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The Book of the Dead
Thursday 31 October 2013
On Tuesday night I was up in London (see? I'm getting out more) at The Phoenix Artist Club for the launch of Jurassic London's Book of the Dead - the first ever anthology of all-original mummy fiction.

Edited by Jared Shurin, and with an introduction by John J. Johnston, Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society (a portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the Society), it contains twenty short stories by a host of top-talent authors, including Paul Cornell, Gail Carriger, David Thomas Moore, Molly Tanzer, Roger Luckhurst and Jesse Bullington, to name only a few.

I was there because I was lucky enough to be asked by Jared to provide illustrations for some of the stories - eight in all. The drawings are in black and white, and I wanted a kind of clean Egypto-Art-Deco style, with something of the 1920s-era Vogue magazine in mind. I've also done colour versions of some with the idea of making prints available (I'll confirm this soon). I also created the book's title typography.

The Book of the Dead is available in two physical versions (as well as e-editions) - the regular paperback, and a limited edition hardback of 100 copies, complete with gold-embossed title on a dark blue buckram cover, wrapped in cloth and sealed with wax! The hardback also includes one of my favourite illustrations of the bunch, for Arthur Conan Doyle's Lot No. 249 - not available in any of the other editions.

Lot No. 249 - a story which features the first appearance of a reanimated mummy in fiction - also appears (without my secret illustration) in Unearthed, a companion volume of eleven classic mummy tales by the likes of Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe and Louisa May Alcott.

You can read Paul Cornell's story, Ramesses on the Frontier, at the Tor website (complete with colour illustration). And I believe the limited edition hardback has sold out (have a look here).

posted 31.10.13 at 4:33 pm in Work | permalink | |


Drawing table
Sunday 24 March 2013
I took an iPhone snapshot of my drawing table as it looks in the middle of a comic project. One question I (and most artists, it seems) get asked a lot is about what tools and methods I use. I always stress that it's not the tools that matter, and every artist will discover their own favourites and what works best for them, and may even change them quite regularly.

1) Script. I tend to plot out the story in a notebook and then type it up. I use Scrivener to type up and revise my notes and final scripts.

2) Thumbnails. These are usually sketched out as I script and are used to rough out the page layout and general composition of panels. Very rough!

3) Master artboard. I use A3 Goldline Bristol Board. Here you can see all the panels ruled out for this page. All I have to do now is simply fill in each box with a complete drawing ... easy!

4) Lettering guide. I scan in the empty-panelled artboard (3), put on the lettering in Photoshop, and print it out so I know how much room each speech balloon will take up. If I have more time I sometimes draw a second set of roughs on this sheet as well, but often the thumbnails (2) are enough.

5) Ballon guide. Each of those cut out square corresponds to the space a different size speech balloon will take up - 2 lines, 3 lines, 4 lines etc., as dictated by (4). I use it to mark out the space on the master artboard (3) so I know how much room they will take up in the panel.

6) Sketchbook. This is where I will work out difficult poses and compositions etc.

7) Tools. This is where I keep in-use pencils, pens, erasers and rulers. I use a clutch pencil with an H or HB lead for drawing the first stage of the finished art. I use an Edding 8404 Aerospace marker for most straight (ruled) lines, including panel borders (this is also the pen I use for sketching at conventions). As well as block erasers (usually a Pentel Hi-Polymer) I also have an ultra-fine eraser 'pen' (currently a Tombo).

8) Ink. Just above the number (8) you can see my inkwell - an antique brass holder with a hinged lid containing a ceramic well-pot (ceramic is easy to clean). I refill it regularly from a large 250ml bottle of Winsor & Newton black India Ink. On the far right of the number you can just see a tin pen-tray where I keep my dip pens. I have recently changed from using a Hunt 107 nib to a Hunt 102. There are also two or three water receptacles, for black ink and for coloured inks and an old jam jar with an assortment of pens and brushes - I use the brushes for solid black areas on the art (mostly a Royal Soft Grip SG 250 no.2).

9) Nibs. Above the number (9) is a little tin box for new nibs (Hunt 107 and 102), a scalpel, and another tin tray of various pens, spare pencils, pencil leads (H and HB), sharpeners and extra erasers.

Not numbered, along the top, are additional items such as coloured inks, reserves of India ink, compass, dividers, stapler, glue, and various shape guides (flexi-curve, circle stencil, etc.). I have a small low table next to my art desk where I stack in-use reference books (often piling up on the floor as well).

posted 24.03.13 at 12:33 pm in Work | permalink | 6 |


September post
Sunday 25 September 2011
Really, there's no news - I just thought I should post something in September! There is a short interview with me at The Scarifyers blog about my work on the audio drama of that name, along with a bit about The Rainbow Orchid.
And here's an illustration and title design I did earlier this month for Josef Weinberger. I've had Doris Day singing away in my head ever since, which hasn't been at all unpleasant.

posted 25.09.11 at 11:46 pm in Work | permalink | 6 |


Return (postage) to the Forbidden Planet
Thursday 24 February 2011
Today sees the launch of the Royal Mail's latest stamp set, the theme being musicals. There are eight stamps in all - four first class and four 97p. The first class includes Oliver, Blood Brothers, We Will Rock You and Spamalot, while the Rocky Horror Show, Me and My Girl, Return to the Forbidden Planet and Billy Elliot make up the 97p stamps.
The British comics scene has two representatives in the set: Return to the Forbidden Planet is based on my 2005 design for Josef Weinberger Ltd., and 2000AD artist Leigh Gallagher has his 2006 Rocky Horror Show poster for SWD included.

