Tuesday, 29 November 2011

In The Studio

I'm having a bit of a colouring meltdown at the moment. My attempts at colouring my comics in the past have been decidedly mixed, so I'm trying to make a little bit more of a concerted effort to use colour rather than just hobbling myself by constantly sticking to black and white. Of course, it's not coming easy. 

Part of the problem is that I don't really know where or what materials I want to focus on, so I'm experimenting with a couple of different approaches. This is something of a double-edged sword, because lacking that specificity can turn you into something of a jack-of-all. For the moment, however, I'm taking a break from the painfully slow world of computer colouring and focusing more on traditional materials. 

I was given a gorgeous set of Acrylic Inks some time ago and have only really gotten around to trying them out. The colours are incredibly luminous and strong; they layer really nicely too, and you can get a good variety of tones. The downsides are that it takes time to build up more nuanced, muted colours, especially if you're using thin washes like I am. Of course, applying thin wash after thin wash is just one way of using inks as a medium, and preferably I'd like to slap it on a bit thicker, and be bolder with my colour schemes. I'm hoping I can get a load of glass phials and start mixing up colours for some Herge-style colouring experiments! Does anyone know anywhere that might sell such a thing? 

Time consuming though it may be, I think I'll be colouring the bulk of Nineteen-Ough-Two like this. If anyone has any good tips or tutorials, then I'd love to hear them! Keep me posted, 

Elliot x

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Little Historical Titbits

Like most people, I think I'm still reeling from the vast amount of Comic events that have gone on this week and trying to get my thoughts in order! Going through my photos of Thought Bubble, I managed to find these Photos I took in the Leeds City Museum of some great little Neo-Classical ladies' fans...

 Aren't they great? I love the little motifs and decorations that go into the borders around the delicately painted scenes, and no surface of the fan is left untouched; even the supports have little scenes filigreed into the ivory. I'd really love to try and include some of these flourishes as comic panels. This would be a great way to actually think about presenting a comic strip as well, for anyone willing to experiment with fan-making, as well as drawing a curved, radial comic. As a format, it's neat, compact, and easily portable; plus a lifesaver on hot days! Why not enjoy your favorite funnies whilst hob-nobbing with the duchess at the Opera? 

On a similarly decorative note, my charming boyfriend recently brought me this wonderful bar of finest Kazakh chocolate that he was given by a foreign agent. The packaging is insane. In case you can't tell, it's gold-embossed, with a prominent blue silhouette of Kazakhstan. It looks more like currency than any chocolate bar I've ever seen, and we half expecting to find a golden ticket to visit Mr Wonkovitch's marvelous chocolate factory when we opened it. 

Instead, what we found was some of the nicest chocolate I've had in a long time, dark as sin and slightly bitter (just the way I like it) with rich body and a slightly salty, smoky aftertaste. Overall, really excellent choccy! Watch out, Switzerland! 

Finally, I came across this little magazine in a market in Soho, and just had to have it. 

As expected, Eve's Own consists mostly of fairly "dainty", soppy, formulaic romance short stories and serials, with a handful of sewing patterns and home-keeping tips. But the jewel in its' crown is the extensive "Eve and the Editor" section, in which anonymous bright young things pour their hearts out to a fusty, male "Agony Uncle". "Old Solomon" deals with these sensitive issues with an authorial voice that is almost audibly pompous, plummy and patronising. My long-term, mixed-race (part asian) gay boyfriend and I had a good laugh over this little snippet; 

Dear me. Unfortunately, this is fairly representative of Solomon's replies and prose in general. I have to admit, as a piece of Psycho-History, these Agony Aunt sections are an amazing way to get inside the minds of women of the distant past; to discover what their anxieties were, how they conducted relationships, and how an oppressive patriarchy idly dismissed their troubles. A great resource for anyone wanting to write historical fiction. But I can't help but hope that Mournful Mollie stayed with her Chinaman. 

I think I'll leave it at that for now. Until next time, dear little pals, 


Friday, 25 November 2011

More News from the Studio

Work on Nineteen-Ough-Two is coming on apace, and it looks like I should have the strip inked by early next week! A lot of my time so far has been concerned with Historical research, which is always time consuming, slow, but ultimately very rewarding. I've found some great old photos to work with. Whilst on a search for old costumes to use for bystanders in the "1902" segment of the narrative, I came across this great turn-of-the-century portrait:

Dude! Cecil Higgins, you dandy gentleman, where have you been all my life? That spotted 'kerchief, that dapper watch fob, those lush curled moustache tips! Cecil may have to find a home in one of my other stories, because he is simply a Cartoon character made flesh. I am working fairly flat out on Nineteen-Ough-Two this week, but if I have a spare hour, I may break off to sketch up a my own portrait of Cecil. At times like this, I feel that good image research really pays off; every now and again, divine providence throws something like this in your lap, but it's not something you want to be relying on all the time. 

Anyway, enough rambling, here's another very quick "raw" scan to let you see how everything's coming along: 

Blank spaces in panels 3-6 are where the "1902 AD" logo will be copy-pasted. Of all the tools an artist can use in the digital world, copy-paste is probably the lowest, the cheapest, most miserable attempt to bulk out work, so i've tried to keep it to an absolute minimum. I'm also justifying it by reminding myself that all these panels will be coloured individually. In fact, a lot of the narrative will be told through colour.

