Tag Archives: illustration

Things I am up to

This week I finished colouring volume 3 of Hopeless Maine. It’s the second graphic novel I’ve coloured, and the first time on my own project. For those of you less familiar with the mechanics of comics making – this is normal. Making a comic involves writing a script, drawing it, colouring, inking (or over-lining in our case) and lettering the pages. These can all be done by different people, and in the more famous comics there is more of a production line approach to creation.

I started working on pages back when Tom did a project called The Raven’s Child. I took on some of the shading work to try and get him some breaks and time off. It’s not unusual in the comics industry for people to work ten and twelve hour days, and seven day weeks, and for a while we did that. We’ve since decided that the artist-killing industry model is not for us and that we’d like to spend the rest of our lives with functioning spines.

The first graphic novel I coloured was mediaeval set and a take on King Arthur. Bold mediaeval colours were called for, and anyone used to Tom’s work will know that he’s not really that into bold colours. So, I offered to do it. I worked in oil pastel because it’s my medium of preference. Good for the strong colours. An arse for scanning and impossible to pencil over.

Here’s an admittedly less colourful piece from that project…

For Hopeless Maine, we don’t want serious colour intensity, and we do have a lot of delicacy, so I moved over to pencils. Easier to scan, easy to pencil over, but not, I confess, quite as much fun. I had to figure out a whole new set of approaches for seas and landscapes – previously dealt with by smooshing the oils around. Unable to smoosh, I have to spend a lot more time physically getting the colour onto the pages (A3 for a standard comics page, if you were wondering!) It’s taken a toll on my hands, so music and crafting and been much less of an option for me over the last six months. I’m looking forward to a rebalance.

I’ve enjoyed being more involved in the process – by the time previous comics have come out, my involvement as the writer has felt distant. It’s been more fun being in on the whole thing. We’re evolving ways of working together and I like that process. What we do together is a long way from what we would do separately, and that’s rather cool.

Here’s a chapter cover from the next Hopeless Maine volume…

My crowning achievement for this book has been to learn how to do glows. Candle glows and eye glows, are very much part of Tom’s look, and were something he did when the scanned, hand drawn pages went into photoshop. I have found ways of getting something plausible onto the page, and this cheers me greatly. It was something I didn’t even attempt in the previous comic.

There’s finishing up to do, but the next volume of Hopeless Maine will be entirely uploaded to the publisher over the next few weeks. Copies are already on pre-order and we’re expecting it to be released in the summer. And before then, on to the next one, with an eye to a gentler pace, and me being able to do comics alongside crafting and playing music, without hurting my hands too much.

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The Weight of Expectation – a review

This is a very small, very powerful comic. Writer Oli Williams and illustrator Jade Sarson explore how stigma associated with bodyweight and size impacts on people. The visual storytelling here is brilliant, and gives a real sense of an experience that is felt in the flesh.

I did not find this an easy read, and at the same time, I found it enormously helpful. I’ve dealt with fat shaming and body loathing my whole life. I saw something of my own experiences reflected here. That was both painful and cathartic. At the moment, I’m about the smallest I’ve ever been, and as someone small enough to buy regular high street clothes I know that I effectively have more thin privilege than not. But at the same time, like some of the characters in this comic, the words of fatness are written into my flesh through years of struggle, and I cannot look at my own body without seeing that.

One of the things I really love about Jade’s work here, is her ability to depict large people without making them grotesque or ridiculous. The idea that people are intrinsically loveable, that human bodies are loveable and acceptable is a theme I see reoccurring in her work and I am deeply glad of it.

More about The Weight of Expectation here – http://teahermit.co.uk/


The League of Lid Curving Witchery – a review

This is a new book from Phil and Jacqui Lovesey, whose Matlock the Hare books I have reviewed before on this blog. Set in the magickal dales, this volume focuses on the history of the league of lid curving witchery – the witches who inhabit this strange and lovely landscape. While the first three Matlock the Hare books were illustrated prose, things clearly took a bit of a turn with the previous title – Upon a Tzorkly Moon – which was hard cover and densely illustrated in colour.  The new one is more in this style.

Here we have stories and illustrations, and a physically very beautiful book. It’s imaginative, and engaging. I’ve been pondering this for a while and I think the best way to describe it is to say that this is a children’s book that has been written for adults. Maybe that makes it an inner children’s book. It’s pretty dark in places – violence against those perceived to be outsiders is a reoccurring theme, and as these are witches, boiling other creatures in your cauldron is a popular choice. It’s probably not suitable for most children (if in doubt, buy it and read it first).

The underlying theme of the story is about how we square up to our differences and rise above them. Tzorkly (it’s a parlawitch word in case you were wondering) means ‘to rise above’ and this book is absolutely an invitation to do just that. It delivers the message without being smug or preachy.

One of the things I find especially interesting about the Lovesy’s work is how they handle death. This is an animist reality, everything and anything can have feelings and a voice. Everything creaturey eats. Sometimes what is eaten, protests. Everything will die eventually, and the deaths of main characters are very much part of the stories. This book focuses on three witches, and all of them die, and that’s absolutely fine. It doesn’t even feel like a spoiler mentioning this, because it’s about life. They live, and therefore they die. The human desire to extend life for as long as possible, is not helping our species or our planet. We need different stories about what death is and how it fits into our lives, and this book is just that sort of thing.

As a household, we’ve had terrible trouble with the title for some reason. Tom first misnamed it as the league of wood carving lechery, we’ve also had witch carving lechery, and last night I inadvertently called it the league of witch curving and then had no idea what the last word could be. We’re a bit splurked, and we haven’t the oidiest extrapluff as to why.

