The Draw The Line story

Apologies for the grandiose title: I’m not really envisioning this becoming a Netflix miniseries.

However, there is quite a bit to say about the Draw The Line project.

Here we are with a gorgeous book, lots of good reviews, demand for a second print run, and having made a decent donation to a charity that we believe in. Any comic artist would be delighted with all that, and if you make comics yourself, you might be thinking you’d like to do something similar.

But those benefits were quite hard won. It’s been a long and sometimes challenging journey, and I suspect that we could save other people time and effort by sharing what we learned along the way.

What was Draw The Line?

With apologies to longtime readers who know full well what it was, here’s a catch-up for those who don’t: Draw The Line brought together 100+ comic artists, each of whom depicted an action you can take if you are feeling powerless in the current political landscape.

It began life as a website, and we have just now produced a print book containing all the illustrations and actions. Together, as our carefully-honed strapline proclaims, they make up a toolkit for activism.

A long timeline

To give you some idea of the timescale, the idea for Draw The Line emerged in late 2016. It was a response to Trump coming to power, the Brexit vote, the rise of ‘fake news’ and all the other worrying aspects of that year.

The printed book finally arrived through people’s letterboxes just after the Biden win, so to give you a timeline that we can all relate to, the project basically spanned the entire exhausting Trump administration.

While it’s fresh in my mind

I’m going to blog everything I can about the entire process, and it’s probably going to end up being a series of several posts, because there’s a lot to cover.

And so, these posts are for you if you:

  • are considering creating an anthology comic or any other group creative endeavour;
  • would like to do so without actually meeting the contributors (on which, let’s face it, we were somewhat ahead of the lockdown curve);
  • would benefit from answers to questions like, “what’s the cheapest book packaging and can I still be environmentally friendly if I pick it?”, or “what’s the difference between ‘Click and Drop’ and ‘Drop and Go’?”;
  • are curious about running a collaborative, not for profit project where everyone has a say;
  • would like to know all the nitpicky annoying things that make even the simplest project more complicated than you’d have anticipated;
  • or, you hadn’t actually considered any of those things but hey, now you think about it, that all sounds pretty interesting.

Start at the end

I must say that the four-year incubation period was not something that any of us expected. Before I dive into the reasons for that, though, let’s begin at the end. After all, this is the reason we did anything at all.

Draw The Line is now a beautiful, full colour A4 hardback book, containing the work of 113 comic artists from 16 different countries, each depicting a positive action anyone can take if they don’t like the current political landscape.

We saved lives through comics

From the start, we knew that all profits would be going to our chosen charity, Choose Love (originally known as Help Refugees); it was a great moment when we were able to transfer the final sum of £3,106.27 to them (more – much more – about numbers and costs in a subsequent post).

Donation to Choose Love

Choose Love messaged us to say:

Thank you so much for your support. This is the sixth winter since our organisation began and the needs on the ground have never been so great. The emergency context, compounded with COVID-19, lack of global funding awareness and the ever-increasing hostile environment for displaced people means your donation will literally save lives.

Literally save lives? I mean, I can’t deny that that feels pretty good.

To put that sum into context, here’s a graphic from the charity about how they spend donations:

So with our donation, modest though it might seem to some, we’re looking at 621 weeks of fruit and veg, or 310 sleeping bags, or 31 phones, or 8 days at sea.

As someone who longs to help but can’t really spare large amounts of money, to be able to make a donation like this was really gratifying. (And if this inspires you to donate, you can do so here.)

An actual book

It’s not just that, though: there is the pleasure of a job well done. The book has been well-received by those who have it in their hands. Thanks to interior design and layout by Simon Russell, and a cover design by Woodrow Phoenix, it looks professional; and thanks to many rounds of proofing by me and Michi Mathias, the copy is error-free. It’s basically a better physical product than I had ever imagined.

And, most importantly, it does what it promised to do. It is a toolkit for activism. It depicts actions, large and small, that you, or anyone, could take right now if you want to change the world. It labels them so you know what you can do if you’re a kid, or if you can’t spend money, or if you’re an artist, or if you particularly want to help homeless people or disabled people, or women, or minorities (and lots more).

We sold out within days of taking delivery of the print run, and we’ve had congratulatory tweets, photos, emails and DMs from readers, many of whom have been asking whether there are more copies to buy. There aren’t, but we’re keeping a list of those who are interested, in case we go for a second print run (if that’s of interest, you can add your name here).

And who could want for more than that? I can’t deny it feels pretty good.

So, that’s the reason we created Draw The Line in the first place; in the next post I’ll go right back to the beginning, with a bit more about why we started it, how we got so many artists involved, and how we were able to shape the project collaboratively.

I’m also planning to cover the various tools we used; the decision to license all the images under Creative Commons; what did and didn’t work for us in terms of crowdfunding; and logistics and costs of the print run and shipping. If you have any questions about these or any other areas, please do comment below and it’ll help me to include the most useful details. Thanks!

A couple of links again:

Shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel competition

My work in progress, Satin and Tat, has been shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel prize. Surprised? Not as surprised as me. You should have seen me squawk when I got the email.

It means a lot, and here’s why:

Since lockdown began, I haven’t been able to draw any comics at all. I know I’m not alone in this phenomenon; I’ve seen others mention that their creativity has been blocked or stifled in various ways by these unusual times, too.

I’ve also seen the opposite: some people putting out absolutely stunning responses to the situation in hand, seemingly (though I am certain it’s not the case) effortlessly. Among them are Ottilie Hainsworth’s brilliant diaries, Lou Theodore’s sketchbooks, Erica Smith’s toilet paper journals, Holly Casio’s Zoom strip and Rachael House’s poster-sized comics.

