This week the Edinburgh Festival kicks off.
If you’ve not come across it yet, I suggest reading Stewart Lee’s Guardian article about the festival. It’s a good read.
One of the great things about the festival of the past five years or so is the arrival of the PBH Free Fringe that allows performers and punters to cut out some of the cynicism of the “comedy expo” side of the festival, and take a chance on some new and original shows.
Crunch the News is one of these shows. A daily topical comedy show with political pundits, comedians, mimes, musicians, poets and a rotating cast of fantastic hosts including John Luke Roberts, Danielle Ward and Sir Ian Bowler MP.
I illustrated and designed the flyer for the show:
And here’s a bespoke banner I designed for the website – which you can find at the recently launched crunchthenews.co.uk.
I will be in Edinburgh from the 4th to the 21st helping out with the show – occasionally contributing live drawing and other illustrations. I’ll also be seeing lots of comedy shows, as is my wont, and will hopefully be finding the time to draw comic reviews of these shows for London Is Funny. So keep an eye out for updates there and here.
This is my first time spending a protracted amount of time at the festival (as opposed to a fleeting weekend) so I’m really excited. On my must see list (since you ask): Daniel Kitson, ACMS, Thom Tuck, Simon Munnery, Josie Long, Helen Arney, whatever the Invisible Dot are doing, Bridget Christie, Horne and Key and…, Danielle Ward and basically loads of other things that I’ve either forgotten or not yet discovered…
I have the first issue of my new comic – Ellipsis – launching this Friday at Gosh! Comics and I hope those of you in London will be able to come and celebrate its release with me. There will be free booze, some original artwork on the walls, the new comic for sale (which I can sign and sketch in), a wide-eyed slightly overwhelmed me, and people chatting awkwardly in corners of a comic shop trying not to spill wine on any of the books. It’ll be great is what I’m saying.
And you can watch the Danny Boyle opening Olympics ceremony on iPlayer later that evening anyway. Amiright?
It’s being released through Solipsistic Pop Books (which is my attempt at branching out the Solipsistic Pop anthology into publishing other comics – my own and many others – which essentially means this is self-published but just humour me) and can be pre-ordered here. All pre-orders receive a limited edition print incentive and you can pay a little extra to get a sketch in your copy.
There’s also an option to subscribe to Ellipsis. I have decided to talk a lot (a LOT!) more about this below so for now I will sign off and say I hope to see you all at Gosh on Friday! Continue reading if talk about sustainability models for comic production is your thing.
*waves goodbye to everyone*
THE SUBSCRIPTION MODEL
I’d been worried about two things with Ellipsis.
One, that any fans or those interested in my work would be looking at a minmum investment of £30 (6 issues at £5 each) with a possibility of buying a collected version of the book for £10 at some stage. Add to that, any postage and packing costs if they lived outside of a city which contained one of the few local comic shops that I’m able to stock on a regular basis and it was looking like a relatively large investment on a project for any casual fan. I didn’t like the idea of that. Of somehow financially punishing anyone who was kind enough to support what I do.
The second concern was that I went fulltime freelance as an illustrator and comic artist in February 2011 and while I was able to script the entire 150 page story of Ellipsis in my early months of being freelance, paying jobs had to take precedent and establishing myself in an industry that is notoriously precarious in less financially unstable times than these had to be my priority.
Then Solipsistic Pop 4 took over my life. Then finding a way to pay for Solipsistic Pop 4 took over. Overall, Ellipsis issue one took me around two months to draw but it was only February this year that I was finally able to devote that time to it. A fifteen month turnaround time per 22 pages is not acceptable (although I’ve drawn several other comics in that timeframe). So I had to find a way of making Ellipsis work financially for me so that I could justify spending my time on it without having to take on too many other commissions to support me. Essentially, I was looking at finding a business model that replicated the publisher advance.
Quick sidebar: I’m aware that it sounds like I’m complaining about how hard it is to make a living drawing comics. I’m not. I want to draw for a living. That’s my aim. I’m managing to do that – just about – and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that. It’s hard work to make this financially sustainable and it should be. It should be hard. And it’s worth it. This is just an overly detailed look at my thought process on possible new ways of making comic production an economic viability.
