Friday, 17 November 2017
The above picture is in fact me inking the cover of Guernsey's Zone magazine, which I also did in the last week. But the purpose of this rolling blog is for me to keep some sort of Time Sheet on how long my current major art job, three strips for Women Of The Bible, will have taken me. Here, accompanied by some outtakes (ie panels that I pencilled then rubbed out and redrew) are my timings so far.
Jael Wife Of Heber (8 pages)
Weds 8 - Fri 10 Nov. Art begun (alongside Fowlers Christmas card, Zone cover, CCI roughs, Louisa Christmas card roughs, a caricature and a gift drawing). Really only Friday totally devoted to Jael art.
All 8 pages laid out. Page 4/5 spread pencilled, pasted into TIFF pages and sent as a Friday night preview to Rachel my editor. Parts of other pages pencilled.
Nov 11-12 weekend stuff, 13-14 Penicuik & Falkirk school visits.
Weds 15 - All 8 pages completed in pencil, scanned and pasted into TIFF pages.
Thurs 16 - Pages 1 - 4 inked and scanned.
Nov 17 - Goole gig, followed by weekend stuff.
So, to date, 8 pages pencils have taken 2 days, 4 pages inks have taken 1 day. Work in progress.
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
As you know, if you've read any of these blogs before, I love a good homage. Partly it relieves the pressure of trying to think up new design ideas, but also it gives me a chance to give the kids comics a little added value. And what could be better value than giving them a Rene Magritte reference to take away. These comics from a pair of Saturday classes in Maesteg in the Welsh Valleys. The second cover is something I don't do often enough, taking a kid's design and running with it. Again, anything to avoid coming up with new design ideas.
Woodside School in Tottenham saw me working with year 7s and 8s, with all that entails. So we get another homage, an excuse to do a Trump, and a portrait of one of the kids in the class. Which, in my experience, always ends up as disappointing. And what are those colours? Sorry, the muse seems to have escaped me on that cover.
Now this is more like it. Two of the best titles of the week, and an excuse for another homage. Again, I doubt the kid who dreamed up that title had Dirty Dancing in mind, but what the hey, it's Jennifer Grey. And a Ghostbusters related toilet. Comedy gold from the kids of Easter Carmuirs Primary in Falkirk.
Sacred Heart Primary in Penicuik was a treat, with one of the classes having horror as their actual theme, so I knew I was doing an EC horror pastiche cover from the start. Such a shame it wasn't as good as the Spongebob Fart Pants cover the other group called for.
The celebrities these 8 groups suggested to appear in my demonstration strip were Donald Trump (twice), Ariana Grande (twice), Lionel Messi, David Attenborough, Nicki Minaj, and Stormzy.
Thursday, 9 November 2017
Once upon a time, before I started doing these comic art masterclasses around the country, and before I was touring with a sock puppet theatre, when I first went freelance over 25 years ago, all I did every day was write and draw comic strips and cartoons. And over the last couple of weeks it's been very much a return to the olden days.
Admittedly I've done three out of the final four Socks Do Shakespeare gigs (in Halifax, Wolverhampton, and Nottingham, with Goole to come) and done a couple of days of classes (in Maesteg and Tottenham, the fruits of which you'll see soon), but for the rest of the time I've been at my desk drawing, with more to come.
Above we can see the rough for an illustration for the Chartered Insurance Institute (for whom I recently did the biggest illustration ever). I took some rather dry subject matter and zhooshed it up into a classical temple. I was particularly proud of the Engaged Membership column, in which the caryatid and the atlantean are mirrored by a human pyramid of insurance agents. So witty, aren't I? Anyone, the client didn't like it because they want something that says "modern", so here's an illustration that'll never get drawn.
Here's another one that won't be seeing the light of day. Every year, for at least the last dozen years, I've been drawing the Christmas card for Fowlers motorbikes in Bristol. They give me a pretty detailed brief, I do a rough sketch and, as often as not, they come back again with a totally different idea which I draw instead. This was one of those years. So, if you're a Fowlers customer or client, you can look forward to receiving the full colour card I've just drawn (it has Santa and some carol singers on). And above you can see the card that no-one will ever get.
And here's one I don't even get paid for. Well, not directly. One of the many schools I've visited this year was Llangynidr Primary in South Wales. And, as occasionally happens, a child was off sick on the day that the rest of their class got the treat of their life and had my Comic Art Masterclass, so they missed out on getting their caricature done. Most often, the teacher finds a photo of the kid and I draw them from that. But this time that didn't happen, so her Dad got in touch and sent me a photo, from which I drew her caricature. Then, because I was doing some colour art, I experimented with a colour doodle. So, as a free bonus, well an even freer bonus than the first drawing, she got a colour version of her caricature. Yes, being sick gets you more than coming into school, that's a good lesson for the kids. (The next day the Dad thanked me and asked if I could also draw his other daughter. I said no. God, I give with one hand and take away with the other. Evil.)
