27 December 2007

kustom komik kit....


Part of my daughter's Christmas present...

24 December 2007

A Sneaky Preview of that now bean worked upon

...well not actually worked upon right nah because I'm here typing this en I?


yx inktest

Can you tell what it is yet?

A civil war involving an exchange of friendly Zissous

Only one of the images in this post is by me - the other two are by my brilliant friend Kate.

Because I'm late cottoning on to stuff, I only discovered how brilliant Wes Anderson is this year. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou quickly established itself as one of my favourite ever films and I became something of an Zissousian evangelist, telling all that they must see this quirkily wonderfully deep and light film. Kate was just about the only person who listened and soon fell in love with Zissou and Rushmore. Who wouldn't? Anyway, skip to my birthday back in August, in Finland, in somebody else's house checking my email and there's a card from Kate.

I wonder if it remembers

How great is that to stumble upon in a foreign Finland?

So when it was Kate's birthday, I thought I should do something similar for her in return. I'm not 100% sure of what I say but I think Kate's favourite person ever is Harpo Marx - if you text her out of the blue she'll tell you what colour eyes he has (and his brothers) even if she's out shopping and nowhere near a reference book. His eyes aren't blue. So I did this.

harpo zissou

Of course being a card from me it was naturally very late what with all my excuses to maintain and what have yous. So blow me dahn if before I'm all done and dusted, some several months beyond the 30th in question, hasn't she gawn and done me another card along similar lines?

thanks pal

Yes she bloomin well has is the answer! And how more wonderful again what?

In other news, please spare a thought for Ms Suomi-Suolmate over there in a corner of a foreign Finland for the ollidaze and the worse nightmare imaginable for a foreign Finn has come to pass courtesy of the new GM sponsored climate - a black christmas, devoid of snow.

5 December 2007

The Weir

The Weir programme cover

All performances £6/£4 concessions. Pay on door.

This is why I haven't done much around here, or anything at all with pencil/paint, over the last month or so - a hectic rehearsal schedule for The Weir which finally comes to its fruit bearing end with our first performance tonight. If you're in the area, please pop along and see us. I grew a moustache especially!

4 December 2007

Quick Catch Up...

(This is, roughly, a cut and paste of a comment reply to the previous post in lieu of a proper entry for the time being)

Blimey I've really let this slip haven't I. Sorry for that - blame a hectic rehearsal schedule for The Weir which goes up this week so I'll be done and dusted, home and hosed, finished and fed up by Saturday and will have more time to post here and stuff.

The main news about the competition:

Hearts and Minds is up at the Domino Gallery which is in the Green Fish Cafe just off the bottom of Renshaw Street - I forget the actual street name - for all scousers, mousers and woolybacks. I was never all that happy with this new gouache version of it and seeing it amongst the other competition entries only reinforces this. I have no gripes with the gallery or how it's displayed but I wonder if I might feel better if it was alongside other small scale cartoony/gouachey things and it's made me painfully aware of how producing art intended for page and screen can be markedly different from producing art for gallery wall.

Needless to say, I didn't win. As soon as I knew partner of friend Legofesto was in the competition, that was my favourite (I can't be bothered with links just now, will add them later, but just Google Legofesto and you'll see) and though it didn't win, it was one of the super-shortlisted runner-ups. For a list of all the winners, click on the art in liverpool link in my sidebar. I'll come back later, possibly at the weekend, and add links and gallery details but right now I have play related stuff to be doing and a busy day ahead.

1 November 2007

W O O T !

30 Oct 2007 12:12
Re: Fwd: alTURNERtive art prize submission

Heyup A/M

It said on the flyer for the competition that short listed artists would be notified 'after 26th October'. Perhaps it's not your policy to do so but to put myself out of misery and end the wait I'm wondering if, having heard nothing, it's safe to assume I'm not short listed?



>31 Oct 2007 18:47
>Re: Fwd: alTURNERtive art prize submission

>Sorry for the delay, we have had 60 + artists contribute work which means we have been looking for extra galleries to display the work. Your work has been selected so please await further instructions... ! m

27 October 2007

Winning The Battle For Hearts & Minds - alTURNERtive version

SO I was in Jackson's art supplies shop buying a pair of kolinksy sable brushes. I have this almost-fetishy need to purchase art supplies on a regular basis whether I need them/can afford them or not. As the uber-helpful assistant turned away to retrieve the box of paintbrushes, I browsed the confusion of leaflets and fliers strewn along the counter. One instantly stood out. A bit of Guernica, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition, The alTURNERtive Art Prize, a Brecht quote about mirrors and hammers.

