Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Wee Guy - kids' comics from Glasgow


This week I had the pleasure of three days in Glasgow teaching the First Years at Eastbank Academy how to write and draw comics. The 6 groups of kids produced some fabulous stuff between them. These are just the front covers of the A5 photocopied comics each of them takes away at the end, with colour added by me after the fact.


As always, the titles of these anthology comics are chosen by every one in the class writing a name down on a piece of paper and us doing a knockout round of one versus another until we end up with the favourite. This is usually the one that's made them laugh the most. Quite what Posest Bacon was supposed to mean, I don't know. Tunufu is, apparently, the name of their grouping in English. No, I'm none the wiser.



The hairstyle and eyebrows you can see on the Tunufu cover were a feature that popped up a couple of times. It seem shaving half your head and having the rest in a quiff is a big thing with the boys, and thankfully only a couple of the girls had given themselves Frida Kahlo eyebrows that looked like they'd been applied by a road painter.


The celebrities they chose for my demonstration strip were Cristiano Ronaldo (twice), Donald Trump, Beyonce, Jeremy Kyle, and Selena Gomez.




Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Get In The Chopper - comic by kids (and crazy names)


And then I spent two days in Northumberland, on a well planned schedule that took me from Ponteland in the morning to Morpeth in the afternoon, then Rothbury the next day and Alnwick in the afternoon, and finally back to Newcastle airport, delivering four Comic Art Masterclasses in (if you haven't worked it out in your mental map) successive towns working vertically up the map. As it transpired, a couple of schools got swapped, so I ended up staying in one town then working in the other first thing. But whatever, it was a lovely round trip. And look at the comics the pupils produced.



These are merely the front covers of their A5 comics, a copy of which they all take home, with colour added by me after the fact. And, notably, these schools straddle the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. I was hoping the above example for Ponteland was to be the last in a long line of Trump themed comics by primary school pupils, but sadly that's clearly not the case. (They didn't plan for Trump to be the "Get in the chopper", but that's what they got.)



A moment, if I may, to celebrate the parents of, not this week's school, but an earlier one. For it was in Ipswich that we reached quite possibly the apogee of the phenomenon that is Kids Names. I can't besmirch it with a description any worse than that. They're fine names, they're lovely names, and undeniably they are great kids. But those names.

You see, what happens is that I draw every child's caricature. And, once done, I ask their names. And, for the challenge, I hazard a guess at the spelling of their names. By and large I'm considered quite good at this task. Occasionally I am stretched, maybe even embarrassed. There are many names that originate overseas, and I'm good at politely acquiring the spelling thereof. But every now and again...


"Reilly" says the child. Go on, what would you guess? Obviously it wasn't REILLY or I wouldn't have opened the paragraph with it. So, what? Riley? Ri - actually I'm out of guesses right there.

Rhylee.

Welcome to Ipswich (for there it was. You can we see their delightful faces above). See also:

"Kieran". Spelled Kyrun.
"Mason". Spelled Maycun.
"Cyrus". Spelled Zyrus. And a girl.

It's not an unusual phenomenon. Though, I have just corrected myself by editing, it is not phenomena. Or they're not phenomena. Or... oh I don't know. Don't come to me as an arbiter of grammar. Or spelling.

But seriously. Rhylee? Kids today...


The celebs they chose for the demonstration strip were John Cena, Declan Donnelly, David Beckham, and inevitably Donald Trump.



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Weekend in Paris


I'll tell you one thing, the French serve a rotten cup of tea. Twice we were given cups of not-boiling water, with a tea bag lying beside it, sealed in an envelope that took so long to rip open the water could only get colder. And once we had the same, but with the milk already in it. Yeuch. Never order a cup of tea up the Eiffel Tower.

It was Hev's birthday so we went to Paris. That's the long and the short of it really. At this point a good journalist would spin a yarn about the real reason behind the trip, maybe the guy was going to propose or tell the family he had a terminal disease. But, reassuringly I'd say, I had no ulterior motive other than to make up for last year when I was away in Jordan working over her birthday, and seeing if we could improve on her 2013 birthday which we spent in a cold and rainy Dublin, again thanks to my work.


We flew on Saturday midday, arriving early afternoon, then enjoyed a perfect meander to the Eiffel tower. The perfect romantic Paris visit there, all in the first day.


