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.



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!





Enter the Deleter pen

Right now I am part of the way through drawing and inking my graphic short story, “The Street Dancer’s Romance”. I’m a little more than a third through already so I am making slow but steady progress, achieving at least 2 panels a day. Not posting any previews here yet, but since a blog requires occasional updates, here I am again, pondering over what to write as a suitable update.

Oh yes. I’ve decided to stop using my Hunt 102 vintage nib with the fast-disintegrating wooden holder, and replaced it with a Japanese manga pen – the Deleter pen, to be exact. I ordered some wider G-nibs and the fine Naru nibs from Dinkybox along with an attractive, bright yellow pen holder which accommodates different nib sizes in its innovative nib-holder, so one doesn’t need different holders for different nibs, what a neat idea! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? Something that Speedball should learn from, as its current holder is frankly, quite substandard; an overly thin brown cheap plastic rod which one needs to ‘pad’ up for a more comfortable and steady grip. I’m a Deleter convert, so far I haven’t blotted anything since switching over to these fine nibs. And they are far easier to clean, which probably means greater nib longevity. So I can store away the remaining vintage Hunt 102 nibs for a rainy day.

Can I make Cabaret Voltaire volume II ready for Christmas? That might still be a pipe dream…


A long break

I have been dreadfully remiss about updating this blog! The main reason is that I don’t tend to update this blog when I haven’t done any drawing or planning what I am going to draw or write next. 2013 has been a very strange year, to say the least… hopelessly unproductive in some ways and a very long holiday in the far East also meant that my work was entirely put on the backburner and almost forgotten.

I had intended to work on two short stories for Cabaret Voltaire issue two – “Signal Failure” was one that had been rattling about in my brain for a while, but somehow the words wouldn’t come and I didn’t want to force them. I had storyboarded the entire sorry tale but only in my mind, and fleshing out the actual frames took more work than I could muster in the enervating tropical heat. I honestly don’t know how anyone does any useful work in that kind of weather. All I wanted to do was to move as little as possible and I suspect even my brain plodded along more sluggishly than usual. At the time, it was only capable of pondering on food and trivial amusements.

Anyway I am back in familiar environs and ready to get on with some work this autumn and winter, and my next new story will be word-less like “The Snack Bar”, except this time it will be about a street performer who dances with a dummy and lives a solitary existence. The preliminary title is “The Street Dancer’s Romance” and I have already pencilled a few pages on A3 Bristol board. It will be a tricky story to pull off right, however, and I’m still wondering whether it will be successful. I am doing it in the woodcut style, one picture per page — recently influenced by my favourite woodcut artist, Otto Nuckel, and a recent book I had bought by Lynd Ward called “Vertigo”, which was far more complex in style and plot than any other woodcut novel I’d seen so far. I wasn’t sure it was a complete success as far as elucidating the plot went, but the stark black-and-white compositions were gorgeous masterpieces. I cannot say my ink drawings will be anything like those woodcuts, but at least I can make an attempt to tell a story in my own way. I won’t give an estimated time for completion as this will depend on so many other things going on, but I do hope to get this story completed by the end of the year. And sent to the publishers. Cabaret Voltaire issue two is likely to contain only this one story instead of two as originally planned.


Comica Comiket Nov 2012

Well, Comiket Nov has come and gone! I haven’t had time to update this blog what with a thousand and one things to do, a week away in Scotland and assorted happenings. I did not have very much to prepare for Comiket Nov 2012 and just decided to re-use my April Comiket poster to advertise my Painting Stories book. Again the venue was the Bishopsgate Institute in the City and this time I arrived a bit later to set up. It was better organised this time with a floor-plan on the website so we knew immediately where to go and set up our tables. I was very close to the stage this time, right beside the Eat, Sleep and Sniff table which was selling cards, little comics, booklets etc. based around a little cartoony cat. I was sharing my table with the esteemed Ellen Lindner of Strumpet et al fame. Although it was classified as “half a table”, it didn’t feel much bigger than the third of a table I was allotted earlier this year. However, this isn’t a moan as I didn’t really need anything bigger, my 2 stacks of books, free postcards and business cards filled up the space quite nicely.

