Friday, 21 November 2014

Post-Thoughtbubble thoughts for '14/'15

Every office across the land has a Christmas party at some stage. Or at least argues about having one.

For a mere freelance artist, normally hidden away for months on end under a pile of paper, pots of ink and the occasional 'blue screen of death' (TM), Thoughtbubble comic festival in Leeds is often referred to as the Christmas party. A place to catch up with old friends, make new ones, enjoy a small sherry and take stock of the 'current state of stuff'.

The only real drag is getting home to realise you've missed even seeing an alarming number of friends, creators, books that you may have had your eye on, and in this case a whole area decked out like a forest. It's a fault that can hardly be laid at the feet of the organisers. If I missed catching up with you, I really am sorry!

But back to Friday. Friday was a different fish altogether. If you've ever met Owen Johnson, you'll probably know he's someone who gets things done. If you've ever met John Pearson, you'll know he's the same. Someone put them in a room together and the result was the unofficial Thoughtbubble launch party, featuring live music, live canvas painting, and a ridiculously cheap bar - all in a disused shop, right in the middle of the city centre. 

A great night out and a big thank you to everyone involved in putting it on.

We were, of course, at Thoughtbubble to launch Cross, the political satire anthology we've been banging a drum about for the last few months (you may have noticed), and UKComics came through with a lovely print run that awaited us in the Royal Armouries Hall on Saturday morning. 

Selling and promoting a book of this nature in amongst a myriad of great stuff was always going to be a tall order. We had no idea if people would go for it at all. Saturday would show us that the book touched a nerve with pretty much everyone who stopped by. Cross is turning out to be one of our most popular endeavours, and I can't begin to tell you how happy that makes us here. 

It was also great to catch up with a large number of the creators involved in the book - Jim Campbell, Richmond Clements, Cy Dethan, Tom Foster, Howard Hardiman, Owen Johnson, Gavin Mitchell, Spinx and Rob Williams - and to hand over comps! We couldn't have done it without them, and everyone seemed to be as excited about it as us. 

The whole weekend was a great experience and reaffirmed - as it tends to do - that comics is an amazing world that is forever evolving and open to new ideas. Going hand in hand with that, between helpful staff, plenty of signage to get you around, talks and workshops, and a rather awesome location for the Saturday night bash, you really have to hand it to the folks who put it all together.

Sunday evening, as is fast becoming tradition, was set aside for the 'have a nice relaxing sit down and a laugh' session at the nearby Holiday Inn bar. For those of you who have a long distance to travel after the convention, I can thoroughly recommend staying the Sunday night for such giggles and heading home the next day. Less stress, and good for the soul. And with any luck, you'll get to hear Row Bird tell the most awesome stories.

- - -

So I was going to list everyone we met and said hi to, but I always worry that that approach comes across as really a bit naff (In a previous life I worked in a theatre, where it was practically the rule) so I'll skip it here. Just to say it was great to see so many friendly faces, even if the chance to catch up with everyone was nigh-on impossible. It's easy to forget (normally around deadline time) that there are tons of people in the same boat, and events like Thoughtbubble are a damn fine reminder.



- - -

On a purely selfish note, last year's Thoughtbubble was a great success for Disconnected Press, but not for me personally. I had a big list of things I had wanted to achieve as an artist by November of 2013, and when it arrived pretty much the opposite had happened. I had become so blinkered in my approach that I couldn't enjoy the weekend. Suffice to say I wasn't particularly happy about it, and resolved to make this year's version a more positive experience. 

One of the main things I've found, at Thoughtbubble and at other conventions this year, has been sharing tricks and tips on drawing and inking with people. Instead of hording such secrets like stolen treasure, it's been more rewarding telling people how I go about drawing hands, inking straight lines and dry brushing etc. I won't claim to be the best in such fields, but knowing that someone has learnt something that'll help them going forward is better than keeping it to myself. 

With that in mind, I'll be digging out some old notes made from older talks I've attended and posting them here in the next few weeks. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

52 Posters - #17 Judge Dredd

To celebrate #DayOfDredd, the official day in which hopefully enough folks share their love of the frequent movie enough to inspire/greenlight a sequel.

Also today is the first day of #inktober, which is another inspired bit of thinking, this time from Mr Jake Parker on his site.

Nicely timed/shoe-horned there, I thought. Perhaps I should try that more often...

Friday, 19 September 2014

52 Posters - #16 - Joker

I'll do a proper scan of this pic later, but for now, here's the 'camera phone pic while the inks dry' version.

More inks, this time with coloured inks and washes. Trying to capture the madness. Somebody recently asked me to do something like this for a tattoo they wanted. I'll post up that one when it's finished - this was a sort of test run for the final piece. Not the first time someone has asked me for a design for a tattoo, and hopefully not the last, but each one makes me nervous! There's an added pressure, knowing that the thing you draw will end up being permanent on someone's skin.

UPDATED 22/9 Here's a scanned & balanced version of the same pic.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

52 Posters - #15 - Crossed

Yeah, I know, there's been a gap. 'Things getting in the way of other things' seems to be a common theme around these parts.

That aside, it was always my intention to use this series of posters as a testing ground for pushing the boundaries of how I work. For a while, I'd been caught up in the precision of steady and sharp edges to my linework. It's all very useful and I'm glad I spent enough time concentrating on such things that it's now something I don't even think about. I'd certainly spent enough time previously giving it no consideration at all...

To that end, a lot of these pictures feature a lot more experimentation with how lines can be formed without drawing lines, as well as playing with different media in the same piece.

This one used inks, washes, black and white ink mixed, and acrylic. Not ground-breaking as far as the comic art world is concerned, but certainly so in this little corner of it.

The character is based on the Crossed series, currently celebrating the end of one four year run and the start of another. Not for the faint of heart, and something that explores the darker areas of the human psyche.

Monday, 16 June 2014

52 Posters - #14 Poison Ivy

Pencils, ink, watercolour, acrylic, charcoal, oil pastel. Yeah, this was fun to play with...

Hope this finds you well.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Cover for FutureQuake Press

The nice folks at FutureQuake Press asked me to provide a cover for their forthcoming issue of FutureQuake, an anthology comic telling tales of all things sci-fi.

This was a riff on Jack Vettriano's 'Mad Dogs' painting, which I thought might be a fun way of subtly introducing a character from the story I drew called Package Holiday, written by Andi Ewington, that appears in this issue.

Adapted pencil drawing of the original, then painted in Photoshop. I had a moment of clarity with the rings around the planet, realising it could be done with a series of radial gradient sweeps then set in a single layer, and distorted to match the angle required. Which almost certainly saved hours of anguish...

And with the final title & pricing.

Friday, 23 May 2014

52 Posters - #13 - The Crow

I had planned to get this done for Bristol Comic Con a few weeks ago and ran out of time.

More of a nod to the movie than the comics but I'm a fan of both.

As it turns out, I heard James O'Barr, (the creator of the Crow, who made an appearance at Bristol) whilst being incredibly diplomatic, isn't the movie's biggest fan, so it was probably for the best.

A few new techniques thrown in with texturing the inks on this one, which was a lot of fun, but very messy...