Friday, August 31, 2007

Ellen Forney Taught Me How to Twirl my Tassles.

Actually, I've never met Ellen Forney. I love her work though, and her fantastic book, I Love Led Zeppelin, is an absolute delight, covering, as it does, more than a decade of her work as a cartoonist.

It's her comics that I really enjoy though, and coming from Edinburgh I chanced across them completely by accident. I found her artwork, you see, in the comic book pictured above. It's the cover of the first of the excellent Bizarro World Anthologies by DC Comics. I have both now, but this one holds a special affection for me because the concept was so new to me. I mean I read Not Brand Ech, and Fred Hembeck's super hero parody stuff years ago, but this was really different, and I think it made me more interested in looking up the comic book characters I'd long ago deserted. The premise of the Bizarro Anthologies is traditional DC characters as seen through the eyes of indie-comic artists and writers, and it works brilliantly. The cover here was drawn by Xaime Hernandez and the collection features work by Tony Millionaire, Chip Kidd, Chris Duffy, Dupuy Berberian, Evan Dorkin, Derek Kirk Kim, Ediie Campbell, Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier, Jim Cambell, etc, etc, and Ellen Forney, of course.

Anyway, one of my favourites from the comic is the Wonder Woman story, pictured above, written by Mo Willems and drawn by Ellen Forney, and I was delighted to find that Dirk Deppey has posted a link to Ellen's video talks about cartooning on his Journalista Blog. I mean I love these things. Decades ago, when I was working as a comic artist and only really knew one other cartoonist, I managed to get a hold of Cartoonist Profiles and it made me feel that I really was part of something. Video tutorials and Streaming process work-throughs and diaries are even better though, they really will inspire beginning artists even more profoundly than old Jud Hurd's magazines influenced the likes of me.

The screen-capture detail, from one of the videos; is from Dirk Deppey's
Journalista Blog and the link to the videos is courtesy of Eric Reynolds
from his posting on The Fantagraphics Blog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Who Am I?

No, not the words of Rumpelstiltskin, the opening sentence of the book Nadja, by the author of The Surrealist Manifesto, Andre Breton.

Perhaps my life is nothing but an image of this kind; perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I should simply recognize, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten.

I'm a big fan of Art Spiegelman, who is a big fan of Breton and who took the idea of the parlour game that Breton and his Surrealist chums played, The Exquisite Corpse, and turned it into, what I thought was a very disappointing book, The Narrative Corpse.

The parlour game, The Exquisite Corpse, involved the person who starts the circle writing an opening sentence at the top of a piece of paper. They then hand the piece of paper on, and the next player writes a sentence to follow on from the first. The piece of paper is then folded so only the most recent line of text is seen by the next person who writes a sentence to follow on from that, and this carries on until all the players have added a line of text. Once the final person in the chain has added his or her sentence, the thing is unfolded and read as a complete narrative.

Art Spiegelman's book, The Narrative Corpse, published by Gates of Heck, features sixty-nine well-known cartoonists who each drew three panels featuring a stick-figure, based on only the previous three panels. The results were, patchy.

Oh yes, the point, well, the point is that a bunch of people from TCJ Forum have resurrected the idea, once again, of producing a version of The Exquisite Corpse, but one that differs from Art Spiegelman's project and yet still manages to hold equally true to the Surrealists goals of transformation, of a constant state of change. Whether it will also hold true to their goals of cooperation and humour will unfold in the fullness of time - but the signs, I think, are good.

"How can we retain from waking life what deserves to be retained, even if it is just so as not to be unworthy of what is best in this life itself?"

This Exquisite Corpse will take a year or more come into existence, and involves each player creating 1 or 2 pages of artwork, and forwarding only their last panel to the next cartoonist in line, who will then create his or her 1 or 2 pages of artwork and forward only their last panel. It has, I feel, more of a chance of becoming an unconscious collage, than The Narrative Corpse did. That is, of course, providing it manages to survive the curse of Ray Tan (the mysterious Comics Journal Board member who made the first Corpse disappear).

