Recently I was invited to Wistanstow Primary School (in Shropshire, UK) to talk to a class of budding new comic enthusiasts about making comics. The class had been playing with computer programs such as Comic Life and using grids to create their own comics, and the teacher and my Mum (who works there as a Teachers Assistant) thought it would be good if I could come in and talk to them as I’ve just completed my degree in Illustration for Graphic Novels (well, last year :P).
I love comics, but I’ve struggled to actually make any of my own so far (although I have a few in the pipeline – watch this space) so I just wanted to get across the idea that it doesn’t necessarily matter how good you are at drawing, or how strong your character is (although both are important of course) but it’s how good your STORY is that is most important – after all, if the story isn’t interesting, who’s going to want to read it?
I had a lot of information in my head about Sequencial Art and the ‘story-peak’ that my tutor Dan Berry taught us (that might not have been what he actually called it… basically it was a graph of sorts showing how a story starts off slow -with Introductions to characters and such- rises to a peak at the height of the story -a character makes a startling discovery for example- and then lowers again as the issues are resolved) but when I realised I was pitching to a class of 9 year olds I had to ditch that, and after I’d shown them some of my own work, moved on to a nice activity instead – basically I shut up and let them draw 🙂
The Afternoon’s Activity
The idea was to get any distractions out of the way and get them thinking about the story itself. I had each child write their name, an animal (it could be anything) and a place (again, anywhere, although with this one I offered a few suggestions myself) on three scraps of paper, and put them in three tubs. I then drew a basic grid on the whiteboard, and picked one piece of paper out of each tub – we ended up with **** the Pig, and her destination was the School (I’m not allowed to use the children’s names…
I then asked the class, how does **** get to school? What happens to her on the way?
It was fairly quickly decided that she would fly there (naturally) but on the way she crashes into a bird (oh no!) and then the two of them crash into a tree! Having only one panel left even I was starting to wonder about how they’d get from the tree into the school, until I heard the genius suggestion of having the tree catapult the two of them into school! Amazing 🙂
Artists Note: Children are harsh critics! You’d be amazed at the speed in which they can point out that you’ve forgotten to draw the curly tail/ponytail/feet 😛
The Children’s Comics
What follows now is some of the comics the children drew -WARNING- some of them are cute, some of them are scary, and some of them are just leaps of inventive genius! (click on the comics to enlarge)
I think this could be my favourite animal design – an Afro and side-burn sporting Dragon at the swimming pool being attacked by a knight – he get’s his own back in the end *FWOOOSHH!*
I can’t remember what’s happening at the end of this one, but a low-flying Dragon accidentally hit’s a cactus and get’s stuck in the Desert – to pass the time he jumps into a spontaneous ‘Gangnam Style’ dance with the locals! Brilliant!
Things take a darker turn in this comic, as a young Piglet is attacked and strangled by a masked assailant! But everything turns out ok in the end, as Mummy pig turns up, stabs the attacker (see the blood!) and takes the Piglet to hospital (well, maybe not so well for the attacker…)
In this comic a Piggy Princess is having a ride in her carriage when oh no, she realises she’s forgotten her hat! Then to make things worse she’s thrown from the carriage – but luckily she end’s up next to a shed that just happens to contain her missing headpiece 🙂
In this cautionary comic a Dog is really excited to be in Space – and look, someone’s laid out a moon picnic! But by the end he has suffocated, because dogs can’t breathe in space silly! Remember kids: Always bring a space helmet.
I think this is my favourite comic as far as creative problem solving goes – a Bull is drowning, and is on the verge of death, but luckily a CPR savvy Penguin turns up and saves his life (check out the ‘come on, stay with me’ bubble! Someone’s been watching Casualty with mummy!) – the Bull is then so grateful he asks the Penguin to marry him, which of course Penguin agrees to, and they finally end up at his location: The Church! Genius!
In this comic a cat agrees to get her Grandma a Coke from the supermarket, and on the way accidentally falls into a tube that seems to take her straight there! (via a paddling pool) – unfortunately when she finally makes it home she’s brought back Diet Coke instead! Oh No!
Unfortunately some of the pencil work has been lost in the photocopy here, but this comic is told from the view of a guest star of this story, the Hairdresser – and what a cool looking dude he is! The horse is so enamoured by his stylish ways he wants the look for himself, and by gum, does he get it!
A baby pig is too hot in his cot, so he goes out for an Ice Lolly to cool down – he then decides to take a nap in the sunshine but wakes up with the most horrific sunburn! (does anyone else smell bacon…?) To sooth his skin he goes for a nice cool swim – just look at that tan! Great use of colour here!
*Lucy’s Pick* This is an adorable little comic, where a cat is sad because there are no flowers in her vase! She goes out to pick some but get’s lost… luckily there’s a friendly tiger around to show her the way home, and the last panel show’s how happy she is now there’s flowers in her vase – great little story 🙂
An Eagle’s late for School, but not so late that he doesn’t have time to stop and tell a passing doughnut about his poor time-keeping skills! Love the simplicity of this one!