So I was looking at Becky Cloonan’s model for her self-published comic The Mire. You could pre-order her comic at a standard rate or order a premium version which would include a sketch. A nice system and one that made sense. As did Matt Sheret’s model for Paper Science which offered up a subscription for a years worth of the newspaper anthology. I liked the idea of subscriptions and when Matt wrote a blog about his positive experience with this model, it coincided with a history podcast I’d been listening to about the John James Audubon book The Birds of America. Audubon, as with so many 18th and 19th Century book publishers, had to rely on subscribers paying regular sums to help fund the book which took 12 years to completely finish (due to the detailed nature of the engravings that had to reproduce his paintings). The subscribers would receive the book in chunks during that time.
It was heartening to know there was precedent. That, in the early days of publishing these sort of models existed. It feels like now is a similarly “new frontier” time for publishing with a large question mark hanging over the current models and many more systems springing up for those who want to self-publish. Hence this whole subscription thing cropping up in this Guardian article here. So, I decided, why not create a subscription model for Ellipsis?
If you click here, you’ll see it’s now possible to pay £40 and subscribe. In return, a subscriber receives all six issues when they come out, the collected book, limited edition print incentives with each copy (also available to those who pre-order individual issues) and a sketch in every copy. Original artwork and other goodies will be offered up over time and a subscriber doesn’t have to worry about postage and packing.
The idea being that if 100 people subscribe, that early investment should be enough to see me through three months of having to take no extra work on. That would be enough to produce one and a half issues. Or a I could take limited work on and produce two issues over four or five months. Essentially, it acts as the publisher advance I was looking for. If it gets the right numbers.
There’s this chapter in Stewart Lee’s book How I Escaped My Certain Fate where he talks about (and I’m paraphrasing) only needing about 5,000 loyal fans who are willing to pay £10 to see your show each year. And if you keep doing a new show and touring it to those fans, that’s £50,000 per anum and that’s a workable living.
I remember reading that and realising that while it sounded good, that doesn’t speak to me right now. We’re talking about a comedian who has definitely had their share of bad luck with TV commissioners and religious zealots – but who has also had four series of a comedy show broadcast during the nineties. That’s a loyal fanbase built through the existing system. I don’t have 5,000 people willing to subscribe. I’m not sure I have 100. We’ll see. It’s highly possible that this subscription model will only work for artists who are already big names but want to produce work independently having reached a large audience through the more traditional publishing routes.
But if you like the look of Ellipsis and you have enough spare money (and not a lot of us do in this economic climate) to subscribe to it, you’ll be helping me make it come out on a regular basis. And making me smile inside. Which is not an easy thing.
For those of you out there who are interested in seeing if this works, I’ll blog about how the subscription model does in about six months time when I have a clearer idea of whether it is a success or a failure. I’m reminding myself that it’s just an idea. And one that doesn’t present a huge risk right now as I intend on finishing Ellipsis and honouring the subscription commitment whether I receive one or one thousand orders.
I’m really proud of the comic and the comics I’m producing at the moment (more on the other stuff I’ve been doing later this week!). I hope you continue to read them however I end up distributing them and I appreciate everyone who has helped me keep doing them this far.
There were free comics, a lovely informal kids workshop with a rotating cast of comics creators on hand to sketch and offer advice, window drawings, and a busy shop full of new customers eager to find out more about comics. It was exactly what FCBD was designed for and I had a wonderful time being a part of it.
The day started off with Julia Scheele and I running the workshop table while the amazing Roger Langridge and Richard Short started their window drawings (of Kermit and Dennis The Menace respectively). I always love being a part of comic workshops like this and the Drop In & Draw events organised by WAW+P have always been a joy. Sadly, it always takes the kids (and myself) a little bit of time to relax and get into it so, inevitably, by the time I was hitting my stride it was time to let the next comic artist into the fray. Despite this, I managed to meet and chat to some amazingly talented young artists including a boy called Arthur who sat there diligently crafting short comics called The Adventures of Stick Man. They were simple, elegantly constructed little shorts with a genuinely intuitive grasp of the visual language and timing of comics. I encouraged him to bring some photocopied minis into Gosh at some point. I really hope he’ll continue to produce comics. I also hope that a few more kids comic workshops like this will start popping up at the shop in the future as it feels a shame something like this may only happen once a year.
