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

To every thing its proper season.  A time for bare bottoms and a time for clothed bottoms.  Could not let it rest.  Much as I am heartily in favour of full-backal nudity (the more gratuitous the better), I cannot bear for any piece of art to be open to misinterpretation.  Besides which, since this is supposed to be a pastiche of a famous nude, repeating the nudity as well as the pose seems almost to dilute the joke, if you know what I mean.  Fortunately, thanks to the magic of computers (and scanners and printers) it is possible to make amendments without fear of messing up.  Et voila!  A pair of jeans to cover her modesty.  So now I have a cover.  All I need to do is complete the rest of the project...

On the creative writerly front, Paul is still pre-reading the Open University textbook whilst waiting for the official start date and allocation of a tutor.  Things are looking up considerably!  Part 2 is like a different book altogether!  All the same, Paul is strangely uneasy.  The first assignment is due at the end of October, which is so far away that it doesn't register as anything but yet another vague, nagging worry.  None of the urgency of the weekly introductory class at Morley College.  Have tried to rejoin that class too, but all goes less smoothly.  Options have become more restricted, such that I would only be free for the evening class.  This would involve travelling after dark, which I assumed would be difficult and dangerous, but it may in fact be completely impossible now.  My night vision has deteriorated consicerably since last winter, not that the day vision is much better.  Everywhere looks so foggy all the time...   But anyhoo, I re-enrolled online, which was easy with their nice, helpful website, but I still wouldn't be able to attend a class without putting my pawprint on some declaration and picking up my new student pass.  Previously this has not been a problem,  This week I made a special trip to Lambeth, braving the horrors of bus and tube,   But all in vain.  Enrolment fever was still in full spate and the reception folk just flapped their arms at me and told me to go "over there".  Whilst attempting to work out where over there might be, I was involved in so many collisions that it seemed safer to withdraw.  I suspect this may be the end for me and Morley.  The hermit life appeals more and more. 
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

An homage to Velasquez, and a possible cover for one of the several incomplete comic projects I have on the go at the moment.  Not sure if it's a good idea to design a cover before the project itself is finished.  On the other hand, not sure that it's necessarily any better to leave that kind of thing until the end either.  Anyway, the thought came, so I went with it.
On reflection (why are these things never clear until you've scanned and uploaded and you're on the point of posting?) I'm not sure how apparent it is that that's not her bare bum; she's just wearing tight trews.  The contrast in tone and texture, as compared with her arms and neck, is not as marked as I thought it was, and even the turnup at the ankle could easily be taken for a rolled-down sock.  Ah, well, we live and learn...

Meeeanwhile, Paul embarks on a new Creative Writing course with the Open University.  The beginning of the course seems a little basic, with advice like "keep a notebook" etc, but it's early days yet.  From peeking a few chapters ahead, it seems there is more challenging stuff ahead.  All rather exciting...
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

A possible page for my forthcoming (or more probably doomed to join the pile of unfinished projects) epic about a rat.  The entirely black top half of the piece is not so much an homage to Caravaggio as simply a matter of making room for the text.  I've been so long looking at this piece now, I can no longer make any useful judgements about it.  I'm particularly concerned about the barrels.  Geometrically perfect they ain't.  It would have been easy to trace from a photo or from an image generated in Poser 3D software, but where would be the fun in that?  I made a point of drawing them freehand, with a view to accepting a certain amount of inevitable wonkiness.  They are definitely out of kilter, though I would point out that they are old barrels that have probably been subject to any amount of warping and bashing about.  And they are leaning to the right because they are on a ship and everything is being tipped and rolled all over the place.  These wouldn't pass inspection if the intention was an entirely "photo-realistic" look, but as you can see from the anatomy of the rats, we are going for a somewhat stylized motif here, which may allow for things to be a bit askew.  But there's a fine line between askew and plain sloppy.  I've looked at this every which way, including "flipping" in Photoshop (the modern equivalent of the dreaded mirror test), and I am no closer to knowing what to think.  They're not right, but they don't seem howlingly and offensively wrong either.  I just can't tell anymore.  Ah, if ooooonly there was someone to advise me...  

