Thank you so much to everyone who voted for us. Results were announced yesterday, and Draw The Line won in its category.
What’s really nice about this is that in one fell swoop, all the many Draw The Line artists now become award-winners!
No matter how much time and energy I put in, I never feel like I’m doing quite enough drawing, so it’s always good to look back over the year and realise quite how much paper (and pixels) I’ve stacked up! Here’s a quick run-through of how 2017 looked.
On the 1st, I took the Hourly Comic Day challenge, where you draw one frame for every hour you are awake.
Inevitably, my piece reflected some of the day’s political events:
I’ve definitely got the Hourly Comic Day bug now, and I hope to participate again on Feb 1st next year.
On the 21st, having been beavering away since October 2016, we launched the Draw The Line project website.
This is the biggest comics project I’ve ever attempted: it brought together 114 artists from many different countries, each depicting a positive political action that anyone can take.
I’m still hoping to put out the print version of Draw The Line, and in the new year I’ll be looking at ways to make that happen.
Draw The Line safely launched, I spent the next few months finishing my comic Ladies of the Lakes. Follow that link to read it all online in installments.
I also had it printed up so I could sell it at various festivals and stalls over the year – as you might expect, the Lakes Festival was where demand was highest.
Julie Gough’s Illustrated Women in History project mounted an exhibition and I contributed a small image of the Boston marathon runner Kathrine Switzer.
I was away so I couldn’t make the opening night, but here’s a picture from Myriad publishing’s Corinne, featuring many of the exhibitors (click to see it at a larger size):
and here’s a bit of my exhibited image from when it was still in progress:
This is the month when I shared some life drawing I’d done in pastels. I’ve been going along to life drawing sessions most weeks though, so there are plenty more where that came from. Here are a few (click to see them larger):
Some weeks I still come away with some awful drawings (and my attempts at the quick 3 or 5 minute poses seem to be getting worse and worse) but on the whole I do feel like I’m making progress.
I entered a strip into SelfMadeHero’s Jeremy Corbyn comic. Sadly it wasn’t selected for publication but at least I had fun drawing cat of the moment, El Gato.
I designed some nice postcards to sell alongside my comics at festivals. I still need to sort out a shop so I can sell these online too! Click to see them bigger.
My love/hate affair with the Comic/Cape/Observer Graphic Short Story contest continues and this year I once again submitted a strip. Needless to say it didn’t elicit even a quiver of notice! As usual, I did my round-up of other unsuccessful (and successful) entries once the shortlist had been announced.
I also spent every day of October doing an ink drawing in the name of Inktober, something I enjoyed (mostly, though it was occasionally a bit of a squeeze finding the time every day) and which I think taught me quite a bit about composition. That was my vague aim so I’ll count that as a win.
‘Only’ seven months after returning from a trip to Florence, I finished the sketch diary I’d been drawing. I also sadly concluded that I probably won’t do any more of these in the near future – they just take up way too much time and the result, while very nice to have, doesn’t really help to further my work.
This month I also spoke at the Graphic Brighton / Caption event. My topic was Draw The Line and specifically how to organise a large comics project from a distance. I’d like to do more talks like this so I’ll be actively pursuing a few opportunities next year.
Recent readers will recall that I made, and blogged, a four-colour linocut Christmas card. Despite a few hairy moments (literally in some cases, when the cats wandered past still-drying ink) I enjoyed this and would love to have time to get better at working with this medium.
I received the very welcome news that Draw The Line had been nominated for a Broken Frontier award. The results will be revealed in January.
And in my last drawing task of the year, I made a party invitation for my daughter:
It’s been a great year, and one aspect which perhaps isn’t reflected in this account of solitary work sitting at my desk, is how sociable and supportive comics people are. It’s been a pleasure to meet and chat with so many of them this year.
Deserving a special mention are Zara Slattery, who has been my accomplice at pretty much every comics event I’ve attended (not to mention all the lifts home from life-drawing classes!), and Simon Russell, who was on a one-man mission to make small press comic-selling more viable with his pop-up stalls.
And now… forward into 2019! Hope it’s a goodie.
The self-imposed drawing tasks come thick and fast for me at this time of year. No sooner have I sent out my Christmas cards than it’s a race to draw my daughter’s birthday invitations in time for her to hand them out at school before term ends.