The very brave and talented, and some might say foolhardy, Luke Przybylski, Eric, and Aeron Alfrey, are doing the hard work of rounding us up, and Eric is also keeping us in shape and up-to-date. Make no mistake, it's a bit of a task.

The Corpse Players

1 - Eric - (July 4 2007 - July 17 2007)

9 - Ray Frenden -

10 - Chris Pottinger -

13 - Sean Aaberg -

17 - Luke Przybylski

23 - Tobias Tak -

24 - Jon Chandler -

25 - Jeff Soto -

27 - Shannon Smith -

30 - Dave Bradbury

31 - Kletz

33 - Giles O'Dell -

34 - empty jug

37 - ww craghead

39 - Alex Buchet

41 - M. Campos

42 - Maurizio

44 - Fufu Frauenwahl -

I have already blogged on the marvelous Tobias Tak, see post below, and it is my intention, over the coming months, to blog on some, or all, of the Corpse players, in between the usual bouts of barking at the Moon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cartoon Thief at large.

And a mighty big cartoon thief at that. You know, we cartoonists send copies of our work to publications nowadays. We send them hi-resolution prints or we email hi-resolution graphics. There are one or two high-profile publications that work from the original drawings, but they really look after them and get them back to you in pristine condition.

This was not always the case and we, especially us here in Britain (remember the famous Wapping debacle and the like) used to send our original drawings into publications because the equipment was antiquated, and because only Union Members could add zipatone dots, etc, etc, etc.

Anyway, the publications here in the UK, with the exception of our high-profile British publications like the lovely Punch Magazine, just kept a hold of the original artwork. Of course they didn't own it, they hadn't bought it, they had merely bought the right to reproduce the cartoon in their publication. Imagine then, how shocked all we British cartoonists are to see a huge inventory of cartoons being auctioned off at Edinburgh's leading Auction House, Lyon and Turnball; including 3 'lots' of cartoons by my old mate, Dave Parker.

Happily, cartoonists like the great Noel Ford have been alerted to the sale, thanks to Steve Willis, maybe we can stop it going ahead until the legal issues around it are ironed out. I did some quick screen capturing with Paintshop Pro so that you can see just how big the sale is:

Now, it looks like the cartoonists who sold the cartoons (that doesn't mean the original art and it also doesn't mean the North American and European and South American and Asian and even Second British Publication Rights), or at least sold the newspaper the right to reproduce the cartoons once, in their publication, know nothing about the sale. The publication itself never paid a great deal of money for the right to reproduce the artwork, and now they have the nerve to steal it; astonishing, really - it really is.

Here are the details from the catalogue:

Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Photographs

Original cartoons—Collins, Dennis and Maurice Dodd. The Perishers. 10 ink original strip cartoons on card of The Perishers, numbered L96-L105, L108-L109, each 56 x 19cm. - 56 x 16cm., numbered and dated from 25/4/77 - 10/5/77 in margin, one stamped in margin and two on verso ‘Slade London’.

Original cartoons—Collins, Dennis and Maurice Dodd. The Perishers, 10 ink original strip cartoons on card of The Perishers, numbered L110-L116 and L120-L121, each 56 x 19cm or 56 x 17cm., numbered and dated from 11/5/77 - 24/5/77 in margin, most stamped on verso ‘Slade London’, L115 with alterations to drawing superimposed on
Original £200-300

I've highlighted The Perishers strips because they may not be part of this Lot (as Steve Willis has pointed out and since my mate Stephanie Piro vouches for him I'll take his word for it), which comprises Daily Express and Daily Star cartoons. In which case this serves as a bit of an advert for the sale of this artwork, and a nod in the direction of good old SLADE (The Society of Lithographic Artists Designers and Engravers), the union that I joined in the 1980s in order to sell cartoons to The Daily Mirror (made me feel dead important because they described me as a Graphic Designer), which only published cartoons, at that time, from union members - and paid twice as much as everyone else. (Can I just add that I never liked The Perishers strip, or the animated series? It was designed to be Britain's answer to Peanuts, but since Peanuts had both Heart and Soul and The Perishers had neither, it perished. However, it is original art at a decent price, and I'd much rather you hung it on your walls than some ghastly print - know what I mean?)

