Category Archives: drawing

DIY? Because comics, that’s why

There’s a new exhibition, Comics: Explore and Create Comic Art at Seven Stories. It’s the work of many comics artist-writers, collectors, and curators. And includes a DIY comic I made, for you. Yes, you.

Here’s a look at the DIY comic. I do not apologise that in most of photos I took, children had already drawn on it. Because that’s the point. You use a DIY comic as a nudge to make your own comic.

One side guides you round the world of comics, with have-a-go activities about setting, character design, art style, panel structure and storytelling.

The other side has blank panels, waiting for you to make your own comic using tips and techniques from the exhibition. And your own ideas.

Two of my favourite pieces in the exhibition are work-in-progress, probably-not-intended-to-be-shared things:  one of Adam Murphy‘s post-it process books, and one of Nigel Auchterlounie‘s cut’n’stick drafts. I’m so glad they’re there, alongside finished artwork. The first time I visited the Cartoon Museum I proper gawped at how many fixes and repairs were visible in some of the original artwork in their collection – part of the real and messy process of making things, but usually invisible in the finished work.  Even more so when working digitally. In the spirit of such honesty, here’s a close-up of one of the many tipp-ex and whoops-better-glue-over-that-bit fixes from my DIY comic:

This exhibition is kinda a big deal. It’s the first time Seven Stories: The National Centre For Children’s Books has developed an exhibition about comics.  It’s good to see national organisations getting involved in comics, particularly with a focus on getting more kids making more comics.

It’s also cheering to see a mix of older and current comics creators, working in a mix of traditional and digital media. There’s no one way to make comics. Hopefully this’ll help more kids (and grown-up kids) figure out their own ways to make their own comics.

BONUS: Yes, those are Comic Swap compilations in with other comics to read. Aww yeah.

Newcastle Chronicle writeup with exhibition photos: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/family-kids-news/you-love-comics-could-you-13366687

Down The Tubes summary of what’s in the exhibition: http://downthetubes.net/?p=38666

Seven Stories exhibitions page: https://www.sevenstories.org.uk/exhibitions

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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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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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Notes on notes.

This week I handed in an essay and also made progress setting up 2 new comics. I’ve been thinking about notes, so here are some notes on notes.

My personal notes seem to be one of three, maybe four, things. Here comes a list:

1. on post-its then typed then annotated, if I’m reading a heavy academic book.

I’m about a year into my part-time PhD in Education, focusing on comics and values and Britishness. Overall it’s great. Sometimes it’s particularly hard. It’s already improved my thinking about the comics I want to make and help others make, which is a large part of why I chose to do it. At this stage I’m reading A Lot. Taking notes in this way helps me digest and remember what I’m reading, and also means I type (write) my opinions and arguments on what I’m reading. So reading and thinking and writing aren’t separate processes. Mind, we’ll see how that goes as it creeps closer to my 2022 (yup, 2022. Part-time takes for-ev-er) completion date.

2. messy and doodley and with pictures, if I’m trying to link things I’ve read (eg to write an essay or plan a comic).

I enjoy planning the content and the form of a thing. Then the actual making or writing of that thing has its ups and downs, then finalising the thing is enjoyable too. My essay plans and comic/project plans are fairly similar. Lots of arrows to show connections between bits and development of ideas, and a mix of words and pictures. Lots of abbreviations. If I need to show these plans to people, it’s typically either with me to talk it through or alongside a more formal version, as evidence of process. Not on their own. Essay, academic, and project plans are just about always carried out. There are a fair few comic plans that are in sketchbooks in boxes – either until time and skills and interest allow, or because in the planning I concluded that they’re not so hot.

3. increasingly minimal, if I’m taking notes on someone else’s talk and will probably show other people the notes afterwards.

Other people’s talks are tricky. Unless the speaker requests otherwise, I think it’s good to make and share notes.  I’m cautious not to share too much, particularly if it’s a ‘work  in progress’ talk. I prefer drawing-writing during a talk and sharing afterwards, rather than trying to livetweet comments. I like drawings that reflect the content of the talk rather than drawing a portrait of the speaker, though crediting the speaker by name is important. I’ve had good and bad experiences of people making notes on talks I’ve given (good: people follow up with questions afterwards, bad: they’ve misreported the facts of the work I’ve done, never mind different interpretations of arguments). Being nominated the Official Notetaker for an event can be a beast as there are so many possible interpretations of what’s been said – try to be neutral, switching off academic brain? report my own take on it? draw cute things and hope for retweets? – but can be worthwhile both personally and for the event community (attendees, organisers, people who couldn’t make it) too.

There are also sketchbook pages, doodles, and diary comics that are probably notes, but more in the sense of remembering things I’ve seen and trying out ideas than trying to understand and share specific content. Though that’s a blurred line. These notes matter too, and they take whatever form I darn well please.

So yeah. Whether text, text and pictures, or mostly pictures, notes are good. Now I need to revisit plans for my next chunk of PhD reading, and get some proofs printed for new comics. That’s good too.

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