted beautifully into what I wanted from the world.

I have phase's where I try to draw like Giraud but it’s a lot harder than it looks. To be a good cartoonist you have to understand how to draw things well before you abstract from them. I never really liked the way his stories ended but I loved the journey, the lines, design and colour. He could draw loose and he could draw realistically detailed,  most jealousy inducing of all he could draw insanely freehand as demonstrated in ‘40 Days Dan’s Le Desert.

I met him once at the Angouleme Comics Festival 1998, I queued to get an autograph and a quick pencil sketch. When it got to my turn I presented him with a copy of a diary comic I was making at the time which his minders dutifully took, “pour vous Jean” was all my meagre French could muster in the situation. A few weeks later I received a black and white postcard with the Ciguri on the front and a short message on the back from Starwatcher Graphics saying 'Moebius had read the diary comic and thought it was good, thank you'. That card doesn’t exist anymore, lost with a lot of other comics and graphic novel and physical remembrances from the past in the Yorkshire floods of 2007. A cellar full of memories turned to pulp in a night of heavy rain. Or were they, surely the memories remain?

Sunday 11.03.2012

Monday, 5 March 2012

March Updates

I am working on another comic strip for The Phoenix Comic. The cat wants to join in. Drawing paper and a desk lamp make for comfortable cat conditions. I on the other hand am uncomfortable with the arrangement but I know my place if I want a quiet life.

Portrait Monitor

I have been meaning to try this. Using dual monitors, one in a portrait position (better proportioned for comic strip pages) while I letter a page. I persevere but cannot lose the sensation of rubbing my head and patting my belly. And I am still zooming into areas which defeats the reason of the portrait monitor.

Keeping It Spontaneous

Character design
Composition sketch
Pencil panel from strip

Above are some of the stages I have been going through. Using a light box to trace off compositions for panels. These composition panels are not meant to be great drawings but a way of working out how to fit elements into a panel. I have found using quite a thick pen (2mm) helps in keeping the ‘bare essentials’ in and the ‘fiddling’ out.The pencil drawing on the right is also done on a light box, which helps keep directness in the drawing. The character design on the left is a pencil drawing with a colour Layer Multiplied over the top in Photoshop.