Monday 26 November 2018

Christmas Cardathon - Teasers

This year I have drawn a record number of Christmas cards for people, and I have to say I'm rather happy with what I've churned out. Obviously it would be wrong to spoil the surprise for anyone who's about to receive this little lot, so I hope you'll be happy with these tiny teasers from the yet-to-be-opened Christmas cards I've had a hand in. Starting with the above excerpt from a mega card, a front-and-back colour spread featuring nearly 100 different representations of the season as suggested by the sender's family and friends. If you're one of that number you're in for a treat.

This one was for a group of friends who are fans of a certain TV show. I don't know if you can make out a rift in time and a classic sonic and console there in the background? There was a lot of that sort of thing in there.

No surprise whose card this comes from. When you see the full panorama of this mega production, let's see how many people are still able to spot the Bath Comedy Festival Best Joke Award tucked away there in the background.

This card's not actually finished yet. It's for a client for whom I've been drawing the card for more than a decade now. I've got used to the fact that it'll go through a few more changes before it's finished (this is already the fourth version of Santa's face, and he's not even the star of the card.)

UPDATE: What did I say about this card? Since I posted this blog yesterday they've had me redraw Santa's face yet again. Here's the latest version. 

Here's the sort of job I love, a client who knows what she wants, writes some funny word play, and keeps my bit of it dead simple. Drawing bags of crisps and Mickey Mouse is my idea of fun.

This isn't strictly a Christmas card, but I drew it last week for an end of year presentation, so let's count it shall we? It's for a school near Dublin that does a golf related event. They're supposed to be famous golfers, but I'll be the first to admit it quite possibly doesn't look like any of them.

Since they've put it online themselves I guess there's no harm in you seeing this in full. It's the cover art for The Sound Of Thunder podcast's Christmas Special, available as a CD which is whose sleeve this art will be adorning. One of two cards this year that required drawings of both Dickens and Scrooge, what were the chances?

And last but by no means least, a card that's particularly close to my heart, taking a dozen drawings by Mum and assembling them into a finished design, devised by her. You'll love this when you see it.

Anyone else want their Christmas cards drawing? You may have left it too late. But don't forget to get your dibs in for next year. I started this lot back in October.

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 November 2018

I Was Ellie Taylor's First Boyfriend, Apparently

Imagine my surprise when, courtesy of Anne Marie Draycott pointing it out on Twitter, I saw this clip of Ellie Taylor on Live At The Apollo.

"So," she says, in a routine which I can only imagine she's been doing for the last year or more, "I was going out with my first boyfriend, Kevin Sutherland."

She goes on to describe my Bart Simpson tattoo and my Liverpool FC bedspread, and how she lost her virginity to them, and to me. Well, I hate to disillusion everybody, but there are clearly two Kevin Sutherlands in the world, what are the chances?

I would love to find out whether it's the name of her real first boyfriend, or whether she attempted to come up with a made up name and somehow came up with mine, rather giving the lie to my imagining that I have, at least, been heard of by some of my fellow comedians. How soon they forget.

This is not, of course, the first time my name has found its way into a comedy I had nothing to do with, as anyone who's familiar with The Inbetweeners will know.

Yes. As well as being Ellie Taylor's first boyfriend, I'm also Neil's gay Dad. I get about a bit.

This bit of name-calling has an easier explanation, resulting from the days when Iain Morris and I worked together on some sitcom writing a little over 20 years ago. He created the character Jesper who went on to be in the sitcom Yikes It's Jesper, co-written by myself and Ken Elkes, with additional material by half a dozen writers including Iain.

Having staged a couple of episodes as part of Situations Vacant, my first attempt at a live sitcom showcase, we sent Yikes It's Jesper to the BBC and it got snapped up by a producer who knew his onions, the excellent Jon Rolph. Iain, by this time, had graduated from University and gone to work for a series of TV companies, opting out of the project, so his character was written out and the piece renamed Come Together. It was given a BBC radio pilot starring Ben Miller, Arabella Wier, Melanie Hudson and Kevin Eldon, but amazingly didn't make it to a series.

A decade later Iain had worked his way to the top of the sitcom producing business and co-created The Inbetweeners with his fellow Channel 4 commissioning editor Damon Beesley, and the rest is history. I like to think his inclusion of my name for one of the more heavily-ridiculed characters in the show was affectionate. He hasn't, to date, commented on the matter.

Before he moved on to better things, Iain appeared in a few Sits Vac shows. Here he is starring as a posh rapper in Band For Life, a sitcom whose script was, being honest, no better than its title.

Scottish Falsetto Socks On Tour

Kev F Sutherland, as well as being the man behind The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre 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 20 November 2018

Milk, Muffins & Machine guns - comics by kids

A little bit of travelling for this clutch of comics, produced with pupils in my Comic Art Masterclasses, began with a two day visit to Pontefract Library, where pupils were brought in from various primary schools. Pontefract, as everyone knew except me, means Broken Bridge, and the history of the name is fascinating. Google it. Googling the meme "He Needs Some Milk" is far less edifying, and something one wouldn't expect Year 6s to be so knowledgable about.

