2015 Reflections

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen!

So, the Christmas cake is dwindling and I’ve eaten my bodyweight in turkey.. It must be that limbo between Christmas and New Year where I’m not quite sure what day it is and what I’m supposed to be doing, with what feels like a brain full of cranberry stuffing. With that in mind, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to reflect on a successful 2015 (as it doesn’t take much brain-power, thankfully)..

Work-wise, it’s been a fantastic year. Of course we can’t have it all, and this year wasn’t without it’s fair share of difficulties, with a small health issue of my own in the first few months of 2015, a friend’s recurring battle with cancer (fingers crossed, all looking good this time!), and the very quick and unexpected loss of my uncle in August. It’s all too easy to have regrets and feel as if being too work-centric has left me with the loss of valuable time before it was too late, but, all I can do it look back on the positives.. I have learnt a lot about the way I work in the past year, and I can only hope that my storytelling and comics work is going from strength to strength with each piece completed. Also, my work on illustrations without narrative has improved tenfold since this time last year, and I have dedication and tough marking at University to thank for that.

In all, there’s a lot of people who have helped and supported my work in 2015, and I couldn’t name them all if I tried – but to everyone who has ever bought a piece of my work, a comic, a postcard or even just had a chat at a convention, thank you. Thanks to Andy Oliver at Broken Frontier for naming me one of his Six UK Small Press Creators to Watch in 2015 and for continually supporting and championing my work, helping me with advice when I’ve asked, reviewing my work, and getting us six seen at CECAF. Thanks to Keara Stewart for asking me to be a part of A Bit of Undigested Potato, my first ever anthology comic, and inspiring me to not only take on my own project Sneaky Business, but also for giving my the confidence to apply for Dirty Rotten Comics. Big thanks to my Sneaky Business folks for happily creating work for free, which now sits on comic shelves around the country! Thank you to all those comic shops, Travelling Man Manchester, OK Comics in Leeds, Orbital Comics in London, Gosh! Comics in London, and Nostalgia and Comics in Birmingham for having my work on your lovely shelves. Thanks all the lovely people I’ve met along the way at conventions and selling events, and a special mention to Van Nim and Richy K Chandler for being so wonderfully entertaining at Thought Bubble and keeping me sane. Thank you to my ever patient partner Chris for bring supportive and understanding, to my flatmate for being the best at bouncing ideas off (and supplying me with Jack Daniels), my family, and the supportive bunch of friends I have near and far, so understand when they don’t hear from me for months on end. And, all you readers! You lovely readers, you.. Putting up with my waffling week after week, and making me feel popular. Here’s to 2016 and all the exciting things to come!

I shall be back next week as usual, probably mid-dissertation, in the run up to painting the Laydeez do Comics window display at Gosh! Comics. Woohoo! There is a LOT of exciting things coming up in January and early-February, and my work will be pretty much non-stop. But it’ll be worth it! I’ll have more information on how the year is shaping up next week, but for now I hope you all had wonderful seasonal festivities, and have a Happy New Year! See you next year..!

 

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Season’s Greetings!

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

Well well well, it’s almost that time of the year! We are four short days away from the joy of family, feasting, and being propped up in a corner after many glasses of wine. Lovely stuff! Although I always look forward to the Christmas break, it’s felt particularly needed this year.. With a stressful term one of the final year of university down, only two more to go until I graduate. It’s not all tinsel and puddings in the next few weeks, mind you; I’ll most likely be writing the majority of my dissertation over the Christmas break and I have a few other things to do before returning to lectures in the cold and dark reality of January. But, in the spirit of not wishing time away, all that nonsense is in the back corner for now. Phew!

My usual update last Wednesday had to be delayed due to assessment, but that means that I now have even more to tell you all! First up, you may remember the commission I did for the Hope Centre a few weeks ago, for their Christmas appeal. Well, it took a little while but I finally got my hands on a printed copy of the newsletter featuring my illustration. How exciting!

It’s been really nice to see my work in print. I mean, comics-wise I’ve had a pretty dang awesome year and drawing for narrative is my favourite thing to do. However, working on an editorial piece like this and seeing it out there in the world is a rewarding moment and important for my portfolio. Rejoice! The Hope Centre in Northampton, as I mentioned in that previous post is an important charity. If you fancy helping them out at this rather cold time of the year, head over to Just Giving and their Hope for Christmas campaign.

