Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Second Wyrd Sister

Another drawing of a Prague Shakespeare Company witch or 'Wierd' 'Wyrd' or 'Weyward' sister who meets Macbeth on a ' blasted heath'. There is no real evidence Shakespeare travelled to Cawdor. But he knew intimate details of the 'witch' burning trials in Aberdeen. I've been to what's called 'Macbeth's Hillock'. It seems the real Macbeth was even more influenced by witchcraft than the one in the play. The real Macbeth was not killed by Macduff, but by Malcolm CanMore in Lumphanon of all places....not far at all from where I grew up.

The Hollinshead Chronicle (1577) page 274: Macbeth puts many nobles to death on trumped-up charges and seizes their goods. | To increase his power, Macbeth orders a great castle to be built on Dunsinane hill. | Macduff, in fear of his life, sends workmen to the castle but does not go himself. Macbeth takes offense at this, especially since "certeine wizzards" had told him to take heed of Macduff. | Macbeth refrains from killing Macduff only because "a certeine witch" told him that he could not be slain by any man born of woman, nor be vanquished until "the wood of Bernane came to the castell of Dunsinane." | Macduff goes to England to persuade Malcolm to claim the throne of Scotland. Macbeth, through his spies, hears of Macduff's plan and goes to Macduff's dwelling, expecting to find him there. Macduff's people open the gate to Macbeth, but he nevertheless kills everyone inside.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


I was painting up a storm in December and so active that I began to wonder why I ever get inactive periods. Peaks and troughs, it has always been a bit like that for me. And I'm surprised to admit it has happened again, just as we reached about the 18th or so of the month. I put it down to the distraction of preparing for the 25th and new year, I was wrong of course, it was a trough and would have happened anyway most likely. Then I got sick. I tackled that with a -5 bike ride, I know that sounds nuts, but I wasn't too sick and I know riding the trails would have burned it off had I not wiped out in the ice.

-5 and soaking wet with a long ride home is no cure and things soon got worse. My whole family went down like pegs one after another. Monday the 19th of January was the first normal studio day for me again with everyone now back to fighting fit. But nothing got done...I'm clearly still in that trough.

But I've been biking and hiking and that certainly helped me get better. I think so much more imaginatively when I'm out, not sure why that is, but I wish I could record the shifting ideas that flitter through my noggin', not just the big ones that lodge there, but the ones I'm almost unaware of having, the steps to the more memorable ideas.

I had a string of short story ideas for example yesterday, not sure where I would be able to show them or share them, or how long they would take to create. By 'story ideas' I mean stories in picture form, comics as such. And the thought of them not seeing the light of day (like so much else) makes me think they should just stay in my head, my shadow gallery, the dome room. The trough.

I'm working on a short film I was asked to take part in. I have the lead role, I like the script and the unique predicament my character is in. The script has similar elements to a short story I once dreamt up, but it goes in a very different direction. Maybe that's why I responded so much to it. It will run to about 25 minutes and will take 7 days to shoot.

We'll be working on stunt choreography and acting rehearsals in a few weeks time.

I'm going to sketch out a poster for the film and may also provide some simple storyboards to help with the blocking. Anyway, more on this as it comes about, I'll post the work here.

Tomorrow I hope to get started lettering a few more of my graphic-novel pages. I took a break from the GN late last year when my Mac inexplicably died. The greatest trough of them all. It was incredibly intensive work and the let down of being so entirely grounded on a project that I had been lavishing time on just knocked me for 6. Again, no publisher, nowhere to show the work...always trying to outrun the trough.

Hats off (as I'm sure I've said before) to anyone who draws comics day in and day out. Surely you are the hardest working artists in the world because no sooner have you finished the last picture and you are on to the next...and no one drawing is the summation of the art and each is as critical as a chain link.

So, off to read and re-read the script for 'Opikanoba' (the working title of the film)....come to think of it I'll need to pick up a highlighter pen in the morning.

*One thing, I did crack open an old wine sketchbook, I've been working away with the wine-on-paper again, photo's to come.

Monday, 5 January 2015

2015 and Painting More Paintings.

Man, here we are, 2015. Another abstract number that doesn't make much sense at all.

I was up in the loft.
I was up and down in the loft quite a bit infact before Christmas and I started looking at some portfolios I keep up there. 90's time capsules of random sketches and paintings.

I'm going to post some over the next few weeks.

Here's an example, in 1996 I did a series of small self portraits. When you have no living subject or muse to paint, well, there's always the mirror.

What if I use just that brush?

No subject but yourself. The exterior, anyway,  a study of a reflection of the object that houses your thoughts. I guess that's one reason to paint a self portrait, to grasp at part of the consciousness feedback-loop. In this case it's not vanity, it's "What in God's name is that and how can it be me?"

What if I only use those colours with that brush?

My father would say he didn't recognise the old man he met in the mirror, I've heard others say the same. Maybe what's inside us is permanent and immortal, after all, and ageing is a slow uncoupling of the content from its container.

Or perhaps our minds are aloft.  A loft full of long dead ideas.

Why paint your self?...well, you're always around.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Memory Lapse : Paint by Numbers

I was still deciding here what the best posture would be, therefore one lad has two heads. Pentimento.
Pastel Sketch on Cardboard.

