Wednesday, 27 April 2016

International Dylan Thomas Day

I had the honour of being asked to design the logo and posters for this year's International Dylan Day by poet Mab Jones, this year's organiser. I was given free reign to do what I wanted but was asked to concentrate more on the younger Dylan Thomas and, in particular, the photographs taken by Nora Summers.

I produced a lot of sketches of Dylan Thomas and once I'd achieved a look I was happy with I tried to abstract it. I use a brush to draw with and I wanted the sketch to have a calligraphic and lyrical look. I tried different brushes and papers (including Japanese calligraphy paper until I got the look I was after).

Despite the artwork needing to be produced digitally I needed the original image to be created as traditionally as possible. Each layer was created using brush, ink and paint (and in some cases painted on acetate) and combined in Photoshop. All the lettering on the posters was written by hand (a bigger task than normal as all posters and logos were required in English and Welsh).

It's a pleasure to see my Dylan Day posters out and about and across social media. A real honour to be associated with an artist of Thomas' stature (especially as a Welsh illustrator). Details about the day itself can be found HERE and the event kicks off with sand artist Marc Treanor recreating my portrait of Thomas on the beach at New Quay. I can't wait to see this! If you'd like to learn more about Dylan Thomas before the day itself I recommend the excellent "Set Fire To The Stars" film starring Celyn Jones and Elijah Wood.

Prints of my Dylan Thomas portrait can be bought from my online shop.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The 24 hour comic marathon at The Lakes festival

It was the Lakes International Comic Art Festival last month and along with it the 24 hour comics marathon. I watched from the sidelines last year and wondered if it was something I could ever do. Last year's marathon produced some fantastic comics but it was seeing how enthused every was after the event that made me think I wanted to take part. It's organised every year by Dan Berry who also takes part (because, y'know, he hasn't got enough stuff to do!). The rules aren't quite as strict as the Angouleme/Scott McCloud model so you are allowed to prepare in advance. I came up with a story (in the spirit of the marathon) as quickly as I could. I'd taken a photo in Japan back in March of a suburban street and I knew I wanted to do something using that as the springboard. I wanted to draw a street with crisscrossing electricity cables and knew that was an image I could have fun with and thought if I got a strong opening page at least I'd have achieved something! I'd have one page I could look back on fondly. My aim going into this was to finish and not to disgrace myself too much!

My story was a mixture of The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Cat in the Hat with a Japanese setting. I looked at a lot of Tokyo homes on AirBnb to make sure the interior of the house looked convincing and wandered up and down Tokyo suburbs on Google street view to find just the right kind of street I had in mind. We've spent a lot of time in Japan and I wanted to make it look convincing. Getting the details wrong would really irritate me. Once I had a story I broke it down into 20 pages and made A6 thumbnails of each page. I then blew these A6 thumbnails up to A3 so I could lightbox them on the day. See examples below.

I didn't want the thumbnails to be too detailed. If I was just tracing lines it wouldn't be fun on the day. I left out just enough so I could improvise a bit (you can compare the thumbnails with the finished page above). I also made sure I wasn't drawing 9 panel grids or lots of talking heads. As I said before I had to keep it FUN. I used a light box to trace each page lightly in pencil. First I added the lettering (from my prepared script) using a Kuretake Fudegokochi brush pen and then I added the pink ink that I'd mixed at home with a brush. I wanted a slightly dirty pink colour (described perfectly as "Minnie the Minx pink" by Craig Conlan!). I then added the grey tones and the black lines using the Pentel Colour Brush pens (my favourites). I decided to go through the comic chronologically using the same process - pencil lines, lettering, pink tones, grey tones, black lines - rather than lettering every page first or alternating a page from the front with a page from the back and meeting in the middle. I was enjoying drawing each page one by one so decided that if it remained enjoyable then just keep doing it (for 24 hours).