The flat was great too, overlooking the Natural History Museum, right by the Seine and Gare D'Austerlitz, it made everywhere easy to get to and navigate, in theory, though by god I had fun with Apple Maps on my phone (since it upgraded to the latest operating system, the maps are rubbish and seem never to tell you where you really are or where you should be going, which rather negates their usefulness).

On Sunday, which felt like our Saturday, we went to the Centre Pompidou via a meander through the streets of the South Bank, but only saw the free exhbitions, there being a 75 minute queue to get to any of the paid shows. And there were plenty more shops and galleries to peruse which kept us more than busy enough. And rather than knocking ourselves out like youngsters with a late night, back in the flat in the evening we watched movie on Netflix on the laptop (a very disappointing Ridley Scott thing called Body Of Lies, which Hev wisely slept through most of).


Oh yeah, they have tons of graffitti. And not like the visual extravaganzas you get on the walls of Bristol, it's mostly overgrown tags straight out of 1970s New York. It reminds you that we do have an equivalent alongside the railtracks of Britain: large grey rectangles where they've been painted out by the British Transport Police. It's hard to know which looks worse. The unimaginative repetitive old school tags that make your underground look like a war zone, or boring grey squares that hide the truth.

Monday we were flying back in the evening, which meant depositing our bags in a locker at Gare Du Nord before going off to do Montmartre. The area around Gare Du Nord has become pretty grotty in recent years, and I must admit today was the day that was hardest going and left us with the abiding memory of Paris as a slightly down at heel, slightly inconvenient, and tiring place to visit. We had a great time on this visit, but this third draining day slightly took the gilt off the gingerbread as Apple Maps sent us the wrong way up streets thronged with folks who looked, to paraphrase The Fast Show, "a little bit whee a little bit whoo". 

And France's security alert situation really made itself known. Airports aside, we had to go through four X ray machines or metal detectors: to get up the Eiffel Tower, to get into Centre Pompidou, to get into the lockers at Gare Du Nord, and to get into Galeries Lafayate. Understandable obviously, as were the occasional groups of police with machine guns in popular parts of town, but with the resultant queueing it slowed the days down and must be getting to the locals no end.


We did Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, we meandered to Galeries Lafayete, got lots of good photos, saw lots of great sights, and even bought some stuff. For my part I got a copy of Spirou and Charlie Hebdo, which is what I seem to come home with after every trip to France.

We gave ourselves lots of time to get to the airport and to catch our 9.20pm flight, and a good job too, as no part of the process was anything less than a slog. Picking up our bags in a rush hour crowded Gare Du Nord was made more fun by the fact that the lockers had a glitch so they were printing out blank receipts which, had we not spotted it in time, would mean not only would we not have been able to extract our bags, we wouldn't have remembered which of the identical lockers they were in.


The rush hour tube train was the busiest I can remember being on for a very long time. They employ people in uniform to squeeze punters on the trains. I remember seeing that in documentaries about Japan 30 years and thinking it could never happen here. Well, it's happening in Paris.

Having left the shops at 4.30, taking an easy stroll to the station then getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, we made it to the airport at 7.20, spot on in time for bag drop opening, then 2 hours to fill trying to find somewhere to eat. Thanks to building work (we think) Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport has fewer places to eat than Bristol airport. I know.  And, as if we weren't drained enough, the flight was delayed from 9.20 to 10pm, a good wodge of which we spent stood up in the bus to the plane as a result of the pilot - who subsequently came out and apologised to us all in person - being directed to the wrong parking space. (With his plane, that is). Add to all of this our drive back from Bristol airport being extended due to flooded roads (we missed a very wet weekend back home), and our journey home from Paris had taken so long we would have been quicker driving.

A draining journey notwithstanding, it was a glorious holiday weekend and I hope Hev enjoyed it as much as I did. I've already collated the best of the photos up into a Blurb book, which is a mark of a memorable trip in our house (past collections include Venice, Malta and a couple of Edinburghs).




Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here


TOUR DATES 2017
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath 
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen Hall 
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts 
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms 
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome 
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent 
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Facebook meanderings

Inconsequential jottings on Facebook in the past few weeks.


Good news. The scientists who discovered graphene have made it into a skin that's even thinner than Donald Trump's.



Hev's been telling me all about the conditions under which Amazon drivers work (from this show I've not seen yet). If any of us who've ever worked for (shall remain nameless) comic publisher over the years told our stories of zero-hour contracts, pay rates that have been the same for 20 years, and being dropped after decades with no comeback... we'd never work for them again would we? (And yet we all still want to).