So, I just scrolled through this blog and found several old posts that mention the project below. It took several years as it went through various stages and via various methods. In the end I settled on what I have below.

I noticed on re-reading posts about the project that I never actually explained what I had resolved to do and I never mentioned when it was finished. This last oversight might be due to being sick at the time it was completed....but more than likely just a lapse of my memory.

For anyone who happened to read those posts, here is the finished picture.

I decided to paint the children as a 'paint by numbers' image. I then painted the faces fairly realistically but approached everything else with a simpler approach. Something of a failed experiment maybe. My earliest experiences painting, five years old or so, seem to have been with some kind of paint by numbers kit. I remember being amazed by the way the picture came about by just putting the colours where I was told. Someone was with me, my mother I'm sure, it's a vague memory.

But putting the colours in the right place is still exciting. Only now, I make that decision, and I don't always get it right. In fact, despite the agony, all the real fun and learning is in getting it wrong.

In the case of the boys in the painting, the older boy is drawing himself in to the picture. Some early self determination right there. The younger playing with a model tram. Although the foreground is 'unpainted' or deliberately incomplete. I painted the roll to stand out as quite realistic. This is a uniquely Czech form of bread. I think they are delicious, not everybody likes them. For many friends a 'rohlik' and a cup of tea was  their Grannies cure-all growing up.

I wish I'd done a better job or had the courage to not paint the boys at all and leave them as line art in a fully painted room, that would have been better. Next time maybe.

I also took reasonably good pictures in close up but failed to take good over all shots of the completed image. Ho hum. You can explore it below.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Working in Circles.

This study is coming along, I like the way the rich colours at bottom have worked out. This week I intended to work on the 'lady' I mentioned in my last post. But she's still wet in places, thankfully this hairless gent was dry. Tonight I am working on a little study of a dancer.

Winter kicked in hard the other day. It seems to have come overnight, but I may be mistaken because I have been at the easel so much and not set foot out the door (for any length of time). It made me realise there are a few other things I want to paint, winter scenes, and I should be prepared. In the Spring the blossoms always seem to come and go so fast I miss the best of them, but I have a few blossom trees underway too that I hope to finally finish up. But I need to be ready to capture a few more winter scenes this year. I'm tired of it all tonight though. Not sure I deserve to be tired, but it just kicked in. Break time.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Lady is Not for Drying

Unfortunately she is generating too much glare when I photograph her. She is almost complete, enough that I could show her in full. But too wet to snap effectively for this blog right now.

Even in the small shot above the texture of the canvas in the dark area of her cheek is kicking off numerous little flash points.

In addition, she just doesn't look as good as she seems in the flesh. She has a light that I just can't capture at the moment in a photo.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Yesterday was a little disjointed and I didn't get much done, i felt I'd wasted the day. Then in the evening I started something, another painting that I blocked in a few weeks back. In no time I'd established something that seemed to be painting itself.

I usually don't paint if I have only an hour because it'll be a waste, not enough will get done, paint will be on a time-limit (even though I'll refrigerate the pallet) and most importantly I may get off to a bad start and won't have time to guide things well. But last night...well, if only it was always so easy.
And it's better than I could have hoped.

That's what it was, it was easy.

More soon + pictures....

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Eye, Eye...

Aye, I...... aye - an eye.

Oil on canvas...underway, a few days ago. 

It's Raining Cats and Dogs

Best. Day. For. Painting.

No beer glasses clinking, no laughter, no morning chorus calling you to bike. No dazzle...just rain. And when it stops, just cold and damp and 'Caw Caw'....

Monday, 17 November 2014

Baldy in Progress

I've been working on a series, rotating wet canvasses for dry over the last few weeks, it's a productive way to get on with it all. Not much more to say about it at the moment, but here's a close up of what I'm working on right now, oil on canvas. More soon.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Ginger Sadness - Finished.

This was painted a long time ago. Over the years I've added glazes at different times, I always think the painting is done only to realise at some stage I can do more. The other day I decided to add yet another glaze. The final one. So...I think that's it. It only took 13 years. Fool that I am, I thought it done in 2004.

The final glaze broke the green with a new red.  I'm using it as a test for the paintings I'm working up at the moment and I'm glad I did. I realise I need some new materials.

I previously posted about this picture here.

Here's a facebook comment when I posted it this morning - 'Ginger Sadness' is now complete, painted over 10 yrs ago but periodically re-glazed. (New title too. Pronounced with a hard G followed by a soft g as in Gong and Minger) I always imagine Grant looking like this in his old apt with no electricity during the 2002 flood. So 'Ginger Sadness' (Floodlight).

What am I after here, why am I returning to this?

I have this idea about painting that captivates me when I see it done and it relates a bit to Leonardo Da Vinci. He had a technique that he mastered and that those who study his work are seemingly mystified by. It has a name, it is called 'Sfumato' which means 'like smoke'. His forms and skin and in particular all edges blend one to another very softly in an almost ghostly way - like smoke.

The master described it best...
"without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane." - Leonardo Da Vinci

I have some idea of how he did this and I've always felt it was a beautiful way to paint, in many places there are simply no strokes, it is like a work of magic. Think about that for a second. No Strokes - and no evidence of them being hidden either. Nothing. A spectre.

