Coming up

So, it’s been quiet here, but, some finely tended things are, finally, starting to sprout. Let’s start with:

Phonogram – did a four page “B” side – here’s page 1 of it, lovingly coloured by Steven Denton

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_othhx

Also, did a six page strip for Dwight L. MacPherson’s Interagents. Page 1 is full colour, the remaining are monochrome flashbacks…

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_fgfwi

Next out of the gate are a couple of things for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, a six part Dredd strip called “interlude” (ok, it’s not actually got Dredd in it, and it is an interlude, from the main story, but still – it’s written by John Wagner and is important for Dredd continuity)

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_phzkk

Following that, is a 9 page Megazine story, part of the new series of Judge Dredd: The Lost Cases, written by Alan Grant. Everyone else is doing there’s greywashed (which I didn’t know… actually, not 100% sure of it, but it makes sense) – and I was asked to do that too, but, like a maroon, I wanted to do it differently … old school ! My episode is called “Contract on Grud”.

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_jbkrx

Finally, and, most importantly, I’m currently doing a three part series for [Haha! Made You Look!] publisher, written by [Seriously? You looked again!?]. I’m pretty proud of the work I’m doing on it, and ticks a number of wish fulfilment boxes for me, personally. And I’m not showing any of it just yet! Sorry!

Sunnyside Comic Cast

So, I’ve been struggling for some time to get a podcast off the ground – lots of attempts, sometimes just me, sometimes me and a friend, and, finally, things have clicked (or at least they’ve clicked twice in a row, which is already a bit of a record on the podcast front.)

The Sunnyside Comic Cast is me, Ron Abernethy and Scott Ferguson and, eventually, whatever other individuals want to join in, sitting around a table and talking rubbish about comics. Usually. Sometimes we talk rubbish about other subjects and sometimes, for almost seconds at a time, a little glimmer of non-rubbish is talked, but we soon knock that on its head. We’re going to be introducing various features and, with a bit of luck, conducting some interviews too. Please leave some feedback! It’ll help convince us we’re not just vain idiots recording our conversations to laugh at our own jokes again (though that will still be true.)

Episode 1 we chatted about conventions – I keep trying to inject “how to be a comic pro” into every conversation, but I’m sorta outnumbered by normal people, so we only touched on that lightly. Episode 2 is up now, were the ground covered is somewhat astonishing in breadth (if not depth).

You can find it here. And subscribe to it, via iTunes here.

I think the glue that is binding this all together is Ron, he’s essentially become the de facto producer – keeping the wheels turning on the mighty Sunnyside Comic Cast Bus while I try and crash it into a wall. Scott mostly hangs around collecting tickets. This analogy has been stretched too thin now.

Shows have hit around 50/60 minute mark and… you know… I laughed when I did them and I laughed when I listened to them again, hopefully you’ll find something in there too…

Tools of the Trade: Whiteout

I know, I know, you don’t make mistakes. Even so, being able to apply white to an already inked black page is a pretty handy tool. So we’re gonna cover a couple of the more popular methods of doing that, along with a trade secret from Jock.

Tippex (or Liquid Paper)

The great thing about tippex is its ubiquity, every stationary store across the land sells it. And, for most artists, it’s the first way they discover of applying white. It’s pretty rubbish though, it’s glopey and horrible and almost impossible to ink on top of (and it smells terrible). Still, these days there are neat little pens that make applying it easier, but, even so, it’s not a precision tool.