When lockdown began, I had just started a new, small project. Satin and Tat was taking so long, and I was beginning to feel so unsure of its worth, that I thought I would stop for a bit and consider. Apart from anything else, I was afraid that everyone would forget who I was if I took several years to complete such a big piece of work!

My plan was to turn to getting something else quick and dirty out, so I’d have a comic to sell at this year’s festivals.

But then there weren’t any physical comics festivals, and also, the new comic was predicated on a way of living that wasn’t actually possible any more. The pandemic was such an unknown and lots of people were saying we might never return to normal, and it seemed foolish to be drawing a piece that might turn out to be a quaint historical artifact rather than the truthful look at modern life it was designed to be.

Lockdown has not been particularly easy in this household, for a number of reasons. I can’t say that we’ve suffered as much as those who have lost a loved one to covid-19 — not even nearly as much, it would be sacrilege to suggest as much — but there have been significant stresses, shall we say. Much of what I took for granted about myself: an ability to get up early, put some work in on comics, go for a run at lunch time, do some more drawing after dinner, has disappeared in the face of a number of physical and mental challenges.

Excerpt Excerpt from Satin and Tat by Myfanwy Tristramby Myfanwy Tristram

Any energy I’ve had has needed to go into my parenting, my health, my job, and, it seems, a colossal amount of DIY around the house and garden (hence the mural in my last post). Painting the floor and doing up the garden has been my only creative outlet for the last several weeks (one that my great friend Zara Slattery very kindly described as ‘a bit like drawing, just on a much bigger scale’).

As of now, I haven’t looked at or drawn anything for Satin and Tat since I submitted 30 pages of it, in black and white, to Myriad. Doesn’t matter what happens next. Knowing that a panel of judges have assessed it and taken it through to the shortlist is exactly the confidence boost I need right now.

Thank you, judges and Myriad!

Excerpt from 'Satin and Tat' by Myfanwy Trsitram

My fellow shortlistees are all really interesting as well, so go and check them out:

 

 

Painting a mural

Somewhere near the beginning of the lockdown, I had ten days off work.

We were supposed to be going down to Devon to see my parents, but of course the travel restrictions put paid to that.

Which was a shame, because for the first time in living memory, I’d actually picked a week for the family holiday where the weather was absolutely blissful. Well, it can’t be helped. Instead, stuck at home, I decided to paint a mural on the blank wall just outside our kitchen window.

I have to admit that we haven’t paid our tiny little back yard much attention since we moved into the house a good seven years ago. It barely gets any sun; it’s completely paved over apart from a single flower bed, which was home to an ageing buddleia when we first moved in. The buddleia eventually collapsed with age, and the flower bed, well, it’s more the cats’ toilet than anything else.

But quarantine has given us time, if nothing else. And if not now, then when?

Developing an idea

I had a quick look at some absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful murals on Pinterest, and then started doodling on my laptop and soon came up with a design I liked.

Don’t be like me, though! It’s obvious that it would have been much better to:

  • measure the wall first and work out its exact proportions before starting to draw. In fact, in this digital age, one method would be to take a photo of the wall, and import it into a drawing app as the base layer to draw on top of.
  • check which colour paints were available and design the palette around that (all the more so in this time when every online shop seems to have a lot of stock unavailable).

Still, me being me, and hindsight being 20:20, I didn’t do either of those things. Here’s the drawing I came up with:

mural sketch by Myfanwy Tristram

– which is narrower and taller than the actual wall, and uses digital colours that aren’t necessarily replicable in physical media.

In the end it didn’t matter too much: after all, the only client here was myself, and I am pretty lenient. And also, pretty used to fudging things. Probably because of a result of always being like this.

My friend Karen Rubins had mentioned on a Facebook thread that she recommended Lascaux paints for murals. They’re weather resistant, they flow and mix nicely, and they come in a range of beautiful deep colours. They are a bit pricey, but they’re far more suitable than cheaper acrylics that might work fine on paper but are just the wrong texture and thickness for a wall painting.

Lascaux paintsSo, once I had attempted to match the colours from my sketch to the colours available (or what I optimistically thought I could mix those colours into), I put in an online order and started getting the canvas ready.

Prepping the wall

Lots of the house and garden walls here in Brighton are made of ‘bungaroosh’, one of those weird local words you won’t hear anywhere else, but which you’ll hear a lot once you move here. It basically translates as ‘lumps of flint and brick held together with straw, mortar, and whatever random materials the builder could chuck in’ and it’s the bane of Brightonians’ lives.

If you try to put a nail in the wall, you’ll either make a massive hole in the mortar, Daddy Pig-style, or you’ll hit a hard lump of flint that even a diamond-tipped drill wouldn’t make a dent in.

Tellingly, there’s a quote on the Wikipedia page for bungaroosh:

A common maxim states that much of Brighton “could be demolished with a well-aimed hose”; the supposed extent of this destruction varies between “a third” and “half” depending on the source.

So bear in mind that I think that’s what is behind the render of this piece of wall.

Anyway, while I was waiting for my acrylics to arrive, I first swabbed down the render with a bleach solution. At one point it had been painted white, but over time it had acquired some black marks and general muckiness.

While I was doing this, I noticed that there were quite a few dents and uneven parts, so I braved the socially-distanced queue at Screwfix (which is handily just down the road) and came home with some filler, as well as some primer.

At the foot of the wall, the render was bubbling up a bit and it was clear that there was some damp. The other side of it is the neighbours’ outhouse, so it’s not something I could do much about. As it happened, I found some ‘damp stop’ paint in the shed which warned several times in its small print that it couldn’t prevent damp, just try to cover it up. Call it lockdown recklessness if you will, but I chose the ‘la la la can’t hear you’ path and painted it onto the bottom quarter of the wall anyway, figuring it couldn’t really hurt.