Here's a comforting quote for all the doomsayers out there:
"It’s 1988 now. Margaret Thatcher is entering her third term of office and talking confidently of an unbroken Conservative leadership well into the next century. My youngest daughter is seven and the tabloid press are circulating the idea of concentration camps for persons with AIDS. The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top. The government has expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality, even as an abstract concept, and one can only speculate as to which minority will be the next legislated against. I’m thinking of taking my family and getting out of this country soon, sometime over the next couple of years. It’s cold and it’s mean-spirited and I don’t like it here anymore." - Alan Moore, V For Vendetta foreword 1988

Dear God. Quiet news day in Swindon.
This article (which is real, despite being on a website that sounds fake) says a fair bit about the current "fake news" situation. But I think it has more significance from an American readers point of view, where they've been used to higher standards of journalism than the UK.
Having just read (and started rereading) Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed, I'm slightly fixated by the story of Jonah Lehrer who made up a few quotes which he attributed to Bob Dylan and had his entire career ruined as a result. From the viewpoint of the UK, where our biggest national newspapers regularly fabricate quotes, and tell blatant lies, it's a strange world of journalistic exactitude and moral rectitude that is both enviable and a bit scary.
What I'm saying is, the Denver Guardians and fake news sites made up my Macedonian teenagers are, indeed, a disturbing thing. But look back at 40 years of The Sun and the Daily Mail and you'll see that intelligent people can see through these things. Dumb people have always been dumb people. Mislead them with a few lies about immigrants and taking back control and... well, what's the worst that could happen?

Got an Only Connect for you:
Denis Thatcher (2009)
Sherlock Holmes (1982)
Prince Phillip (2016)
The Fool in King Lear (2008)****
Unsurprisingly, someone's found a book that correctly predicted what would happen this year. Among the big pile of books that incorrectly predicted an infinity of things that might happen this year but didn't. Which helps us not in the slightest, but will shift some copies of a book from 1998 by a dead guy. Yay journalism.

We're only 10 minutes into it, but does Poliakoff's Close To The Enemy stop being bleeding awful anytime soon? So far there's been no dialogue that's not all exposition, and no characters that are more than cardboard cutouts. We laughed out loud at "That must the only toffee apple in all of London".

What is the world coming to? I just scrolled down screeds of Facebook (how do you measure the length of Facebook you just scrolled down?) and not one single person has mentioned you know Who. It's November 23rd, people. Has the favourite programme of my childhood finally faded from memory?
PS: Isn't this the worst Radio Times cover you've seen? What is that typeface supposed to be?

We can only hope Bill Hicks/Garth Ennis* were right, and this is what Trump has ahead of him...
*And the late great Steve Dillon of course




What are the chances? Yesterday, in my comic class, the kids got me to draw this big scary guy from Death Note. I've never drawn him before, or even given him a thought in ages. Today he's on my Facebook. How?




This was a meme doing the rounds:
Four names I get called:
"You look like The Doctor"
"What do they call you?"
The Socks
Sir
Four places I've lived
Kibby
Clevedon
Exeter
Lo-ooga-borooga
Four things I love to watch on TV:
Doctor Who
You've Been Framed
Top Of The Pops
Old movies
Four places I have visited:
The 1970s
The 1980s
The 1990s
Edinburgh
Four things I love to eat:
Fish from a Fish & Chip shop
Hotel breakfasts
School dinners
Baked beans
Favourite drinks
Water
Beer with friends
Beer on my own
Wine
Four people I think will respond and hopefully be good fun:
Heather Tweed
Steve Noble (but I caught this contagion from him)
Oscar Harding
Corral Sutherland


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here


TOUR DATES 2017
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath 
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen Hall 
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts 
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms 
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome 
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent 
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe

**** Parts played by Doctor Who. Obviously.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Where Has My Toes Gone Dawson? - comics by kids


I woke up in a hotel in St Helens to find out that Donald Trump was the new President. I'd gone to bed hoping that the comic covers I'd just coloured, as you can see above, were the last time I'd be asked by the kids to put Trump on anything. As we all know, that was not to be. Since about this time last year, he's been cropping up in suggestions by school kids, and that looks like continuing for quite a while. These comics were by pupils in Trowbridge. And yes, now you ask, Trowbridge to St Helens is a very long drive. The lengths I'll go to to teach comics to kids.