Even if I could I wouldn't want to hide my tracks so well, I happen to love the action of paint, the look of it, the marks. The way the artists movements can be traced, deduced, whatever, by the marks that are left. But I can do something similar to sfumato, it takes a great deal of time. I've tested it but ruled it out as A) Insanely time-intensive B) It undermines the life and joy of painting (more importantly) for me. 

But I've managed it in the past here and there hen I mustered the courage. I must I'm no slouch, I keep my head down, I lavish time on my work. One nude took 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week for 4 months...and the skin was good. Was it worth it? No idea, but probably not. I could have made so many more things in that time, but would they have been a match for the nude? Probably not....so it goes.

So there is a way, a method, in fact more than one. Although the Da Vinci method they ain't, not in a million years. His work is untouchable, the master magician. But I still grope for that smoke in the dark like an imbecile who wants the smoke and the strokes.


So I want a 'sfumato-lite' in my work, an indistinct set of forms that is there and not there. So that each piece when looked at separately will seem almost abstract. A soft thing that only makes sense as a whole. Ginger Sadness is pretty roughly painted, I've made no effort to hide the strokes. 

My favourite part of it is a tiny blob of paint in the inner eye, a half circle made with a last second twist of the brush. That's it, my favourite bit. The bit I'd cut out and keep...only that would ruin everything wouldn't it?

I should point out the photo above is not out of focus, the almost rectangular reflection on the wet glaze along the side of the image is sharp edged. And....you can see the strokes throughout the picture if you look. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Art Technique. Seriously. No, really.

The internet is amazing, whatever you want to know, it's there. What a wonderful gift, I can think of few things as valuable as the internet. A free library of everything, an Oracle every bit as brilliant and mad as the doomed high-as-a-kite lassies of Delphi....

There are seemingly thousands of sites offering painting lessons, I imagine if I were starting again it would be a lot easier to make progress. This week I saw a few people teaching art-technique and selling the lessons on video. There seems to be quite a variance in skill among these teachers. Choose wisely.

I've been asked to teach people in the past. Seeing these video ad's reminded me of the answer I gave*. See, Making pictures is a solitary business mostly, so buy the best of the books available and get stuck in. And which book is that?

Well this is the answer I gave. 

Read it, read it again. Keep it handy.
Simply speaking - it is the most generous and no-nonsense, straight shooting, all-round, art technique book I've ever found. If you know a better one, let me know.

BTW- In my case I can vouch for the hard-back edition from 2002. This book is now on its 3rd edition. The blurb says it has been 'revised'...hmm, not sure that's a good thing, but presumably its the same book I have.

Later I'll post more art books that deal with specific issues that I think are among the best and really worth your money. There are just too many weak broths out there for you to waist your time on.

*I gave more than an answer on one occasion, I gave the book away on one occasion. Not a wise move, it took a while to replace.


The varnished picture is dry, finally. Today I did a bit more painting to another one I'm working on. This one is a real glazing exercise. I blocked in a week or two back, I like the blocking and do not want to lose it. So most of the picture will be made up of translucent colour, this will involve a lot of drying time between glazes...so now I will work up another picture to the stage this is at. That way, I can have a series rotating on and off the easel as I glaze and re-glaze. Better get back to it... pictures soon. Studio stinks of coffee and linseed oil, turps and dammar....and that's exactly how it should be.

With constant ventilation of course, this time of year that means it's cold in here too. Remember and always ventilate properly if you use solvents and whatnot...you're not daft, you know that.

Monday, 10 November 2014

So Why Varnish It?

Varnished on Saturday morning, still not completely dry. But if it didn't need a varnish why add one? It's a test piece, I have some things I'd like to try, notions really, and this picture is my lab rat.

Today I'll proceed with another picture in the new series. I have six pictures on the go today, swapping them on and off the easel as I complete each stage. I'm still far from finished on any of them. A winter project and we have the perfect day today, misty and cold. More soon.

Saturday, 8 November 2014


Sometimes a picture looks too dry or uneven in the way its paint layers reflect light. Not this one though, it has been varnished before and looked fine as it was. I moved it to the studio to study it as I am working on a new series and I like the way this was done, would like to repeat the method but I've forgotten what I did exactly... it's been a long time.

I like this picture because unlike so many others it worked out exactly as I wanted it to, there's something careless about it that I like. Light seems such a fickle thing and learning how to make a picture seem to emit light is the challenge of many painters. There are various ways to approach the problem and most are reasonably simple methodologies.

For me, working in successive layers of glazed colour is the most exciting, I also find it very difficult because I'm impatient and its something of a waiting game. Not only that, I can easily over do it.

This picture has got better over the years because I've added glazing layers from time to time and some repeated varnishing. Doing this seems to have improved the sense of depth and tone. Maybe this latest one is one too far, we'll see. It's all testing, nothing is ever finished.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Work in Progress: Colour all the Way

Ach...meant to post this the other night. Just an example of colour details on a new picture I am working on. More details coming up soon.

Monday, 3 November 2014

I'll put some sample under paintings up here later today. I am planning beginning painting this morning, last week was all under-painting. So I now have a number of canvasses dotted around the studio and I could begin work on any of them.

Time for a coffee and a ponder.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A painting underway. In fact this is really a test as I have not painted on canvas in a long time and there are many methods one can use to paint a picture and I'm not sure which excites me the most at the moment...or wasn't when I started this. I just wanted to get something, anything that would consume me, underway.