Later in the day I attempted to draw some famous comic characters on the Gosh window. I’d decided beforehand to give Charlie Brown and Snoopy a go. Hoping to have them staring out at Soho/inside Gosh depending on where you were standing. Drawing on the window presents a few challenges but is actually a hell of a lot of fun. I was a little frustrated that my attempt ended up looking a little too much like a Schulz rip-off than something in my own style but was happy enough with it for a first try. I was sitting next to the brilliant Sarah McIntyre who was also drawing her own Vern & Lettuce which came out beautifully.
I joined the kids table for a bit more drawing later in the day, watching Roger and Will Morris draw gorgeous sketches for spellbound kids while chatting away pleasantly about their process. I felt humbled to be on the same table with them.
So there we go. FCBD at Gosh. A brilliant event. Huge thanks to the staff for making it so fun and stress free. Sarah’s also written a blog about the event here. Thanks to Sarah and Gosh for the photos here too.
It’s Free Comic Book Day tomorrow!
You’ll be going along to your local comic shop to pick up some free comics, show your support to independent retailers, and be finding ways to celebrate the medium right?
Good. Because if you live in London, Gosh! Comics have several treats in store for you…
From 12pm I’ll be joining Gosh! for an exciting day full of workshops and window painting. I’ll be starting off on the drawing table, doodling away and available to help anyone who wants a bit of comic art guidance. Later on, I’ll be adding to the Gosh! windows and drawing a well known comic character in my own style. After seeing the Avengers last week (now wasn’t that a fun film?) I sort of want to do something like this…
Anyway, full details are on the Gosh! blog so go have a look at all the other fun stuff they have planned. I’ll also, in my capacity as editor/publisher of Solipsistic Pop, be bringing some free Solipsistic Pop Funnies along with me as a special Gosh! exclusive. Find out more here.
I was commissioned to produce an A3 poster for the club and to DJ a short set on Sunday October 2nd. One hundred copies of the poster will be available for FREE during the afternoon, after which point I’ll have a few copies to sell on my website if you’re interested in having one.
Here’s the poster design:
I also made a version that felt more striking but suggested a two-in-the-morning-on-Friday-night vibe rather than the Sunday afternoon mood I was after so ended up putting it aside. I post it here for the sake of sharing my love of that pink though:
As you might expect from the image for the poster, my DJ set will be formed exclusively of songs with handclaps. Embrace the twee with me on October 2nd and say hello.
(also: Withered Hand will be playing live at The Lounge this Sunday – the 25th September – and you’d be a fool to miss it!)
Been a busy month. One of the pieces I’ve been working on is a self-portrait for Orbital Comics. The fantastic London based comic shop is putting on an exhibition of comic artists’ self-portraits – all of which will be unveiled this Sunday (the 19th September) from 6pm – read the flyer below for further details. The idea of small press comic artists doing self-portraits (many of whom are either auto-bio artists or started out drawing auto-bio comics) is a lovely way of challenging the idea of the self-portrait and challenging the artists to provide something surprising. I have no doubt everyone involved has met the challenge head-on and provided something interesting and unique. I feel intimidated to be involved.
My piece is a relatively standard one page illustration – inked with a secondary gouache ’spot’ colour. Not too dissimilar to the spot colour we’ll be using in the upcoming Solipsistic Pop (but used here for a very different, very specific, illness-based, nausea feeling). Here’s a small preview:
And while I’m talking about Orbital – I was interviewed for their recent podcast and joined the regular hosts (Tom and Simon) for a discussion about comics, Solipsistic Pop and the weeks releases. I had a lot of fun on the day and I hope that translates to an enjoyable listen. It can be found here and you can subscribe to the regular podcast here.
I’ll also be exhibiting the original artwork from my 69 Love Songs comic (Absolutely Cuckoo) at Flashback Records in Crouch End as part of the We Are Words + Pictures music related comic exhibition (organised by Sean Azzopardi). The private view is on Friday 23rd September from 7pm. Maybe see you there!
Are you free this Sunday (24th July)?
Enjoy comics, comedy, music and/or cake?
If the answer is yes, you should get yourself along to New Cross Turn Left – a wonderful new comics event organised by the equally wonderful Ellen Lindner, Julia Scheele, Nevs Coleman, and Howard Hardiman.
The venue is The Old Police Station – a lovely arts hub only a short walk from New Cross station (as the title of the event suggests, just turn left once you’re outside). It is exactly what the name suggests – an old police station converted into studio space.
