Tuesday 25 September 2018

Cobsick Planet Of Poo Poo - comics by kids

These comics are the fruits of two days in a row at St Barnabas school, and its neighbour Kirmington, in North Lincolnshire. I stayed over in Brigg, which is a pretty little place. I'm particularly happy with the cover for Cobsick Planet Of Poo Poo, which is not only a great title, but which coloured up nicely.

I do all this colouring in spare moments in the evening after each class and, honestly, waste a little more time on them than is truly justified. It's not like we're ever going to make a best selling coffee table book out of these babies. But once you've started something like this, it's hard to stop. I hope the kids appreciate the after-care they're getting for free there.

Furze Down school in Bucks is for kids with special educational needs, making it all the more delightful when they achieve the final results which they did here. Their comic strips are tucked away inside, a taste of which you can see in the doodles they add to the covers. The titles are all theirs.

The celebrities these six group chose to star in the demonstration strip that I draw on the flipchart were Donald Trump, Robbie Williams, Kim Kardashian, Simon Cowell (twice), and David Walliams.

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

Saturday 22 September 2018

Leaving the office

So it came to pass that in the first week of September, Gerry my landlord rang me up and told me the time had come to move out of my office.

I'm surprised it hasn't happened earlier, to be honest. I've been luxuriating in a large office space, which has filled up more and more with my junk until it is 90% storage unit and 10% work space, since I moved in sixteen - yes sixteen - years ago. My first action? To put some stuff on eBay. Above you see one of the two Socks massive posters, which went as a pair for £75 the lot.

One thing that's not shifting fast on eBay is my cheese plant - if anyone wants it it's going cheap. It's eight feet high, reaching from floor to ceiling and filling the window. Wherever I move to next, I fear Cheesey (no, she/they've never had a name, I just call the leaves Them) won't fit.

Most likely I'm going to be spending a while trying to work from home, while the contents go into storage. It won't be the first time.

Looking back at where I've managed to work over the years is an interesting bit of nostalgia:

1989 - When we moved to the South West, and I went freelance for the first time, I began my solo career drawing comic strips in the back bedroom of 5 The Glebe in Wrington. Writing and drawing strips for Gas, The Damage, and Century 21's poster magazines, I managed it all on one table. My Amstrad computer would be moved on, and my drawing board moved off the table top in turn. The centrepiece of my organisation was the fax machine. Try explaining one of those to the kids today. Out of the window I watched the great storm of spring 1990, including a chimney pot flying through the window of a greenhouse. I was there for 6 months.

1990 - 93 - While Heather worked at Nailsea school every day, I worked from the back room of our flat in Leagrove Road. That back room still doubled as a guest bedroom at the time, and I shared my workspace with the fold up Z-Bed that had come from Kibworth. Again it was a tabletop shared between a portable drawing board and an Amstrad green-screen "everybody's first word processor". Here I produced the rest of my strips for Gas and The Damage, then edited, wrote and drew for UT comic (91 - 93) as well as producing a daily strip, Battler Britten, for the Daily Sport, and a weekly football strip for the Sunday Sport. I was busy, if not necessarily doing work I was proudest of.

93 - 95 - My first office, on Old Street in Clevedon. With the creation of Gladiator comic, which I devised and brought to a publisher, negotiating the licensing deal with LWT and looking forward to a smash hit, I took on the role of writer and artist, and realised I could possibly expand my organisation. So I rented an office, and brought Lucy Allen in as an assistant. Then Mark Buckingham asked if he could come and share my office, and I welcomed him with open arms. Thanks to Mark I was able to break into Marvel comics. When Gladiators went tits up, losing me money and threatening an end to my work in comics, I helped Mark out with some inking, and gradually crept up to doing my own inking for Marvel on Dr Strange and Star Trek. In this office I also designed t-shirts for Network, including Xmas 93's best seller "Let's Get Out There And Twat It"

95 - 98 - Our second office. At the suggestion of Steve Noble, Mark and I moved to a bigger suite of offices above the then Midlands Bank on Sixways. Don't look for it, it's not there any more. Here I inked Marvel comics as Mark made the wise move to drawing for DC, and was also beginning my fledgling stand up career. It was in this office that Situations Vacant, the live sitcom shows that were to become The Sitcom Trials, was born. Our first meeting, which included Iain Morris long before he created The Inbetweeners, took place in Steve & Rob's board room. Meanwhile, as the Marvel comics work started to dry up (the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the details of which you'll find on Wikipedia) Mark and I launched The National Comics Awards from this office, and I began plans for Comics 99.