The following 41 lots comprise a collection of original artwork of cartoons and comic strips published in the Daily Express and Daily Star in the 1990’s and early 2000s. It includes work by many of the most accomplished gag and strip cartoonists in the country, whose work has been published in many other publications with a high reputation for cartoons, such as Private Eye, Punch and the Spectator.

Original cartoon strip—Beau Peep 12 original ink Beau Peep strip cartoons, as published in The Daily Star, numbered Sat. 132, Wed. 63 - Sat. 66, Mon. 31 - Sat. 36, 17 x 44cms. £200-300

Original cartoons, 15 unidentified ink strip cartoons on card, numbered in pencil 1-15, 10 x 30cm

Original cartoons. 15 unidentified ink strip cartoons on card, numbered in pencil 15-30, 10 x 30cm

Original cartoons. 15 unidentified ink strip cartoons on card, 10 x 30cm. £200-300

Original cartoons , 15 unidentified ink strip cartoons on card, 10 x 30cm

Original cartoons—Adey, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Adey, numbered in pencil
in lower corner, 21 x 15cm

Original cartoons—Adey, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Adey, numbered in pencil
in lower corner, one numbered in ink in upper margin, 21 x 15cm.

Original cartoons—Arnold Wiles, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Wiles, one coloured, several with typex alterations, most numbered and some with Wiles’s stamp on verso, 22 x 17cm.

Original cartoons—Arnold Wiles 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Wiles, with number and Andrew Wiles’s stamp on verso, most c. 23 x 18cm.

Original cartoons—Arnold Wiles, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Arnold Wiles, one with new caption superimposed, three numbered in ink in margin, numbered and with Andrew Wiles’s stamp on verso, 22 x 17cm.

Original cartoons—Bri, 15 signed original ink cartoons on thin card by Bri, with name & address of Brian Cummins on verso, three numbered in margin on recto, 21 x 15cm.

Original cartoons—Bri, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper or card by Bri, with name & address of Brian Cummins on verso, six numbered in margin on recto, 21 x 15cm

Original cartoons—Bri , 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper or card by Bri, with name & address of Brian Cummins on verso, six numbered in upper margin on recto, 21 x 15cm

Original cartoons—Chris Wright 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Chris Wright, numbered and signed in capitals in lower margin, 21 x 14.5cm

Original cartoons—Dave Parker, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Parker, two numbered in ink in margin, 21 x 15cm.

Original cartoons—Dave Parker, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Parker, one numbered in ink in margin, all numbered on verso, 21 x 15cm.

Original cartoons—Dave Parker, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Parker, four numbered in pencil in margin, all numbered on verso, 21 x 15cm.

Original cartoons—Dicky Howett, 15 signed original ink cartoons on paper by Howett, 2 numbered in ink and one in pencil in margin, average size 18 x 14cm.

Original cartoons—Jack Blyth, 15 signed original ink cartoons on card by Blyth, captioned in pencil, two numbered in ink in margin, all numbered on verso, 21 x 15cm.

Original cartoons—Jack Blyth, 15 signed original ink cartoons on card by Blyth, captioned in pencil, three numbered in ink in margin, all numbered on verso, 21 x 15cm.


Now a few things strike me about this sale, there are two pieces of artwork in the Lot, not on the list above that are an absolute steal, but then so many of the items on the list are; steals I mean. For one thing, there are some great cartoonists on the list, but some are more great than others (to totally misquote Orwell). The list price for The Beau Peeps is the same as those for the 'unknown' comic strip artists (now what are those? Old 4-D Jones strips, try out strips...I'll find out, as soon as I get back to Edinburgh) so the Beau Peeps are underpriced, whilst one or two less well known gag cartoonists are all thrown in at the same price. It's crazy pricing, a guide I know, but crazy nonetheless.

Another thing that strikes me is the date, 1990 to 2000, that's a bit late to be sending originals, aren't some of these inkjet copies and not original at all? Also, where are all the older cartoons? In fact, hang on, I got work back from Gerald Lip after he used it, in the 1980s. Did I have to ask for it? I can't remember, but I have an old one of my Daily Star or Daily Express cartoons somewhere. I never sent to them in the 1990s to 2000s though. I must try to get to the bottom of this.