I believe Yeah Man may be meme too, but I'm happy to remain ignorant of its derivation. Delightfully, the second of these Pontefractian suggestions was the sort of flight of imagination by a youngster that makes these comics so worthwhile. When they just parrot the same phrases as each other - which is the definition of memes, obviously - it can get a bit depressing. Year 8, I find, are the worst for it.

Speak of angels and you hear their wings, these were Year 7s and 8s (or First and Second Years as they call them) at Clongowes Wood College in Clane, near Dublin. The first school in Ireland to have me over, and to which I've returned a good few times now. Alumni include James Joyce, Nick Hewer, U2's manager, and Michael Leary of Ryanair. So we got a higher class of meme from this lot, winding up with some sort of rude remix about which I don't wish to know.

The celebrities these 6 groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Kanye West, Dawyne 'The Rock' Johnson, Ali A, Simon Cowell, Kevin Hart and Michael Jackson. (Either Simon Cowell or Donald Trump was suggested though not chosen in every single class).

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

Sunday 18 November 2018

"You've got your work cut out here mate" - moving out

And so it was that, on Saturday November 17th, Hev and I finally cleared out of my office on Copse Road, leaving it in an amazingly good state. Hev's work on cleaning mould and insects from the windows and hoovering 16 years of muck from the carpets cannot be understated.

Having been given two months notice at the start of September, it's been a running joke between the two of us that, no matter how much we've cleared out, every time we come into the office we can imagine someone seeing it for the first time saying "Blimey, you've got your work cut out here mate". It was a Sisyphean task but by golly we did it.

Underneath the junk accumulated in my office since I moved in in 2002 were mountains of magazines which, now they've been put into storage, are going to find themselves new homes via eBay. Already the Venue magazines, Private Eyes and Comics Internationals have gone into the paper recycling. The nagging fear that some may have collectibility or, dare I think it, actual commercial value is the only reason I've saved so many into the storage unit. But next to go will be a collection of Doctor Who Adventures complete with toys (which it seems go for about 99p only, so a job lot looms there), Q and Empire magazines, NMEs, then the various 1000s of comics & random magazine that I have somehow amassed. Why the hell do I have a year's worth of Heat magazine? What was I thinking in the 1990s?

I remember what an achievement it was when, way back at the start of September, we found our storage unit and delivered the first car full of boxes. Well, all I can say is I hope there's nothing in that first layer that I need to get my hands on in a hurry. Because...

This is how it looks today. Somewhere under there is the kitchen table that used to live in Kibworth and has come with us from Leicester to Wrington to Clevedon to my office and now to supporting piles of boxes. There are also two black metal bookshelves that started life in the office I used to share with Mark, a pre-war wooden bookshelf that came from Auntie Kate's house at least 30 years ago, the white filing cabinet that used to be in my childhood bedroom, and a wooden leaf table that was in the office when I arrived. To the tip, or rather the re-use and re-cycle area, have gone five self-assembly six-foot-tall bookshelves that used to line the wall of Mark's and my office above the Midland Bank on Sixways, a Hygena QA Labrenza bookshelf which was in the office when I arrived and which had a bow in the top of it even when I arrived, and two metal strongbox files whose drawers were labelled, among other things, "Immunology". Where they'd come from originally is anyone's guess.

Hev's sculptures are a bulky, but surprisingly light, part of the load in the storage unit. But it's the magazines and paperwork that form by far the greatest load. How much we've spent on fold-up storage boxes from Argos I shudder to think. The reason it's taken so long to get out - a fortnight longer than my notice allowed - was simply how long it physically took to put everything into boxes and to perform triage on it all. What went to the tip, what went in a box, and what do I have to keep close to hand in order to try working from home. Having done the artwork for Joseph in a hotel room in Denmark, and coloured my last half dozen jobs on a laptop in various hotel rooms, I'm pretty sure I'll manage working from home for a while, but quite what I'll do about filming Socks videos, and indeed recording new songs, is a mystery. The keyboard, the green screen, and the physical space in which to stick up the green screen and film, are now in a storage unit in Bristol. The Socks even recorded a special farewell to the place in which they've filmed all their studio videos over the last dozen years.

So a new era begins, with a couple of Christmas cards to finish artworking, and more school visits (and a corporate video don'tcha know) taking me around the country (and to Dublin later today) so much I doubt I'll notice the lack of an office for a while yet. What will the future hold? Let us see.

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 November 2018

Nugget Munchers - comics by kids in Northumberland

So, can we guess which comic I'm parodying here, on the front cover of the comic produced with kids in Prudhoe in Northumberland? Of course you can, too easy (answer below). Here we see the fruits of a three day run at schools in Northumberland, organised brilliantly again by Gil Pugh of the Hexham Book Festival. I visited six schools in three days, the second example above being from Ovingham, the school with the excellent art teacher Neil Cole, whose newly opened Sci Fi Museum in Allendale was featured on Netflix's Amazing Interiors and is something I look forward to checking out on a future visit.

