Catch up! Zines and things the Bristol way!

Continuing with my mass recap of the past few months, I needed to throw in a holla to the comics world! I’ve been doing lots of things recently, and early October not only kept me busy getting inspired, but also saw me taking a jaunt back into the comics world. I’d fallen out of conventioning and whatnot, concentrating mainly on the publishing shebang BUT when you hear about an indie zine fest pretty much on your doorstep…well I figured why not?

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The standard, late night of a hand made sesh.

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The BCZF was a ball. It was everything I’d enjoyed about conventions to begin with; passionate people from all walks of life getting together and sharing what they make. There were students, seasoned pros, newbies and hobbyists and everyone stopped to have a natter. I met ARMFULS of friendly folk and saw even more jaw dropping artistry.

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The venue was ace. It was an old fire station so I felt like I’d fallen out of Ghostbusters (the original. Let’s not talk about the new one.)

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My Table. It’s always so neat looking right at the start…

A bunch of my old mates from the early days of London zine-ing were kicking about to catch up with (special mentions have to go to the incredibly talented Rozi HathawayRozi Hathaway, Ed Chevertone and Aisling Marray; TEAM EXTOIRDINAIRE and, as ever, the wonderful Andy Oliver of Broken Frontier who has the nose of a frickin’ bloodhound when it comes to new, comic talent!) But I also had the joy of adding more shiny, new names to my ever evolving list of inspiring people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know.

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Huge thanks again to Lee, who not only makes awesome, authentically oldschool zines, but who put up with my mad natterings the whole day like a REAL sport (and they really were quite mad.)fest4

So yeah, my return to the convention scene was ace. My work has transformed a lot since the old days, but people were as welcoming of my new stuff as I could have hoped for.

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Last minute scoring, folding, packing and swearing aside, zine fairs will always hold a place in my heart and I would ALWAYS encourage curious artists to give them a whirl.

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Book Club Review – Footpath Flowers

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Author: JonArno Lawson

Illustrator: Sydney Smith

Publisher: Walker Books

Those of you who have touched base on this blog before, may remember my comparatively recent, tentative steps into social media and the resulting fun I was having finding my feet on Twitter. Well this weeks review is a refreshing wildcard, courtesy of this digital exploration. Basically I won a thing! Horray!

Yep the Gods of the internet randomiser were kind to me, and have landed me (via the very good -incredibly generous- people at the review site; PictureBooksBlogger) today’s lovely little number from Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith; Footpath Flowers.

I was delighted to win, having spied the quirky, inked artwork somewhere on the web before and found then that I was immediately drawn to it’s comic-book esque format.

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A keen observer and participant of both the indie comic and picture book scenes myself, I’m always intrigued to see the style of comics that make it into the hands of the mainstream UK publishers. In recent years comics have well and truly risen from niche market or weekly funnies, right up to the ranks of ‘established art form’ and I’m delighted to see how often they’re now employed within the children’s market to tell all manner of stories; not simply those featuring pants and tights.

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Sidewalk Flowers is a perfect tale to utalise the format of sequential art. Wordless and serene, the book follows a simple journey of a girl and her father. Narration without the fall back of words is no mean feat, yet the simplicity of the tale allows the little nuances and characterisation of Smith’s artwork to really shine, bringing the subtle beauty of Lawson’s tale to life.

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During their stroll, as Dad goes about his business, we see our own Little Red Riding Hood gathering flowers and weeds from all the available avenues of the city setting, distributing them as she deems fit.

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It feels wonderfully reminiscent of my own, and – no doubt – many other, past and present, childhoods; gathering sticks on walks with the family and finding hidden games and treasures in between the act of walking. It captures that childlike focus on the minutia and their, often surprising attentiveness to their surroundings.

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The joy of this childhood freedom is highlighted by the father, who is unaware of his daughter’s growing treasure trove and little acts of kindness; he sees only the tasks at hand – caught up in the world of adult errands and the day to day.

 

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Smith’s art is beautiful. Full stop.

Told from the eye level of our keen-eyed protagonist, the story captures the land of a child’s city through cropped compositions. We don’t know what dad is up to particularly – that’s just boring adult stuff, the real joy is way below eye level.

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This monotone, city setting is a stunning visual juxtaposition to the wild garden Little Red builds as she unearths her surprising bouquet from all around her. The urban palette of black and white with the splash of vibrancy from our little gardener’s jacket begins to fill with the whole inky, spectrum as the bouquet grows and the innocent delight of childhood generosity is distributed around the city.