This year she’s having a party at the local trampolining centre, and here’s what I came up with:
I’ve left it blank, so feel free to print it out and use it if you are having your own trampoline party! All I ask is that you keep the web address on the side there, so people know where the pictures came from.
For my own invitations, I added text between the figures with all the details of where and when the party was, etc, and there are faint guidelines so you can fold it into three. It then fits into a nice standard-sized envelope.
And now, some process pics.
I inked over these with a lightbox and coloured them in digitally.
Then went to print them out. Oops, I guess my printer is low on yellow ink:
[Inserts yellow ink] Oops, I guess my printer is low on magenta:
[sends husband to buy ink]
Phew, finally. And here they are all printed out:
(I’ve removed some of the text just in case of random internet malefactors!)
I’m delighted and surprised to discover that Draw the Line has been shortlisted for ‘best web comic’ in the Broken Frontier Awards for 2017, which seek to celebrate indie and alternative comic-making.
Read all about it and see the nominees in various categories here — and then click the blue button to cast your vote. There’s no minimum to how many categories you can vote in, and it’s anonymous: you don’t have to register, so it couldn’t be easier.
For some reason, when it’s time to make Christmas cards, my first thought is always to turn to linocuts. It’s a shame that my first thought doesn’t happen about four weeks earlier than it does, mind you, because I’d really like to spend a bit more time getting my technique nailed down.
That said, this is the first time I’ve tried doing a linocut of more than one colour, and to my amazement — despite a few nailbiting moments — it worked.
It’s a multi-step process, and as usual, I’ve been using the time I have each morning before work to get it done. That’s had the side effect that for much of the time I was working in a just-woken-up fog, so for my sake as much as for yours, I’m recording the process for future reference.
Sometime in early November, I was idly doodling in a notebook and out came a sketch I rather liked. Note to self, that would have been a good time to get started. But no, I didn’t think of it again until early December. As soon as I finish this blog post I’m going to put a note in my calendar for next year. Watch me dazzle everyone with efficiency in autumn 2018.
December came around, and I thought I’d try drawing up a colour picture from that initial sketch. I used pencil crayons (and less successfully, felt pens) to finalise the design.
I had some inks left over from previous projects, so I had some idea of what colours I’d be using. I tried out overlaying them in my sketchbook, so I could see the different colours that could be achieved with varying degrees of water or white ink mixed in.
As with many art media, you are supposed to make prints by putting down the lightest colour first (and in the end that’s what I ended up doing) but I did note that the yellow could be overlaid over the light blue to make quite a pleasant green. Anyway, look how many different tones you can make with just two colours and white!
I traced the picture so that I had three versions – one for each main colour (the 4th colour is the nose, so no complicated working out there).
At this point, if I was confident, I could have gone straight to carving, but because I’d never done a multilayered print before I thought I’d scan in the tracing paper and colour each layer in Photoshop to ensure that they lined up as I was expecting.
It worked! Mind you, this is in the lovely clean world of Photoshop, with each colour set to 50% opacity, which I didn’t know I’d be able to achieve with the inks. Then again, it was a relief to think that even if the lino prints didn’t really work out, I could always print these from my computer!
The two main things to remember when carving the lino are that a) you have to do it back to front, so the reindeer pointed to the right; and b) you remove the parts where you don’t want any ink. That might sound obvious but in my experience it’s easy to get confused! And a) is particularly important if you are including writing. Not a consideration for me this time, thank goodness.
I happened to have a roll of newsprint around, so I tried out various colour combinations and the order of overlays. I’m quite glad I did this, as it meant I had some techniques for higher-quality results all worked out by the time I moved onto proper, more expensive paper.
My top tips here are: a) keep some tissue around to wipe clean the parts where you don’t want ink, because as you make prints it tends to accumulate; b) make little corner marks when you position the first piece of lino, so you can line up the subsequent ones; c) keep the ink reasonably light, but roll over the paper multiple times to make sure you’ve covered every part; d) after you’ve finished, wash the lino with a damp cloth, but don’t get it too wet or it will start curling up. I let mine flatten out under a pile of heavy books.
First colour down:
2nd colour (after a 24 hour wait so the first colour could dry):
And third. Thank goodness, it worked! I’d been a bit worried looking at the two-colour prints, but it was the darker blue that tightened it all up.