I work mostly with a iMac and most of my output these days is digital. To be clear, I draw and paint in much the same way I would on canvas but I do it with a Wacom tablet. I am working on a book that demands a certain number of completed illustrated pages a week. If I don't meet the quota that I set for myself I will never get anywhere with the book. It so happens, a few weeks back, my computer died on me. I had illustrated 105 pages, with 9 panels per page approximately that's around 945 finished illustrations....ball park. Some of those pages are full page, some pages have just two or three panels. But you get the picture, the graphic novel, is labour intensive.

I don't consider my machine old or even well used. But I'm told a 2009 model is old...how funny is that? I don't accept that at all and I sense there is a forced obsolescence issue here that we have all been conditioned to believe.

My Wacom tablet had to be replaced this year too, I invested in a back-up years ago, so that wasn't so painful. But a whole new system? Everything gone? I was driven a bit mad by this bad luck because it all seemed to follow after an OS update that I didn't even need. I found the only thing that I wanted to do was paint again on canvas.

I had backed-up my book and other important files, so it's not a complete disaster. But it's a pain in the arse frankly.

Once these paintings are done I'll go back to my book and, in a few years, when it's done, I'm abandoning digital art and will only work in traditional media. I'll use the computer to administrate...but I'll soon be done drawing on it.

Also, most people, myself included, tend to sit at a computer but at an easel I mostly stand. So traditional methods are healthier for a start :)

Friday, 31 October 2014

Gosh...it's been a while. A year in fact since my last post, maybe longer. I'm busy, I just wish I was better at dropping a line or two about my work here more often.

Currently working on a new series of oil paintings.

I've taken a break from graphic novel work to get these underway. Long story...but a change is as good as a rest.

The game book is currently also on hold, the art is 95% complete - but I am ahead of the curve and have been asked to put the pen down until everything else is caught up. I may be able to add more in the new year.

I have a role in a new film directed by Michael Apted, a production that is just getting underway now.
We have a kick-off party for cast a crew coming up...where's my finest tie?

Oh...and our iPad book for children seems to have gone down well. I'll post some images from the London launch in a  future post....no, not a year from now, In a few days.

I hope this belated post finds it's reader well.

Onwards and upwards...crack on you!

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Day a Comet Came to Tea. (Science Fiction for little ones!)

This image features text designed for a paper book, the iPad app replaced the hand
written text, see iTunes for examples.

This week in 'conjunction' with the approach of comet Ison we'll be launching 'The Day a Comet Came to Tea.' at The Royal Institute in London.

The story is about a rather ravenous comet that, well, comes to tea. Although anyone can enjoy this story the app is designed for ages 5 and under and was written by Guy Lachlan. I illustrated the story with many illustrations in as colourful and fun a way as I could imagine and I'm really delighted it is now available for iPad. A very different style than I've shown before.

The transition from paper to digital media has been managed perfectly and it's all thanks to Guy.

The app has music and some mild animation and is narrated by Graham Roos who does an excellent job that is somewhat reminiscent of the narration of the popular 1970's children's TV show Mr. Benn.

I'm absolutely delighted by how rich my illustrations appear and the way the images and text have been assembled.

The app is available on iTunes here.

Follow us on Facebook here..

Our Twitterfeed is @CometCameToTea

And visit our website here  ...spread the word and we'll make a sequel!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Game Illustration

4 Details of New Game Illustrations

I am illustrating a new game for the iPad and Android (among other devices) and the subject is the British comic character Judge Dredd. It's going to take a while because I have so many pictures to do.

I'm lavishing time on this project for one reason. I've found art to be a key in to everything. My interest in art has educated me and it has brought to me many things I would never have seen had my interest in art not been stirred at some point in the past. 

Although I've been drawing all my life it was reading this comic as a boy that made me take drawing seriously. So it's a special thing for me to be able work on this particular game, these characters and situations and a world I can recall far too well.

I have permission to post these four details, just the corners of 4 of 10 paintings I've now made.
I'll post more images and info on the game later in the year. 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Partying Like it's 1980 (Drawing a Retro Dredd) (as best I could)


Jurassic Farce Page 1 (click to view in detail)

This is the first page of a 6 page story I illustrated - written by the excellent Lee Robson, and a fan-fiction piece for the British 2000AD-centric comics zine 'Zarjaz'.

The story will be published in the very next issue of Zarjaz due later this month - buy it here.

I decided when I sat down to the script that I would go for a retro-style...as best I could.  So the style of drawing and the 'credit card' and titles are all modelled closely on the 2000AD of 1980...again, as best I could.

With special thanks to Cy Dethan for that sound effect!

And yes, it's packed with detail. And yes, that's very unprofessional...but I was not watching the clock on this artwork (as most professionals would) and it wasn't 'work' - it was play...and much of that detail will be lost on the page, true, true.

BUT, today, comics are mass-migrating to digital media (like the iPad) and you can zoom in to images on an iPad....so perhaps I'm ahead of the curve on the detail thing.

So although this was drawn to look old-school (as best I could, obviously) you'll get more out of it on digital media.

The one regret I have is that I didn't include any real link to Pat Mills, original editor of 2000AD and (as far as I can tell) the writer that conceived of Dinosaur Safari parks  YEARS before Michael Crichton wrote 'Jurassic Park'.