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The joy of giving breathes life into the monotone city.
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Lucky recipients of the wild flowers of Red’s gatherings. The joy of giving has spread into a full colour world by the time she returns to her own, warm garden.

Now I’ve said it before that I am in no way adverse to the use of digital means in creating children’s books; and art in general. However, I am more than happy to admit that there is something refreshing in Smith’s seemingly unedited art style. Ordinarily a fan of collage and texture, here is nothing but ink, and the scanned traces of the watercolour blotting paper beneath it. It has a traditional charm as a result and feels almost vintage; perhaps in part due to the subject matter causing me to reminisce so much about my own errand-adventures!

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The story is enclosed by a set of beautiful, garden end papers.

Either way, it’s a good reminder of the increasingly artistically-inclusive picture book market. Both traditional and contemporary approaches to art are finding their way into our children’s hands, offering more and more of a comprehensive understanding of imagery. For little eyes still making sense of things, this access to such a expansive and varied gallery within the bookshelf seems pretty exciting to me.

Print is dead? Give over.

But the joy of this book, certainly for me, isn’t as shallow as pretty pictures. As ever in picturebooks, the narrative within the image is the battery of it all and Sidewalk Flowers is a beautiful celebration of discovering just that: the narratives and hidden joys found within the little things.

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For little kids it’s a reaffirmation of the world’s hidden games, and for us, older kids, it’s a reminder to stay observant. Errands are boring. But they don’t have to be, I for one would like to spread a little bit of colour.

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New Old Comic for your viewing pleasure!

Me again!

Settle down for story time kids- I have a tale to share!

About a year ago I was gearing up for a convention. I was working full time in the Publishers and literally spending all the hours in between trying to get a zine up and running so I could turn up with some new work. I planned and wrote a bunch of short stories and one off images, all inspired by the Autumn – my absolute favorite time of year.

Anyway, cut a long story short, the convention was cancelled a few weeks before and, as a result, without the push of a heavy deadline, life took over and I never finished the zine.

Sadly, the zine remains unfinished, however a number of the tales in it are still milling about, either in my sketchbook, desktop, or noodle. Unfinished, uncoloured and sad. Aw.

So, I dug one back out this week. I dug it out, I designed it properly and I bloomin’ finished it! (extract below!)

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It’s only short and it’s barely a story, but it’s oddly personal for me: a memory that seems relevant for every autumn I can remember from my tiddly years. The desire to be spoiled with treats on day outs in the cold air with my parents. I was, clearly, a grumpy, greedy – and potentially not that smart – kid and I remember strangely vividly the frustration of being hoisted by my own petard; when saccharine stickiness from autumn delights  stained my fingers and prevented my ice cold fingers from sinking comfortably back into the warmth of my mittens. The excitement of catching sight of that toffee apple and absolute, incomprehensible adoration for my parents when they caved (as I knew they would) and presented it to me. The irritation at their manhandling me with those old, dry tissues; dug out from the bottom of every mum’s pockets, and ultimately, the relief when my freezing cold, begrudgingly cleaned hands returned into my gloves and my foul mood, outwardly projected onto my parents, would quickly subside as warming circulation returned and I settled into the sweet tang of satisfaction.

God, being a kid is really a roller coaster of emotion isn’t it?

That said, the lesson here is that I really bloody love toffee apples. And I recall so happily that sweet tingle on the sides of my lips that I do equate so solidly with times spent with my parents. Luckily, the tenancy for childish projection of my discomfort as frustration towards them, was (I think) shed with age; but that feeling of gratitude and adoration from their original generosity…that seems a little more resilient.

I sit here in the darkened grey of a British afternoon in late September, watching the drizzle set in, as it will fairly solidly, for the next few months and I know the summer is done. And the knowledge that those short, autumn afternoons that bite at your face are sitting pretty just around the corner…well, I may not see my parents much these days, but I can’t help but sink into memories of gratitude; of that sweet tingle on the side of my lips and, ultimately, that same adoration. I smile now, just thinking it.

So, in conclusion to the longest sales pitch in history, check out the brand-spakin’-new addition of a long-overdue-old-comic on the portfolio now and then book an appointment with your dentist. After this much sweet, we’re all going to need it.

