Thursday 29 October 2015

Halloween pumpkin 2015 - Rocky Horror

It's become a bit of an annual tradition that I carve a Halloween pumpkin, and this year's no exception. I'm hoping you recognise who I've done this time? Oh shut up, it's Tim Curry as Frank N Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. You're welcome.

I managed to get the reverse side of the pumpkin carved, just in time for our Halloween night dinner party. If you'd like to see my previous years' creations, here's a gallery for you.

2014: Peter Capaldi

2013: An American Werewolf In London

2012: I think we all know who this is. Still my best pumpkin ever.

2011: A bit generic this one, wouldn't you say? Inspiration didn't really strike.

2010: Boris Karloff's Frankenstein's Monster. And before I started keeping a blog, somewhere in the mists of time, I did a Christopher Lee Dracula and a Bela Lugosi. I may well have done more, I'm sure photos exist somewhere.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Tuesday 27 October 2015

More travels - Manchester, Liverpool, Halifax

Don't say I can't sometimes plan my work schedule well. I say well, I mean I can pack an awful lot of work into a weekend and, just for once, keep it all in the same end of the country. So, whereas recent weeks have seen me scudding to all points of the compass, like Norfolk to Brighton to Suffolk to Switzerland etc, this weekend saw me hitting the north and staying there, vaguely. We began with the Socks playing the Kings Arms in Salford on Friday night (above). A simple enough three hour journey which, because it was the Friday afternoon before half term, took over 5 hours.

From Salford, or Manchester, if you can't quite work out where one begins and the other starts as, I fear, I still can't, to Warrington where I'm spending 4 nights at the Holiday Inn. This is partly because it's centrally placed for my travels, but originally because it was the first place that wasn't stupidly expensive. Then, on Saturday morning it was back to Manchester.

To Manchester Central Library for a day of Comic Art Masterclasses as part of the Manchester Literature Festival, and I can report happily that they were very well received. The festivals I've been doing this year really have expanded my audience and gone down well. Saturday night was then a night in my hotel watching Doctor Who and enjoying not driving too much for a day.

Sunday began in Liverpool Exhibition Centre and an event called Toytopia, where I was on the impressive Beano stand doing a short Comic Art Masterclass then absolute heaps of caricatures. At first I was doing my usual thing of drawing everyone who came to the stand, and building up an impressive queue. The, because part of their remit was to sell copies of the Beano, we came up with the idea, as you can see above, of asking people to buy a comic and get the caricatures as a bonus, and it worked a treat. Then, as the afternoon drew to a close, I zoomed off to Manchester to pluck another string of my bow (you don't pluck bowstrings, I realised as I wrote it, but it's too late, I've said it).

What a handsome bunch, eh? Yes, it was the Manchester Sitcom Trials team, at the Kings Arms Salford again, performing the Halloween Sitcom Trials, with me as their host. As always, full details are on the other shelf on the Sitcom Trials' own blog. It's been their busiest year in a while.

Back to the Beano stand at Toytopia in Liverpool on Monday morning and how's this for a guitar? A Les Paul copy with Beano decorations, for £140? I didn't buy one, but I can't say I wasn't tempted. Meantime my day was taken up with another class and lots of caricatures (over the two days I must have done about 250) and more flipchart action, some promotional, some fun for the kids.

After which I got away at about 4 o'clock to get to my evening commitment, a Socks gig in Halifax. Theoretically that should have been a two hour journey but, thanks to me going via my Warrington hotel and it being rush hour on Monday, it was three hours before I got there.

And by golly you get a better standard of decorative ceiling at the Victoria Theatre Halifax, I'll tell you that. A cracking 90 minute gig with a lovely big audience, a fine way on ending a jam-packed, four day, 6-gig Socks/Masterclass/caricaturey/Trials/Socks busy old weekend. Now we just have the drive home to Clevedon to look forward to, and I can get back to the pleasant experience of getting my accounts finished.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Friday 23 October 2015

Travels - Harrogate, Belfast, Isle of Wight, er, Clevedon

Look at us all over the big screen. In the foyer of Harrogate Theatre where the Socks returned to give their 90 minute show including Minging Detectives, and nifty it looks too. This was all part of the past couple of weeks travel which has seen me putting the miles in, while doing a little bit of everything that I'm famous for.

Returning from Switzerland I'd had a busy Saturday doing a class in Thame in Bucks then zooming off to Leamington Spa for a Socks show, then on Tuesday Hev joined me on the trip to Harrogate with the Socks. After which we started the proper travel.

The Shirts 1978 album, bought at a retro shop in Harrogate. On blue vinyl on less. Now tell me your plans...

