Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bathroom 4 / Tree 1

I was going to post more about the bathroom but it is hard to complain as apparently (for once) I hired someone really good at their job. The work is almost finished but today the fitter told me to cut down a tree. And what an experience it is for a man to cut down a tree, now I see what lumberjacking is all about. Crash, crash goes the mighty oak (leylandi) felled by man, the superior organism in every way. Who is laughing now, tree? Who is in a skip now, tree?

Having had a skip for two weeks, I began to get nervous about the expense of such a giant, rusty, metal extravagance. But I was informed that "you can keep them as long as you want within reason". WHAT HO! I said, because the skip-hire economy speaks to a long-lost England where fairness was a suit each man, woman and child donned before breakfast.

Funds allowing, I intend to start work on publication of Scary Go Round book 7 very soon*. I'm currently working on titles. After the brevity of "Ahoy Hoy", I intend to stretch out for the next one. "Dazed And Confused In Chinese Taipei"? "One Hundred Wet Legwarmers"? "The Blunderbuss That Couldn't Say No"? Who can say what I will christen this rotten baby.

*Please remember that this inevitably takes me 6 months, most of which are spent crying

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Like a three-legged dog in search of a crutch

After a power meeting with Mr Andy Bell (who debated its "pervasive sense of magic"), I have made revisions to my poster. I post them purely for comparison.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dragon mountain colour friends

I coloured in my dragon poster this morning. It's ochre-tastic, sienna-mungous and earth tones-tastic.

I also working on a new Secret Scary Friend shirt to replace the old one, which I was so sick of looking at. Here's my scrawly rough, which has some clues about the final shape of things.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I attended Manchester Comix Collective's Drink and Draw this weekend and have the following to report: Batman. I drew a load of Batmans. I don't spend much time thinking about Batman and I've read only a couple of Batman comics ever, but apparently, I know all about him!



Monday, August 25, 2008

Tabby Time

Since Christmas I've been drawing Scary Go Round on a Wacom Cintiq in Manga Studio,and hopefully the improvements have been clear for all to see. The ability to squash down someone's head that you've drawn 5% too big, or to nudge an eye over a bit at the pencilling stage, is invaluable to an incompetent like me.

But the sick fact of the Cintiq craze that has swept comickers worldwide is that they are very expensive and about as portable as an ironing board. Wacom introduced a twelve inch model for pros on the go, it cost precisely one arm and one leg, and rumour has it that when you put it in your hand luggage with a laptop, it consumes all available space that you might have used for a bottle of water, and improving book, and a clean pair of underpants.

Keen to take my show on the road every once in a while, I decided to look into Tablet PCs. Despite being a Mac user, I will use a Windows when the time is right. And as a skinflint, I like a second hand laptop. But the screens on a lot of the tablets available are rather mean - 1280x800 widescreens or even a particularly unkind 1024x768 on some models. And those vicious shiny screens! Does anybody like them?

I was going to get a new HP Pavillion 2500 thing and live with the resolution,the shiny screen and "Vista" which is apparently Windows 95 for the very young. But I couldn't spend £700 on something I'd use once a flood. So following careful research I found the Toshiba Portege M200!

Yes, this machine is my new deal. Yes, it is four years old, with a sound card unworthy of the name, one pitiful speaker and a very bad attitude toward 'hibernation'. It has no optical drive. But it has a super hi-res 4:3 1400x1040 screen that is a real pleasure to draw on and it flies in XP. Even after lavishing laptop stands, stupid flexible rubber keyboards, firewire pc cards, a recovery disk and a DVD-RW drive enclosure on it, I'd spent £320 on a machine with a nicer drawing area than the 12" Cintiq for half the price. It is my guess that you could probably do this too if you wanted to.

Best of all, it has lots of programmable buttons for your shortcuts. I like to hit the space bar and various keys to scrub around artwork quickly, but a lot of the consumer level tablets just seem to have "media buttons" that aren't a lot of help. The M200 has a little joystick that you can assign five functions to (per application, per orientation) and four more programmable buttons. If you can, you might as well just plug an external keyboard in, but it's still very handy.

I would suggest treating it like a drawing appliance and not ragging it to death (I always ragged my PCs to death back in the dangerous 1990s), but for the busy artist on the go, I would say that it more than does. It might seem strange to be writing a glowing review of an ancient piece of hardware but if you can find on e in good nick, this is still an excellent digital artist's tool.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bathroom 3

Progress is going too well on my bathroom. I am nervous. I've yet to see a ne'er do well in my skip, nor hear the great sound of a supporting wall giving way along with a large part of the roof. But there's still time. I will say that my new bath tap is like a Dalek's nose and has an aerator which seems like a miracle to me because I am a simpleton. "Whuddahoppenadawadder" I said, like a big old rube. A big old Chaddy rube.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bathroom 2

Today was very exciting. A skip arrived (I learned that Canadians don't know what a skip is because they are all born with trucks) for the bathroom of the past. Of course, I took the opportunity to throw every unwanted item I own into it. That's what having a skip is all about (or rather, your neighbours having a skip).

My bathroom fitter is a LADY which is amazing. Usually a hairy arsed man is responsible for destruction around the home, but today there a civilised air about the place. It is like World War 2 and now I see how the war at home was won, with the sweat of sisters' brows.

Of course it is not all skip fun and gender equality. When the tiles came off, the wall beneath looked like ancient cake and had a similar consistency. Let us pray it can be "made good". Pray with me, blog readers. But the wobbly wall has almost been replaced and now feels sturdy enough to resist at least the initial Russian nuclear strike. Situated as I am just one mile from BAE Systems in Middleton, I will be the first webcartoonist to die in the coming conflict. So keep prayin'.

But progress is good and there is no need to "have kittens" today. I will return tomorrow with more of the same.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bathroom 1

Bathroom madness has begun. I have saved up for almost a year to have my hideous bathroom remodelled and on Monday it begins. But already the fitter has come round and pressed on some walls and the walls wobbled (like an early eighties soap opera set) and said "John whoever built this house was quackers please can we have a million pounds". So cruel you say but they are not wrong, my house was bodged from top to bottom in 1989 by a maniac. To paraphrase Richard Herring, he was a "fucking idiot".

Today, when scraping away the old painted over wallpaper, I found some of his excellent plasterwork. What happens is that you tap it, and it falls off, then you fill in the hole with Polyfilla or wet toilet paper or just raw fury. I usually employ a mixture of all three. I was so cross that I got the wrong tube of goo out of the cupboard and used Polyfilla Woodflex, which will no doubt explode in the night as I used it on a wall that was not made of wood.

I will provide more bathroom updates every day of this no doubt epic tragedy. It will be like an episode of Grand Designs, meaning I will end up overbudget with four mortgages. Younger readers may well wish to take note.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eat eat whale meat when you need a meaty treat

Here are some Real True History doodles. Who was Beowulf... and WHY?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I see you with your big harpoon, killing whales all afternoon

Thanks for the comments on prints and that. I was reminded during the course of the discussion that I used to do the odd small watercolour, and thought I'd do a couple this afternoon. Kate Beaton suggested I do a Blackbeard one (as a staunch lover of the sea) so here are the two I made. I'll probably put them on eBay once they are dry and I've trimmed the wiro tears off the top. Starting price, 100 pence.

Update: the eBay listings are up! Shelley here, Ryan & Blackbeard here.

(Click on the picture to zoom in)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A stiff sleeve

I've been making prints on Scary Go Round for a few years and in that time I've become aware of the merchandise novelty curve. When you release something new that you haven't done before, there's always a take-up for the new and novel thing - pretty much regardless of price and quality. As time goes on and you broaden the range, novelty decreases and you must ramp up quality to a professional level as you are competing with everybody else in the world who is good at making such items. When I sold hundreds of my first print in the first two weeks, I was competing with nobody. By the time I made the fourth, I was competing with Frank Kozic and Tara McPherson and of course, I lost very badly to them because they are great and I never take more than three hours over a picture, ever.

So I have been trying to improve my compositional skills and work out how better to serve the walls of a waiting world. I can't serve up any more stiff poses, and I probably have to take more than three hours over it. But I don't exactly know what people want format wise (artistically speaking, you have no choice).

1. Smaller vs larger
2. US paper sizes vs international paper sizes for easier, cheaper colonial framing
3. Do you like the canvas prints or are they too pricey (they are expensive to produce but they look great and last forever)
4. Do screenprints appeal, weird velvet papers etc, or do you prefer a more disposable artefact, maybe unsigned, that you can just tack up on a door and bin a couple of years later?

In conclusion here is what I am working on at the moment, it's historical and borderline hysterical. I look forward to some thoughts.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Well I never

I've had a lot of very positive email about Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker this weekend, which was unexpected. Ty Halley of Gtrood even drew fan art, which was extremely unexpected, thank you Ty!

I read an interview with Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics the other day where he says that he takes three hours to write each comic. I don't take three hours to write five comics! Ryan is operating on a level so far removed from me that to gaze upon him is to gaze upon a sort of Olympian god. His head in the clouds, one hand stopping the oceans from floating away into space as the world turns. His other hand writing a comic.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Father forgive me

Yesterday I was talking to Kate Beaton and I offered her the idea below free of charge. I have been watching David Starkey's 'Monarchy' series as you can probably tell from my idea, which is a nun exposing her bum to Ethelred the Unready.

With apologies to Kate, David Starkey, nuns, Denmark and anyone who has gone spontaneously blind.