Happy Autumn!

Brand Spankin’ New Comic, Unterwegs!

That means ‘on the way’ to us, not German folks.

Which is funny, as that was the name of my last short comic.

Anyhoo, I’ve been doing lots and lots of illustration things recently and a lot less comic things. And it has not gone unnoticed by the lovely, interesting people of the indie comic scene.

So, at the behest of these great people, I am now returning to the realms of comics and thing making a short NEARLY WORDLESS (oh yus) six page comic for your visual consumption.

I don’t want to say too much (I mean, it’s only 6 pages. If I sneeze I’ll have pretty much have given it away) but I thought I’d upload a few odds and ends from the story in progress to whet those appetites.

Enjoy, not long to wait. Plan is to unveil around September time.

Sit tight.

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ELCAF 2015 – Nobrow’s indie Comic Fest

Having already spent a weekend basking in the creative radiation of Alexis Deacon in his two day masterclass last weekend, this week I’ve taken another peek into the world of illustrative inspiration and general artistic goodness.

Following a series of talks and masterclasses throughout the month, the key player of the East London Comics and Arts Festival (ELCAF) is always the indie comics fair, held on the final weekend. Hosted by the beautiful and, almost sickeningly lovable publishers Nobrow, the fair is a celebration of contemporary illustration from all over the place, this year showcasing tables from Canada and France as well as our wealth of homegrown talent.

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I hate generic terms like “something for everyone” but unfortunately there are times when you really do just have to bite the bullet and succumb to the fact that there is no better way of saying it. Showcasing the numerous talents of indie publishers, comic stores and artists, the work on show was as diverse as it was eye bleedingly beautiful with artists and storytellers of all ages forming a real smorgasbord of stories.

And my how I gorged.

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I couldn't resist the chance to get my copy of Wild signed at the Nobrow table by the lady herself; Emily Hughes
I couldn’t resist the chance to get my copy of Wild signed at the Nobrow table by the lady herself; Emily Hughes
Beautiful little drawing left for me by Emily Hughes
Beautiful little drawing left for me by Emily Hughes

As well as a general display of sickeningly talented people, the day also consisted of a number of talks masterclasses and events. I was very happy to get the chance to add to my collection of books signed by people I like, with the very talented Emily Hughes signing at the Nobrow table, as well as attending a talk but the eloquent and wonderful Jillian Tamaki, in conversation with Paul Gravett.

Unfortunately (due to the fact I was sat behind someone with the biggest head I have ever seen) there are no photos to document this one, but it was a fantastic and honest talk about her life and the role of comics and illustration in it. As with the Alexis Deacon masterclass, it’s a really pleasing thing when successful and well regarded artists talk about their process and it sparks familiarity and chimes similarity with your own and once more I found myself desperate to get back to work.

I won’t go into to too much more depth, I’ll leave that to the numerous reviews and analyses that have no doubt been written and published about the whole festival online, but I’ll sign out simply with the fact that my inspiration batteries have has a good and thorough recharge. In an attempt give you something more of a taster, I’ve waded through the thousands of photos I snapped while I was there, and will leave you simply with a holiday slideshow of sorts all some of my personal highlights.

Peace out x

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Vivian Schwartz drawing a kitty!
Vivian Schwartz drawing a kitty!

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Beautiful Nobrow collection. I own too much of this selection.
Beautiful Nobrow collection. I own too much of this selection.

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My closing Haul!
My closing Haul!

What’s EVOLVING into quite a nice little Project…ha

I thought I’d mix things up a bit for today’s post, and take a break from little drawings and odds and ends I’ve been doing (and no that’s not because I’ve run out of things to show. I’ve ACTUALLY just started another drawing now okay?  Don’t be such a bloody Doubting marvin.

No I don’t know what that is either.)

So instead I thought I’d do a bit of this whole social networking bit I hear so much about, and spread the word about a little project I was invited to do a wee bit of work for.

I was sent a rather neat little script for a short sci-fi film to be made this year. It was intriguing to me as a film, and had an engaging tone, good pace and nice, dark edge to it, but I started to really take notice when the writer  mentioned he’d like to release a short comic book alongside it. Unfortunately it came at a bad time for me, (it was during that very busy, recent period in which I  dropped off of the face of the internet. You know, the past seven months. That time. I like to call it “the mysterious phase.”) so I reluctantly declined the project.