Up at 4am to get the 7am flight to Belfast where I returned to Wellington College and Aquinas Grammar after a few years absence. They did the usual fab work and my librarian Tanja was most accommodating, feeding me and driving me to the airport even. During my time in the airport I was busy reading, reviewing and voting on the 48 scripts entered in the forthcoming Halloween Sitcom Trials (being very active in its parallel universe over at, I ought to mention it on this blog more often, oughtn't I).

Here's me grinning cheesily by a Belfast flipchart. I don't know whether it shows, but over the last month I've had some of my teeth done. The discoloured fillings in my front teeth have been replaced. So, though they're hardly Hollywood teeth, I should have a smile that looks a little more lovely and unblemished.

My flight from Belfast got me home at about 11 at night, after which the alarm was set for 3am so that Hev & I could get to Southampton for the 7am Isle of Wight ferry in order that I could do two days of classes at the Isle Of Wight Literary Festival. A glittering affair, it saw us at a lunch party at the Royal Yacht Squadron rubbing shoulders with the likes of Michael Morpurgo and Whispering Bob Harris. None of whom we spoke to, of course, being far too shy. Though we have a wonderful chat over breakfast with a couple of our fellow authors.

Still can't see the new teeth? Me and a flipchart in Cowes. After a class on Saturday afternoon, we caught the early ferry and were home in time for Doctor Who.

Back on my desk in the studio I've been busy writing scripts for the 2017 Beano annual - with all the Bananaman and Gnasher scripts delivered, I'm writing the Bash Street Kids scripts now - and writing and drawing for 2017's Dandy annual. The Great Dandy Bake-Off has been drawn and delivered, then I had to re-letter the whole thing having discovered they've moved from lower case lettering to caps. I also have the embarrassment of having drawn Beryl The Peril in her Karl Dixon style as per the 2014 annual, only to discover she's being drawn old-style. So in my second strip, Strictly Come Dancing, I'll be drawing her in a different style and making a joke to cover up the difference. Oh yeah, and I've also been doing my accounts for my tax return. How many miles did I drive in 2014? You don't want to know. Oh yeah, and I made a Socks video for The Martian.

From the script for Gnasher: Conkers, the only script to get rejected from the 2017 annual (so far),  only biting the dust because they already had a conker story.

And just ahead of a busy weekend in Manchester and Liverpool, with the Socks, the Comic Art Masterclasses, the caricatures and The Sitcom Trials (house!), last night The Socks played a gig in Clevedon, of all places. In The Theatre Shop, the brilliant new community theatre initiative in a shop in the centre of town, we had a wonderful receptive and voluble audience and a cracking show. I didn't see that coming.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here


Thursday 22 October 2015

The Martian - Scottish Falsetto Socks new video

Brand new from the Socks, their take on Matt Damon's movie The Martian. Apparently we're in the minority being quite so critical of it, but what can we say, this is what we thought. Click to play.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Fat Pig Unicorn Bat - more comics by kids

Again with the Unicorns. What is it with kids and unicorns this year? Two of the six comics produced by kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses this week have unicorns in the title. This pair come from two primary schools in Cowes on the Isle of Wight where I worked, courtesy of the Isle of Wight Literary Festival.

Indeed this year's diary has been liberally studded with visits to Literary Festivals, this pair coming from my second day at the Isle Of Wight festival and a class at the Thame literary festival the previous weekend. I don't remember working at literary festivals before this year. Then, at some point at the end of last year, I made myself known to all the festivals I found on a list online somewhere, and suddenly I've found myself appearing everywhere from Nairn to Snape and many points inbetween. I was supposed to do one in Glasgow on my birthday, but had to cancel because there weren't flights at the right time. And they seems to like my classes at these festivals, which can't be bad.

And just to prove how much I love early hours and ridiculous amounts of travelling, these two comics come from schools in Belfast. So this week's travels saw me driving to Harrogate for a Socks gig on Tuesday, flying to Belfast and back on Thursday, getting home at 11 at night, then waking at 3am on Friday to drive to Southampton and catch the Isle Of Wight Ferry (this, contrary to the joke, is no longer brown, steams, and comes out of Cowes backwards. It's now red, which either spoils the joke or makes it much more disgusting), then getting to my first school at 8.30. Crash crash busy busy work work bang bang, as they say nowhere.

The celebs this lot chose to tread on a worm in my demonstration strip were Simon Cowell (twice), Katy Perry, Kim Jong Un, Daniel Craig and William Shakespeare. (As a sideline to which, as you can see above, when they're asked which Doctor Who I should draw, they hardly ever ask for Peter Capaldi, but are fairly evenly split between wanting Matt Smith and David Tennant. I don't keep accurate enough records of that.)

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Friday 9 October 2015

What Are Those? They're comics by kids in Switzerland and Snape

This week I have mostly been doing an incredible amount of travelling in order to teach kids how to do what I do. Firstly driving to Snape in Suffolk to take part in the Flipside Festival on the Sunday, then flying to Switzerland on the Monday to spend two days in schools there. Above you see the work of pupils in College Du Leman in Versoix, a suburb of Geneva.

