Monday, 14 August 2017

...She's not leaving home...

'Wednesday Yes. Morning no...
1 o'clock as the Stroke Association begins  
Listening to suggestions - I know they'll say more
I go up to the easel clutching the marker pen
Quietly colouring the costume in 
Stepping off the page she is free'

Sorry about that - I listened to Sgt Pepper the other day and 
cannot say 'Wednesday' without a blast of lyrics.

Anyway - within my workshops at the Downham Market Stroke Association...

..I'd covered New Life and Craft Life,

'Create- A - Christmas - Card'

'Create - A - Sunflower'

...done Half Life and Still Life -

'Draw - The - Missing - Half!'

'Still Life'

...thought it was time to do - Larger than Life!

I'd been threatening to hold a Superhero Demo/Workshop from the beginning. 

Just to get us all in the zone I brought a healthy dose of comic books and graphic novels, and for good measure a display of superhero sketches and demo designs.

I divided the members into two groups, and Chris on the left cheerily volunteered himself and his side, as the more villainous of the two; and by default on the side of right were Joanne, Logan and all those - on my right!

It seems while I was easel-eyed and busily responding to heroic sartorial suggestions from all and sundry, the group was busily creating, 
sketching and colouring their own comic characters. 


Thanks to Paddy, Logan, Joanne, Chris, Jean and all the heroic hecklers that contributed ideas - it wasn't long before we not only had two dynamic new additions to the pantheon of heroism and villainy - in the name of Horatio and Wanda - but also a bakers dozen of brand new super characters to give any Legion of Superheroes a run for their 30th Century credits!

Additional thanks to Paddy for suggesting hero Horatio's appearance might 
be further enhanced by the inclusion of a scimitar style machete - and 
would I please not forget to add the dripping blood. In colour.

...tea anyone...?

Thursday, 13 July 2017

...stilletos - fishnets? - forearms - 6-pack - hair - bare - patent leather - stormy weather...

...well if the members of the Denver Village trust weren't quite prepared for the evening I had in store, neither was I - until I split the group in half. The left hand side to chose the characteristics and appearance of the hero, the right hand side to choose the wrong hand side - the villain!

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

While Chairman Terry Wright recounted the minutes of the last meeting, I thought I'd stood idle beside my easel long enough. And I was getting itchy anxious fingers.  A few quick five minute sketches later I was mumbling something about my previous talk - something along the lines of how precise and measured I had to be when drawing local landmarks and buildings with an old steel dip pen and indian ink. 

How they took absolute ages, and while they were my interpretations of actual scenes - I'd be counting roof tiles and bricks - they had to accurate!

 ...and don't get me started on signage and lettering!

I referred to artworks such as the Downham Market Clocktower and Ely's illustrious Toppings Booksellers (in that window - how many books?!). I assured the gathered throng that there'd be no architectural dawdling, no cautious referencing, no small mindful movements, no transcendental breathing. No me sitting on my own thinking...and thinking.

There would be me standing - waving my arms, in public, not thinking at all, energetic discussion, black broad marker strokes, fear and laughing, (a lot of noise), and if at all possible - in place of fifteen to twenty five hours, on and off - very very little time taken! 

- a blink!

In short - hand me the half blindfold, set the clock - point me at the board and tell me what to draw! Ok I might give you a clue, offer guidance - 'Wolverine claws?' 'Dr strange collar?' 'Emma Peel patent leather?' - but your the voice - I'm the hands. You're the remote, I'm the TV. 

And hey I would never ask me to draw toe to knee laces!

OK you're the bosses. But see no, hear no, draw no evil.

I already had the template for the guy on the easel and suggested starting with the feet, the boots. Gotta start somewhere - might as well start at the bottom and work our way up. Like most of us, I seem to have selective hearing.

Thought I heard someone say 'buckle' or 'buccaneer', didn't want to ask - or to attempt to decipher - so carried on regardless. 

We agreed these would be Captain America fold down before the knee boots, not Lady Rawhide fold down thigh boots. (now those are laces!)

When you start at the boots the only way is up. If you're calling out for strong bare calves, I just know were talking roman soldier gladiator skirt. Someone shouts out kilt - and yes I have seen Outlander - and that pretty much sets us on course for 18th century Scotland via Roman Britain! 

