Jan. 3rd, 2010

paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)
I haven't done any blogging in a while, and previous attempts ground to a fairly shambolic halt.  Besides which, having a username that nobody (including me) can actually pronounce is a joke that quickly wears thin.  So, here's to new beginnings.  I tried to mark the occasion by defecting to a new blogsite, but many of the alternatives are rubbish, and those that do come recommended are apparently too complicated for an old geezer like me.  So here I am, back on LJ.  You know where you stand with LJ.  Still a new start, though.

Story so far; Had a couple of weird years trying to make my way in the world of children's book illustration, until it became apparent that, notwithstanding an unacceptable degree of compromise, this was never going to work out.  Then a brief flirtation with the form of the "comic" or "graphic novel" (I don't know which of those terms sets my teeth on edge the most) which took the form of doing an MA in Illustration at the University of the Arts, London.  Strange, strange times...  

Here's a couple of samplettes of my graphic novel project, which I thought might have some life beyond the MA but which has run into a few difficulties for the time being.


And wouldn't it be the way of things, just when I was occupied with that, I got my first ever commissioned work!  The Collins Beekeepers Bible, with illustrations by me, is due for publication in March of this year.  The perfect late Christmas/early Easter present for the bee enthusiast in your family!



Whilst at art college, I became increasingly convinced of the heretical notion that words are all important, and found myself pushing for ever fewer images and more text.  (I feel strongly about this, and you can be sure of many rants on this topic in future posts.) Recently I've been having SO much fun at a creative writing class at Morley College.  My tutor was Barbara Marsh, formerly of The Dear Janes, who used to sing about female masturbation, amongst other things.  I definitely feel that I want to write.  And draw.  And bring the two together.  Somehow.  Watch this space.  
 

paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)


Okay, let me explain the thought processes behind this one.  Bear with me.  Like Anthony Quinn, "everything I do is for a reason".

I've been working on a continuation/revamp of the graphic novel project from my recent MA, and it's become a bit of a slog, so that I have rather fallen out of love with it.  Temporarily, I hope.  Part of the problem is, as I've hinted before, the juxtaposition of images with as much text as I can get away with.  Near the end of the course, I had the great good fortune to get a thorough critique from the wonderful Simone Lia, who offered some invaluable advice but made it clear that I was using "too many words".  Actually at the time I thought that was a bit cheeky of her, considering the last few pages of her classic Fluffy are crammed with text, but... it behoves us to be humble.  Sometimes it really does have to be a case of "do as I say, not as I do", because it takes a certain amount of experience and expertise before you can know with confidence when to chuck the rule-book aside.  However, I still have issues with a lot of the "graphic novels" I've come across that, it seems to me, wouldn't really hang together as novels if they didn't have the graphics.  It seems important to me to learn a lot more about writing before it will be possible to make the best of such a project.

Also the visual style was beginning to grate a little.  I've moved a long way from my starting point as the course progressed (despite working on th bee book at the same time) and I'm happy to have expanded my repertoire.  I certainly wouldn't for a moment wish to un-learn comic techniques, but I've been feeling a need to re-establish contact with where I started, and brush up on some realistic, accurate drawing.

I've been reading up intensively on early tetrapods from the Devonian Period; the first fishlike-creatures to develop limbs with fingers and toes, which included the ancestors of all modern amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.  The leading figures in this field of research are, of course, Jennifer Clack, Michael Coates and Neil Shubin.  But reading through this stuff, you can't help but become vaguely aware of the shadowy figure of Sarah Finney, who gets none of the glory but appears to do all the hard work.  It seems that as a fossil preparator, her life is mostly spent chipping away at great lumps of rock with tiny dentist's tools to reveal the wonders preserved within.  Must be immensely rewarding, but I imagine it also frequently resulting in severe eye-strain and a numb bum.

Whilst kicking around for an illustration/writing project to keep me amused, I hit on the rather silly notion of a comely young fossil preparator (any resemblance to real persons, living or deceased, is purely coincidental, blah blah) who gets a well-earned day off after she falls asleep over her binocular microscope and gets mysteriously time-travelled to the Devonian where she gets to meet these creatures in person.  Of course, everyone who's seen The Time Traveller's Wife knows that while human bodies can be transported through time, clothes apparently cannot.  But that's okay because 360 million years ago Greenland was in the tropics!
  
A daft idea, with every chance of turning tacky and tasteless all too quickly.  But here's where my recent creative writing lessons come into play.  That course was largely about taking seemingly unworkable ideas (scenarios prompted by randomly selected objects or words picked out of a hat) and making them work.  When limitations are imposed by the exercise, the results can be surprising.

So... what if I were to take the notion of a cute lady scientist wandering around in her birthday suit in the Palaozoic Era, and make something good out of it?  Away with all the obvious fnaar-fnaaarrr element, and approach the making of images and text with such sensitivity, care and restraint that the end result might be something rather lovely?  Probably impossible for me, but might be worth the attempt.  And it's one way to get back into "proper" drawing.

So, here's an early effort that may not quite have come out as planned.  She's meant to be having some sort of friendly interaction with the creature, but finished up looking more like she was trying to fend it off.  Ah, well.  Sometimes a picture is what it is, and you don't realize until it's too late to change. 

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September 2010

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