Oh yeah, and Dicky Howett, I always loved his drawings and his comic pages. His work was always very original looking. He still works for Doctor Who comic does he?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Phil Gascoine RIP

"We have lost a number of the best professional comic artists the last couple of years and Phil Gascoine sadly has joined them". John Higgins, Artist.

Those are the recent words of artist, John Higgins (could be Grey Suit John Higgins), and I know what he means, it does feel that way. On a personal note, I feel that something is ending, in the UK at least.

Of course I've mentioned the Bunty comic here before as one of my cousin Allan's favourite comics. It was actually his sister, my cousin Mary, who bought Bunty, but Allan was huge fan of the stories and the artwork. Truth be told, those of us with sisters who could get a hold of Bunty, Mandy, Jinty, comic, et al, would sneak them away for a read. Of course we also read our 'boys' comics, the Eagle and Commando and the super hero comics and the chances are, whether we knew it or not, we would have been enjoying Phil Gascoine's work. I think the list of titles there alone, coupled with Tank Girl up top, (Phil Gascoine was one of the illustrators on Tank Girl Apocalypse) renders a phrase like 'Phil Gascoine was a versitle illustrator' pretty damn near redundant. He was, I think it's fair to say, a Master Craftsman and his range of work from Jinty (in particular) and the Eagle through Thundercats to Genetix and Tank Girl speaks for itself.

There are some nice obit's to the man floating around:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another sad time out. Fairwell Steven Campbell

My cousin Allen and I went to an exhibition of Steven's work at the Old Quad in Edinburgh many years ago. There was a small painting there of a bat-like creature, painted on a piece of brown corrugated cardboard that had been roughly torn into a rectangular shape (I've since seen a larger painting, so it could have been a small rough or study). It was a painting for an album and I'm sure it was a U2 album cover, but it seems too gothic for them so perhaps my memory is playing tricks. At any rate, it made an impression on me and it was very affordable so my cousin and I discussed buying it, by the time we enquired about it though, a red dot had appeared on the thing.

I must confess, I liked Steven Campbell's work the moment I saw it because it seemed like cartoon art to me. It seemed, in fact, like a whole comic crammed into one huge page, full of religiosity and sacred symbols and lust and intrigue; the embodiment of the sacred and the profane; all that art is supposed to be. It was a great exhibition and I came away an even bigger fan than I was when I entered the exhibition space.

Years later, I was standing in Stirling train station one day, looking across the platforms, when an orange-haired man, with a goatee beard, in a very dapper green-checked suit, Edwardian looking, caught my eye. He looked like some kind of Autumnal Sprite, all green and brown and orange, made all the more unreal by the grey backdrop. I knew it was Steven Campbell and that appealed to the snob in me. By the time I got over to where he had been he was gone.

Now he has gone for good. At the ridiculously young age of 53, Steven Campbell died of peritonitis, or at least of Septicemea as a result of that condition. He died, in hospital, of the very illness my eldest daughter recovered from last year, a ruptured appendix (there's a post on this very blog). It seems such a ridiculous thing, and such a stupid pointless waste. Somethings are bewildering.

Sticking with British Cartoonists for a moment... cartoonist chums Mike Lynch and Grant Miehm (sorry Grant, can't find Captain Scarlet yet) will get a real kick out of these, and for those of you who are new to Frank Bellamy's work it'll introduce you to more of his awesome talent and I thought we'd widen the net a little to include some Great British cartoonists who I'll blog about in the weeks to come:

When TV21 started running Star Trek, Frank Bellamy drew covers for the series. These were later dropped to allow more space for the stories which were illustrated by several artists including Harry Lindfield and Jim Baikie during a run that lasted for over 250 issues. Fans of the series, like Mike Lynch, can find details about reprints and the like, here at Rich Handley's site.