A blank white wall

Tracing the lines

A tip I’d picked up from one of those Pinterest links was to project the design onto the wall, and then use chalk to draw in the lines (another way, that would rely much more on skill and concentration, is to divide your image into a grid and then copy it across by eye).

I’d somehow imagined this would be fairly easy: in fact I had visions of the whole family coming out to the yard after dark and having fun helping me trace the projected image. But real life ain’t like that: my loved ones weren’t interested, and it was hard to position the projector properly, balanced as it was on a sloping shed roof. Turns out that if you just nudge it a fraction of a centimetre, the image veers wildly, over the wall and onto the neighbours’ facades.

And then, because the yard is so small, I couldn’t get far back enough to get the whole image on the wall at once. I had to do half at a time, and then try to match them up. projected mural by Myfanwy Tristram

projected mural by Myfanwy Tristram

In the light of day it turned out it wasn’t too bad, but I did have to resketch the middle portion somewhat. As I’ve already mentioned, fudging is a way of life to me, though, so it could’ve been worse.

Traced lines of a mural by Myfanwy Tristram

The paints arrived!

Cut to several days later when a small box arrived, packed with little bottles of colour. Too little in some cases: the bigger bottles weren’t in stock.

It soon became obvious that:

  • I was going to run out of white really quickly
  • I hadn’t quite got the right colours to mix and make the shade I wanted for the background
  • The fact that the wall is in shadow 100% of the time meant everything had to be lightened up

But apart from that, everything was fine!

I sent off for some more paint from a couple of other suppliers, hoping at least one of them would come through, and meanwhile started on the bits I could do.

I had these lovely big brushes (also from Screwfix) because I’d been painting our stairs indoors:

Big brushes by Myfanwy Tristram

Sidenote – they may be the most beautiful objects I’ve held in my hand for some time, and they’re just sold as cheap(ish) decorators’ brushes. They were excellent for making big bold lines, and for filling in large areas of colour.

The other type of brush I found invaluable was a flat-edged one, so I could get the lines really precise.

Here are the first strokes:

You can see my progress in reverse chronological order on my Instagram, including the wrong background colour I was trying out at first.

Myfanwy Trsitram instagram showing mural progress

I was back at work before the new paint arrived, so it was a couple of weekends later that I mixed together Lascaux light blue and Daler Rowney fluorescent pink and found a really close match to what I wanted!

Mural by Myfanwy Tristram

And there it is. One thing I hadn’t quite anticipated is quite how much it ‘comes in’ to the kitchen: that is, from certain spots, your view through the window is taken up with a huge bird’s head peeping in. Which I quite like, just hadn’t foreseen.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see how long it is before the damp breaks through, and whether it does much damage. It doesn’t really matter – I’ve achieved a long time ambition of painting a mural at least, and I have these photos to prove it.

And I still had a holiday of sorts, because:

  • I spent each day doing something totally new
  • I went somewhere I don’t usually spend much time (my own back yard)
  • I was out in the sunshine, letting conversations (of my neighbours) and new scents (of my neighbours’ cooking) and birdsong (well, the local seagulls) wash over me, often with a nice strong coffee in hand and a good new podcast playing.

And although it took a bit longer than I’d anticipated, there was something very pleasing about making big brush marks on the wall outside, while through the window my husband pottered about in the kitchen, cooking inside. There was even a point at which my daughter joined me and started painting an old bench. The cats came out to explore. Everyone was happily occupied. And that’s kind of the most you ever hope for from a holiday, wherever it is.

 

Panel Show: exhibition report (and Leeds has a zine library)

I did say I would report back from the Panel Show exhibition at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley, and here it is!

Thanks so much to Beth Dawson (whose work is also in the show, and whose comic is available to buy in the gallery shop) for taking me there. It’s a beautiful place — as you’d guess from the name, an old mill, so a huge space with vast windows and tons of light — and the exhibition is spot on. Kudos to Si Smith for all his hard work in curating and managing it.

Sunnybank Mills in Leeds, with Panel Show exhibition up(Click to see any of the images at a larger size)

The best thing about the show was its focus on ‘process’. Most artists had provided not just a finished piece of work, but one, two or three steps within the process of making it: sketches, inks, and then the final page, for example.

Joe Decie's comics at Panel Show exhibitionJoe Decie: three steps for each strip

As a comic artist myself I found it very interesting to see how different people work (and especially those working to ‘proper’ methods for the big comic publishers); I think even those who don’t draw themselves would also find it elucidating to understand what goes into a final page.

Dean Ormston Age of Doom for Dark Horse. Apologies for the terrible picture, but it’s interesting to see the paper this was drawn on with the printed lines to show the bleed area and the placement of the more important central content. In other words, no-one cares if a few snowflakes get cut off the edge of the page, but you don’t want to lose the actual cityscape.

Sara Varon bake saleI was thrilled to see this page from Sara Varon’s Bake Sale, not just because the book was a favourite when my daughter was small, but because this very image of the strip of bacon getting over-excited at a parade was a long-running source of mirth in our household. Well, you try reading a book out loud and then getting to that part, without at least cracking a smile.

You can buy prints of some of the artwork and I must say I was tempted by this one (but then remembered the limited amount of wallspace back home…)

Myfanwy Tristram and Zara Slattery at Panel Show in FarsleyOops, nearly forgot! Here’s my work, hung beside Zara Slattery’s images from her work in progress, Coma Comic.

There’s a big range of different types of comic at Panel Show, from self-published zines, to indie graphic novels, to the Beano and Tank Girl. Basically, you get to read comics for about an hour, and then buy comics in the gift shop, and you really can’t ask for much more than that.

