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.

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Ladies of the Lakes, part 1

Ladies of the Lakes by Myfanwy Tristram

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.

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p1

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p2

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p3

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p4

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p5

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p6

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p7

Myfanwy Tristram Ladies of the Lakes p8

Read on to part 2

A cartoon about running

No Excuse by Myfanwy Tristram p2

Click each page and then click again if you would like to view these pages at a larger size.

No Excuse by Myfanwy Tristram p1
No Excuse by Myfanwy Tristram p2

Last January, I realised that I had run far fewer miles in 2014 than in previous years, and that this was because I’d got into the habit of skipping runs if the weather looked at all unpleasant, or if I was tired, or all sorts of other excuses.

So I set myself a target that I’d only be able to meet if I went out no matter what, and that’s what this cartoon is about.

This approach has reminded me that, actually, runs in the rain can actually be some of the most enjoyable ones. And, like the cartoon says, if you didn’t go out when it was raining, you’d never go out – well, certainly in this part of the world and at this time of year.

I’m glad to say that I reached my target in 2015 and I’m still on the same ‘no excuses’ regime this year, so it works for me.

In fact, such is my dedication these days, if Nick Cave does pop round, I might have to hurry him out of the door before he asks for a second cup of tea.

Why I’m not out to play much this month: nine steps to make a comic strip

coloured in comic by Myfanwy Tristram

 

As you know, because I’m always moaning about it, cartoons are a really labour intensive form of artwork.

Back when I first got into comics, I’d draw directly onto the page with pen. “The page” was often the back of an A4 letter, or a cheap pad.

Sometimes I hadn’t even figured out the end of the strip when I was drawing the beginning. But that’s ok, because it was the days of Riot Grrls and photocopied zines and so many people *weren’t* drawing comics that you were way ahead just because you were.

The end result was a strip in which there might be some pleasing parts, but where there would always, always be at least one frame that made me cringe. The only thing this ‘method’ (if you can call it that) has to recommend it is that it’s quick – but as we all know, a little preparation goes a long way.

Time passed and I got a little more ‘fancy’ (ha). I started drawing my strips out in pencil first, then drawing with pen over the top and erasing the pencil lines.

This obviously has the advantage that you can rub out and redraw if your first pictures don’t look quite right, all before you start inking. You can also start thinking about layout and composition across the whole page, while you still have time to incorporate any great ideas that may crop up.

But there are disadvantages to this method, too: smudged ink, or pencil lines that just won’t erase, no matter how hard you try. I started drawing this way long before computers and Photoshop came into my life, so it’s not as if I could tidy things up digitally, either.

It’s really only relatively recently that I have refined my comic-drawing process. In part, I have to thank generous artists like Sarah McIntyre and Dan Berry, who talk a lot about their own processes (and in the case of Dan, produce a podcast talking to many other cartoon artists about their processes). It’s all gradually sunk in.

I’m working on a piece at the moment which, by the end, will have gone through, let me see… nine different stages, I think. Let’s count them out.

1. The initial idea

Inspired by a vintage photo I saw, I decided I wanted to do something around the idea of synchronised swimming.

So that I wouldn’t forget it, I noted the idea down on my phone.

2. The script

I knew I wanted this cartoon to be four pages long. I knew I could make the story fit nicely into that length. But how do you get from a subject and the desired length to an an actual script?

In between steps 1 and 2, there’s a period of time which consists of forcing myself really hard to think about the topic until a story pops to the surface. I think the last two lines of that note on the phone came later, during this process.

Writing the script down is a way of consolidating the story and making sure it can be spread across the length of cartoon that I want to make.

3. Character studies

Character studies by Myfanwy TristramI’m a bit impatient about this stage; once I have an idea, I often want to dive right in.

But drawing your characters (in many different ways, often, and then you pick the look you prefer) is a really useful step.

