Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back again

Not the most productive of bank holidays I'm afraid. I had quite a nice run of days off too, Friday to Monday. I did do a few bits and bobs though. A couple of sketches (not for anything in particular, just for fun), a bit of writing and I typed all my notes up. It was nice to do nothing though so I'm not going to worry about it too much. The easy going lifestyle does have to end soon though, the lack of drawing inparticular is a bit bothersome as I am getting the urge to do something, anything. Sketching was fun though and if I just do more of that I think I'll at least be scratching an important itch.
Started rewriting today and I feel very positive, which is much nicer than the usual feeling of vague horror. I'd forgotten how much the first rewrite is closer to the end result - for me at least. When I first start writing something it's muddled stilted and just plain wrong, but, and this is the important bit I keep forgetting, it's just the first fumbling steps. It's like the big ugly blob of clay a modeller might start with or the crappy rushed gestural blocking in a painter might begin with. Half arsed metaphores aside what I'm trying to say is that the initial writing is just the base to start with, it gives me a direction, something to work against as well as with. Obviously it's not the only rewrite I'll do, at the very least I'll polish everything up correcting grammar and various mistakes, but for now I'm pleased with what I've done, and more importantly it gives me a more hope for what's to come.
Bought a pretty good graphic novel (oh, I hate that term, comic sounds much better, but it has about 200 pages so it doesn't properly get the point across) today, Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Bargin at 7 quid (sorry for the slang, my pound sign key doesn't work) and not just pretty good but very good. Fluid artwork that seems to combine James Kochalka and manga with loose lush brush work and a fun silly, smart story that I won't spoil by trying to pigeon hole like I did with the artwork. It's published by Oni Press who are a bit hit and miss but do publish quite a few nice books.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Simian strikes back

Still got more notes to type up for Simian Smith, I didn't realise I'd handwritten as much as I had..... not that it's 1000's of words, but it's still a fair bit. I had a bit of a reread of the first chapter and a rewrite is definitely required, but that's okay, I didn't expect to get it right the first, second or even third time. Narration wise it's a bit clunky and the opening paragraph just didn't 'grab'. My usual method of fixing problems like this is to drastically cut the word count down, and it seemed to work this time. 50% less words and two paragraphs became one and I like it much better. Looking over it I think brevity and fun are my two keywords to remember for the rest of the writing (maybe I should tape them to the PC screen?), there's a tendency for my prose to be a bit flat and dry, not the best tone for a 5-8 kid's book really.
What's better, a laptop, and Apple laptop or an EMac? If I get an Emac I can afford a dvd-r aswell as cd rewriter, but I'd like to have a computer that takes up as little space as possible. An Apple laptop will save space but my budget means I'd have to do without the DVD-R which would be a shame. A laptop would mean I could keep in budget and have DVD-R and CD-R, but I've been told over and over how much better Macs are, particluarly for artwork. Hmmmm.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