I did put a reference in to Pat, but at the last minute I pulled it out as I felt by using it I was, er, 'Jumping the Megalodon'.

Tomorrow (or Saturday) I'll post details from the first 4 paintings I've created for the new Dredd Gamebook from Tin Man Games. A 2013 version of Dredd this time.

Dredd...after a bit of a bad hair day.

Buy the first Dredd Gamebook 'Countdown Sector 106' by Nick Robinson here...

Buy BABBLE by Lee Robson and Bryan Coyle here... an original graphic novel.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Trying to make it through winter...

Again, it's been ages since I posted anything here.  I'm working on a new post now and will hopefully put that up in the next day or so.

I'm trying to redesign my Opipop site, It's been a blank for a long time, the original files getting increasingly outdated as time marched on.

I'm working on my Graphic Novel and we may begin a Kickstarter campaign soon.

My children's book may, finally, see the light of day.

All this and more (with lots of pretty pictures) will be in my next post....but I'm too sick with a cold or hay fever or both to do anything about this today.

Sniff sniff.


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Still Painting with Wine...

Still Painting with Wine...
The texture applied to this picture, most obvious in the lenses, can be seen in the detail below. 

Wine Painting
I started this blog to host the sketches and paintings I made with wine. I'm still doing it. For example the texture in the eye-glasses in my previous post was made with red wine.

This detail of a portrait of a my grandfather shows the source texture for the graphic novel image above.

Why Call it Wine Ink Blog?
Because 6 or 7 years back I started to use wine as a drawing and painting medium, I had the idea as I stained a paper pad while drinking at, what was then, my local vinarna. The picture below( titled 'Oenophile' ) was my first sketch with wine.

I took 'wine ink' because I discovered wine was such a good stain-maker that the Vatican made ink from it back in the day (for signing important documents it seems).

What Goes Around Comes Around
About a month or so ago someone pointed to an article in The Daily Mail about a revolutionary artist who paints with wine! Eureka!

Funny, I thought I was the first to do that several years back. But I may have been wrong too, an artist in California may have been at it for a few months when I got started. I discovered this after I had the blog up and running and googled the process. Beat to it by a nose.

Today painting with wine is very common it seems, so I have no idea why The Daily Mail would...oh...slow news day. Right.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Next Big Thing Blog Series

Last week I was invited to take part in the 'The Next Big Thing' blog series by my friend Victoria Dougherty. Victoria is a writer and the one face that always springs to mind when I hear the word 'Chocolatier'. I'm not even sure why that happens, but Victoria must have said something about being a Chocolatier, and probably in a smoke filled Czech pub, long ago, and it stuck.

Jump over to Victoria's pages and read about her book here: Victoria Dougherty

Now...time to answer the NBT questions about my graphic novel.

The Next Big Thing 


What is your working title of your book?
Hmm. Well, as we are not ready to reveal the details of the book I'm going to have to hold off answering this one, the subject of our book is all in the title. But it's a damned fine title...and a great story that we have to keep under wraps just a wee bit longer. 
Where did the idea come from for the book?
"The idea came from hearing a radio interview with Jerry Garcia where... "

See that quote above? Ok, those are the words of Brandon Beckner who gave a great answer to that question. Brandon and Scott Sampila wrote the story together and first told me about it ten years ago. As I read the story the characters came to life in my mind and I saw it had the potential to be a terrific graphic novel. I suggested it to the guys and started blocking the story. I created a 262 page 'sketchbook' version, in essence a storyboard of every page and I coloured and lettered it. 

I could see it read well and Brandon and Scott were delighted. I then started illustrating the finished art pages at the beginning of summer 2012.

Thumbnail pages from my completed 'sketchbook' version of our story. In doing this I can now see the entire book at a glance. I can draw any page or panel because I know what where very thing is going.

What genre does your book fall under?
I am developing the story as a graphic novel. It's a somewhat fictionalised history of actual events. I keep thinking it ironic that the outrageous, crazy, unrealistic stuff in this GN did actually happen and it's mostly the down-to-earth stuff that is fictionalised. You'll see.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
As I was drawing I did notice one character looked a bit like the actor Andrew Garfield. That was purely coincidental.
Only once did an actor come to mind before I started drawing the characters, that was Peggy Lipton who I thought of as an inspiration for the character of 'Bree'.

See what I mean?...Maybe I'm imagining it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
"-------- is a zany ------------- ride through the ------ of ----------- told through the eyes of a young, hungry ---------- whose life is turned upside down when -------------------------------- most ------------------secret -----------------."

Again, Brandon gave a terrific answer to this question. But, alas, we just can't give anything away yet. Come back to these pages, bookmark this blog, I'll reveal all at some point soon...I promise you won't be disappointed!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have no doubt our book will find a publisher. A bold claim, I know.

My only concern is my pages, speeding up the process without losing quality, that's all I think about. Even now, typing this, I know I should be drawing. I draw everyday and for the most part all day long.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
"First draft of the manuscript took about 4 months - not including several months of research." - Brandon.

....and for me to storyboard our book took 2 months in winter of 2011.

2 panels from my thumbnail book.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I can't think of any graphic novel like ours. It's not a superhero story (I don't really like those at all).
If our book could sit near a shelf with 'A Contract with God' or 'Persepolis' or other great graphic novels that document actual events to some degree...I'd be happy. 
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Jim Baikie inspired me to do what I do...so Jim is responsible ultimately!
Here's a short film about comics featuring Jim and a few other now famous names.