I then repeated this process roughly once an hour from 3 o'clock on Thursday for the following 24 hours. We were in a function room at the Castle Green Hotel so occasionally we'd get visitors from the bar. When you've been sat at the same table for over 14 hours it's an odd experience to look up and find Darwyn Cooke, Seth and Kate Beaton watching you draw. As well as an endurance test it's a great exercise in keeping focus and also letting things go. I'd decided in advance I was not going to redraw anything unless it was absolutely necessary. I've done a few allnighters in the past with editorial illustrations but that's always been in a room on my own with just iTunes and the dawn chorus to keep me going. This was a whole other ballgame. We went out to see the sun go down and then later on to see the sun come up, we laughed (a lot), I had a 4:30am call from Woodrow Phoenix, there was a conga line, we ate rice krispie cakes and cold pizza in the middle of the night. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Mostly it was the best of times.

It was quite an experience. I was in a room alongside some extremely talented people - Dan Berry, John Allison, Emma Vieceli, Richard Short and Jade Sarson - and our Lakes volunteers Katy and Phil (who also blogged throughout the entire event HERE). Louise also stayed up with me for the entire duration and even made a felt version of the main character of my comic. Louise was also there to take photos for me and also to sing an impromptu duet with Emma (I Know Him So Well in case you were curious) during the 7am power ballad hour.

We all finished within the 24 hours and then we stayed up a little longer to make sure it all went off to the printers on time (thanks again to Dan) and by midday Saturday we had 50 printed copies each ready for the official launch on Sunday morning. We even got a trophy! Here's a photo of the presentation with our host, Stephen Holland from Page45.

At certain points in the middle of the night I did wonder what the hell I was doing - I just wanted to go to bed! - but in the end I was really, really glad I did it. I don't do enough comics as it always seems too daunting a prospect and now I've produced a 24 page comic in 24 hours. There's no excuse! I sold out of my comic, The Helper, on the Sunday but a bigger A4 reprint is available in my shop now. Thanks to Julie Tait and LICAF for making this happen!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Railhead concept artwork

To celebrate the release of Philip Reeve's new novel, Railhead, OUP asked a few illustrators to come up with their own interpretations of scenes and characters from the book. It's hard to sum up the book in a few lines (it's filled to the brim with incredible concepts and ideas).Here's a quote from the back of the book -

"Come with me, Zen Starling, she had said. The girl in the red coat. But how did she know his name?
The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels. The place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat.
Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City.
So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor's train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people - and to steal their stuff.
But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him"

I chose to draw an escape across the rooftops and Uncle Bugs, a Hive Monk ("a creature made up of thousands and thousands of insects, which come together to form a being with consciousness. Hive Monks choose to form themselves into a human shape, including making themselves a kind of paper mask for a face."). So much to choose from in the book. I'm sure it's going to be another massive success for Philip.

Also be sure to check out Ian McQue and Robert Ball's interpretations of the Railhead world. Amazing. I'm not worthy!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Guillermo Del Toro tribute show

Here's my piece for the Guillermo Del Toro tribute show "In Service of Monsters" at Gallery 1988. Despite there being plenty to choose from I couldn't resist painting Hellboy. My piece is based on the Troll Market scene from Hellboy 2. It's watercolour and 297 x 420mm (approx). Available to buy online (or in person) from the gallery from this evening (September 11th). The show runs until October 3rd at Gallery 1988 (West), 7308 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Welles & Murakami

Two recent portrait experiments. Both in pencil (the trusty Palomino Blackwing!) and watercolour. I've been trying to experiment with crossing my usual stylised approach to portraits with more realistic shadowing. I saw an incredible Janniot sculpture in Lisbon last year and it got me thinking. It was beautifully stylised but with it being a real 3D object reacted to light and shade in an interesting way. The same goes for the stone heads created by Modigliani (a long time influence). This is what I've tried to achieve with both of these drawings. I think I may have lost track with the Murakami drawing and veered a bit too close to realism for my tastes but sometimes it's fun to interpret rather than reinterpret.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Tove Jansson

A sketchbook portrait of Tove Jansson to celebrate her 101st birthday. She was an incredible artist from an early age and her career was far more diverse than I'd original thought (watch this superb BBC documentary to find out more about her life and career). I think she's more influential now than ever.