The final touch was the red nose on each. I did carve a wee circle but in the end it was easier just to paint these by hand:
And there you go – finished. If you receive a Christmas card from me this year, now you know what went into it. Don’t expect one quite yet though… they’re taking a little time to dry… relatedly, I may also need to remove a few cat hairs :)
My final tip is to make loads more than you think you’ll need. I did this and I still came out with slightly fewer perfect ones than the number of people on my list. Hopefully people will like the imperfect ones just as much. And let’s not even mention the several prints I did before thinking through which end of a piece of paper they’d need to be to be able to fold them into a card…
I would like to take some more time to get better at lino cuts: some of the ones I’ve seen online are so clear cut (literally) and adept, while these are much less predictable and every one is different. Not necessarily a bad thing but it’d be nice to be more in control.
I’ll be one of several comic artists giving a short talk as part of the Graphic Brighton/Caption event this Friday evening. Do come along if you’re local; it looks like it’s going to be fun.
Well, Graphic Brighton is normally a full scale academic comics conference; and Caption is usually an Oxford-based comics festival. I don’t know the reasons why, but I do know that neither of them is running in their normal format this year. Instead they’re coming together for this evening of talks and panels.
At the Phoenix, Brighton’s office-block-turned-artists’-studios, from 6:00 to 10:00 pm on Friday. Admission is free but a £2 donation is appreciated.
Well that’s a question I’m asked often, but let’s assume you meant it literally. I’ll be giving one of the ‘lightning talks’ (we each have just a few minutes) and my chosen topic is the Draw The Line project.
Specifically, I’ll be talking about how to manage a big comics project, a process which more than one person likened to ‘herding cats’, ie quite difficult and potentially chaotic.
This is where it gets really good. You can see the whole programme here.
A bit of cash, because all the artists (including me) will be selling their comics, and there may not be a card-paying option. I imagine drinks will be available on the night too.
See you there!
This is the last part of the series. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed accompanying me on my trip to Florence.
I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my last sketch diary for a while. While I love to make them, and am pleased to have them as mementoes of our family holidays, as my ambitions grow in terms of how much detail I want to include, so they take more and more time.
I’m still only able to dedicate around 90 minutes a day to artwork, on top of the dayjob, household duties, etc. This Diary took six months (pretty much – the time was interrupted by a couple of other deadlined comic projects which I recorded here) to draw, followed by a further month or more cleaning it up, and there’s still tons I’d redraw or tidy if it was headed for publication anywhere more formal than my own blog. That doesn’t leave much time in a year for any other kind of work. I’ve even been on another three trips since Florence (including an eminently diarisable and puffin-heavy trip to Berwick and surrounds) which I can’t record with this amount of detail. And that’s what I’d want to do. One solution would be to pull out small strands or record less, I suppose, but I don’t feel massively inclined to do that.
So unless someone can find a way to conjure up more hours in every day, that’s it for this particular artform, for now at least. Hopefully that will mean more smaller projects and in turn that will mean more frequent updates on this blog, so it’s not all bad!
Here’s day 8 of the trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.
Here’s day 7 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.
Come back tomorrow when the conference begins.
Here’s day 6 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.
Here’s day 5 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.
Read on to Day 6, when I switch over into ‘work trip’ mode.
Here’s day 2 of our trip. If you missed day 1, you can see it here.
Now go to day 3 for stuffed courgette flowers and a long trudge to the suburbs.
In April 2016, I took a trip to Florence, Italy. This is my sketch diary. I hope you enjoy it.
Intro page. In case you don’t recognise it(!), the dark lumpy thing that one of the cherubs is holding is supposed to be a truffle.
Joe’s concern is very British:
Now read part 2: a sweary neighbour and some desirable stationery.
Who remembers Clovember, in which the idea was to draw your clothes every day through the month of November?
Well, perhaps I’m a sucker for these portmanteau-titled month-long challenges, because along came Inktober (draw something in ink daily for 31 days) and I did my usual thing (“No promises; I might just do one or two”), before immediately feeling that I had no other choice but to complete the challenge.