All sorts of events will be running on the day, including a comedy set from Nat Metcalfe – a regular of Josie Long’s Lost Treasures Of The Black Heart night in Camden – plus workshops, exhibitions, and a communal table of comics and zines which will be on sale throughout the day. There will be food, drink and an after party – be sure to check out the website for more info.
Lots of great artists will be present and We Are Words + Pictures – on top of unveiling the fantastic Paper Science 5 – will have Michael Leader interviewing artists throughout the day in one of the abandoned police cells. I know right?! Should be a lot of fun.
I’ll be there with Solipsistic Pop and some prints – come say hi and demand a sketch off me or something…
Here’s Julia’s lovely flyer for the event:
So that was TCAF 2011. My third TCAF now and, again, a wonderful experience. I’ve only just got back and I’m still a little jetlagged but I wanted to throw some thoughts up here while they’re still fresh in my memory.
It all kicked off with a dream panel on Friday night which saw Chester Brown, Seth, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine talk about their work, the state of comics and generally be charming and funny panelists who are clearly very comfortable with each other. I think someone should make a reality TV series in which Chester Brown and Seth have to live together in a tiny bedsit. I’d watch.
I spent the weekend sharing a table with the talented and wonderful Becky Cloonan who is one of the best tablemates anyone can have the pleasure of sharing with. We both sold well, and Becky spent a lot of the weekend excitedly telling me about the new Thor film with infectious enthusiasm. Here we both are (I look extremely scared for some reason):
It was the busiest I’ve seen TCAF (which is saying something) and everyone I spoke to did very well there. The parties were a whole bunch of fun and I got to pick up some fantastic new comics while speaking to people like Helen Jo, Nate Powell, Lucy Kniseley, Dustin Harbin and Sarah Glidden – all of whom are huge inspirations right now and they are, of course, lovely in person.
Now, so much has been said about why TCAF is so much fun for exhibitors and attendees alike – I’m not sure I have much else to offer at this stage. The key thing is having a downtown, public library as your venue. And free entry. It seems to me that if you’re going to put on a comic event that is going to encourage new readers to take a chance on comics and to see what the medium is all about – then a free festival with an easily accessible and prominent venue is the way to do it.
The rest of it – the excellent organisation (I was getting useful information about customs, panels, table layouts etc. every day in the week leading up to the event – that’s just a tiny example of how well run this show was), the inspiring volunteers who ran around offering table cover, coffee, water, change – anything that would make our weekend easier, the amazing panels, the wide-reaching publicising of the event, the fantastic parties and side-events… All of it is a bonus but all adds to the many reasons that every artist had a great time and will do everything they can to come back next year.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We need something like this in the UK. Thought Bubble is the closest we have to it but we need a free comic festival. It just needs to happen.
I was on a panel with the delightful Sam Arthur (of NoBrow Press), Philippa Rice, Adam Cadwell, Kayla Hillier, Joe Decie and Kenny Penman (of BlankSlate) about UK comics. It was titled Her Majesty’s Comics, moderated by American artist Brian Brown and was apparently filmed. It can be watched here if you’re curious. I haven’t seen it and can’t bring myself to watch it but I remember the panel being fun and it may well be worth your time.
Here’s a quick photo I took when people were setting up on the Sunday morning:
I then had a few days to kick around Toronto and enjoy a bit of time off. I spent Monday mooching around bookshops and then enjoyed the sun in High Park. Here’s a quick sketch of a tree I did while there:
As a quick aside, I noticed a poster campaign for a paint company at Bloor station which involved lots of full colour swatches of the various paint colours they offered with minimal text at the bottom detailing the colour code. Such a nice, simple way to advertise your product and also make the train station look designed and pretty rather than cluttered and oppressive. More advertising like this please!
The next day we drove to Angonquin national park and went for a refreshing hike. A world away from the madness of TCAF and much needed. Here’s a photo from our adventures which looks a little like a cover to some prog-rock album from the seventies:
For my final night, there was a special Pen Club (the first one I attended in 2007 was the inspiration for doing a similar thing in London) and I had a chance to speak to Anne Koyama properly after only crossing paths briefly at TCAF. We met back in 2007 and since then Koyama Press has gone on to be an amazing publishing house that continues to delight. It was lovely to hang out and see everyone. Was also the busiest I’ve ever seen it:
I drew a bunch in other people’s sketchbooks but here’s what I managed to do in mine:
And then, before I knew it, it was time to come home.
