Saturday, 29 November 2008


I had to talk to my parents about inheritance tax today. If you want to avoid giving everything you own to the taxman you have to hand it all over to your children something like seven years before you die. Well, that's kinda difficult to estimate, isn't it? It's designed to be a tax on the mega rich (and I support that) but it bugs me all the same because I don't want to think about it.
My family owns some of the land once belonging to William Penn and although the manor house doesn't exist any more the stable buildings and cottages have mostly been converted. The estate is around 350 acres, comprising of five houses two woods and a number of arable and parkland fields.
I don't know the tenants, I don't know the letting agencies, I barely know the gamekeeper or any of the contract farmers.
The "one day all of this will be yours" speech scares the shit out of me. I'm going to go hide under a blanket, or something.

Your reward for listening to me moan is a link to Artquest, which is a UK site to help out artists legally and professionally. It looks pretty good, but I'm still deciding how useful it is in relation to comics.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Kids Stuff.

I love this show! It's called Pocoyo and it's a Japanese influenced 3d cartoon for pre-schoolers. Originally from Spain; It's simple, well animated, utterly charming and voiced in the UK by Stephen Fry. It's easy for us grown-ups to grumble through our rose-tinted glasses about how the kids cartoons we grew up with were far superior to this modern rubbish, but I wish I'd had Pocoyo as a kid. Watch some.
Click here to see Pocoyo rock out!
Click here to see Pocoyo race!
Sorry, I have sudden childish moments. Icecream!

Well, it's real late and I'm waiting for something to scan, but watching kids TV has got me thinking about children's stories in general.

There seem to be two conflicting schools of thought on "what makes a good kids story". On the one hand, escapism has always been the long standing axiom. If you can make a kid think "wow, I wish I was there" or "wow, I wish I was him/her" you're onto a winner. Magical worlds and fairy tales and magnificent adventures are always what a kid is going to connect to. Take something that they can't do, remove the parents, and then let them do it.

On the other hand there's the more down to earth story, where you manufacture a situation in which a group of children have adventures in a very real world setting. The railway children is a good example of this. The idea here is that the reader is thinking more along the lines of "I could be him/her" and the charm lies in finding characters and adventures that you could actually replicate, rather than magical impossibilities. Here the limitations of the real world are almost what makes the story.

Obviously the very best children's books (Harry Potter, His Dark Materials) tick all of the above. Harry Potter is a good example, as he is both in a down-to-earth situation (school) and a magical fantasy world. (wizard school!)
However after thinking on this for a while I arrived at the conclusion that really both points of view are the same. The railway children (even for kids of the actual time period it was written) is really conjuring up the same sentiment as The Phoenix and the Carpet or Five Children and It. (to stick with the Nesbits)
That sentiment being: "I wish I was that kid".

Whether it's the wish to fly and use magic, the wish that mysterious crimes happened in your town with more regularity, or the wish that your friends would stop tormenting the neighbour's cat long enough to all go in search of adventure, that longing is really what keeps you reading. Whether the writer provokes this using the character, the world they inhabit or the journeys they have is up to them.

It's pretty obvious, I know, but I like to write these things down. Actually, I guess it's probably a good rule of thumb for all writing, even for adults and especially for comics.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

War noodling.

I've been trying to work out some palettes for my proposed war story (read as: avoiding real work like it's going out of style.) so I decided to slap some colour on some doodles I did for possible characters. I rather like these two. One looks really idealistic, and the other looks like he might grow up to be some heroic manga bish. I'm looking forward to killing them both.

At the moment i'm still slightly concerned that the colour will turn to a wonderful shade of "bleugh" on the recyclable paper that the DFC uses, however. Damn trees. Next I plan to go through a full horizontal and vertical head rotation sheet for each and every character. This is a totally excessive measure which I wouldn't recommend to anyone. I've just spent the last year progressively designing characters straight onto the page, forgetting what they look like and then cocking them up over and over again. So help me, my next comic will be different.

(I'm aware that these character's faces are wonky, and the irony that that involves!)


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

On Nietzsche.