It means that their faces or hairstyles won’t change as the cartoon progresses, because I’ve already made all the decisions and I’ll have my  studies to refer to from the very off.

4. Thumbnails 1

Scratch thumbnails by Myfanwy TristramI think that this is one stage more than most cartoonists would do, and it does annoy me, but it turns out this is the way I have to work, and so be it.

First, I take a biro and a really scrappy bit of paper. This is a psychological way of telling myself that it’s fine to make mistakes, which I seem to need.

I already have the script I wrote, and that has pretty well divided the story into pages and frames within each page. What this first set of thumbnails does is help me make sure that those divisions are right.

This would also be the time to figure out any fancy layouts: not that there are any in this particular piece of work, but, say there was going to be a big plane flying across the page, or a large boot stomping down, now is the time I can work through all the difficulties I’ve given myself with that decision.

5: Thumbnails 2

Better thumbnails by Myfanwy TristramMy second set of thumbnails is larger, and transposes these decisions (which often contain lots of scribbling and notes) into a more coherent page. I use a big felt tip or a brush pen, again just to try and concentrate on basics rather than fine drawing.

At this stage I’m also trying to ensure that any words will fit into the speech bubbles and frames I’ve allocated them.

And, once that’s finished, I hunt down my husband and (if age-appropriate) my daughter and I read it through to them. If it makes sense to them, great. If they have questions, I know there’s still work to do.

6: Pencils

Margins by Myfanwy TristramNow is the point where I have to measure pages, frames and margins and make sure the finished work is going to be the right size for whatever printed medium it will end up on (I might work 1.5 size or even double size, in which case there’s even more maths involved).

Drawing comics continues to be a learning process for me, and this time around I added two new practices that I hope will pay off.

First: after drawing the first page’s outer margins, I stuck it on the lightbox and traced the other three pages, so I know they will be exactly the same size.

For some reason, no matter how carefully I measure, I *always* seem to end up with differing size pages (I blame the ruler, which is obviously changing length while I’m not looking at it), so hopefully this will see the end of that for good.

Second: Long-time readers will know that I’m forever moaning about trying to scan, and then fit together, pages that are larger than my A4 scanner.

This time, thinking ahead, I made sure that every page has a good clear break somewhere within the zone where A4 pages (ie, the size of my scanner) overlap. Hopefully, this will mean that I can scan the page in two goes, crop to this clear line, and fit them together without my usual issues of trying to precisely fit the page together in the middle of a figure or a piece of text.

pencils by Myfanwy Tristram Once the margins are drawn, I start drawing the cartoon in pencil, in its entirety. I do this on a page of not-so-good sketch paper: it won’t be seen, so there’s no point in wasting the expensive stuff.

Notice that this was the *very first* thing I did in the olden days. So everything that has come before represents just how much longer the process is now. It’s worth it though. My cartoons still aren’t as good as I’d like them to be, but they look a whole lot more professional.

I’m not the sort of artist who can always summon up figures and poses off the top of my head, so there’s a lot of rubbing out involved, and sometimes I have to google for images as a reference.

Sometimes there’s so much rubbing out involved that I have to start a frame again on a new piece of paper – the beauty of this method is that I can.

7: Line

cartoon before colouring by Myfanwy TristramThe cartoon I’m working on is line drawings with ink colouring.

First I put down the pen lines. I put the pencilled page on the lightbox, put a sheet of better-quality paper on top, and trace the drawings and frames with pen.

8: Inks

coloured in comic by Myfanwy TristramAnd then I add the colour.

9: Scan

Does this count as a step? I guess so: the cartoon takes on a different format, a digital one. And there’s often more work involved, too: I clean it up digitally, before sharing it online or in print.

And then, finally, it’s done.

The takeaway

No wonder it all takes such a long time! You might frown at all this and call it the death of spontaneity.

I wouldn’t go back to my old ways though… well, unless I suddenly became an amazing artist who could conjure up perfect pictures first time, every time. Or, y’know, on Hourly Comics Day.

