comics

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!

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

 

 

The Street Dancer’s Romance (and tool talk)

Here is the opening image from my new short story, The Street Dancer’s Romance. It will be a wordless story comprising 65 images or so, each on its own page, much like in an old-fashioned woodcut novel. It is safe to say that I have been utterly beguiled by the work of Otto Nuckel and Lynd Ward, and presenting images in this way will also allow the reader to spend more time mulling over each image and absorbing the message behind it. I’ve drawn and inked more than half the pages in this book so perhaps a Christmas deadline is not so unrealistic after all.

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Most of us will have seen buskers and street performers out in the street before. I can’t recall exactly where I saw a street performer like this, it might have been while strolling along the South Bank in London, but I rarely pay much attention to street performers in general. But anyhow, I’d mulled over doing a story about these people for some time and their lives away from the public eye. I chose to do a word-less story this time because it posed a unique challenge to convey a fairly sophisticated story without words, and I had enjoyed drawing The Snack Bar in ‘Painting Stories’. For some reason, it was also one of my more popular stories. It also felt liberating to work on a story without the burden of words.

Maybe I should get around to some tool talk now, having popped down the road to Cass Arts to pick up a Winsor and Newton Cotman III No 2 brush. I’ve more or less worn out my 6th or 7th sable brush so far, and the costs are definitely building up. Despite doing my best to clean the brushes after use, they tend to lose their point after some months and I no longer know whether it’s just an intrinsic problem with sable brushes or my own inadequacies when it comes to brush care. So I noticed on Craig Thompson’s blog that he used the Cotman III No 2 brush for his inking, and being a devout fan of Thompson’s art, I thought if it was good enough for him, it was definitely more than good enough for me. Cotman brushes use synthetic bristles and are therefore a lot cheaper than Kolinsky sable ones.

Well, unfortunately that didn’t turn out too well. I found the Cotman’s bristles rather too stiff, and inking with it felt like drawing with a felt tip pen, the line did not vary as much as I’d wanted. After doing one panel with it, it was a pleasure to return to my somewhat battered Winsor and Newton Kolinksy series 7 sable brush (size 3). Looks like I might have to shell out again to buy yet another one, having started using this one only a few months back in the summer… Despite arduous care, it looks like some of the bristles have fallen out and it is gradually losing its gorgeously pointed shape. But it is still a pleasure to use after a few minutes with the Cotman. But can anyone see the difference between the inking in the panels? Back to Cass Arts tomorrow then, another 10-11 quid poorer!

 

 

 

 

Remember, remember, the 10th of November!

Well finally it has been announced – Comica Comiket London is happening on Saturday 10th Nov at the Bishopsgate Institute, opposite Liverpool Street Station. This is the same venue where it was held in spring this year but this time the organisers have promised that there will be more table space (and generally, more space to move around) for both exhibitors as well as visitors. I signed up for half a central table almost as soon as I got wind of this as I knew tables were going to be limited this time around. Fees have also gone up, which is consistent with fewer exhibitors, so let’s hope this one pays off in terms of publicity. I worked to put out a small comic, the Cabaret Voltaire, in time for this festival as I know I have to keep my material fresh to keep the audience interested. So I’ll have two books on sale at Comiket, at special ‘festival prices’.

Comica Comiket Autumn 2012

I am just thrilled that Alison Bechdel is going to be opening the festival. I intend to get my copies of “Fun Home” and “Are You My Mother?” autographed, two graphic novels that I deeply admire. If you were ever unsure that graphic novels could ever deal with ‘serious autobiography’, I suspect Bechdel might persuade you otherwise.  I’m also devoting part of my table to promo material for Emanata, the free iPad comics reader I blogged about some months back who have been so helpful in digitally distributing my work across the seas. Also – there’ll be the usual free postcards to give away. Entrance is FREE, so if you’re in town that weekend, why not pay us a visit? You might be surprised to know that comics isn’t only all about muscle men in colourful tights!

 

The Cabaret Voltaire is born!

The mini-comic is here at last! And the Cabaret Voltaire is born! Ah yes, possibly a pretentious name for my periodical comic of assorted short stories but this is also the name of a MUD that I set up and administered way back in the mid-90’s when, among my responsibilities as a test lab engineer, I was also doubling up as a bored system administrator in a laboratory full of Unix machines. That was in another life, one I can barely recognise now. This MUD never took off beyond alpha-testing by another administrative user and myself (Fernando, where are you now?). I suppose, like many art-obsessed young people, I was fascinated by the Dada and Surrealism art and literary movements because of their preoccupation with the absurd and meaningless. Having moved on a long way since then, I still find the name of the Viennese nightclub somewhat catchy and apt for my comics journal – I intend to publish 2 short stories in each issue and print them from time to time, for comics festivals and such so I can keep my material fresh. And “cabaret” suggests a sort of variety show and these short stories are definitely varied, if nothing else! And quite appropriately, one of my short stories here is called “The Dream”, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Cover of the Cabaret Voltaire

I haven’t decided whether I should try and stock a few of these books at Gosh Comics and Orbital next week or just release them to the public the first time at Comica Comiket London in early November. I’m tending towards the latter at the moment, but I’ll also put them on sale right away on my website via mail order, and they’ll probably be priced at £2.80 a book with much cheaper postage and packaging prices, since they are rather slim volumes (30pp). Details will be on my website soon once I update the relevant pages.