All at sea

Jul. 1st, 2010 01:11 am
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

Paul has got the hump today, coz it appears I did not win, nor even "run up", in Biscuit Publishing's Short Fiction Contest.  I am further miffed by the fact that, although the winners were announced today on their site, their mugshots, bios etc are already in place, meaning that those who won knew they'd won yonks ago, whilst the rest of us were still refreshing the announcements page like total lemons until well into mid-morning.  As if, in this age off mass communication (and a little thing called group e-mail, they couldn't have dashed our hopes that little bit sooner.  Perchance I would be starting to feel better by now, instead of feeling like shit.  I do not have the time and leisure to feel like shit.  I'm a fulltime carer, and my job is to be relentlessly chipper.
The question, now, is whether to enter their current "Flash Fiction" contest, or to do what I do best, and sulk.  Because most of my work was generated in response to creative writing class exercises, with a necessarily restricted word count, most of it does rather qualify as "flash" (which, so far as Biscuit is concerned, is up to 750 words.  Most of what I submitted to the other contest barely scraped the lower limit of 1000 words.  Maybe "flash" is more me, or at least more like the kind of work I've been producing in class.
Or maybe I'm shite.  Who knows?  One of the limitations of the class I attend, although I can see the reason for it, is that it is designed to encourage.  Don't get me wrong, Lovely Barbara provides fantastic and detailed feedback on how things can be improved, and on points of grammar, etc, where necessary.  But it's also part of her job to keep us interested by accentuating the positive.  Once, when asked whether assignments would be graded, she explained that this is not appropriate for an introductory class, on the grounds that some students might be disheartened, and a competitive element might creep in.  In this class, everybody gets full marks!"  
I can absolutely see the sense in this.  But I think for a while during the Spring Term, earlier this year, I was letting all the praise for my "really great" work go to my head, before I noticed that everybody else was "great" too.  All the time.  I need to keep attending this class, but I think I also need a class where I can get some brutally honest information about whether I'm any good and whether I'm getting any better.

Anyhoo, to cheer myself up, I've been working on my new comic/"graphic short story character.  He's a black rat who's survived a shipwreck by finding a small box to use as a life-raft, and isn't too sure where he's going to end up...    
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

I have made a few minor adjustments (thank God for Photoshop!) to the one on the right, mostly in the forelimb department.  I'd failed to notice when I made the original sketch is that the "elbows" of the forelimbs stick out at least as far as the "knees" of the next pair of legs.  This seems to hold true for all of the tiny sample of Lucanid species I've examined so far.

The specimen on the left is also missing a name.  It was sold merely as a "Chinese Stag Beetle".  I was struck by the obvious similarities in colour pattern, pronotum shape and head shape.  It seems quite likely that these may be a male and female of the same species.

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

Here's a birthday card I did for my Creative Writing tutor, the divine Barbara Marsh, poet, actress and rock chick, formerly of the brilliant Dear Janes.  Needless to say, Barbara looks much lovelier than this (much lovelier...  she is soooo beautiful... sigh...)  It's the perennial problem of how do you caricature attractive people? 
The haiku reference is a bit of a self-mocking thing, as Barbara appears somehow to have picked up on the fact that it's... er, not exactly my favourite part of the course.  But it is such a great course!  My third term at it has just come to an end, and I am utterly at a loss.  Got to sign up for it all over again in September.  But I also need more!  This is an excellent introductory programme, but I really want to go further and develop as a writer.  Barbara has been advising me about this, and is encouraging me to apply to study for an MA in Creative Writing.  I think I need to do this, but it's such a complex issue.  Barbara is only able to advise me up to a point, as she studied in her native US, so has limited experience of the British education system.  I completed an MA in Illustration last year, and wasn't entirely happy about it, due to the lack of actual teaching.  Our arts tutors were fond of saying that people who weren't happy on the course were too used to being "spoon fed" on their BA courses and unprepared for self-directed study.  They couldn't really comprehend someone like me, who had the opposite problem.  Being self-trained, I was used to nothing but self-directed study, and was always slightly bewildered as to why I was now paying such hefty fees to work alone just like I had always done.   
I'm reasonably confident that I could meet the demands of an MA in Creative Writing, and would get a lot out of it.  But I'm not that arrogant.  I think the truth is, in an ideal world, I could actually benefit from a bit of that spoon feeding and ought really to do a BA first.  But... there is no way I could fit that around my existing schedule of looking after my Mum.  I think, under present circumstances, the flexibility of part-time, self-directed study is the only way forward for me.  That and keeping up attendance at my current introductory class, which is a fantastic way of generating new material.  
So... deep breath, and on with filling out my MA application form.  At least lovely Barbara has agreed to give me a reference. 
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