Comics for sale at Sunnybank Mills

While I was in the Leeds area, I also visited their amazing art gallery. It’s free to get in, it has a great collection, contains several panels of a big a tapestry made by the community, and even has an art library in it. People of Leeds, I hope you know how lucky you are!

While poking around to find the tapestry, I also came across the best thing of all — their zine library.

Leeds zine library

I left some Draw The Line postcards there, which (of course) I hope will inspire zine-lovers to pledge for the book.

Draw The Line postcards in Leeds zine library

Well done Leeds, you were a very good city to visit.

 

Talking to students at Leeds Arts University

I still feel slightly odd to have been invited to give a lecture at an actual university: I mean, that’s for legitimate artists, surely?

Aha! Get thee behind me, imposter syndrome! In fact, this was pretty much the subject of my talk. That is to say, at what point in a non-traditional route to a regular creative practice was I comfortable to call myself ‘an artist’… and what does that actually mean?

For a long time, I felt that unless illustration was a full time job, I was a bit of a fraud referring to myself that way. But as time has gone on and I’ve drawn practically every day, I am beginning to realise that there are many other factors that allow you to wear the label of ‘artist’.

Turns out this is a subject that has been on the minds of a few of my Instagram followers too, who requested I record the talk so they could hear it. We did try to, but unfortunately the laptop I was using went a bit odd half way through, so we switched machines and lost the recording at that point.

Not to worry: I’m happy to share the slides and my notes. Getting this talk together resulted in a more coherent understanding of my own path, but with plenty of wider universal truths in the mix as well, which is my favourite recipe for a comic. So I’d also like to draw that some time soon – perhaps just a very rough and quick one so it doesn’t take up too much time – and that way everyone who wants to can see it for themselves.

 

Darryl Cunningham, Robin Ince and Draw The Line in Brighton

Wondering how to cope in an increasingly depressing world? Well, one thing you could do is come and see some people discussing comics which are all about that depressing world.

I’ll be talking about Draw The Line at an event in Brighton on November 3, run by Myriad. But I’m just the support act:  top of the bill is Darryl Cunningham, in conversation with Robin Ince about his newest book Billionaires.

In a nice contrast, once Darryl has thoroughly depressed everyone with his exposé of the super rich elite and the neoliberal capitalist/consumerist system, I’ll be explaining how you can fix things with the positive political actions outlined in the Draw The Line project.

Or, ok, fix things a bit. No guarantees that Draw The Line can make everything better.

An assurance we can make, though, is that this will be a pleasant way to spend a November Sunday afternoon, so book now – tickets are here.

 

Panel show at Sunnybank Mills in Leeds

Just a quick note to say that a page from my graphic memoir-in-progress, Satin and Tat, is on display in the Panel Show exhibition at Sunnybank Mills, Farsley, Leeds.

The show runs until November 10 and also includes work from Darryl Cunningham, Joe Decie, Kate Charlesworth, Katriona Chapman, Luke Pearson, Zara Slattery and many many others worth seeing.

There’s an emphasis on how comic art is created, so along with the other exhibitors, I’ve contributed both a finished page and the pencil drawing that was the first step in the process (click to see these at a larger size).

Page from Satin and Tat by Myfanwy Tristram, showing the audience at a gig
Line layout for a page of 'Satin and Tat' by Myfanwy Tristram

The gallery space looks wonderful, and there’s also a shop selling work from everyone. This includes several of my own comics, prints and cut-out dolls. If you’re at all local, Sunnybank Mills is probably the best place to get these at the moment, as I’ve sent them most of my stock.

If you’re the world’s biggest Myfanwy Tristram fan, you can even buy prints of the artwork. I am not sure this particular page is the most desirable thing to have on a wall though!

I’m planning to see the show myself soon, as I am traveling up that way, and I’ll be sure to take some photos and report back.

Cut From the Same Cloth

I am really pleased to have had my first illustrated essay published on Longreads –  see it in situ here.

Illustrations for this were created in the same way as the drawings I’ve been doing for my graphic memoir-in-progress, Satin and Tat – a pencil crayon sketch, scanned in and then coloured digitally. Still really loving my Surfacebook laptop and the option to draw directly onto the screen in this way.

Longreads

Myfanwy Tristram | Longreads | September 2019 | 14 minutes (3,863 words)

A clatter at the door. A small package plops through our letterbox.

It’s come a long way. I can see that by the sticky labels, foreign postmarks, and scrawled scripts of postal workers around the world.

I text my daughter: 'Your wig has arrived from Japan.' After a moment, I text again: 'A phrase I never thought I’d find myself typing.'

This was never in the parenting manual.

But back to the housework.

I enter my bedroom to find the area around the mirror overrun with her makeup, her dirty laundry in pools on the floor. That girl leaves a trail of destruction.

Admittedly, this is not a remarkable complaint for any mother of a teen. Where mine differs from the grumbles of parents through the ages is that among the detritus to be picked up and put away are:

Wig caps, tossed aside and draped wherever they may landfake eyelashes, like furry caterpillars on the bathroom sinkand the endless, infuriating, discarded colored Band-Aids that I seem to find everywhere - stuck to my work clothes, on the soles of my shoes, under the sofa... even deep in my own bedThis last year has been a revelation as my daughter blossoms into her own, rather extreme, sense of style. Liberated from parental tastes by pocket money and cash earned from neighborhood dog walking, she trawls the thrift shops and returns home triumphant with unusual clothing. She’s 14. Still in need of parental comfort, food, finances, but beginning the process of becoming her own standalone self. And what a self it is.She’s pushing her school’s uniform rules to the limits. "Light" makeup is permitted... but here we have bright red eyeshadow and black lips. Skirt rolled up to be as short as possible. Shoes must be black. Fortunately, Doc Martens are black..once you've gone over the stitching with a Sharpie. Clip-on horns - well, hair clips are allowed. Hair has to be a "natural" color so she dyed it jet black. First day of the hols and out came the bleach and crazy color. The blazer is compulsory, but stays scrunched up in the backpack until she's in the school gates. Tights with "accidental" ripped holes [Close up on eye and nose] Band-Aid "Bean brow" - half shaved off Stickers or painted motifs Tip of the nose colored red (quite cute)Trouble is...I can’t really complain, because at age 14, I was also breaking the school rules.