I found I couldn't really concentrate yesterday evening, so I did a drawing of Friedrich Nietzsche, which I've been wanting to do for a while. He was a great character; the sort of philosopher who seemed to go from great leaps of inspiration to total despair in a heartbeat. His writings really reflect that. Synonymous nowadays with misery, I find most things he wrote strangely uplifting, and magnificently visual. That's not just schadenfreude either, although it is nice to know in arty-angsty moments that Nietzsche was, at any given time, twice as miserable as you are! XD

A lot of people have been recommending me Sartre lately, but having read "Existentialism and Humanism", I found him to be a little...well, existential...unsurprisingly. I'm not in any position or possessing of enough brainpower to compare philosophers here, I'm just talking about my preference on writing. And wow, does Nietzsche write like a madman! Every other sentence seems to be a grandiose statement of sudden truth or some instant commandment, bookended by exclamation points. Perhaps i've just been reading some very over-the-top translations, but it makes my tiny mind jump up and go shit! Yes! Whatever you say mr.philosopher, sir!
He's also highly visual, or conjures some fantastic images in my mind at least. I want to do a Nietzsche manga..

"The ice is near, the solitude tremendous—but how calmly all things lie in the light!
How freely one breathes! How much one feels beneath oneself!— Philosophy, as I have so far understood and lived it, means living voluntarily among ice and high mountains—seeking out everything strange and questionable in existence, everything so far placed under a ban by morality."

(also, I've decided that i'm a terrible digital painter and shall not be trying it again for a while.)

Monday, 24 November 2008

On Teaching.

I had to do a bit of teaching last week, which threw up some really interesting points for me. One kid in the group (12/13 years, don't ask me what yeargroup that is...) was, according to his teachers, talented but refusing to draw anything for fear of looking "uncool". I thought this was a little odd, but upon actually talking to the kid I found him drawing an exact, and quite good, copy of the DFC cover in front of him.
Well, I started laying into him for that, trying to shame him into doing something of his own. "Fine!" he replied, now in a sulk, "I'll draw you then!" So I decided to draw him while he was grumpily drawing me. It turned into a bit of a competition, and half the class gathered around to watch. The teachers told me after the class that they'd never seen him so involved in an art lesson. His drawing wasn't bad either.
This really struck me as interesting. Clearly his teachers had just been too soft on him, quietly trying to coax out the "art", whereas when I came along and took much more of a "you're not that hot" attitude he really rose to the challenge. I guess the more teaching you do the better you're able to judge how a certain kid is going to respond to a certain type of teaching; which ones need soothing encouragements and which ones will be fired into action by a need to prove you wrong.
I can definitely relate to teachers who talk of the feeling of satisfaction when you really bring out that spark of excitement in a kid, but I couldn't do it every day. I was talking teaching to "Dave" of Two Sides Wide Studios (and recent Manga Jiman fame) this weekend, who works with a similar age-group. His job sounds ridiculously difficult. Much respect there.

Also in the realm of DFC promotion, I did a talk at the ICA for Comica on Sunday. I had a horrible headcold all day. I can't remember what I said, but it probably consisted of a lot of sniffles and grunts. So apologies to anyone who was there.
Here is a picture of the ridiculously talented Adam Brockbank, My sister Rachel and me looking queasy.

Edit: Just realised Adam did the storyboards for the Dinotopia film. I'm glad I didn't know that, or I might've done a whole lot more fanboy squealing.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Organised Chaos.

Having to move house is painful. The most painful part is the thought that I may soon have to demolish my desk. (I'd love to say "studio" but it has a bed in it too, so it doesn't count.) I generally like to keep my living space tidy and minimalist, but this always falls to pieces when it comes to my working space. I've always wanted the kind of ridiculously cluttered studio you associate with "real" artists and my desk is an amazing amalgamation of ikea tables, computer desks, a parallel motion drawing board, about nine million pens, brushes, pencils and tiny little bottles, stereos and more books than you could shake a....book at. looking at it now i'm amazed it's still upright. I'll be sad to see it go, but with any luck I'll get to build a new one soon. :)

Note: These two pictures were taken when my uni buddies had a polaroid fetish, not in 1975.