 Jim is an Orcadian artist and he and his wife Wendy were very kind to me as a student. I flew to Orkney and worked in his studio for two weeks in which I got my first comic art experience on the very first issue of the Marvel comic book series 'Nightbreed' adapted from the Clive Barker  film. I did very little but it was cool to work on a real comic.
You can find more about Jim here.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
How about this?

Now it's time to pass the baton.
I'm told I can nominate 5 writers who I like. I'm an artist who occasionally acts...so you'll get 2 writers and one film-maker (although that last fella's something of a polymath, so he's a writer too, but it just so happens he's currently blogging about his new film).

Writer 1.
My good mate Brendan McNally author of GERMANIA and Friend of the Devil.
Enter his high-octane cerebellum of Brendan McNally.

Writer 2.
Lee Robson with whom I first partnered with last year to create a 6 page SCI-FI story... getting there Lee...getting there.

Lee is the author of the graphic novel BABBLE and you can read more about that book here. ...and more importantly BUY IT here.

My old Prague pal, Tony Mullen (now resident in Tokyo...I think) has written several books on computer animation technique and is currently making Electric Town, a film that combines live action and animation. Read about Electric Town here.

Thanks for reading...I hope you'll remember and come back to see our progress at some point and even consider supporting one, or all, of the projects linked here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Time Spent Since my Last Post....

Since my last post I've been drawing up the first pages of 'our graphic novel', post-prologue that is, 17 or so pages completed at the end of summer.

'Our graphic novel' ...I keep calling it that because I, we, are waiting until I reach a certain number of completed pages before announcing the project and publishing a synopsis of the story.  It's the best way because drawing and painting and lettering the pages is a very slow process and it's just wiser to be as far down the art-road as possible before talking about the story.

The Process.
I traded up from Manga Studio Debut to MS4 Pro. I'm happy I did so and have found new time saving tools in the process. I particularly like the way it allows you to draw panel borders. That alone makes it worth it. I admire comic artists I read of who still use pen and ink or amalgamate digital only to output better pencils for traditional inking. Hats off to you people, one day I'll draw comics the pen and paper way again...but not for a long time. Working on my tablet allows me so much freedom of time and space. Time and Space?...yes...TIME = I can start & stop drawing as and when, no drying time issues, no materials (running out of Bristol Board!) issues (Dead Brush AAAAAGH!). SPACE = No storage issues. No damaged art issues...no piles of paper from old issues.

I'm tempted to add 'no dead trees' but I'm unsure exactly how the electricity that powers my iMac is generated. Probably coal. So...no dead trees but plenty sick fish.

Grew Big Beardy.
A big bushy one...in about a month, just grimacing can force the hair out at 'Thriller' speeds, see. I wasn't asked to this time but I thought it would suit the scene we are filming. I was cast in a new film by Kazuaka Kiriya starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman. Can't say more than that but you can read about the film here.

Dresdener Automaton.
I'd post some new artwork examples, but I'm in a hurry. I've been doing so much lately and had no time to break. I've been drawing for ludicrous hours day and night and... so...took a weekend break to Dresden. I love it there. Sunday morning we realised we'd forgotten something at the hotel, so I shot back. I like walking, I find it creative. While en route I saw an android outside the Frauenkirche. Well I saw a man dressed as a crash-test dummy wandering the square. People were laughing, I'm sure he was too, perhaps at us. I always think of Kurt Vonnegut when I walk there and the insanity and balls it would take to write a book like SlaughterHouse 5. That has to be the strangest WW2 novel. Well, the strangest of the best.

And wandering among so much evidence of war damage, thinking about that, and the newly restored Frauenkirche and it's guardian android...well  it made me wonder if I'd come unstuck in time just like Billy Pilgrim.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Our prologue is complete. Better still I uploaded and sent the first pages of our graphic novel to Brandon and Scott, the writers, and the guys are delighted.

It took most of the summer...perhaps longer...I forget when I started, but we have begun the story. Now I am trying to get down to a page-a-day rate of production. This is tricky because I don't want the quality to slip, so if I see that happen I will slow up and re-draw.

Having said that sometimes the quickly drawn picture works better than the slower and more methodical one. I tend to think this happens clearest in action sequences, but it's not a hard and fast rule, there are plenty of exceptions out there.

Today I am laying out the next 6 pages and will draw the panels I feel most excited about across all 6. I am lettering and colouring the book...so it's all me and will take up most of my time over the next two years.

My main hope with this project is that I will uncover a methodology that is succinct and magnetic, a graphic language all my own, something I think you can only do by constant work.

But anyway, the good news is that the big book is on and a knock-out, so far, by all accounts.

Full project details will be online when we have an official launch of the book....maybe by the time I hit 100 pages. 

BTW - Any comic-book stores, owners or collectors who would like to be first to hear about collectibles from this series, please drop me a line here - Opipop@gmail.com

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Backing Up

I was going to add a picture here, a panel...but I changed my mind.

As those who've been reading this blog will know (and anyone who follows my work via Twitter) I've been working on an ambitious project...nothing knew there. This one however is a graphic novel. There are no super-heroes in this story...none that are 'real' anyway. No, this, our story, is set firmly in the reality of the cold war.

