Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée

Bruxelles and Beyond

Good afternoon all,

It’s May! When did that happen? No, seriously… Answers on postcards, please.

The last month or so has flown by as usual, and it’s been a busy time working on comics ready for submission and projects anew. I’ve also recently changed day-jobs into something far more interesting – in the field of marketing and copywriting, ooh err – so be prepared for my grammar and sentence structures to slowly improve (we hope).

Right! Since we last spoke;

  • The Good Comics Reader has been released with my four-page comic Ræven
  • Leamington Comic-Con has been and gone
  • I finished up another four-pager to be included in the brand-spanking new BBE Collective anthology; Barriers
  • I took a romantic comics’ trip to Brussels for a long weekend, and
  • …I’ve begun preliminary sketchbook work on my first full-length comic book. Agh/eek/woo, etc.

My favourite time of the year is a busy time of the year. The Good Comics Reader was officially launched at Leamington Comic-Con on Saturday 14th April. The festival was a huge hit as always thanks to Dan and Lisa’s tireless work to promote small press comics. The Reader is beautiful; risograph printed on recycled paper, and it is good for the feels as 50% of the profits go to the charity Young Minds. Here are some previews of my comic;

Drawing for risograph printing involves working in layers for colour separation, so it was working in a totally new way for me. Here’s one of the spreads; this was for the red/burgundy layer on pages 1-2:

Ræven Colour Separations
That moment when you realise your nails match the table.

Nifty, huh? If you’d like to read this comic, you can get your copy of the Reader here, priced £6 (alternatively, this is one of the many comics on my Patreon that you can read as part of the $5-and-up subscription).

Next up, last month I finished a comic for BBE Collective on the theme of ‘Barriers’. I created an illustration for their last anthology Habitat (which you can buy here, priced £7) and they’re such nice and encouraging people that I couldn’t resist creating something again. Plus, their anthologies are the some of the most tenderly colourful and beautiful around on the small press scene, so I recommend you check it out. I’m not sure when Barriers will be coming out in print form, but you’ll be the first to know! Here’s a sneak peek of my comic;

Next up, after what felt like a long time of lots of serious adult things and working a lot, Sam and I took a mini-break to Brussels, Belgium to ignore our phones and get some fresh air and fresh ideas (and fresh kriek). We somehow managed to book to go away when the weather was absolutely incredible; normally Brussels is a rain-haven. Alas, with blue skies and warm hearts we ventured around the city taking in the sights and sounds, visited the wonderful Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée and took a trip out to Louvain-le-Neuve to the Musée Hergé. I’m not going to inundate you with tourist photos, but here are a few gems from a wonderful trip away.

I came back from Brussels with a healthy dose of vitamin D and fresh imagination.. that promptly got a little squashed by a few very busy weeks. Regardless, now things have settled down a bit I’ve been studying my photos and the small pile of books* we brought back from Brussels. Slowly but surely I’m working away, both in my head and in sketchbook form, on ideas for my next comic.

I’ve debated for a while now what my next step would be; do I continue creating short work? Do I try to be published by a big-name publisher? Do I carry on self-publishing? I’m still not entirely sure on those last two, but I have decided the time is right to create a much, much longer book. A full length comic, with story arcs and everything. The wonderful thing about short stories and submissions is that I get to try out a new idea and process or medium every single time, and now I’ve had some time exercising different methods of painting, colouring and drawing, I’m ready to put all this knowledge into practice and work out a longer story.

I’m really, really excited.

Though don’t you go getting too excited just yet; we have a long journey ahead of us, you and I. Writing a full-length book is no walk in the park, and it’ll take me well into next year to complete. But the cogs are working away and the sketchbook has started. And here I introduce into the world my newest code-named project; The Biggest One Yet.

I’ll be sharing sketchbook pages on my Patreon a couple of times a week, so if you’re keen to watch the story develop at the same time I do, you know where to go.

And that’s it for now! Keep your peepers peeled for next month’s news, and until then – peace out.

 

x

*It was not a small pile. It was, in fact, pretty large. 

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Bruxelles

Well, what a busy fortnight it has been! I was hoping to get an update posted last week but time just got away from me yet again, but the good news is following my return from Brussels, the city of comics, I have LOTS to discuss. Get comfy!

A few months ago I realised I was becoming somewhat.. stale. I’ve spent the whole summer working either picking up extra hours at the paid job, or working morning till night at home on comics, sketchbook work, one-off pieces and most recently a children’s book. Before that, University had been very intense with a high-workload and quick turn-around, and before that I’d been working on HOAX: Psychosis Blues for six months. So, in early July I decided I needed to refresh myself and do something I’ve missed doing in the past year or so; travel. So, I booked my £10 Megabus return ticket to Brussels, booked a nice looking hostel to stay at near the city centre, and carried on with my day-to-day tasks – but with that quiet excitement in the back of my mind that I was going to be escaping all forms of home-comfort and routine for 48 hours. Bliss! As the long summer break drained away and second year of my degree course looming, my city escape arrived and on Wednesday I packed my things and travelled by train, underground and a 6.5 hour coach journey pondering the meaning of life, drawing, education, and most importantly what I was going to find for dinner that night.

