80s comic part 2: what medium?

While thinking about character design, I was also giving lots of thought to what medium I’d use. Here are some experiments with digital colouring.

I was impressed to find that the digital drawing app I use, Leonardo, can do a very convincing pencil crayon effect:

In the end though, I decided I don’t have enough expertise with digital drawing to make a whole comic look as good as I want it to. Always one for the time-consuming and effortful method, I’ve plumped for gouache.

Time trials

Map sample by Myfanwy Tristram

tryouts by Myfanwy Tristram

Having my portfolio up on the Brighton Illustrators’ Group website has really been working for me recently, and I’ve had a couple of jobs from it in the last fortnight.

When a new commission comes in, there are lots of things to talk about with the client – scope of the project, the deadline, how they envisage it  looking – and then there’s cost.

In theory, it ought to be easy for me to set a price: I have a day rate, so I can charge by the hour… but the problem is, of course, at the beginning, you are never quite sure how many hours the job will take.

The part that I find hardest to quantify, and the part that is perhaps hardest to justify to a client, happens before you sit down and start on the finished piece. Above, you can see just a few of the many tests I did to find the right colour, medium and style for the work. All together, they added up to many hours.

Now, what do you do? Half of me thinks it’s right to include these in the cost. But I also have a nagging voice which says ‘If you were a better illustrator, you wouldn’t need to have this period of experimentation. You’d just sit down and make a start’.

In my heart, I know that won’t be true, unless every project you embark on is in the same style. Some illustrators do work very happily in their signature style for an entire career, and I guess that’s where this voice comes from: there’s a part of me that believes that I should be selling my accomplishment, not my experiments. There’s another part of me that thinks experiments are what make a work the best it can be.

It has taken me a long time to see this initial period, when you know what you’re striving for, but are not quite sure how you are going to get there, as a natural part of the creative process, and not a reason to panic because things don’t come out as you think they should, the very first time you put your brush to the paper.

Map sample by Myfanwy Tristram

Here is a small peek at the final style I decided on, after all that colour mixing, medium-swapping and style-hopping. And supressed panicking. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to skip the panic phase all together.That’d be nice.

Jonathan Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story competition

The shortlisted entrants for the Jonathan Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story competiton (that is *such* a mouthful. I think they need to rebrand it as ‘Plonk’ or something) have been decided.

For me, as someone with a history in cartooning, it looms large as ‘THE competition’. This year I was determined to enter, because, apart from anything else, it’s super to have such a well-defined comics project to work on. I’m not sure I’d have the impetus to sit down and work on a four-page graphic short story without a good reason.

Anyway, now that the shortlist has been announced, I feel I can blog my entry – there’s a clause in the rules about the work not having been published anywhere before, and I’m always a bit paranoid that that might mean ‘even on your own blog’.

I’d also like to use this blog post to collect links to other entries – so, if you entered and your work is online, leave a comment. I’ll keep editing the post to add new links as they become apparent. Here’s what I’ve found so far, via a quick Google (there must be LOADS more than this… please shout if you have a strip I can add).

Now here’s mine. It’s called ‘Overstock’. Click to see each page larger.

Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 1

Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 2

Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 3Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 4

Birds

After the first week of the course, I went away and started thinking and drawing and thinking some more. I’ve had this one idea for a children’s picture book for ages (along with many others), and now seems like a really good time to explore it.

It’s a funny thing: the course itself? It’s just three of us in the room with the tutor (one of the women who was there for the first week didn’t turn up this second week). That’s all.

But I know that I am going to get more done, and with more freedom and a better chance of success than if, say, I’d decided I was going to draw at home for three hours every Tuesday night until I’d made a book.

Plus, there’s something about speaking an idea that shows it up for what it is – naked, shivering against the wall, nowhere to hide. And there’s something about people answering back to your idea that catapults it off into new directions.

The book I want to make is about a bird.

So after that first week, I went home and I drew these:

birds

Well ok, so far so good, but, y’know, I’ve drawn something like this before.

And I doodled a lot – I had to work in London on one day, so on the train up there and back I could draw.

And at the weekend, I sat down and I drew this:

kite

(You can click on all the images in this blog to see them bigger – or, in this case, to see how poorly I have stitched together the various scans it took to get this large image in.)

And, while they were fun to do, I didn’t feel happy, or like I’d discovered anything new, or happened upon a style I wanted to use for the book.