In other news, earlier this month I was interviewed by Tom Mortimer on behalf of Dirty Rotten Comics, following my Rejsen comic being printed in their fifth issue back in August. Thanks to Tom for a genuinely interesting and deep chat about comics, and the guys at Dirty Rotten Comics for having me! Here’s a little extract below.

T : Something I’ve noticed about your work is that, in each case there seems to be a uniting sense of journey. You have a lot of movement through spaces, establishing shots and interactions. There’s also a nice echoed mapping of movement in the visual pacing of the panels and the unfolding nature of it also reflects the way the formation of the narrative itself works. These things surface, and it can be seen as a sign of connection with the medium. How much of this was a conscious decision, was it all planned?

R: I’m very interested in pacing with comics; how movement through a story can be subtly distorted and played with. It’s not really something that can be done in other mediums, so it’s been great to play with it as much as a story allows. It was particularly relevant in The Red Road, as it’s based around the poem which has a similar movement through time, or more lacking any specifics of time. Part of it was definitely a conscious decision, though I’ve learnt a lot more about pacing with every new comic I create.

The Rejsen submission I made for Dirty Rotten Comics was completely incidental, it was more just a reflection on how many different places you end up sitting, standing or waiting on a platform during years of travelling by train to Manchester. The movement in comics and playing with time is still something I’m getting to grips with doing. It’s a constant learning curve!

– To read more, click here to head to the Dirty Rotten Comics interview with yours truly.

Dirty Rotten Comics #6 OUT NOW! Click above for #5

In other news, as I mentioned in my last post, I went to my first ever Laydeez do Comics event held in Gosh! Comics in London last Monday! I didn’t manage to get any photos as I was so enamoured with listened to two such inspiring individuals talking about their work; Rachael Ball and Mike Medaglia. Mike started with talking about his work from the past few years leading up to now, with his success of One Year Wiser – the hugely popular book of 365 illustrated quotes and mantras, the subsequent One Year Wiser the colouring book, and his latest venture of creating comics for the Mindful Life Illustrated on Elephant Journal. Go Mike! Next up speaking was Rachael Ball, the creator of The Inflatable Woman, an einspiring tale of one woman and her life experiences after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve not had a chance to read The Inflatable Woman yet, but Rachael’s inspiring talk about her own battle with breast cancer and how she took on creating this story from scratch was moving, and how she weighted the graphic novel with dark parts equally balanced with humour really shows her talent. And, I mean, she has arguing penguins in the story. What’s not to love? You can buy Rachael’s The Inflatable Woman from any decent book retailer, and Mike Medaglia’s online shop can be found here (though don’t bother him whilst he’s on holiday!). And of course, the wonderful Gosh! Comics have stock of both their work. And lots of other talented people. You should go pay them a visit.

Thanks to Keara, Wallis and the folks at Gosh for being welcoming as always, and I briefly got to see some ever so friendly faces before dashing through Soho on a one-horse open sleigh.. Err.. I mean.. By foot.. to get my train back home to Northampton. I’m really glad I made time to go to a Laydeez do Comics event before speaking as a part of the Broken Frontier themed event in January! Though now the pressure is on to make people believe that I’m actually interesting. Yikes! Saying that, I do have a fondness for making In Design presentations, so I can spend a happy Christmas dropping in images and making it all look rather fetching. So, as I mentioned last time, the next Laydeez do Comics London is on Monday 18th January – tickets are free but must be booked and sell out fast, so if you’d like to come and hear me stutter make sure you get yourself on the mailing list now!!

Finally, as of Friday afternoon, University is now finished for the year and I am free as a festive bird (although not really, as I mentioned at the start.. But I’m pretending for a few days)! War Horse is finished and progress on The Next Big Thing will be continuing over Christmas, and hopefully in January I might have some good news regarding the latter. For now, I’d like to wish all my readers (Hi mum!) a very merry festive season! I will be back in just over a week with an update before the New Year, potentially a compilation special looking back over 2015 and how snazzy it’s been. For now, though, enjoy!!! See you on the other jolly side!

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December Madness and Laydeez do Comics!

Good morning ladies and gents!

So, another week bites the dust and the first round of assessment is looming eerily close by. Although I’m working in a haze which can probably be described as “I’m not really sure what I’m doing anymore”, things are getting ticked off the list and I’m vaguely, quietly confident that I’ll be in good stead by Christmas. Well, as long as I avoid any critique sessions where it’s advised to completely change my work.. Sigh. But anyway, I also decided it would be a marvellous idea to start getting up stupidly early in the week to do some mild exercise or yoga (don’t laugh) before getting to work before 8am, which seems to be helping my productivity somewhat. Though, I’m only on day three so far.. And I ache.