All the things in my head

Feeling better today, after much needed sleep. Migraines are new to me, they only started a couple of months ago but I've had two since then as well as a fair few headaches. Rebecca and my parents think I should go to the Doctor's but I'd feel like some silly time waster. A few more migraines and I bet I change my mind though.
So what happened to Cornwall? In many ways it went well, Rebecca felt positive about her interview, I walked into a bookshop told them my experience and got an impromptu interview. Cornwall itself was beautiful (although driving through Devon I think I preferred the Devon countryside) so no complaints there. But aside from all that it didn't feel right. The bookshop job would probably only be for about three months as the shop couldn't guarantee any vacancies after Christmas even though they'd like me to stay. Although we'd seen a couple of places to live where my wife would be working that were in an okay price range we discovered that they were definitely not the norm and the norm was a couple hundred more. Also, the area we would have to live was not as nice as I'd hoped, the nice parts were beautiful but the majority of the place was actually quite run down and grim, although it would be close to a lot of nice scenery we wouldn't see a hell of a lot of it due to being unable to drive and not often having that much time. It just all felt less than ideal. We've moved before and taken a risk and although it worked out going to London it didn't totally work out coming to Nottingham, and I can't help but worry that our circumstances of leaving Nottingham would be too similar to the circumstances of coming to Nottingham. Basically we'd be running away in a hurry without thinking carefully about what we're heading into. What we need to do is be a little more patient (and infact we had initially planned not to move for another year, Cornwall was a spur of the moment thing), save some more money, learn to drive and I need to capable of more than bookselling.
Yes, reading this it's pretty obvious that I'm trying to convince myself that we made the right choice but I do think it's the right choice, I feel like a bit of a coward and I can't help but wonder how easier this would be to do if I'd done more before hand, but moving to the right place is important to us and I want to do it right, I’d hate to screw this up.
I was told last night that I'm miserable, a comment which I'd like to disagree with, but can't, even my wife once told me that in all the time she's known me (eleven years), she's seen me happy occasionally but she's never thought I was a happy person. Coming not long after a post about how easy it is for me to like books etc that are depressing I'd have trouble convincing you I'm some happy go lucky elf spreading joy to all I meet. I don't mean to be miserable though! I have been happy, not long after writing about liking depressing stuff I realised I also like silly whimsical stuff, thinks that are joyful, but I guess I find it easier to be down than up. The last few years I’ve not just been depressed, I also concentrated on it. Why should I perk myself up and get on with things when I'm feeling so bad about everything? According to some article I read years ago being depressed is like running for long distances, your body releases endorphins to help get you through, but you can become addicted. In other words feeling depressed can actually feel good. I certainly have this problem, also when I'm not being miserable I have a tendency to just be some silly twerp - which must be fantastically endearing, miserable or stupid, what would you prefer?
Well, with things not working out with Cornwall and realising that I haven't taken full advantage of the last couple of years because I was too intent on having an awful time in Nottingham, I think I should make an effort to buck up. I'll give it my best shot.
Yesterday I said I'd tell you what's happening with Simian Smith. I've still got a few pages of hand written notes to type up, which I'll do today, I'll also try and better plan out the actual story. One thing I need to do is take a look at more books for 5-8 year olds, I've read a few but not that many and not with the kind of close scrutiny required to understand the medium. Whatever, I start working on Simian again today.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Bad head

I had meant to tell all about the visit to Cornwall, but it seems more important to have a bit of a migraine. It's not a really bad one, but I do feel queasy and my heads throbbing. All I'll say is that the trip went pretty well but we've decided not to go just yet, we need to sort out a few things first, more details tomorrow when I also start writing Simian Smith again

Thursday, August 19, 2004

feel the pain

2 books, 1 tv show, all incredible, all depressing as hell. How I live Now by Meg Rosoff is causing a bit of a stir and for good reason, who knows if it will become the next Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time but I hope so, it deserves it It's a powerful uncompromising read. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi came out a while ago and is one of those oddities - a graphic novel that becomes accepted by the real world, like Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, Ghost World or Joe Sacco's books. I've no idea why I waited so long to buy it, it was originally published by the excellent French small press publishers L'Association which comprises some phenominal talent such as Lewis Trondhein, Johann Sfar and, this one's important David B. (I'm not sure if Christophe Blaine is part of L'Association, but if he isn't I bet he's an honourary member) Over a year ago Fantagraphics translated and released the incredible Epileptic part 1, beautiful artwork in service to a touching autobiography. Epileptic managed to get a few excellent reviews, but sales wise didn't set the world on fire (I guess the price didn't help, at $25 (can't remember the English price) it was a bit steep, even if the design and presentation justified it), since then Fantagraphics and L'Association have amicably parted ways so Pantheon can reissue Epileptic complete with the second final part in a similar format to Persepolis (small sized hardback) at about $25. Putting aside the annoyance at having to buy something twice (or half of something) I think I suffered the 'but I was there first' syndrome, y'know, like when your fave band suddenly becomes successful and you decide they aren't that good anymore and anyway, you were into them WAY BEFORE ANYONE ELSE! Pathetic, but we've all done it (at least I hope so, or I just outed myself as a complete loser) Persepolis does actually owe a debt (that Satrapi acknowledges) to Epileptic and I guess I was a little bit dismissive of it because I felt Epileptic had been ignored. Dumb. Anyway, I've read it now and it's a hell of a good book, the predictable comparisons to Maus are understandable, but do diminish Satrapi's achievements. Anyway, I loved it. Both books involved the difficult lives of two young women during war times and although are positive in many ways they don't exactly cheer.
And on the subject of cheer, one of my favourite TV shows returned this week (to bog standard terrestrial viewers) Six Feet Under is one of the few programmes I watch (that's right I'm one of those irritating people who don't watch much TV and tell everyone to prove how 'smart' I am) It's not really worth me 'reviewing' it, I'm sure everyone who reads this is aware of it. Anyway I love it, but it depresses the hell out of me. I like to think I'm not someone who thinks dark and miserable equals good (really, I'm not, I got into trouble once with a small press publisher years ago - he did a comic called Slices, which was supposed to be 'slice of life' stories. What they were was dull, poorly written and always bleak. The publisher didn't like my observation that life doesn't always suck and maybe he could try his hand at publishing a story that was happy and uplifting. He didn't agree. So you see, I'm not just about the grim, honest), but I do think misery doesn't have to try so hard to get my approval. Is it shallow and immature of me to think, 'wow, and they all die/live unhappily ever after - so real, so true'? Yeah, it probably is. Damn. Okay, I'm just gonna blame the creators.
Nip and Tuck also depressed me, but that's just because it was bad. I gave it another chance and it burned me, well not again.
Cornwall tomorrow, lucky for us it's not the flooded bit. Who knows what's going to happen? Will my wife (her name's Rebecca for all those people reading this who don't already know me) get the job, will we take it, will I be unemployed? If life was TV I'd by cable or something so I could watch next weeks episode.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Reality comes crashing in

