There ain’t no crafting like  hung parliament stress crafting…


…cos hung parliament stress crafting is a good way to process the news and stop refreshing webpages for the latest shenanigans.

I made a new batch of hipster upcycled artisanal stamp books. They were popular at Leeds Tetley book fair, so these can wait until my comic convention stalls this autumn. 

Use them as mini pattern colouring books if you reeeeeally need a change of focus.

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In which our heroine tells us what the heck ‘Departures’ is about. 

Departures is a comic made of drawings that weren’t meant to be comics. Each drawing was done in my travel sketchbook, in a different location, in 2016. Y’all remember 2016? For me it was a year of much travel, many places, usually for work so very short, very busy trips.

Example of a sketchbook drawing:


I like photographing my drawings as it’s faster than scanning as a way to share images of my work online . It also marks a difference between the drawing and the photo of the drawing: partly because I ♥ Walter Benjamin, partly paranoia based on having seen other people’s drawings knocked off by unscrupulous companies and unthinking individuals, partly to show it’s drawn by hand in ink on paper in a book. A digital way to show that it’s analogue. Probably most of all, I like artsy sketchbook photos that give some indication of where I was when I drew the thing. My first big book Celebrity Homes was drawn from photos, and whilst I’m still mega proud of the book I think my drawing is better (better = it looks better to me + I enjoy the process more) when I draw from real things, preferably outdoors.

Example of sketchbook photos as shared online:

But a series of drawings (photos of drawings) is not inevitably a comic. I wanted to pull a year of travel into some sort of meaningful collection. The drawings weren’t really background images, and even if they could be used as such, I didn’t much fancy writing a fiction version to link the peculiar series of locations I’d had real-life reasons to visit. I didn’t want to retell all details of why I’d been to each place, partly because of colleagues’ confidentiality and partly because I prefer snippets of autobiography to tell-all confessionals. To an extent I can turn down ‘precise thinking researcher brain’ and turn up ‘no limits artist brain’ for a while, but I don’t want to turn off one in favour of the other. Everything is in everything else

But pictures tend to tell stories. Looking at them, some of my drawings had more of a story in them than others. Cautiously, I cut them open to find out what was inside. I scanned each drawing to do the autopsy digitally: I’ve dissected sketchbooks before and will do so again, but wanted to keep this sketchbook as a travel souvenir. And, I wasn’t sure if the cutting up would work. Digital cutting meant I could try different combinations of what became panels in a series of 1-page comics. Photocopies and scissors would’ve done some of this, but high resolution digital files kept the fine lines and wrinkles clear enough to eventually print.

What does it mean to say something ‘works’ as a comic? Here’s a comic I think works well:

Looking around, seeing a person, getting some sense of a travel hub (airport, or whatever), noticing that the person is looking at or for something (screens, signs, whatever). There’s enough of a story to make it readable.

Here’s a comic I think works a bit:

Left page: crossing a road. Right page: the repetitiveness of going to cafes. Neither one going to change the world, but enough narrative to have some sense of progress.

Here’s a drawing I started cutting up into a comic, but it really didn’t work. So I stopped:

It’s nice, but there’s no story. However you look at it it’s just roofs. It could set the scene for a story, but in itself it ain’t no story.

There’s something about readability. Is there some sort of progression, even if ‘narrative’ is too strong a word? Can a reader hook onto some understanding of what I’m trying to show and tell them? Readability, in these wordless examples, is less about font choice and more about content. Some panels, some pages might be ambiguous enough to trigger multiple possible readings, but overall I wanted enough clarity within which there could be areas of ambiguity. Clear but with fuzzy bits. And bits missing, fragmented, waiting for a reader to fill in the gaps.

Making a double-book (z-fold cover, 2 sets of pages in one book) was a way to keep the original sketches and the remixed comics together-but-separate. Digital printed pages on cylus paper was a way to keep both the clarity of fine lines and a bit of texture. Pamphlet stitched bindings and letterpress labels on the covers was a way to keep a handmadeness in a series of 100 books. All in all,  Departures  is a well-balanced book.