Brussels itself is a beautiful city. Much of Brussels beauty and grandeur comes from a history of exploitation and slave trade regime led by King Leopold II of Belgium around the late 19th to early 20th Century, which in itself I didn’t have time to look at too deeply though there are numerous museums around documenting the history of Brussels. However I was there to look at all things comics, in which I managed to fit in as much as I physically could into the 48 hours I was there. First on the list was the infamous Comic Book Route of the city, in which there are over 50 murals around the centre and surrounding areas. I didn’t manage to see every single one, but starting at 8am I made my way around over 25 pieces of street art, the majority being from the comic route. The route itself has huge pieces of artwork on the sides of buildings dedicated to the legends of the comic book industry who originated from Belgium, and the capital of bande dessinée. These include Hergé (Tintin), Marc Sleen (Nero), Morris (Lucky Luke) and André Franquin (Gaston), amongst many more. It was quite something to see these incredibly bright murals around on the streets, something that the rest of Europe seems to embrace yet the UK sadly doesn’t.

 

After walking part of the route, I looped back round to end up at the Centre belge de la Bande dessinée to which I spent many, many happy hours. The Belgian Comic Strip Centre is in a converted Art Deco building, and upon ascending the flight of stairs you have a small exhibit on the history of comics, explaining the links to ancient cave markings and the Egyptian’s narrative sequences, etc. Next is a big exhibition on the development of comics, showing originals from European comic artists from scripting through to thumbnails, sketches, pencils and inks. It was absolutely fascinating, to the point in which I walked around it a second time when I’d finished to make notes. I was just blown over that such a place exists with no mention of Marvel or DC, and these incredible original pieces of art with varying techniques and the hidden look into how other artists work – I could go on forever (but I won’t, do not fear). Next up was the gallery exhibit of Madame Livingstone by Barly Baruti & Christophe Cassiau-Haurie which is a graphic novel based around Africa during WWI. The artwork is beautiful and I almost bought a copy – but due to the length of the book I’ll await patiently an English translation. There is also a large ‘Wonderland of Comics’ permanent exhibition which I happily spent a long time looking around, a history of the place itself and a really nice Tintin exhibit. Finally there is a temporary exhibition, ‘100 years in the Balkans‘, which was incredibly moving. All in all, I could have easily spent the day there, I definitely recommend it as an excellent place to go. After a somewhat failed mission to travel slightly out of the city to see an indie illustration exhibit which was closed when I got there, I headed back to the centre to visit BOZAR; otherwise known as the Centre for Fine Arts, I went to see a travelling exhibition of Jacques Tardi, featuring original artwork from his documentation of the First World War. “Putain de Guerre !” (Goddamn this war!) and “C’était la Guerre des Tranchées” (It was the war of the trenches) shown with the black and white artwork next to the coloured final pages. They were nothing less than brutal in showing the war in all its unpleasant horror. Although it was all written in French, there are English translations available to purchase, but I have my eye on a special edition out later this year. Thankfully the small amount of French I do know helped me to understand parts of it, and piece together what I didn’t know. On Friday I also went to another centenary-based exhibition at the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique entitled SHOCK! about the chaotic weeks leading up to the beginning of the First World War and Germany invading Belgium. Part of the exhibition focused on the different world we live in now, with how stories are communicated to the masses and how it is completely different to back in 1914. The newspapers and editorial illustrations they had on show were really eye-opening, it was incredibly interesting. Moving on to cheerier topics, I had just enough time to fit in MOOF – Museum of Original Figurines – before I had to depart back to Angleterre. There is a clear focus on kids at this museum which was to be expected, and it’s a really fun place even as an adult. Hergé and Tintin have quite a chunk of space dedicated, as does The Smurfs, with others such as Asterix and Obelix being more for show than for information purposes. There is also a great section on the animating of the cartoons with original artwork too!

Original artwork from Philippe Francq

Oringinal resistance artwork from the 100 Years in the Balkans exhibit
Tintin at the MOOF

With the short time I had I still managed to fit in an overpriced waffle from Grand Place and some delicious frites avec andalouse, plus with some chocolat and bière bought back for my loved ones I consider it a successful visit. I also had enough time to visit Brüsel, a large comic shop and gallery space in the city which had an impressive indie collection and also an English translated section. I managed to be very well behaved and only come away with three books, all in French! So monetary-value to time, given how long it’ll take me to translate it with my small knowledge of the French language its definitely money well spent. I picked up The Adventures of Tintin vol. 12, Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge (Red Rackham’s Treasure) as it features this really cool submersible ship/vessel that’s looks like a shark. I also picked up Labyrinthum, a quirky little book based on the eternal labyrinth, and finally the pièce de résistance of La Théorie du Grain de Sable, which I was drawn to with the incredible artwork and the use of spot colouring white on beige paper. This book, it turns out, is one of several from a series called Les Cités obscures (The Obscure Cities) created by Belgian comic artist François Schuiten and writer Benoît Peeters, in the early 1980s. The set of graphic novels is based in a parallel universe featuring cities similar to some on earth, including Brussels and the Palaces of Justice. Again, it’ll take me who-knows-how-long to understand it all fully, but the pages are absolutely beautiful (see below).

Les Aventures de Tintin – Le Tresor de Rackham le Rouge
Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s Labyrinthum

And now, back to reality. I’d do it all again tomorrow if I could, but now my taste of adventure is back I’m sure it won’t be long before I escape somewhere else. Alas the summer is drawing to a close with University starting up again next week. So, it’s time to mentally prepare for the stress-induced panicking and how I’m going to juggle my time. I had every intention of entering the Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story Prize competition, but after stating it before I went to Brussels, I realised that it was never going to be anywhere near good enough with the short amount of time I’d given myself. So, there’s always next year. For now I have plenty of other less-pressured side-projects to keep me occupied and hopefully developing my skills also as I go. Anyway, I think that’s it for now. I’ll be sure to update as often as I can with Uni starting back up again, though for now.. À bientôt! x

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