Find out more about Phil and Jacqui’s work here – https://www.matlockthehare.com/

See inside the book here – https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/584650624/a-book-the-league-of-lid-curving


Painting the Tales – a review

Katherine Soutar has created many of the covers for History Press’s Folk Tales and Ghost Tales books. Painting the Tales gives you (by my reckoning) 83 book covers plus commentary. It’s a hefty volume, which is great because the art is far bigger than any book cover versions you may have seen. The images themselves are beautiful.

Katherine uses watercolours, pencils and inks in her work and because she works on paper, you can see the effect of the materials in the finished piece. As a colourist working on paper (but nothing like as good) I’m fascinated by how she harnesses the idiosyncrasies of her tools. So much illustration seems to be digital now, and there’s a smooth, clean unrealness to it, often. I like the more substantial and unpredictable qualities of a more physical process.

In her images, Katherine mixes realism with stylisation and symbolism. There’s a sense of constant flow and experimentation here, and an urge to find the precise mix that conveys the story, rather than adherence to a specific way of working. I like that too. I’ll be staring at these book covers a lot, trying to learn things.

I was fascinated by the commentaries as well. With each image comes a page of text – which may be about the folklore, or the process of finding the image, or method used to create the image, or combinations thereof. I picked up a lot of folklore fragments reading this book, and for someone who wanted a folklore taster, it would be an excellent place to start. Folk tales and ghost tales alike are mostly sorted by county – although a few aren’t. Here you can get a flavour for the books beneath the covers that might help you decide what else to pick up.

This is a book to dip in and out of – I read it fairly quickly because I got a review copy, and months of dreaming over a book can be frustrating for author and publisher alike. But ideally, you want to leave this somewhere and dip in and out of it. An ideal read for someone who enjoys folklore. Also idea if, for whatever reason, you have limited time and attention. You can read a single page, gaze at an image, and that be a complete experience in itself. It doesn’t matter how long passes before you come back for the next one.

More about the book here – https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/painting-the-tales/9780750986014/ 


Upon a Tzorkly Moon: Review

Upon a Tzorkly Moon explores the world of Winchette Dale, home of Matlock the Hare. I’ve enthused about those books in the past, you can find out more at (https://www.matlockthehare.com/). Upon a Tzorkly Moon is both a new thing and familiar, as it focuses on art associated with the Dales, and is written by the artist half of the team – Jacqui Lovesey. For fans of Matlock, it’s a must. If you’ve not encountered this work before, you could dive in here.

This is a book very much dominated by the art, and includes full colour images of illustrations from the novels. Previously we’ve only seen them printed in black and white. Jacqui’s colour use is warm and gorgeous, so it really adds another dimension getting to see the pieces as they were intended.

The book is a wander through the world of the magical dales, showing landscapes, and inhabitants. There are accompanying notes about what you’re seeing, and those are charming to read. It’s a warm, uplifting sort of book, easily nibbled in small quantities, so ideal for a person who is world weary, whose attention is shot or who is short of time and needs to be able to dip into something gentle and generous.

I was struck by a number of things as I sauntered rather slowly through this book over a period of days. Firstly, this is the reality I want to live in; richly animist, full of life and presence. Secondly, I really want to live in the kind of house that looks like Jacqui imagined it. Thirdly the world needs more lush and gently uplifiting creativity in it, critically that which does not patronise, sugar coat or dumb down. Fourthly, I really, really want to make a book this lovely.

So, thanks to Matlock the Hare I am pid-padding into the world of interior colour printing, asking questions about book design, making outrageous demands of my artist/husband Tom Brown, and plotting how to do something along these lines. The story is written, and if it’s half as cheering as Upon a Tzorkly Moon I shall consider it a job sufficiently done.

In the meantime, seek out this book! https://www.matlockthehare.com/project-02

And here’s a guest blog Phil Lovesey did for me a while back – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/matlock-the-hare/

 


The Hopeless Colourist

Before

Before

I’m not, I should mention, being deeply harsh on myself with this title, I’m talking about colouring for Hopeless Maine – a graphic novel and illustrated prose series that brought Tom and I together many years ago, and that we continue to work on. The first two books will be re-released from Sloth in the very foreseeable future, and they’ve agreed to pick up the two attendant prose novels that have been languishing for years. The prose novels will have black and white illustrations, but we’re doing colour versions for posters and eye candy and whatnot.

After

After

This means that I’m colouring. We invested in some posh artist pencils, and I have to say it makes a huge difference. The colour is smoother than you get with cheap pencils, and far less bearing down is needed to get the more intense colours – which makes things easier on my hands.

Anyone who says that a poor workman blames their tools is going to get stared at. Good quality tools make it possible to create a higher standard of work. There are things cheap pencils do, and don’t do, and while I can try to work with that, better pencils are in fact better and allow me to do better work.

There are interesting challenges in colouring. It’s my job to keep in the spirit, mood, style etc of the original drawing. Colour can have a huge effect on mood, and it also can do a lot more around shape and texture than black and white does. The images I’ve shared created a sudden learning curve on that subject. In black and white pencils, flat tentacles are fine. I colured, and then re-coloured them because  I had to totally rethink the 3d-ness to make them make sense.

The image shows Annamarie Nightshade, and her familiar. Annamarie is the central character in New England Gothic, and a significant support character in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series. You can read the first books for free here – www.hopelessmaine.com