Anyway I am very pleased with the printing and overall binding quality of these books. I’m very much happier with the paper (off-white, recycled, 120gsm paper) and the quality of the binding, which seems more robust. These printers InkyLittleFingers were recommended to me and they’ve definitely met their high expectations, I received my books exactly when I expected to, everything was easily done through a web interface online and the packing was also excellent, ensuring no damage in transit. Definitely a stellar first experience and I would recommend them to anyone.

So maybe I should be breaking out a bottle of bubbly tonight….

The Dream

The Dream - cover image

I am already feeling the pressure of having to produce a small comic booklet in time for the Comica Comiket comics festival in November. After the deflating and disappointing sales performance at the Alternative Press Festival, I have realised that to pull some more people in, it is sometimes necessary to have more than one book for sale, especially if that sole book is by an unknown artist (me) and not extremely cheap. So I thought a cheap (2 or 3 quid) mini comic might be in order, and drew ‘Ash Wednesday’ for Emanata as well as for this comic, but that story was hastily written and drawn, and I didn’t feel it was up to my usual standards. Still, the Emanata staff sent me very positive comments about it and I felt encouraged by the reception.

Feeling somewhat pessimistic about successfully plotting another short story in time for press by mid-October, I became vaguely inspired by a telephone call with my mother where she detailed a recent disquieting dream she’d recently had. Various acquaintances and contemporaries of hers had fallen ill or passed away this year and so the content of the dream didn’t surprise me too much. I thought I had the germ of an idea for a dream story, which I found easier than others to construct and write, since dreams were usually surreal. I took the gist of my mother’s dream, incorporated a few “horror” elements of my own, not outright cliched-horror but a rather more personally disturbing horror, such as a disembodied wailing voice echoing around a dark hospital corridor. It might have been one of the recurring nightmares I’d had when I was younger.  I didn’t have any problems building the tension in the story nor in whisking the reader from page to page, but I was completely stumped for an ending. Dreams always end with the dreamer waking up, but a possible (but cliched) twist might be for the dreamer to realise he/she isn’t really dreaming. But that ‘twist’ has been done to death, I thought, so my dreamer had to wake up with a lingering, unsettling feeling that the dream might cross over into reality at some point soon. The dreamer was insecure about his life, about his wife in particular, and her relationship with his best friend. I was insomniac one night, and at about 2 or 3am while my restless but exhausted mind ran the gauntlet of mysterious dream endings, I thought I had an appropriate final panel, one that didn’t end with reassurance but had a sort of portentous doom about it. I didn’t question this ending but instead, felt delighted about my early-morning epiphany, and then set about diligently drawing and inking the comic, 2 pages per day, in a sort of inspired frenzy. Hardly ever since ‘The Card Players’ have I worked almost daily on a comics project!

But upon rereading it after finishing the final page, it feels like it might fall a bit flat after all. A bit of a high school story, perhaps, with too little of the disquiet I’d intended to leave behind in the mind of the reader. I am undecided whether to submit this story and ‘Ash Wednesday’ to press because I am not sure of its true merit. It doesn’t quite stand together with some of my stronger stories in ‘Painting Stories’ and I’m afraid it’s not necessarily the best advertisement for my work, although I am quite satisfied with the artwork and feel that I have improved in that area. Anyway this story has also been submitted to Emanata for online publication in its next push – maybe then I’ll find out if readers will connect with it. I haven’t shown it to very many people at all and so other people might think differently, I’m often the harshest critic of my own work!

‘Ash Wednesday’ on Emanata

Excuse the silence on this blog! I’m not in a habit of updating blogs and telling all and sundry about the latest happenings in my life, but I have been working on a short story since sometime in early June and finally released it to the Emanata iPad comics reader app in early August. Yesterday ‘Ash Wednesday’ was released to the public on Emanata – a short, 8-page story about a man who has a nostalgic trip back to the city where he used to live, on a somewhat unusual mission.

My free postcard advertising 'Ash Wednesday'

At the Small Press Festival earlier this month, I gave away some free postcards from my table to advertise this short story and my own work in general. I will publish it eventually in another collection of short stories but for now, it’s only available on Emanata (download it if you have an iPad, it’s FREE! And it’s great for discovering new, indie artists that you may never hear about otherwise!). I don’t  know yet if I will put this story up on my website. It will depend on other projects I have in my pipeline, and of course, upgrading my 2006 iMac to a new Mac setup which may suck up a good portion of spare time over the next couple of weeks. Of course, if I decide to put it up on my website, it’ll be announced on this blog.

So that’s all, folks… for maybe another few weeks or months, depending on when I feel inspired to blog something again, hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m already pondering over a second short story, ideas are pretty vague at present.