Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Cracking Start to 2011

Hello All,

I was very pleased not only to have a lovely feature provided by comics-criticism connoisseur of the North East, Christian Kerr, in the January issue of The Crack magazine, but also to have the lovely robot illustration I created based on these lovely robots put slap bang on the cover!

But it gets better folks! The editor asked my permission after they were unable to use a picture of Muhammed Ali! Which means their next thought after legendary-boxer-hero-to-millions was ME! Ahem...well maybe. Anyway, feast your eyes:

The Crack is a free magazine that is chock full of reviews and listings for all sorts of lovely local gigs, theatre performances, galleries, good places to eat, stuff that's happening and everything in-between. You can pick it up from almost every decent pub and clothes/record/comic shop in Newcastle so please do seek it out!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Any First Requests?

Since it was so popular at Thought Bubble, I've decided I will now be taking requests for small commissions online over at my Etsy Shop. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to snap pictures of any of the drawings I did at the event and the listing is going to look very bare unless I have some examples up there. So I'm asking YOU, the dear blog reader, to post some insane (but unoffensive) ideas for things I can draw and scan to spice things up a bit.

I'll happily e-mail you a hi-res scan of your doodle to print out, or if you wanna PayPal me £2/$3 I'll mail out the hard copy to you as well! I will be doing two or three black and white ink drawings and one colour drawing for the listing so get in there fast with requests amigos!

If you've got an idea just comment on this blog post or e-mail me at:


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Speak Easy

It was recently brought to my attention by a close associate of mine that he wasn't able to post comments on my blog (for better or worse). I've isolated the source of the problem and I'm here to tell you that you need keep your scathing criticisms to yourself no longer! And what better way to bring you this message than with the above video. This is a trailer for "Awake, My Soul" a documentary I had the great pleasure of seeing not so long ago when I went to see local heroes of mine Cath & Phil Tyler at the volunteer-run Star & Shadow Cinema here in Newcastle. Yes, there are some scary religious people, but l i s t e n ! WOW.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Bubble for your Thoughts

While still ever-so-slightly shellshocked from what has to have been my busiest Thought Bubble yet, I feel I should tell the tale the way I remember it. To help you imagine things in glorious technicolour, here's a picture of me behind my stall with my face turned away from the camera and towards a picture of Stalin that I'm drawing. Posed, you think? Contrived, perhaps? Well buddy, this is 100% candid camera, and a lovely chap called Paul Burrow will testify to that, since he's the generous stranger who snapped it without my knowing and e-mailed it to me later!

Here's a list of mistakes I've learned valuable lessons from this year:

  • Turn Up Earlier - no, packing the night before and getting up at 5:30am is not enough. Especially when your flashy new cardboard display stand has never been taken out of its box and you have no idea how to assemble it. On-lookers were treated to the sight of a cussing yeti flailing his arms around in a barbaric display of primitive oragami as the contours of the defiant card mocked him with their malicious smiles.

  • Assemble ALL Your Comics - Another wise idea of mine was to take the loose pages of my MAIN TITLE with me, as well as my long-armed stapler with probably THREE staples in it, instead of finding the time to assemble them before the show. This resulted in a panic attack in the middle of the day which found me back at Leeds station desperately groping the shelves of WHSmiths and Paperchase to find more staples.

  • Take Down That Stupid Sign - I'm not Jack Kirby, and I cannot produce good drawings in five nanoseconds. So what possesed me to put up a sign saying I would draw anything you want for £2 (with the 'anything' in italics and everything) baffles even me. Don't get me wrong, it was cool drawing cosplayers as zombies, couples as pigs, celebrity portraits and Stalin's bushy lip, but MAN was I tired by the end of the day. I've only today actually finished all the requests I got, which I'll be mailing out to the people I made empty promises to on the day. Maybe up the price or lower the options? How about:

    "I will draw a rodent of your choice for £50"

    See how many takers I get on that one. Hmm.

  • Embrace Capitalism - It's taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that some people don't have the time to listen to me whinge, even if I spend all of my waking life trying to turn that whinging into half-way decent comics. So why not exploit the fact that most people aren't as horribly self-loathing as me and create an alternative product to my comics in the form of punchy big prints for twice the money?! I should have brought more of these, I did not anticipate them to sell as well as they did! And despite my backwards way of expressing it, I'm really grateful to everyone who picked up one and validated the existence of the illustrator within.

