Thursday 20 April 2017

…should I stay or should I go...

...there I was reading through my 'Old Guys Who Like Old 
Comics' posts on facebook, and there's this advert for a 'Comic Book 
Inking Masterclass!' - with Cam Smith. Well I've heard of Cam Smith, 
and I've seen his great work on Bryan Hitch and Gary Frank - but I've 
never heard of a 'comic book inking masterclass' or anything like it. 

An offer I really shouldn't refuse.

Oh, hang on a minute, it's not the 60s, 70s or 80s, 'cause we never 
had anything like this back then. If you wanted to draw comics, well you 
just copied from them, and got on with it. And kept getting on with it. 

Ok, I did send off for and take part in the 'We're looking for people 
who like to Draw' mail order course which was advertised on the back 
of loads of comics in the 60s and 70s. 

This simple one with the happy
dog and the bright colours
- this is the one I sent off for...
Not this one - too formidable.
And Norman Rockwell -
which comics did he draw?

I know when I received it, I completed all the drawing tasks - 
perspective, anatomy, patterns, still life, tone, contrast, colours, 
hands-faces-eyes-ears and-God-help-me-noses and sent 
it straight back to the distant land that was America. 

No idea what happened to it after that. 

There were a couple of classes in the mid 80s, one was run by 
Wyn Wiacek, near the Elephant & Castle I think. I remember us 
all talking about comics - particularly Barry Smith's legendary 
pencil only pages in Conan #19 that Wyn said that he had 
seen up close and personal like. (What! He knew Barry!?)

Talking to anyone about a subject you generally kept 
close to your heart was a novelty. A room half full of 
like-minded people was a revelation!

...of course the other class was David Lloyd and Steve 
Marchant's London Cartoon Centre - 'not quite sure where in 
London it was, me being a Croydon boy. I do remember a large 
mainline station, taking a couple of tubes, and then passing 
Trellick Tower (?!) to get there. All looked a bit dodgy to me.

Just like the poster says - it was a lot of fun. Tutors were David 
and Steve, Dave gibbons, who invited us all to the pub and regaled 
with tales of meeting Steranko in London and Jack Kirby 
in the States. Unimpressed he said by Jim's stage entrance 
"...I am Steranko…" but of course justifiably 
impressed by Jack 'King' Kirby! 

The magnificent John Burns (of Countdown and Zetari!) did a 
night and Paul Neary (who I remembered from Skywald 
magazine 'Psycho' and Marvel UK of course) too. 

Bought this at Victoria - still got it!

One of the tutors whose name I forget, gave 
us all some some excellent and prevailing advice - 

"...drawing from comics is fine, but if you really want 
good understanding of anatomy and the body in action - 
nothing beats life drawing! Find a life drawing class and 
go to it regularly. And keep going." 

Brian 6/15 - Ouse Life Group
Eva 7/15 - Ouse Life Group.

…so where was I ? Oh yeah - Orbital Comics, 
Little Conduit St in the heart of London, is indeed a conduit 
to other worlds, and an ideal location - surrounded as we were by 
an enviable and inspiring array of Silver and Bronze Age mags 
(all at reasonable prices) - for Cam Smith's Inking Masterclass!

Definitely bigger on the inside than outside!

All told we were a thirty or so strong all ages group. We had a choice 
of two blue line pages of artwork to ink. One was predominantly Batman,
the other Spider-Man - being an old time Marvelite I chose the Spidey 
page less for company loyalty as for the dynamic drawing by 
Giuseppe Camucoli! No disrespect to the great Gary Frank!

In orbit.

We all brought along a variety of tech pens, markers, 
dip pens, brushes and ink. This being a traditional inking class there 
were no wacom tablets or macs in sight. After twenty minutes of advice 
and instruction from Cam followed by a demo viewed onscreen, I noticed 
people around me were taking the inking bull by the horns and going for it. 

I hadn't used my dip pen for months, and my 'Superhero Workshop' 
not withstanding, had not drawn any superheroes for ages. So this was 
as good a time as any to take a deep breath and go for it!

And what fun it was! 

A big thank you to Cam (and Orbital) for a hugely enlightening evening. 
Reinforced a few things I did know and learnt many things I didn't know 
- like which pens and brushes and pens the pros use (and more to the 

Cheers again to Cam for additional 
post workshop advice.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

...creation - correlation - confrontation...

In preparation for the forthcoming Superhero workshop at 
The Dragonfly Gallery in Watton, I set up a facebook page to allow 
those interested in taking part, to view the work of previous workshops 
and also to download character design templates, cover designs 
and professional comic scripts. 

I was able via
to upload the workshop day's schedule and examples of 
previous co-creations and characters! 

 No sooner had I completed my timetable than I realised that 
I was being too ambitious by far, both for myself and the students - 
 if we got to Session 3 on the schedule we were well on target!