An Octopus is on his way to the Supermarket to buy cookies, but he piles so many in his trolly it falls over and scatters the cookies everywhere! The manager is so mad he throws him out and into a tree! Luckily it’s not far from the ocean though, and the Octopus jumps back into the sea! 🙂
After lots of putting it off, and struggling with themes, my new website is finally finished! It contains lots of University work that never got posted up on here, so I heartily encourage you to check it out! If you hover over the ‘Portfolio’ tab a series of sub-menus will appear that will take you to whatever artwork you wish to view, whether it be comics, children’s illustrations, or fan art – many of which I’ve yet to post on here – be sure when scrolling down through the pages you give the theme time to load up all the images
There are links to the facebook page and twitter page (to which I’ve relinquished control over to the site’s mascot; Cosmo Cat – be sure to follow him for arty updates from myself, and other artists I follow) as well as links to my deviantART, Instagram and of course, right here at Q.U.A.R.C.S! I’d like to thank all of you who have ‘followed’ me from when I started this blog back in 2009, your support and encouragement has been a great motivator so far, and any love for these new site’s would be gratefully received!
A little collection of unusual or inappropriate employment opportunities for the undead or unfed, taken from Ye Olde Sketchbook.
These were a lot of fun to draw, and I could quite happily draw them all day, but i must press on with the actual story now. By uploading them on here though, I keep them safe from the abuse my sketchbook receives on a daily basis. Just before I go, here’s a werewolf driving a car. Just because.
Here’s yesterdays quick-doodle-that-got-out-of-hand: a robotic Werewolf that I have dubbed ‘The Gearwolf‘ – as far as I’m aware, while there may be other robot-werewolves out there, this is the first one to be paired with that name, so before it get’s nicked remember, you heard it here first folks.
This does tie loosely to my current project, and while I did spend far too much time on it, it has inspired me into what I’m hoping could become my final story draft – look out for more robot were-wolves here in the future, albeit less complicated/more child friendly ones.
Apart from the odd competition, this semesters work is going to revolve around a children’s book that I am attempting to write and illustrate. It would be nice to have it ready for entry into the McMillan Book Prize, but as i’m fairly new to this, we’ll see how it goes.
My style of art has always had a degree of “cuteness” about it. To start with, it used to annoy me, as it was (and still IS, I haven’t given up yet!) my goal to become a graphic novelist, and cute doesn’t really fit in with Adamantium claws and symbiotic suits (unless you count X-Babies I suppose, and who does…). I used to blame an over-exposure to cartoons, which along with caffeine, are the only vices I pursue with any vigour, but with new cartoons such as Adventure Time and Regular Show being cute, but with a darker, more satirical edge, it seems there’s a market for children’s stories with more bite, and my tutors agree with me – not to mention my one tutor has been trying get me to draw a children’s book for ages 😛
The basic plot of the book revolves around the natural rivalry between two young boys, escalating into an argument about who’s brother could beat the other’s brother in a fight; with the stories of the older brother’s brawling abilities transforming into ridiculous claims of vampire and werewolf heritage… amongst other things. The bones of the story are likely to alter over the weekend, as after chatting with my tutors I realised I was doing far too much explaining in the text AND the pictures, and not illustrating enough action, which is where all the fun is, but I thought I would share my work so far so you can see it start to take shape.
Technique – Layered Glass
Wanting to do something different this time, I thought I would try out a technique I first experimented with during the first year. Basically, the idea is to separate your illustration into foreground, mid-ground and background, and then sandwich these layers of illustration between layers of glass, stacked one on top of the other so that when you look down on it, you get a real 3D sense of depth. The more glass layers you use, the greater the sense of depth. To help explain what i mean, here’s a handy diagram I knocked up:
and to give you an idea of what it looks like, here’s the paper cut-out I did in the first year of Pinocchio getting swallowed by the Whale…
(Warning: File has not been re-sized and is LARGE)
As you can see, the blue/green tint of the glass gives the illustration a great sense of perspective, and while I’m sure the same effect can be replicated on a computer easily enough, I’m not quite there with my digital skills yet. By adding blue tinted transparent layers between cut-outs in Photoshop, you do get a SENSE of how it might look, and that’s what I did with this experimental, snowy scene:
If you look at the colour of the snow on the road, you can see how it would appear underneath four layers of glass thanks to the blue-tinted layers. The snowflakes and glow around the lamps were obviously added by a digital paintbrush here, but could just as easily be replicated by a regular paintbrush and some real paint on the top layer of glass, then wiped off when it’s time to shoot the next piece.
The scene itself is copied from an image found on Google – here’s the two side-by-side:
The two main of the story are two young boys currently named Jonny Thompson and Tommy Johnson – they are the exact same height, age and weight, their names are similar and they even LOOK similar – people are always getting them mixed up and it drives them crazy. I’ve tried two slightly different methods for the boy’s cut-out’s, and neither are quite working for me – the hard line of the fine-liner used on Tommy is too harsh, whereas the softer coloured pencil used on Jonny looks a bit rough and unprofessional. I’m still tinkering with these two, but this is what they look like at the moment:
This project is going to take up most of my time over the next couple of months, so if you like what you see here be sure to stop by from time to time, and I’ll try and keep the blog as up to date on the project as I can 🙂