In case you hadn't guessed, repetition is going to be a key theme in the visuals of Nineteen-Ough-Two (hence title) and this approach is what's allowed the whole thing to come together so swiftly. However, I always feel that true repetition in art is boring for everyone involved, which is why I've tried to vary the seemingly repetitive panels as much as possible. More often than not, true repetition can end up creating works that are as dull for the reader as they are masochistically tedious for the artist to produce. Successful art in this genre usually ends up relying on the sheer spectacle of scale and the baffling pointlessness and insanity of the exercise to impress. In the comic form it's very difficult to tell a narrative with truly identical panels; not only because nothing "happens" as such, but also because it doesn't capture the reader's eye in any way; you'll tend to skim the entirety, like you would a fabric pattern, rather than pausing and considering each individual panel. That's not to say that audience reaction isn't a useful tool in it's own right! See Tim Kreider's masterful We Even Yet? as an example of how this glib visual attitude can be used to evoke a powerful reaction from the reader.  

The only other Wimbledon news is that a Tutor's asked me to exhibit some pages in a small college exhibition, so you could see some of these coloured sooner than I anticipated. Until then, have a great weekend, everybody! 

Elliot x

Thursday, 24 November 2011

In the Studio

Hey Guys! Just thought I'd give you a quick update as to what's been going on at my studio HQ at Wimbledon! Things are pretty busy this week, as I've been trying to draw a new comic! Nineteen-Ough-Two is my first attempt at making a long-format scroll comic; it' also completely silent and follows the life of a Cornicestone through a century of London History.

 But that's not all! When it's complete, I'll be attempting the impossible and trying to turn this full colour comic into a limited edition screenprint! Since it's going to be about 28x300cm this could be a bit of a trick to pull off, we'll have to see how it goes. But it's also going to be pretty costly; and due to the amounts of ink, paper, and time that need to be devoted to it, I don't think it's really going to be an affordable comic; so Nineteen-Ough-Two will also be available online as a scrolling digital comic.

This comic's also a bit of a new direction for me in that I'm strictly limiting the tools I work with. I enjoy brush painting with inks, but the whole process can be very time-consuming, and makes me obsess relentlessly over wether I'm making the "right" lines. Nineteen-Ough-Two is my first real attempt to adress this issue; all the artwork is drawn with fims fixed gauge pens that don't allow for any variation in the width of the lines, and the colour will be carrying the story for the most part. The upshot of using a very inflexible nib when inking is that you end up thinking less about the inking process itself and concentrating more on how you use these largely identical marks to draw a variety of different forms, textures and objects. In short, it's great for practicing your markmaking skills without a lot of other hassle.

Here's a little taster to whet your appetite!

Check back later in the week for more updates! 
Until then, 

Elliot x

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thought Bubblin'

For those of you not in the know, last weekend (the 19th and 20th) was the return of the anxiously anticipated Thought Bubble Leeds Comic-Con! I have to confess that this was my first year up at Thought Bubble: my first ever trip to Leeds as well, actually: and the only negative thing I can say is that I deeply regret never going before. Thought Bubble, where have you been all my life? 
Due to my coach tickets being booked for an ungodly hour on friday morning, I actually got a chance to look around Leeds as well, which beats staring at the inside of a convention hall for an entire weekend! 

A Mucha-inspired muse of Art in one of Leeds'  many Victorian Shopping Arcades!
Having looked around Leeds I can also say, without reservation, that the city has the most breathtaking Public Library I have ever seen. Rooms stacked with books, a dedicated art library, soaring, intricate pillars and a stairwell that was like a cross between Hogwarts and an MC Esher print with a scattering of bizarre sculpture thrown in for good measure. 
The Stairwell 
The Attic Library
Be sure to take good care of it, Leeds County Council! I hope you know how lucky you are! 

The convention itself was great experience! The Big news of course, is the launch of dotComics, the Webcomic Anthology I have been editing with Mike Medaglia. It's also (as far as I know) the first publication of it's kind, attempting to link the divide between print and digital, and draw in a new audience who perhaps hadn't heard of webcomics or even knew they existed. I was particularly astonished by the print quality, as were most people who came to the table. The temptation to run your hands over the glossy pages is almost too much to resist, and there's a lovely texture of ink on paper. One of the guys I spoke to said that Josceline Fenton's Hemlock looked like it was printed with huge gobs of still-wet ink! (In a nice way.) Thanks to Pulse Print for a fantastic finish to what we hope will be a great magazine! 

The dotComics stand at Thought Bubble!
I swear, some of the worst photos of my life have been taken behind convention tables. This one is particularly unflattering. My evidently gross sandwich eating didn't put off the customers, however, and we did rather nicely! 

Among the stall holders at the Convention were some of our contributors! The charming Phillipa Rice had her checkered gingham table cloth covered with all manner of Comics, Prints, Totes and delightful goods from her webcomic My Cardboard Life

And the ever-prolific David O'Conell had his wonderful new anthology ink + PAPER for sale alongside his other work, where it was selling like hot cakes! 

TB Leeds marked a real change for me, I feel fired up and raring to go, and am already making plans for Thought Bubble 2012! Thanks so much to everyone who brought dotComics, helped make it possible, or just stopped by the stall! I hope you all had a good a time as I did. I feel I've barely scratched the surface in this blogpost, so I'll be returning to this topic later. In the meantime, I'll be pouring through all the lovely swag I brought back to London, and posting little reviews of some of my favorite comics and best buys from Leeds! Until then,

Elliot x