I'm referring to the possible move.... but first, the comic!Yes, it's finished. I only managed to photocopy 3 pages at work, time was short and the copier was playing up. The other 5 pages should be done tomorrow. The question is, how do I feel about completing this Herculean task? All right I suppose. It’s always a bit anticlimactic really. I'm actually pretty happy with the photocopied pages (once the artwork is reduced it often looks better, lines and composition seem that much tighter and clearer and I find it less painful to look at) and although they aren't great they aren't as awful as I'd originally thought. I guess it's also fair to say a lot of my ill feeling towards doing the story has been as much a result of my inability to produce good work as it has with the actual content of the story. Still, it's hard not to look at the end result and wonder what all the effort was for. Again, not the scripts fault, I just wasn't the man for the job - and not just because my work is 'cartoony'. The comics I genuinely like are the fancy, arty, 'literate', pretentious ones, and as much as I have a soft spot for genre material, it's a guilty pleasure, or at least one I like to see with a bit more in the way of personal expression than the usual stuff - think Shirley Jackson instead of James Herbert, or Jim Thompson rather than John Grisham, hell Robert E. Howard is a fine honest read compared to, say, Robert Jordan. Anyway, the point is that it's not enough for me to just draw any old thing, it may be well written, but if it's not for me I just can't do it any more, the thrill of getting a chance to be involved in a COMIC just isn't enough. Maybe I'm just an egotistical snob, but I don't care, there's things I want from, and would like to bring to, books, comics and illustration (wish I could have a crack at films somehow too) and the one thing that has kept me going through all the feelings of hopeless talentless frustration as I've done this comic strip is the fact that I care about this stuff. It's pretty obvious really. I moan and whine about not being any good, about whether I'll give up, but I wouldn't be going through it all if I didn't care, if the need to try and do this stuff didn't outweigh the suspicion that I can't do it. I like to think I'm honest with myself, but maybe my self-doubt is just a luxury I can't afford or a crutch I use to get out of doing anything. So maybe this hasn’t been a waste of time at all.

