The Guildhall was filled with a mixed audience in attendance as we each presented a quick slideshow and talk on some of our work. Dave talked about his new book, Slog's Dad (written by David Almond) and also explained his mask exhibit at the recent Hypercomics exhibition. Of great interest to me was his new children's book with Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality, which looks wonderful. I gave an introduction to The Rainbow Orchid and shared some of the inspirations that went into making the adventure - silent films, classic adventure novels, European ligne claire art and grounding the whole thing on a solid base of realism as a juxtaposition to the more fantastical elements which are revealed later on. Robin gave some fascinating insights into the creation and background of Monkey Nuts, The Lore of the Things and Baggage (which I'm really looking forward to) and also a new project - Freaky Giblets - the title alone makes me impatient to see it!
When asked for some general advice on starting out, Dave cited his experience of having his eyes opened at art college to a wide range of styles and techniques that he may not have considered beforehand, and how this can help you to eventually find your own unique style and voice. Sitting next to him on the stage, I felt something like an example of almost the opposite of this! I dropped out of art college because I was very sure of what I wanted to do, and furthermore, I have immersed myself in a style of cartooning that is very much influenced by a small school of European comic artists. But we all have our own paths and experiences, and I would actually agree with what Dave said because I'm very aware of my artistic shortcomings in several areas, painting and craft for instance, and sometimes wish I had a better grounding in those disciplines. Then again, I love what I do and how I do it - I'm doing exactly what I always wanted... but I've been lucky. I do change my style somewhat to suit various commercial art jobs, which further backs up Dave's assertion that it is good to have more than one string to your bow.
One funny moment came about when Robin mentioned my old blog entry about things I don't like in comics, which included monkeys and robots! Still, I totally stand by this! I hope it's clear that I meant the casual use of 'cool ingredients' with which to make a comic, where, without a decently thought-out plot to back the concept, it has no actual satisfying content and quickly runs out of steam. Comics such as Monkey Nuts, with its high quality character comedy, or the intelligently written Mo-bot High are a far cry from the zombie-robot-gun-monkeys I was thinking of!
After the talk we took to the signing table which is always highly enjoyable as we get to meet and talk to people who have a genuine interest and love, or just a great curiosity, for comics and graphic storytelling. One very nice woman even gave us a lovely chocolate each (I think her name was Marjorie... thank you, Marjorie!).
It was a very enjoyable event, and we were really well looked after by Eleanor and the rest of the Bath Festival crew. It was great to meet Dave McKean, someone who is not only a giant of the comic medium, but of book illustration, fine art and film, and also Robin Etherington, the embodiment of enthusiasm for comics and a great entertainer both on the page and off. Inspirations!
Afterwards Elyssa and I went for a quick dinner, and in contrast to a very laboured journey down, had a lovely easy drive back, getting home at about 11.30pm. Still, getting to bed about an hour later, we had to be up at 5am to catch a Sunday morning flight to Amsterdam, of which more in the next post!
Stripschrift has been going since 1968 and I believe is the world's longest-running magazine about comics, so it's a real honour to appear in it. A huge thanks to John for all the work and research he put into the article.
I had an article of my own appear in a magazine recently - nothing to do with comics though. I wrote a piece on a little-known local ruin, Brambletye manor, which has held my fascination for years. It included a few pictures from my own collection, most of which you can see online here, and appeared in the September 2010 edition of East Grinstead Living.
Back to comics - this weekend sees the launch of De Regenboog Orchidee at De Stripdagen in Houten (Netherlands), and I'll be there on the Sunday (26th). Before that (tomorrow, Saturday 25th) I'll be at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature, on a panel with Dave McKean and Robin Etherington called Graphic Novels: the new revolution.
I've been wanting to post little extracts of artwork from volume 3 (which I am now busily drawing away at), but am finding it difficult to choose bits that don't give too much away! Let's try this one...
Yes - that is Julius Chancer in a pith helmet - I get some strange requests sometimes!
