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Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

Swogger - Visions of the Future - final 6

A Vision of the Future? Page from my section of Supergen’s bioenergy comic.

This week sees the launch of another project I’ve been working on since Christmas – an informational comic about bioenergy, sponsored by Supergen Bioenergy, an industry research consortium.

The project is the brainchild of James McKay – engineer and 2000 AD comics artist (not often those two descriptors feature in the same biography). He’s probably best known in the comics world for his work on the 2000 AD series Flesh, but he’s also the creator of the bande-desinée La Cité des Secrets (Mosquito, 2007). James is also the man behind the Dreams of a Low Carbon Future (I & II) project – a two-part illustrated and comic book exploring the technologies and social changes necessary to create a sustainable, low-carbon way of life in the twenty-first century. I drew several large illustrations for the second volume, and through that was invited by James to contribute to the bioenergy comic.

The Bio-Energy comic is a similar project – but focused primarily on providing good, solid background information about bioenergy – What is it? How is it used? What does it cost? etc. – and combining that with some future scenarios to show how different ways of adopting and using bioenergy technology might shape the next 60-80 years.

Five comics people were involved: myself, James, comics illustrators Corban Wilkin and Emma Chinnery, and comics writer Ben Dickson; I found myself in the company of some very talented people! The project has been extremely interesting – not least for the complexity of the subject matter, and the long, workshop-based back-and-forth that was required to turn that into something more accessible and engaging; but also the process of working with four other creative minds all of whom have very different backgrounds in comics to myself, and consequently approach both the drawing and the writing of them very differently. It has been a hugely rewarding experience, and if anyone out there making a start in the world of comics has an opportunity to work on a collaborative project – don’t let it slip away! You’ll learn far more than you ever imagined. Making comics can be a very solitary enterprise, and seeing how other people do it is invaluable.

The Bio-energy comic is being launched this week in Manchester at a special Supergen event, and will be generally available soon.

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2016_sdad_IIIt’s been a busy few months, finishing the second edition of my comic book about Asperger Syndrome, Something Different About Dad. The original edition was published five years ago. Since then, sales have been good – so good, in fact, that last year, it was time for a reprint. Jessica Kingsley Publishers asked whether there was scope for an updated second edition – and so, since Christmas I have been working on new artwork and new chapters.

The big difference between this revised edition and the original is that this edition is in colour! So I have been re-drawing and colouring all 140 pages of the comic. It’s been an opportunity to add something to the characters. It’s also been an opportunity to use colour to help better organise and structure the information. For example, the story sections of the book are now in full-colour, whereas the factual and discussion sections retain their original, more limited palette.

A new edition also presents an opportunity for new information. There’s a lot more in the book about getting diagnoses, and about finding help and support. The glossary has been extended, and there’s advice on online safety. The second edition has a new cover, new introduction – and some endorsements from the great and good in the world of Graphic Medicine.

It’s been a lot of work, but I’m glad to have had this chance to revisit my very first published informational graphic work. The second edition of Something Different About Dad is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and will be on sale in July.

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I’ve got an interesting commission on at the moment that’s almost a comic: an illustration showing the steps involved in the Mixtec lost-wax  casting process. It’s actually reminiscent of the comics I did for Middleport Pottery, only instead of being for a visitors centre somewhere, it’s for an archaeology journal. The step-by-step, panel-by-panel format is a way of showing both the manufacturing sequence, and the central importance of a ceramic “casting core” to the process.

While sequential illustrations are nothing new in the visualisation of archaeology, what is interesting here is the importance within the article of the casting core as an element of process rather than simply an artefact. In other words, in the author’s thesis, the casting core is a dynamic, active object rather than a static one. Perhaps, then, it is no wonder that the author was interested in an illustration that conveyed the inherent “dynamism” of the casting core.

I argued a few years ago that comics – or a comics approach, if you will – opens the door to doing precisely this: visualising a dynamic kind of archaeology. This sequential lost-wax casting commission demonstrates exactly what I had in mind: it’s an illustration that is dynamic and active; an illustration that is about visualising a past process, not a moment in time. It’s an illustration that tries to visualise a past that is alive – not dead and gone.

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Ancient Mariner CD full artworkThis must certainly count as the most unusual piece of “official” archaeological artwork I’ve ever been commissioned. Those of you who were at the Primer of the Ancient Mariner session on ancient DNA at this year’s SAAs will recognise it – it was the artwork that adorned the flyers advertising the session which you will have seen liberally distributed through the convention centre. This version of the artwork was designed as a CD insert or 12″ album sleeve.