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_cdnyv

Process White

Ah, process white, this is what most people come to next, it’s the ‘textbook’ method of applying white. Process white can be put down with a brush – and will often need to be reinvigorated by applying a little dab of water to the paint (it usually drys to a brick in the pot). Process white can be used to do all sorts of cool effects, including splatter for stars, painting thin lines over things (great for rain) and, just, generally correcting things. The problem is, it’s not water resistant. If you go to paint black OVER process white you’ll end up with grey – the black ink will damp the white and cause them to mix, added to that, Process White – with the advent of photoshop – is something that’s disappearing from the shelves, developed originally, to add lettering to photos/

Acrylic W

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_vpdrp

hite Ink

Here it is. Jock’s secret white (well, it was Jock that first suggested it to me, years ago). Acrylic ink, as with process white, can be applied with a brush. You’ll need to mix it, shaking it up in the bottle will, inevitably, involve lots of white ink flying everywhere (it’s quiet a thin liquid). I recommend leaving the lid off for a little while so it can thicken up a bit. The big advantage over Process white, is that you can paint over acrylic white ink – it’s completely water proof. Allowing you to paint a thin layer of white over a mistake, and then paint black over the top of that. There’re a number of brands available, my ink of choice is Winsor and Newtown (pictured right) mainly because it’s the only one I can find in the shops!

Splatter!

And here’s a thing, rather than using a toothbrush dipped in white ink (and splattered all over the page) try dipping a small brush into the pot and flicking the brush along the lip of the pot around the area that you want the white (or black) splatter. The result is a finer, more controlled spray of ink along with a lot less mess on your fingers and thumbs.

(The links on above are intended for information purposes only, I haven’t purchased from either of the shops online above so can’t say whether they’re any good or not – most art supply shops will stock Acrylic White Ink).

Tools of the Trade: The Scanner

Being a comic artist involves, as one might expect, quiet a lot of drawing. But, a good proportion of your time isn’t spent on drawing, it’s spent on various admin things. Back in the old days (you know, a couple of years ago or so) lots of that time would be spent dealing with post (packaging art, heading to the post office, waiting in queues, getting annoyed and, generally, NOT drawing). Now, the job a lot of artists dread is scanning.

Every page needs to be scanned and, often, touched up to clear up various things. And, if you’ve only access to an A4 scanner there’s lots and lots of patching things together moving them about and joining them up.

The first scanner I ever owned was a four inch wide hand held scanner (actually, I never owned it, I worked in a shop selling computer equipment – so equipment like that passed through my hands before it ended up with customers). Course, those scanners were useless (though, comparatively cheap), but, to be fair, the computers weren’t really potent enough to do anything with big scanned images.

The next scanner I saw was a monsterous A4 monochrome scanner, costing around a couple of grand (it used a SCSI interface and was lightening fast – in the old days when light travelled really slowly).

Once A4 scanners became cheap, I bought one and have, over time, come to both rely on and really detest the whole scanning process.

I managed, over time, to procure an A3 scanner – a Mustek, horrible it was, slow, grinding, incompatible with mac os x (and, despite new models coming out, one of the most read pages on my old blog was a page explaining how to make it work with a mac) BUT it scanned A3 art – one pass scans were within grasp but it was so shoddy in quality, that, ultimately it sat, dead on the my shelf.

I bought better and better A4 scanners and finally, ended up with a Canon LiDe50. Great scanner, but it had a horrible lip over the border of the entire scanning area making scanning an A3 page in two passes a nightmare (not something I found out until I bought it and unpacked it). Turns out almost all modern A4 scanners had some sort of lip – so I ripped a portion of it off, taped the glass on that side into place and, voila, an A4 scanner that would allow me to scan in two chunks. And, the lip that I left gave me a neat guide to shunt the page into to keep the paper steady making it easier to match up both sides.

And while this was a lot better than the A3 scanner in terms of quality, it was still a pain to have to ensure the pages are lined up perfectly, scan in two passes and then merge together in your graphic tool of choice – sometimes lining the pages up was such a pain, you’d end up scanning in multiple passes – grabbing a panel with each pass.

So, finally, I broke – it was time to spring for an A3 scanner – and THIS time, the market had entirely changed. When I bought the Mustek (£99) the next cheapest scanner was around five grand – my new A3 scanner/printer cost £270. Lots of cash, but worth every penny, and it’s fairly changed how I work.