And here we see the work of the pupils at Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil, which may well be the most exclusive and expensive school I've taught at. It's certainly the furthest up a mountain, with a stupendous view of the alps, based in the village of Villars-Sur-Ollon where every building is made of wood and adorned with balconies and shutters as if to out-Swiss itself. I know that's what's Switzerland's supposed to look like, but I was genuinely surprised to find how much it did. Every building a cuckoo clock.

I was teaching teenagers and, no matter how rich they are (and this school costs 100,000 Swiss Francs a term to attend, so we can conclude they're pretty well off), they come up with the same range of in-jokes and gags that they find hilarious and which no-one else can penetrate. I still don't know if the word Babao is in some way offensive or just random. Migros and Coop, by the way, are the two biggest local food stores, and Ü is how you'd write the word "ugh" with umlauts, apparently.

And here we see the work of the good children of Snape in Suffolk, whose Sunday classes were part of the Flipside Festival. These 7 groups, when asked to choose someone for my "treads on a worm" demonstration strip plumped for Simon Cowell (that was Snape, he didn't figure in Switzerland), Gordon Ramsay, Will Smith, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Miley Cyrus and Barack Obama.

NB: Beau Soleil, according to this table, is the second most expensive private school in the world, costing twice as much to attend as either Eton or Harrow. I really could have charged more.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Thursday 8 October 2015

Travels - Snape to Switzerland

This week I have been very much the travelling man, with a return to performing and teaching. And partying, come to think of it.

Thursday saw the first Socks performance for a month, with the start of their mini tour in the Granary Theatre in Wells Next The Sea in Norfolk. Yes, it is a long drive from Clevedon, thanks for asking. 5 hours there, then 2 and a half hours to Kibworth where I stayed with Mum. Then home the next day. I'm happy to report that the audience loved the 90 minute show which now includes Minging Detectives. I was missing hearing things like "I haven't cried so much - in a good way".

Then Saturday was Stephen Parker's birthday party in Brighton. A fabulous affair, with 1960s fancy dress, bingo, and performances by Anita Harris and a great band called The Fliks. Quite the most lavish birthday party I can remember going to (Stephen & Nick know how to throw a good party, it was their wedding that The Socks played in Saddell Castle a few years ago).

Hev & I stayed in a sweet B&B a few miles out of Brighton, which had neither wifi, nor a TV, nor a phone signal to speak of, so we left the party early to a silent room, which is weird. We get so used to creature comforts, especially background noise. As it transpires, these were sensations I was to encounter again on my travels.

Sunday morning saw us rising at stupid o'clock in order to drive from Brighton to Snape in Suffolk for me to do a pair of Comic Art Masterclasses at the Flipside Festival at Snape Maltings.

A lovely affair, at the home of the Aldeburgh Festival, in a strange bubble of Hampstead-on-the-marshes, marred only by me getting really frustrated in the middle of the day when my class had to move out of its tent prematurely, then I got annoyed that too many tickets had been sold for the afternoon session (37) which makes it harder to do, and in danger of over-running. Now that I say those words out loud, I can see how petty and pernickety it sounds to anyone else, but the running of my classes has become such a thing that, unless they're set up right, I'm worried things will go wrong and I'll end up looking bad.

It all went well in the end, but I felt very bad at how annoyed I'd got and how arsey I'd been with everyone. Hev and I realised on the long drive home that I was going through one of my very rare depressions. I suffer these in October, around the time of my birthday, and most years I'm spared. I remember suffering them as far back as my 17th and 18th birthdays, and famously I went through a bad one in 2004 when my London Comic Festival was going very badly. I spent my birthday that year at Jonathan Ross's house, filming a segment to show at the festival, which should have been the most exciting treat, but I was so filled with anger and resentment that I was nothing but miserable for a lot of that week. These depressions pass, and I'm happy to say mine had gone by the time I got to Switzerland.

Oh yes, as if driving from Clevedon to Norfolk to Clevedon to Brighton to Suffolk and back to Clevedon in a weekend wasn't travel enough, on Monday morning I caught the Easyjet to Geneva to begin two days teaching at schools in Switzerland, organised by a company called Authors Abroad with whom I'm working for the first time.

I will confess that, this being my first visit to Switzerland, I was genuinely surprised to see so much Swiss chalet architecture. Especially once I'd reached Villars Sur Ollon, which is high up a hillside in the Alps, with a breathtaking view that no pictures can quite capture, it's all wooden buildings with balconies and long pitched roofs. The whole place looks like a collection of souvenir cuckoo clocks. In a good way.