I've been using a Sharpie for these, which is great the first couple of times but then they blunt really quickly, so I'm thinking of changing to something a bit closer to my dip pen - though I need a pen that is convenient for the quicker versions I do at comic shows and book festivals. A bit of trial and error required, I think...
Actually, book-related stuff had started on Saturday as my publisher, Egmont, held an authors' dinner at the snazzy Atrium Restaurant, and treated us to a posh evening out. I met so many new people that I can't carry all their names and am liable to drop a few... Samantha Mackintosh (Kisses for Lula), Andy Stanton (Mr Gum), David Benedictus (Return to the Hundred Acre Wood), Julia Golding (The Diamond of Drury Lane), Jan Fearnley (Mr Wolf) ... oh, loads! It was particularly nice to meet Jenny, Jo and Lara from Egmont who have all helped with The Rainbow Orchid over the past few months.
Monday saw another tasty meal, this time lunch with a couple of Ellie's work colleagues at Wildfire, and then it was off to the Adventure Comics Workshop - my first event of the festival. This, amazingly, had sold out within 12 hours of tickets becoming available, and it was a packed festival tent that kept us out of the rain for an hour of creating heroes, villains and treasures with which to build a story. I even had three parents join in, which was marvellous. This was only my second workshop and, as with the first one, I came out feeling as though my brain had been whisked! I went straight into a book signing where it was great to meet a few long-time Rainbow Orchid readers who had come along to get their volume twos signed.
That evening Ellie and I made our way to the Pleasance Courtyard to see Tim Vine's Joke-amotive, which was brilliant. So many comedians resort to nastiness and moaning about life, which can all-too-often be an easy route to cheap laughs (I can't bear programmes such as Mock the Week!) - Vine's material is clever and fun, and by the end my face ached from laughing so much.
Tuesday couldn't have started out in a nicer fashion - a lovely breakfast with multi-festival comrade Sarah McIntyre and her husband, Stuart, who were staying at the same hotel as us (preview copies of Sarah's brilliant comic, Vern & Lettuce, were available to buy in the children's bookshop). Just after lunch it was off again to the authors' yurt to meet up with Jenny, from Egmont, in time for my schools event, brashly titled Comics with Garen Ewing!
I was a little apprehensive about this as I had to talk about the history of comics and there was no accommodation for any audio/visual equipment - and you can't really talk about comics without pictures! My solution was to spend a large part of the previous week making up a series of A3 boards to show - as well as giving myself a crash-course to brush up on my comics history. The result was better than I'd expected, the kids seemed really engaged and asked lots of questions. I kept the history aspect fast-moving and down to 25 minutes or so, and then used the rest of the hour to explain how I made a page of comic strip and answered more questions. As an example of a simple comic style I'd introduced the class to Lewis Trondheim's Mister O, and ended up giving his book a bigger plug than my own!
The signing afterwards was brief (school kids don't have much money!) but enjoyable as they were funny and seemed like a really bright and interested class. Thanks so much to everyone who filled up both my events.
Next up we had tickets to Steve Bell interviewing Alan Moore (I sat two seats away from Gary Trudeau) which was very enjoyable, though I didn't learn anything particularly new having read most of his recent online interviews - except it was more positive in tone. Frankly, it was enough to bask in the presence of the author of some of the greatest comic strip material this country has produced, and I got even closer to him afterwards in the authors' yurt - though not brave enough to approach and say hello!
Our last evening in Edinburgh saw me being far more sociable, however, as we met up with various comics people and ended up eating at the surprisingly good Wannaburger in the excellent company of Jeremy Briggs (Down the Tubes reporter, and more), Joe Gordon (master of the Forbidden Planet International blog) with his mate, Brendan, and Graeme Neil Reid (ace comicker and illustrator). Elyssa and I had thought of taking in one more event - our friend Martin White's musical, Gutted, but we were disappointed as Tuesday turned out to be its night off.
Wednesday was a lovely sunny day as we made our way along Princes Street to the station and eventually back to London where the heavens were in the process of soaking everything in sight. One more train journey south saw us home at six, where I had an hour before I was off to karate, ensuring that I slept very well that night!