Anyway I noticed someone browsing the exhibition as people around me were still setting up; it was still early and the doors only opened to the public at 11am. I later discovered she was Alison Bechdel’s girlfriend; she came to my table and asked me about my book, Painting Stories. We chatted a bit and I was pretty bowled over when she asked to buy a copy! I decided if I didn’t sell anything else for the rest of the day, it didn’t matter too much because…. Alison Bechdel’s girlfriend bought Painting Stories!!!! Wow! Alison walked by a while later and I felt fairly dumbstruck, like a giddy teenager confronted with celebrity. I blubbered something inarticulately about getting her to sign my thumb-eared copy of “Fun Home”. Anyway after brief introductions, she left to get ready for the live drawing parade and I settled down to face my first customers of the day.

It was a very long day indeed, and we had more space this time so there was no need to crawl under tables etc. to get out for a bathroom break. In that respect, it was far more relaxed and comfortable than the spring Comiket – the organisers did a great job in spacing the tables out this time. However this probably meant that there were far fewer exhibitors this time around, some people I recalled from last time were not there, like John Allison. If there was a drawback to this particular fest, it was just that it was considerably quieter than the spring fair. It really felt like a lot of people who were milling around were mostly friends of the exhibitors, primarily there to lend their support. I ended up selling 8 books and trading 2 with Ellen so I considered it a fairly successful day! I managed to shift 7 copies of Cabaret Voltaire, which I am very pleased about.

I occasionally passed the time by watching the drawing parade – Steven Appleby was the other big name I recognised in the live drawing parade but Line Hoven’s work intrigued the most, using a technique I’d never heard of called ‘scraperboard’ where one starts off with a black sheet and ‘scrapes’ the black off with something like an etching knife. The resultant effect was not dissimilar to a woodcut print.

By the end of the day, I was very tired just manning my table all day without much respite and the last hour was possibly the hardest to get through… and Hunt Emerson was the last person on the drawing parade, and the birdsong he chose to play over the PA system sounded rather more annoying than soothing. Anyway I managed to promptly pack up my gear just before 7pm and departed feeling that it had been a relatively successful day, on the whole, a lot better than the spring Comiket. Stocking a second, cheaper mini comic was a strategy that worked well for me.

The organisers deserve thanks for putting in so much effort in pulling off another successful comics festival, things seemed to happen at the last minute but everything pulled together in the end.

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.


Alternative Press Fair, Aug 4 2012


Alternative Press Fair

I will be selling my book at the Alternative Press Fair in Conway Hall on Saturday Aug 4. It will be my first time at this fair and things are looking fairly exciting as nearby Lamb’s Conduit St will have participating independent shops with little exhibitions of their own. If you’re in town that weekend, it should be worth checking out. I have a fair few copies of Painting Stories left to sell and am happy to autograph the books. I was hoping to have another short story in small comic booklet format ready for the festival, but a few recent hitches have made that plan a little unrealistic, so I will probably just be selling my book. This booklet should definitely be available for sale at Comiket in November though, if all goes well. Although the Small Press fair in Conway Hall takes place on the entire weekend of Aug 4/5, I will only be there on August 4.

Here is the blurb about the events will be taking place:

The 2nd International Alternative Press Festival features an inspired assortment of creative events between 20th July – 10th August 2012. The festival events lead up to the 4th-5th August weekend Small Press Fair in Holborn’s Conway Hall.

Alternative Press is a group of artists who promote creativity through the mediums of comix, zines, book arts, screen-printing, poetry and other forms of self-publishing. The first International Alternative Press Festival in 2011 attracted over 1,000 eager visitors. Alternative Press is building upon the success of last year’s festival to establish an annual programme.

From the 22nd July – 5th August, a parade of 11 venues on Lambs Conduit St and Great Ormond Street will host artwork by a broad and exciting selection of international comic artists.
GOSH! Comics and Orbital Comics stores are hosting related exhibitions as part of the festival This includes the work of Private Eye cartoonist Dave Greene at Orbital Comics and the launch of the new issue of The Comix Reader at Gosh!
The focal event to the International Alternative Press Festival at Conway Hall is the two-day Small Press Fair, made up of over 100 exhibitors, with zines, book arts and other small press publications.
Across the weekend the fair is a lively schedule of creative workshops including poetry, typography, drawing, printing and bookbinding sessions. Please view workshop details listed fully at
Saturday 4th August – Sunday 5th August 2012
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, Greater London WC1R 4RL