The Art of a Good Sketchbook

So, after a very long summer since I finished up my first year at University, the second year is finally looming. ‘Back to School’ signs are popping up everywhere, and I get that sinking feeling once more as I realise in a months time life is going to get stressful again for 7-or-so months. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn; Going back into education has been the best decision I’ve ever made, and I am so glad I didn’t listen to all the naysayers when I decided to apply two years ago. However, yeah.. Juggling studies, part time work, a long distance relationship and a social life is quite the challenge, but I’ve never liked to make things too easy for myself. Where’s the fun in an easy life?

Sketchbookz r 4 cool kidz. Random doodle.
Sketchbookz r 4 cool kidz. Random doodle.

Back to business. One of the many things my course has taught me so far is the art of having a good sketchbook. Back in college all those years ago, up until the last year or so, I absolutely detested using a sketchbook; I couldn’t think of anything worse. I’d much rather try and draw something from start to finish in one go. If it looked alright, great. If it looked terrible, I’d get annoyed and brood over how terrible an artist I thought I was. Then feel so down I’d eat a whole sharing bag of Doritos (Cool Original, of course) with mild salsa dip, proceed to feel rather ill and then regret every cool, salsa-y moment of my comfort eating whilst laying in the fetal position. Productive, right? When it came to starting my course at university, they expected all this sketchbook work to support my ideas and show progression. Ughhhhhh, honestly, such a pain. It felt like I was taking 2 weeks to do something I could come up with in 2 days, but all this sketchbook work actually proved valuable. I paid £9’000 for my first year to learn how to use a sketchbook – bargain! But in all seriousness, it has become a staple tool of mine. One huge deciding factor has been on using proper paper sketchbooks. We’re talking Seawhite of Brighton’s extra-strength when wet kind of proper sketchbook. I’ve found even Moleskine’s sketchbooks and the ones you can pick up in the art section of WHSmith’s lack quality. Nowadays, like with my Lost and Found comic, I’ll draw all the artwork in my sketchbook and scan it in from there, I don’t even use ‘final paper’ anymore. But yes, I have learnt that forcing myself to work in a sketchbook first, although may take extra time, actually makes the final pieces look surprisingly better. Still, for some work I’ll just go in all-guns-blazing and completely a piece start to finish with no planning (Boba Fett, for example), and my recent comic-endeavours have been extremely quick turn-around for deadlines so sketchbook work has been limited. But as I approach my last 5 weeks of ‘freedom’ before uni starts up again, I have been utilising my sketchbook for my last three projects of the summer. I’m not quite sure why I keep piling on work for myself, I guess it makes sense to keep a consistent flow so that uni’s 5-projects-at-once doesn’t cause me to have a breakdown.

Currently I’ve been using my sketchbook to work on ideas and scripting for a children’s book commission I’ve been asked to do. I love children’s books, I have no shame in admitting that. Oliver Jeffers is probably one of my favourites, along with Jon Klassen coming in close second. Even better, this book I’ve been asked to do is a Christmas book! So I get to be completely over the top and make it as magical and Christmassy as my imaginations will allow. My preliminary character development and sketchbook work is pretty much complete, so now it’s time to get it drawn up, yay! Here are some snippets of my sketchbook and the characters so far, to keep you all interested;

So, there you have it. The elusive sketchbook. Not a huge amount to update this week as I’ve been super busy with other boring adult things, but hopefully I’ll have more for you all next week. (Yes, if you notice the French translations, I’ve also been using my sketchbook to aid my learning Français. J’ai améliore (I hope)!) For now, I hope you all have a lovely weekend whatever you may be doing. Over and out!

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New Website, New Comic!