  • Remember Mrs. Gren - Basic human functions still apply, even at Thought Bubble. I should have gone to bed earlier the night before, I should have had time to eat some lunch and use the toilet on the day. Chewits and Chuppachups only cut it for so long.
Now here are some great things that happened, just to leave that lovely feeling in your belly:

  • I met loads of great and talented people, some for the first time, including:

    Jess Bradley - ex Travelling Man chum, now internet-based comics chum with stacks of awesome art and comics (and trainers!) for you to oogle at on her website. She and her boyfriend even offered me a guided tour of Bristol should I ever drop my anchor in those lands. And I expecting GUIDING, guys!

    Magda Boreysza - the mind responsible for one of my very favourite small press titles Toasty Cats, as well as a slew of other weird and wonderful art and animations, no less!

    Paul Rainey - a machine of comics production, the creator of There's No Time Like The Present and all round splendid chap. Didn't speak to him nearly as much as I'd have liked this year but it was good to frantically cram a conversation in with him, none the less.

    Steve Tillotson & Gareth Brookes - of Banal Pig fame, of course. Whose latest offerings met the extremely high bar they've set for themselves at previous cons and through their immense back catalogue of gems. If you haven't already, buy the Banal Pig Showcase.

    Selina Lock - I didn't get much of a chance to speak to Selina or Jay of Caption fame, but will hopefully be introduced to them properly by Paper Jam member and comics veteran Terry Wiley when we all discuss plans to make the best con ever here in Newcastle.

    Kristyna Baczynski - who I didn't realise I was actually meeting until it was pointed out to me in the pub after the show by close comics associates Gary Bainbridge and Andy Waugh. Nor did I realise that it was the very same Kristyna the year before as I egotistically talked up my comics to her all the while being amazed by the wonderful things on her blog.

    Marc Ellerby - As he pointed out, we only see each other once a year, so it probably wasn't in-line of me to get all up in his face on a bitter, jealous rant about his insane level of success. Not least of which is being featured in the awesome CBGB anthology that the likes of Jamie Hernandez were involved with - god, I hate you, Marc.

  • Paper Jam World Domination - The Comics Collective I started in Newcastle some four years ago has grown immensely during that time, and its members have unleashed unbelievable talents on the comics world. We had FIVE stalls all in a row this year, one for the Collective itself, another for me, one for Andy and Gary, another with Terry (and honourary PJCC member Selina) and a third with Paul Thompson, Daniel Clifford and Martin Newman. All of whom had amazing new things to offer which you can read about on their respective blogs.

  • I Made Some Money - and was able to treat my girlfriend to some nice things on her birthday to make up for the present drought that struck the Land of Giving this year. Thanks, November, month of poverty! But non-sarcastically, thanks to everyone who stopped by my stall this year, even the cheeky little kids who justed wanted some of my free chewits! I really appreciate everyone's support and I'll look forward to seeing you all again next year!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

One Year Later...

...and I've finally printed the second issue of The Big Bang. I've decided I might as well make its official launch at Thought Bubble, since it's only around the corner and I still need to fold and staple the whole lot. But it is available to buy from my Etsy Shop before then, where you can see further preview pictures and find out more about it. So if you're not going to be at Thought Bubble and/or can't be bothered to wait until it's in the shops after then and/or don't live in the UK, go check it out!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Covering My Tracks

The Big Bang Issue One will soon have a new friend, who I've affectionately named The Big Bang Issue Two. To generate some interest for this publication, or remind people of its existence, as the case may be, I decided to document each stage of the creation of the cover. I've been reading a lot of those artists' processes lately over on my two favourite blogs Drawn! and Meathaus so I thought I'd give it a go and maybe trick you all into thinking I'm more pro than I really am. So:

1) Materials!
Paper: 160gsm A3 watercolour card.
Pencils: 0.5 Faber Castell mechanical pencil with blue lead refills.
Pens: 0.1, 0.4 and 0.8 Uni Pin fine liners, with a Copic double-ended brush/chizel pen for bigger blocks of black.
Technology: Mustek A3 scanner, Wacom Tablet, Photoshop CS3 and the blessed iMac.

2) Pencils
In keeping with the first cover, I decided to use no human subjects on this one, and to focus on a tranquil/eerie city scene with lots of tedious architechtural details. Notice also that I employed a poor man's one-point perspective, which is about the only good thing to come from my Design Technology GCSE.

As you can probably tell, this is going to be another wrap-around cover with the vanishing point being the spine of the book. In other words, the right half is the front cover, and the left half is the back cover!