The Turner Prize is in Liverpool this year, a curtain raiser to 2008 and the CoC malarkey. At the same time, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition is running its own visual arts competition on the theme of 'War, Peace and Occupation'. I folded the flier away into my pocket and decided to enter hearts n minds. Especially as the rules didn't mention the usual condition that all entries must be created in the year of the competition.

Hearts n minds was scribbled into life in early 2004. A year into the invasion of Iraq and with the regime pretty much changed but the resistance still resisting, the phrase "winning the battle for hearts and minds" entered the stream of soundbiting propaganda issuing forth from the Coalition of the Wiley. And the moment I first heard the phrase it sounded so crass and dumb. Like if you really want to win over hearts and minds, maybe the last thing to do was make it a battle. Lo this cartoon was born, pretty much intact, in my brain-box from where it did squirm onto a sheet of typing paper with the help of some ink.

By the time I got home and dug the original cartoon out from its filing place, it seemed somewhat shabby and old compared to more recent stuff. So I had a crack at doing it again. The deadline was a few days off and I had a fair bit of other stuff going on so it was a rush job, but I reworked the original idea with ink using brushes and drip pens, then painted it with gouache watercolour using my new (and some old) kolinsky sable brushes. I'm not too sure what I think of it but it's submitted now and I should find out in the next day or two whether I've been shortlisted and of course I'll announce it here if I have. And if I haven't, we shall never speak of this again...

winning the battle for hearts and minds

16 October 2007


Back in June, Swedish and a little bit French trio Svart Kaffe played a magical gig at the Swedish Seamen's Church on Park Lane, Liverpool. I'd just got a digital snappamajig with moving-picture-doohickys so I recorded a few of their songs and uploaded them to the interweb with their permission. It took me a while to realise (as in, I still sometimes haven't quite realised yet in the heat of the moment) that I can't turn the camera sideways to take a video like I can when taking pictures and so you have to lie down to watch the cow herding song video properly. Also, the space they were performing in, which is a nineteenth century scandinavian style swedish church and in all other ways an amazing space, was right in front of a window through which the almost-midsummer evening sunlight poured, turning the band into silhouettes. Still, it's a nice reminder of a fantastic evening.

So you can imagine how excited I was to learn, just the other day, that Louise Schultz, the superb vocalist and one third of Svart Kaffe, is playing at the church again next Tuesday. That's Tuesday 23 October, 7pm, at 138 Park Lane, Liverpool, tickets £5 including nibbles and wine/coffee/soft drinks. Yup I was over the moon. Until I realised that I'm out of town next Tuesday.


2 October 2007

Second test - watercolour paper, ink and gouache

As mentioned previously, I'm restarting an old, almost abandoned long narrative project but I'm not sure how to do it so I'm trying out different styles etc to see which I like best. This is my second test, with watercolour paper, ink and gouache. In the last test I realised that drawing it on an A5 page was a little too cramped but I'd already laid this out by the time I sussed that so this doesn't have the benefit of that wee satori. Also, when I set it out and lettered it, my plan was to do most of it in grey (hence the line on the second page about a grey world) but when I got the paints out I thought I should experiment in some of the panels and so tried a sort of monochrome (it's not really monochrome because there's the white of the paper and the black of the ink in addition to the single colour gouache but you know what I mean) with various colours. The three options I had in mind when I embarked on the first of these tests was (1) black ink on bristol as per the previous test (2) grey gouache for the real world with multicolour gouache for dreams and astral plane and finally (3) all multicolour gouache. This is an altered on the fly/off the cuff rendition of that second test. I really don't like how the multicolour turned out to the extent that I'm abandoning that idea, but I'm not sure how to differentiate between reality and dream/astral. Do I have grey reality and another colour (purple? ochre?) for dream/astral? Or do I switch between blues, greys and ochres for reality depending on mood setting etc, and have different purples, reds and oranges for dream/astral? I remain undecided as I embark on my third test which will not, as originally envisaged, be multicolour. It will, however, be drawn and painted A4 then shrunk to A5 on screen with all the text added in Photoshop or InDesign or something Adobe anyway. Back to the drawing board...