A case in point, travel wise, would be these comics, produced by pupils in St Pancras. No, not that St Pancras, this one was in Ipswich. I know it's on the other side of the country, you don't need to tell me. In fact that little round trip consisted of me doing a class in Ipswich on the Wednesday, then Sock Puppets in Canterbury on Thursday, Socks in Nuneaton on Friday, and another Comic Art Masterclass in Watford on the Saturday.


Here are Watford's fine creations. And you can't tell by looking at them, I hope, that I was feeling unusually unwell as I drew them, and indeed while I taught both classes. I came down with some strange variation of the cold which drained me of so much energy that, after this class, I went straight to my bed at 5pm and slept for 13 solid hours. Very strange.



This last pair were from Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School in St Helens, after which I had a tortuous five and a half hour drive home, thanks to the M6 having pot holes in it apparently. So there we have it, a cluster of classes from Ipswich, Watford, Trowbridge and St Helens. Which, if you join the points on the map, makes a rather nonplussing rhomboid shape (I'm always hoping it'll form a pentangle or something).


The celebrities these classes chose to star in my demonstration strip on the flipchart were Donald Trump, Donald Trump (twice), Hillary Clinton (turns out hers is the name we won't be hearing so much of from now on), Ant McPartlin, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Michael Jackson, and Stan Lee.



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Monday, 31 October 2016

Supporting Muscle to catching colds - a month's diary


I've had a busy month, doing a bit of everything I do, and have hardly got round to updating my diary. So a quick trawl through October to see what I've missed. Starting with Phil Nichol's Muscle. How could I forget getting an early glimpse of Phil Nichol's Muscle? He's formed a rock band, and the Socks supported him on their very first gig, in Bristol, along with Andrew O'Neill and Angie Belcher, in front of a pretty small audience. That was Sunday 2nd October.



My travels started with Socks in Croydon, then 2 days in Dublin teaching in Tallaght & Clongowes Wood (try finding that by satnav, or even Google maps, by the way), then all the way up to Nelson in Lancashire for the Socks to play a Headline slot, then down to Kibworth for an overnight with Mum, then a day's classes in Countesthorpe and home. We're only up to October 8th.


The Feeding Of The 5000 4 page strip went from commission to delivery this month, and the pencilling of the 28 page Book Of Esther. I'm really proud of this work, writing funny gags, telling good stories (albeit adapted from the Bible) and doing some nifty art. I would love to do a lot more of this.


Heather has joined me on my travels a few times, including this pleasant excursion to the Isle Of Wight for two days of schools as part of the IOW Literary Festival. Sadly we couldn't stay for the Friday night bash this time as I had to zoom off to Thame for another Lit Fest. I have worked on every Saturday in October.


The 3rd week of October is the only one I've bothered to record in my blog, the week where I lost my voice, cancelled a Socks gig, and travelled from 3 Bridges to London to Barton On Humber to Manchester Literary Festival, every bit of work squeezed out of a croaky throat. This was also the week I got the Beano and Dandy annuals and was able to see just how well my scripts had survived the legendary DC Thomson sub-editing process. Oh yes, and I had my 55th birthday, with no time to actually celebrate it.



And for the last week of October I took it easy. Just a drive to Ipswich for classes (this sculpture is in the corridor of the Holiday Inn in Ipswich), then Norfolk for a Socks gig in a steam engine museum, then home. (The following week takes me back to Ipswich, Kibworth, Canterbury, Nuneaton, and Watford. But that's next week).



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here



TOUR DATES 2017
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath 
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen Hall 
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts 
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms 
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome 
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Donald Lets Out A Big Trump - comics by kids


It's half term but that doesn't stop me doing Comic Art Masterclasses. These are from Manchester Literature Festival, held in the Central Library. And haven't I gone to town on the colouring? It's by way of me not doing too many classes at the moment, and being otherwise busy on my drawing board and thus in the swing of comic art. I hope people don't get too used to this level of after-care.




These, held in a large shed called the Art Retreat in Woodbridge in Suffolk, were organised by a group of parents who'd seen me doing classes in the summer at the nearby Latitude Festival.


These are from the Beano day at Three Bridges school in Crawley where, you'll read elsewhere, I lost my voice. Because they weren't my usual format of classes, there was no time for me to draw the pupils' caricatures and therefore, as the eagle-eyed will spot, the kids didn't get to add their little contributions to the covers (they each draw something while they're waiting to be drawn).



The celebrities these groups chose to tread on the worm (see blogs passim) show a depressing recent trend. They chose Donald Trump 3 times, plus Simon Cowell, Katy Perry and Keith Lemon.



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here
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