Sunday, 8 February 2009


In 1993, I was struck by the notion that there were just too many comicbook pages in existence (small-press or otherwise) to really justify my own contribution to the situation.

It seems that a lot can be done with a blank page or indeed very little. However, at the time I had scant appreciation for the storytelling subtlety of comics which often rely on several pages to convey the barest amount of visual information yet succeed in various other ways.

So I began a 6-page story and that many years later this got done: (It wasn't exactly a page per year; in fact the second was a weekend "rush job" but for the most part, I kept the visual content as demanding as possible and neither ink nor tone were added until every pencil line was as near to where it should be within my own particular realm of ability.)

It's just one approach, obviously, but the process of basking in an absence of editorial constraint or commercial deadline at least ensures that the creator can be all but satisfied with his or her own artwork.

The above panel is a particular favourite in the sense that it steps over the threshold of taking a character beyond her native genre (in a strange, bootleg type of way) from film to comic strip. Throughout the extrapolation every portrayal of the character is from an original (unfilmed) angle and the sequence itself stems from minor clues to her life beyond the single-set location of the "Shermer High School" library; as scattered about John Hughes' screenplay and related pictures.

Whereas the surrealism provided an opportunity to explore the 'comedy chain' which Hughes probably perfected in his first two Home Alone films!

'Ray of Light' appeared in a somewhat belated Breakfast Club fanzine which proved unable to surf the first or any subsequent wave of affection for some things '80's. It's now on-line and continues where this blog can proceed no further. After that there's a cul-de-sac which either takes you back to 'Artistic dabblings' or off to co-artist Tony Wright's drastically overdue but thankfully imminent webside debut with a selection of meticulously painted 2000ad characters of the 'classic' era.

Well, I suppose that's it! When I began this blog I could barely contemplate lifting a pencil towards a page of artwork-yet-to-be. Now I can't wait to cease this jabbering and get drawing again; so the 're-programming' process seems to have rescued this. . . artist. . . yes, I remember now - from a relentless rut!

I can only recommend the ritual to anyone who may similarly find themselves in a creatively moribund position.

So thanks for your choice of visual leisure and the share of your focus on a borderline narcissistic stock-take of stuff which at least deserves to be out of its dingy cupboard!
It's my utmost hope that anyone with infinitely better material which may have been languishing in some loft since Editor X, Y or Z dismissed their efforts in favour of whatever curiously lesser freelancers were on the scene (it happens) will share some of their proudest moments because we all need that sharp sense of distant awe the moment that satisfaction begins to seduce creativity.

Till next time or other,


PS 2014 I rather realised I prefer writing these days:

Thursday, 5 February 2009

'Frankly Feendish' (1992)

For a while, I considered submitting stuff to Buster (last of the legendary line of Fleetway juvenile titles) with a view to getting a spot of occasional colourwork.

It only got as far as the first (A2) page of the proposal and never received the gloomy wash which was envisaged - a bit of a shame really because I felt that the plot had something going for it but I just couldn't take the plunge back into cartooning.

The storyline comprised a sequel to the episodes in Whoopee which had seen the trashing of 'Mildew Manor' on a weekly basis for over a decade, as far as I could recall. It seemed as though enough was enough, so that plug and chain became both a souvenir for Frankie Stein and a reminder from Professor Cube of all that remained of the place while the pair headed towards a suitably cliche-ridden alternative residence for a slightly different scenario.

Cube's scheme was to capitalise on the only attribute that our lovable lunk seemed to exude by affording him an unbridled opportunity to wreck havoc for the amusement of obnoxious tourists (affluent Americans, obviously) who would become central to the catastrophe having already subscribed to a night in a 'Haunted Castle'.
So when everything had gone arbitrarily pear-shaped in the course of 3 pages and Frankie crashes through a few floors, ending up in a basement surrounded by hundreds of half-drunk barrels of wine; so enters an exceedingly drunk Grimly Feendish!
It was all some sort of allegory about the state of the British comics industry where two of its finest characters have the last laugh. Maybe someone with cartoony credentials could make it happen someday!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A different type of Artschool...

(Roughly translated: "You've a long way to go mate!")

I took a time-out from drawing for a year or so whilst captivated by ninja lore.

At a purely physical level, the 'Bujinkan' system is quite well suited to those of us with a creative rather than mathematical mindset because the central concept stems from awareness of 'nagare' or flow from one instant to the next. So instead of responding to "Attack B" with "Defence C" - the techniques meld into the subconscious self in the way that anyone who can type or drive a car will be aware of and soon you can chat about football while someone is trying to cut your throat or whatever.

Well, maybe not! And even 'mastery' is no guarantee of safety but it's worth a taster or more to develop confidence and a supple physique; so they say.

By 1992, I'd taken up circuit training instead because even minor gymnastics get the better of me; to say nothing of the Japanese terminology and seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of technique that became somewhat difficult to integrate while learning carpentry.

Maybe when there's another decent clearance in all the clutter. . .

Back then though the drawing board was calling me back and eventually the pangs became more brutal than some of the classes!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

'A Moment of Glory'

That was the title, anyway - the artwork was nothing of the sort although the first of the five pages (from where most of these panels are taken) managed to meet the demands of a superb script by Andy Nixon.