I can't yet go in to details...but that will come soon, until then it's our secret to keep.

My partners on this project wrote the story and first told me about it a decade ago. So it goes. About two years ago they sent me the script and I was blown away. It was crying out to be a picture book, a comic book...a graphic novel.

Well, our book is coming along but it is still early days. Tonight I heard a fine whirring sound coming from my iMac and I remembered I should back up. I've been doing that, of course, but it doesn't hurt to find a 2nd secure location (or a third) to burn important files and there's nothing like an unusual machine sound to sharpen the mind on that matter.

I upgraded from Manga Studio Debut 4 to EX 4 this week. I'm very pleased with the software and Debut is a very good deal for comic artists who are just getting started. The only downer for me is the long time it takes to open. I keep MS running in the background at all times because at its quickest it takes 20 minutes to open on my iMac. It also crashes too, three times this week. But that doesn't bother me too much, I save very often, I've lost very little....and sometimes it can be an improvement to go over a thing twice.

A word to the wise...IF you happen to want to upgrade to EX 4 - the cheapest way to do it is by buying Debut and upgrading from that app to full EX 4. I saved a hundred dollars by this route...and had several months of test-drive as Debut has many of the same bells and whistles. Why did I upgrade? It wasn't for perspective rulers, I don't mind working by eye or setting up actual rulers for 3. etc. No, I bought MS EX4 for the vector pen...and I've already ditched it for the regular raster pens.

But...I've fallen for those perspective rulers after all...they're great.

Ok...just a shorty post tonight. But I hope whatever you are working on is coming along, whoever or wherever you are. Just remember...

Stay on target.

Night Night!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Okay, it's been forever. Once again I have to begin a post by pointing out that I'm not a frequent blogger. I should be, I could be sharing a lot more. But, well, sorry about that. Damn I wish I had a personal blogger!

In fact I only signed in today to add Pat Mills to my blog roll. You see I went to Pat's page the other day and found he had linked my illustration of Georg Ratzinger. I was, to say the least, blown away that Pat liked this picture enough to link it. More about the picture in a minute.

You see Pat Mills was one of a small group of people who changed how this little kid saw the world.
So imagine that, as a kid you are significantly influenced by someone and as a man you find that same person responds to something you have done....there's a time-warp in there somewhere.

'Ratz in the Chapel' or 'Ratz in the Belfry'
Now...the day has begun and I have pages to draw in my book, a set page rate for my graphic novel and I better get my head down. So I'll explain more about Pat's work later.

Oh and that Ratzinger picture. I occasionally create political style cartoons and illustrations, but I post them (even less frequently) to 'The Woeful Office'. The picture of George Ratzinger takes an anamorphic look at the kind of person who could be in a position to help abused children but, instead, opt to protect the abusers. This happened while George Ratzinger was a cardinal, it was in his power to help and he helped the wrong people and his signature is proof. That is unforgivable and that is why I drew the picture. You can read the New York Times article that brought to light this crime here.

If only you-know-who were here to see the crimes committed in his name, I mean Jesus Christ!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

'Gi'e Me A Spark O' Nature's Fire' - Scotland House Exhibition

'Tick'  - Click to view the larger image and read the story.
Some months ago I was invited to take part in an exhibition of Scottish comic book art in Scotland House in Brussels, organised by professor Christopher Murray of Dundee University. Artists were invited to create something new on one of several themes. I chose an ecological oceanic theme and the title of the work is 'Tick'.

Long ago, in 1990, I had an idea pop into my head, it was about the sea and the formation of an organic clock, it seemed so fully formed that I wondered if I'd been told it by someone. In the interests of being fare to anyone who may have come up with this story and passed it to me while drunk in the pub ( a possibility back then, not today as I no longer drink alcohol*) I chose to tell the story in this artwork as though it were being told to me...confused yet?...prepare to be further baffled.

I then discarded punctuation altogether because when you're in the pub, you never see or hear any punctuation. Try and find it sometime, I never can.

I then removed all the spaces between words, yes, that's right - there are no spaces to be found between words spoken in the pub, ever! To differentiate between the words I used colour, why?...Because the pub is the best place to hear colourful language...etc etc.

It was supposed to be comic panels, drawings...but you don't hear drawings, you hear words...in the pub. Right, you're getting the hang of it!...Anyway...

If you can follow the story, let me know, it should be relatively easy. It reads in blocks from left to right.

This picture is an A1 print and quite a thing of beauty. Dundee Contemporary Arts did a wonderful job... (DCA - printed in Dundee, Scotland)...and I believe this print will soon be available in some galleries at 100 pounds per print. When I get details, I'll post them here.

MSP, Ian Hudghton and Shona Robison, the host of the exhibition, my picture is to the right of Mr Hudghton. The show was also posted on the Scotland.gov site...

A few more links to other artists involved in this show.
Metaphrog Blog

Vicky Stonebridge

Cam Kennedy

* That thing about alcohol was a bare-faced lie.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Clearing the Way to Begin Illustrating a 262 page Graphic Novel.

Thumbnail sketches for pages 99 and 100. A complete book of 262 pages exists now in thumbnail form.