This method breaks the process into such small steps that none of them feels too daunting. It also allows for the possibility of something going wrong at every single step.

Measured up your pages wrong? You’ll notice before you start inking, not, disastrously, once you’ve finished. Spill ink all over your page? No worries, you still have your pencilled sheets. And so on.

Multi-step processes like this can look really off-putting, I know. I still blanch at bookbinding or screenprinting, terribly afraid that I’m going to miss out a crucial step, and lose all my work.

For me, cartooning feels different, because I learned and tried out every step along the way. Also, there’s no expensive equipment involved (the most expensive part is the lightbox, but you can easily use a window on a sunny day, or a glass table with a light under it), and no-one to tut at you if you don’t follow a prescribed method.

My method’s changed a lot over the years, as I’ve described, and I expect it’ll continue to do so. How do you draw comics? Give me your tips and who knows, maybe they’ll also become part of my process.

My daughter in blue

I posted a picture of my daughter in a jumble of different coloured clothes back in November, but I didn’t show you a second picture of her that I painted a few days later.

Daughter in blue by Myfanwy Tristram

That’s because I decided to give one picture to each set of her grandparents for Christmas. This one went to my own parents, who follow this blog, so I couldn’t put it up.

Now Christmas is over, I notice that I never scanned the original. Never mind, though – I still have the pencil drawing, and I put a photo of the finished piece on Instagram (which is what you see above).

Daughter in blue by Myfanwy Tristram

Thanks to my lightbox, I can draw the original in pencil, then trace over it on a fresh piece of paper in ink. That means you don’t have to start again right from the beginning if anything goes wrong with the inking.

Personally, I really like having these little safety nets. It means that while you’re pencilling, you can tell yourself, ‘oh well, it’s just the pencil, not the finished thing’, and when you’re inking/colouring, you feel like the hard work – proportions, composition, etc – has already been done.

And, of course, it means you get to keep the pencil drawing – in theory, I suppose, I could do more coloured pieces from it. I like it the way it is, though.

Lots of artists complain that the inked version is never as lively and free as the original pencil. I struggle with being lively and free at all, to be quite honest, but yes, I can see the pencil piece is a tiny bit more carefree.

What happens when your New Year’s resolution is “Draw More”?

Santiago sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

My new year’s resolution for 2014 was a fairly complex one, but in essence it boiled down to two words:

draw more.

…and it has felt like I’ve drawn a lot this year. Not as much as someone who doesn’t have a day-job and a child, of course, but a steady stream of stuff nonetheless.

Some of it I was pleased with. Some of it I was not – and I’ve learned to call that stuff part of the learning process, rather than a failure.

January

It was my husband’s birthday and I made him this card:

Dude birthday by Myfanwy Tristram

February

February first is Hourly Comics Day! I entered into the spirit of things, and tried not to care about putting out unpolished work – after all, that’s what it’s all about.

MyfanwyTristram_Hour3_2014

I’m quite looking forward to the next one already – and let’s face it, February is not usually a month to look forward to.

March

I made another collage in my series of birds’ eye views, this time featuring lots of very small roofs made of stamps:

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

April

In April, I really enjoyed doing some life drawing.

Life drawing by Myfanwy TristramThis was also the month that we went to Bath for our family holiday, and I made a holiday sketch diary. Of course, sketch diaries are another form where, if you share them, you have to put out the pages you’re pleased with as well as the ones that didn’t work out quite so well.

Tree by Myfanwy Tristram

May

Straight after we got back from Bath, work sent me to Santiago in Chile! I was working, so keeping up a sketch diary was a bit more of a challenge, and I finished a good bit of it after I got home.

Myfanwy Tristram Santiago sketch diary

July

It looks like I had a month off from drawing in June! In fact, I was starting work on my 4-page graphic short story for the Cape/Comica/Observer competition: you have to start early if your time is limited.