The printed comics themselves, TV21, Look and Learn, Eagle, etc, were a thing of wonder. The colours were vibrant and the artwork was often spectacular, none more so than Frank Bellamy's; but his originals were many, many times better. This is not often the case nowadays, as we can cut corners and add filters and cut and paste and shrink individual characters and panels and generally make the printed pages look a lot better than our originals. We can also go straight from pencil to colour in Paintshop or Painter or Illustrator, in short, we have things a little easier today, if we choose, than they did back in the day. A quick look at the Frank Bellamy collection on Comic Art fans, shows a little of what we are sometimes missing today:

From the collections of Chris Power, Terry Doyle, Jaume Vaquer and Paul Stephenson

You know, as I look at these and look at the other British cartoonists, many of whom were Spanish, it occurs to me that we really did have a Golden Age that gave birth to 2000AD which went on to launch the careers of many of our cartoonists in the US. Our culture, here in the UK, has last much in the last few decades. It's a pity we didn't cherish the work and reward the creators accordingly while that Golden Age lasted. In many ways we are graphically-illiterate philistines in the UK.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Garth, a very English Superman

My Dad was the biggest Garth fan. Me, I wasn't, despite the fact that it had the odd bare breast in it, the strip pretty much went over my teenage head. Until the 1970s that is, you see, that was when Frank Bellamy took over as the Garth artist. I was a fan of his work from The Eagle and TV21.

Garth had been running for a long time by then, in fact it had been running since before the Second World War ended. It was created for The Daily Mirror, by comic strip artist Steve Dowling and Gordon Boshell who, with prompting from the Editor, came up with the concept of a strongman strip that would be modelled on the popular US comic character, Superman.

Like Superman, Garth was suddenly there one day, washed up on a shipwreck rather than a spaceship wreck, but his appearance was just as sudden. He didn't exactly have super powers, but you kind of sensed that Garth was indestructible, and whilst he couldn't leap tall buildings and fly through the air, he did, after a new writer was introduced, begin to fly backwards and forwards through time.

Here are a few scans from Garth's adventure, The Wolfman of Ausensee, which you'll see from Titan's chart above, ran from May to September 1972. These scans are from Titan's Garth, Book One, The Cloud of Balthus, which I'd urge you to get if you can and I'd also urge you to ask Titan to get a move on with that reprint. Garth Rocks:

Leo Baxendale Space Trek artwork found!

I'm elated, well, as much as I can be given my problems in that area. You know that Albion Comic I'm in, well at least the cartoonist Rod McKie, which is the fictional and the real me is in - Albion #3, or the graphic novel (there's a post or two about it on here) - the one where I mention Leo Baxendale's Space Trek artwork? Well, I don't know if you've read about that escapade but I gave some of the artwork from IPC to Les Lilley, who wrote pages and pages of stories for IPC and who was at that point Chairman of the Cartoonist Club of Great Britain, to auction that night for charity. The person who bought the other page of Space Trek was cartoonist Nick Newman, who managed to outbid Jerry Banx. So, anyway, long story short, I moved home in the year 2000 and lost lots of artwork, until the other day when I found it stored at the back of our Linen Cupboard. I'm made up, here's a scan of my beloved Leo Baxendale page (it's about 17"x11"):

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Diversification - the Cartoonist as Polymath.

Of course, if you want to be pedantic, cartoonists don't really diversify when they send cartoon drawings to different markets, and strictly speaking the 'Polymath' of the early twentieth century was a real 'Renaissance man', an actual 'Homo Universalis' learned broadly in life, the arts and the sciences, whereas what I'm describing is someone who draws cartoons, comics, comix, comic strips, et al. It sounds mightily impressive though, eh?

Explanation: Gag Cartoons are, historically, single-column cartoons, drawn around 5"x3" or 6"x4", mostly line drawings that used to appear every day in newspapers, national and regional, up and down the country. The punchline, when there is one, is usually a pun or a gag, and I think the ideal length (very limited space, remember) is about 6 to 8 words.

Magazine Cartoons began with Punch Magazine. The cartoon can extend to 2 or 3 columns, or even a whole page, and the punchline, if there is one, can be as long or as short as is needed. Space is not a premium where this more sophisticated brand of humour is concerned.