Today is a beautiful day. I'm sure most people imagine this region as a dark and cold one, but we get a lot of beautiful weather in Prague. On both my recent visits to Los Angeles I was surprised by how cool (even cold) it could get. That must be down to global warming. While in LA I had a meeting with Brandon and we discussed the book. I also wandered the streets and alleyways of San Francisco and collected as much reference material as possible.

I'm not out in the sun - I'm in the studio and cleaning up. I just finished something that I can't post anything about yet (but will later) and want the studio tidy for Monday. On Monday I'm beginning my graphic novel. Hmm...that's quite a thing to say, really, considering we have no publisher or backers of any kind. Heh. 

This shows 2 panels of blocking, or thumbnails. Just the plan and a long way from finished art!

It's also a bit of a dirty word these days, but I use it in the sense it was intended, I think, when Will Eisner coined it for 'A Contract With God' or 'New York, The Big City'*...and not as a collected series of comics that have previously been published. This will be a book with a beginning, a middle and an end - we have no intention of serialising it. The story is set in San Francisco and was written about 12 years ago by Brandon Beckner and Scott Sampila. Here is some info on Scott and Brandon's film 'Remarkable Power'.

Below, and above, you'll see some sketches (of 2000 or so) that I made a few months back. These are not finished art, just 'thumbnails', and text is included so that I know how I will place it.

'Thumbnails' are sketches artists make before making a finished picture, in the case of comic-books they allow the artist to quickly understand the simplest and most efficient way to tell a story.

That's all I can say today, but once we have a designated website and some art to show, I'll post links here and explain our story in more detail. I'll be doing no other artwork from now on and putting 100% of my time into these pages (Monday to Friday...who knows, I may draw something else on weekends). 

It may take 2 years and we have no publisher yet**. So I will be offering all sorts of collectors items such as original sketches, sketchbooks and perhaps prints to keep me in ink...and wine. 

If you collect comic-book art and would like a heads up for available originals, drop me a line here - opipop ( at ) gmail.com

And if you like a good mystery with powerful art, well believe me, we do too and we're working on it!
Follow @opipop on Twitter to see the work emerge daily.

* Which sits above my desk like some holy icon.
** If I can do even half as well as I hope, this will be a wonderful thing, a beautiful series of pages. So I have no concerns about a publisher, this book will finds its audience - one way or another.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Mysteries of Cycling After Dark and Film Props.

Oil on Canvas

Some things just take time...more than I'm willing to admit to myself. Or perhaps I just fail to see how difficult things will be. I dislike missing these beautiful days and I've spent too many lately at my desk or easel working day and night. But I've made some breakthroughs lately too and so I took the day off on Sunday and rode to Melnik with my friend David.

Mělník  (...I took this shot in winter, it's much prettier today in full bloom)

It's a fairly long ride, mostly trails and forest (we must have done about 120km by the end of day). There is a fare amount of carrying the bike too. As my other friend Grant says in frustration 'We're not biking - we are b-hiking'. I mention this only because I've been climbing the walls in the studio and could not wait to hit the road. After a great day cycling David and I got completely lost, we even lost each other.

David Fixing a Chain

I found myself riding in the pitch through forests and at one point skirting an abandoned highway. Czech roads are poorly lit in the country, they have no 'cats-eyes' as in the UK. I always marvel that no matter where you seem to go in Scotland there are cats eyes in the road helping you through the night. Not here.

So, oddly enough, I found myself in the middle of the darkness just wishing I could be home, at my desk and drawing a picture. I did the following picture a long time ago but it sums things up.

Mysteries of Cycling After Dark.

I rode for hours toward the ghostly red glow of the factories at Kralupy. working all day with my eyes, wanting out in the sun. Here I was in pure darkness, unable to see a thing, just wanting home. How's that for poetic irony?

Film Props

Last year I took part in a short film, I played one of the two leads. It was fun and interesting to take part, not least because I've never done anything comedic (in film anyway) before. It was a student picture and upon learning I was a painter, two of the students asked if I could make some props for a film they were making.

They had specific designs in mind because the paintings had to reflect the psychological state of the protagonist. As they were merely film props I didn't have to worry about the finish of the pictures, in fact, a rough tooth can be much more appealing in a painting that appears in film. A good example of  this is the final frame of the first Indiana Jones film.

That great hall of crates the ark is stored in was a matte painting. The story goes that the actual painting was quite rough but the artist had realised that smoother effects would appear off when filmed, perhaps because they were too fine for the grain of the film used. At least that's what I heard, it made sense at the time...

I've often wondered about taking my iPhone sketches to canvas, how would they transfer if re-painted on a big scale?...well here was an opportunity. The image below is an iPhone sketch I made called 'Green Hound'. The one beneath that was my iPhone rough sketch for the surreal bridge the students needed painted.

Green Hound (iPhone sketch)

Bridge (film Prop iPhone sketch)

It was remarkably satisfying to be able to produce a quick sketch on my iPhone, then go on and paint the same image on a large canvas only minutes later after an email or two.

Finished Film prop - Acrylic on Canvas
Having worked it out on the iPhone screen I painted the prop image above in one hour, I know, I timed it. A very different picture from the one at the top of this post, not least because that took 4 years, all told.

I've been working most weekends recently to move my little projects along and finally a few projects are now done that seemed to take for ever. This includes the painting (at the top of this post). In my next post I'll discuss this painting in the traditional media of oil paint and another painting that was entirely digital.