26 September 2007

sauna vihdan tekeminen

Marja-Leena mentioned something about birch vihta or vasta in a post that mentioned sauna. It's difficult to get over just how important sauna is to Finnish people but it might help to explain that just about everybody has a sauna of some kind at home. Even in blocks of flats/apartments, there's often a shared sauna that people use according to a rota. Vihta (or vasta depending on what part of Finland you're from) is part of the sauna ritual. I've seen vihta translated as 'bath whisk' and that's sort of what it is, a whisk made of birch branches and leaves that you tap yourself - or get your partner to tap you - with while in the sauna. Some of Marja-Leena's readers seemed to get the wrong end of the stick, imagining vihta to be an instrument of self-flagellation. Joining in the discussion, I remembered that Ms Suomi-Suolmate's dad recorded some videos about making vihta before my first trip to Finland last year. So I edited them together, put on some text, and here it is.

Oh aye, in case it's not obvious, please don't take it too seriously...

(For some reason, the embed thingy doesn't seem to be showing up at the mo in which case, watch it here)

22 September 2007

First test - ink and bristol board...

As mentioned previously, I'm restarting an old, almost abandoned, long narrative project but I'm not sure how to do it. So I'm trying out different styles etc to see which I like best. This is my first test, with bristol board and ink. It's very rough and ready and should be regarded as a kind of swatch to help me rather than a part of the story. The main lesson I learned from this is that I shouldn't try and draw a page on an A5 sheet, even if that's how it's going to end up, because it's far too fiddly and just ends up looking really cramped. I was aiming for a slightly messy look but I don't like the cramped look of this. I suppose the photoshop constructed comic page I tried before avoids that but I'm not sure it's me. I am sure that it's very time consuming and unforgivably fiddly doing it all on-screen and I feel like RSI and eye-strain are creeping into my wrists and peepers every second of the way but then again I quite like the results. So the jury's still out on that one. Any lesson is important and valuable and makes the effort and exercise worthwhile. Now on to the next test...

1 of 2 New GoG test - bristol and ink
2 of 2 New GoG test - bristol and ink

A brief note on pronunciation/translation: the very last speech bubble, in the final panel, contains South Yorkshire dialect which may be vaguely familiar if you live in certain parts of the north or if you've watched and understood the movie Kes. In certain parts of South Yorkshire and northern counties generally you might encounter use of thee and thou for you. However, they're not used or pronounced in ways you might encounter in Shakespeare and thou is more likely to be pronounced tha (the a as in hat) and thee thi (the i as in him). For example, 'as tha got time on thi (have you got the time on you). Pronunciations can vary over relatively short distances however. For example, as a child I remember people from Sheffield being referred to as 'deedars', a reference to how they were perceived by us to pronounce thee and thou. Anyway, to translate: 'im - him; thi - thee/your; in't - isn't/is that not; rate - right; cock - a term of endearment similar to mate.

31 July 2007



You can download your own copy of Softy here. Some of the terms used - glyph, rasterize.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE scroll down to the bottom of my sidebar where I've added a survey/poll to try out the new blogger widget and so far I'm the only person who's voted.

22 July 2007

How to illustrate! Part 2 - painting, cocking up, magic, cheating, being lazy.

SO Ms Suomi-Suolmate has been doing this Scandinavian Heritage and Church Project, working as its Education Outreach Officer going into local schools to tell them about Vikings, sauna, Kimi Raikonen and meatballs. She's putting together a teaching pack so that the education side of it can continue when the project's funding runs out (about now) and decided she wanted elks (known t'other side of t'Atlantic as mooses) to be the ambassadors/motifs/presenters of Scandinavian culture to scouse schoolkids. And that's what I've been doing - sort of.

And seeing as I almost had enough forethought to think of it before I did it I decided to take pics during the process of painting one of the elks to show you all how it happens. Except I didn't have quite enough forethought to scan or photograph the unpainted picture to give you a starting point.