Because this class is more about designing (costumes and characters), 
than it is about drawing, I designed template sheets so that participants 
could get on with the task of creating characters/costumes without 
worrying about anatomical and proportional problems.

Attending a workshop myself at the London Cartoon Centre in the 80s, 
we were handed the above anatomical sheets to use as reference, so that 
we could understand the limits of anatomy and break them accordingly. 

…and encouraged to attend life study classes whenever possible...

In preparation for their first character designs, and in response 
to creative back and forth between Jo, Roy, Paul, Gerry and myself, 
we co-created the following superheroes - 'Buck-Fast! (Lee), 'V-Tol',
 'Magenta' and 'No-Guy!' (What else do you call a character that is 
vacuum, but is defined by their environment? Great idea Roy).

It's not always easy conjuring something up out of thin air 
and onto a blank piece of paper. I  recall Paul and Gerry both came 
from lighthouse keeper background and had discussed possibilities 
for character with abilities that would be appropriate 
for the protection of lighthouses. 

Similar to the original Daredevil, this would involve some type 
of sonar/radar to overcome poor vision, and perhaps 
super strength to cope with the bulk of huge vessels 
and the power of crashing ocean waves. 

Jo investigated the formidable problem of foreshortening 
and dynamic lettering, and Roy who maintained he had not drawn 
for a long time, and had certainly not created a super characters 
before, surprised us all - and himself I think - by coming up 
with four good strong characters!

Naturally the creative process couldn't  continue without the 
obligatory tea and biscuits, wherein Paul showed us the handsome 
Dan Dare edition he had brought in, showing us panels that had 
painted background scenes reminiscent of a young David Hockney. 
(The early Dan Dare studio recruiting assistants  
from the local art college).  

And wonder of wonders - Jo produced from her bag the very 
same book on perspective that I used to study myself as a boy. 
And I thought I had the only existing copy.

After lunch we proceeded to create a dramatic cover scene 
between two of the comic characters we created in the morning 
- 'Buck Fast!(Lee)' and the weirder than weird 'V-Tol'! 

'Carmine Infantino' style design.
'Gil Kane' style design.

Rather than use my existing 'Carmine Infantino' style cover 
template, I rotated the characters little to draw the reader closer into 
the action. Extending costume detail which was not immediately 
apparent in the original face on designs.

Strong as the cover was in black and white, we agreed 
adding colour would enhance to dynamics of the image! I use 
Winsor & Newton ProMarker pens which are excellent for quickly 
providing solid colour confidently with each broad stroke. 

As well as the chisel tip, the pens also have a sharper 
point at the opposite end for fine line and detail.

Well, I certainly could and would not have come up with these 
characters by myself, so a big thank you to my co-conspirators for 
allowing me to be the conduit for their unusual ideas. 

Since I had no idea who today's students would, little did I realise 
that when I brought along the Dr Strange collection of his earliest 
adventures, that I would be reacquainting Paul with the first issue 
of Dr Strange he'd read while waiting age six in his 
own doctor's surgery. 

Possibly the moment Paul revisits his first  Dr Strange story?

The Dragonfly Bullpen hard at work creating confrontational covers, 
revisiting old comic book adventures and pushing the boundaries of 
dynamic colour, dramatic anatomy and extreme perspective. 

Gerry very kindly showed us the very accomplished, finely 
drawn pen & ink illustrations and cartoons he had produced for a
local motorbike magazine, going back over many years. With fine 
design, great attention to detail, and taking more than a little 
inspiration from Punch magazine! 

Gerry's great work warrants a blog of it's own.
Let me know when you're ready Gerry!

Myself, standing with what a few hours ago
were blank sheets of layout paper!

When working with younger age groups I find there is 
always a common knowledge with a shared interest, working 
with participants of a similar age we were all referencing (and reminiscing)
at first hand the same experiences. 

The same comics in the 60s - Dr Strange, Fantastic and Terrific 
magazines, Dan Dare, Hotspur, Victor, Whizzer and Chips, of course 
the Dandy and the Beano. Whatever happened to Billy the Cat?

Also the same 'How to Draw' books on perspective, the human 
figure, hands and faces, and Hal Rasmussen's 'How to Draw Cartoons'. 

Paul, Jo, Gerry and Roy - the Dragonfly Gallery's fantastic four - and their co-creations
- alongside Captain America - created by the legendary Joe Simon and Jack Kirby!

SUPER thanks to Paul, Jo, Gerry and Roy for taking part and contributing 
heart and soul to great workshop - hope to see you all again for Part Two!

A big thank you to Jan Godfrey and Susan Hollingsworth of the 
Wayland Dragonfly Gallery in Watton, for kindly offering me the 
opportunity to take part in their 'Once upon a time' book event - 
A Wayland Feast of Reading, Writing, Poetry and Illustration.

And a big thank you also to writer/artist Sue Welfare 
for recommending me in the first place!