Have been making a very slow start with my vague plan to illustrate some old insect specimens, which is just about sort-of compatible with daily family commitments, so long as there isn't any great hurry, which of course there isn't.  I notice that an apparently ever-growing number of my full-sighted artists friends work with other artists, in studios, if you please.  Oo, come to my STUDIO where we do arty stuff and talk about arty things, ner ner ner...  WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWANK!!!  Call that the life of an artist???  Try measuring beetles' legs with your face pressed against a wobbly table under the tiniest possible energy-saving lightbulb while looking after a family member who needs to be pretty much constantly supervised, with Bargain Hunt bellowing out of the telly and a stack of washing up and laundry to get through and all the toothbrushes in the house missing again.  Studio indeed!  Harrumph!

But I digress.  This is a specimen of a large Lucanid beetle, of a species whose name I do not know.  I somehow acquired this specimen without any accompanying information.  If memory serves, it was one of several sent by way of apology from a dealer who had supplied me with a breeding pair of Dorcus titanus, only for the male to die soon after arrival.  Other specimens came with labels, but not this one.  Am sure it will be possible to put a name to it someday.  I am wondering whether it is a female, as I also have a specimen (bought from Ebay and set in that lucite stuff) of a remarkably similar beetle with large, male "antler" type mandibles.  On the other hand, this could be one of the many Lucanids in which both sexes have small, functional mandibles.  One of the most striking things about this specimen is the asymmetry of the mandibles, with the right one being distinctly shorter and stouter.  Whether this is a trait of the species or just an individual variation, I have no way of knowing at present.       
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

Was going through some old papers and found a whole batch of material that I was working on right before I fell into this world of children's illustrators, comics and art college.  It's so long since I've come across any past work that I was really pleased with.  So I thought I'd post a couple of bits here, even though they are extremely rough sketches made from dead specimens.  These were mostly intended as my "reference charts" for basic anatomical proportions. 

Eurasian Jay 

More here )

And on...

May. 16th, 2010 11:49 am
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

I do find that whilst working on this, I've actually been enjoying myself for once.  I can't let myself get away with such a loose style forever (although plenty of folk apparently do) but as a way of getting something "creative" done whilst on duty, it's kind of working out.

Perhaps it's getting a wee bit more autobiographical than I planned, but that's okay.  It's odd, but I was thinking the other day about how there were probably other folk there at the time who would say it wasn't like that at all.  Was for me, though.  Everyone has their own experience.  We are ultimately alone. 
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

I must admit I'm getting quite into this.  It makes such a change to be doing something without taking it too seriously.
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

Hm.  There may be something to this comics business after all.  Have been mucking about with an idea I wanted to put in narrative form.  Another comic project that I had sort of on the go has somewhat ground to a halt because I was trying to maintain a certain standard and each panel was taking days or even weeks.  Well, family commitments have now reached a point where that kind of working method is no longer viable.  Present working conditions do not really allow for my customary approach, but I thought I would make an effort to go with the flow, by lobbing all decent standards out the window and just having a laugh.  Must admit to being kind of amused with the initial results, and somewhat tempted, against all better judgement, to take it further.. 
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

Now, many of you will, as I write, be scurrying to your local bookstore, or more probably the internet, in haste to get your hands on a copy of the Collins Beekeeper's Bible, hot off the presses.  And a rather splendid tome it is too.  Everything you need to know about bees, beekeeping and honey recipes, all in one volume.  Yes, there really are recipes for honey.  Who knew?  I thought you just stick your fingers in the jar and lick them.  We live and learn...

