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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Sadly, I won’t be at Thought Bubble this weekend — just jealously reading the tweets of everyone who is there, instead. I’m fascinated to know how the new citycentre venue works out, and not least whether the proximity to cashpoints (not a strong point of the previous venue) results in more sales all round!
But I digress. I’m posting because it just occurred to me today that of course, my strip Hashtag Underdog, is in this year’s official anthology. It was actually way back in 2015 that it came second in the Thought Bubble Comic Art competition, but last year’s anthology was a special commemorative edition and didn’t include the winners as it normally would have.
But, wait a year, and here it is (now perhaps you can see why I had forgotten until today).
There’s lots of other good stuff in it as well of course, AND the proceeds go to Barnardo’s, so make sure you pick one up if you’re going to be at the festival. If you’re not, you can buy a digital version here — and it also sounds like they will be available via the major comic shops too.
Meanwhile, you can peruse this year’s entries to the competition on the Thought Bubble website, and that’s just what I’m going to do now, to see if I can figure out who is most likely to be featured in the 2018 anthology.
Judging by some of the comments online, a lot of people find Jeremy Corbyn rather upsetting.
Personally, I find him quite comforting, and it was only recently that I realised why this is: he has a lot in common with my mum.
My mum rides a bike, tucks her trousers into her socks so they don’t get caught in the chain, is an active member of CND, and, for many years she had an allotment.
On balance, I think I’d far rather Jezza than Theresa May, both as a parent and as a PM. If your mum is more into asymmetrical necklines, holding hands with US presidents and running through fields of wheat, I can see how you might feel differently.
Such was my train of thought when I found out that comic publisher SelfMadeHero was calling for strips on the theme of Jeremy Corbyn for a compendium book they’re planning on selling at the Labour Party conference.
In the end, though, I went for a storyline featuring Corbyn’s famous cat El Gato. I just learned yesterday that it hadn’t been selected: it looks like SelfMadeHero had a really whopping response, so although I am sad that Corbyn, not to mention El Gato, won’t get to see my work, I’m not entirely surprised (and besides, I’ll forgive them anything given that they’re about to bring out a graphic biography of my favourite singer of all time).
So never mind: here’s my submission anyway — click each page to see it at a slightly larger size.
If you’re similarly one of the unselected and you’d like people to see your work anyway, do feel free to link to it in the comments below. I’d love to read it!
Now that Ladies of the Lakes is largely out of the way (I am going to redraw two or three frames and add a cover before I send it to the printers), I’ve finally had time to play with my new laptop.
We’re very lucky at my workplace, in that they provide us with a laptop to work on: our choice of model, up to a price limit. If we want to, we can add our own money on top to get a more expensive one, and that’s how I have come into possession of a machine that I’d never have considered buying outright for my own purposes only – the Microsoft Surface Book.
I’m enjoying it for my work needs, and getting used to the fact that it’s a tablet/laptop hybrid: you can remove the screen and use it on its own, and even with the keyboard part attached, you can still navigate and interact via the touchscreen.
But what I’m enjoying it for outside my work hours is the fact that, with the special pen it comes bundled with, you can draw directly onto the screen. Now, it’s not like I’ve never done any digital drawing, but this is different from what I’m used to with my desktop, where I plug in a Wacom tablet sometimes: there, you’re drawing on the flat surface in front of you, but seeing the results come up on the monitor.
I wanted some time to figure out the set-up, and after frustrating experiences finding out, for example, that my version of the Photoshop Elements program wasn’t compatible with the Surface Pen, and researching various other apps, I came across Leonardo, which was specifically developed with the Surface Book in mind.
Cannily, they offer a trial period, perhaps in the knowledge that once you try it out you’ll be hooked. Leonardo doesn’t offer quite everything I’m used to in Photoshop (for example there’s no way to export in CMYK, no importing of brushes, and no clone stamp – plus lots of other features no doubt that I haven’t yet come across) but I do like the ‘infinite canvas’ which ensures you never run out of space to draw on, and I’m finding the shortcut menus really handy.
Here’s me giving it some trial runs:
No need to tell you what my train of thought was at this point – you can see for yourself.
And then I decided to try it out on a cover for Ladies of the Lakes (I drew in pencil, scanned in and then coloured over the top – this is it mid-colouring):
and finally I’ve been mucking about with an idea for the flyleaves:
Still needs a bit of work but I’m impressed with what you can do on a screen. I think my next challenge is going to be learning how to make brush strokes look a bit more natural and less ‘digital’.
It’s quite an odd feeling to package a picture up and hope that it arrives at its destination safely, but I’m delighted to have been asked to loan a drawing to the forthcoming exhibition ‘The Inking Woman’, at the Cartoon Museum in London. Not least because of its excellent name: extra biscuits to whoever thought that up!
The exhibition will show cartoon and comics work by women artists from the 19th and 20th centuries to the present day: I haven’t seen the full list of exhibitors yet, but I know that it will feature lots of my comics friends and associates including the brilliant Zara Slattery, Karrie Fransman, Kate Evans, Paula Knight and Hannah Eaton. It looks like it will also travel briefly, as I’ve loaned my work until the end of 2018.
I’m pleased, because this bright drawing didn’t scan brilliantly and so the version I show on screen isn’t as satisfactory as the original. Those who encounter it in the real world will also be able to see where I stuck paper over messy bits of wording, for a second attempt!
(And yes yes, I’m also pleased because it’s an exhibition that celebrates women in comics! More of this sort of thing).
Here is the final part:
In which we are on the last leg of our trip home, and continue to hit problems.
… and that was the end of our trip, but there’s an epilogue, so please do come back one more time tomorrow.
In which things start to go awry.
In which we experience the typical Lake District weather.
In which I have a mini comics epiphany.
Here’s part three of our trip to Kendal.
Now here’s part 4
As long-time readers will know, I often record holidays in the form of a sketch diary.
Now, my trip up to the town of Kendal in the Lake District last October wasn’t exactly a holiday; I was there for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, selling comics. Nonetheless, so much happened in the 4 days away from home that I felt I wanted to record it.
And while my sketch diaries normally comprise just as much text as they do images, it seemed appropriate to do this one entirely in the form of a comic. That partly explains why it has taken almost six months to finish it: the other reason, of course, was that a few weeks in, admin for Draw The Line started taking up all my spare time and I had to put it aside.
Never mind – it’s done now: all 34 pages of it. I’m going to serialise it in 8 parts and I hope you enjoy it.
There’s been quite a bit of press on the launch of Draw The Line, which has really helped spread the word. Some of the more notable examples:
Thanks also to everyone who is sharing Draw The Line on social media — it’s been great to see the images get such wide coverage. As a reminder,they’re all covered under a Creative Commons licence, which means that anyone is welcome to share them on their own website or elsewhere, so long as the artist is credited and the use is non-commercial.
We’re also on pretty much every social media channel ourselves, so if you’d like to see the images at a steady pace of a couple per day, you can follow Draw The Line on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.
I’ve already shared my own work for Draw The Line so here are a couple more that I really like (although in truth, it is hard to pick: I am fond of so many of them).
Image by Nicholas Sputnik Miller
Image by Karen Rubins
And of course you can see all the rest at www.drawthelinecomics.com.