98 - 2002 - Back home. With my Marvel work gone, I struggled to find comics work, and was even reduced to training to sell double glazing. I was unable to afford my share of the office rent, so Mark and I both had to move out of our beautiful loft suite. Three rooms we had! Three rooms! It's since been converted into a flat which, with an extension out across the roof, is worth about £400,000. Meanwhile most of my stuff, which was an awful lot of comics and old artwork, went into storage, firstly at Hugh's picture framing company behind the garage by Salthouse Fields, and later in a barn on a farm near Weston Super Mare. I moved back to working from the back room. Something that was about to become a lot more difficult when Heather left her job at Nailsea school.

Summer/Autumn 2002 - The farm. I rented an office in a spider-lined damp subterranean stone room on a farm, a mile down the road to Nailsea. There couldn't have been a worse place for me to work and I hated it. I came back to working there having finished my loss-making second year at the Edinburgh Fringe, with the second Sitcom Trials show and my only solo stand up show, and I was both impoverished and miserable. But luckily I'd come back with the promise of a TV show. First I had the 8 week Rude Health TV show, and then coming in spring 2003 there was to be the Sitcom Trials TV show. It looked like I was about to have some money again, and another office loomed on the horizon.

(A shot from 2014, compare the size of the cheese plant then and now, above)

2002 - 2018 - The Office. Thanks to Gail Buckingham (Mark's then wife) I was introduced to Gerry and the office on Copse Road, which had been Mark's office ten years earlier, before the two of us moved into Old Street. The cork notice board on my wall was made my Mark's dad. I moved in in September or October 2002 and have remained there ever since. It's in this room that I've written and drawn all of my comic strips for The Beano, and my Women Of The Bible graphic novel, and a hundred other script and art commissions. Notes from the Sitcom Trials TV show are still on my walls, along with the certificates I got from Childline and Comic Relief for the money I raised from my comic festivals, which had started being run from home, and ended in 2004.

The most visible items on the wall are of course the posters for the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. Every studio video they've made has been shot here. Their green screen has hung permanently on the wall, and their props and the components for making props, take up a big table in the middle of the room. There are also currently a few boxes of their comics and t shirts taking up a bit of space. Though not nearly as much space as Heather's Anubis sculptures, who have lived here characterising the room from the start.

(This photo from 2014 shows the place less cluttered than it is now)

So, not-quite-everything must go. Looking around I see an awful lot of Doctor Who toys that ought to find a better home (how many Tardisses?), and quite a bit of computer hardware. The Amstrad has long gone, but there's still space being taken up by a black Mac Power PC, a round-backed 2002 iMac, a large-screened 2005 iMac, two toilet-seat MacBooks (circa 2001/2), and a white MacBook that I was still working on up till 2013. What do you do with old Macs?

Can I really work from home? Or will there be office space that I can realistically afford? With my work in schools, and touring with the Socks in recent years, there have been months when I don't use the office at all. Since 2007, it's been deserted throughout August for all but two year, for example, and spending more than 100 days doing classes, it spends a lot of its time lying dormant. One thing I won't be needing any more is a phone line, with the mobile now taking all calls, and the broadband having long since replaced the fax machine (it went to the tip, that's what you do with those).

Let us see what the next six weeks hold. I have take a Big Yellow Self Storage unit, and I've got a really heavy workload to take me all the way through October. November will find me in a new working space, who knows where?

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 21 September 2018

Writing Joseph

I've written another story for Bible Society, this time Joseph. Following on from the Women Of The Bible, which I now have sample copies of that I'm taking into schools, along with feedback forms (hopefully we'll see it published soon), this is my latest commission and it's been great fun to write.