You can choose to work from a list of daily prompts, but I made a swift and unconsidered decision to base my images on photographs from the news. My motivation was twofold:
– News photographs often contain people in dramatic but unposed compositions, which hopefully would teach me new angles and ways in which humans intersect, to carry through to my work in comics;
– We see so many images online every day; by drawing them, I wouldn’t be able to just scroll by and hardly understand what I was seeing. Instead, I’d be thinking about each person as I drew them.
– Compositions where one or more people were in the foreground with others in the background, ie differences of scale;
– Complicated scenes where it is hard to tell which body part belongs to whom
– Interesting clothes, faces, poses and expressions.
The only Inktober rule is that you use ink. In most cases, I went straight to pen without any pencil drawing first, although there are a few exceptions to this, especially early in the month.
Drawings took between 20 minutes and an hour. I managed a daily drawing despite being ill for two of the days, home late on one of them (resulting in a late-night drawing) and away with work and comics stuff for another four.
Here are all the month’s pictures arranged chronologically in a gallery: you can click on one and then you’ll be able to click through them all at full size.
This Sunday, the winner of the 10th annual Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest will be announced — the (extra long – I’m sure it’s only been 6 previously?) shortlist can be seen on Paul Gravett’s Facebook page or in Orbital Comics in London, and is as follows:
My first thought? That there are more professional and previously-published comic artists that previously. Also — why do artists never update their blogs? Only one of the above has actually mentioned being on the shortlist as far as I can see.
(Edited to add: I’ve now heard from two of the shortlisted artists that they didn’t know they were on the shortlist – and in one case, only found out when it was too late to see their work on display).
I like to recognise the not insubstantial amount of work and hope that has gone into every entry, even those that didn’t dent the shortlist. In previous years, this exercise has brought to light a wonderful, long list of diverse and highly readable strips that might never otherwise have been evident to many readers. It’s also brought invitations to artists for at least one (that I know of) collaborative comic.
Here are the entries I know about so far. I’ll add more as I find them — and if you would like me to add yours to the list, please send me the link.
I don’t think I’ve ever been reviewed on a podcast before, so it’s thrilling to have been featured on the Lakes Comic Art Festival one – you can hear Ian and Nikki struggling with my name here, just after Nikki declares that she’d like to keep Darryl Cunningham locked up in a dungeon… dangerous stuff for me to have been listening to while out for a run, because running and laughing are not terribly compatible.
I’m in good company, what with reviews of the Corbyn comic and Darryl’s latest in the same segment. That all comes pretty early on, but if you keep listening you also get a run-down of festival highlights from real insiders, so I recommend that. Heck, you might as well go and listen to the entire back catalogue, since they’ve covered many top-quality comics makers across the 13 previous episodes too.
The Lakes festival is going to be loads of fun this year: not only are there so many great events in the programme, but there will also be some fantastic comic-makers selling their wares.
Well, from me, you’ll be able to get comics, stickers, postcards and posters. Here’s a quick run-down of everything I’m planning to pack into my bulging suitcases.
Ladies of the Lakes If you enjoyed the serialised story from last year’s festival, now’s your chance to buy it in print form with a beautiful matte cover that makes you want to stroke it all day.
Two Birds Zara and I are in the process of having our first joint comic reprinted – all the same content, but in a larger format. One for the completist collector — or anyone who found the lettering a little too small in the original.
I have two sets of designs this year. The first are, well, I can best describe them as having a loose theme of ‘things everyone likes’. Everyone likes a picnic, right? No-one hates a rainbow. And who would turn a puffin down?
These are beautifully printed by Moo and also have that matte finish that I love.
And the second series are my best-sellers but recoloured for a fresh look. They’re smaller than the ones above, standard postcard size:
These are just great for sticking on laptops, sketchbooks, skateboards, and anywhere else you want to project a comics-positive message. Give them to your child and then watch it come back to bite you when you tell them to read a prose book for their homework (why yes, I do speak from experience).
… so, I look forward to seeing you at the Lakes, if you can make it. Remember to bring cash, and lots of it — I know from experience that there will be plenty to tempt you beyond our own table.
Do not fret. All of these will also be available online after I return.
As you may have noticed (although you’d have to be quite the Myfanwy Tristram superfan if you had, and I’m not sure I have any), I’ve removed my shop from this website for now.
This is because the software I was previously using changed from being a free service to a paid-for one, which is entirely reasonable on their behalf, just not very suitable for people with modest selling ambitions.