Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sense of Place : Manhattan

Another exercise in raiding my photo collection, in order to practise layout. No messing with the photos, other than scaling and cropping, the focus is entirely on what can be done from the panel layout to communicate the sense of place.

Manhattan is most obviously represented by grids. (As an aside, David Mazzuchelli and Paul Auster do some incredible symbolic/visual stuff with grids in "City of Glass", I'd recommend it!). A tight, claustrophobic grid communicates the street level activity, punctuated by the massive scale of the skyscrapers and the Hudson river.

Side-stepping the obvious, what worked here (IMO)?
adding a curve to the big panels. Breaks up the gridlines with a bit of variety, and suggests a curved horizon
repetition, especially in the busiest section on page 2
breaking up the grid with smaller and bigger panels, adds to the overall "noise level"
putting the big panels upside down - the top panel on p1 is kind of ambiguous to begin with, flipping the hudson was just spur of the moment, and I think it worked.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Tidal Locking

I want to talk about the way in which we communicate ideas. Subjective opinions are often disguised as fact, here I've tried to do the reverse, and describe some objective celestial mechanics in a subtley emotive language, to anthropomorphise the earth's relationship to the moon.

The pictures are kind of related, kind of not. How does that influence your reading?

All of the planets, and their moons, are spinning around themselves, at the same time as they orbit around each other.

A tidally locked body takes just as long to rotate around itself as it does around it’s partner.

The embrace of the lock is gradual. The gravity of the larger partner distorts the smaller in a slight bulge. This applies a torque, causing it to slow. Eventually, the original frequency is subsumed entirely.

Our own moon is tidally locked to Earth, always presenting the same face to us.
As the moon slowed, the dust of it’s surface would have been pulled into great tidal waves. It is estimated that these could have reached heights of hundreds of meters.

The moon is now quiescent, and locked in step. But it still exerts a strong tidal influence upon the waters of the earth, that holds it in it’s thrall.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hitch Hiker

In the news: http://io9.com/camera-traps-capture-fantastically-bizarre-animal-hit-1636358011

A genet (a cat-like animal) has been caught on auto-triggering infra-red night camera riding on the backs of buffalo and rhino, behaviour never observed before. I wonder what they're both thinking?

The sketch was also an attempt to figure out some of the magic done by the late Sergio Toppi, italian comics maestro extraordinaire, whose black and white work is an incredibly intricate interplay between solid whites and blacks, and passages of amazingly fluid detail. I would hesitate to compare this to his stuff, but I felt I'd got a better understanding of how he does his compositions after I'd finished. Go look him up on google, or better yet, get a copy of his "Sharaz-De" from Archaia.

Finally, apologies to the genet for making it look like a sock puppet!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Grand Unifying Ideas

The Improvised Graphic Novel has no plot yet, but there are a few rudimentary themes and ideas that I'd like to explore. A couple of quotes to get us started.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

...children always know more than they are able to tell, and that makes the big difference between them and adults, who, at best, know only a fraction of what they say.” - Jacques Lusseyran

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Footnote in History

Based on an extended conversation with my son while he was studying for his GCSE history, discussing the history of medicine, as we walked across the Cotswolds one day. Individually, all of the events in here are factual, to the best of my knowledge, I've just woven them together.

This was a testing ground for a lot of the techniques that I'd like to use in the graphic novel I'll be improvising at LICAF in Kendal, October 18th this year. If you're attending the festival, do drop by on Saturday, and picture yourself in the place of the old bearded fellow on the bottom half of each page - and you too could become a footnote in comic-book history!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

LICAF Improvisations

I will be in Kendal at the Lakes International Comics Art Festival, on October 18th 2014, running/directing a photo-shoot for an improvised Graphic Novel. I will write the script and create the illustrations afterwards.

I will be ably assisted by people who know what they are doing - Chris Taylor and the Kendal Community Theatre group, local photographer Paul Want, and the organisers of the festival.

This may take some time! I'll be blogging the whole process as I go. This is where you can watch the story take shape, as well as getting samples of my other comics work.

In the run up to LICAF, I'll be blogging twice weekly.

  • A short comic strip every Tuesday
  • A story, or ingredient that may end up in the finished work, every Friday.
  • and probably a whole lot more as and when I can...

If you are going to the festival, do drop by and join us. And if you're not, say hello in the comments or on twitter, and join in the conversation.

Words and pictures can combine in unusual and interesting ways - that's the whole magic of comics. What has this dog and his chaperone got to do with my announcement above? Goodness only knows!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Planetary Dynamics

Digitally painted backgrounds for a 4-page strip about planetary physics (Tidal Locking in particular!)

Page 2 isn't ready yet (or, at least, I'm not happy with it!)

Friday, 12 September 2014

Myths of this World

I'm putting the finishing touches to my first published anthology of comic book work "Myths of this World", which will be available via Lulu in time for LICAF this year.

I'll post more info shortly. Here are a couple of variant cover designs, for the hardback and paperback editions. I'll also be making it available as an e-book, for readers dwelling in the 21st Century.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


I woke up one morning, a few month back, and thought "wouldn't it be a cool idea to take a camera up to the Lakes Comic Art Festival, video a few people in conversation, and use stills taken from the video to put together some comic strips, loosely based on the things that we'd talked about".

I'm sure you've all done the same - but foolishly, I forgot about the bit where I lie down until the urge goes away, and one theatre company, a photographer, and several wild-eyed conversations later, we're set to take the town by storm on Saturday 18th and go on to create a comic strip (or "graphic novel", if I'm feeling posh!) unlike anything you've seen before.

Unlike some hardy souls, I won't be creating the whole thing on the day, but I'll be blogging the process as I go along, right here, so sign up for email updates, or visit me on twitter if you want to watch it all happen.

Vive la (whatever the French is for doing something crazy and expansive that one ought to know better about!)

Monday, 8 September 2014

Dancers, Light

Freehand sketches from a youtube video, using a Pocket Brush.  Pleased with this lot, mostly.

Friday, 5 September 2014


It's time to lift the lid off something that I've been planning for some time...

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Twelve Easy Pieces

When I'm not doing comics, I'm often found doing code. Here's an experiment that combines the two. I've cut out 42 roughly equal-sized panels from drawings that I've done, and randomly recombined them on top of a six panel script. Look at how the words and pictures dance together, and modify each other's meanings!

The drawings are rather rough. The script is hardly epic (yet!). But I'm already quite excited by the possibilities of this. So excited, in fact, that I'm breaking the usual schedule to post this right now!!

The internal repetition on the first one was a lucky accident. Both silent panels (I think these are important in comics storytelling in general) came out the same. Or the weeping muscular figure in variant #5, reprised in the ending of variant #11.

Monday, 1 September 2014


Experiments at inking on top of printed photos, having figured out a workflow in Gimp for extracting only the inked line after I scan them back in. Looking for a balance between realism and minimalism (and not quite finding it yet, but after a lot of digital-only stuff, the exercise is good.)

The model is F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who's got a wonderfully expressive way about him.