I’ll post more pages on the Tumblr, and/or buy a copy here, and/or read my example copy whenever I’m next at an event (dates will be on Twitter, as and when).

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Tuppence a bag for your thoughts.

A list of reasons why this morning’s comic is among the best I’ve ever made:

  • It’s a comic 
  • That I made
  • In my beautiful sketchbook (bound by @bookbindings)
  • I’ve nearly finished that sketchbook aww yeah 
  • It was straight to ink, no pencil
  • It references Milkshake by Kelis
  • And  Parklife by Blur
  • I got the Phil Daniels “sense of enormous wellbeing” quote wrong
  • Hardly anyone will notice
  • And it only bothers me a little 
  • Whereas it would’ve given younger-me much cause for muso concern 
  • It’s about music
  • Well, music references 
  • Mashed together like a mixtape
  • And feeding the birds
  • Dancing 
  • Education 
  • Fighting for free education 
  • And reminding people that you can, and do, learn and teach all the time, even if you don’t see it as formalised education 
  • Lettering stamped with a 99p rubber stamp kit
  • And my 2kuai red ink pad
  • Like this 
  • Which is still going strong after uhhhh 7years of no longer living in China 
  • Is 2kuai still like 20p or has the world moved on? 
  • See, it’s about currency valuations too
  • And calling BS on a lot of the ‘wellbeing’ products and advertising that’s around at the moment 
  • Because you can’t buy happiness 
  • But you can read free comics
  • Or better, make your own.
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Your Xmas card 2016.

I don’t much care for Christmas but I do love sending Christmas cards. It’s good to keep in touch, to send art, and to afford the time and materials to do so.

This year’s card is a tree printed on brown card (made from trees, oh the cannibalism). It’s a linocut, as explained in the comic I made to send out with each card. 

Each year’s list of addressees gets longer as people’s families grow, which is a nudge to remember that every Christmas card is someone’s first. So showing the process matters, especially if it’s a printing process other than a commercial computer printout. 

As I get further into the world of printmaking I must remember to keep explaining the process – which of course applies to academic work too, innit. Christmas holidays are a good time to hunker down with the PhD reading pile.

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Packing.

I’m launching two new comics but have still succumbed to the annual scramble to pack some other stuff for my Thought Bubble stall. 

Reminder: new comics are Junk and Departures.

Other stuff is:

  • Portfolio. These are mini-assortments of original drawings, printmaking experiments, and cool bits of paper, chopped and sewn up as books. Each one different. Affordable one-offs are a good thing, and it may well be an idea to revisit in future. There are 8 in this run, £5 each.

  • Hand-bound upcycled geometric hipster artisanal mini books. You know the patterned insides of envelopes? I made some (lots and lots) into little books. It was good sewing practice and good stress relief. I’m like totally over hipster-ness and the plague of colouring books, so I gave them a pretentious name. There’s a bowlful of ’em, £1 each. 

A few prints (linocuts and etchings)  too.

Older comics and books are:

  • Trails 
  • Andalusia 
  • Celebrity Homes 
  • UNpearABLE.

The other half of my table will be full of free Applied Comics Etc (including Newcastle Science Comic) delights: 

  • print versions of comics (comics + research/archives collaborations) from this year and recent years
  • zine-y version of a presentation I gave at BCCS this year, on 3 projects using comics as a method 
  • Newcastle Science Comic stickers 
  • the world’s most beautiful business cards.

Limited quantities of free printed copies, free digital versions online, lots of chat and opinions.

More opinions to be had by asking me (and John Swogger, and Ian Horton) about Applied Comics Network, as we’re planning a planning meeting about future plans there. 

This Sat-Sun 5-6 November 2016, Leeds Royal Armouries, New Dock Hall, heading towards the back right corner. See you there innit. 

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Departing, travelling, sometimes arriving.

