Don’t be so Graphic…

Did you know I was actually studying a Graphics course?

I ask, only because you would, under no uncertain terms, be forgiven for thinking I was an illustration student. I think it’s something to do with the total lack of organisation, adoration for comics and drawing…”things” and my total inability to draw straight lines.

And The fact that I’m not sure I’ve mentioned the word “grid” once since setting this site up over a year ago.

Well I am. It’s a mixed course admittedly, and there is certainly a heavy emphasis on image making and illustration too, but I wanted to, very quickly, dispel any myths that I am no good for anything but the world of the wibbly.

The current project is all about layout. And I’m finding it a challenge and a half. Here is the, incredibly ugly, induction timetable for first years to my University.

Yes we are actually an arts and design school. The irony is not lost on me.

See, this what happens when you leave all the admin to the Humanities Campus.

But I digress, we’re currently taking part in a series of short exercises in redesigning the above ugly thing, into something considerably less ugly using a set of strict restrictions and rules (One typeface only, one colour only 3 type size only etc). Just to clarify, this is by no means a practice of making something “beautiful” in the traditional sense. This is about creating order, making structure and making use of positive and negative space, type weight, type size and a hell of a lot of Swiss inspired graphical magic.

So, so far these are  how I’ve gone about getting my Bauhaus on. Don’t worry about the text. This is about the overall effect of the page, the information itself is borderline irrelevant.

      Mmmmm…delicious, gridded neatness.

I have a whole bunch of these, with tweaks here and changes there. Things most people wouldn’t notice in the slightest. It’s got to the stage of adjusting it pixel by pixel in a worrying display of Design Induced OCD.

I wanted to chat about these, I suppose just to remind everyone that us people-creatures don’t have to be pigeon holed as much as we often are. Yes I know it’s all in the same sort of area of design and creativity, but I am just one little person who happens to define herself as an illustrator of sorts. That it what I love, how I make a little moolah, and what I devote a lot of time to. But there is always room in my little noggin for different things. Things that require me to think differently and consider how I see things differently, and I think it’s pretty cool that we have the capacity to do these different things at the same time. I think that I, like so many others, can lose sight of that when life gets busy and sink back into the comfort of what I know I can do.

But I’m really starting to get into these little layout majigs. They’re challenging for a messy art bug like me, and I’ve definitely not cracked it yet, but with every new design I make, I see new promise and get joy from the structure of it all. The Organisation is SO pleasing.

I’ve literally gone from a fanatic of this:

Dave Mckean; Wolves in the Walls. A STUNNING book.

To This:

Joseph Muller Brockmann: Swiss magic



Shaun Tan. Cool guy and badass illustrator.


Jan Tschichold

Learning is fun 🙂



Licence To Doodle: My Own, Personal Failings and A Talk I Went To

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I often find that the smallest, most insignificant occurrence in an ordinary day has the potential to spark whole waves of pulsing creativity inside these little human skulls, that can evolve into ideas, narratives or images that have the potential to turn into something quite special. It’s kind of the beauty of creativity; it’s incredible, organic growth from the midst of drab normality.

And then sometimes, it simply comes from seeing super cool, ultra talented people do super cool, ultra talented stuff and appealing to that most disagreeable, competitive part of you that wants to, if not beat them, at least be one of them. The Cool Kid Conundrum.

This is totally what happened to me yesterday.

I went to a talk in London’s St Albans Centre for a Comica organised event where the legendary Quentin Blake (if you don’t know his name you should be shot. And then be shown an image of his so you can go “OOOOoooh. THAT guy, yeah of course I’ve seen THAT guy!” And then, and only then, will I call you a paramedic. For the gunshot wound.) and the phenomenal Shaun Tan, a personal hero of mine and creator of beautiful graphic books like The Arrival and The Red Tree, were having a wee discussion about illustration and things.

It was a pretty awesome way to spend an evening to be honest. It’s wasn’t the most organised event in history, but was a lovely insight into the minds of two truly incredible (albeit very stylistically different) illustrators and their methods and philosophies regarding their work. They took us through a brief history of their careers, bouncing off each other in a mutual interview, before taking questions from the floor, and finally rounding up with a quick, live draw-a-thon and book signing (and Me-Oh-My did I have books so sign.)

I’m proud to say my copy is freshly signed!

And as I sat there, absorbed in the works of both of them as they scrolled through their, deservedly impressive, careers before producing some entirely new and original, flawlessly wonderful, off-the-cuff imagery, I thought to myself:

An example of Shaun Tan’s jaw dropping talent. From The Arrival, his wordless graphic novel about the loneliness and disorientation of immigration.

“Dude, you need to do more drawing.”

And I do. It may not have escaped your notice that there has been a severe lack of it recently. Now, that is, partially due to my broken scanner (BOOOO) and the fact I’ve been tied up in commission work for other people and writing etc, but really, there is no excuse not to bash out a doodle every now and then is there? I mean, it’s not exactly time-consuming. Plus it provides an excellent distraction from things I don’t want to do, like this god-forsaken summer project of mine.

So today I did The Book Look; a phrase I tend to coin whenever I’m feeling a little dry on the creative juices front and need to whack out my rather large collection of graphic novels, fanzines, children’s books and general collection of amazing talent to kick-start my own creative flow.

The result was drawings! Nothing special, nothing truly inspirational, and actually, nothing even remotely good, but drawings nonetheless! And, with my lack of scanner, I even photographed them for you JUST TO PROVE I actually did something. I do apologise for the poor quality, it’s in these times of need you truly appreciate the genius of scanning freedom, but alas. It’s dark times this end, I’m practically medieval.

(Though using photos taken in crappy light does kind of make everything look like it’s from a silent movie, which I kind of like.)

I can draw really, honest I can! But I needed to get back into the swing of things, loosen up you know? That’s what I tell myself anyway, “it’s okay, it’s just a practice…”

I did consider spending more time photoshopping these into better shape, but to be honest, I feel it would have taken away from the wholly organic, slightly shitty and very honest state of my sketchbooks. And what’s the point of even sharing rubbish doodles if I’ve cleaned them all up? Plus it’s pretty late right now and I’m sleepy.

What a gentleman. You can tell from his moustache.
A Raven in a suit. At some point I’ll give him a hat.
This guy is an old hash. When I was working on the research for Tick, I started drawing a lot of these diving helmets and he grew from there, to emerge now, a few years later, with a pet.
A quick fantasy doodle. I find every now and then it’s essential for the soul to draw good looking ladies in obscure situations. What’s she reaching for? You’ll have to wait and see (because I’m not sure yet.)
I’m quite embarrassed to have this on the internet, but this is, unfortunately, how my work begins. This is the first draft of the storyboard for my new comic I’ve been writing. I know it’s shoddy, please have faith. Somebody needs to…

Hopefully this will be the start of something beautiful. Hopefully this will get me back into the swing of things, of doodling for me and not just working on projects in sequence. I’d like to expand on a few of these, and maybe I will, but if they do just fade away, into the oblivion of forgotten sketchbook pages and nonsense spontaneity, I think that’s okay too.

But for now, in the very wise words of Mister Quentin Blake on the last page of Mister Magnolia: