Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jack Cole's instant cartooning course

I've found Jack Cole's Instant Cartooning Course very useful on numerous occasions. It helped me a lot with hands (it shows you how to understand and get hands right with a pentagon-based system) and swiftly demystifies heads in profile.

Jack Cole was the creator of Plastic Man, he also produced many beautiful painted pictures for the then-newly launched Playboy. I took the scan above from "Jack Cole and Plastic Man" by Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd, a fascinating overview of his often crazed, dynamic work.

Here is the text from the course - it's probably better just to buy the book but there are so many gems in here that it would be daft not to include it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Simon Reynolds on "decor for life"

This is from the current issue of The Wire magazine. Simon Reynolds' latest book, Retromania, came out very recently and I look forward to cracking it soon.

'Underground', in 2011, means creating an atmosphere of cultural intimacy. So the most apt comparison for where do-it-yourself music is today might be Etsy, the online market for handmade and vintage items. Not only is the economic structure similar — small entrepreneurs selling their wares at fairs or through specialist boutiques but doing most of their business online — but the aesthetic sensibility overlaps. There are the same vintage materials and formats (T-shirts with pictures of old-fashioned typewriters, notepads that repurpose the covers of 1970s textbooks), the same penchant for slow unwieldy production methods, even similar iconography (lots of Etsy stationery features animals and birds, particularly owls!)

But what this analogy leads onto is the unsettling thought that underground music making is becoming a niche market, a form of hip(ster) consumerism that slots right next to distressed furniture, microbrew beer, artisanal cheese and vintage clothing. No longer art as an intervention in the battlefield of culture, but art as 'décor for life'.

I agree with Simon to a greater extent. The two questions I ask are:

1. Have uncertain times, in concert with lives led online where there is little reliable constancy, led people to embrace comforting, often infantile tropes?

2. Were the culture wars over when ever greater media divergence (across all platforms) meant that the great, abstract "water cooler moment" disappeared and one could simply ignore the culture you didn't like? Have most of the guns simply been put away?

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Charlotte is a fun character to draw and one of my favourites to write. One of the hardest things about making Bad Machinery is drawing characters who are growing up on the page. I have to run all their parallel developments in my head at once, try to keep them in proportion and on-model, at a time when the once-trustworthy human body starts rebelling in 100 confusing ways. Lottie is perhaps the easiest because I can look at her sister Sarah in Scary Go Round, and her mother, I know where this road is probably going to end.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Please stop me thinking

At what point do outsourcing of labour and automation of repetitive jobs (particularly client-facing) begin to undermine business beyond the point where outsourcing (thereby lowering prices) and automation (lowering employee cost) can make up the shortfall? What happens to global capitalism when you make more than a certain portion of the workforce redundant because they simply aren't needed?

My initial guess is that perfecting human pyramids will become a lot more popular.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

This self deprecation has to stop

On more occasions than I care to count, someone has come up to me at a comic show, pressed their little photocopied effort into my hand, and said "it's not very good". And 49 times out of 50, I manage to stop myself saying "then why on earth should I read it".

If you've taken the time to draw something, and photocopy it or have it printed, and travel to a destination, and give your work unsolicited to a complete stranger, try not to make this oft-repeated faux pas at the final moment. Your work may not be of a professional standard, it may be loose, "sophomoric", poorly lettered, imperfect - it may be flat out rotten - but you finished something, and if you finished one thing, you can finish another, and you will improve.

Here is the rub. There are people at every comic show I attend producing work that I can only describe as execrable, who stand with consummate pride next to their rotten pamphlet and sell it to all-comers - with an astonishing degree of success. Now, I know that it comes down to character. Those people are probably psychopaths.

Self-criticism is a valid exercise and a vital component of improvement. But it is not an attractive attribute to strangers. Wrestle your terrors alone in a windowless room under an unshaded bulb, with a loaded pistol and a jam jar of potent "prison screech" on the table.

Out and about, on the scene, I want to see you beaming with pride that you made it out of that room with all your teeth and most of your sensibilities intact.

ADDENDUM: If you approach me with a comic called "Sh1tty Comics", "My Crap Comics", "Cavalcade Of Rubbish", "The Underperformance Chronicles", "Awful Tales" &c, I will tear it up in front of you or shred it upon my return home.