Thursday, 31 December 2009

'09 Inspiration Constellation p3

The Ouseburn : Open Studios / OxJam / The Late Shows

These events down in Byker have been fantastic tours of bizarre industrial work spaces, basements and pubs full of art and craft and music. The Open Studio's are restricted to the Ouseburn - as it says on the tin, but The Late Shows include venues across both Newcastle and Gateshead. Really great to talk to all the artists while they attempt to persuade you to drink wine and eat pork pies. Anyway, highlights:
Peter Dillon's Screen Writing course at the Tyneside Cinema

An extremely enlightening course by Peter Dillon at the Tyneside Cinema, relevant to any kind of storytelling, but specifically aimed at Cinema. This covered some things you kind of know but maybe forget to put into practice when writing. Some stuff that I should have really considered when writing Tales of the Hollow Earth, like that your characters are meant to want something and be active, not sort of just hang around watchin' stuff.

Very useful, and there's an advanced course early in the new year that I'll try to get on if it hasn't sold out already. This page should list it but hasn't been updated in a while. Good. I might still have a chance.

'09 Inspiration Constellation p2

Suggestibles : Improv Comedy Workshops

I went to these earlier on in the year. The Suggestibles are a well talented improv. comedy group who also do workshops for beginners. You don't have to intend to be a stand up comedian for these to be useful though, the emphasis (at least at the start) is not on being funny (which was useful), but excercises to loosen up and sharpen up the brain. Which is handy sometimes.

Learned a lot about storytelling on the fly which I've found useful, how to keep things moving in a scene, how to bring new elements to a scene and knowing when a scene is complete. I met some fantastic people at these classes. I'd recommend these to anyone.

Their website doesn't seem to work, but they've a MySpace page. You can normally catch them at their best at the Cumberland Arms in Byker.

Mister Fusty : Over the Rocky Mountains

Rob Gibson's first album with vocals, and it's cracking. This is still one of my favourite albums of this year and tracks from it are on most of playlists. It's hard to say whether the fact that I know Rob and did the cover have any bearing on this, but the fact that he's came up with something as great sounding as this is amazing to me. He just needs to figure out how to sell more now! You can help by obtaining a copy: Mister Fusty explains how on his website.

Anyway, I was also pretty pleased with the artwork, my first work for someone else for quite a while. It was collaged together from Rob's own photographs, and I think the result is 'right' for the sound.

'09 Inspiration Constellation p1

2009 was a pretty good year for me. Met loads of new people and started to spend a lot more of my time doing creative stuff and a lot less worrying about work. Might as well list ten of 'em to remind myself of what should really continue in 2010.

The Bondgate Gallery

My sister and dad's shop went from strength to strength this year, selling original art, prints, framing and arts materials.

The battle for 'whose shop actually is it' in the hearts and minds of the Bishop Auckland public still rages on, but the main thing is that it seems to be getting known for good work and has really became part of the town I think, if you see what I'm getting at. There seem to be lots in the pipeline for 2010, including Bondgate Gallery The Movie.

The gallery has its own website, but the main news and updates are still mainly coming out of Eric Thompson's site at

Larry Marder's Beanworld

I've probably mentioned this to you before, but Larry Marder recently got out of the business end of comics and back into the drawing and writing of his fantastic Beanworld. That more people I know who are into comics haven't heard of this is completely amazing to me, they should. You should.

Anyway, this year saw two reasonably complete reprints in really nice hardback book form and an entirely new story which develops the growth of the beanworld, characters, physics and ecology. With the root system repaired and better established, beans are now starting to grow UP.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Face Front

I've noticed that a lot of my scenes are being drawn in an over the shoulder perspective, so that the camera can see what the characters are looking at. The problem with this is that it means that my characters are always being drawn from behind and in silhouette. They only seem to get facial expressions in inset panels and talking heads sequences not in the dramatic scenes.

So i'm going to study how other artists handle similar scenes for a bit, then maybe redraw some of my Angler Fish comic for Daniel (yes, I've drawn some at least already).

One of the things I learned in the Improv Comedy Workshops earlier on in the year was to face the audience and where to put yourself on stage, I wasn't very good at that, but maybe I can apply some of that to my drawing.

Currently working on at the moment:

  • Lure
    the 4 page comic about Angler Fish mentioned above.
    STATUS: Currently Inking.
  • WormDream
    an 8 page comic that will hopefully appear in Show and Tell.
    STATUS: Layouts and Pencils Done.
  • Gabriel Fosco
    written by Ian Mayor - a 6 page story that will become part of Martin Newman's epic project Z.
    STATUS: Character and Set Designs, Script in progress.
  • Tales of the Hollow Earth 2 : Entomology
    16 pages which I'd better finish soon because Mark Leonard has designed a fantastic origami monster and Stacey will probably kick my head in if I don't.
    STATUS: 4 pages to go :-) 

    Wednesday, 28 October 2009

    The Naked Head - covers for nonexistent comics.

    A good few years ago now, I used to run a website called '' which I occasionally think about restarting. The idea was photoshop tennis - people post images on a theme, then others manipulate and evolve.

    On the whole, the site was a success, in that it generated some cool ideas and people enjoyed themselves. No points scoring, no winners or quality control: a communal sketch pad.