3) Inks
Once I was happy I had reached an almost finished composition I started inking over all the lines. I noticed that the windows on the left-most building were totally NOT straight, so I just fixed it when inking instead of drawing the whole thing over in pencil again. I blacked in all the little x's I'd left for myself in the pencils, which is something I stole from Doug Braithwaite and which is basically pointless in my case. Where Doug Braithwaite would then give his amazing pencils to some incompitent Marvel Monkey to ruin, I'm only drawing for myself, so there's really no need to tell myself which areas are supposed to be black given that I made that decision all on my very own.

4) Scanning
I don't bother to rub out pencil lines any more. It took me a lot of time to ween myself off that Blue Peter/smART technique, but I'm finally there. I scan in inks as 1200dpi RGB .psd files and use Photoshop's Image > Adjustments > Threshold tool to make all the blacks absolute black and all the whites absolute white. I picked that one up from this awesome RePro Guide you can download for free from Jordan Crane's website.

5) Colours
Once I'm happy with the crispiness of my lines, and once I've gotten rid of any specks, mistakes and other incriminating evidence I make sure the image is set to the right paper measurements for print and reduce the resolution to 300dpi so my computer doesn't have a fit. Once it's time to add colour, I go to the Channels tab, make a copy of my Blue layer, Invert it, use the little marching ants tool to select all the black ink lines (which are now white), go back to my Layers tab, create a new Layer and Paint Bucket black (or in this case, a dark blue) into the selected area to make a copy of all the black lines seperated from the white background. Then I can fill the Background layer with white and create an intermediate layer between my white background and my free-standing ink lines where the colours can go. For adding grey to comic pages I usually just need one intermediate layer, but for this cover I had three: one for the sky, one for the clouds and another for the buildings. And here it be:

I'll have the comic printed and up for sale at my usual outlets by the end of this month, so be on the look-out! Thanks for sharing the tedious monotony of comics creation with me. I feel better already.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Crumpet Time Ghostly Gramophone Doodle Book

...has landed. And here it be, in all its doodlesomeness:

The idea was conceived when I realised how boring white paper was, and how changing something as minimal as the colour or texture of your paper can inform your drawings and make them look much snazzier. The item, as always, can be purchased from my Etsy Shop for a mere $4.00 which works out at about £2.50 English. Go there for more pics and info!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Wings & Things

Well then,

Big Bang progress has begun to steam along again - I can now truthfully say I'm more than half way through the second issue (only by one page mind, but still!). I've also whipped together a new product for my Etsy Shop, to satisfy both ornithological and capitalist hemispheres of my brain. Here it be:

Why, it's a birthday card centred around a very tenuous pun, of course! I realise these kinds of jokes don't aid me in my epic battle against the decline into an embarrassing Dad-type, but it did give me an excuse to draw a bird in a top hat and a monocle.

In other news, a friend of mine called Phillip Buchan has just written a novel and started a Twitter account @FrancisSobriety among other things. If you want some proof that this guy isn't a total douche (and believe me, it can be difficult proof to find) - he's responsible for some really great, really profane comics that were spewed forth onto the world along with mine in one of our earliest ventures into self-publishing with Phil Marsden, entitled Black Out. Remember? No? How about What's Inside A Girl? or Everything Is Going To Be Alright? Well, then I can't help you. I guess he'll have to speak for himself, or his novel will. His novel, which I can testify to at least being one-quarter great (since that's all I've read of it so far).

Anyway, that's all that blood-sucker is getting from me. Go check things out!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

You Can't Kill What's Already a Dead Einstein's Ghost

Just saw this over at Paul Hornschemier's blog. If you can tell me what's not good about it, I'll tell you how long a piece of string is*

*answer: as long as your stupid boring face.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Jack & Daniel's Comic Book Workshops Blog!

Hello all,

I often make reference to the workshops myself and writer Daniel Clifford facilitate at various libraries, schools and other institutions in the area, but haven't, until this point, been able to do that fancy text link thing that I just did up there ^ Did you miss it? Here it is again.

The reason I can do this now is because last night we launched our blog - finally! Hopefully, we'll be posting photos, drawings and any other interesting stuff that happens as the sessions go on. We'll also be keeping an up-to-date list of all our forthcoming workshops and information on how you (or your little whipper-snappers) can get involved.

Follow the text links, or this bigger, fancier image link, to see the thing for yourself!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Viva La Home Office

I received a very nice e-mail and this awesome picture the other day from a girl called Astrid, who bought my Viva La Robolution print from Etsy. I've never framed or hung one before so it was super cool to see it on the wall - and in an already cool-looking space at that!