In fact, when regarding my wayward, outrageously dressed girl, I find myself experiencing a peculiar combination of pride and envy.

Both may be…

View original post 2,384 more words

Brighton Naked Bike Ride poster

I love drawing clothes and fashion, as evidenced by my work in progress Satin and Tat, and much of my previous work including Everything My Daughter Wore…

So it was quite a surprise to find myself working on an illustration where everyone had to be naked! All for a good cause though: the annual Brighton Naked Bike Ride poster.

And I was happy to oblige, given my love of bikes, my belief that we need to challenge car culture, and, clearly, a need for self-punishment given that bikes are notoriously hard to draw (fortunately I’d had a recent bit of practice since the principal character in Satin and Tat gets about by bike).

Here’s the finished design:

Myfanwy Tristram naked bike ride Brighton 2019 poster design

And here it is with a tight crop and the wording added:

Myfanwy Tristram naked bike ride Brighton 2019 poster design

I’m really looking forward to seeing it around town: people have already been sending me photos of where they’ve spotted it.

(Thanks Scotty H, BNBR and Inksplattery)

One challenging aspect of this commission is that the design had to work equally well for an A3 sized poster, and for the tiny business card sized flyers that the ride also creates each year (they’re easy to put onto parked bikes to help spread the word). My first, rational thought was that I should stick with bold shapes, nothing complex, and that if I could design it at the smaller size it would scale up well into the larger one.

As you can see, I then went on to completely ignore my own advice, coming up with a very intricate picture. The crazy thing is, I think it works, even at the tiny size.

It was a real honour to be asked, especially as I’ve had one of the previous artists, Mike Levy‘s own small cards framed and up on my wall for years (click the images to see them bigger).

Mike Levy Naked bike ride Mike Levy Naked bike ride

This might be the first year I actually take part in the Naked Bike Ride. I’ve been an appreciative spectator for many years, but it seems like the right time to take the plunge and actually join in.

I will be taking full advantage of the ‘bare as you dare’ maxim though. In my case, that’s… not very bare.

Satin and Tat: study sketches

Sometimes it seems like the more you learn about how to make comics, the longer it takes.

While working on Satin and Tat, I’ve changed my habits a bit, placing much more emphasis on preparation. Now, before I even put the final strokes to paper (or screen, since it’s mainly digital work), I’m working on character development, research, study sketches and thumbnailing. I can see for myself the positive effects this all has on the final artwork, but if I used to moan that comic drawing is a full time occupation, well now it really is.

I’m lucky in that I find the details of Satin and Tat‘s era endlessly fascinating; well, I suppose I would, given that the Eighties were my teen years. It’s actually a lot of fun to find reference photos of goth hairstyles and makeup, more mainstream fashions, and the bands of the time, not least because I can now see it all in some kind of context rather than it just being the norm as it was when I was 15 and 16.

Here are some of the study sketches I’ve been working from. Click any picture to see it at a larger size.

Skinheads and eighties haircutsCharacter design attempting to show extroversion. Also – rah rah skirt!

Floppy hats, a crusty style of punk, the more dandified Steve Strange look, and t-shirts split down the sides.

Mosh pits at anarchopunk gigs.

Live Aid – attempts to pin down Bob Geldof and David Bowie’s distinctive looks – plus a backing singer.

Some of these are band members and some of them are people street fighting and it’s quite interesting how interchangeable they are.

Draw The Line at Sunday Assembly Brighton

I had the great pleasure of talking about Draw The Line to the Brighton Sunday Assembly last weekend.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Sunday Assembly is a monthly meet up that encourages attendees to “Live better, help often, wonder more”. It’s a bit like a church service in format, only instead of hymns you have pop song karaoke, instead of prayers you have conversation and a few minutes’ silence, and instead of sermons you have people giving talks. People like me.

Also on the bill were Extinction Rebellion, who share many of our messages about going out there and getting things changed (in their case, acting on the climate emergency).

I thought I’d keep it relatively simple, so most of my talk consisted of going over some of the many and varied political actions depicted in the Draw The Line project, but it did seem to go down well and I got lots of invitations to speak at other places afterwards, which has to be some sort of endorsement.

I’m always happy to talk about Draw The Line, first to spread its message that anyone can take a small political action and make the world a better place, and secondly in the hope that people will pledge for the Draw The Line book, helping that message reach ever more folk, and especailly those who may never have thought of themselves as activists.

If you’re interested, you can see my slides here and the rough notes to what I said are here. You’re welcome to adapt them to use in a talk of your own, so long as you include all the links to our website etc… and of course, invite your audience to pledge!

Laydeez Do Comics: award and festival

It’s the Laydeez Do Comics festival this weekend, at the Free Word centre in London. Why not come along?

Laydeez Do Comics is a “women-led but not women-only” organisation with chapters in cities across the UK and beyond. For the past couple of years, they’ve run an award for a graphic work in progress by a female identifying artist, and the festival is a culmination of this year’s award process.

On Sunday, it will be open to the general public so that they can browse all the entries, eat cake, and find out who will be awarded the prize.

I’m proud to say that my own work in progress, working title Satin & Tat, was one of the longlisted works, although it didn’t go on to be shortlisted.