Cornwall. It seems like such a nice place, and yet it’s causing me nothing but headaches. I told my manager today that I’d need to look into transferring, he reminded me that there is no such thing as transferring where we work, just applying for vacancies and told me how to go about it. One phone call later and I’m in trouble. The nearest branch has no vacancies, and according to the guy on the phone there’s nothing coming up, he didn’t even think there’d be any Christmas vacancies, which was pretty surprising. Which leaves us in a difficult position, if my wife is offered the job she really would like to go for it, yet it’ll mean I’m out of work and I might be out of work for a while as I’ve little skill and work experience outside of working in a bookshop and doing the odd bit of writing and drawing. It’d be easier if rent wasn’t so high nowadays or my wife had a decent paying job, but her wage is pretty poor and wishing house prices, whether to rent or buy, were lower is utterly pointless. So what do we do? Staying in Nottingham is difficult and not desirable but it may not be practical to move. Who knows what’ll happen, I guess we’ll find out soon, but I can’t say I felt very good when I saw the look on my wife’s face when I said she might have to turn the job down if she’s offered it. We'll still go down, it's a chance to see the are, but it doesn't have the same sense of hope.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

where was I?

Not much posting from me this week, which should clue anyone in on my comic progress.
My wife went to work about ten minutes ago, and I have all evening to myself, so I guess I'll be finishing off the comic today. I only have a couple of panels to finish and then I need to go over the pages correcting mistakes with white paint. But will I really, really and truly get it done today? Yeah, I will, I promise. The artwork is so close to finished I think I can get it done in a couple of hours, so it's definitely do-able. But, then again, everytime I post it's to say how close I am to finishing and yet it's never quite happened. Can you trust me? Have I been lying? Well, you have to make your own minds up about the trust part, but I honestly haven't been lying. The 'almost finished' phase is incredibly frustrating, it always seems to get to a point no matter what I'm working on where the work is 'almost finished' and yet it still seems to take forever to finish. I can't explain it, but I think it's got something to do with waning interest and complacency. Anyway, when the last brush/pen stroke is finished, I'll let you all know.
Because of the whining from Katy I've decided to allow 'non-Pauls' to comment on this blog. I know there are a couple of non-Pauls out there who haven't commented, now you have no excuse..... other than having nothing to say. There, Katy, I do care.
Real life is getting complicated. That's a bit of a redundant phrase, real life is always complicated. What I mean is, recent 'happenings', have added an extra layer of fog to my already vague vision of how my life should be. My wife has an interview for a job in Cornwall next week. Cornwall seems like the ideal place for us, coastal, remote, etc. But we can't drive and live quite far away so popping down there isn't easy, and arranging two new jobs is even more difficult. We've spent the last week constantly talking about various plans to make this move happen, all the while aware that it's just an interview, not a guaranteed job offer, but we still have no idea if we can pull this off. Both of us have been dissatisfied with our lifestyles for a number of years now and we're kind of hoping that a move to the 'right' place will help things, but who knows? Our plans to move so far involve trying to keep as many aspects of our life intact but to just be living in a different area. There seems to be a flaw there somewhere, if we aren't happy doing what we're doing, what sense is there in carrying on doing it? But are we able to easily change the things we don't like about our lives? When did we get so safe, dull and trapped? Were we ever any different? A quick scan over this post shows a lot of question marks, but I have no answers. The only conclusion we came to was we have no idea what we'll do until we do it. Not helpful or reasssuring, but it's true.
Hey Paul, hope this answers some of your burning questions, sorry about the heavy Due South content of conversation recently, it's been the present obsession of the house. Hope you had a good birthday.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Start of the day

Well, not exactly the start, that was about an hour ago. What I'd like to do today, my day off, is to do a bit of exercise, relax, read a new book I bought, read some comics, read some interviews in The Comics Journal and go and see I, Robot. What I have to do is draw, and maybe I'll get to do some of that other stuff (although I, Robot is a definite - I figure I'll need the pleasurably empty thrill a (hopefully) decent shallow blockbuster can bring), but maybe not. There's about a page and a half of un-inked pencils to do and a bit of drawing from scratch, by the time I leave to meet my wife and go to the cinema I hope to have at least inked the penciled pages. So, I guess I'd better turn off my computer!
BTW Paul, that link didn't seem to work. Also sorry for that last line in my comment on the previous post doesn't make sense, it should say 'time needs to be wasted'.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

