Retreating to Pulborough

Misty trees by Myfanwy Tristram

I’ve just spent the weekend with five other comic artists in a remarkable house in the countryside.

The plan was to go somewhere with few distractions, and indeed Michi Matthias, Rich Pettitt, Zara Slattery, Simon Russell, Hannah Eaton and I spent a couple of days with our heads down, ploughing through our different comic projects.

The views outside the window were delightful – walnut trees, green grass and mists up to Chanctonbury Ring — and when we did need a break, a fifteen minute walk through the fields and lanes took us to the local oak-beamed pub.

Meeting the house’s owners and taking a peek at their studios was also a treat: we saw the oils in progress and the wondrous sketchbooks of Chris Aggs RBA, and Patrice, deep in her prolific work for the Phoenix comic.

Chris Aggs in his studio

Mostly we got on with our drawings.

We were all at very different stages of very different comics:

  • Simon was splashing ink about and experimenting with markmaking as he created the rewards for a recent successful Kickstarter.
  • Hannah was creating complex pencil illustrations that are to be gently animated for The Cabinet of Living Cinema.
  • Rich was building up new stocks of his regular web comic Drizzle Cake.
  • Michi was making progress with her adaptation of a Victorian cycling manual.
  • Zara was off on a wild journey of exploration and research into folklore and collective consciousness to feed into her incredible coma comic.
  • And I have reached a stage in Satin and Tat where I was happily making sketches of people, backgrounds and 80s fashion that I’ll be able to refer to as I thumbnail the next few scenes.

We enjoyed a few extra-curricular activities without deviating from comics.

The first evening we watched Stripped. On Sunday, Zara led us in making plasticine heads of our main characters, an excellent idea as you can then have a model you can draw from every angle with no trouble, and add a light source to see where shadows fall.

We watched Rich’s Patreon video, which is a superb example of how to market yourself. We drew each other without looking at the paper. I tested out a forthcoming talk about Draw The Line on a friendly audience. And in between times we cooked and ate.

If you’re an artist of any kind, I can fully recommend doing something like this. It was fairly simple (easy for me to say when Michi did all the arranging and Zara did all the driving, but…): all we required was a location and a means of getting there.

February is off season so it was very affordable between the six of us; we all brought food and ended up with far more than we needed.

And we all felt we benefited, in one way or another, from having people to bounce ideas off, spark new directions, advise on drawings or just provide good company while we engaged in the normally solitary act of drawing.

Zara Slattery, Rich Pettitt, Hannah Eaton, Michi Matthias, Simon Russell and Myfanwy Tristram