As always, spending this time at TCAF and in Toronto has left me with a huge amount of hope and enthusiasm for comics. I’m inspired and ready to throw myself straight back into work. Speaking of which… There’s a studio calling my name right now…
Hello there. Gosh it’s been hot hasn’t it? I hope you’ve all been enjoying the weather and the extra days off. Rather inevitably as a freelancer, I’ve been too busy to take much time off although I had a brief break from working and went to Whitstable for a couple of days last week – it was lovely – but I didn’t do much work in my sketchbook so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I’m also moving into my swanky new studio. Once I’m all moved in I’ll post some pictures up here. It’s all extremely exciting and I can’t wait to get stuck into the screenprinting and letterpress facilities they have on-site. There will be open days and workshops going on throughout the summer which I’ll be sure to flag up here as and when they come up.
In the meantime, here’s a little info on my whereabouts over the next month of so:
First up, is the Sci Fi London festival this weekend at the BFI. I’ll be on a panel with Tony Lee, David Hine and Al Davison discussing the progression from self-publishing to more mainstream publishing (please accept my apologies for the flawed taxonomy here but I’m in a rush). I feel a bit of a fraud being there considering I’m still self-publishing right now but I’ll hopefully have something interesting to say on the matter. I’ll also be helping to run an informal Drop In & Draw session afterwards with the We Are Words + Pictures team. Be lovely to see you there if you’re free on Sunday (April 30) morning. Here’s the blurb from the Sci Fi London site…
11am – Small press to mainstream
Al Davison & Tony Lee (IDW Doctor Who comic), Tom Humberstone (Solipsistic Pop) and David Hine (Batman) talk about how working in small press comics has lead to work for mainstream publishers, but also provided a home to publish alternative titles throughout their careers so far.. Chair: Matthew Badham (Tripwire Magazine)
Followed by ‘Drop in and draw’ activities for first time artists wanting encouragement in creating comics, run by Tom Humberstone
Then I’m off to Toronto for TCAF 2011! Extremely excited about returning to one of my favourite comic shows and the city itself. Regular readers may already be aware of how much I’m in love with Toronto. If you’re going, please do stop by and say hello. I’ll be bringing Solipsistic Pop Volumes 1-3 and may be on a panel or two although that’s still to be confirmed.
After the festival (May 7-8) I’m hoping to go camping with some friends and plan to give my horrifically neglected sketchbook some much needed attention – I’ll throw the results up here if they’re not too embarrassing. Also: check out the amazing poster by Jillian Tamaki:
Then on May 24th I’ll be speaking at the Flash Symposium at Birkbeck University about short stories. Should be a fun evening so do come along for that one.
Hayfever is the children’s version of the immortal Hay festival. Packed full of all manner of events and activities, WAW+P will be adding to the mix with a two day Drop In + Draw workshop over the festival’s first weekend on the 28th and 29th May.
Although it’s a very informal, drop in workshop where you’ll be welcome whatever you want to draw, we’ll be focusing on creating comic characters.
Create your own comic book character
Make stories with words + pictures
What would a character that you made up from scratch look like? Would they have a beard or tentacles or tiny pointed feet? Would they be tall or chubby or have piercing blue eyes? Well, the We Are Words + Pictures team are here to help you decide and put your ideas into practice. With established comic artists and illustrators on hand we’ll get you designing your very own comic book character and developing a story for them to feature in.
Tom Humberstone, Edward Ross and Anna Saunders, Ted Brandt and I will all be in attendance over the weekend. We’ll be positioned in the Hayfever Courtyard, right opposite the Giant Wallbook which, I’m told, will tell you everything you need to know about the earth.
Phew. And with that, I shall leave you with a small section of the first page of Ellipsis which is coming along nicely…
Hopefully see some of you over the next month or so!
I was commissioned to illustrate and design a double-sided flyer for the upcoming Sci-Fi London festival. The front image is advertising the comics side of the festival and the back image is promoting the wonderful Panel Borders comics radio show on Resonance FM.
Here they are:
On the subject of the Sci-Fi London festival – I will be on a panel discussing small press and mainstream comics before helping teach a very informal Drop In & Draw comics session with the We Are Words + Pictures team. More info on this soon.