Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here – life has been a bit of a roller-coaster over the last two years for various reasons, and the vast majority of my work has been for my job at The Phoenix Comic, doing things like designing the interiors of the comic, maintaining and expanding their website, drawing covers and other illustrations, and the odd piece of writing for the comic.
This has basically been because of rising living costs and the need to afford my rent, along with the desire to help The Phoenix flourish – despite the coverage and quality, it’s still basically an indie publication with very few full-time staff.
This means personal projects have taken a back seat, and my life has felt very different for a long while.
HOWEVER, I’m currently in the process of moving out of my flat and buying my first house with Kate Brown. We’ve rented in Oxford for 10 years now, and the ludicrous prices have just been stopping us from pursuing our personal projects, always putting the onus on earning enough to afford the basics.
I’m excited for the move – it’ll take us out of Oxford to Kettering, which is a great little market town where our mortgage will be about half our current rent and will still afford us a two-bed terrace with a garden.
I’m hoping it’ll be the start of a new era for my work :)
And since I’ve posted bugger-all for so long, here’s a quick self-portrait that SelfMadeHero asked me to do for their creator page.
Hi all! Updates on The Firelight Isle have slowed a little because I’ve been feverishly typing away making some edits to the script based on additions and changes I made to Chapters 1&2 whilst drawing them. There are often things that just don’t crystallize for me until I draw them, and one very major one of those was exactly how intense the sunlight is. This has knock-on effects for dialogue, and also it chimes with certain things in the plot thematically, so I’ve been considering those events and tweaking them.
Thanks to this and other changes, the script has actually taken a rather sudden lurch in a particular direction, which has surprised me, but I’m really liking how it’s turned out! Some of my reservations about the story have been sorted out, and I feel that there’s a particular atmosphere I’m trying to evoke that I’ve managed to intensify with these changes. Seeing the final art all together, and being able to read a 60-page chunk of the story in its finished form has helped me pin down that atmosphere and more accurately target it in the later parts of the plot.
This brings up an interesting tension in writing a long comic. Writing short stories, it’s very easy to just go straight to art. There’s so much more clarity in writing a comic when you’re working straight into layouts, and doing so helps to feel out how the language of the panels can be used to tell the story and underpin the plot. The pacing just feels natural, and the beats fall into place easier because I’m working straight into the medium that the story will be read in.
I’ve found that that approach is just not practical when the story is 300+ pages long though, so completing the art for a major part of it means my appreciation of what I want to achieve and how I want to achieve it is slowly shifting. I imagine I’ll be making minor edits, or even major changes right up until the final page is drawn. It’s a fun process knowing that I’m already happy with the story, but that there might be some unexpected discovery along the way that will make it even more solid, or really bring it to life in the telling!
As always, backers on Patreon get access to these tweaks and changes in real time, so if you’re the sort of person who likes to read scripts and follow the creative process, please consider supporting!
These are some thoughts pulled out of a presentation I wrote a long time ago now, on the subject of Signal and what I was thinking when I made it.
Carl Sagan is an old favourite when it comes to science presenters, and people often cite the sense of wonder and awe that he manages to impart in his work, and the way he melded this with a sense of responsibility and moral obligation. He gave you the facts and ideas that leave you in awe, but then he gave them a meaning and made them feel relevant. There’s no better example of this than a particular passage in one of the last pieces he produced “Pale Blue Dot”…
After a very long and wholly unpredictable year of rewriting and generally being part of the publishing grindstone, I’m happy to say that The Firelight Isle is relaunching! There are no longer any looming setbacks, so I’ll be hitting a regular monthly schedule with new episodes! There are minor re-writes to most of the story that I’d already posted, so I’m starting from episode 1!
You can also follow The Firelight Isle on Tapastic, a webcomic site I’d highly reccommend!
Thanks as ever for reading – I’m really excited to finally feel free to work up a good speed and get posting on a regular schedule.
Comics and The Value of Language (Part 1) suggested the controversial idea that we live in a nation of visual illiterates. Since “literacy” consists of reading and writing skills, I proposed that “visual literacy” should consist of both image perception and drawing skills. It’s telling that the only people I’ve encountered who readily agree with this idea are other artists… everyone else is taken aback, and there seem to be two reasons for that:
1) If you can only understand drawing theoretically, how can you fully appreciate how deeply it affects the way you see and understand images?
2) The heavy implication is that non-artists are inadequate creators, and that’s especially annoying to hear if you’re a comics writer who can’t draw.
I’d like to go straight to the heart of the hurt with this follow-up, and discuss how our highly literate, but visually inexperienced culture has created for itself a “literary mode” of storytelling that frames how we discuss comics, which comics we value, and how we reward creators for their efforts. That discussion starts with a simple, but deep-reaching idea…
There is a profound difference between a good script that has been well illustrated and a good comic.
But what do I mean by that? Surely a good script, well illustrated is the definition of a good comic. If the script is good, and the artist draws it well, what else is there to take care of? The only way to answer this is by teasing out the consequences of relying on words when “writing” for a highly visual medium with a series of examples!
Now that all the contributors to the Small Tales and Fairy Fails Kickstarter have received their rewards, I’m now making Small Tales and Fairy Fails available for general purchase! You can get a special signed and sketched copy as well, although numbers are limited to one a month. There are also a few new prints in the store, including one from STaFF (the best acronym ever – had no idea until I wrote it out)!
I’ve also updated the webcomics page with some samples from STaFF and a few other new additions, along with new illustrations on the portfolio page.
In other news, the roughs for chapter 2 of The Firelight Isle are nearing completion! Have a look at my Pateron page for a sneak peek whilst they’re in production!
After a re-write that seems to have stretched on forever, I’m back to drawing again! I’ve already produced over 20 new thumbnails and 6 roughs, which you can see a preview of below! I don’t know yet when I’ll be producing finished pages again, but I’ll be pushing out thumbnails and roughs as fast as possible in the meantime :) I’ve got a big editorial meeting at the end of May to discuss the details of the future of the project, so I’ll be crossing my fingers for that to go well.
I’ve also overhauled my Patreon reward tiers. You can now see all the roughs and new pages as they’re completed if you pledge $3 or more! If you pledge $10 or more, you can get access to layered photoshop files, complete scripts, early drafts and editing notes!
Now that the bulk of the work on the Small Tales and Fairy Fails Kickstarter campaign is over, it’s time to talk Firelight Isle again! January was an especially productive month for the re-write. I’ve finished another draft, and as far as I’m concerned, this is it! I still have a meeting with the editor later this month to confirm that he thinks I’m on the right track, but fingers crossed I’ll be back on to drawing thumbnails in March! ^_^ I’m very excited for this, especially given how long this re-write has taken. Since there hasn’t been anything visual to show for quite some time, I’ll leave you with an image of the pile of drafts I’ve accrued (not including the latest one, which is still on the computer at the moment).
Only 3 Hours left to go to grab a copy and get great perks! :)
Between 2011 and 2012, I produced a number of short comics for The Phoenix Weekly Story Comic, a fantastic magazine for all ages. Since then, I’ve been plotting to self-publish them as a 42-page collection. So it was that Small Tales and Fairy Fails was born! The comics have all been drawn and made, the book has all been put together, and I’ve picked out a printer (the fantastic comicprintinguk.com), but unlike the other mini-comics I’ve self-published, the cost to print a 42-page, perfect bound book is beyond my reach to pay for up front.
That’s where Kickstarter comes in! By pre-ordering the book, you can help me to raise the cost of a small print run ahead of time, and get a neat collection of short stories whilst you’re at it! As of now, there are only 48 hours left to preorder a copy! Click here to check out the perks and get more details!