As if there was no end to my benevolence, here's another job that I did for nothing. A kid was a big Beano fan and wanted a birthday card (he may well have been unwell) so I sent him one. These things I can do with ease, when I'm at my desk. But they're an absolute bugger to do when I'm out and about. Over the years I've let countless people down by saying I could draw them something, or send them a piece of art for an auction, and I haven't got round to sending them anything because, by the time I get back to my desk, I've forgotten the email. To those many unhappy punters, can I apologise in retrospect.
And another surprise gig has been drawing the front cover of the Guernsey comic anthology Zone. This is my scribble for the design, the finished thing is a pretty dawn spot-on Jack Kirby pastiche, though I say so myself. You'll see it soon I hope.
All of which artistic business pales into insignificance in the shadow of the next big job on my plate. I've finally, after 6 months wait, got the go ahead to draw Women Of The Bible. So, joining The Book of Esther which I drew nearly a year ago, I will be drawing and colouring The Book Of Ruth, The Story Of Rahab, and my personal favourite Jael Wife Of Heber. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some pencil to drag across some Bristol Board. And all's right with the world.
Friday, 3 November 2017
Top 10 TV Shows Sounds Like Friday Night could try and be as good as...
...apart from Top Of The Pops
As we chew our way through the second episode of Sounds Like Friday Night, with a small spattering of live music interspersed with some lame pre-recorded comedy sketches performed, not by comedians, but by quaint radio presenters and well meaning pop stars, is it too soon to have already damned this show as a flop? Maybe not. But it is a missed opportunity, when putting a pop music light entertainment show in a 7.30 Friday night primetime slot is precisely what TV and its audience are crying out for.
So what, in my opinion, should SLFN be trying to be as good as? Well, if the aim is to represent popular music - as heard on Radios 1, 1Extra, 2 and 6 - and be popular, accessible and entertaining? I'll give you a Top Ten.
We can rule out:
The Old Grey Whistle Test (1971-88) - The grandaddy of music television, but designed for a late night specialist audience, never aimed as a showcase for pop music. Indeed it was the matching counterpart to Top Of The Pops in its heyday, the BBC2 to its BBC1, and we have it covered with Later, Glastonbury, and BBC4's arts shows. Sure, if you liked Toad The Wet Sprocket, then Whispering Bob was for you. But must we fling this filth at our pop kids?
The Word (90 - 95) - Grossout for drunks
Revolver (78) - Maybe only I remember this. Hosted by Peter Cook, who even the audience didn't get, it showcased great bands at the height of new wave, but really you had to be there to get it.
The White Room (94 - 96) - OGWT light
Kenny Everett's Video Show (78 - 81) - Presented some acts way better than Top Of The Pops did, indeed many of its clips became the official promo for the likes of Bowie & The Boomtown Rats. But it was a comedy show first & a music show second. Sure, better then Sounds Like Friday Night on both fronts, but not the model I'd seek to emulate.
We can also rule out:
Pop Idol (01 - 03) - Not about new music
X Factor (04 - ) - Not about new music
The Voice (12 - ) - Not about new music
Stars In Their Eyes (90 - ) - Not about... well, you see where that was going
So the Top 10 TV Shows Sounds Like Friday Night could try and be as good as, in my opinion, are:
Oh Boy (1958/9) - Jack Good's continuation of his BBC show Six-Five Special, for ITV, lost the chat (and sport and magazine items) and concentrated on the music. The time was right and the audience responded. Made stars of Cliff Richard and the Larry Parnes stable.
Ready Steady Go (63-66) - "The weekend starts here" was its catchphrase and, for many of the mod generation, it was the cooler show than the Beeb's Top Of The Pops. The Stones, Beatles, The Who et al were friends of the show, which made music specials, including an influential Motown episode. Sadly short-lived and much missed.
Thank Your Lucky Stars (61-66) - ITV's show was noticeable for allowing miming and outliving its competition. Had a popular record review section (mimicking BBC's Juke Box Jury) which gave us the catchphrase "Oi'll give it foive."
Supersonic (75-76) - ITV's early afternoon pop show wasn't limited to the charts, like TOTP, and had the novelty of no presenter, relying on producer Mike Mansfield's cues from the gallery to link the as-live acts. Catered for the overflowing number of glam rock acts that even TOTP couldn't squeeze in.