I was contacted by Webb & Webb, the stamps' designers, back in June 2009. Since the previous November they'd apparently been looking through over 150 years worth of musical posters and had somehow decided that my Return to the Forbidden Planet artwork merited inclusion. I believe it was originally going to be just part of a collectors' pack - not an actual postage stamp.

I didn't hear anything for months and presumed it was one of the many jobs that starts full of enthusiasm and then fades away quietly to nothing - there are a lot of those! Until one day a nice lady from the Royal Mail phoned up - it was all on, they'd finally contacted Bob Carlton, the author, Her Majesty the Queen was looking over the stamps personally to approve them, mine was going to be an actual postage stamp, and they were coming out in November 2010. Somewhere along the line this got put back to February 2011, and here we are - I'm now nationally available to lick for those wanting to send something that costs 97p (eg. a large letter weighing 101g to 250g in the UK or the price of a worldwide airmail letter from 11 to 20g).

You can see my initial sketches for the original job in this blog post and there's another post about the design here. You can buy special sets of the stamps and postcards at the Royal Mail website and in all good Post Offices across the land (the ones that are still open). So go and send some mail! Especially airmail letters to countries outside of Europe! Or slightly heavier large letters to your fellow citizens of the British Isles! And buy a Return to the Forbidden Planet stamp with which to send it!

posted 24.02.11 at 9:28 am in Work | permalink | 9 |


The Scarifyers sale
Tuesday 4 January 2011
Cosmic Hobo productions are currently having a 20% off everything sale until 31 January 2011. All you have to do is enter the discount code 'january' at the checkout.
Cosmic Hobo produce the excellent and highly entertaining Scarifyers audio adventures (which you may have heard on BBC Radio), featuring occult investigators ghost-story writer Professor Dunning (Terry Molloy) and his colleague from the Metropolitan Police, Inspector Lionheart (Nicholas Courtney). The five tales (so far) have included a variety of brilliant actors, including Brian Blessed, Leslie Phillips, Nigel Havers, David Benson... and many more. The stories started out brilliant and have just got better with each new release. (If you're wondering what my involvement is, I designed and illustrated the CD inserts for the series).

They also have two other fantastic releases in the form of Peter Cushing's own reading of his autobiography (Past Forgetting) and the never-before released audio version of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, also read by the wonderful Peter Cushing. All marvellous for listening to while spending long hours at the drawing board!

posted 04.01.11 at 1:22 pm in Work | permalink | |


The process
Saturday 16 August 2008
Just a quick entry, but I thought I'd throw this together as both a little preview of my DFC strip (Charlie Jefferson and the Tomb of Nazaleod) and an illustration of my art-working process...
Of course the script comes first (and that comes after the research and plot workings-out), but while I'm writing the script, I'll rough out the page simultaneously. As Nazaleod is in 4-page episodes, I do these roughs on A4, folded in half to give me four A5 pages.

Then I pencil the page using a Rotring mechanical pencil with a 0.5mm H lead and working on Goldline A3 220gsm bristol board. The page is inked with a dip pen (Hunt 107 nib) and india ink - as you can see from the accompanying image, I scanned this stage for some reason, with pencils still underneath, which I don't usually do. After the pencils have been erased away, the inks are scanned in to Photoshop as a 600dpi bitmap, and it's here I'll do any little corrections and add any 'white ink' (eg. the rain). Finally, the bmp is converted to colour, the black line is lifted to its own layer and colour is applied underneath, before being transferred to an A4 (actual size) master and lettered (not shown).

Click the image for a bigger view. There's a little summary of what Nazaleod is all about reproduced on the Forbidden Planet International blog - my thanks to Richard Bruton for the mention.

posted 16.08.08 at 1:34 pm in Work | permalink | |


More Tunnels & Trolls
Sunday 16 March 2008
Writing the last entry about role-playing games reminded me that I did actually get to work on Tunnels and Trolls - well, in a way. I had been in touch with the game's creator, Ken St. Andre through his fanzine, TnT in the mid-eighties, and some years later (1999) he got in touch to see if I'd be interested in doing the cover for a 6th edition of the rules, to be published by Flying Buffalo Inc.
Ken sent me his brief and I drew it up (see below). Sadly, the 6th edition never happened, in fact, a 6th edition was skipped, though it did eventually go to a 7th edition. The cover, this time, has been painted by T&T's rightful artist - Liz Danforth (who I was delighted to meet in 1986 at Origins, even if I was a bit too shy to say a lot to her). You can see the cover to the first edition, by Rob Carver, here.

posted 16.03.08 at 11:59 pm in Work | permalink | |


For King and Country
Friday 29 February 2008
Really, I just wanted to record an entry on 29th February as that date doesn't come along too often, so just a couple of links. Firstly, the third Scarifyers audio adventure is ready for pre-order, so hop over to Cosmic Hobo to learn more.