The beauty of these comics, which the kids take away at the end of each session, is that they look great, no matter how mixed or problematic the classes might be. Not that I'd point a finger at either of these groups, in Morpeth and Ponteland, but it's always made clear in advance that I can work with a maximum of 30 pupils at a time (and I had a contract for these schools saying I'd have 20 in each group), so it was slightly harder going when I found myself trying to work with a group of 36, with only the minimum two hours to 'do' them in. (I do a caricature of every kid in the class, so every child over the odds adds minutes to the time we need). I'm also not a qualified teacher, so the school that left me alone in charge of a class of some the more struggling learners of Year 6 (who needed to be told to shut up every 30 seconds) shall remain nameless.

Northumberland retains a system of Middle Schools, which is where I was mostly working this week, so you have the odd experience of years 5 to 8 in the same school. Is was it years 6 to 9? Do you know, after half a dozen visits to the area now, I've still not worked it out. Anyway, they were all lovely, these from Cramlington and Bedlington.

The celebrities these six groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Ali A (a Youtuber m'ud), Daniel Radcliffe, Kanye West, Craig Revel Horwood, David Beckham, and Elvis Presley. A pleasingly diverse range of suggestions, all the more impressive since Simon Cowell and/or Donald Trump were among the names called out in almost every group (I get four suggestions from the room then they select a favourite) and got knocked out in the elimination process. This hardly ever happens.

And the classic comic being parodied was of course...

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

Sunday 4 November 2018

Doctor Who Tsurungdngrumdung Dung - some thoughts

Ever watched a Doctor Who episode where you guessed what the plot twists might be, and they went ahead and didn’t bother doing any?
(Spoilers ahoy)
The Doctor is clutching her side in pain. 
My thought: The system has rearranged her organs in human configuration not Time Lord, so she’s going to have to do an operation on herself to make room for her second heart.
Chibnall’s solution: We don’t mention her pain again, it just gets better.
There’s a clock-ticking time-bomb sense of urgency.
My thought: This will drive the drama and we’ll do everything really fast
Chibnall: The lead characters will stop and chat, for absolute ages, really slowly
There’s a guy who’s about to give birth.
My thought: He’s going to do a warrior-like ritual, childbirth being a macho rite of passage for the men of his race.
Chibnall: He’s an archetypal woman giving birth, like in Casualty.
The alien out of Lilo and Stitch only green eats spaceship.
My thought: He eats the self destruct mechanism
Chibnall: He eats the self destruct mechanism
My next thought: But then it turns out that this makes him mad and so he’s about to eat the rest of the ship double fast, so with great regret The Doctor ejects him
Chibnall: With no regret The Doctor ejects him
There’s a famous space pilot who’s lying about her illness
My thought: The illness is a bad heart which will be okay as long as she doesn’t use the body-linked controls. She only reveals this while she’s in mid-rescue and it’s too late.
Chibnall: She explains it almost immediately then dies, as you were expecting
The ship has to fly through an asteroid belt
My thought: We see the ship flying through an asteroid belt, which will be exciting
Chibnall: Let’s not bother with exciting, eh?
My further thought in the asteroid belt: Just when you think they’re safe, there's a big object heading towards them that shouldn’t be there. It’s one of the Junk Planets (seen at start) spinning out of kilter. And now it’s heading for them, the pilot’s just died, there’s no escape. But why has it changed course, and what can they do?
The solution: The Pting landed on that planet when we ejected it, and has changed its course by eating its core out. Just as the planet’s about to hit us, we see the Pting emerging from the junk and, seconds before collision, he eats the last bit of junk and the planet flies apart. We sail home safely.
There’s a bomb on the junk planet.
My thought: We find out who put it there and why
Chibnall: Ha ha, yes that would be… nah can’t be arsed.
If I’m so clever, why don’t I write a Doctor Who episode?

Saturday 3 November 2018

Hamster Battle Machine Gun - comics by kids

October has been the quietest month for Comic Art Masterclasses of the whole year, surprisingly. Not that I wasn't stupidly busy with Denmark and Joseph. So the few I've done have had to wait till now to be collected together, topped up with the above pair, from Foulford Primary in Cowdenbeath, at the start of November. I'm rather chuffed with the cover for Hamster Battle Machine Gun. A tribute to which classic comic cover? (Answer below).

Manchester Literary Festival had me back, but only for one (sellout class), and Avonmouth Community Centre had me over, again for just the one session. Whatever, we made some cracking comics. And of course What Do Pigs... is an homage to which classic movie? Answer below, if you needed it.

October saw a record proportion of one-off classes, with these from Putney and Sutton Coldfield being more of the same. I'm not saying two classes in a day isn't knackering, but I'm happy to do it.

The celebrities these groups chose for my demonstration strip (which we skipped for the YMCA class to give them more drawing time) were Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un (twice), David Walliams, and most original of the month, Angus Young of AC/DC.

And the tribute covers were based on...

Blazing Combat, a legendary front cover painting by Frank Frazetta from 1965. And...

Citizen Kane, obviously.

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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