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!

Friday, 16 January 2009

A taste of Thrill Power! (Prog 483)

Nearly forgot!

Why is Colonel Gadaffi keeping so quiet these days, anyway?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

United Kingdom Comic Art Convention 1986 - the fruits of fanboy pesterings!

Cheers guys! More of these beauties from the '87 con. . .

Some Kind of Woeful

A change of schools in September 1985 and a year of 'A Level' art resulted in but one artistic achievement, if it could be called that: the sincerest congratulations of the Head Tutor for having concealed a hoard of nothing to show for nearly nine months' attendance.

It was a relief to be chucked-out for subterfuge; sheer laziness, lack of interest, ideas, enthusiasm, flexibility, respect and so forth but ultimately because there were so few flashes of talent. In fairness, the tutors tried everything to get me motivated in the coursework through calligraphy, line and wash colourwork and even a sci-fi element to the pottery chores but all I could really think of was endless empty panels and unhoned sequential storytelling skills.

(The other 3 students were much more positive and adaptable; among them the distinctly talented John Kent who became a commercial illustrator and whose portfolio indeed includes a fully painted cover of 'Judge Anderson' for The Best of 2000ad monthly # 114: )

Whereas I still can't paint and looking back on getting the boot from those art classes; there was no rapid return to the pencils & inks again - for some reason 1986 just didn't agree with me at all!

Apart from an inspirational trip to the UKCAC in September which provided the chance to meet some legendary '2000ad droids' and obtain a few great sketches!

Maybe it was a New Year's resolution (or just fleeing from further exam revision) but during the early months of 1987 the pages started to get churned-out faster (if by no means better) than those that would have been required for 'A Level' coursework. I was just glad that a third of the panels seemed almost passable and at least one per page stood out for favourable reasons.

Guess which one's are gonna be posted!

Meanwhile, just to keep everything in proportion; here's what the kindly pros are capable of delivering with not a lot of effort. . .

Sunday, 4 January 2009

'Quick on the Draw'

And what a fateful misnomer that turned out to be!
The title, in fact the whole strip was taken from a stylish series which originally appeared in IPC's 'Speed' comic during 1980.

So it was supposed to be a sequel but the script limped along from one lame cliche to the next and if I'm completely honest; it donated several new ones of its own to a genre that had already been exorcised by 'Blazing saddles'!

Yet it was a delight to be given an opportunity to produce a 5-page comic strip within the syllabus of my final year at 'O Level' art. I'll always be grateful to our tutor, Mr. Brown, for whatever administrative strings he was able to pull that enabled such a trashy artform to be presented to traditional examiners; even if the end results could easily have reinforced the prejudice of the period towards what is today known as the 'ninth art' and all the rest of it.

There were eventually 6, A2 pages comprising 96 panels of which these 3 are about all that should ever be let loose upon the world again. The work as a whole was a delusional attempt at disguising incompetent draughtsmanship with a less conspicuous form of ineptitude and enough layers of ink and coloured pencil to imply at least a passing resemblance to the very worst work in print.

That's probably what the editor of 'Victor' made of the first 5 pages when I submitted them for an appraisal in the summer of 1985. However his advice was superbly practical yet so devoid of encouragement that it got me to put some genuine effort into the last page.

(There was a hiatus of over a year while I was faffing about at 'A Level' art and the story was put out of its misery in December 1986.)

I began the strip in September 1984 and for all its endless shortcomings the project was a truly wonderful escape from the intense drudgery of 5th Form education. I'll always look back on it fondly but I'll never look at it again!