But... all is not quite perfect.  When you do get your copy, please refrain from turning to p108, where I fear an almighty howler has occurred.  The phenomenon of trophallaxis, where one bee gives food to another, was supposed to be depicted in the above illustration.  It has somehow come to pass that the book has been published with an extremely crude preliminary pencil sketch instead.  It's a long story, and I am not really at liberty to go into it.  Suffice it to say that the excellent people with whom I was working initially on the project were, to my great regret, not there at the end.  When the deadline for the original proofs was looming, I was having trouble finishing some of the final pieces in time, due to illness and family stuff, so some of the "roughs" were inserted essentially as markers, to indicate where the finished pieces would go.  Clearly this fact was subsequently lost in translation.  But no matter.  This is still a must-have book.  Oo, and you should see the illustrations of the different races, species and castes of honeybees.  Can't think who could have done them...

Double Act

Mar. 2nd, 2010 01:06 am
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)


Oops!  And after starting off a whole new blog especially...  This lapse into silence will not do, even though it has been hard to come up with new work lately, circumstances being what they are.  But here, by way of letting whom it may concern know that I am still alive, is a bit of the sort of rough, preliminary sketchery that wouldn't normally get through.

Ever since way back when I lived among the barbarian tribes of the West Country, I always wanted to write and illustrate a kids' book about a nuthatch and a serotine bat.  As I recall, the basic premise was that when they first meet, they are in dispute over ownership of a hole in a tree, until it occurs to them that their different shift-patterns make for an ideal flatshare arrangement, whereupon they become friends and have various strange adventures.  It now seems unlikely that I would ever consider working in children's books, having met too many of the people in the business, but I was contemplating reviving the project just for the sheer fun of it, after some recent meanderings here about caricaturing animals.  Thought I'd have a go at seeing what these characters, who have been around for so long, might actually look like. 

A little alarmingly, the nuthatch has turned out looking like a kind of mutant kookaburra, but I rather like him that way.  The bat I approached with a little more caution, and I probably haven't caricatured him as much.  I've noticed that cartoons of bats are always really, really awful, and appear to involve no reference to the real thing.  Which is a matter for regret, as bats are such a great subject.  The Rhinolophid and Phyllostomid species, with their bizarre nose-shapes, are so beautifully weird ...  But best of all, the Vespertilionids, the Evening Bats, with their much simpler faces, are just gorgeous.   Artistically, there's practically no room for improvement.  The trick, which still eludes me, would be to capture the real essence of them, just as they are.
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

Confusion reigns.  Somehow the notion of a lady fossil-preparator who finds herself meeting early tetrapods in Devonian Period Greenland has not yet withered on the vine, even though that would probably be for the best.  But, when family commitments have occasionally permitted, I've been tinkering around with both the look and the approach to the written component.

The MA casts a long shadow, and I find myself caught between realism and caricature, not knowing which way to turn.  One thing is clear, I definitely need a break, for the time being, from the egg-shaped and beetle-shaped characters of my college project.  That was always a step too far for me.  But...