The challenge to the session’s presenters was to give each paper a title which – as with the session title itself – punned on a heavy metal track title. I was then asked if I could provide artwork in a similarly punning vein. This was the result: a front and back album artwork spread as an homage to Derek Riggs’ classic Iron Maiden paintings, based on the mixed themes of ancient DNA, the Pacific, and session chairs Scott Fitzpatrick and Jess Stone heading to the Magic Kingdom.

All hugely entertaining to paint, of course – why isn’t more archaeological illustration this much fun?

 

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Panel by Manuel Joao Ramos. See? Not the only person to be influenced by the tropes and styles of Tintin!

Panel by Manuel Joao Ramos. See? Not the only person to be influenced by the tropes and styles of Tintin!

Thanks to Juliet McMullin, who drew my attention to a fascinating article by Manuel João Ramos in the online, open edition of the journal Cadernos de Arte e Antropologica. The article is a fierce defence of the use of sketching as a part of ethnographic observational practice, and is accompanied by a gallery of comic-panel sketches. Why?

Ramos is an Associate Professor of Anthropology based at the Center for International Studies, at the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE), with a curious and fascinating list of professional (and, I assume, ethnographic?) interests – travel literature, “NGO militancy” (I’m not even really sure what that might be), and road traffic victims and road safety.

His article – Stop the Academic World, I Wanna get off in the Quai de Branly: Of sketchbooks, museums and anthropology – uses some fascinating language with regard to the use of visual media in anthropology:

… un-genreing and re-genreing anthropological production may help free it from its boring academic format, shake up its stiff argumentation forms and sapped styles – all too reliant [o]n the game of referencing, quoting, paraphrasing and bowing.

Ramos argues that using visual media as an integral part of academic writing is a step towards this “re-genreing” of anthropological production. His language is the language of revolution – “shake up”, “boring”, “free it”. He champions the act of drawing anthropology as countering “the peculiar “game of writing” where the anthropologist imaginarily dissolves his/her self in the voice of orality in the very process of affirming his/her authorship of the text”.

Sound familiar?

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the value of introducing personal politics into archaeological writing through the use of visual media – most recently in a paper I gave at Comics Forum this year. I have long suspected that I am not the only person in the anthropological sciences thinking this way – and Ramos’ article proves me right. I have a feeling that there is a growing community within the anthropological sciences unhappy with traditional modes of publication, and interested in the way in which visual media offer powerful alternatives.

Ramos refers to his drawings as a “sketchbook”, but their combination of text and image, their use of visuality to create narrative, make them, in fact, a comic. And as I did in my article for Advances in Archaeological Practice, he’s arguing for their use as a stand-alone form of professional publication, not simply as a supplement to it.

The use of comics in science is not simply about reshaping scientific knowledge in a more accessible format for a public or non-specialist audience. The use of comics in science can – as Ramos and I have both argued – represent new ways of thinking about science in the first place. What Manuel Ramos and I (and others) are experimenting with represents a step towards a general “re-genreing” not just of science communication, but of science practice.

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Every so often it’s good to do something completely different. Here’s a set of illustrations I’ve done recently for a horror anthology published by Cygnus Alpha.

It is a collection of short stories inspired by the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, but set in the West Country. The anthology features fiction written by real-life criminal lawyers, folklore researchers, museum curators, graphic designers and Dalek actors (yes, really) – all of whom write Lovecraftian horror stories in their spare time. The anthology is being distributed through Just Giving to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity – and yes, the group understands the irony of that.

It’s good to see creative people come together in support of something they really believe in. Fifteen excellent Lovecraftian horror stories, fifteen pages + of spooky interior artwork – some by me, some by other illustrators; get yourself over to Just Giving a grab yourself a copy of The Secret Invasion while there’s still time!

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Ants! Zombies! Awesomeness! Check it out!

Ants! Zombies! Awesomeness! Check it out!

Where were you this Halloween weekend? I was at the launch of the new album from Oswestry’s own Awesome Zombie Ants. In the impressive arena of Hermon Chapel, to the accompaniment of film clips from horror films both classic and obscure, and pints of Station Bitter from Stonehouse Brewery, the Ants thrashed and rocked their way through all-new tracks from Real Life Intervened.

Funf Sterne, Rubber Queens, Plank’s Constant – all new tunes on the playlist, plus classic old favourites like Shropdoc! Best of all, guess whose artwork is on the cover? Maybe, if this all goes according to plan, I could end up as the Ants’ Derek Riggs!

Weird, strange and unbelievable, spine-tingling! Dare you listen to the music of the ants?

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