Notable has been the conditions under which I've produced it. It was done entirely while sat in a fold-up chair in the back room of Heather's recent exhibition. Whereas I'd normally sprawl over the desk in my office, paper strewn everywhere, and my laptop waiting for the second stage of the writing, this time it was all done with no space to play with and, literally, on my lap.

Stage one is scribbling the story out in biro. That's where the gags come, the visuals get dreamt up, and the first bit of editing happens. That took two days in the gallery (which we set up on Monday and took down the following Sunday).

Step two of my Bible stories is writing all the words into the voice bubbles, which will then be the bubbles of the finished printed artwork. This method is how Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Gaines used to do EC comics 65 years ago. They'd type all the text onto the artboard and supply that to the artist to draw on top of. Well, it's my method too. That stage took two days too.

Step three, usually, is for me to draw rough visual versions of every panel, and it is this that get supplied to the editor to approve. And that's where I stalled this time round. As you can see from the sample above, drawing straight onto the computer screen via the graphics tablet, sat on my lap, is not something at which I excel. I need to do that bit at a drawing board in my studio, and can take another two days. So I decided against it, and instead sent me editor Rachel a script that looked like this.

Luckily for me, not only could she understand the story from text alone, but also she liked it. So the script was delivered to her Friday afternoon and, following a phone call on Thursday morning, I had a couple of pages of rewrites to do and we have a 23 page story ready for me to draw.

The rewrites, to keep up the novelty working method, were done while sat by Mum's bed in The Knoll care home in Kibworth. I was there all day Thursday, stopping off en route from two days at schools in North Lincs. Two pages of new material, scribbled, laid out and delivered from another fold up chair.

I'll be doing the artwork in my office. And, spoiler alert, it will be the last piece I do there before I have to move out of my office.

It's good to write and draw comics for a living, I'd love to do more of it. I look forward to delivering a story I'm happy with. Stay tuned.

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 14 September 2018

Hev's Lulu Exhibition

This week has been spent invigilating Hev's latest exhibition, at the Christmas Steps Gallery in Bristol, and a lovely looking thing it is. Half of it is a selection of Anubis work, including a photo series taken last year at the Venice Biennale, and the other half is her new work in progress on the subject of Lulu. Lulu is the subject of one of her recent articles and a book that's underway, and the exhibition includes a new sculpture based on Lulu, and a set of canvasses based on the photos that have come from Hev's research.

How's this for a work in progress from the work in progress? These images of Lulu, and the enigmatic El Nino, are printed on actual pages from Times newspapers from 1889. Sweet.

The Private View was an absolute triumph, with a marvellous turnout of people, bringing together friends in a great party atmosphere, along with Heather's new contacts from Circus 250 and the gallery world. All in all a great success. And I even got my RCA Secret postcards drawn while we were there:

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Avengers Infinity Reel - new clip from Superheroes

Another new clip from the Socks' Superheroes show, the Avengers routine followed by the Avengers Inifinity Reel. Another couple of corking bits from the show, the first part of which you might recognise from its appearance in 2013's Socks In Space. Waste not a good bit, say I.

Superheroes clips (in order from show):
What A Wonderful Film
Motion Capture
Batman v Joker
Improvs - Packing Tape ManSuperted
Passing The Bechdel Test
Avengers Infinity Reel
Dead Ringer For Superman

The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre were Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night through August 2018 - on tour to a theatre near you soon.

Batman v Joker - new clip from Superheroes

Another routine from the Socks' Superheroes show, Batman v Joker now online. Enjoy.

A lovely little audience pleaser, this works well in the context of the show, where the scenes lead into each other, but possibly ends a little suddenly out of context.

Superheroes clips (in order from show):
What A Wonderful Film
Motion Capture
Batman v Joker
Improvs - Packing Tape Man, Superted
Passing The Bechdel Test
Avengers Infinity Reel
Dead Ringer For Superman

The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre were Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night through August 2018 - on tour to a theatre near you soon.

Monday 3 September 2018

Motion Capture - new clip from Superheroes

A fun clip from Superheroes, as seen at Edinburgh this year, and soon to go on tour, the Motion Capture routine. Not big, not clever, great fun. Enjoy.

The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre were Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night through August 2018 - on tour to a theatre near you soon.