I felt, I dunno, like they were really constrained, and flat. I wanted to scale them up six times bigger and work with a paintbrush the size of my arm.

The night before the next class, I started thinking, well, kites are made of paper, right? And I started piecing together this:

Fevvers by Myfanwy Tristram

And, ooh!

That, that has lit a firecracker under me. A slow-burning one, sure, but put that together with some ill-advised insomniac eBay purchasing, and I have thought of a route that I find really, really exciting. All will be revealed, at some point…

Meanwhile, a couple of us actually cracked open the paints at the class this week. I started drawing without much thought, but I like what came out.

Oddly enough, it is the opposite of the huge, splashy, free painting I thought I wanted to do.

Paddyfields by Myfanwy Tristram

Someone saw it on my Instagram feed and said that at first glance, they’d thought it was a rug. Wouldn’t that be nice?

A surprising thing

Gudrun Sjoden tunic by Myfanwy Tristram

Gudrun Sjoden tunic by Myfanwy Tristram

All right, so this lovely thing happened.

I’ve had this Gudrun Sjoden dress pinned to my wish I could justify that Pinterest board for.. well, for 25 weeks, according to Pinterest itself.

Something about the pattern and the colours really appealed to me, and the cut is one of the few that actually suits my frame.

It had become a benchmark in my mind – I’d see a cheaper dress that I liked, in a shop, and think, ‘yeah, but if I buy two like that, I might as well buy the Cirkus dress, and the Cirkus dress is definitely twice as nice as that, so..’

As we know, it’s quite easy to justify any purchase with this sort of logic eventually. ‘Ooh, I’m so good, I didn’t buy these fourteen things I briefly liked the look of, so now I can definitely reward myself with the thing I really want’.

And that’s the stage I’d reached last week. The Gudrun sale was on, my resolve had weakened, and I was going to buy the dress.

Until… disaster!

The tweet says it all. The leggings were still available, the tunic was there, but there was no dress to be had. And that’s when the amazing thing happened. Gudrun Sjoden tweeted me to say they’d look out for a dress and send it to me, if I’d draw it here.

Talk about an offer you can’t refuse – why, even if I’d bought it with my own money, you know I’d be sitting down to draw that thing.

Now in the end, they couldn’t actually locate a dress in my size, and they sent me the tunic. I have to say, I wouldn’t have chosen the tunic myself, BUT, now I’ve tried it, I’m sold. It comes with a belt, and you can wear the tunic Robin Hood style, a little bit pulled over the belt, which – rather than emphasise voluminous post-baby tummy, which I suppose was my fear – actually looks rather nice. This tunic is going to be paired with black skinny jeans and boots all autumn long.

It *was* fun to draw – though you’ll note that I didn’t draw the whole pattern. Artistic licence!

Gudrun Sjoden bag by Myfanwy Tristram

To make the whole thing even more special, it came in not only a floral-patterned envelope, but a polka dot tote bag. It’s as if they knew about me and polka dots.

And there you are, my first ever ‘sponsored post’. Almost certainly my last, though, y’know, if Fat Face, Bravissimo, Boden, or *breathes* Marimekko would like me to draw myself in any of these, I am right here, and, evidence shows, fully amenable. :)

Image

Moving house announcement

we have moved anon

When are the occasions you really don’t have time to sit down and draw?
– Getting married
– Having a baby
– Moving house.

Unfortunately, these are also the times when it would be really nice to send people a hand-illustrated card with your news. I did manage hand-drawn invitations when we got married. I sure as anything didn’t manage a birth announcement, or any kind of drawing for about 6 years after. But here is a picture which I’ll be sending to my friends about our change of address (I’ve removed the street number and name, you know, in case of crazy people, but on the original, the number is in that yellow circle, and the name runs along the street. The map isn’t particularly accurate or to scale).

I wanted to convey a couple of things about the street that we’ve moved to: that it consists of a terrace of little houses that dips comically in the middle; and that it ends at the foot of a towering hill. As it happens, there’s a TV mast at the top of the hill, so it seemed like a nice idea to have that broadcasting our news.

Amazingly, the scanner has started working after the move. I still can’t get the printer component of the same machine to start working though, so getting these printed out and physically sent to people is more of a challenge than it really ought to be.