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

So, I made another comic. Things have been fairly busy once again since I completed my sci-fi themed comic Lost & Found. I will admit that I took a couple of days to wind down and do silly adult things like clean the apartment and tidy the mounds of drawings and paperwork that had taken over my desk. Anywho, I decided to try another test-run comic in a limit of only one page format this time. The aim was to submit my one-pager to Off Life, which is the UK’s only street press comic. You can read all the issues here. And, this is how they describe themselves;

“We publish a magazine that’s full of short comics from today’s best artists, and distribute free-to-read in bars, galleries, coffee shops and online. Our aim is to provide a platform for up-and-coming talent while opening comics to a whole new audience. Over our past nine issues we’ve featured comics from some of today’s best creators, including: Jack Teagle, Kristyna Baczynski, Kyle Platts, Ana Galvan, Warrick Johnson-Cadwell, Robert Ball, Dan Berry and Joe List.

Off Life accept submissions between 1-4 pages, but I’ve been trying to push myself into shorter stories recently and I figured one sole page is definitely a challenge. So, after being somewhat inspired not only by my own thoughts of seeing my friends glued to their phones, and also seeing slightly more diluted qualities in myself, AND from reading the cold-turkey-social-media-quitting-experiment of my friend James (which is a witty and interesting read, I definitely recommend it) I made this comic.

 

One-page entry for Off Life!
One-page entry for Off Life’s bi-monthly publication

As I was in Manchester this past weekend and I forgot to pack my paints, I had to digitally colour the comic – which is not my favourite way of doing things. I can never quite seem to make it work for comics.. Boba Fett and the snowboard design seemed to work great, but my style of drawing for narrative doesn’t seem to suit digital colouring. Oh well, learning curve strikes again! At some point I will probably colour it in my usual style, but for now, and for the deadline I had it was submitted like so. Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know what you think! In other news, I had an absolutely lovely afternoon on Saturday at MancsterCon! Held in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, MancsterCon is a voluntarily run event bringing together the best of the independant sequential art scene in the North West. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to all the events for the weekend, but I did get to see Pauline Sometime give a presentation of the portrayal of mental health in comics over the past few decades. Although she stated that it was a brief snapshot over the ages, it was still an incredibly interesting talk and has given me comics and names to look at for future reference. I also had a perusal around the stalls of various creatives, the highlights being picking up Girl & Boy by the fiercly talented Andrew Tunney, and Merrick the Sensational Elephantman by the creative team that is writer Tom Ward, artist Luke Parker and letterer Nic J Shaw.

 

L: Girl & Boy    R: Merrick Comic
L: Girl & Boy R: Merrick Comic

I really enjoyed both of these. Girl & Boy definitely appealed to my love of black and white comics, though I haven’t draw anything purely black and white for a while now it definitely still has a place in my heart. I also really love the way Andrew Tunney made the rain in his images, really beautiful. Nice guy, also! Definitely looking forward to whatever he has coming out next, I had to peel myself away from the stunning prints he was selling. Merrick, The Sensational Elephant Man appealed to me with great colour palette used, and from reading it thoroughly tonight I was cracking up in some parts of it, and feeling empathy for the characters in other places.  Some of the hidden gems in the panels are absolutely brilliant, there’s a particular panel on the first page which isn’t obvious to begin with, but I couldn’t stop laughing at. My hamster must think I’m crazy! I shall be eagerly awaiting issue #2, it’s great work and I definitely recommend it.

You may have also noticed that I now have my own website. Yippee! The website I had previously set up through webs.com two months ago was just an epic waste of time. To begin with, their free package is incredibly limited in comparison to what I was used to with Blogspot, and also their blogging set up is absolutely terrible. I came home on Sunday to a message telling me that I’d almost reached my maximum storage, and that was the last straw, so thanks to my computer-whizz partner I’ve set up this site which is MUCH better. Ahh, I can tag blogs again! So, after getting this all set up and the Webs.com blogs transferred across, I’ve celebrated by ordering new business cards as my previous ones were horrendously out of date. Exciting! I also have a few new projects next on the agenda, so keep an eye out for progress from those.

Oh, and before I forget! If you would like to subscribe to my blogs and have them arrive in a nice shiny package directly to your inbox, you can do so at the bottom of any of the pages on this site, and you can find it on the left hand side. There are also other nifty things there to have a look at, so mooch around and let me know what you think. For now, over and out. x

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