This week sees me bouncing back and forth between here (an unlovable town in the Bedfordshire area) and Newcastle. I lived in Newcastle for about a decade, and I’ve always found it odd that people in the south exclaim surprise about my casual visits to that city. “Newcastle!”, they proclaim. “I’ve never been past Stevenage!”, despite there being the usual range of transport options. I’ve literally lost count of the people who say this to me, despite it being about half-way up the UK’s length.
This is a picture of the view from Byker, which had a unique architectural estate, the Byker Wall, built sometime during the 1960s. My great-grandparents used to run a business in the area, which was purchased off them and bulldozed to form this mega-estate which my friend now lives in. The amazing panoramic view shows the Baltic in Gateshead, where I used to work, right up to the hills near Consett (I could only squeeze a little of the view into my notebook, as I was quite busy).
On Monday I put up my pages of Bartkira, which is a difficult-to-describe mashup of the Simpsons and (uber-important Japanese manga comic) Akira. Unlike other things that I do, it was an externally defined project with a hard time limit. There were deadlines! And I wanted to make a nice-looking outcome!
Let’s talk about how I did it.
Firstly, I had to get hold of the source material – namely, pages 46 to 50 of volume four of Akira. I them printed them off at A3 size (or, rather A4 size but stuck together with scotch tape) and used a lightbox to trace the panel layout onto some nice watercolour paper I had lying around.
I don’t like my lightbox, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a purchase to people – it’s a sheet of electroluminescent paper which I got through a specialist supplier. It’s not quite bright enough, so I’m using very light watercolour paper here.
At this point in the story, Springfield has been destroyed by the awakening of the most powerful psychic child, Ralph Wiggum, and everybody is living in the sort of horrible post-disaster situation that people in Hartlepool deal with daily. Milhouse is wacked up on drugs that give him psychic powers, and has a robot arm (under his cape). I had free reign to cast whichever characters I wanted in the small parts, and so the three nerds from “Homer Goes to College” have a walk-on role as drug guinea pigs (it doesn’t end well for them – just say no to psychic powers, kids!). I figure life in the desolate hell-hole that Springfield became has toughened them up a bit, Also, they might be holding hands in that panel on page 50. I’m not going to judge.
As it currently stands, these five pages are the most “finished” visual artworks I’ve made, and I’m going to write another blogpost detailing some of the process (check back on Friday!) for how I made them. It was a long process, involving printing things out and selotape and watercolours and lots of Photoshop. I’m probably going to spend the next few days drawing flowers to recover.
Hey! So, remember two weeks ago when I put up some watercolours I did, based on Japanese painting? Here’s some more!
I’m doing these watercolours in a small, expensive notebook I brought. It’s got the best watercolour paper I’ve ever used, so I have a sort of mental block about using it, and this project is an excuse to do some work in the pages. It’s going pretty well. Above is the first picture that I thought worked, a copy of “People Walking Under Cherry Trees at Night”. The original piece is a study in perspective – still a new and interesting thing to Japanese art. For me, this image turned into a test of brushwork.
This second drawing wasn’t so successful, but I managed to get the gradation of colour in the sky. Hiroshige was a master publicist, and he sold these prints to people at shops conveniently located at the busiest intersections on the way out of Edo’s drinking areas.
This drawing didn’t work, and I realised that the shapes were just going to be too complicated for me to draw at this size. I’ve included it because it shows that a) I’m not an amazing artist and b) sometimes you just got to know when to fold.
Hello again! More comics. This comic uses visual repetition to make a joke.
Comics are a very labour-intensive way of telling a story, and I don’t feel like spending *all* of my available time drawing them. Even this scrappy effort took quite some time and thought to make legible – and I’m not happy with the way that final panel turned out. On the other hand, I’m happy to be telling this story, which started last week. I might go back at some point and fix up these pages.
Also, after last week’s post, I decided to send an email to that ex and apologise for being a massive jerk. In fact, “massive jerk” is probably underselling it. I was a howling fantod of jerkdom, and could probably write several voluminous novels on how much of a twat I was (working title: “In Search of Lost Twatiness”). Surprisingly, she also apologised to me, so it was like some kind of mutual karmic slate being wiped clean. Phew!
Last month, I started a project I’d been thinking about for a while; copying the works of Japanese printmaker Hiroshige, using my watercolour paints. The first attempts, above, show what happened.
The first two goes I had were terrible, and I could have given up and gone off and done something else with my time. But the third attempt seemed to almost work… The fourth attempt, a print called “Geese Descending Over a Bay” and/or ”Full Moon over Takanawa” (depending on what country you live in) showed me what I wanted to do. It isn’t perfect, but the sense of distance created by the curving bay, and the use of colours, kind of reflected what Hiroshige was doing.
One of the problems of watercolours is when the paper doesn’t absorb all the water quickly enough, and the pigment dries in this sort of ridge (left). Japanese prints often use a sort of gradation effect, called bokashi, and trying to replicate this in watercolour was very difficult. Good practice though!
Next week, I’ll put up some more of the watercolour copies I’ve done. I didn’t want to put them all up at once, as that’d be overkill. I’ll also talk about why I’m doing these.