That said, it is very difficult to be anything but grateful for LDC, because they’ve structured the whole award very cleverly to benefit everyone who enters, and not just the winner.

You’re instructed to submit the first twelve pages of your work, both in digital form and as a printed comic. Along with this you must provide your biography and a short summary of the plot. By fulfilling the conditions of entry, you may not realise it, but you are creating everything that would be required were you to pitch your work to a publisher or agent.

And there will be publishers in attendance at the festival – hopefully, publishers on the lookout for new creators to work with.

That’s not all, though: in order to help fund the monetary prize, LDC ran a number of professional development workshops and one-to-one consultations with practising graphic novelists. I went along to a workshop by Karrie Fransman in which she very generously shared her top tips for positioning your work and making it appealing to a publisher.

So now I feel very well equipped to go and give my elevator pitch and share the comic I’ve been working on for over a year, to anyone who might like to hear about it. It does feel like it’s about time it saw the light of day and got some feedback from people outside my own circle of friends and family!

Since creating the comic that I submitted for the award, I’ve continued to refine it, so I’ve actually put together a much fuller pitch package which I’ll be sharing with some publishers soon – ones that seem a good fit for this loss of innocence story that takes place against the background of the goth fashions, music and hairstyles of 1985.

While I was already working away on this graphic novel, I don’t think it would’ve been in anything like such a good state to share without Laydeez Do Comics giving me something to work towards, so great thanks to them.

PS, I should also mention that I’ll have a handful of Satin and Tat zines to sell. These are extra copies of my entry, so they contain the first 12 pages along with a synopsis etc. Talk about a very limited edition: there are only four or five available. As an extra incentive I’ll include a goth cut-out doll and one of the prints of the kimono’d bike rider as well.

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram - Satin and Tat

Satin and tat by Myfanwy Tristram

Retreating to Pulborough

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 Mathias, 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

Draw The Line: hooray for publicity

Like buses, they all come at once. I’ve had three excellent opportunities to speak about Draw The Line recently, and now you can choose whether to enjoy your update via the medium of print, podcast or in person.

What is Draw The Line, do you ask? Well, you can find out through any of the links below, but the short version is, it’s a project which brings together more than 100 comic artists, each showing a political action anyone can take if they want to make the world a better place. We are currently crowdfunding to publish it as a book.

On air

Panel Borders

Firstly, you can listen to this week’s episode of Panel Borders which broadcast on Resonance FM and is now available in podcast form, titled Comics Activism. It’s split into two parts: in the first section, I chat with presenter Alex Fitch all about Draw The Line, about the connections I made prior to this project with the Finnish comic scene, and about my own work in progress exploring my teen years as a goth down in the rural county of Devon.

In the second part, you can hear an interview with Joe Sacco, king of graphic reportage: it does feel slightly bizarre to be on the same show as such a lauded artist, but I am not complaining!

In print

Then A Place To Hang Your Cape, which as its name suggests, started as a place to discuss the superhero genre but now covers the whole comics scene, has published an interview which you can enjoy here. If you enjoy comics of any kind, there’s plenty more content to enjoy while you’re on the site.

In person

Finally, for those local to Brighton, I will be speaking at Sunday Assembly on March 24th as part of an event themed around Activism. Just five days before Brexit is scheduled to take place, it should be an interesting one!

For those who don’t know, Sunday Assembly is a non-religious monthly gathering which gives you all the community side of church – fellowship, interesting talks, music, charity, cake and tea – but without any religion. The Brighton chapter’s website is here, and you can also follow them on Facebook to be alerted of events before they happen.

I’ll be sharing a number of the Draw The Line images to show some of the more unusual ways you can make political change.

I hope one or more of these updates takes your fancy.

Spreading the word about the project like this helps us attract more pledgers so I’m always keen to hear of any other opportunities. If you know a journalist, publication or event that might be interested, please do let us know on drawthelinecomics@gmail.com. Thanks!

Memories of a teenage goth

I’ve been pretty quiet on here of late, mainly because I’m working away on one massive comics project that will be another several months before it’s ready to share.

I do sometimes post work in progress over at Instagram though, so anyone who follows me there may already know that I’m deeply immersed in my Eighties memories — and in particular, my life as a teenage goth.

Here’s some work in progress (click any image to see it bigger):
Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram - Satin and Tat

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram - Satin and Tat

Remember crimpers? All bunged up with Elnett hairspray…? I sure do.

But it’s not just set in the past; there are some present-day scenes too, and these have a different colour palette:

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram - Satin and Tat

Satin and tat by Myfanwy Tristram, work in progress

Talking of colour palettes: there was one image, in particular, which people on Instagram seemed to really take to; it’s a dream sequence right at the beginning of the story, when the main character (now middle aged) has been taken right back to her youth. She has a very graphic dream about cycling along the riverbanks in her goth finery.

The first version I drew of this was in these colours:

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram - Satin and Tat

… but I subsequently changed my mind, because I wanted to differentiate more between the past and the present within the story.

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram - Satin and Tat

I’m glad to say that people seem to like them both, and as I won’t have any actual new comics at the Lakes Festival this year I thought I’d offer both colourways as prints. They’ll be nice and affordable because they’re not fancy giclee or anything, just standard digital prints on nice card.

Also as a taster for the forthcoming comic (which SHURELY will be ready for the Lakes NEXT year…), I’m also going to be selling a paper cut-out doll based on all the clothes I wore back then.

So much of my memory of that time is hazy, but I can recall every single item of clothing with crystal clarity. I wanted to share the enjoyment I’ve had as I’ve drawn the leggings, split down the seams and laced back up, or the stripy mohair jumpers that everyone got their grans to knit them, and the pixie boots, oh, the pixie boots.