For some reason, especially when drawing people, I do feel an urge to caricature, or stylize, or whatever you want to call it.  Now, as everybody knows, the human adult is typically between seven and eight head-lengths tall, with seven and a half being more or less typical.  The variable factor is leg-length, whilst a more hard-and-fast rule is that it's four head-lengths from head to crotch.  I've begun to notice that when drawing for fun rather than absolute accuracy, I'm more comfortable with a head-to-crotch height of three head-lengths.  Hmmm... So, above is a slightly hasty new version of the lady scientist.  Needs some work, but I like the way things are going.   Now, my MA tutor would not have approved, I'm pretty certain.  She would regard this, and probably rightly, as pretty middle-of-the-road kind of drawing, and would have urged for it to be pushed ever further, like So-and-So the Mighty Children's Illustrator (Out of Whose Arris the Sun doth Shine) until you've got characters that don't remotely resemble people or animals anymore but you do have a "style" that can be recognized at a hundred yards' distance.  Commercially the argument is a forceful one, but... well, you've gotta be able to live with yourself, haven't you?  I'm hoping to combine this relatively mild level of proportion-tweaking with realistic shading and textures (a notion that my former tutor most definitely would support) and with enough character and expression to give it plenty of appeal (which will be for others to judge).  I won't go down as the most innovative illustration stylist of the century, but I might just be able to sleep at night. :D

Now that I think about it, I suppose I have pretty much come full circle.  The Rook characters were almost-realistic birds with slightly exaggerated proportions.  Pretty much inhabiting the same universe as the character above.  Ah, well...

Caricaturing animals seems a little easier.  My tutor was always very insistent that I made a better and more original job of that than of stylizing people.  I'm not sure that was the whole story; I think it was just a slightly more exclusive turf, is all.  Everyone takes their turn at re-designing the human figure, but maybe not so many people have put so much time into accurate study of birds, dinosaurs etc, only to take all that info and morph them into characters.  I dunno...  Anyhoo, when it comes to stylizing an early tetrapod like Acanthostega, it's a gift.  They already have such a great look, with those stumpy, multi-digit limbs and the big flat head with two froggy eyes on top.  Hardly even adapted the basic proportions for the character below.  Just gave him a bit of a smile, and there you go.  I must confess to being pretty pleased with both these characters, although it's just as likely that tomorrow I'll get up and see the urgent necessity of re-designing them from scratch.

The written element is also proving problematic.  Want it to be a bit humorous but a bit sensitive, and as I said before, uncharacteristically tasteful.  Proving difficult.  Ironically, this might even be one project that lends itself to the "graphic novel" form after all.  Now, that would be hilarious!  But surely I can come up with something better than that?  Can't I?

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

I was looking for a fish skeleton the other day (not a phrase that one gets to drop into conversation very often) and came across some old beetle specimens, which are making me feel very illustratorly.  Could be useful timing, too, as I have been casting around for inspiration.  The thing about the lady who goes skinny-dipping in the Devonian needs planning and some form of written framework before it can really progress, so a bit of observational sketchery should satisfy the urge in the meantime.
Haven't made a start as yet, but here's one from before.  I feel it's okay to post a few favourite oldies here, because although my old blog is still out there somewhere, all the images went kaput when Geocities changed its name.  So if anyone has stuck with me for awhile, I may need to crave your indulgence for a few pics you've seen before.

This is a male Dorcus titanus sika.  One of the lovely things about beetles, as opposed to, say, moths, is that you can take care of them and keep them happy throughout their natural span and you are still left with a perfect specimen at the end.  It didn't go so well with this specimen, however, as he died a few days after arriving in the mail. I wasn't happy to learn that in fact he wasn't captive-bred as I'd hoped, but had been taken from the wild.  He may already have been old.  Strange and sad to think of him going through all his larval and pupal life and part of adulthood too, deep in a forest somewhere in the hills of Thailand, but was always fated to die in a room in Peckham.

I kept others of this species that lasted happily for months, chomping happily through bananas and other fruit, and digging around in bark-compost.  Breeding success was very limited though.  I'd love to know more about stag beetles as a group.  I may be completely wrong, but I get the impression that there is a fundamental difference between the Lucanus species, which seem to be typically large and ornate but able to take only liquid food and doomed to no more than a few weeks' active adult life, and the Dorcus species; stocky, hardy, able to eat fruit and even animal protein, and living up to a year as adults.  Would love to know if that applies to our own Lesser Stag Beetle (D parallelipipedus) about which I can find virtually no information.

