2017 – a year in drawing

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.

February

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:

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

I’ve definitely got the Hourly Comic Day bug now, and I hope to participate again on Feb 1st next year.

Draw The Line logo by Karrie Fransman

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.

April

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.

Ladies of the Lakes by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

Kathrine Switzer by Myfanwy Tristram banner

May

The Inking Woman exhibition opened in London’s Cartoon museum, and I was honoured to have a piece included in it. This coming March, an accompanying book will be published.

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:

go cross country by Myfanwy Tristram

April

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):

life drawing by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

August

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.

Corbyn and el Gato header by Myfanwy Tristram

September

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.

Myfanwy Tristram cards

October

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.

November

‘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.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

herding cats banner image by Myfanwy Tristram

December

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.

Lino cuts by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

Trampoline party invitation design

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:

trampoline party invitation by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

Sketches:

by Myfanwy Tristramby Myfanwy Tristram

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!)

Broken Frontier Awards 2017

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.

Four colour linocut Christmas card

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.

1. The original sketch

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.

reindeer skecth by Myfanwy Tristram

2. Colour tests

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.

pencil crayon reindeer sketch by Myfanwy Tristram

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!

Myfanwy Tristram

 

3. Tracing paper

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).

Myfanwy Tristram

4. Photoshop

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.

Myfanwy Tristram

Of course, prints come out back to front, so I had to flip these over before transferring them onto the lino. After that I carved away the parts where I didn't want any ink, ie the parts that would be white on the page.

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!

5. Carving

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.

Lino cuts by Myfanwy Tristram

6. Test prints

 by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

7. Print!

First colour down:

 by Myfanwy Tristram

2nd colour (after a 24 hour wait so the first colour could dry):

 by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

 by Myfanwy Tristram

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:

Myfanwy Tristram linocut reindeer cards

Myfanwy Tristram linocut reindeer cards

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.

Graphic Brighton/Caption 2017

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.

What?

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.

Where and when?

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.

What are you talking about, Myf?

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.

Myfanwy Tristram

 

Who else?

This is where it gets really good. You can see the whole programme here.

As you may notice, the rundown includes many of the artists who contributed to Draw The Line, including Rachael Ball, Jaime Huxtable, Daniel Locke, Michi Mathias and Hannah Berry.

What should I bring?

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!

 

Florence sketch diary: last day in Florence, and thoughts about sketch diaries

This is the last part of the series. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

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!

Florence sketch diary, days 8 & 9: busy busy conference

Here’s day 8 of the trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramFlorence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramFlorence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramFlorence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramCome back tomorrow for the very last day (and some thoughts about drawing this kind of sketch diary).

Florence sketch diary, day 7: you will not believe what we can do with balloons

Here’s day 7 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Come back tomorrow when the conference begins.

Florence sketch diary, day 6: switching to work mode

Here’s day 6 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramFlorence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram(Apologies for the wavy text, here and elsewhere: it’s because these pages are photographed rather than scanned, and not always perfectly flat)

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram(The usual apologies to my colleagues – and any other *real people* I might represent — for my failed attempts at capturing a likeness)

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramCome back tomorrow for a big surprise at the conference venue!

Florence sketch diary, day 5: the holy grail

Here’s day 5 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Read on to Day 6, when I switch over into ‘work trip’ mode.

Florence sketch diary, day 4: deluxe cakes, gardens and posh frocks

Here’s day 4 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Read the next entry for a big discovery, plus the only cat in Florence.

Florence sketch diary, part 1: the one-trouser strategy

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.

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Joe’s concern is very British:

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Now read part 2: a sweary neighbour and some desirable stationery.

A completed Inktober

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.

Oct 28: Hundreds of migrants are stranded in Budapest after police stop trains leaving for Austria and Germany in a bid to prevent them from travelling onwards.

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.

Oct 30: French president Emmanuel Macron plays it cool when catching a whiff of marijuana during a visit to French Guiana, warning youngsters that it won’t help with their schoolwork.

The kind of pictures I chose


As always with this kind of project, it took a few days for me to settle in and understand exactly what I was doing. After a week or so, I began to know exactly what sort of photographs I was scouting for (a process that often took as long as the actual drawing). Elements that attracted me were:
– Crowds of people, often swarming around a central point: an interviewee surrounded by journalists with recording devices; a protester being manhandled by multiple police officers; a speaker being harangued by opponents;

Oct 23: Demonstrators on both sides demonstrate outside a university where white supremacist Richard Spencer was speaking.

– Compositions where one or more people were in the foreground with others in the background, ie differences of scale;
Oct 19: An outbreak of plague has killed 74 people in Madagascar.

– Complicated scenes where it is hard to tell which body part belongs to whom
Oct 6: Syrian Democratic Forces help a shell-shocked comrade to his feet.

– Interesting clothes, faces, poses and expressions.
Oct 14: High court judges take a selfie at the valediction ceremony for Mr Justice Bodey.

How I worked

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.

Oct 3: People filling containers with water in an area hit by the hurricane in Puerto Rico

What I learned


– This sort of project always requires you to set aside concerns about sharing work that isn’t perfect or as good as you’d like (unless you have all day to redraw the images that don’t come out as you’d like);
– But equally, in the doing, sometimes images emerge that really surprise you, drawn in a way you probably wouldn’t otherwise have arrived at;
– By sharing them on Instagram or Twitter, you get immediate feedback in the form of a ‘like’ count, and the ones which followers like are not always the same as the ones you like yourself;
– Drawing hands will never be easy.

Oct 22: Pole dancing could become an Olympic event. A member of the Chinese national pole dancing team practices.

Next time


I really hope I can immediately apply some of the experience from this Inktober to my drawings. And next time, I’d like to choose a theme that encouraged me to loosen up rather than to lean towards my natural tendency of tight detail like this. So, perhaps something more imaginary and fanciful. Can someone remind me of that on Sept 30 2018, please?

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.

Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story contest – round-up

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:

(Edited to add)
The winner: If You’re So Wise, How Come You’re Dead? by Tor Freeman

Runner-up: Dennis and June by EmilyBob

Shortlist:

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).

The non-shortlisted entrants

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.

Find your way home – a new strip

Still can’t crack the Observer/Cape/Comica contest! Oh well, here’s my entry from this year. Click the pages and then click again to see them at full size.

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p1

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p2

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p3

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p4

I’ll probably do my usual round-up of other entries in a blog post, so let me know if you’ve put yours online and I’ll link to it.

Get me, I’m in a podcast!

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.

What you’ll be able to buy at the Lakes Comic Arts festival

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.

My partner-in-comics Zara Slattery and I have a table on the ground floor of the clocktower building again; you can see where we’ll be, and everyone else, on this plan (PDF).

So what can you buy?

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.

Comics


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.


Everything my 10 year-old daughter wore in November The pocket-sized comic with the extra-long name. She’s 12 now, but you can still enjoy this glimpse into a tween’s eccentric clothing habits.

Two Birds by Zara Slattery and Myfanwy Tristram
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.


#HelloWorld A post-apocalyptic short story that (literally) unfolds into an Instagram feed.

Postcards

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:

Stickers

comics totes count sticker by Myf TristramComics best thing ever Sticker by Myf Tristramcomics literally the best sticker by Myf Tristram

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.

If you can’t be there

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.