I suggest adding metalwork to the skirt but am told to keep it strong and simple. I sneak in some trim while everyone is looking. They trust me. 'Course the skirt isn't held up by blu-tak so we agree to draw a chunky leather belt - the Communal Creators yell out for a double 'D' buckle - I draw it in before they can change our minds.

Since we're rising on the horizontal, I recommend similarly buckled gloves/gauntlets for the hands - a deep voice from the back row wants him holding a bottle of something called 'Double Diamond'. Never heard of it meself, I oblige anyway. 

Luckily I hadn't drawn the fingers yet.

As we're clearly on course for a big brawny battler, his arms and chest remain bare, and yes - he must definitely be hairy. Not sure what it's called but I describe a piece of fabric - like a sash - worn diagonally from the right hip to left shoulder - sure that's what Jamie wore in Outlander (or was it Conan in Shadizar?), the votes are in and so is the double 'D' emblem. 

So up to now we've got a headless horseman - and no worries people - the audible audience is neither sleepy nor hollow. I'm hearing thick strong neck! - square jaw! - and beard! of course beard!

OK - now he's just missing his skull - are we talking horned helmet like Loki, Magneto's Corinthian headpiece? I keep the mohawk idea to myself. Weird Frank Frazetta death mask? 

I can't quite make out what Thelma is saying. I walk over with a sketch pad and draw what I think is her idea, I show her - she nods/shouts YES!

Listen up guys, our big brawny battler from the 1800s is wearing - I can't say it.

I can say it - I get confirmation from the crowd. The right hand side of the audience is left laughing. wearing a tartan beret!!


Last but not least - we need a name. Well, we're halfway there - we've got the double 'D' is place. So my comic book brain is quick-firing up 'Demon Dread'; Diabolical Denak'; Durok the Demolisher (OK you got me - that's from Thor #192).

Amidst the confusion and cacophony, I hear a strident voice from the back. Again. I'm sure it's Double Diamond guy, but I've got selective eyesight, so I cannot be sure.

Our guy - who has to be up there with Solomon Kane and Conan; Errol Flynn and Spartacus; and Rob Roy MacGregor and Roy of the Rovers - has a name!

And you know the Sandman says naming something makes it real. 

But I cannot say it. 

Before I can stop myself, I run my Winsor and Newton Promarker across the top of the page and christen our boy - this scourge of the high and low lands, this fighter of fights, this drinker of drinks, this wearer of kilts! 

He didn't exist half an hour ago, and thank you Denver Trust (the left half).  

Let's hear it for Communal Creativity - he's here and he's now - I give you the one, no longer lonely - 'DENVER DAN!!'


...that's taken longer to write, rewrite, pshop pix, and rewrite than it 
took to do the Denver Demo. I was going to report the truth the whole 
truth and nothing but the truth, but I am done. 

Join us next time for the Communal Creatives right side 
response to left hand Denver Dan - I don't believe the alliteration 
either, and I was there.

 PREVIEW - me and my 'you cannot be serious' face.



...and the poster that launched two faces, a little fear and a lot of laughing!


That's not all folks!

...see you in the virtual funny papers...

Thursday, 20 April 2017

…should I stay or should I go...

...there I was reading through my 'Old Guys Who Like Old 
Comics' posts on facebook, and there's this advert for a 'Comic Book 
Inking Masterclass!' - with Cam Smith. Well I've heard of Cam Smith, 
and I've seen his great work on Bryan Hitch and Gary Frank - but I've 
never heard of a 'comic book inking masterclass' or anything like it. 

An offer I really shouldn't refuse.

Oh, hang on a minute, it's not the 60s, 70s or 80s, 'cause we never 
had anything like this back then. If you wanted to draw comics, well you 
just copied from them, and got on with it. And kept getting on with it. 

Ok, I did send off for and take part in the 'We're looking for people 
who like to Draw' mail order course which was advertised on the back 
of loads of comics in the 60s and 70s. 

This simple one with the happy
dog and the bright colours
- this is the one I sent off for...
Not this one - too formidable.
And Norman Rockwell -
which comics did he draw?

I know when I received it, I completed all the drawing tasks - 
perspective, anatomy, patterns, still life, tone, contrast, colours, 
hands-faces-eyes-ears and-God-help-me-noses and sent 
it straight back to the distant land that was America. 