The dolls come with an extra cartoon (or more of a rant really) on the back — so you’ll have to buy a couple if you want to cut them up. But that’s ok, I’m also planning on making these super-cheap.

If you like these and you won’t be at the Lakes, don’t worry, I proooomise I’ll set up my online shop again after the festival. Just as soon as I’ve stopped having so much fun trawling through old copies of Smash Hits to find authentic hairstyles to draw.

Draw The Line update: catch us at the Lakes festival

Who remembers the Draw The Line project?

For those who need their memories refreshing, Draw The Line brings together more than 100 comic artists, each depicting positive actions that anyone can take to make the world a better place. It started as a website, and now we’re crowdfunding to make it into the most unusual and inspiring book you’ll ever have on your bedside table (pledge from as little as £10 to be part of it, folks!).

All profits go to the charity Help Refugees.

OK, so now we’re all up to speed.

Here’s the latest news about Draw The Line.

A load of the Draw The Line artists will be at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on October 13 and 14.

Not through any prior organisation of our own, you understand, but more because the Lakes is such a fun, friendly, enjoyable event, with so much going on, that it just seems several of us will be in the same place at the same time.

SO: come to the Lakes for a chance to have a chat with Steven Appleby, Rachael Ball, Hunt Emerson, Kripa Joshi, Simon Russell, Michi Mathias, Karen Rubins, Zara Slattery, and me.

Some of us will be wearing big embarrassing badges

So you’ll know we’re available to answer questions or explain more about Draw The Line, we’re putting sartorial concerns to one side. Just look for these whopping beauties on our lapels:

Ask me about Draw The Line

We’ll likely have leaflets too, so you can get the lowdown even if you don’t fancy a natter.

And some of us will be drawing pictures or selling goodies in support of Draw The Line

If pledging for the actual book is out of your budget, you can still come along and pay a little bit less and get something really unique.

At 3 – 4pm on the Saturday, come by our table to meet Steven Appleby and get an original drawing.

At 2.30- 3.30 on the Sunday, come and get a fat cat drawn by Simon Russell – you make an ink blot and Simon will do the rest!
fat cat by Simon Russell

At pretty much any time (‘cos it’s our table), Zara Slattery and I will be there. Zara’s going to be drawing her Alice character from her ‘Radical Roots’ Draw The Line contribution (click to see it at a larger size), and I’ll have notebooks featuring the hopeful cyclist from my ‘travel cross country’ strip.

Zara Slattery Radical RootsTravel Hopefully by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s a hastily-scrawled indication as to where we’ll be: basically the room on the left on the ground floor as you go into the Clocktower, same position as always:

Check out the windows

As if that’s not exciting enough, several Draw The Line artists will also be having their strips displayed on the windows trail — so look out for them in the shop displays as you walk through lovely Kendal.

Buy an excellent comic

It feels wrong to be putting this last on the list, because it’s so cool, but this is more to do with the Thought Bubble festival, running in Leeds this weekend as I write.

Aneurin Wright, one of Draw The Line’s artists, raced against time to bring out a comic he could sell at Thought Bubble, with proceeds going to Draw The Line.

He’s taken all the nuggets of wisdom he’s gleaned from comic artists speaking at various events, and put them together with illustrations drawn on the spot, so it’s a great way to enjoy the pictures while also learning more about the art of cartooning.

You can read more about it here, and the only reason I’m putting it right at the end like this is that I don’t know if he’ll have any copies left once Thought Bubble is over. The person to ask about that would be Nye himself. and you can buy it online here!

So… wow, that was a lot of information, wasn’t it? I hope I’ll see some of you in Kendal next month!

 

 

Draw the Line book – update

The crowdfunder for the Draw The Line book is still running. You can pledge on the Unbound page.

We’ve had a great start, but now we need to get the word further afield, so if you know anyone who a) is into comics, b) worries about the current political climate, c) would like to do something to help the refugee crisis (or perhaps all three) do please share the link with them: http://www.unbound.com/books/draw-the-line.

The Draw The Line book:

  • presents over 100 positive political actions anyone can take, from the obvious to the frankly unusual
  • has brought together over 100 comic artists from many countries, including some big names like Dave McKean, Fumio Obata, Kate Charlesworth, Hunt Emerson and Lucy Knisley
  • will be available as a gorgeous first edition hardback book
  • has waived all creator projects – 50% of all income will go directly to the charity Help Refugees.

As an extra sweetener, there are various add-on options which give pledgers the opportunity to benefit from really unique rewards like commissioned bespoke drawings, original artwork, talks and workshops from one of the Draw The Line artists, and even your own show from the star comedian (and artist) Jo Neary.

And now, please take a few minutes to drop an email, tweet or Facebook message to a person or group who you think might not have heard about Draw the Line. Thank you!

An update on Draw The Line — pledge to get copies of the books, original artwork, and art workshops/talks

The crowdfunder for the Draw The Line book is up and running. If you haven’t already pledged for your copy, please do go and take a look. For just £20 you can be in line for a hardback first edition of what promises to be a beautiful full-colour high quality volume — plus as a supporter, you get your name printed inside!

In this post I just want to take some time to explain where profits are going, and also, delve into some of the more exciting pledge rewards.

All artists offering commissions, original artwork and comics

All artists offering workshops and talks

Where the money goes

Something I didn’t mention in my last post, because it wasn’t quite arranged at that time, is that all the creator profits will be going to the charity Help Refugees.

This charity was chosen in a vote by all the Draw The Line artists. I was really pleased when I counted up the results, because although all the charity contenders were worthy, Help Refugees in particular reflects the project in a few important ways. First, it operates right across Europe, within many of the countries that our artists come from. Secondly, it’s a non-political, non-partisan charity which gives help to those who need it most. And thirdly, of course, the Draw The Line project contains several practical actions specifically aimed to help refugees and displaced people, including the lovely image by Karrie Fransman that we’ve used across so much of our press coverage and social media.

