Last year was a good year by and large. I spent most of it in a state of low-level panic regarding my own drawing ability and creative worth (as per the comic artist cliché) but I also think I managed to produce the work of which I am proudest. I’m starting to realise that’s sometimes how it works.
I finally managed to get the first chapter of Ellipsis released – a whole 24 pages of my own comic – something I’d been unable to focus exclusively on since I started Solipsistic Pop. I also produced ten pages for Cartoon Movement on the London Olympics, two pages of experimental poem comics with Chrissy Williams, and a whole load of posters, illustrations, logos, storyboards and other paying gigs that kept me warm and fed.
Additionally, in the last two months of the year I produced nine comics for the New Statesman as part of a weekly comics gig that I’ve written more about here. I remember the talented Rob Davis and Gary Northfield coming up to me at Thought Bubble to congratulate me on the gig (because they are also lovely people) and they both said something along the lines of “it’ll make a man out of you”. I think there’s something in that. A weekly deadline for a topical comic is a tough one but I’m already seeing positive results from such a schedule.
It’s not a huge body of work for one year, but it’s a start and I’m hoping to up it substantially this year with the release of Solipsistic Pop 5, Ellipsis 2, some anthology bits and pieces, Ellipsis 3 and many more poem comics with Chrissy. We’ll see how I manage.
My key things to remember this year are: 1. Keep drawing and 2. Keep making comics. I suppose they sound like fairly obvious statements but it’s surprising how easy it is to lose sight of these things…
1. Keep drawing
This is something I need to be doing much more of. I feel my style is becoming tighter and I’m no longer surprised by the things I draw. I want to be looser, to enjoy the act of drawing more. To be stepping up a level. So I’ll be “forcing” myself to draw a single sketch (at least) in my sketchbook every day for the entire year (again, at least). No day off for good behaviour. It shouldn’t be a problem at all – I love drawing and I love keeping sketchbooks – but somehow I stopped sketching in them last year, possibly due to being fulltime freelance, possibly due to workloads. Whatever the reason, I refuse to let it happen this year and I’m determined to draw new things every day – things I’ve no idea how to draw.
To start with, I’ve been drawing wolves as practise for a comic I’m working on with Chrissy. Here’s a quick look at them:
As you can see, I’m keeping the sketching time to around 5-10 minutes to make sure I’m staying light and retaining some energy in the sketches. No pencil beforehand, just straight in with ink. I expect I’ll also use these daily sketches to experiment with other materials and processes as the year progresses.
I doubt I’ll throw too many sketches up here over the year as that could work against me loosening up if I expect people to see what I’m drawing but I may do a little update sometime later in the year.
2. Keep making comics
I got an iPad as a birthday gift last year and have almost exclusively been using it to read comics and try out various comic reading apps. I’m actually pretty taken with it. Chris Ware’s McSweeneys piece is obviously lovely, but there’s still lots of scope here for new, innovative comics to make use of the tablet canvas. I have plans for a tablet-specific spin-off of Solipsistic Pop but need to wait until I have enough money to pay a developer to code it. It doesn’t look too cheap at the moment…
That aside, I’ve also played a few games on the device and particularly enjoyed the Sword & Sworcery EP. The developers, Superbrothers, actually wrote a manifesto for games making called Less Talk, More Rock. I’m so behind on all this that it most likely came out four years ago but regardless, the basic principles they outline hold true: To go directly from inspiration to making something. To not let the talking, the process, the problem-solving get in the way of that, and come back to it at the end. Obviosuly that’s not entirely possible sometimes but I like the essence of the idea. I like what it’s saying. Go and make some stuff and think about the rest afterwards. It strikes a chord with me right now so it’s probably best to take the advice.
Less Talk. More Comics.
Yep, as promised I’m going to be returning to the sketch commissions for the festive period. Despite having a fairly packed schedule, I had so much fun with the last batch a few months back so I’m going to try and fit another 15 sketches in over the next three weeks. Any additional requests will have to wait until sometime in the New Year which may be too late for presents – so if it’s time sensitive to Christmas get in quick!
And here’s a spotify playlist of my tracks of the year if you’re in the taking-stock-of-2012 kind of mood.
Here are the last few sketches I can share (some more being kept back as they are unopened gifts). The rest of my sketch requests can be viewed here, here, here, here, and here. The original post offering the sketches was here.
As you can see, I took more than 15 on – mainly due to having some lovely emails and interesting briefs sent in. Though a lot of them had to be fitted around my work schedule as I hadn’t allowed for the extra time. This was a fun experience and I’ll definitely be doing it again (I’m thinking end of November/early December in time for Christmas). Thanks to everyone who requested something and to everyone who shared the blogpost on twitter/facebook!
