Inspired by Modigliani

Just the other week I managed to catch the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern before it closed on Easter Sunday. It was inspirational, far better than the Picasso exhibition that featured the work he did in 1932. The Picasso exhibition made me come away feeling vaguely unsettled particularly by his depictions of his mistress. Genius he might have been but it was difficult for me to feel sympatico with Picasso.

So I came home and many days later, sat down and made an ink drawing, a rendition of one of my favourite Modigliani paintings, a portrait of an unknown girl in deep reds and browns.

My version of the Modigliani painting

My version of the Modigliani painting


My India ink has dried up, it has become a gloopy thick jelly stuck inside the bottle but I managed to pick up enough ink with my wet brush to use it for this drawing. Thankfully the Liquitex ink still worked so I used that for the fine hatching work with my Deleter pen. The brush had lost many of its bristles so it was hard to make a decent line. Still, it was all done within half an hour and it felt satisfying to be drawing something again, as if I was working out an elegant solution to some mathematical problem.

I don’t yet know if I have the stamina to start planning another story. Perhaps I will have to wait for inspiration to strike a second time.

Thoughts on the Small Press industry in the UK

It has been a good while since I last posted on here, various distractions and other occupations meant that I didn’t have time (or the energy) to devote to keeping this blog updated. I have also been working on some digital art – for some GPS-based games I have been writing and coding, nothing much more serious than that. It isn’t much fun for me to try drawing anything with a stylus on a computer, but I can see how it has its attractions for those people who are more practised and skilful at digital art. Nothing like smearing ink over a page or knocking over a bottle of India ink over your last finished panel…! But I did manage to produce some acceptable graphics that won’t be too closely scrutinised by the players. Anyhow, not wishing to digress any further, I came across this blog on Broken Frontier which resonated with me particularly over the last few months, since the last Comiket fest at the British Library.

I self-publish all my own books on a rather small scale and also don’t do much about marketing them – I sell them at Foyles (but they rarely grab attention since they are stored sideways in cramped shelves, and my books do not have any lettering on their spines). A lot of the observations in Andy Oliver’s articles above coincide exactly with my own, and it is a concern that we are not reaching the wider public, and for sure, the lack of curation doesn’t help (although I cannot propose any fairer alternative). Like articles and other stuff on the web, there’s a lot of white noise out there and filtering out the wheat from the chaff is getting increasingly difficult with time. Moreover, some of the chaff out there know how to market themselves extremely well. Perhaps I’d never properly understood or appreciated how crucial marketing really is to selling a product. It is something that I am also astoundingly bad at, and it is no good pretending it doesn’t truly matter.

It doesn’t help that I suspect that I don’t write or draw comics for people who usually read and enjoy graphic novels. I don’t have a target audience in mind or if I do, they’re most likely the sort of people who spend their time browsing in the Fiction or Poetry sections of a bookstore, steering clear of anything to do with comics, god forbid!

I haven’t spent much time pondering over my next issue of Cabaret Voltaire, because I have so many issues of The Street Dancer’s Romance to sell and with only one comics festival under my belt this year, it looks like I have to be a bit more organised about attending these festivals and fairs in 2015 to sell more of my stock. Thought Bubble in Leeds 2015? Have wheels, will travel!


My Comiket poster

Well, the weekend is coming and I have finally made my poster for my tablet at Comiket!


Yes, I got inspiration from one of Frans Masereel’s woodcuts in “The City” while I was trawling around wondering what on earth I could draw. I really wasn’t feeling in the mood but anyway, managed to pencil and ink this in about an hour or so. Went to the printer’s to get it printed (in colour) and laminated, and voila! Quite pleased with the results, it is probably more eye-catching than the last one I did for Painting Stories.

See you at Comiket!


Comica Comiket Aug 2014

Well, it is here at last, the much awaited Comica Comiket festival!
I will be selling my books at a table by the wall in the central conference hall in the British Library on Euston Road this Saturday, August 16.

Come and look and buy! I will be selling Painting Stories and copies of Cabaret Voltaire vols I and II. Some at cut-down prices. Everything must go!



See you there!


Now stocked at Books Actually, Singapore

I have taken quite a break with my blog posting and am only catching up retrospectively here. I am spending part of my summer break abroad, in SE Asia, and I guess the highlight of the month of June has been my visit to Books Actually, a well-known independent bookstore in Singapore. I’d sent a copy of Painting Stories a year ago to the proprietor Kenny Leck about a year ago, and he most kindly agreed to stock my books in the bookstore. I am really grateful for his unstinting support of SE Asian artists and writers, many of whom are just trying to get work distributed to a local audience.