Anyway, I thought the best way of seeing it happen is by the magic of a slideshow. Before the slideshow, here's another unpainted elk to give you an idea of what an unpainted elk looks like in case you weren't sure. After the slideshow there's a chance to gaze upon a fully painted elk displaying plates of meatballs and lingonberries on the one hand, and herring on the other. Yum yum!

elk woman

elk food for web

22 June 2007

How to illustrate! Part 1 - doodling, drawing, magic, cheating, inking, being lazy

On the one hand I don't feel like any kind of expert at anything at all and especially this. On another hand more than one person has expressed an interest in further 'how to...' type posts. On yet another hand entirely (it's a Yorkshire thing - ask anybody from one of the Non-Yorkshire British countries and they'll tell you the Tykes ain't human - probably ain't even terrestrial) it's an age since I posted anything at all and so I guess I should post this.

A friend asked me to do an illustration for a conference on teenage fiction. Possibly teenage literature, I can't remember now. Actually, she really asked me to do a logo but it didn't quite work out that way. The brief was vague. Possibly some hoodies and modern teentech (handheld consoles, iPods and the like). Maybe a teenage bedroom. Definitely a cat somewhere - that was the only definite part of the brief - there had to be a cat.

SO I snatched a handful of paper and some pencils and doodled around a few ideas. The teenager's bedroom seemed to spark the firmest visual idea so that was what I worked on. This is the best of the rough pencil doodles.

The figure out on the right was meant to be on the floor between the two back-to-back figures on the bed but I drew them first and pressed on to hard so it would have looked even scruffier than my tolerance for scruffy will allow to put her where she was meant to be so I put her then and moved her later using the magic of infirmation technololly. I then emailed these magically fiddled with images to my friend for her approval. So confident was I that all would be well (or so daftly hasty to press on without thinking) , I started work on the final image before my friend replied.

I'll be careful how I put this because I know from bitter experience that many will regard what I'm about to type as an admission of outright barefaced dishonest cheating. Because what I'm about to type is something about TRACING. After I'd magically fiddled the lone figure into the group, I printed out the magically fiddled with image so that I could roughly trace the image onto some nice watercolour paper for my final illustration. Just so that people know, TRACING isn't CHEATING. Well, I suppose there might be circumstances when tracing is cheating but that's not in BOLD ITALIC so it's less important and noticeable and is probably therefore less true. And anyway, I was tracing my own drawings so I certainly wasn't cheating.

conf sketch bed

Above is the magically fiddled etc, left is the print of it that I traced from, right the pencil drawing I traced, with some embellishments, additions etc. You can buy expensive lightboxes to help you cheat or you can just attach your blank sheet of paper to the image you want to trace (the blank sheet on top) with several paper clips (you can obtain paper clips free of charge from most offices) and hold it up to a window with daylight on the other side. If you have blinds, nets, curtains or anything similar, you might want to open these first. This could result in funny looks from neighbours and passers-by but ensures best results. Similarly, the bit about daylight. If you've got all those bits right then you should be able to see the original image beneath your blank paper and all you need to do is go over it with a pencil. Below is the traced drawing half inked with drip-pen and acrylic ink. I use drip-pens because I prefer the quality of line you get with them and just the feel of doing it. They're fiddly, inconsistent, messy, unreliable, lots of other negative-y type things, but I love em - not least because they're fiddly, inconsistent, messy and unreliable. I use acrylic ink because it's waterproof once it's dried on the page so it can be painted over without bleeding.

By the time I'd got this far with the inking, and specifically by the time I'd inked the horse, I received a reply from my friend saying everything was okay except it was a bit too symmetrical for her taste and she didn't like the horse. I made something up about the importance of symmetrical horses to the unity of the hole, an excuse that had nothing to do with me having already inked it and being too lazy to do it all again from scratch a symmetrically horseless.

When I'd finished inking it and the ink was dry, I rubbed out the pencil lines and painted it using some of these things and gouache watercolour until it looked exactly like the image below. I can't be arsed to explain how I painted it because 1) I didn't take any pictures of it as I was painting it so there's nothing to illustrate my explanation 2) I sort of explained about painting already here and you can see the painting in progress in this flickr photoset and 3) I've been doing this for hours and need a rest and some grub. After that I'm going to draw and paint some european elks which I'll hopefully remember to photograph as I paint them in order to show you how.

conference illustration