The process, before, was:

Thumbnail > pencil page > ink page > scan page (avoiding scanning pencils unless I really have to)

NOW:

large thumbnail > scan > print in blue > ink > scan (oddly more scanning, but less effort required to do it)

Tried the new process on a few pages so we’ll see if it sticks, but it’s great. The other thing it’s letting me do, is stop worrying about drawing panels – I now do all my panel borders in the computer on top of the blueline pencils. Print that out and I have a pre ruled page with borders completed, all I’ve gotta do is attack with some ink. Normally, I measure all panel borders out – to try and keep them totally straight, this is a fairly time consuming and laborious process that I’m pretty glad I’ve found a workaround.

Added to that, I can also add photo reference directly to the page, turn it into a blueline guide, print that out (with all the other pencils on a single page) and ink it, thereby totally integrating photos with the art in a way that makes it pretty much impossible to tell photo reference was used.

Media_httpwwwpauljhol_znbuj

The large thumbnails are drawn in a moleskin book and, oddly, the proportions of the moleskin end up being almost exactly right for American comics.

Anyhue, if you’re thinking about A3 scanner/printer combo: The Brother DCP-6690CW is brilliant and worth every penny.

Here’s the key info, if you’re dealing with comics:

Pros

  • Doesn’t take up too much foot space.
  • Prints to the edge of the page
  • Seems happy to take my Canson Bristol Board (220gsm) pages (though does leave an impression/dirty mark on the BACK from the roller when they’re printed and, to be fair, they’re heavier than the manufacturer recommends).
  • Cost £270 from Amazon, ink seems cheap (found unbranded ink for £8 for two sets of all colours+black) – have yet to replace a cart (uses individual cartridges for each of the colours). So I imagine I’ll be replacing the cyan and black a lot, but not the rest 🙂

Cons

  • Weirdly, doesn’t quiet scan to the edge of A3 – you can lose about 2/3 mm from the edge of whatever you’re scanning. Not a problem for 99.9% of things, but a little a mysterious, none the less. This may be a software issue – I’m not sure.

UPDATE

I’ve had the scanner long enough now to form a decent long term opinion, which is: I wish I’d bought one years ago. Scanning A3 pencils, converting to blueline, printing and re-scanning really helped me get Happy Valley in easily within deadline (including a 12 page Megazine story at the same time). Deffo worth the cash.

Everything Comes Back to 2000AD – Interview

The podcast “Everything comes back to 2000AD” is a pretty entertaining way to while away some time while drawing, two comic fans rummage through the archive of 2000AD and start reading from issue 1 reading a couple of issues and reviewing them, then read the most current couple of issues and review them. While drunk. So it’s pretty sweary, but good fun.

Long term readers of this blog and the old blog – of which we will never speak – will know I’ve a mini-obsession about stuff like this – that is, creating your own media, putting videos, podcasts and comics together, for me, all belong in the same area of my head. Comics are easiest – less people, less technology, but, when I can find the time, I like to get involved in other media. So, when they started the podcast, like some desperate 10 year old I volunteered to be interviewed, several podcasts later and it finally happened.

I’m pretty sure I come across as an arse, rather than the charming fellow I am. And I’d also like to apologise to everyone I know. Especially if I said something offensive during the podcast (which I may have done, I’m refusing to listen to it…)

Anyhue, it’s around 90minutes long should be considered NSFW, and it can be found here. Hope you enjoy it.

Less is More (more or less)

I could really do with stripping more and more computer bollocks out of my life. Starting with the iPhone – goodbye, farewell my love. Sadly I won’t be able to see the back of you until Feb 2010. Such is the beauty of long term contracts.

 So, in order to do less, I now have a second blog (well, strictly speaking this is a fifth blog, probably). But my proper blog is becoming my proper site. Blog posts are deliberatly thought with no nonsense, Not like here. Here will be all bollocks all the time.

Ruminations rule the nations

Okay, I think I need a third place. I have my blog, which is really focused on me as a comic artist (art things, step by steps, etc), I have twitter – short bursts of info, and now I have posterous.

I've always been uncomfortable with relying on a third party to handle my data (though I've used google mail for a long time) so I'm not sure how this will go. But still. It's there…