So, you can now purchase copies of Painting Stories and Cabaret Voltaire vol II at Books Actually in Tiong Bahru, Singapore. The street address is: 9 Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru, Singapore 168645. An afternoon spent browsing in the bookstore should be considered time well spent. They are also located in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Singapore, Tiong Bahru, whose art deco architecture has made it a candidate for a ‘heritage’ listing by UNESCO. Hipsters have recently claimed Tiong Bahru as their own and the place is changing rapidly (some would say for the worst). There are also a few trendy cafes in the area now, one located directly opposite the bookstore – finding a free table is not necessarily easy on hot weekend afternoons, where do all these hipsters come from?!

On another note, I am mulling over short stories for a third issue of CV; it looks likely that I will have to skip producing anything in 2014 and set a deadline for the following year, I would like to sell some more of my back catalogue before printing yet another issue. I had a flash of inspiration after watching an (admittedly very bad) movie about the poet, Elizabeth Bishop and spent some evenings mulling over a prose-poem I might eventually write, something about how autobiographical films don’t ever accurately portray the reality of someone’s life but will always be mostly a fictional construct. The next issue of CV will probably contain two short stories but that is really all I can reveal for now.

An Easter surprise

It has been a long time since I updated this blog; drawing and plotting stories have been low on my list of priorities of late. I had expected some comics festival (like Comica Comiket) to be announced in April so I could go publicise and peddle my new comics there but nothing has appeared on the horizon before the summer, so there doesn’t seem to be much incentive for me to plot a third issue of Cabaret Voltaire before the first two issues have mostly sold out.

Anyway I was browsing in Foyles just before Easter and to my surprise, found my book in the Staff Picks section.


So I hope this will help in selling the remaining stock I have in Foyles.

Wordless comics may not be terribly de rigueur right now but I drew the book mostly for myself as an experiment in conveying a slightly more complex story without words, using mere expressions as well as the composition of each frame to tell the story. I suppose if I succeed in doing that, readers would not necessarily even notice. Again I’ve been using my favourite noir-ish, woodblock printing style of drawing to complement the story’s anachronistic feel.

However, since the street dancer’s actions in the end are unexplained and possibly inexplicable to some, the readers is free to impose his/her own interpretations on the story and the street dancer’s motivations for his seemingly irrational choice.

Don’t we all make irrational choices from time to time? He has chosen a fantasy, an ideal – or has he?

I will be away and abroad for the summer and so may not attend many comics festivals until the late summer or autumn. Am seriously considering the Thought Bubble this year in Leeds, if time permits.


Yellow Zine #6 Kickstarter goodies are here!

I may or may not have written about illustrator and artist Roman Muradov on my blog before. Anyway I first came across his work last year, I can’t recall exactly where but since I am an avid New Yorker reader, I have seen his illustrations have come up time and time again in the magazine, rarely failing to delight and occasionally perplex. A gorgeous blend of Cubism with Kandinsky and some Miro thrown in, his work is visually a joy to behold. I shelled out some money to buy a print from him (‘9 Writers’) last year and when I came across his Kickstarter project, to fund his latest ‘zine, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve never funded anything on Kickstarter before so it was an interesting experience. $25 US didn’t seem like a huge amount of money for some original doodles from one of my very favourite artists.

And now, finally, it’s here – a slim package mailed through my front door yesterday morning caught me off-guard. It was raining incessantly, so the envelope went into my backpack and was clumsily slit open by tremulous, excited fingers while I was esconced in a warm, dry cafe.

My Kickstarter goodies from Roman Muradov!

My Kickstarter goodies from Roman Muradov!

So there was at least one postcard, two cut-outs of original work (one in ink and the other a mere rough sketch in pencil), a whimsical graphic short story called “Fountains and Russian Men”, one of the more coherent (but still surreal) pieces from the mysterious Mr. Muradov. And there was a delightful booklet of illustrations based on Italo Calvino’s “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller”, a book that I read many years ago and have since forgotten. Receiving this in the post has inspired me to re-read it, since I was just savouring Calvino’s “Difficult Loves” a few weeks back.







Yellow Zine #6

Of course the centrepiece was “Yellow Zine issue 6” which was a collection of little stories, all drawn in his characteristically elegant, elliptical style. While one can often barely make sense of many of the stories, I don’t think making sense of them is really the point. I am just content to relish the artwork, seemingly simple flourishes but so incredibly difficult to do well.