Sunday 2 September 2018

Hey Bucket Heads! - comics by kids

No sooner was I back from a month away at the Edinburgh Fringe then I was back at the chalkface doing the last Comic Art Masterclasses of the summer holidays. Of course the kids of Scotland had gone back to school a fortnight ago, hence the end of the Edinburgh classes, but in England they still had another week to go, and this was how they filled it. By flocking to libraries and art centres and enduring classes with me. On Tuesday it was Andover, where they came up with these two cracking titles.

On Wednesday I drove all the way to Sevenoaks and back, which amounted to over 7 hours driving for less than 6 hours work, such is my life. I was pleased with the Bloodsucking Cow cover. By the way, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably worked out that you can see how many kids were in each class by the number of drawings they've done in the backgrounds of the covers. Sevenoaks was a proper sellout, with just short of 30 in each group, as was Andover before it.

In Tewkesbury we had a slightly smaller turnout, and likewise at Matson library in the afternoon, but both grand groups to work with. And I was chuffed with my Ninja Granny cover. Sometimes a design, knocked off in minutes while the kids are getting on with their drawings, comes off. And just as often it doesn't. Being rested after the month in Edinburgh probably helped.

I say rested. Obviously I was doing a show every night and didn't have time to colour any comics while I was there, but I had a rest from comics drawing. And from driving. Which I certainly got unrested from this week. Monday I drove from Edinburgh to Clevedon, Tuesday to Andover & back, Weds to Sevenoaks in Kent & back, Thursday to Tewkesbury & Matson and then to Warrington for an overnight stay before the day's classes (above), then to Kibworth on Friday night to see Mum, before coming home Saturday night. Enough miles for you?

The celebrities these 8 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Simon Cowell, Donald Trump (twice), The Queen, Harry Hill (twice), Ant McPartlin and Barack Obama.

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

Saturday 1 September 2018

Still Got It - drawings by Mum

Mum’s cartoon of the day she was moved from the hospital in Harborough to the Knoll by a taxi driver who seemed to be outstandingly inept. Having asked to be paid in cash, he stopped by the cashpoint and promptly ran out of petrol. Being only half a mile from the Knoll, he then wheeled Mum in a wheelchair up the road, in the rain. Not what she was hoping for. But at least it inspired this drawing, so there’s that.

Mum, as you’ll know if you’ve been following this blog, has recently been admitted to a care home. She’s in the Knoll in Kibworth, which used to be my mate Nick’s house, as her condition continues to be stable but, as she might describe it, boring. She really has precious little energy, wanting to sleep most of the time, and is having increasing difficulty with her manual dexterity - a pox on whoever designed phones that you have to tap and swipe in order to answer them, and to all those designers with their nimble fingers who think pinching and swiping with two fingers without accidentally pressing the wrong bit of the screen remains easy forever!

So it’s a delight to see her still drawing. Not anything near as much as she’s always done, and inevitably not up the quality of her usual work. But I’d happily rank her work alongside late Picassos and a good few others I’ve seen (this summer’s show or Orson Welles drawings at Summerhall springs to mind).

This is a sketch of Paul, who is, I believe, the handyman here at the Knoll. I may be belittling his job, he could well be the boss for all I know, I’ve not met him yet. He’s been putting pictures up on the wall for Mum, mostly photos of the family, and her watercolour of “General Jacks” (the Old House in Kibworth Harcourt, which we’ve always known by that name.)

Here’s Jude, Paul, and Mum's zimmer frame. She’s not in a hurry to go downstairs and eat with the others, preferring her quiet wee room. I say quiet, Jude (with the tiniest help from me) has sorted out Mum’s TV, and iPlayer on her Hudl (Earth’s most useless tablet) and iPhone, as well as sorting out a booster for her Wifi. Sadly it’s also Earth’s slowest wifi, so the only way we can load Mum up with TV is to take the devices home and bring them back loaded. But it seems to be doing the trick.

I’ve just been visiting her, over Friday night and through Saturday, my first visit since the first week of August when I came down to help Jude suss out care homes. Jude has been a far better daughter than me, staying with Mum for a few days every week. I’m going to try and get up as often as I can, but the nature of work means it won’t be as long as anyone would like. 

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