Here we see me posing, appropriately cheesily, in front of the flipchart in the classroom where I did Tuesday's classes. As always, I stipulate that I can only do two Comic Art Masterclasses in a day, with a maximum of 30 pupils in each. And as always, either when I'm going through a third party to set things up, those details had gone aglae. I found myself doing three classes in the day, one of which had an unprecedented 44 pupils in it. But, ever the professional, I did them in style, with patience and aplomb. Which, if you've ever tried to teach 44 rowdy 13 year olds, you will know is... what am I saying? Who else ever has to teach 44 teenage pupils at a time?

After Sunday's Snape experience, when I got angry and flustered and let it show too much, this time I was keen to make sure I kept my cool, and I think I did. Everyone was very helpful, especially the marvellous librarian Renchan, and they were all so lovely and appreciative, they're even talking about having me back in the future.

My guest room at Beau Soleil, an exclusive private school that costs €100,000 a year, had a TV set, but one that had not been updated since Switzerland went digital, meaning that it showed no pictures. Or sound. The wifi didn't work (nobody seemed to know the code) and I struggled to get a 3G signal, so I ended up going into the village and sitting in a small bar doing my emails. Somehow, either through making a Skype call to Heather from my room, or using Apple Maps en route, I'd managed to run up a bill of £41 outside of my usual EE bill in call or data charges in less than 12 hours. Oops. Having bought data packages I was able to avoid this happening over the rest of the trip.

On Wednesday morning I had to get up early to catch the 5.39 tram down the hill to Bex and from there the train to Geneva, and finally one to Pont-Ceard where I was whisked off to my next school, College Du Leman, where two Comic Art Masterclasses and a talk to 150 Grade 8s (yr 9) in the hall just flew by. Again they were marvellous, especially Jane who had helped organise the day and assisted me throughout, and there was more talk of having me back again. It certainly would be good to return.

So to the Lake Geneva Hotel where I'm typing this, watching the sun rise over Lake Geneva (it's coming up later than I expected, with it being pitch black at 6.30 and still not very high in the sky now at 7.15). It's been quite the week of travels, and in 7 days I've managed one Socks show, 7 Comic Art Masterclasses, one party, and - let me just add it up -  21 hours driving, and another day of travelling by every means except for boat. It'll be good to settle down when I get back.

What's the you say? I'm doing what? Where? (Coming up from Saturday: Leamington, Harrogate, Belfast and the Isle of Wight)

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Thursday 1 October 2015

Back To The Drawing Board - from The Dandy to the Bible

The month of September has been an interesting change for me, as I've spent most of it doing what I used to do exclusively about 20 years ago, namely writing and drawing comics.

Long before I'd dreamed of entertaining people with sock puppets (the Scottish Falsetto Socks having, very quietly, celebrated the tenth anniversary of their invention some time this summer) and before I'd started filling my diary with Comic Art Masterclasses (the very first of which took place sometime in 2003), and even before I'd started doing stand up or created The Sitcom Trials' predecessor Situations Vacant (circa 1993 and 95), I was a full time comics writer and artist. And what do you know, I'm back at the drawing board.

Above you can see one of a batch of illustrations I've done for Bible Society, depicting common misconceptions about details of Bible stories (in this instance, the idea that the Shepherds and the Wise Men turned up at the same time, apparently they visited at very different times). And next on my to-do list is a follow-up to last year's Samson story, where this time I'll be looking at a Biblical heroine. More news when I've started writing it. Meantime I've been busy writing and drawing for some old friends.

You might just recognise Bully Beef and Chips, and a barely identifiable Beryl The Peril in this tiny portion of script for Bake Off, a four page strip that I've been asked to write and draw for - for the very first time - The Dandy.

Out of the blue I got the call to write and draw a couple of 4 page strips for the 2017 annual, the first of which has got the go ahead and I'm in the middle of colouring, the second of which, Strictly, awaits the thumbs up. And not only am I making my Dandy debut, I've been asked to write a range of scripts for other artists to draw in the 2017 Beano annual, and so far rattled off the Gnashers and most of the Bananamans, with Bash Street Kids and more Banana action still to be thought up. Good and productive times.

Meanwhile, in the world beyond my desk, I've been paying regular visits to the dentists and had some big old fillings replaced. Which should mean that next time I pose cheesily in front of a flipchart I should be flashing a slightly more perfect smile than has previously been the case. And those flipcharts will be in some interesting places, with a two day trip to Switzerland lined up for next week (courtesy of Artists Abroad), and plans to take me as far afield as Jordan and Jakarta. Let us see.

I've also been back to Scotland this month, as part of the ongoing series of Sitcom Trials shows. Because they have their own blog, I've not recorded their progress on these pages, but it's been a busy summer, with shows in Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow. The next show is a Halloween Special in Manchester on October 24th, I wonder if I'll get round to entering a script myself this time? I am a writer after all.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here
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