    Anyway, i'll probably be posting some of the images on this here blog, for my own nostalgia more than owt else. All authorship is communal. It's getting on towards halloween, so here's a couple of fake comic covers that turned up:

    Part of what made it interesting for me was that image size and download time was much more of an issue than it is these days, so the war against the constant introduction JPG artifacts and decay of image quality became a part of the game and part of the aesthetic.

    Tuesday, 27 October 2009

    Illustrator Comic Panel Guides Template

    What it says on the tin... a guide document in A4 for comic book panels in Adobe Illustrator. You can stretch it or resize it as needs be, but this is working for me a bit at the moment, at least for quick thumbnail drawings.

    It's basically a blank Adobe Illustrator document with layers for different divisions of rows and columns. Switch the layers you need on, the others can be deleted. Mix and match between different tiers is also possible.

    Anyway, no warranty or support etc, this is something I made that I think is useful.

    Something for the Weekend?

    Can't be bothered? Quick start - here's a 42 page PDF with a variety of panel layouts, some basic grids, some more complex. Print out the lot for the kids or for improv sessions, or just the pages you fancy.

    How to make your own?

    Oh go on then...

    1. Open up illustrator 10 or above and create a new document.
    2. Find the rectangular grid tool - it's hidden behind the line segment tool.
    3. Shift or Right click it to select the number of horizontal and vertical dividers.
    4. Fill your page with the grid. It will be just lines, no gutters at this point.
    5. Select the grid and change the 'stroke' to be 16pt or whatever thickness you want your gutter to be.
    6. Go to Object -> Expand -> Fill/Stroke
    7. Go to View -> Guides -> Make Guides
    8. Done, you now have in your layers palette a whole group of guide layers for each panel and gutter. 
    Make sure you have 'snap to point' set, and you can draw with any of the line, rectangle or curved rectangle tools in whatever point size you want for your panel borders.

      Now i'm no expert in comics, but i'm not bad at this digital art stuff. So if anyone can point me at good software for making captioned screen videos of this kind of stuff, do let me know and i'll put some up.

      Also, if anyone has a good way of making decent naturalistic speech bubbles and laying out lettering that ain't just plain ovals, that would be cool too. I'm currently using a font from Blambot called Digital Strip in my work. I quite like it.

      Monday, 26 October 2009

      Over the Rocky Mountains - by Mister Fusty

      Over the Rocky Mountains is the latest album by Whitley Bay based guitar/computer fiddler Mister Fusty, also known as Rob Gibson. It's his first to have vocals, and despite being a bit shy about it, it's damn good. Before I became familiar with the songs I would often find myself thinking 'why! who is this fantastic band' as he passed through my random shuffle.

      Atmospheric, textured, alive, Mister Fusty's latest reminds me of Mercury Rev, Grandaddy, that kinda thing. Go visit his website, he links to plenty of places for you to listen to the album for free or even purchase if you like, like:

      Oh yeah, I did the cover art, based on a handful of Mister Fusty's photographs from his recent trip to canada.

      Space Monkey - from Paper Jam

      Space Monkey is the latest anthology from the Paper Jam Comics Collective based in the Travelling Man store in Newcastle. It's the second one i've had anything to do with and the first with a colour cover.
      The full title is, as you see above: Space Monkey, featuring: Squids, Bicycles, Cowboys, Skeletons, Bogeys, Dinosaurs, UFOs, Galleons, Loners, Emos, Aliens, Accidents, Bulls, Electricians, Pizza Pirates, Missing Heads, Secret Codes, Astronauts, Cheese, Massive Plants, Toilets, Tortoises and Bob ...And That

      It features some pretty cool strips. Mine is ok, though more of an experiment for me than a strip, so i'm cool with it if you think it doesn't work. My personal favourites are Oscillating Brow's "Dinosaur Nigel", Bainbridge and Waugh's "Dog/Pipe" and Clifford and Fallows magnificent "Biancas Bicycle", though there's nothing in there that you won't like. Really.

      The cover illustration of Bosko the worlds greatest space monkey is by Dan Gilmore and is quite, quite splendid, as you can see. I did the design/lettering and put the damn thing together. I did ok :-)

      Anyway, you should buy that - three of your english quid from Travelling Man for the time being though other places soon.

      Sunday, 25 October 2009

      Costume Party - by Jack Fallows

      I recently read Costume Party, by the extremely talented Jack Fallows. I've had a copy for months now and keep glancing through individual pages and lookin' at the pitchas rather than actually reading the thing.

      If you've done the same, I do recommend getting round to reading it. If you haven't bought it, do so. It's very strange and appears to tell several entirely different stories tied together by the title and tone. And the tone is downbeat and sad.

      The first few stories are slice of life fragments of a child or teenage characters various failures to communicate, except via ink. He's haunted by an imaginary dull uncommunicative inky form, who turns up after the antagonist has left and says nothing despite it's only facial feature being a mouth: depression, barely personified. The design of this beastie is spot on.

      Since the character is so Jack like, I hope that he's happier than this comic makes out - he does seem to be! But I don't want to put anyone off by saying that this is downbeat - this is beautiful stuff, drawn in Jack's typically poetic style.

      Costume Party is a 210mm square book, black and white interiors with a very well designed colour on beige card cover. I normally see it for £3, and though it's fairly short, the craft here is lovely and well worth it.