Stand Laurel Needs You! for Mark G.
The original Legion of Super-heroes for Ben L.
A map of my favourite part of London – the Southbank – for Paul A.
Emma H and her friends as a team of super-heroes.
A few more sketch requests…
A fox in the snow for Rich C.
A piece of industrialised Manchester for Catherine H.
Jess S’s brother.
A couple who run a theatre/games company for Jon C.
Pierce P’s nephew at his happiest (playing computer games on the sofa).
A robot and a cat for Sarah K.
A great white shark for Liam C.
Chris J’s kids.
Chris V’s friend , the allegedly over-prepared “Wartime Mim”.
A couple drilling for oil for Dan S.
An orchard in autumn for Jon H.
A couple of pugs for Jodie W.
A couple who are getting married in Brazil for Nahid K.
A hitchhiker heading to a G8 protest for Hannah N.
A Hunger Games montage for Luke C.
Purple Rain era Prince for John J.
A cat named Keats for Danielle E.
The Nautilus for Dan M.
The Beast showing Beauty his library of every book ever written for Jo M.
A mexican Day of the Dead piece.
That last piece was drawn due to a miscommunication so is actually unclaimed. If anyone would like the original artwork for it, do get in touch!
As a quick follow-up to my sketch drive a week or so ago, I thought I’d throw a few of the coloured sketches (which aren’t gifts that have yet to be presented). Got quite a few of these stacked up now so here’s five to start off with!
A huge thank you to everyone who got in touch and commissioned one of these and to those of you who shared the link. I had a lot of fun drawing things I wouldn’t usually attempt. I even had a play with new colour schemes and colouring techniques. I’ll definitely be doing this again – maybe even having a rolling commission drive in which I take on 3 or 4 a week? More soon.
A team GB olympics piece for Steve W in Australia.
A profile piece for comedian Paul Kerensa.
Another profile piece for copywriter Tom Hensby.
A drawing of Peter A and his daughter Mia.
Skeptics in the Pub for Mike A.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who has been in touch. The response has been amazing and overwhelming! The slots have all been filled and I’ve set aside a few more days next week to take on a few extras but I’m now closing the sale for the time being. Watch this space for another one sometime in the future – the suggestions are brilliant and I’m really excited to tackle them all so I’ll definitely do this again at some point!
The life of a freelancer, as I’m slowly discovering in my second year, is one of peaks and troughs. No matter how much work one has on, it’s easy to find yourself with a few days every now and then where you have an empty schedule. Work becomes particularly quiet during Summer for instance. Usually this is a nice chance to catch up on personal work (in this case, my comics) or even take a holiday. But sometimes, with overdue invoices, and a run of relatively low-paying jobs, this gap in the schedule can be a bit more worrying than usual.
In the past I’ve tried to fill this gap in the traditional ways: emailing art directors, sending postcards to publications, and even mentioning it on Twitter to see if any illustration commissions are floating around. This last one was a huge shot in the dark but has been surprisingly successful so I wanted to see if there was a way of completely bypassing the traditional AD commission route and being a bit more of a master of my own destiny…
So… I’m now offering everyone with access to the internet and £30 the opportunity to commission me to draw them a sketch…
The drawing will be produced in a one or two hour period using Indian ink on Bristol board. Black and white. And then posted at no extra cost. I’ll also scan and clean up the drawing so I can email a digital file of the image as well. The more complicated and ambitious concepts will most likely take longer and thus I’ll have to charge a little extra – but no more than £20. I will also do a one/two tone colour version of the digital image for those who would like it and are happy to pay an extra £10.
Beyond the more prosaic reasons for the sketch drive, I’m also quite excited by the challenge of drawing whatever is suggested and sent my way. This could well push me outside my comfort zone – which every artist should be forced to do on a regular basis anyway.
So if you want a bespoke illustration (and the original artwork that goes with it) for yourself, a friend, a loved one, or an enemy – please get in touch…
I’ll be dedicating this Thursday and Friday to producing the sketches so hopefully I’ll be able to have them in the post to you by next Monday (17th September). The offer is open until Wednesday (12th September) evening 11pm (GMT). I may have to cap the amount of orders allowed to around 15 in order to complete the commissions in the time I’ve set aside – so get in early! I’ll work over the weekend to complete orders if needed.
Email me with your request at tomhumberstone_at_gmail_dot_com
If this goes well I may open this Sketch Sale up again every so often during those quiet freelance periods. But don’t worry – it will be a very rare thing. I will certainly do this again around Christmas.