I was then offered the compromise of doing the cover art for it, if I was too busy to commit to the inners, which pretty much seemed like a dream. It’s like being told “hey, you! You know that project you like but don’t have time to get involved in? Okay how about you don’t do any of the really hard graft but still get to work on it? Oh yeah, and it’s like, the first thing people will look at too. You in? Okay cool.”

I was, so in.

So I entered into chats with the film maker and here it is, the cover for the, soon to be released comic for the, soon to be released short Evolutionary: a sci-fi, action short with dark undertones and an ambiguity complex.

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I’ve no doubt it’s going to be stunning. For more information and to view it’s progress, check out the Youtube channel here, and read alllabauddit here.

And, incidentally, I’ve since seen some of the work from the inners. They’ve been taken on by a truly incredible artist and most certainly will not disappoint. Seriously, I’m almost glad I didn’t have the time they’re so good.

Almost.

Anyway It’s going to be slamming and I can’t wait to see the fruits of everyone’s labour. Keep your eyes peeled for it and start getting excited.

Over and out.

A Comic about Things and the Number One Reason Why I Need a Slap

Anterograde amnesia is a form of amnestic disorder.

According to the mental health professional’s handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , fourth edition, text revision (2000), also known as DSM-IV-TR, it is characterised by the sufferer’s inability to retain new memories or learn new information based on experience. This would make it very difficult to use any information gained through personal experience to alter the sufferer’s actions in their future endeavours. They are, essentially, unable to learn from their past mistakes.

I’m informing you of this, very interesting and clever sounding information (that I have, just now, stolen from the internet), because I think I must have this condition. Why else would I be so, totally one hundred percent incapable? Other than the fact I am just, literally a twat.

Unlike most people of sound minds, I seem to be completely and utterly incapable of learning from my mistakes, specifically with regards to the time management of personal projects, (illustrated best by this time, this time or, indeed, this time) and taking the necessary steps in ensuring that I DON’T DO THAT AGAIN.

Case and point: I have just this week recovered after five consecutive days of sleep deprivation and manic photoshopping induced finger strain, in an attempt to knock together the four page comic I have been thinking about making for about two months. The operative word here being thinking. I have known about a competition for a four page comic for the full length of this time and for the entirety of it, have had the well-meaning intention to enter. I started of pretty well, I wrote it. Then I did the first storyboard for the first page…about a month later. Then I put it off like an absolute champ until the week before deadline.

Oh yeah, and it was postal entry so completion time was pretty crucial in order to get it there in time. Brilliant.

And thus began the next installment in the, worryingly frequent, let’s-not-sleep-for-a-few-bajillion-hours-so-we-can-finish-this-work-that-really-should-have-been-done-at-least-three-days-ago saga.

And this is what I bring you today. The fruits of my most recent labour, made much harder by my own idiocies and disregard for my poor, suffering body’s basic need for sleep.

I don’t know if it’s a form of unassuming arrogance or simply a branch of unquestionable stupidity, but it’s getting seriously ridiculous the extent of which I will leave the things I want to do in favour of  doing, just about, anything else.

I managed it yes. I finished four pages of narrative and I submitted it, within the time restraints of the competition. And it’s not the worst comic ever made. But it could, and more to the point SHOULD have been better. Much better. I should have had the time to redo the first storyboard as a storyboard and not had to rework it on the final page. I should have had the time to find a font that suited the tale better than the, pretty sorry, collection I work from currently, downloaded it and implemented it. I should have had the time to rework the text so that the first page wasn’t so unbalanced in terms of the relationship between text and image (you know, kinda the most important aspect of a graphic novel.) Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. Because I DID actually have that time. And I frittered it away baking cakes and complaining about my summer project.

And now it is done. And that means it cannot be undone, at least until Marty Mcfly realises that he definitely is wasting his time with Jennifer and is willing to spring forward to 2012 and marry me, whisking me away in our badass time machine (this will happen after he realises he’s fed up of being a fictional character and ready to take the steps into the realms of reality), at which point I can find past me and give me a good slap, shouting “DO SOME WORK NOW” in my own face.

Until that moment, I’m going to have to settle with LEARNING from what has gone before and NOT leaving everything that is not of immediate importance until it is, at which point it’s too late for it to reach it’s full potential.

Well I can dream. There’s a definite possibility here, that I am actually just doomed.

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