In July, though, I started a series of pictures of the plants that grow alongside Brighton beach, where I go running and also spend a lot of time with my daughter:

Seaplants by Myfanwy Tristram

There are more plant drawings here and here.

August

Those sunny days seem far away now – hard to believe I was sitting drawing on the Level (our local playground) while my daughter mucked about in the fountains.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

The weather turned, naturally, right before our week in Jersey – fortunately there was plenty to do there anyway. Not least,  drawing another sketch diary:

Toop and the telescope by Myfanwy Tristram

September

I shared my graphic short story competition entry:

Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page3I’d entered it, all the while knowing it wasn’t quite the right thing to get placed – not polished enough (but I was very pleased, later on, to discover that my friend Beth had been awarded runner-up prize).

October

Never mind, I waded straight into another comic strip, this time based on recent experiences with a community archaeological dig:

GreenLadyHill_by Myfanwy Tristram – and, at very short notice indeed, I threw together a collage for the Association of Illustrators competition:

Fly Across London by Myfanwy TristramThat was also the month I created the Hashtag Underdog strip. October must have been the peak of my productivity! I should scrutinise what the prevailing conditions were, and try to bottle them.

Underdog by Myfanwy TristramNovember

I didn’t do Clovember but I did paint my daughter in her lovely bright clothes – right at the prescient moment, it turns out, as she’s recently announced a desire to wear only black:

Tabs watercolour by Myfanwy Tristram

I also made a short comic strip about working from home:

Working from Home by Myfanwy TristramDecember

Close friends and family had one of my linocuts bestowed upon them:

IMG_0757

– and I moaned a bit about how long they had taken to make. I must say though, that everyone has been very nice about them, which is what every homemade card creator really wants – so it was all worth it. :D

Clearly, the effort of all that lino-printing has taken it out of me because, other than a couple of sketches of my daughter and husband, I have not drawn since.

Next year

I’m hoping that a similar resolution for 2015 will result in just as much artwork – but I need to do some careful thinking as well, about just what I want out of all this endeavour.

This year brought a couple of commissions. I find these quite stressful, and it made me wonder whether to refuse all commissions from now on (on the other hand, that means relying only on my own inspirations to drive me forward, a situation which, of course, many artists would be envious of, but which may well narrow my horizons).

This was also the first year that I’ve sold my prints online, as well as in Brighton’s Open Houses. While this was not stressful, it did bring home to me how narrow the margins are – at the scale I was operating, and with the time I have to dedicate, you can’t earn much. It can only really be done as an exercise in spreading your name about a bit.

And as for that – spreading my name about – well, I haven’t done as much as I hoped. Reader numbers on this blog are pretty low (though boosted greatly every time someone tweets or shares the link on Pinterest or Facebook, so thank you very much to everyone who did that).

In 2015, I think I will have an additional resolution to get some strips published in existing comics: that means that someone else is doing the distribution and the marketing, and probably doing so far better than I would have time to do myself.

Sounds like a plan…

Free Christmas card downloads

Snowy Holly by Myfanwy Tristram

What good is drawing?

I draw mainly in the evenings, and generally while listening to the radio – and the later it is, the more serious the subject matter becomes.

Fretting over a frivolous piece like the Underdog cartoon does start to seem slightly insignificant when there’s an interview with Ebola nurses coming across the airwaves, or there are doomy tales of food banks and poverty in our own country.

Well, here’s an idea that might redress the balance slightly. If you like the Christmas card designs below, you are welcome to use them. And if you do, please donate a couple of pounds to charity in return.

You can print them out from the PDFs at the foot of this post. They will fit an A4 sheet of card, so you can print them on your home printer or take them to a professional print shop.