What do I mean when I say ‘all creator profits’ go to this charity? Well, just like any publishing house, Unbound divide profits between their authors and themselves. In the case of Draw The Line, it’s the author’s portion that will be going to Help Refugees.

So that’s all great — but I think it’s worth pointing out that when you pledge, you can also get something nice for yourself! There’s so much information to convey on the Unbound page that I thought I’d lay out a bit more about the rewards here. Some of them haven’t even been added there yet, in the interests of keeping the page comprehensible, but hopefully this post can act as a reference point.

Rewards

So first there’s the book. Unbound pride themselves on high-quality hardback first editions, so I have no doubt that the Draw The Line book will be a thing of beauty. You can choose to receive just the book, or the book with artist-designed bookplates, or if you’re short of space on your bookshelves, you can opt for the digital edition. All backers get their name included in the back of the book as someone who made the project come to fruition.

If you love the artwork of Draw The Line then you might like the ‘3 actions’ edition or the A4 print. With both of these options you get to choose the images you like the best, either in a pack of 3 small prints (details to be confirmed but I think A6), or as a single high-quality A4 print that you can frame up.

The easiest way to see all the images (so you can pick which ones you like, although I believe you won’t be asked to select them until just before we go into production) is here – just click to see any image at a larger size.

Next, we come onto the (not so) secret strength of Draw The Line: with so many artists in our cohorts, it makes sense for us to offer original artwork as a reward! At the moment we’ve only listed two of the opportunities here: the original A3 artwork from Roger Langridge’s contribution (which would look amazing in any home or public place) and a still life commission by master of ink and wash, Joe Decie.

Loads more of the artists have donated or offered artwork though: you can see them all listed here. But for now, on to the most unique rewards of all…

Artist talks and workshops

To my mind, these are the most exciting pledge rewards that we’re able to offer. If you select a talk or a workshop, a Draw The Line artist will come and give you and your friends/group/school/club/party all the benefit of their expertise.

Artists offering this reward include some really prestigious practitioners, like Woodrow Phoenix, Emily Haworth-Booth, Rachael Ball and David Blumenstein, (to name but a few) and they stretch up and down the UK as well as locations as far afield as Melbourne, Australia; Helsinki, Finland; and New Jersey USA.

There’s also me! My own talk will be about how to run a big, geographically-dispersed comics project like Draw The Line, but will be applicable to any large online project.

You can see all the various workshop and talk opportunities on one page here.

To make your pledge, go to the funding page on the Unbound website and choose ‘artist workshop’ or ‘artist talk’.

You’ll be contacted when the fundraising is complete, at which point we’ll nail down the details of which artist you’d like, and all the other practical details. As with all pledges on Draw The Line, the profits will go to Help Refugees, but in these cases the pledge also includes a small fee for the artist.

Happy pledging!

Get your hands on the Draw The Line book!

Draw The Line is approaching its next phase, as a printed book — here’s how you can get your hands on one.

You may remember the Draw The Line project, in which more than 100 artists from 16 different countries illustrated positive political actions that anyone can take. Draw The Line launched as a website, but the plan was always to also offer this toolkit of political activism in book form: in fact, my original vision was that you’d be able to read a page a day, get inspired, and then go and try out the action!

From the beginning, one of the nicest things about Draw The Line has been the wonderful community of artists who have generously contributed their time and skills. Now we’re crowdfunding to make the book a reality, and that same generosity means that there are some lovely rewards up for grabs when you pledge.

As we’re working in collaboration with the publisher Unbound, you can be sure that the finished product will be a high-quality, full-colour, hardback first edition. Additionally, you can opt to receive bookplates; prints of your favourite Draw the Line images; original artwork; or even commission a new piece.

The most unusual rewards, though, are those where one of the artists will give you and your friends a talk or a workshop, sharing their skills and knowledge (and you get a bundle of the books as well). These are dependent on where the artists live — each has stated how far they are willing to travel from their home — but as there are Draw The Line contributors in many areas of the UK, and in North and South America, Australia and Europe, we cover a lot of ground. We’ll contact anyone opting for this pledge to sort out the details.

In fact, we have so many different artists all offering so many different rewards, that we’re going to stagger their release. So, if nothing takes your fancy right now, keep coming back to see what’s new. Or pledge anyway, because you can change your pledge at any time during the fundraising period, if you see something you’d rather have chosen.

I’m really excited to see Draw The Line becoming a concrete reality. I hope you’ll also want your own copy of this book to inspire you not to give up hope in the current political climate, with work by Lucy Knisley, Kate Evans, Steven Appleby, Kate Charlesworth, Hannah Berry, Hunt Emerson, Karrie Fransman, Siiri Valjakka, Joe Decie, Nye Wright, Fumio Obata… and me! Not to mention all the many other amazing artists. Here’s where to make your pledge.

Talking about Draw The Line: Laydeez Do Comics, 9 April

Nothing planned this Monday? Then come and hear about the Draw The Line project! I’ll be one of two speakers at the regular Laydeez Do Comics meet-up in Vauxhall, London.

My talk is an extended version of the short one I gave at Caption last year: I’ll be offering practical tips for anyone else who’s thinking of running a big comics project like Draw The Line. Come and find out how to get 100+ artists to submit their work on time, to brief, and in the right format, a process that has been likened to the art of herding cats.

Also speaking will be the French comic book artist Camille Aubry. All are welcome — and in case you’re not familiar with Laydeez Do Comics, it’s important to note that you don’t have to be any kind of lady to attend. Free tickets can be reserved on Eventbrite.