Here's another oldie; a sketch of the underside of a Lucanus cervus.                                                                                                                                                                   
paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)

This is somewhat flawed, but I liked it enough to post it.  There was also an element of putting it online as a way of drawing a line under it.  Photoshop is a wonderful thing, but at times it can seem almost too forgiving.  Where it might have been better simply to start again, I have been tinkering away at this for far too long, making endless adjustments to every element of the piece despite the fact I'm not really taken with the basic composition.  Some of my best ever Photoshopping, but ultimately I'd have to conclude that "you wouldn't start from here".
The concept of a cute fossil preparator finding herself inexplicably transported to the Devonian still pleases me, and in the absence of any better ideas at present, I'm continuing to go with it.   This has been invaluable as a practice piece. Plenty research involved, and I've been pushing my Photoshopping skills to their admittedly modest limit.

One of the nice things was tracking down details of the early fern Rhacophyton, only to make the foliage a suggested feature of the background.  Background detail in prehistoric scenes is always a pain, and you can often see how it makes artists selfconscious and anxious to demonstrate that they've done their homework.  Every portrait of a dinosaur usually has a sprig or two of exactly the right kind of fern at its feet and exactly the right species of cycad off to the side...  Obviously I want to get it right, but without wearing such hastily acquired botanical knowledge on my sleeve.  Draw a scene as it might have actually looked and for the most part you'd see a jumble of greenery that could be ancient or modern.  Of course, I happen to have picked an easy time-slot.  Mesozoic floras are a nightmare; as complex as modern ecosystems but quite different.  In the late Devonian, that level of complexity was only beginning to establish itself and replace the earlier scenario where a single plant species would dominate a given locality to the exclusion of all others.  I'm going with the idea that this lakeside environment was mostly Rhacophyton, with a few Archaeopteris tree-ferns farther back (I've blurred these, possibly way too much, to indicate their relative distance and the misty conditions.)  

I'm wondering about the sky, though.  Greenland 260 million years ago would have been in the tropics.  Now, my experience of hot climates has been confined to hot dry climates, like Spain and Arizona, where the sky can be an incredibly deep blue, presumably because there's not so much as a wisp of cloud between you and the depths of space.  It wouldn't be that way here.  So there had to be some sense of cloud.  But bringing in any blue at all makes it uneasily reminiscent of an English springtime.  Not right at all.  The best modern parallel would be with someplace like the Amazon basin.  What would that be like?  Heavy cloud cover?  Of course, it's hard, with my British sensibilities, to depict dense cloud and associate it with a warm climate where you wouldn't mind wandering about in the altogether.  Don't actually want it to look like a thunderstorm is imminent.  Any suggestions here would be most welcome.

The creature that apparently does not object to being petted is an Acanthostega gunnari, which was pretty much a lungfish with added fingers and toes (eight digits per limb).  A very appealing feature of this species is that although it is one of the first limbed vertebrates, it was fully aquatic, and appears not to be an ancestor of everything that came after.  Just a fascinating oddity, forever lost in time, and blameless in terms of human evolution.  I doubt it would have been especially friendly, though.  It might have been fairly fearless, being the top predator of its habitat (there were much larger predacious fish at the time, but not in the vegetation-choked shallow waters with which we are concerned).  But it would probably have been pretty vicious if you tried to handle it.  I want some sort of interaction.  Maybe some convincing spiel about tonic immobility, like the trance that poachers can induce in some kinds of fish by stroking their bellies, or the well-known trick of becalming a shark by turning it on its back.  Hm.  Then again, the rays at the London Aquarium come up and let you stroke their noses, and they are predatory "fish" with no particular reason to respond well to interaction with humans.  Prompted by curiosity, perhaps?

And our heroine walking around in the altogether, when arguably she could be fully clothed, and might well keep her undies on even when going for a dip?  Well... look, she just is, okay?  Anthony Gormley recently said "the nude is to Art as a ball is to football". 

On the recent MA, we had an assistant lecturer (who seemed very little concerned with educating anyone) who would do the curled lip thing and hold my work at arm's length, observing through gritted teeth; "I see you like drawing women..." 

Well, yes.  Apparently I do.

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. 
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.  

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