About a year after leaving Art College and training to be a carpenter; I got in contact with the editor of Angeldust - an ambitious small-press title which was based in Cardiff. Andy afforded me his best script about a (pre-Dunblane) schoolyard shooting. However, I made an outright hash of the artwork despite there being several months between the first and final panels.

Shortly after starting the strip, I got into ninjutsu which required an inescapable amount of dedication to become anything better than hopeless alongside blokes that typically began martial arts training in childhood.

I had hoped that a handful of half-decent panels would cart the strip along but the cynical strategy backfired only to enhance the dismaldom of the remaining dross. Meanwhile, Angeldust was attracting high-quality submissions and Andy (also an illustrator) was left with little option but to bounce my duff rendition of 'A Moment of Glory' from the anthology.

There followed a few witheringly satirical exchanges between us but put it this way; there's no way that the art is going on this blog! So, I guess you had the more sensible outlook at the time, Andy.

At least the experience imparted a realisation that I was unable to produce satisfactory artwork within the remotest deadline and it was also a visual turning point in that the style was 'clear-line' throughout. In that respect, I have a College tutor to thank for emphasising the integrity of line to convey information when it's often tempting to obfuscate an image with what Brian Bolland has similarly referred to as 'twiddly-noodling' - or superfluous inking habits.

It's also clear that a few of the construction details on the shed would easily antagonise the average site foreman, if implemented, although I don't suppose there are many comix enthusiasts who have to worry about that particular scenario!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Christmas project ('88)

There were other more appropriate words to convey the tradition (as I saw it) including gluttony; avarice, overdrawn and hangover among various improvisations from turkey bones, or whatever.

This is the only photo left over from the caper but it's really a misshapen Humbug!


Thursday, 29 January 2009

Siberian tigers

(charcoal pencils/acrylics)

This particular departure from the coursework captured a surge of inspiration, bestowed, during an outing to a major design exhibition at Earl's Court, or more precisely; from watching a demonstration of charcoal pencils by top-class illustrator, Colin Bradley.

If you like the above and want to see how it's really done visit:



(unfinished watercolour)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Spot of packaging design


There were dozens of these exercises in 'space division' of a basic shape into two optional colours.

At the end of the week, we'd each take it in turn to present our ideas before the rest of the design group who would suddenly adopt an all but implacably critical outlook.

It was great actually; to detach the ego altogether and just stand next to your best efforts as though everyone was scrutinising a shoddy paint-job on a nearby car.

I'd throw in a spot of consummate naff here and there though (such as the cropped blue oval shape) for the more critically advanced to adore or analyse which usually bought a bit of breathing space.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Welsh Folk Museum (day trip)

An 'investigation' of this contraption provided a spot of reference for the opening scene of a later strip:

Monday, 26 January 2009

'Tigers and Zebras'

Sometimes the tutors would just announce a few headings to choose from and then pretty much return a few days later to see what you'd made of them. . .

Art College stint

There's not a lot to say about the couple of terms that I spent at Howard Gardens - the tussles with tutors and general detestation of college life - because it really seems like someone else's memory of the 6 misguided months that I actually spent there.

As I recall, I learnt how to pronounce 'gouache' and that was about it although other students may well have derived more use or satisfaction from the experience.

However, a fellow inmate and comix enthusiast got me into thrash metal quite easily and a couplet from 'Caught in a mosh' by Anthrax really seemed to sum the whole situation up by Easter 1989:

"Can't stand it for another day,

You get the gist!

I've kept more stuff than I'd thought though so here's what I got up to for better or worse while the tutors weren't looking. . .

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Farewell to fanboy pesterings! (UKCAC '88)

Well, there was a glut of original artwork by then and it all started to seem a bit churlish.

So 'let the kids have a go' was a sensible enough ethos.

Besides, 'Kenny Who?' was something of a minor icon among wannabes and became an appropriate way to round-off this type of collection.

With thanks to Mr. Kennedy and the convention organisers for affording all those opportunities, meetings and stalking sessions.

Pretty pictures

They put the lack of an A Level in art to one side during the selection process at the Howard Gardens campus which gave the place a rather enlightened feel on those early visits.

It seems as though a large sketchbook of pastel landscapes and nudie ladies along with a smaller selection of watercolours conveyed a suitably eager, versatile and malleable disposition for the impending Foundation Course.

It's just these two watercolours that can appear for one reason or another with 'quality control' not all that far from the top of the list, as usual.

The lower picture was done towards the Pentyrch slope of the Garth hill (or mountain, in that Hugh Grant movie).

The top one shows the rear of Castell Coch, a few miles away. It may even capture those enchanted settings from a rare perspective given that the entrance is far more visually interesting and renditions tend to be on sale at every art and souvenir shop in nearby Cardiff.

I just wanted a bit of peace to sit there with my paintbox for a couple of morose days.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

'Hit Kid' (1987)

Perhaps to lighten the mood a little, I embarked on a 'Vizzed-up' homage to a character from Krazy - the first comic that I ever stumbled upon; the quaint old way, at a school jumble sale in 1977.