Which brings me to the idea of Kickstarter, where one can find funds for printing a large consignment of books by taking pledges from the general public. It’s another way of fundraising on the web, except that I suspect one has to have some credibility and a fan base to start with to get the first 1000 dollars or so. This is another reason I will probably always self-finance my own publications… they are only small print runs and I can easily afford them, I don’t want the pressure of having to meet anyone’s expectations! However, they are a great idea for projects like these, and of course when you’re someone with a reputation, raising funds can be like shooting fish in a barrel, no? For those of us across the pond, a Kickstarter project like this was really the easiest way to get ahold of some original art.








If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller

There was also this lovely pamphlet with the artist’s illustrations based on the quirky chapter headings taken from the book. It has certainly inspired me to look into the book again, which will be a pleasure since I am a fan of Italo Calvino’s writings anyway.

Each page is stunning to behold, the compositions are gorgeous. This may well be one of my favourite pieces of art from this collection.

And last but not least, a little piece of original art, an ink drawing from the master himself. It’s a little too small to frame but will always be cherished! And yes, so true…. all one can do is just to try and make ‘decent things’ and learn not to be bitter.

Please go on making decent things, Mr. Muradov.

A little original ink drawing

A little original ink drawing

A new year and fresh opportunities on the horizon

Happy New Year to anyone who reads my blog! It has been a little while and so I might post some updates about my new book here. I’ve succeeded in stocking my books in Foyles – the Cabaret Voltaire II is on sale there for £6.50. If you happen to be in Foyles on Charing Cross Road, look in the graphic novels – Indie section on the ground floor by the information desk, you can find them under J, along with my older books. The books are also displayed in another indie comic shelf for better publicity. So far, I suspect it might take a review or two to shift the books, but we will see. I will be taking some of these books to Gosh Comics as well, so stay posted.

Anyway, while we’re on the topic of wordless graphic novels, there’s a new show touring NYC that looks very interesting.

Do check out the video preview!

I would most definitely go if I were in NYC. I don’t have any more details about the show but anything that showcases artists like Nuckel, Ward and Masereel can’t go far wrong in my books!

As far as stocking my books in the Far East, I have approached a Singaporean independent bookseller and am hoping we can work out a deal to stock my books there as well. It certainly can’t hurt to spread one’s wings… although none of my books have any particularly “Asian” flavour to them at all, which might confound people who pick up my book, expecting something a little different from an author with my name.

As for working on a new story for CV III, that’s still up in the air somewhere. While I have a couple of ideas brewing, I’d also like to see how well CV II does in sales before I embark on yet another project and fill my spare room with boxes of unsold books…

New books for Christmas

There must be something about my books and Friday 13th, but I believe my first delivery of Painting Stories arrived on a Fri 13th too, a couple of years ago. This morning my preferred printers, InkyLittleFingers earned another glowing review from me by printing, binding and dispatching my books on the same day and the courier rang my doorbell early this morning with the much-anticipated booty in a small, well-packed box.

So here it all is, all 75 copies of Cabaret Voltaire Issue Two.

I will update my website SOON so anyone can buy copies of this book from the website at a special, lower website price. Next week I’ll be heading to Foyles to talk to the good people there about stocking copies of this book. Just in time for Christmas!

Off to the press!

Cabaret Voltaire issue two has been sent to the printers, just a little bit ahead of schedule, but my head was whirring with anxiety last night thinking of all the last minute things I had to do before I could hit the relevant buttons and upload the PDF files to InkyLittleFingers. Painstakingly preparing and checking the final A5 book itself, getting the PDFs of the inner pages and the outer cover ready used to be a fraught and stressful process as I was learning as I went along. This time it was surprisingly easy, as I now understood what ‘bleeds’ meant and how many millimetres to add to the cover artwork to prevent unsightly white edges in the final product. After tossing and turning for what felt like hours last night, wondering whether I should select 115gsm off-white recycled paper or a similar bleached white paper, this morning I awoke somewhat refreshed despite only 5 hours sleep, and pencilled in the new final frame that I felt should replace the rather shoddily-inked one of a few days ago.

I feel that one at least should finish with a bang and not a whimper.

The final inked page still suffers from a slightly misshaped brush (the new one from Cass Arts wasn’t so good to start with!) but it is still better than the original version. Admittedly, I am a bit tired of drawing/inking and I suspect it shows.


And this is the cover of the Cabaret Voltaire issue two – [edited post for colour correction] if all goes well, it will be ready in time for Christmas gifts. Place a pre-order by emailing me now, or wait a week or two for the relevant shopping links to appear on my website – just like magic! The book will be priced at £5.00, full colour cover and B&W illustrations inside. 90pp. I think when I get Foyles and possibly other shops to stock it, the price may well be slightly higher.