Thanks, Astrid!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Bitty Bang


I've been hard at work for the last day or two finally knuckling down on The Big Bang Issue Two after a big hiatus while I moved house and various other excuses. The second issue is going to feature some envelope-pushing on the format side of things, the nature of which I'll not get into just yet - but suffice to say that when myself and Alexi Conman realised that such a thing was doable, my excitement was enough to put the plain old comics drawing on the back-burner until I brought the thing into existence. A preview of artwork featured within can be seen below:

It dawned on me yesterday that it has been 6 months since the first issue and I'd better get my act together before everyone forgets about it! So any and all spare time I manage to wrangle over the coming weeks will be spent pouring over old scripts, thumbnails, doodles and ideas and hopefully I'll have a new issue for you very soon!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hot Look for Summer

I've taken my blog for a make-over. It now looks like <-- this --> I like it better now, but that might just be because it's different to how it was before and sometimes it's nice to have a change. I kind of wish I had more to report than that so this post was a bit more flashy but I'll just let the blog do the talking. Go ahead blog, you handsome devil you.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Swing The Heaviest Hammer Ya Got

I just picked up my 24 Hour Comic John Henry Split My Heart from the printers, and it's looking rather delicious. I've cropped it so it's about 2cm shorter and 1cm less wide than A5, mostly because my stupid PDFs left mysterious black lines as if to say "crop me" but it was a welcome mystery because now the book feels just that little bit more substantial to hold in one's hand. Here's a couple of photos I just snapped:

You'll be able to pick up copies from all the Travelling Man stores come the start of next week and you can already buy copies from my Etsy Shop. It retails at £3/$4 but if you're coming to the Paper Jam meeting tonight you'll get it for a shocking £2.50! Read more about the fabled item here.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Triumph in the Absence of God


I have three things to report, in chronological order:

1) I finished the covers and inside front/back pages for John Henry Split My Heart, which is now available to buy from my Etsy Shop, despite the fact that I still haven't printed any physical copies of it yet. I will be getting a batch done up either tomorrow or early next week though, and if I do sell 500 copies all of a sudden it won't be hard to print on demand...I hope.

2) I listened to the pilot episode of North East Geek Feast, which is a podcast created by comics cohorts Daniel Clifford and Lily Daniels. It features a documentary about the Paper Jam Comics Collective that I'm always blathering on about and that I'm sure at least the majority of you, the readership, have no idea about - if you need more reason to listen, it also has reviews, interviews and a heart in the right place. You'll even get to hear my radio-unfriendly barritone mumblings crashing through the niceness like a miniature wrecking ball.

3) I finished my submission to the forthcoming History...and that comics anthology, by aforementioned Paper Jam Comics Collective. My strip is rather gothically called "Anna & The Absence of God" and it's two pages of melodramatic speculative fiction based on a real person who existed in a real place during a specific time. It's taken from a book/film that I'm quite hopelessly obsessed with and if I had to rate it, I would say it was... adequate. Here's a panel:

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Hermit Emerges from his Hovel

Father, it's been over a month since my last blogfession, my only sin being precisely that. Otherwise, I've been a relatively normal, functioning member of society, and even got a lot of artwork produced too. But before all of that, I'd like to share with you the single greatest achievement of my professional career. A moment that not only inflated my ego to way past its bed time but also validated my existence and the amount of said existence I've wasted toiling away at comics. I got an e-mail from my all-time favourite creator and single biggest source of inspiration and awe... Mr. F. C. Ware himself.

The e-mail wasn't to tell me he thought I was the next big thing, or that he was emotionally floored by my work, but it was encouraging, helpful and substancial, and above all - CHRIS WARE READ MY COMICS! Gods of pen and ink be praised.

In other news, I did a 24 Hour Comic as part of the P.R.E.S.S. event at the Tyneside Cinema and I intend to put it out in a book, I've written an introduction and produced a front and back cover, so as soon as the last bits are done and I have two pennies to rub together it'll be in my Etsy Shop and on the shelves at Travelling Man. Here's a peak:

I also just today finished the cover for O'Messy Life's 3rd EP entitled O'Messy Life and The Quarter Life Crisis of Conan. As per Mr. Littlefair's request, it is a truly gorey scene indeed. Behold:

The EP itself is set for release at the end of next month so you'll no doubt see plenty of promo in and around the Newcastle area. I recommend going to the show as well, they are a splendid outfit of absurdly talented people who play a great live set.