Logos

 

First up, as you may remember from last week, I mentioned that I had something exciting up my sleeve to tell you all. WELL! I am over the moon to announce that I have been asked by the lovely Keara Stewart and Wallis Eates of Laydeez do Comics to speak as a part of the Broken Frontier themed evening, as one of the Six UK Small Press Creators to Watch in 2015! With the small press champion Editor-in-Chief Andy Oliver being the reason for so many people getting a chance of recognition and support, it’ll be a great chance to listen to his worldly comics wisdom. Alongside will be the fiercely talented and entertaining Danny Noble, of Ollie and Alan fame, and myself – probably still a bit love-drunk on brandy butter by that point.

Laydeez do Comics London is held in Gosh! Comics in Soho, who are one of the biggest stores to support small press comics creators. Keara and Wallis have stepped up to take over as London Co-ordinators whilst co-founders Sarah Lightman and Nicola Streeten are taking a break to focus on their respective PhDs. here’s a snippet about Laydeez do Comics (LDC) from their website..

“Launched in July 2009 by artists Nicola Streeten and Sarah Lightman, it is the first women led graphic novel forum in the UK. Artists, academics, publishers and fans from around the world are invited to speak. It is a platform for people to test new works and ideas, where emerging artists present their work alongside more established practitioners. The evenings offer an inspiring experience in a social atmosphere for both those new to comics and those already immersed. Laydeez do Comics now has branches in Glasgow,  Bristol, Leeds, Dublin, San Francisco and Chicago.  Pop up events have also taken place in New York, Toronto, Glasgow and Brighton.”

Exciting stuff! The Broken Frontier LDC night is being held on Monday 18th January, and in MORE exciting news I’ve been working together with Gosh and LDC to create a themed window display for the event! At the moment I’ve just been sketching ideas up, but soon I’ll be getting some final designs to both parties and the work will commence the week before the event. Because I’m feeling overly generous, here’s one character from some preliminary sketchbook work for the window design…

Promo Blog

This coming Monday I’ll be attending my first LDC event as a member of the audience, with guest speakers are Mike Medaglia and Rachael Ball. Both are so excellent at what they do, and I can’t wait to be a part of the audience! And also, it’ll be good to see exactly what to expect a month later when I sit the other side of the table. Tickets for LDC are free, but must be booked and disappear incredibly quickly! If you’re interested in attending the Laydeez night in January, then best to pop over to the Laydeez do Comics website and sign up for their mailing list to be alerted when tickets are available (details are on the home page). So if you want to come and watch me pretend to know what I’m talking about, and see my first attempt at window painting.. Sign up now! But in all seriousness, big thanks to Gosh and LDC for letting my represent their values in the form of a window display and asking me to speak as one of the chosen six – I can’t wait!

In other news, you may recall a few weeks ago me referring to one of my projects being the House of Illustration and Folio Society Book Illustration Competition for War Horse! The competition requirements is to produce a set of three internal illustrations and a binding design, to fit into their minimalist graphic style.The competition ends in January, but with assessment looming and final tutorials this week I’ve been working extra hard to get this ready! It’s been a strange project for me to do given that I didn’t particularly want to approach it in the character-centric style I tend to work in, as the general tone of the cheery children’s book is rather dark. Instead, I wanted to focus on the atmosphere, and use certain scenes and textures to give an effect of how very depressing it all was. I mean, the First World War wasn’t exactly all butterflies and flute music, was it? With that in mind, here’s my work in progress on the project to date..

Layout 1

Spine Text

I’m not entirely happy with the binding (front and back cover spread) just yet, but it’s not too far off I don’t think.. Book covers are not something I ever really did before University and I desperately struggled with the last one for Carrie’s War, so I have been determined to get this one right. As for the internal illustrations, I opted to completely avoid using ink lines for this and painted or printed everything using handmade collagraph plates, using Photoshop to put everything together nicely. Again, these aren’t completely 100% finished yet – but not far off.

Finally, after I had a tremendous sell-out of greetings cards at Thought Bubble last month I’ve gotten round to ordering more and putting them up on my Etsy store! There’s a choice of three at the moment, with this year’s Christmas card design and two others. So, for an extra special card this year, pop on over to my Etsy store and check them out.