late night blogging

due to pestering from Paul, I now update you all as to my artistic efforts. Nothing much done, everything's penciled though. What did you expect, no news is just no news. Sorry Paul. Monday's the day, I'm off, my wife isn't. I'm just going to plow through it all and put the lame dog to sleep.
Behind me my wife is watching Big Brother. This fills me with much sadness. Yet, it will be over, the programme will end, and I will hope afresh that she will not watch it again. I'm a fool, I know, but hope is a great thing, maybe the best thing nad it should never die.
For all those interested, my night tonight mainly consisted of wearing a large pair of jeans and a blue checked shirt from Oxfam. These 2 items of clothing were torn, cut and shredded. I was at a fancy dress party. A friend of my wife's turned 30 and felt that the best way to celebrate was for everyone to look ridiculous and leave their pride and self respect at the door. Sorry Graham (Ester's boyfriend/fiance), if you're reading this, told you I don't like fancy dress. I went as the incredible Hulk, obviously I had calmed down and was no longer green, imposing or muscular. Fancy dress sucks. It's no way to hang on to your youth, and if that's what it takes to hang on to it, let it go. Anyway, happy 30th Ester, next year, let's all have a glass of sherry by the fire and were tartan blankies over our laps.
Went to a wedding yesterday and had a lovely day. Beautiful and deserving couple. It was great being at a wedding where I pretty much knew all the people involved. Hell, I didn't know all the people at my own wedding and there was barely 30 people at that exclusive event. I hardly know my all my relatives, less so for my wife's family, but yesterday was different. Nice to have so many friends there sharing the day.
I've got an incredibly itchy rash on my thigh at the moment, the skin under my right eye is also showing signs of a re-occuring inflammation and I've had a headache pretty much constantly for the last 6 weeks. It's the weather. Damp, clammy, sticky, hot, opressive and rarely bright. What's with the summer? Are we heading for some sort of Global meltdown? I doubt it, but it's been a rubbish summer and I can't help but wonder what winter's going to bring.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Comic update

Nothing much done, I think the deadline is officially blown. I did do some work yesterday, though and judging by the weather here, I might as well stay indoors all day. I have been doing stuff, but it's just been at a very patchy rate of progress and I've got the sneaking suspicion that the quality is trailing off a little (which is bad news as I'm not convinced that the quality was that high to start with) as my interest diminishes.
I'd like to post the artwork up here, not because I'm proud of it, but it might give a better sense of what I'm doing. I'm sure it's easy to post it up, but I don't know how to do things like thumbnails linking to larger images, so the posts would be quite big, which could be a problem. Also maybe I should wait until the pages are actually finished.
Anyway, what I've got done so far....
Page 1 This one's pretty much done. There's a face that needs inking in one panel - it's very small, I have no idea why I haven't done it, possibly because it looks a bit fiddly.
Page 2 Finished.
Page 3 Needs one very small panel pencilled and inked. It's a close of a foot on a brake pedal, I have no idea what a car break looks like (can't drive), but I guess the picture will mainly be leg and foot, so after I peek through someone's car parked on the street outside this page'll be done.
Page 4 Needs one panel (pretty small one) done from scratch and 4 small panels need inking. The panel that I have done on this page takes up almost the entire page with all the others being small inset ones, so this is a fairly easy page to finish.
Page 5 Two panels out of five finished, the other three are mostly pencilled and inked, jus a few bits and pieces need finishing.
Page 6 One panel needs finishing, it's all pencilled and mostly inked.
Page 7 There's not a lot done on this page, but it's part pencilled and the rest is fairly detailed roughs.
Page 8 Nothing, but one panel is mostly black and repeats elements from page 1 (it's a big panel too) and the other 2 panels are fairly basic, so it shouldn't be too hard.
As you can see, it's the last 2 pages that are really letting this down, hopefully I'll have pencilled them by the end of the day. Also lots of stuff is 'finished' there's also the 'fine tuning' that needs doing, which is basically going over it all tidying mistakes, adding detail where needed and general tinkering.
With a bit of luck I might get it all finished in the next few days - I probably could get it finished by today if I really knuckled down, but I just can't work up the interest, I'm back at work tomorrow, my wife's off (we rarely get the same day off..... is this the first time that I've mentioned her? Oh dear, I think it is. Sorry Rebecca) so I'd rather not spend the day hunched over the drawing board. Just a few more days and it'll be done, then I'll stop going on about it, I promise.