Work continues on The Big Bang, I definitely haven't forgotten about it, it will come out, honest. Promise. I also had a request to make the "Sea Food" design I created for Boreal into a print, so you can pick one of those up from my Etsy Shop if it takes your fancy!

Updates soon, maybe!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Zappa says: Updates!

Hello all. I've updated my real website so that everything now makes sense in the universe. The Store icon now links to my Etsy shop, the News icon links to this blog, my About section now features a downloadable PDF of my Creative CV, the Links section has two new additions and finally, I've added a few preview pages of The Big Bang Issue One in the Portfolio section.

I added this picture of Frank Zappa from my sketchbook so this post wasn't so boring. Thanks to HTML wizard Tim Eggleston for doing all the work!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Scenes from a coming Bang

Me and Alexi Conman have been coming up with tons of ideas for the future of our humble series and one particularly revolutionary idea has increased my enthusiasm tenfold. The second issue will eclipse the first in scope, content and awesomeness. Here's a snippet:

I'm hoping to have this out before the end of March so I'll keep you posted on its progress. In other news, this Thursday night I'll finally be unveiling plans for the Paper Jam Comics Collective's 7th/8th/9th anthology (depending on how long it takes) Music...and that. It's an idea I've had in the works for ages but one it has finally come time to execute. It's release will be in the summer and it will shred riffs so sweet you'll weep like Robert Smith. Keep your eyes on the PJCC blog for more info.

Friday, 12 February 2010


So then, me and the chaps of the The Paper Jam Comics Collective have been hard at work putting on our 3 Year Birthday party/launch event for Space Monkey and doing promotion work for it. Read all about it here. Part of that involved a creative collaboration between myself and the infinitely talented Mr. Bainbridge, (our first, in fact, despite being creative allies for all of these three years) who designed this killer poster:

Feel free to print copies and give them to everyone you know!

I coloured it and did the text and heading, but of course, the main attraction would be the giant caterpillar playing slap bass. Hopefully he'll turn up to play on the night because I've just received the sorry news that my drummer will be unavailable, so only 5 of 6 members of Sleepwalk will be headlining on that night. We may still try to jig things around so one of us can play a make-shift percussion thing, but we'll see.

In other news, I've just listed the Viva La Robolution poster I was yacking on about earlier. And let me tell you brother, it is one beastly thing to behold. I ended up printing it on A1 gloss and it's big enough to eat your grandmother. Go check it out.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Small Press Big Bang!

The awesome, ever-supportive and comic-centric Stacey Whittle has reviewed issue one of The Big Bang on her podcast-come-nerd-haven, Small Press Big Mouth. If you want to hear the review click here and listen to Episode Fifteen. Then listen to all the other episodes. Or better yet, work up to the review from Episode One. Go on then!

Me and Stacey think pretty much the same things about issue one, which is both refreshing and encouraging, and I was very pleased to have its story mechanism compared to those of Alex Robinson. And, of course, I was humbled in no small way to be mentioned at all. Cheers Stacey!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Viva La Robolution

I had my first Custom Item Request on Etsy last week from the talented Rachel Wheeler of Pretty Much LiQi Designs. It was for more robots but in the form of prints, and after sending her a slew of ideas we finally settled on a Communist propaganda-style thing, which turned out something exactly like this:

There were some other, equally cheesy, ideas but I'll hopefully do those some time soon as well so I won't ruin the surprise for everyone sat at home holding their breath in nail-biting suspense (you know who you aren't).

Dance With Me.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bang, the second.

I've decided that 2010 will see me juggling at least 3 projects at any given time. No more mister sane guy, if I'm not ruining my life by piling needless commitments on myself then I'm not trying hard enough! Currently, I'm juggling these four things:

1) Finishing mine and Daniel's "brochure" for our workshops.
2) Putting together the second issue of Big Bang
3) Organising the 3 Year Anniversary Party for the Paper Jam Comics Collective
4) Making a record at The Stillwells' home studio with my band Sleepwalk (follow the link to hear a rough, drumless, trumpetless version of one of the tracks "Black River Falls")

Further to those I also have an idea in the works for a project which will be called:
John Henry Split My Heart: The Illustrated Music of Songs:Ohia & The Magnolia Electric Co.
An excerpt of which will appear in Andy Waugh's "Show and Tell" anthology, if I'm still allowed to do that, given that it's been about 3 months since he first mentioned it.

As for now, here's the first page from the second project mentioned above: