Thursday 30 November 2017

Speederman, Santa & flipcharts - last comics of the year

Suddenly, after what's felt like a really full year of Comic Art Masterclasses (though, at time of writing, I've not added up the total yet), I find I've done the last one already. It's the last day of November, and I have a school-free December (during which I have a desk-full of Women On The Bible to draw, so perfect timing). These, the penultimate and antepenultimate, are by Year 8s in Manchester Academy on Tuesday. Yes, that's supposed to be Muhammed Ali and Kylie Jenner as zombies.

The final Comic Art Masterclass comic of the year, with a gratuitous Santa as you might expect, comes from Finham Park School in Coventry. And a nice flipchart to leave them with, which I try to do when I can.

The final three celebrities of the year, chosen to appear in my demonstration strip, were Charles Darwin, Emma Watson and Lionel Messi. Blimey, can I really be ready to tot up the most popular celebrities of 2017 already, before December's even kicked in? Looks like it. Stay tuned.

BONUS last minute update. When I so rashly drew the line under my classes for the year, I'd totally forgotten there was still one more to come. On December 17th I had a class for a 9th birthday party in Walthamstow, for young Wilder Quin. Here's the comic they produced, and the celeb they chose for the final demonstration strip of the year was Cristiano Ronaldo.

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 24 November 2017

Who Lives In A Pineapple Under A Pineapple? - comics by kids

This has been a week of teaching comics to older pupils, a opposed to the many primary school kids that take up most of my teaching schedule. And you'll see a adolescent choice of title and subject matter sometimes. These two, from years 7 and 8s in St Josephs Hexham and Haydon Bridge, include my favourite title of the week, and one that skated close to cyber-bullying (Michael was one of the pupils' dads) but got away with it.

In Seaton Sluice and Seaton Delavel, Northumberland, food was the order of the day. Delightfully, they were familiar with Mr Creosote from Monty Python's Meaning Of Life.

In Coleg Ceredigion I was surprised to find myself teaching sixth formers, and a couple older than that, which was a nice change. They laugh at slightly different things, but proved to me that what I teach and the way I teach it is pretty adaptable. And they can mis-spell just as badly as year 3s, as I Lik Bikes Dennis demontrated.

The celebrities these six groups chose for my demonstration strip were Boris Johnson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Jackson, Benedict Cumberbatch, a mixed martial arts fighter called Connor McGreggor, and, er, Anne Frank.

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 23 November 2017

Remembering David Cassidy

There goes another icon from my childhood, David Cassidy. As anyone who knows me from school, and indeed mocked me mercilessly for it for many years, I was a pre-pubescent Partridge Family fan. Not only did I have David Cassidy pictures all over my bedroom walls, but the very first concert I went to, aged 10, was David Cassidy at the Empire Pool Wembley (don't look for it, it's not there any more). I was dressed in a Partridge Family outfit that Mum had made for me and was accompanied by Mum & Dad. Once the show started, the audience (almost all teenage girls ) stood on their seats and I saw nothing. I still went on to buy all his records up to & including 1975's The Higher They Climb, The Harder They Fall, which is a fantastic concept album about fading rock star "Da... iddy - he was some poove that guy" that still bears listening to.

In more recent years I found his autobiography, Come On Get Happy, which is a largely dispiriting and miserable read. He starts by getting bullied at school cos his parents were divorced, and ends up more miserable than he started, after less than 5 years in the pop spotlight. As is the way with most of these stories, he got ripped off and didn't make (or get to keep) millions from his moment of fame. If you've seen any interviews with him over the subsequent years, you'll see he was rarely a happy bunny. Always vulnerable, shy and sensitive, you always saw someone struggling with getting over having been the famous David Cassidy. But when he performed, the smile and the charm came back, and it's good that there'll always be the concert footage to look at to see a happy looking David. Last time I saw him on TV he was getting bullied by all the alpha males in Donald Trump's version of The Apprentice, which is certainly not the legacy he deserved.

So long David Cassidy, a generation of grandmothers (and some former wimpy ten year old boys) misses you.

It's a quick bit of David Cassidy on Youtoobling tonight, inevitably. Beginning with the biggest hit.

Sing Me - David Cassidy. One of those lovely childhood songs he did a few of. This one written by Partridge Family chief songwriter Tony Romeo

Can't Go Home Again - David Cassidy. The best of his childhood reminiscence songs, this one being one of the few he is co-credited on as a writer (with Kim Carnes)

"And it's Preying On My Mind that there's nothing left on my hands but time", a cracking David Cassidy song (he gets co-writing credits on this too, with Kim Carnes). This one would be a good Michael Buble track, if that's not damning with faint praise.

Hold On Me - David Cassidy. What links The Partridge Family to Steely Dan? How's about this? Written by Michael McDonald, with the Wrecking Crew playing the instruments.

The Puppy Song - David Cassidy (sung over the chart rundown of Top Of The Pops, 1973 with Kenny Everett)

When I'm A Rock & Roll Star - David Cassidy. Now we're getting to the classic stuff. The opening track from The Higher They Climb The Harder They Fall, 1975

I Write The Songs - David Cassidy. He was robbed. This written for him by Bruce Johnston, and Barry Manilow nicked it and had the hit first.

Massacre At Park Bench - David Cassidy. From The Higher They Climb. "Here's some poove this guy...fading teen idol Da - iddy.. the poor guy is bankrupt, we'll never know this guy's name"

Some Kind Of A Summer - David Cassidy. Co-written by David, with Kim Carnes & Dave Ellingson). The old Desoto died on a hill I couldn't climb in Montana. As a kid, there wasn't a single word of those lyrics that I understood.

The Last Kiss - David Cassidy (and the last for tonight)

I Am A Clown. To save you the bother of reading David Cassidy's autobiography, this song pretty well sums it up.

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 17 November 2017

Drawing Women Of The Bible - work in progress

The above picture is in fact me inking the cover of Guernsey's Zone magazine, which I also did in the last week. But the purpose of this rolling blog is for me to keep some sort of Time Sheet on how long my current major art job, three strips for Women Of The Bible, will have taken me. Here, accompanied by some outtakes (ie panels that I pencilled then rubbed out and redrew) are my timings so far.

Jael Wife Of Heber (8 pages)

Weds 8 - Fri 10 Nov. Art begun (alongside Fowlers Christmas card, Zone cover, CCI roughs, Louisa Christmas card roughs, a caricature and a gift drawing). Really only Friday totally devoted to Jael art.

All 8 pages laid out. Page 4/5 spread pencilled, pasted into TIFF pages and sent as a Friday night preview to Rachel my editor. Parts of other pages pencilled.

Nov 11-12 weekend stuff, 13-14 Penicuik & Falkirk school visits.

Weds 15 - All 8 pages completed in pencil, scanned and pasted into TIFF pages.

Thurs 16 - Pages 1 - 4 inked and scanned.

Fri 17 - Goole gig, followed by weekend stuff.

So, to date, 8 pages pencils have taken 2 days, 4 pages inks have taken 1 day. Work in progress.

Mon 20 - Pages 5 - 8 inked and scanned, then 2 days in Northumberland.

Thurs 23 am, assembling scanned pages 4 - 8. Now ready to start colouring.

Fri 24 Coleg Ceredigion, Sat 25 Reading Comic Con.

Mon 27 - Pages 2 & 3 coloured in morning, then drive to Manchester, Tues 28 Manchester Academy & home.

Weds 29 - Really wanted to finish the whole job before end of November, but pages 4 & 5 are really complicated, so I only got pages 4, 5 and a bit of 6 coloured, as well as delivering the first draft of Louisa's Christmas card.

Thurs 30 - Finham Park Coventry, last school of the year, and home by 4pm so got pages 6 and 1 coloured.

Fri Dec 1st - Hooray, all 8 pages coloured, checked, and delivered. And the client likes it. Perfect. (Also completed amends on Louisa's Christmas card, and set off early to do a Socks gig in Swindon that night. Get me).

My final work rate: 8 page pencils = 2 days, 8 page inks = 2 days, 8 page colours = 3 days. So when kids ask me how long does it take to do a page, it takes me just under a day to do a page. Now we know.

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 14 November 2017

Magritte, Jaws & Dirty Dancing - comics by kids

As you know, if you've read any of these blogs before, I love a good homage. Partly it relieves the pressure of trying to think up new design ideas, but also it gives me a chance to give the kids comics a little added value. And what could be better value than giving them a Rene Magritte reference to take away. These comics from a pair of Saturday classes in Maesteg in the Welsh Valleys. The second cover is something I don't do often enough, taking a kid's design and running with it. Again, anything to avoid coming up with new design ideas.

Woodside School in Tottenham saw me working with year 7s and 8s, with all that entails. So we get another homage, an excuse to do a Trump, and a portrait of one of the kids in the class. Which, in my experience, always ends up as disappointing. And what are those colours? Sorry, the muse seems to have escaped me on that cover.

Now this is more like it. Two of the best titles of the week, and an excuse for another homage. Again, I doubt the kid who dreamed up that title had Dirty Dancing in mind, but what the hey, it's Jennifer Grey. And a Ghostbusters related toilet. Comedy gold from the kids of Easter Carmuirs Primary in Falkirk.

Sacred Heart Primary in Penicuik was a treat, with one of the classes having horror as their actual theme, so I knew I was doing an EC horror pastiche cover from the start. Such a shame it wasn't as good as the Spongebob Fart Pants cover the other group called for.

The celebrities these 8 groups suggested to appear in my demonstration strip were Donald Trump (twice), Ariana Grande (twice), Lionel Messi, David Attenborough, Nicki Minaj, and Stormzy.

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 9 November 2017

Happiness is drawing for a living

Once upon a time, before I started doing these comic art masterclasses around the country, and before I was touring with a sock puppet theatre, when I first went freelance over 25 years ago, all I did every day was write and draw comic strips and cartoons. And over the last couple of weeks it's been very much a return to the olden days.

Admittedly I've done three out of the final four Socks Do Shakespeare gigs (in Halifax, Wolverhampton, and Nottingham, with Goole to come) and done a couple of days of classes (in Maesteg and Tottenham, the fruits of which you'll see soon), but for the rest of the time I've been at my desk drawing, with more to come.

Above we can see the rough for an illustration for the Chartered Insurance Institute (for whom I recently did the biggest illustration ever). I took some rather dry subject matter and zhooshed it up into a classical temple. I was particularly proud of the Engaged Membership column, in which the caryatid and the atlantean are mirrored by a human pyramid of insurance agents. So witty, aren't I? Anyone, the client didn't like it because they want something that says "modern", so here's an illustration that'll never get drawn.

Here's another one that won't be seeing the light of day. Every year, for at least the last dozen years, I've been drawing the Christmas card for Fowlers motorbikes in Bristol. They give me a pretty detailed brief, I do a rough sketch and, as often as not, they come back again with a totally different idea which I draw instead. This was one of those years. So, if you're a Fowlers customer or client, you can look forward to receiving the full colour card I've just drawn (it has Santa and some carol singers on). And above you can see the card that no-one will ever get.

And here's one I don't even get paid for. Well, not directly. One of the many schools I've visited this year was Llangynidr Primary in South Wales. And, as occasionally happens, a child was off sick on the day that the rest of their class got the treat of their life and had my Comic Art Masterclass, so they missed out on getting their caricature done. Most often, the teacher finds a photo of the kid and I draw them from that. But this time that didn't happen, so her Dad got in touch and sent me a photo, from which I drew her caricature. Then, because I was doing some colour art, I experimented with a colour doodle. So, as a free bonus, well an even freer bonus than the first drawing, she got a colour version of her caricature. Yes, being sick gets you more than coming into school, that's a good lesson for the kids. (The next day the Dad thanked me and asked if I could also draw his other daughter. I said no. God, I give with one hand and take away with the other. Evil.)

As if there was no end to my benevolence, here's another job that I did for nothing. A kid was a big Beano fan and wanted a birthday card (he may well have been unwell) so I sent him one. These things I can do with ease, when I'm at my desk. But they're an absolute bugger to do when I'm out and about. Over the years I've let countless people down by saying I could draw them something, or send them a piece of art for an auction, and I haven't got round to sending them anything because, by the time I get back to my desk, I've forgotten the email. To those many unhappy punters, can I apologise in retrospect.

And another surprise gig has been drawing the front cover of the Guernsey comic anthology Zone. This is my scribble for the design, the finished thing is a pretty dawn spot-on Jack Kirby pastiche, though I say so myself. You'll see it soon I hope.

All of which artistic business pales into insignificance in the shadow of the next big job on my plate. I've finally, after 6 months wait, got the go ahead to draw Women Of The Bible. So, joining The Book of Esther which I drew nearly a year ago, I will be drawing and colouring The Book Of Ruth, The Story Of Rahab, and my personal favourite Jael Wife Of Heber. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some pencil to drag across some Bristol Board. And all's right with the world.

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 3 November 2017

Top 10 TV Shows "Sounds Like Friday Night" could try and be as good as...

Top 10 TV Shows Sounds Like Friday Night could try and be as good as...

...apart from Top Of The Pops

As we chew our way through the second episode of Sounds Like Friday Night, with a small spattering of live music interspersed with some lame pre-recorded comedy sketches performed, not by comedians, but by quaint radio presenters and well meaning pop stars, is it too soon to have already damned this show as a flop? Maybe not. But it is a missed opportunity, when putting a pop music light entertainment show in a 7.30 Friday night primetime slot is precisely what TV and its audience are crying out for.

So what, in my opinion, should SLFN be trying to be as good as? Well, if the aim is to represent popular music - as heard on Radios 1, 1Extra, 2 and 6 - and be popular, accessible and entertaining? I'll give you a Top Ten.

We can rule out:

The Old Grey Whistle Test (1971-88) - The grandaddy of music television, but designed for a late night specialist audience, never aimed as a showcase for pop music. Indeed it was the matching counterpart to Top Of The Pops in its heyday, the BBC2 to its BBC1, and we have it covered with Later, Glastonbury, and BBC4's arts shows. Sure, if you liked Toad The Wet Sprocket, then Whispering Bob was for you. But must we fling this filth at our pop kids?

The Word (90 - 95) - Grossout for drunks

Revolver (78) - Maybe only I remember this. Hosted by Peter Cook, who even the audience didn't get, it showcased great bands at the height of new wave, but really you had to be there to get it. 

The White Room (94 - 96) - OGWT light

Kenny Everett's Video Show (78 - 81) - Presented some acts way better than Top Of The Pops did, indeed many of its clips became the official promo for the likes of Bowie & The Boomtown Rats. But it was a comedy show first & a music show second. Sure, better then Sounds Like Friday Night on both fronts, but not the model I'd seek to emulate.

We can also rule out:

Pop Idol (01 - 03) -  Not about new music
X Factor (04 - ) - Not about new music
The Voice (12 - ) - Not about new music
Stars In Their Eyes (90 - ) - Not about... well, you see where that was going

So the Top 10 TV Shows Sounds Like Friday Night could try and be as good as, in my opinion, are:

Oh Boy (1958/9) - Jack Good's continuation of his BBC show Six-Five Special, for ITV, lost the chat (and sport and magazine items) and concentrated on the music. The time was right and the audience responded. Made stars of Cliff Richard and the Larry Parnes stable.

Ready Steady Go (63-66) - "The weekend starts here" was its catchphrase and, for many of the mod generation, it was the cooler show than the Beeb's Top Of The Pops. The Stones, Beatles, The Who et al were friends of the show, which made music specials, including an influential Motown episode. Sadly short-lived and much missed.

Thank Your Lucky Stars (61-66) - ITV's show was noticeable for allowing miming and outliving its competition. Had a popular record review section (mimicking BBC's Juke Box Jury) which gave us the catchphrase "Oi'll give it foive."

Supersonic (75-76) - ITV's early afternoon pop show wasn't limited to the charts, like TOTP, and had the novelty of no presenter, relying on producer Mike Mansfield's cues from the gallery to link the as-live acts. Catered for the overflowing number of glam rock acts that even TOTP couldn't squeeze in.

Marc (1977) - A short lived curio, in which Marc Bolan was given his own show to present and curate (as ITV had previously done with The Bay City Rollers' Shang-A-Lang, and the self-titled Flintlock and Arrows shows), Marc was the show that first put punk on TV. The Damned made their first TV appearance here, as did Generation X and The Jam. At the other end of the fame tree, David Bowie guested on the final episode, a few hours after which Marc died in a car accident.

Oxford Road Show (81 - 85) - From the BBC's eponymous Manchester studios (don't look for them, they're not there any more), ORS mixed live bands with the then deluge of videos and showcased many indie bands and breaking acts. 

The Roxy (87-88) - If anything, this is in the list as a cautionary tale. It came from Newcastle (where the next show on our list had been a proven success) and tried to go up against Top Of The Pops with the same content. On the same night. And in the same time slot.  When acts chose not to travel to Newcastle for a fraction of the exposure they could get by going to London, the show was probably grateful for the industrial action that hastened its cancellation. A textbook example of what not to do.

The Tube (82 - 87) - One of pop television's best ever shows, it took the cool sensibility of the music papers and the style mags, with the brash self confidence of the newly formed Channel 4 and broke new ground. Broadcast from Newcastle, and bravely mixing unsigned and often unlikely acts with pop sensations - with no miming allowed - it gave Top Of The Pops the best run for its money since Ready Steady Go and forced them to up their game. It was the show that discovered Frankie Goes To Hollywood and The Proclaimers, as well as giving us Jools Holland and, indirectly, bringing about Band Aid and Live Aid. 

The Chart Show (86 - 03) - Before MTV, and later Youtube, allowed full-time access to pop videos, they were the currency of a pop generation and the hunger for them was insatiable. TOTP and other shows featured videos, but tried not to be overwhelmed by them (a struggle when the budget for one pop video could often be bigger than the budget for your whole series). The Chart Show made a virtue of the video, and dispensed with the other dodgy variable, the presenter. Instead we had animated links, catchy jingles, and a format based around the Top 40 Chart (quirkily it wasn't the same chart as the one the BBC used, which led to frequent raised eyebrows when the 'wrong' record was Number One), as well as the Indie Chart, Dance Chart and the Rock Chart. Sometimes keeping it simple can be the best answer. The Chart Show is, should anyone have noticed, the UK's third longest running pop music show ever.

Later... With Jools Holland (1992 - ) I have a love/hate relationship with this show, being eternally frustrated by the average age of its acts appearing to be in their late 70s, and the eclecticism sometimes bordering on taking the piss. Also Jools Holland's perrenial insistence on playing along with acts has become ridiculous. But you can't argue with a show that's lasted for 25 consecutive years, and has showcased more live pop and rock acts on screen than any other show (if you allow for TOTP had mostly mime acts for the majority of its 42 years). And you can't argue with the format. 8 or so acts in one studio, with the maximum time being given to the music, and the minimum amount of time being given to Holland. Who, to his eternal credit, keeps it brief, and talks quicker than any other music presenter in TV history. If someone would nick the key to his piano lid, and forget to book the octogenarians and east European throat-singers, this show would be perfect pop TV.

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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