Tag Archives: comics

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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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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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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Big heavy suitcase o’comics.

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See that?  That’s roughly what my Thought Bubble stall will look like. Featuring:

* Andalusia: an augmented summer holiday sketchbook (£3; optional extra content online or using free Aurasma app)
* Diner devotional (£10)
UNpearABLE (£2.50 one way, £10 another way)
* Trails: a book about travel, history, and being a slug (£8, with free linocut)
* Pancho & Lefty: a lefthanded comic (swaps only)
* Celebrity Homes: a book of words and pictures of awesome houses and the legendary people who lived in them (£8).

I’ll also have some unmounted prints (hard ground etchings, and letterpress). I haven’t come up with a specific convention offer, so it’ll be something like ‘hey you’ve either bought loads drom me over the years or are buying multiple books today – would you like a print?’

Well, that’s half of it anyway. Here’s what the Applied Comics Etc half of the stall will look like.

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These are all collaborative projects. Featuring:

* Gertrude Bell: Archaeologist, writer, explorer (free digital-online-hyperlinked comics; free printed preview)
* Spineless: The Newcastle Science Comic (free 16-page newsprint comic; also free to read online) + free exhibition postcards
* True War Stories No.1: Thomas Baker Brown (free 12-page printed comic; also free downloadable resources online)
* Draw More Comics: The Thomas Baker Brown WWI comics anthology (anthology of high school students’ comics, £5 cost price).
*examples of our ‘Etc’ work: Comics event scrapbook with Newcastle, Gateshead,  and Stockton libraries,  and Get Your Facts Right research protocol.

See the Applied Comics Etc website for details and full credits for comics creatirs and other collaborators. And/or, stop by and chat – table 96, New Dock Hall, Leeds.

Oh, and really good business cards too.

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Bunting marketing

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I made bunting for use at comics workshops and events. It’s home-made and welcoming. It’s part of developing Applied Comics Etc as an organisation that’s participative and professional, about people enjoying making comics, not a corporate behemoth making business. It’s also made me pay far too much attention to other people’s marketing materials. So here’s a blog post on how to make heavy-duty bunting, mixed with thoughts on bearable marketing.

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Bunting is colourful, flexible to fit different event spaces, and inherently daft. It’s not yet another pull-up banner stand. A few artists use these effectively, but they’re rare exceptions in a plastic forests of high-resolution single images and bad corporate design.

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But is there still bunting to bunt? I thought that, as a world, we’d agreed that the great bunting overload of 2012-ish was finally over and it’s safe to go back to uncool village fete bunting. Alas, no. Since making some 45 metres of home-sewn bunting, I see mass-produced corporate bunting is everywhere. Mass-produced, yet clinging to homey concepts. This bothers me.

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There’s a lingering trend for big businesses to use cutesy, naive-ish art styles for branding and marketing. Sometimes through big advertising agencies, sometimes through young illustrators. There’s a worrying trend for individuals and small organisations to mimic the branding practices of big businesses, rather than making their own decisions.

Cut the PVC into flags. Some cuts need a craft knife, steel rule, and cutting mat; others need scissors. Some flags are logo-shaped, others are triangles cut from comics pages with lots of overlapping

Cut the PVC into flags. Some cuts need a craft knife, steel rule, and cutting mat; others need scissors. Some flags are logo-shaped, others are triangles cut from comics pages with lots of overlapping. Artwork credits are at the bottom of this blog post.

I care about working with people and information, with a business side to facilitate this. Not the other way round.

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So far this means working with different comics creators and subject specialists for specific projects. It means learning from each project, and doing each project differently. The comics we’ve made through Applied Comics Etc and Newcastle Science Comic are all different sizes, art styles, paper types, bindings, and print runs. And working out what this means for digital comics. It’s good news for good comics. It’s a headache for distribution and planning, but right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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It means doing it ourselves and being proud of it. Homemade bunting is the way to go.

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See Newcastlesciencecomic.blogspot.com for more on Spineless: The Newcastle Science Comic. The comics on the triangular bunting flags are by our awesome team of Spineless artists:

The Newcastle Science Comic logo was designed by Paul Thompson, who’s recently curated an exhibition called Invisible Beasts – worth a look, like.

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Always explain, always anthologise.

My contributor copy of Dirty Rotten Comics 4 arrived, oh yeah oh yeah.  And my contributor copies of Double Nickels came a while back, yeah yeah yeah. And there’s a new Paper Jam comics anthology, Food and that. Yeaaaaah.

I enjoyed being part of all three anthologies. They have the fun, DIY, punk approach to comics that I love. As much as I’m leading equally fun and beloved projects through Applied Comics Etc, being able to make whatever comics I darn well please means a lot to me. And being part of other people’s anthology projects, set up with compatible mindsets, means a lot.

Anyway enough gushing, here are some photos.

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My comic for DRC4, ‘Gossip Girls’, is a linocut I made when the whole Sony Pictures hacking thing kicked off. Then I saw on twitter that @dirtyrottencomx were looking for submissions for their next anthology, which was black & white and A5 printing size, so that was a nice fit. I sent in a b&w scan, they accepted it, job done.

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My comic for Double Nickels, ‘Political song for Michael Jackson to sing’, is drawn using a dip pen and ink. I saw @wcraghead’s call for contributors on twitter, then followed the links to the list of available songs, then emailed Warren to ask to be involved and bagsy a song. Drew it, scanned it, sent it, job done.

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My comic for Paper Jam’s Food and that, ‘My new favourite meal’, is about the Wetherspoons pub food menu so was drawn and inked on the back of a Wetherspoons pub food menu, in the pub after the meeting at which the anthology title was chosen project got going. I scanned it, sent it in a choice of two versions to see which printed best (this comic is greyscale, the other two were b&w), and the printing isn’t great… but that doesn’t matter. Much like travel comics, too much tweaking and adjusting takes away from the I-was-there-ness of the comic.

For future reference: make comics, get comics in anthologies, meet new comics people, be realistic about what comics drawn on Wetherspoons pub food menus will look like when you’re not in control of the printing.

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