Well well well, another busy one. I’ll be back next week after a during stressful assessment period, but hopefully with the Christmassy end in sight! Low and behold I have another week of rather important emails, another commission and further uni work progression. So, with that in mind, and the kettle calling my name.. Over and out.

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Commission time, studio and whine.

Good morning, faithful readers!

So, it is December. The Christmas month is upon us – and Star Wars, let’s not forget – so I can finally start throwing around the festive terms without being glared at for it being “too early”. Yay! In the days when I worked long hours in retail I really was not Saint Nick’s biggest fan. One day off for Christmas in which I was too tired to appreciate all the deliciousness of the food, and usually ill from some charming member of the general public spreading their germs, so wine was also out of my grasps. However, now I am a one-man-illustrating-band with nothing to fall back on, I can recline into the Christmas spirit with only.. 5 reflective statements that need writing, 4 lecturers confusing me, three incredibly important projects looming, two pounds sterling to my name.. and a partridge in a pear tree!

Onto jollier things, these past few weeks I’ve been communicating back and forth on a couple of exciting commissions. First things first, through a mutual friend I managed to land a job creating a t-shirt design for local Northampton band Jagged Little Thrills, who have recently been signed to Blow The Roof Records! Their debut record ‘The Last Alibi’ will be released on 26th February 2016 through their new record company, and little old me has designed their promo. Lovely stuff!

Band Name (opp)

Final Image 4

I really enjoyed working on this for the gents of Jagged Little Thrills; it’s been a pleasure! From creating a hand-lettered font for the design, to drawing up something for screen-print (which the process involves only printing in block colours with no gradients), it’s been a refreshing challenge and a joy to do. So, thanks to the band for having me create this for them! The record release show events are up already, so if you’re local to the area then please do come down to The Charles Bradlaugh on Friday 26th February, or The Victoria Inn on Saturday 27th February. Plus, if you need any more convincing, it will be my birthday weekend and also two weeks until my dissertation is due.. I’ll need all whiskey I can get!

The second commission I’ve been working on recently is for the Northampton Hope Centre, a charity which focuses on helping people in need such as; the homeless, vulnerably housed, people with alcohol and/or drug related issues, people with physical and mental health issues, refugees and asylum seekers, elderly people experiencing poverty, and anyone who is down on their luck. The Hope Centre offers a warm and safe environment with basic essentials such as hot food and showers, second hand clothing, creative activities and life skills workshops, all the important things to try and help people get back on their feet. I approached the Hope Centre to see if they needed anything doing, and thankfully they got in touch for some meetings and I’ve ended up creating an image for their Christmas Campaign.

Christmas Campaign Final Image 2 v2 RGB

The image, which is to be used in their newest newsletter and hopefully the website too, is working towards appealing to businesses to help out with such an important level of care for vulnerable people in and around the local community. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I can get my hands on a hard copy of the newsletter and see my work in editorial print for the first time!

In other news, this past Sunday I attended the local Northampton Comic Mart, the first of it’s kind run by Jeff Chahal; the owner of Northamton’s comic shop Close Encounters (also in Bedford and Peterborough). It was a small and cosy event in the back room of The Racehorse pub on Abington Square, mostly focused on the store selling back issue comics at a discounted rate, though with independent creators and small press also having a couple of tables. I was there with my talented uni friend Alex of How To Buy A Ninja, and Martyn Lorbiecki selling our finest comicy goodness, and on the other side of my companions also happened to be Paul B Rainey who also created work for Samuel C WilliamsDead Singers Society zine. What a small world! It was a chilly but fun afternoon, meeting new people and watching people giggle at Alex’s comic strips.

Mr. How To Buy A Ninja, Alex Tawns @ Northampton Comic Mart

With both the commissions and the event ending up at the same time, it’s been a bit of a stressful week or so making sure I juggle everything in the right order. So, this week my challenge is to get fully stuck back into my university assignments! With less than two weeks until my presentation assessment, I’ll be madly finishing off the work I’ve been doing for the House of Illustration and Folio Society Competition entry for War Horse, which I hinted at last month with some collagraph printing, more dissertation reading, and further progress on The Next Big Thing. Busy busy. Though, I have some more exciting things up my sleeve to tell you all about next week, with an news regarding the lovely Laydeez do Comics in London! So keep an eye out for that.. Though for now, I’d best get back to the grindstone. Coffee calls! Until next time..

 

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