Secondly, a short but interesting podcast interview with Julian Friedmann (of Blake Friedmann literary agency) on the business of books to film.

posted 29.02.08 at 6:31 pm in Work | permalink | |


More copies
Thursday 28 February 2008
Related to the last entry, I thought I'd present three versions of the poster I illustrated for Return to the Forbidden Planet. This was commissioned by Josef Weinberger Ltd. in 2005, who license the musical, including use of the poster artwork so amateur or professional groups can utilise it in their promotions. So these are perfectly legal versions.

The poster on the left is my original design - it's available with or without lettering. The second version is a standard use of that poster (in this case for the Bottleneck Theatre Company), as seen up and down the country for various productions - note that not all productions use it, some use their own. And that leads to the version on the right - a curiosity, from the Coliseum in Oldham, in that it is quite clearly based on my (the Josef Weinberger) version, yet has been completely re-drawn! I'm intrigued by the reason certain things were changed - the heroine carried by the hero, who looks a bit more 'comic-book classic' (does it look as though he's offering the girl to the alien?), the rocket on the opposite side, taller mountains... I like it actually.. maybe a little luminous for my drab tastes (note how the middle one has whacked up the contrast too!)

posted 28.02.08 at 1:19 pm in Work | permalink | |


Internet theft - part the second
Tuesday 26 February 2008
I was disappointed to find, once again, that some of my artwork has been used without my permission. This time it's the Gateway Playhouse Theatre (or maybe it was Searles Graphics, their designers), and their 2006 production of Oliver!
You might remember that this has happened before, when my Oliver! logo was used by the Act Too Stage School, again without my permission or knowledge. Gateway did respond kindly to me making them aware of the transgression and have agreed to credit the piece. Worryingly, they seem to think the design may have come from an apparently public domain source book (or site), which, if true, bodes ill for future versions of my design turning up. I haven't been able to find anything.

top: my original Oliver! rough sketch and finished logo from 1998
below is the logo as used by Gatehouse and Act Too

Lest you think I'm as heartless as Bill Sykes for not being generous with my art, two other organisations did get in touch and kindly asked permission for use of the design; one, being for charity, I charged a minimal fee (also designing a new poster); the other being a high school production in New York state, for which I allowed free usage. Of course it is only right that I should have the chance to make money from my own creations - they are my sole form of income. That logo is the result of many hours sketching, going back and forth with the original client (the June Easther Theatre Company) to get it right.

There's a lot of it about. Last year there was the Todd Goldman 'Dear God' affair, where he stole Dave Kelley's Purple Pussy comic. More recently Jess Fink (language warning!) has had her 'soap' design ripped off by Hot Topic. And it's probably more prevalent (wildly rife, actually) in the world of text. Whole websites are daily copied and used without proper attribution (including my own), but it's not just the amateurs - The Scotsman newspaper printed an edited entry from the blog of Hydragenic without any permission or payment whatsoever. There seems to be an attitude, even among 'professionals' that, if it's on the internet, it's free for the taking.

Fink's soap design (top left) and the Hot Topic copy (top right)
and Kelley's original Purple Pussy (left) with Goldman's direct copy (right)

Looking at the deserved support for artists such as Dave Kelley and Jess Fink, I do wonder how many of those commentators and supporters who shake their fists in anger at the art thieves also regularly illegally download another artist's music, films and television episodes onto their computers - which in my view is pretty much the same thing - stealing.
posted 26.02.08 at 5:03 pm in Work | permalink | |


Recent work
Monday 18 June 2007
A few bits of some of the work done in the last couple of weeks...
posted 18.06.07 at 7:06 pm in Work | permalink | |


The Scarifyers
Tuesday 10 April 2007
The Devil of Denge Marsh, the second adventure of The Scarifyers, is now available for pre-order from the Cosmic Hobo website, and due to be released on 7 May.
While drawing over the weekend I listened to an advance copy and it is really excellent, very entertaining. You can listen to a trailer from the website. If you like Rainbow Orchid, I'm sure you'll like The Scarifyers.

posted 10.04.07 at 9:50 am in Work | permalink | |


Bullied again
Thursday 18 January 2007
I've had to illustrate the subject of bullying twice before, and here's a third time. I think I've exhausted my ideas on the subject now!
posted 18.01.07 at 6:52 pm in Work | permalink | 2 |


Ruff versions
Tuesday 28 November 2006
Every day this week, Tonto Press are posting the rough sketches I did for The Burglar's Dog cover. Go see on their blog. The dog character, by the way, was created by the author Mark Jones.
posted 28.11.06 at 3:10 pm in Work | permalink | |


A lot of bottle
Thursday 23 November 2006
Now this is what I call a bottle of ink!
posted 23.11.06 at 10:08 am in Work | permalink | |


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