There was a pinch of Rorschach ("hurm") from Watchmen thrown in for good measure but the whole thing was relatively innocuous apart from the last few panels where the villain of the piece 'Luke McPuke' was all but drowned in a phone box full of his own vomit.

(A "taste of his own medicine" - as 'Hit Kid' put it with characteristic tenderness in one of those panels that was just a bit too awkward and rubbish to scan.)

I was still using A2 Daler Board and the page was never reduced (on what appeared to be the only commercially available photocopier that could cope with the task in Cardiff during the mid to late '80's) before it was coloured with a simple wash.
I couldn't really get into a 'cartoony' style again but it was quite refreshing while the somewhat more serious stuff required to get into Art College was already underway. And for about a year, I turned my back on comics altogether.

It was clearly beyond the pale but then so were employment prospects within the industry; even for those that were capable of delivering the goods to the point of dazzling those of us that prowled the conventions for a peak at their portfolios.

However the world of 'state-of-the-art' graphics (which sounded quite cool in those days) was similarly better left to the few that were genuinely glad to make the workplace a way of life.

This sort of stuff got what it deserved until blogs began to make a mockery of natural selection in such matters!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

'The Defender' (b&w strip) '87/88

'The Defender' (apologia)

Apart from 2000ad the only British comic that seemed worth reading during the mid-80's was the short-lived Scream.

The typical 'adventure' comic consisted of superb artwork devoted to shameful scripts and eventually the remaining artists from Speed, Tiger, Scream and Battle found themselves working for Eagle which was usually worth a browse at the very least.
In 1986, Eagle featured a one-off story about a bunch of hyper-intelligent laboratory animals getting their own back on the researchers which was illustrated by long-term Fleetway artist, Eric Bradbury. A slightly later strip, 'The Avenger' introduced a schoolteacher who spent his evenings electrocuting local ne'er-do-wells whilst the artwork leapt off the page courtesy of Mike Western.

So, out-and-out retribution seemed to characterise the average story of the period whether the settings comprised a tower block; a football pitch, a martian desert or even a battlefield. . . apply the closing footage of Rockcliffe's Babies; a hint of Watchmen, bad lettering and a deplorable sense of impending violence to the basic mix and 'The Defender' became as alarming and psychotic an anti-hero as any of those in comicbook vogue at the time.

These are among the last few pages of strip material that I consoled myself with whilst preparing for Art College during 1987/88. The story itself was never completed although the character was intended to be an industrial saboteur - a premise which was handled rather more convincingly in an episode of Between the Lines from the mid-'90's.

It was the first strip that I sought to produce to a standard any higher than that required of scratching through an exam or something; even if the storytelling went a bit haywire in places. The artwork may have fallen considerably short of the mark but UKCAC had opened my eyes to the competition and the hapless attempts of hundreds of seriously superb wannabes in their pursuit of a handful of jobs from beleaguered editors.

These black and white photocopies were the only ones taken before the first two pages were coloured and the third one lost: you know that bit of legal smallprint included by publishers (eg. Marvel U.K.) to remind anyone with an ounce of sense to submit only copies (if they must) and never original artwork. . . well, we all have to learn!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Fruits of fanboy pesterings (vol. II) - UKCAC '87!

Top dudes - shame about some of the scrums but thanks again, fellas!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

For want of a better idea...

What need is there of an 'A Level' in art or for that matter a Foundation Course when you're young and arrogant enough to take these type of strained strivings to an interview panel at the Illustration dept. of Swindon Art College!

It was obvious that there wasn't a job for me drawing tanks, or anything else at the mediocre end of the ailing British comics industry. So Art College seemed to be an obvious refuge from the real world for a few years.

They weren't having it; in fact the youngest bloke on the panel was well acquainted with comics and seemed more disgusted than the others!

After that, most of 1987 became devoted to expanding my artistic outlook with a view to getting onto next year's Foundation Course at Cardiff Art College. Sadly, I succeeded but there was a further fling or two with the world's finest artform after receiving another jolt at UKCAC!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Early '87

In the early months, I turned to three of British comics' regular genres with single-page, try-out strips which dealt with sci-fi; World War II and urban vigilantism.

The Chair was just a futurist cybrid of that contraption from the first series of Blackadder and Mek-Quake which was set in some sort of KGB detention camp. The eponymous Chair afforded a get-out-quick option for anyone who lasted ten seconds in it - quite a taut little tale actually!

Sgt. Baker was a further homage to a character from 'Speed' comic which was originally drawn by the great Mike Western. A prequel to the character's blazing entrance in the first episode of Baker's Half-dozen which inevitably became a bit of a candle by comparison.

(I'd just read about foreshortening in 'How to draw comics the Marvel way' around this time. All too easily overdone or deficient that device, at the best of times.)

Moonwhite actually appeared to have the makings of a fine character until a step outside the door invoked the daunting realisation that a strip which was set in the backstreets of Cardiff would require a radically different type of gritty, urban realism for it to be gritty, urban and realistic. . . although these days!