No idea what happened to it after that. 

There were a couple of classes in the mid 80s, one was run by 
Wyn Wiacek, near the Elephant & Castle I think. I remember us 
all talking about comics - particularly Barry Smith's legendary 
pencil only pages in Conan #19 that Wyn said that he had 
seen up close and personal like. (What! He knew Barry!?)

Talking to anyone about a subject you generally kept 
close to your heart was a novelty. A room half full of 
like-minded people was a revelation!

...of course the other class was David Lloyd and Steve 
Marchant's London Cartoon Centre - 'not quite sure where in 
London it was, me being a Croydon boy. I do remember a large 
mainline station, taking a couple of tubes, and then passing 
Trellick Tower (?!) to get there. All looked a bit dodgy to me.

Just like the poster says - it was a lot of fun. Tutors were David 
and Steve, Dave gibbons, who invited us all to the pub and regaled 
with tales of meeting Steranko in London and Jack Kirby 
in the States. Unimpressed he said by Jim's stage entrance 
"...I am Steranko…" but of course justifiably 
impressed by Jack 'King' Kirby! 

The magnificent John Burns (of Countdown and Zetari!) did a 
night and Paul Neary (who I remembered from Skywald 
magazine 'Psycho' and Marvel UK of course) too. 

Bought this at Victoria - still got it!

One of the tutors whose name I forget, gave 
us all some some excellent and prevailing advice - 

"...drawing from comics is fine, but if you really want 
good understanding of anatomy and the body in action - 
nothing beats life drawing! Find a life drawing class and 
go to it regularly. And keep going." 

Brian 6/15 - Ouse Life Group
Eva 7/15 - Ouse Life Group.

…so where was I ? Oh yeah - Orbital Comics, 
Little Conduit St in the heart of London, is indeed a conduit 
to other worlds, and an ideal location - surrounded as we were by 
an enviable and inspiring array of Silver and Bronze Age mags 
(all at reasonable prices) - for Cam Smith's Inking Masterclass!

Definitely bigger on the inside than outside!

All told we were a thirty or so strong all ages group. We had a choice 
of two blue line pages of artwork to ink. One was predominantly Batman,
the other Spider-Man - being an old time Marvelite I chose the Spidey 
page less for company loyalty as for the dynamic drawing by 
Giuseppe Camucoli! No disrespect to the great Gary Frank!

In orbit.

We all brought along a variety of tech pens, markers, 
dip pens, brushes and ink. This being a traditional inking class there 
were no wacom tablets or macs in sight. After twenty minutes of advice 
and instruction from Cam followed by a demo viewed onscreen, I noticed 
people around me were taking the inking bull by the horns and going for it. 

I hadn't used my dip pen for months, and my 'Superhero Workshop' 
not withstanding, had not drawn any superheroes for ages. So this was 
as good a time as any to take a deep breath and go for it!

And what fun it was! 

A big thank you to Cam (and Orbital) for a hugely enlightening evening. 
Reinforced a few things I did know and learnt many things I didn't know 
- like which pens and brushes and pens the pros use (and more to the 

Cheers again to Cam for additional 
post workshop advice.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

...creation - correlation - confrontation...

In preparation for the forthcoming Superhero workshop at 
The Dragonfly Gallery in Watton, I set up a facebook page to allow 
those interested in taking part, to view the work of previous workshops 
and also to download character design templates, cover designs 
and professional comic scripts. 

I was able via
to upload the workshop day's schedule and examples of 
previous co-creations and characters! 

 No sooner had I completed my timetable than I realised that 
I was being too ambitious by far, both for myself and the students - 
 if we got to Session 3 on the schedule we were well on target!

Because this class is more about designing (costumes and characters), 
than it is about drawing, I designed template sheets so that participants 
could get on with the task of creating characters/costumes without 
worrying about anatomical and proportional problems.

Attending a workshop myself at the London Cartoon Centre in the 80s, 
we were handed the above anatomical sheets to use as reference, so that 
we could understand the limits of anatomy and break them accordingly. 

…and encouraged to attend life study classes whenever possible...

In preparation for their first character designs, and in response 
to creative back and forth between Jo, Roy, Paul, Gerry and myself, 
we co-created the following superheroes - 'Buck-Fast! (Lee), 'V-Tol',
 'Magenta' and 'No-Guy!' (What else do you call a character that is 
vacuum, but is defined by their environment? Great idea Roy).

