Monday 28 September 2009

I got the blues (and the purples)

I'm currently co writing 5 strips for Weldon Owen with Faz Choudhury which I'll shortly start drawing, plus I've started work on the BBC Merlin books and some caricatures for Inside Soap magazine. I've also squeezed in a couple of things for myself. Above is one of a number of colour tests I've been trying out for Dinlos (this is a redone panel from H.G.Smells). And below is a tiny peek at my 4 page strip for the Comica/Cape/Observer Graphic Short Story Prize.

They insist on printed pages rather than digital files, and I've had a nightmare reproducing these colours on paper. If (when) I lose I'll post the whole strip on the blog and you can judge for yourself. Actually, I think this competition is a great idea, I can't wait to see other people's stories and doing it has certainly given me some freedom to experiment. I feel like someone's mum saying "we're all winners", but if doing this forces you to do what you want and get it done then the prize itself is secondary.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman and Welshman

This was a commission for Mindgames magazine and the brief asked for an "Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman and Welshman attending a pub quiz with each nationality represented by the national tipple to which they are partaking - Englishman has a lukewarm bitter, Scotsman has a scotch, the Irishman has a Guinness and the Welshman has.... is there a national drink of Wales? Could he be holding a leek?" A leek?!?! Jeez, how crap would that be? Anyway I just did him getting the answer. Here's a couple of tiny spots from the same magazine.

I didn't say it was funny!

I'm putting these up because I found them the other day and because I can't blog about what I'm working on for the time being.

Friday 11 September 2009

Matt Smith as the Doctor

I had a go at drawing Matt Smith as the Doctor back in January when news was first announced and yesterday I got asked if the image could be used as part of a project to celebrate the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip. Looking at the original drawing I decided I'd have another go this morning. Hopefully they'll prefer this one now I've done it.

Friday 4 September 2009

10 ways to stay busy

Ordinary folk I meet when I venture out of my shed ask me how I manage to earn enough money drawing pictures to support my three children. I'm the only wage earner so I need to stay busy. Here are my 10 ways to stay busy as an illustrator:

1.Get a good agent.
The picture of the jazz man at the top was done for an agency 'brochure'. I had to pay to go in the brochure. Nice little picture. Got me sod all work. Agents that operate like that are not much use unless you want an illustration hobby rather than career. If the agent isn't offering you work every month it's either the wrong agent or you're crap.

2.Get paid to pitch.
A good agent will get you a fee to pitch for work. The image below was for an Aztec book. The publisher prefers to use 'realistic' styles in information books but wanted to see what I'd do. They decided against using it, but I got paid and got to try something out.

3.Do Anything for money.
There are a few illustrators who have a "style" and it's the "style" that you pay for. I had a "style" for a while, but my "style" earnt less money than a part time shelf-stacker in Tesco. The Yosser Hughes, "I-can-do-that" approach, is the one that pays my bills. Somebody was going to get paid for drawing sharks that look like photographs, as I was totally broke I thought it might be nice if it was me.
4.Every magazine needs illustrations.
Sometimes this may require hypnotising the editor, but MAGAZINES DO NEED ILLUSTRATIONS. Below are some things I did for the unlikely and short-lived BBC puzzle magazine Mindgames.
5.Pretend you're someone else.
If Osprey are looking for an Angus McBride type watercolour, figurative, historical illustrator then pretend you are one. Actually ignore that. I didn't get the gig anyway.

6.Come up with a quick style
Illustration work is really badly paid so it makes sense to work fast. If you're clever you make it look as if knocking-them-out-ten-to-the-dozen is your "style". This dandruff picture was done for Tall Tree Books.

7.Always say yes.
When that nice Ben Sharpe, editor of the DFC, asked me if I had any stories to pitch I said "yes". And then ran away to quickly come up with something. Below is one of the stories I pitched that day - Geronimo. I think it's best to say yes to pretty much everything, means you spend less time thinking and more time drawing and writing.

8.Don't think Twice.
The knack to drawing stuff quick is to draw faster than you think. These monkeys are a prime example. They were done for a book about puberty for Parragon. They didn't take much longer to draw than they do to look at. Your drawing is a product of a whole life of looking and thinking, no need to waste time thinking about it when you're drawing it.
9.Pretend you understand Da Kidz
Essential given that most illustration is for children. Even if you are a miserable old git in your 40s it's best to make out you're in-tune with the kids. These pics were also part of the Parragon puberty books.

10.Find somebody really successful and make them look good
I make more money pretending to be Martin Brown than I do being me, that's because he's very successful and I'm not. Most of the Horrible Histories books will have pictures inked and coloured by me on the front and many are filled with my pictures too.

10a.... or find somebody really successful and jump in their grave
The other option is to take over from somebody successful. I now do Philip Reeve's old job illustrating Murderous Maths. In fact Kjartan and I have a giant Murderous Maths of Everything coming out next year. Fortunately I don't have to do it all in Philip Reeve's "style".

There you have it, that's how I support my three children (and my comic career). I know, I know I'm a total slut.
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