So once again I find myself facing a cultural divide. On the one hand a lot of cartoonists from the UK are content to be simply 'gag cartoonists'; and like the good inverted snobs they all are, they declare that they are proud to be so, despite the fact that there are so few gag cartoon markets in the UK that they can't possibly all be gag cartoonists, and at the same time they are so deeply ashamed of being so that they never tell their neighbours, or anyone else, exactly what they do for a living - instead describing themselves variously as 'graphic artists', or 'illustrators' or just mumbling something incoherent along the lines of 'I draw things'.

This proud declaration, of course, is undermined by the evidence of the work they actually do. Between them they 'illustrate' articles, 'design' greetings cards, 'create' comic strips and panels, publish their own mini comics, 'draw' magazine cartoons, 'illustrate' books and provide safety 'drawings' for manuals and Trade journals, they 'draw' editorial cartoons, some even 'write' the articles they 'illustrate' (Wilbur), in short, they hardly ever fall into the narrow and restrictive category of 'gag cartoonist'. However, they are happy to be labelled so, and consequently, I'm perfectly happy that is the case.

In the US, where I do most of my work, on the other hand, I find that whilst the cartoonists I speak to are happy enough being 'cartoonists', they are acutely aware that such a description should be as mailable as possible. For instance a 'comic book artist' may be a 'cartoonist' and a member of a Cartoonist Club, but she is also a 'comic book artist'. Likewise, the NCS may attract cartoonists from all walks of life, but whilst they are 'cartoonists' together, or collectively, they are also illustrators, comic strip artists, graphic artists and author/illustrators depending on the job they are doing.

Today then, I am a cartoonist and I am drawing cartoons. Just last week, though, I was still a cartoonist, but I was finishing the digital colouring of a greetings card design for Marian Heath Greeting Cards, and at the same time illustrating a graphic novel. This may all sound like semantics, but I can assure you there is much more to it than that, you see, a publication that once bought cartoons may well have dropped them, but it will continue to carry maybe a comic strip, a graphic panel, and pages of illustrations. And those 'features', the strips and the panel may well be handled by a 'Features Editor'. The 'illustrations' are not submitted like cartoons and they are not submitted to the Cartoon Editor; the Art Editor is the person the Illustrator deals with, and it's possible that the Art Editor will also be the person dealing with the comic strip and the panel - all this can be done despite the fact that the Cartoon Editor and the cartoons themselves have been shown the door. Look, it doesn't matter to me what you decide to call yourselves, all I'm saying is this; it may not be a good idea to be too closely associated, all the time, with the catch-all noun 'cartoonist'.

Another thing to bear in mind, these days, is that almost every publisher out there is desperate to sign up Graphic Novel creators. Now, I'm not privy to their private thoughts, but I'm betting that when they are on the hunt for Graphic Novel creators, that is people capable of both writing and illustrating a multi-page story, they are not going to be looking amongst the ranks of the 'gag cartoonists' they find online or in the Gag Cartoonist directories - call it a hunch. Just to be on the safe side, I think maybe an 'Illustrator', is the best thing to be. So that's what I reckon I am now, an Illustrator.

Anyway, as I said, just last week I was finishing a Greetings Card for Marian Heath Greetings Cards. So there I was, 'designing' a card - but it was a cartoon - card - if you get my drift? But then I realised that I was utilizing a number of skills, like 'drawing', like 'writing', there was the 'scanning', and once the digital image was actually on the computer, the 'resizing', the 'layering', 'digital colouring'-'trapping' ... in short I was exercising a whole variety of skills that the phrase 'gag cartoonist' totally fails to signify or connote. And it was right there and then, to quote Bertie Wooster, 'that the scales quite literally fell from my eyes' and I realised that the business of cartooning had changed so much, so dramatically, that word 'cartoonist' could no longer contain all the skills the job now requires one to be proficient in. So, there you go, I'm sorry, 'gag cartoonist' doesn't cover it for me, not now that someone else doesn't add the dots and the colour and the separations and get my work 'camera-ready'.

