Month: June 2009

Fond of fonts

I’m just going to write about fonts today, an important part of making a comic book. It just occurred to me that I never mentioned before what font I used for my Card Players comic, and after all this is a blog about making comics so I would like it to be as comprehensive as possible. Initially, I wanted to hand-letter the comic myself but after doing the first few pages, I decided my lettering was atrocious. I’m far too impatient to write slowly and so everything comes out looking like a dog’s breakfast. I even have an Ames lettering guide that I picked up from eBay some years back but no patience to use it properly. So I decided to do all the lettering by computer, so I could tweak it as I went along, which turned out to be the best strategy.

For my Card Players comic, I used the free font ‘Chronicles of a Hero’ from the excellent Blambot website. Many years ago I used to collect free fonts and had a stack of 3.5″ discs full of font archives. Now I’m on the hunt again.

Great font sites I found recently: but these are pricey!

The Card Players is finished!

I have actually finished my very first comic-short story! 10 pages in total, a good length for a short story.  Very satisfying, although I daresay I may have rushed in inking the last page a little, as I was already getting a little bored of the story (and the style). I must say the Hunt 102 nib was a trial to use, giving erratic performance the whole way… it seemed to work better with diluted ink, and I had to clean it every 10-15 minutes to ensure that the pen did not gunk up and scratch too badly. Still, I have a lot of shoddy hatching work in the comic that can be blamed on the Hunt 102 nib. I need to see if the Gillot nibs are any better and a trip to Cornelissen’s is long overdue. I finished the last page while listening to Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen over and over on the record player. I may well have to go back to rework the script as well as the dialogue, and tidy up the scanned images a little, and maybe even re-scan the first three pages in the same way I did all the rest (i.e stitching a single A3 page from two A4 scans)…. heaven knows, it”ll make it all a bit tidier and more uniform.

But does it all wash and hang together?

On my bookshelf

I thought I’d post here about the relatively few graphic novels I’ve read, as well as my biggest influences in terms of pictorial story-telling. I haven’t been reading graphic novels for very long and certainly not very avidly, I still struggle to see myself as a comic reader in that respect; I have only ventured once into Gosh Comics in Bloomsbury, and the only thing I came out with was a compilation: ‘Clyde Fans Part 1’ as a Christmas present for the same friend who introduced me to Chris Ware. I had been reading Chris Ware’s oddly sized Acme Novelty releases from time to time but nothing in them had particularly moved me. I felt far more affinity with Seth, with his nostalgic and melancholic yearning for the past which he imagines as a sort of near-ideal world where it was possible for an ordinary person to achieve true happiness. His drawing could be described as having a sort of ‘retro’, elegant cartoon style.

So here are some of my favourite ”graphic novels” on my bookshelf, in no particular order.

  • Jimmy Corrigan – The Smartest Kid on Earth (Chris Ware)
  • It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken (Seth)
  • Fun Home (Alison Bechdel)
  • Blankets (Chris Thompson)
  • Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)
  • Maus (Art Spiegelman)
  • George Sprott (Seth)

There is a trend here – graphic novel as an autobiographical device, and I think it works extremely well, one doesn’t have to take oneself too seriously, and still produce an autobiography worth reading!

Other graphic novels on my bookshelf:

  • Wimbledon Green (Seth)
  • Ghost World (Daniel Clowes)
  • Caricature (Daniel Clowes)
  • David Boring (Daniel Clowes)
  • 32 Stories (Adrian Tomine)
  • We Are On Our Own (Miriam Katin)
  • Carnet de Voyage (Craig Thompson)
  • Goodbye, Chunky Rice (Craig Thompson)
  • Epileptic (David B)
  • Good-bye (Yoshiro Tatsumi)
  • Various Acme Novelty books by Chris Ware, all too annoyingly large to fit properly in my bookshelf
  • City of Glass (based on a novel by Paul Auster… I didn”t particularly enjoy the novel and likewise I wasn’t sure I liked the ‘comic’ version)

As I am not at all an avid comics reader, it is possible to list all these books in a single blog entry….. I am eagerly awaiting Craig Thompson”s impending release of ‘Habibi’ but I don”t really see myself making any new purchases anytime soon. I’m a much bigger fan of comic strips, having grown up enjoying a huge variety; the Sunday funnies were always read first on a Sunday morning ahead of the news and everything else. So I’m collecting Fantagraphics’ excellent ‘Collected Peanuts’ volumes, released once every quarter…. I’m up to the 1970s now, and there’ll be many more volumes to go before I’ll have accumulated the entirety of Charles Schultz”s prodigious ‘Peanuts’ output. Other favourite comic strip artists include Dan Piraro, Sam Waterman, Gary Larson, the crew at MAD magazine etc.etc. who were probably my biggest (often subconscious) influences.

And let there be light…

It’s rather strange. I’ve been using the internet since 1990 and this is my very first blog I’ve created almost 20 years later and quite a few years behind everyone else. I just never saw any need for a personal blog but now that I’ve set up my work-in-progress comics website, I think a blog may be vaguely useful in garnering comments, posting updates and so on.

I had not drawn for about 20 years too, and had not picked up a pen to draw anything until a few months back, when I thought that maybe I’d try my hand at cartooning again. I had prolifically drawn cartoons back in secondary school, a long time ago, to entertain friends and family but that was the extent of it. I was more interested in oil painting but I even stopped doing that in the early 90’s.

But a couple of years ago, a friend got me Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan graphic novel for Christmas. I had heard about it while driving home one evening, on Radio 4, when it had been nominated for a serious literary book prize, and it piqued my interest. I remember reading Jimmy Corrigan on a long plane flight back to see my parents, and suddenly, it dawned on me that one could write a serious novel in this format. I was later to discover artists like Seth and Craig Thompson, and in early 2009, when I found myself with more free time on my hands, I thought I’d try my hand at a cartoon project. I signed up for an Illustrating Comics class at Central St Martins, thinking it would help me hone my doodles into something more professionally acceptable, but that turned out a rather damp squib. Still, I felt more inspired to actually draw and finish a creative project that did not involve programming computers.

So in early June 2009 I abandoned my cartoon project (about a girl who goes back to her hometown done in rough cartoon style), and decided to start on a collection of short stories, each based around a painting that I know and love well. My first choice was Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players”, since I had a framed print of it hanging in my dining room for many years. I worked on it mostly with the A3 pad on my knees, listening to, alternately, Radio 4, Jenny Queen, Chris Pureka and the Cowboy Junkies. My neck suffered from the strain, so I got an A2 drawing board and switched to working in my dining room. The living room was more comfortable but after one disastrous ink spillage on my sofa, I decided enough was enough. At least in the dining room, there was less scope for such damage. I don’t have much patience with scanning and inserting the text in Photoshop; my Photoshop skills for such things are still embryonic at best, but I’m learning as I go along and it has been fun. Things will need to be tidied up a great deal before it is even presentable as a web comic, but for the time being, here it is – a dump of my scanned A3 pages. I’m up to 6 pages so far, that’s about halfway through!

The Card Players comic

The Card Players - Paul Cezanne