It's not always easy conjuring something up out of thin air 
and onto a blank piece of paper. I  recall Paul and Gerry both came 
from lighthouse keeper background and had discussed possibilities 
for character with abilities that would be appropriate 
for the protection of lighthouses. 

Similar to the original Daredevil, this would involve some type 
of sonar/radar to overcome poor vision, and perhaps 
super strength to cope with the bulk of huge vessels 
and the power of crashing ocean waves. 

Jo investigated the formidable problem of foreshortening 
and dynamic lettering, and Roy who maintained he had not drawn 
for a long time, and had certainly not created a super characters 
before, surprised us all - and himself I think - by coming up 
with four good strong characters!

Naturally the creative process couldn't  continue without the 
obligatory tea and biscuits, wherein Paul showed us the handsome 
Dan Dare edition he had brought in, showing us panels that had 
painted background scenes reminiscent of a young David Hockney. 
(The early Dan Dare studio recruiting assistants  
from the local art college).  

And wonder of wonders - Jo produced from her bag the very 
same book on perspective that I used to study myself as a boy. 
And I thought I had the only existing copy.

After lunch we proceeded to create a dramatic cover scene 
between two of the comic characters we created in the morning 
- 'Buck Fast!(Lee)' and the weirder than weird 'V-Tol'! 

'Carmine Infantino' style design.
'Gil Kane' style design.

Rather than use my existing 'Carmine Infantino' style cover 
template, I rotated the characters little to draw the reader closer into 
the action. Extending costume detail which was not immediately 
apparent in the original face on designs.

Strong as the cover was in black and white, we agreed 
adding colour would enhance to dynamics of the image! I use 
Winsor & Newton ProMarker pens which are excellent for quickly 
providing solid colour confidently with each broad stroke. 

As well as the chisel tip, the pens also have a sharper 
point at the opposite end for fine line and detail.

Well, I certainly could and would not have come up with these 
characters by myself, so a big thank you to my co-conspirators for 
allowing me to be the conduit for their unusual ideas. 

Since I had no idea who today's students would, little did I realise 
that when I brought along the Dr Strange collection of his earliest 
adventures, that I would be reacquainting Paul with the first issue 
of Dr Strange he'd read while waiting age six in his 
own doctor's surgery. 

Possibly the moment Paul revisits his first  Dr Strange story?

The Dragonfly Bullpen hard at work creating confrontational covers, 
revisiting old comic book adventures and pushing the boundaries of 
dynamic colour, dramatic anatomy and extreme perspective. 

Gerry very kindly showed us the very accomplished, finely 
drawn pen & ink illustrations and cartoons he had produced for a
local motorbike magazine, going back over many years. With fine 
design, great attention to detail, and taking more than a little 
inspiration from Punch magazine! 

Gerry's great work warrants a blog of it's own.
Let me know when you're ready Gerry!

Myself, standing with what a few hours ago
were blank sheets of layout paper!

When working with younger age groups I find there is 
always a common knowledge with a shared interest, working 
with participants of a similar age we were all referencing (and reminiscing)
at first hand the same experiences. 

The same comics in the 60s - Dr Strange, Fantastic and Terrific 
magazines, Dan Dare, Hotspur, Victor, Whizzer and Chips, of course 
the Dandy and the Beano. Whatever happened to Billy the Cat?

Also the same 'How to Draw' books on perspective, the human 
figure, hands and faces, and Hal Rasmussen's 'How to Draw Cartoons'. 

Paul, Jo, Gerry and Roy - the Dragonfly Gallery's fantastic four - and their co-creations
- alongside Captain America - created by the legendary Joe Simon and Jack Kirby!

SUPER thanks to Paul, Jo, Gerry and Roy for taking part and contributing 
heart and soul to great workshop - hope to see you all again for Part Two!

A big thank you to Jan Godfrey and Susan Hollingsworth of the 
Wayland Dragonfly Gallery in Watton, for kindly offering me the 
opportunity to take part in their 'Once upon a time' book event - 
A Wayland Feast of Reading, Writing, Poetry and Illustration.

And a big thank you also to writer/artist Sue Welfare 
for recommending me in the first place!