So anyway, whilst I was working on the 'illustration', it I moved it between Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paintshop Pro (a much cheaper option) depending on what I wanted to do, so I grabbed some layer shots for you, from Paintshop Pro that shows Layering to its full advantage (with both these programmes you can work in layers and both open and save PSD files):

Every element, the skin tones, the door colour, the floor tiles, the line drawing, the hair colour, is each on a separate layer, and the drawing was sent in unflattened; which gives the art department the option to change anything they don't like, such as the patterned floor, or even to produce cards for blondes and cards for redheads, with a minimum of fuss.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Time Management and Tools of the Trade.

My cartoon chum (and fellow Playboy cartoonist) Mike Lynch, made a comment on the post below about Time Management. I think his words are especially true nowadays as the cartoon market becomes ever more difficult to survive in.

Making sure you have your own business plan is key, because this is a business like any other. Doing 'the best work you can do' is a maxim or a mantra, not a business plan. We'll take it as read that you are producing work of the highest quality, what you have to learn to do now is present it properly, to markets that want it. I have long believed that selling cartoons is a separate skill from creating them; which is why so many cartoonists hand that job over to someone else. If you don't want to do that, then you have to learn the art of selling your work.

If you are like me, and like Mike, you'll still draw cartoons and illustrations on paper, so making sure you have all the materials you'll need, at your disposal, is essential. Currently, that can be quite an expensive business and it involves several pieces of hardware, a computer, a scanner, a printer, and software, Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Painter, Flash, In Design, Acrobat, Quark, many cartoonists have all of these, and despite many still drawing their cartoons with pen and ink, they also have digital tablets and pens, principally Wacom tablets, because they are the best.

On the drawing front, I keep (so obviously I think it's a good idea to do so) a regular supply of the following; a range of papers, HP typing paper, Conqueror typing paper, tracing paper, Neenah Linen paper (from England via the US), Strathmore Bristol Board (from the US), Ivory Board (from Switzerland) and Marker pads. I like FW Acrylic inks because I can use these with dip pens and they also fill Staedtlers, Rotrings, Koh-I-Noors, Pental Brush Pens and, if you prize the lid of them, Faber Castell-Pitt artists pens. I also use Sakura Pigma Micron pens and Staedtler felt tips and grey Prismacolor Markers for toning (on the recommendation of Mark Anderson). A bunch of nibs (I have become more and more reliant on Japanese nibs as the range is superb) pencils, elastic erasers, sharpeners and rulers.

Just click the messy scene above for a clearer picture

Friday, August 03, 2007

Focus, focus and focus

I get distracted. This is because when I begin something I have to finish it. This is insane, especially when a project I am working on should take about 2 years. You cannot put everything else on hold for two years!

That's why I developed the strategy of using a timetable, just like the one from university (or school or college), to map out my day - week - month. Except I fell through the cracks, because my Academic Diary didn't begin until August, and the previous one finished at the end of June, so for the entire month of July I have been rudderless, pouncing on things and trying to finish them within stupid time-frames.

I managed to bring on a migraine the other day by trying to draw one month's worth of cartoons in a single night, whilst watching the entire season 1 of Weeds, with one earphone plugged in and the other ear free to guard the house. Now there's manic for you.

So I'm back with some kind of purpose. I have to finish, but not in one evening, 'Sunshine on Leith' (I shall have a word with The Proclaimers and make sure they don't mind) a graphic novel about sectarianism in my home City of Edinburgh, during the 1960s.

Of course I have all the other things detailed on this blog to bring up to date, and I have to 'finish' the artwork on Eddie and the Banshee, to fit in the wonderful photographs of Dublin that my cartoonist chum from Sweden, Hakan Mattson, took for me on his trip to The Emerald Isle.

Hopefully this will all come up to speed soon, as I'm itching to get onto my next project, which will be set in Glasgow, and centre around my Dad's Uncle, Bill Jackson (I think at one point Jacobson), who was a Homeopath and lived in a large (haunted) house in Pollockshields. It was tremendously exciting taking the train ride from Edinburgh to the house that he and my Great Aunt Bessie shared with their very highly strung Siamese cats.