My new book is called Departures.
Departures is a double-book. See that Z-folded cover? There’s one set of pages in the front half, and one set of pages in the back half. There’s a reason for that…

The back pages are my travel sketchbook drawings from various places I’ve been this year. I’ve been to many places for ‘day job’ work, comics work, comics fun, and (rarely) for frivolous and sociable reasons.

The front pages are one-page comics, each made from a travel sketchbook drawing. I digitally chopped up each drawing to see what narrative I could first find in the drawing and then remake in the form of a comic. They weren’t originally intended as stories, but looking back at each drawing I reckon there’s narrative in there. Which comics helped pull out.

Not every travel sketch from this year made it into Departures, because not every travel sketch was remixable as a comic. I’ll post some examples when I’m back from my current trip (she casually blogged from the airport cafe). Some worked (I mean there’s a narrative that can be constructed by reading one panel after another), some didn’t (I mean there’s just a picture chopped into squares, there’s nowt to read). Some were inbetween. Just because it’s in boxes doesn’t mean it’s a comic, y’knaaa.

I like the sketches as they are but wanted to do something more with them than only printing a replica sketchbook. Reasons include: the original drawings are spread across multiple sketchbooks, my pal Paddy Johnston encouraged me to do something with the drawings, the drawings seemed more than ‘just’ background images onto which to then superimpose people and talking, I like weird book designs and I like books that have a reason to be as they are, I like seeing what comics can do that other mediums can’t, and I’m so horrifically busy at the moment heck why not add another complicated project to the list.

Departures‘ covers are covered in handprinted letterpress luggage-label-esque labels, which is how my dream suitcase looks. They’re also a bit record/CD sticker-y, as a lover of bsides/imports/rarities. The bindings are hand-sewn, 5-hole pamphlet stitch, using linen thread. The pages are digitally printed on Cyclus recycled paper. Double-book + good paper + handprinted covers + lots of hand sewing = £13 a copy.

I’ve made 100 copies, by which I mean I’ve printed 100 sets of pages and covers, sewn a few, and will sew the rest at comics events like some sort of live action bookmaker. I’ll bring Departures to Thought Bubble, then sort out an online shop later this year here’s my online shop http://www.comicsy.co.uk/hellolyd/. And some sort of previews on http://lydw.tumblr.com/, which is also where I post live-as-it-happened photos of sketches done when out and about.

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Junk junk junk junk junk.

My new book is called Junk.

Junk is full of sketchbook and diary comics from 2010-2016.

Junk is pretty. Handprinted letterpress covers (2 shades of pink ink on a purple background). Greyscale digital printing on pale purple pages, 20 leaves at A6 size. Hand-sewn bindings using maroon linen thread. It’s a teenage dream of all things pinky-purple and beautiful.

Junk is messy. These comics came out of old sketchbooks and diaries, which are currently in moving boxes because they’re not junk, they’re precious enough to be kept for a while. I’ve scanned and cleaned each comic so that the lines print legibly. Other than that, they’re still as sketchy as the day(s) they were drawn.

I’m still, and increasingly, interested in comics as a process (medium, method, way of thinking things through) more than specific drawing styles. But I still love a good-looking book. Make comics fast and leave a good-looking book, I reckon.

I enjoy letterpress printing more when I think of it as printroom labour, not printstudio fine art. Clanging around with heavy machinery and drawers of metal type is a good counterbalance to other ways to spend a day. Playing about with how much to overlap the colours (spoiler: each cover is slightly different).  Learning to sew proper bindings is good too.

I’ll bring Junk to Thought Bubble this November to sell for £5 each, then sort out an online shop link after that here’s my online shop http://www.comicsy.co.uk/hellolyd/. Times are busy, and I’m still labouring under the delusion that I’ll finish another book this year too.

I’ll gradually post pictures of Junk pages over on lydw.tumblr.com. The photos were taken after work,  walking home through the local shopping centre at closing time. Just like a real teenager.

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