Marc (1977) - A short lived curio, in which Marc Bolan was given his own show to present and curate (as ITV had previously done with The Bay City Rollers' Shang-A-Lang, and the self-titled Flintlock and Arrows shows), Marc was the show that first put punk on TV. The Damned made their first TV appearance here, as did Generation X and The Jam. At the other end of the fame tree, David Bowie guested on the final episode, a few hours after which Marc died in a car accident.
Oxford Road Show (81 - 85) - From the BBC's eponymous Manchester studios (don't look for them, they're not there any more), ORS mixed live bands with the then deluge of videos and showcased many indie bands and breaking acts.
The Roxy (87-88) - If anything, this is in the list as a cautionary tale. It came from Newcastle (where the next show on our list had been a proven success) and tried to go up against Top Of The Pops with the same content. On the same night. And in the same time slot. When acts chose not to travel to Newcastle for a fraction of the exposure they could get by going to London, the show was probably grateful for the industrial action that hastened its cancellation. A textbook example of what not to do.
The Tube (82 - 87) - One of pop television's best ever shows, it took the cool sensibility of the music papers and the style mags, with the brash self confidence of the newly formed Channel 4 and broke new ground. Broadcast from Newcastle, and bravely mixing unsigned and often unlikely acts with pop sensations - with no miming allowed - it gave Top Of The Pops the best run for its money since Ready Steady Go and forced them to up their game. It was the show that discovered Frankie Goes To Hollywood and The Proclaimers, as well as giving us Jools Holland and, indirectly, bringing about Band Aid and Live Aid.
The Chart Show (86 - 03) - Before MTV, and later Youtube, allowed full-time access to pop videos, they were the currency of a pop generation and the hunger for them was insatiable. TOTP and other shows featured videos, but tried not to be overwhelmed by them (a struggle when the budget for one pop video could often be bigger than the budget for your whole series). The Chart Show made a virtue of the video, and dispensed with the other dodgy variable, the presenter. Instead we had animated links, catchy jingles, and a format based around the Top 40 Chart (quirkily it wasn't the same chart as the one the BBC used, which led to frequent raised eyebrows when the 'wrong' record was Number One), as well as the Indie Chart, Dance Chart and the Rock Chart. Sometimes keeping it simple can be the best answer. The Chart Show is, should anyone have noticed, the UK's third longest running pop music show ever.
Later... With Jools Holland (1992 - ) I have a love/hate relationship with this show, being eternally frustrated by the average age of its acts appearing to be in their late 70s, and the eclecticism sometimes bordering on taking the piss. Also Jools Holland's perrenial insistence on playing along with acts has become ridiculous. But you can't argue with a show that's lasted for 25 consecutive years, and has showcased more live pop and rock acts on screen than any other show (if you allow for TOTP had mostly mime acts for the majority of its 42 years). And you can't argue with the format. 8 or so acts in one studio, with the maximum time being given to the music, and the minimum amount of time being given to Holland. Who, to his eternal credit, keeps it brief, and talks quicker than any other music presenter in TV history. If someone would nick the key to his piano lid, and forget to book the octogenarians and east European throat-singers, this show would be perfect pop TV.
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
It's a tradition that I missed last year because I was so busy, so I'm glad that I managed to squeeze in the time to make a Halloween lantern this year. Hev helped by gouging out the innards, which we can look forward to smelling for the rest of the week, and I did the honours by carving the front. Thinking better of anything topical (a Harvey Weinstein lantern was ruled out very early), I went with a classic Bride of Frankenstein, and I think I've got away with it.
And, lest we forget, here are some of my creations from past years. It remains hard to top 2011's.
Wednesday, 25 October 2017
Three consecutive days in or near Glasgow? That'll do nicely. My thanks to Inverclyde Libraries for lining up a day at Port Glasgow, teaching kids from two local primary schools, then two libraries in a day in Greenock and Gourock. Mickey Mouse's Monkey Club was fun to draw and colour, though I'm not sure that was the visual gag the little darlings had in mind.
It's Halloween season, so it was a treat to get some horror themed covers to draw this week. You'll recognise the Psycho house of course. And when have I ever held back when there's an excuse to do an EC Tales From The Crypt style header? Never, that's when. These two are from Bowhouse Primary in Grangemouth, whose booking I was able to tack onto my Inverclyde visit, making it a three day tour.
The last time I was in Gourock was en route to a Literary Festival in Tarbert when, through bad planning, I found myself taking the ferry to Dunoon, then getting marooned on Argyll & Bute, a five minute swim from Tarbert, having missed the last ferry over, and having to drive the long way round from there. Before that, apart from visiting the library for my classes, my only experience of Gourock had been when Gran took Jude and I on a ferry trip to Dunoon when I was 12. It was horrible. I am better disposed to the old place now.