Tree Christmas card by Myfanwy Tristram

Christmas tree card by Myfanwy Tristram

Garland Christmas card by Myfanwy Tristram

Snowy Holly by Myfanwy Tristram

snowhollyblsfwCreative Commons Licence

These Christmas cards by Myfanwy Tristram are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

How you may use these images

I’m releasing these under a non-commercial creative commons licence. That means:

YOU MAY print these out for your own use, provided that you keep the attribution that I’ve put on the back of each card.

YOU MAY NOT sell them commercially or modify the images.

(If you would like to sell the cards for charity, drop me a line and we can talk).

Donate

Here are some charities where you might donate, or feel free to choose your own:

The Red Cross Ebola appeal

Oxfam, working on poverty in the UK as well as internationally

The Fawcett Society, fighting for equality between the sexes

Downloads

Here are the downloads in PDF form, ready to print:

Tree with a star (Large, one card to an A4 sheet)

Tree with star (Small, two cards to an A4 sheet)

Garland (Large, one card to an A4 sheet)

Garland (Small, two cards to an A4 sheet)

Tree with lights (Small, two cards to an A4 sheet)

Holly in the snow (blue) (Small, two cards to an A4 sheet)

Holly in the snow (black) (Small, two cards to an A4 sheet)

Thanks – and do feel free to spread the word around.

 

Really not, in any way at all, doing Clovember

Tabs watercolour by Myfanwy Tristram

Every first of November, I have to decide whether I’m going to join in with Clovember again.

Clovember (clothes + November) is a tradition in my small corner of the internet, whereby one photographs what one is wearing, every day in November, and blogs about it. If that sounds dull, you’d be surprised at how much there is to say about clothes. There are stories, insecurities, and beliefs. There is wishful thinking, disappointment and elation. And that’s before you even get to the ‘Oh, that dress is lovely, where did you get it?’ type of comments.

Clearly finding photography a bit too… convenient, two years ago I decided I’d far rather spend every evening in November in a complete panic, and drew everything I wore, instead, and then decided to add everything my daughter was wearing, too. And that was fun, and the results were colourful and people liked them.

But my goodness it was time-consuming. So I didn’t do it last year, and I have decided – a little reluctantly – not to do it this year either, largely because I hope to complete some other drawing projects this month.

HAVING SAID ALL THAT, well, this morning I looked back at my bookworm of a daughter as she was trudging slowly to school, and I thought, that combination of layers and patterns and colours is kind of irresistible. So although I am not, repeat not, doing Clovember 2014, I did allow myself to do just this one drawing.

Here it is in pencil:

PencilT by Myfanwy TristramAnd here it is inked over with a dip-pen and then coloured with watercolour:

Tabs watercolour by Myfanwy Tristram

[Click to see it bigger]

Green Lady Hill, a one-page comic strip

Green Lady Hill by Myfanwy tristram

GreenLadyHill_by Myfanwy Tristram

As anyone who knows me will see immediately, this strip is inspired by real-life events. There is a hill at the end of my road, and I did go on an archaeological dig there last month.

The Habitat mug anecdote is also a true story, though it happened to my father rather than to the dig facilitator.

However, the hill has not yet turned into a furious giant green woman.

The Hand of Nick Cave – a cartoon

Hand of Nick Cave by Myfanwy Tristram

I drew this cartoon last night, as a salve to the woes of trying to embark on a massive new project – I was feeling a bit hopeless and without direction, and I thought drawing something quick and silly would help.

One colour, not too much attention to mistakes, and pretty shoddy scanning – and there you go, a new cartoon.

Hand of Nick Cave by Myfanwy Tristram
Hand of Nick Cave [click to see bigger]

Funnily enough, when I set off for my run this morning, I experienced precisely these conditions. I usually decide to run against the wind on my way out, so that I can have an easier time of it on my way back, when I’m more tired.

This time, the contrast was so extreme that running home felt like sitting on a comfortable armchair – or like having gravity turned down a few notches.

As a not-very-serious runner, this is about the only way I ever experience a ‘negative split’ – that’s when the second half of your run is faster than the first half, for those not in the know.