Saturday 31 August 2013

story number one

I promised I would post about the different story ideas I am trying to develop at the moment.  The first is one I have already begun in a way as it has already seen print in Loaf Magazine, issues one and two.  This story is really not a story at all but a set of story ingredients, specifically a community of characters and a location.  I began thinking about it when I wanted to make a starting point for an AD&D style roleplaying game.  The characters were designed to represent different roleplay staples like the cleric, the ranger, the warrior, the wizard and so on whilst being, at the outset of the story, normal folks doing regular jobs in a small community.  The butcher was the warrior, the shepherdess was the ranger and so on...

Here are the drawings I made when I first came up with the notion:

the shepherdess

the shepherdess

the shopkeeper

the butcher

the wise woman

the mayor

the priest

the priest

the sea captain

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Ilustratour 2012 workshop

Here is part of a workshop I did in Valladolid in Spain, for an annual event called Ilustratour.

Ideas for picture books can come from anything and from anywhere but for this workshop we started by creating characters from shapes.
First, everybody painted lots and lots of shapes.  We had three colours to choose from, a muted yellow and red and a brilliant turquoise.  For the first shapes we were only allowed to use the warm colours.  After we had a good stack each we piled them all on the floor and chose a dozen, from any but the ones we ourselves had painted, then we took them back to our desks and tried turning them into characters by drawing over the top in a darker line.

Sometimes we were free to do whatever we felt fit, other times I would get everybody to try and do the same thing.  I seem to remember that everybody had to do at least one cowboy and at least one cow...  When all those were done we picked a single shape that we wanted to retry and painted that shape another dozen times.  Now we turned the twelve similar shapes into twelve different characters. 

these pictures are from a worksheet I made to explain things!

 By this time we had a huge pile of characters and I asked everyone to pick one, no matter who had drawn it, for them to develop.
Beginning with the shape again, we painted at least a dozen shapes that we knew were going to be this character we had chosen.

here are some great beasts by Daniela Martagón... click the picture to go to her blog!

Finally we drew random shapes and tried to 'force' our characters into them.


Once we had explored these characters quite thoroughly we went on to make a group around them.

I wanted us to make a companion for the character, based on a rearrangement of their basic shape and colour, a complimentary character who would make an interesting visual contrast with the initial character whilst keeping many points in common, and an opposite for them, using very different shapes and our one, cold colour.

Here are some Mariachi band members I made up at this point...

As before, we would select our favourite from those we had drawn and try and refine it by redrawing, always starting with a flat colour shape.

I liked this one:

Here is his friend:

His compliment (love interest in this case ^-^):

And his opposite or antagonist:

In the second part of the workshop we tried to develop stories based on various combinations of the characters we had made... Might post about that bit another day!

Saturday 24 August 2013

shuffle up

You may notice that the Selfish Giant has appeared as a link on the sidebar of this site.  That is because it is coming out on the fifth of September!

horse's hooves

To make sense of stuff I will be posting over the next few months I thought it might be useful to introduce the various ideas I am developing (without giving away the best bits of course!).

This stage of the process always reminds me of a very particular scene in a James Herriot story I listened to repeatedly when I was small.  For those who don't know the James Herriot books, they are semi-autobiographical stories based on his time working as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the middle of the last century.   They are well worth reading if you haven't already... anyway, I digress from a digression... So, James has just met the man who will become his employer, the excellently named Siegfried Farnon, and he is being taken around various farms by way of an assessment for the job.  The first visit he makes is to a lame horse and Siegfried asks him what he thinks is wrong:

“Which leg do you make it?” my colleague asked. “Near fore? Yes, I think so, too. Like to examine it?”
I put my hand on the foot, feeling how much hotter it was than the other. I called for a hammer and tapped the wall of the hoof. The horse flinched, raised the foot and held it trembling for a few seconds before replacing it carefully on the ground. “Looks like pus in the foot to me.”
“I’ll bet you’re right,” Farnon said. “They call it gravel around here, by the way. What do you suggest we do about it?”
“Open up the sole and evacuate the pus.”
“Right.” He held out a hoof knife. “I’ll watch your technique.”
With the uncomfortable feeling that I was on trial, I took the knife, lifted the foot and tucked it between my knees. I knew what I had to do—find the dark mark on the sole where the infection had entered and follow it down till I reached the pus. I scraped away the caked dirt and found not one, but several marks. After more tapping to find the painful area I selected a likely spot and started to cut.
The horn seemed as hard as marble and only the thinnest little shaving came away with each twist of the knife. The horse, too, appeared to appreciate having his sore foot lifted off the ground and gratefully leaned his full weight on my back. He hadn’t been so comfortable all day. I groaned and dug him in the ribs with my elbow and, though it made him change his position for a second, he was soon leaning on again.
The mark was growing fainter and, after a final gouge with the knife, it disappeared altogether. I swore quietly and started on another mark. With my back at breaking point and the sweat trickling into my eyes, I knew that if this one petered out, too, I would have to let the foot go and take a rest. And with Farnon’s eye on me I didn’t want to do that.
Agonisingly, I hacked away and, as the hole deepened, my knees began an uncontrollable trembling. The horse rested happily, his fifteen hundredweight cradled by this thoughtful human. I was wondering how it would look when I finally fell flat on my face when, under the knife blade, I saw a thin spurt of pus followed by a steady trickle.
“There it goes,” the farmer grunted. “He’ll get relief now.”
I enlarged the drainage hole and dropped the foot. It took me a long time to straighten up and when I stepped back, my shirt clung to my back.
“Well done, Herriot.” Farnon took the knife from me and slipped it into his pocket. “It just isn’t funny when the horn is as hard as that.”

 For some reason that scene got stuck in my head and whenever I am trying to come up with new stories I think of it.  It seems to me that new stories are like those little marks on the horse's hoof.  When you begin working away you are sure that this will be the one but the more you work the less sure you are until finally it comes to nothing.  You have to pick yourself up and start on another mark and dig away at that one and hope that this time you were right.  The more times you dig and find nothing the harder it gets to try again.

 I think I have about four little marks to dig at the moment.  I'll introduce them individually in later posts...

Friday 23 August 2013


Jim's Lion is done!  Finished the last dream today (that's it in the pic).  I'll spend the next few days going over it all and redoing the whack bits before handing in on the 27th... think I'll go and lie down now.

Thursday 22 August 2013

a gnat's whisker from the edge of the cliff

So... I have been working all hours to get Jim's Lion finished for Frankfurt and the end is not only in sight but I will almost certainly complete it tomorrow.  I have three panels left to draw!  Sorry for the Blog absence.  My brain has been mush.

Now I am facing that bizarre moment all self employed people will be familiar with.  You work and work and work and work and get deeper and deeper into a project until you are living and breathing it all day every day and then suddenly you finish... And there's nothing left to do.  My life has become so Jim shaped it will be mighty weird to uncurl it back into some other shape again.  

Usually I would be contracted into the middle of next year but this time there is nothing.  It was my intention.  I have wanted to publish a comic of my own for the longest time and now is the moment.  So for the rest of the year I will be developing stories into scripts with a view to getting a deal for one of them.  It should liven things up here on the Blog as I'll be able to post what I'm doing instead of hiding it under the sofa in a plastic bag.

Nicked these tonal schemes from a book of Doré engravings when I was doing the initial development for Jim's Lion.  They made for pretty pictures:

Friday 16 August 2013

these too

Viv has posted some more pics from the show on her instagram site.

Beegu show - the performance...

I went to the Rose Bowl Youth Hub performance of Beegu today...

Everyone taking their places:

...and Beegu appears!

After some amazing bunny hopping acrobatics, the rabbits leave and the leaves arrive!

Is that her mum?  ... no, it's a phone box on stilts.

 The puppies and Beegu become friends:

The school playground - the perfect place!

With synchronised hula hooping!

Beegu makes more friends:

Is that another phone she can hear?

No! It's her folks!  Hurray!