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!