And on Sunday I found myself driving all the way to Brighton (Hove, actually) to do a 10th birthday party. These are always unpredictable events, and given that this one had 28 nine and ten year old guests, mostly boys, it was likely to be a challenge. So I'm proud to say I kept them all focussed on the job, and they spent two hours designing characters, drawing comic strips, and having their faces drawn. The most surprising thing is that the birthday boy, Ben, hadn't seen me before. Usually kids have me in their school and have so much fun they inflict me on their friends at their party. In this instance Ben is a big Beano fan, and Mum just googled and found me. I'm delighted to say it all worked out, and everyone went for it.
The celebrities these seven groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Donald Trump (twice), Taylor Swift, Simon Cowell (twice), John Cena, and Jackie Chan.
Saturday, 21 October 2017
I've only ever been to Venice three times in my life, It was never the plan that two of those visits should be this year, within a month of each other. But that's how it worked out.
You'll remember, back in September, Heather and I went to Venice, just for four days, two of which were taken up with travelling, and squeezed as much Biennale into the two remaining days as was humanly possible. When we returned we'd taken so many photos I assembled them all into a 200 page Blurb photobook, and we had another year's worth of great art memories to be going on with.
At the same time, Hev was hoping to be part of an art thing that was still in the process of applying for funding, and she wasn't getting her hopes up about them getting it. But, only a couple of weeks ago, they did. And so it was that, at short notice, Heather was to be paid to go to Venice as part of ArtEmotion and The Venice Vending Machine (two art projects that overlap in a way I've never quite understood), for some sort of career development and recce-ing work, meeting art curators and galleries, that sort of thing, and exhibiting in and helping with the Vending Machine.
And, since I happened to be free that week (no gigs or school visits, that is) I joined her. Hev was there from Friday to Friday, I joined her from Sunday to Thursday. (For the history books, this happened at the time of the notorious Ryanair pilots scandal of 2017, when flights were being cancelled at short notice. So Hev flew on Easyjet, at 3 times the price, and I flew on Ryanair for £38 return, taking the gamble. It paid off.)
Of course I couldn't go when she did, because first I had to spend two days at the Isle Of Wight Literary Festival where I did two days of classes in schools, took part in a pub quiz (they call it a Fizz Quiz, don't cha know) with my fellow writers, in which our team came 5th, and very briefly met Val McDermid, a long time Socks fan who can now put a face to the footwear.
Returning from the Isle, Hev was already in Venice, going through interesting times with her fellow artists, about which I was to hear much more in the coming week, and the next day I was up at 5am and driving to the Nottingham Comic Festival where I did a quick Comic Masterclass demonstration, and sold some comics and artwork. I'd hoped, when agreeing to this event, that my Women Of The Bible comicbook would be published by now, but it's stalled at the moment, so I ploughed through some back catalogue and waved goodbye to two pages of Beano art.
On Sunday I journeyed to Venice where I promptly got stuck into two solid days of colouring the CII artwork I'd brought with me, and that I'd been struggling to find time to work on for over a week. meanwhile Heather was having meetings with her artist colleagues who, let's just say, have their own particular ways of working that can become a bit hard going at times. Participating in an artist run project seems to be a cross between The Apprentice and Big Brother, with all that suggests. But Hev's really grateful for the opportunity and has got a lot out of the trip.
Not least was the return of Anubis Other World Tour. The most visually stunning of Heather's work, the Anubis figures haven't had much of an outing for a while. But through the canny technique of dissembling his body and squeezing him into our cabin baggage, Heather and I were able to bring an Anubis Schoolboy to Venice, and spent a night and day photographing him in various locations. This will form part of her next wave of exhibition work, so frustratingly I'm keeping some great photos under wraps, which is so not me.
Here's Marina, the creator of the Venice Vending Machine, with her creation itself, which sold out of its supply of artists' work on the very first day.
Of course, in the remaining days of our time together, Heather and I got to see tons of artwork, which we'd not managed to see on our visit last month. Truly it takes a week, or more, to do justice to the work in the Venice Biennale. We got "arted up", ie visually and mentally exhausted by the amount of art we were taking in, more times than we could count. At the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, which we were seeing for the first time, we were so arted-up there that, just as we were heading for the door, I had to stop and do a double-take, realising that I was blithely breezing past a Duchamp, a Braque, and a Picasso, just hanging there over a sideboard, acting like they weren't worth tens of millions each.
I returned home Thursday, Hev came back Friday, and here we all are ready to face Hurricane Brian. And on Monday I fly to Glasgow. And so ends just another average week of Travels With My Art.
Oh yeah, there were deer in the road on the way to the airport. And on the way back there was rain, dear. Oh yes, and it was my birthday on Wednesday.