Friday 26 May 2023

AI Art and other thoughts - my May Facebook posts

Spotted at Taurus Crafts in Gloucestershire, a comic themed bin.

Coincidentally, depending how badly they go on eBay, this is where a lot of my collection will end up

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May 4: I’m flying over the weekend. Will they have Coronation Check-In?

(Gag by Heather Tweed)

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I’m trying to draw hunting dogs from reference photos. Any pointers?


Hi fellow artists. If you really hate AI art, and can't stand seeing it displace all actual art, then steer clear of the group Adult Coloring Book Fans (and others like it) where these jokers are popping up like a plague.
"Here, have a free page of my new coloring book" is usually their opening schtick, then the book itself is on sale on Etsy. I've got fed up asking "Is it AI?" because it obviously is, every time.
All the other comments are "lovely" "sweet" "cool" "got to have this" or something similarly air-headed.
I took one artist to task about it and his reply was that he has Parkinsons and this is the only way he can make art, which I have to confess shut me up. I'm betting that's not every other artist's excuse.
Update: I have been told that one of the AI publishers, whose work I've shown below, has had their Etsy shop closed.
Update: One of my comment threads (I asked is this AI? and it started a debate) has been removed. The AI art, and the sycophantic comments, remain.

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May 12: The plague of AI-generated colouring books continues. Let me assure all you actual artists out there that the members of the colouring groups are very resistant to AI art and...
*checks comments*
...no, no, as you were. They don't care. You can all give up now.

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May 16: Keeping count of the nails in the coffin of artists, the latest publisher to post ’their work’ in the colouring book groups has decided to go Full Disclosure from the off. Check out their name: “AI Clip Color and Cut”.
It may be an obscure corner of the publishing business, but I have no doubt that the rapidly spreading Japanese Knotweed that is AI art will surface in comics and picture books and continue to threaten real art in a big way.
I know ‘real’ comic readers will tell me they’d never accept it and will resist it. But imagine a generation of comic readers who don’t care, who love eye-catching highly polished visuals and have never looked at the credits.
Imagine a world where unscrupulous comic publishers never allowed their artists to sign their work so they were permanently anonymous, never paid royalties, only ever treated artists as work for hire, constantly got new artists to ‘ghost’ the style of their predecessors, and have always dreamed of getting artwork for less money? Nope. Can’t think of any comic publishers like that, we’re safe.


This is a weird one. Someone's entire graphic novel (Trick Of The Light by Aly Fell) has been swiped and redrawn, it would seem by AI, but looking so similar to the original it's weird.
How does this work? Who does this? How do they get away with it?
And should I be insulted that no-one's tried making an AI copy of any of my books yet?

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Not that I can figure out how, but Amazon is selling my Prince Of Denmark graphic novel for just £4.46, cheaper than even I sell it for (heavens knows how, it costs nearly that much to print).
Snap it up while you can, it's never been cheaper. (I hope I get paid for this loss-leader!)



Happiness is finding forty year old photos in a book and embarrassing a friend with them. Here is
Martin Cox, who has hardly changed since college.

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Re: Wakanda Forever

I fear I have to bail on Wakanda Forever after just under an hour. Did anybody out there think it worth seeing to the end?
It’s not very well written, with characters that haven’t gripped me, and villains and fight scenes that just seem so derivative. Especially the school kid who’s inexplicably able to build a billion-dollar Iron Man suit then promptly uses it to do the exact same “flying too high, running out of oxygen” routine that Iron Man has done more than once.
Left during a tiresome exposition dump, of which I could tell there were going to be more.
Marvel movies ain’t what they were, are they?


In my hotel room in County Kerry, worried a hitman might come after me if I drink this.

*******
I don’t know what’s worse.
The fact that I’m missing the Eurovision semi finals, flying back from Dublin.

Or the fact that I even know I’m missing the Eurovision semi finals.

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May 9: When a word could use variants. No 97: Republican

Here I am, getting ready to catch a flight back from the Republic of Ireland, which gained its independence thanks to the Republican army, and on my screen comes a headline about Republicans, who I support (anti-monarchists) getting arrested, above a story about a Republican, who I oppose, getting charged.
One word, so many different meanings. How can we have so many words for snow (that is us, right?) and keep spreading this one word so thinly?


Eurovision is the new Christmas, I am reminded.
In both cases there are records that get wheeled out and overplayed that you'll never hear at any time of the year (Fairytale / Fairytale Of New York anyone?), and in both cases the anticipation far outweighs the event itself.
If we'd thrown a party we'd now be massively out of pocket, and have mountains of clearing up and recycling to do too.
There's also a very strange syndrome by which other peoples' perception of Eurovision differs. I've had the mixed fortune to join a few Eurovision fan groups (in order to plug my colouring books, which did alright now you ask + the Socks have been performing a Eurovision parody show for the last year) and they are so aware of all the entries so far in advance, that they get into group-think and view-reinforcing bubbles that start to form really solid views about the songs. These are in stark contrast to the viewers at home who may be seeing the songs for the first time on Saturday night.
These groups told me, weeks ago, that the final two would be Finland and Sweden, which was indeed the case. This removes all jeopardy from the show, if you take any notice of it.
For my part I enjoyed cringing through the awful songs and making my sarcastic notes. Hev's most memorable note was "aaaargh" which she wrote when we were only 5 songs in. She's less of a fan than me.
The anticlimactic hangover is similar to Christmas too. Luckily for me, I'm not drinking this year, and we're in a hotel room, with me about to do a Comic Art Masterclass at 10 (there was also a very loud covers band in the bar last night, which went on till 11.30 and made the experience a bit different from usual). But that 'hangover' feeling remains. I'm looking back on the show and struggling to remember any of the songs.
Australia was still the best. And all I can remember of Italy's is that the guys falling off a shelf in the background was more interesting than anything being sung.
Looking forward to next year's already.


Hear me out: Indie Eurovision Song Contest
Next year the UK should enter an indie song. By which I mean an actual genuine band who have some success, ie on Radio 6 music or Radio 1, and played Glastonbury or been nominated for the Mercury prize. They’d have to write their song for the contest, and it would be worth making it ”big” rather than shoegazing.
Let’s face it, if we’re going to come in the bottom ten anyway, why not do it with something we’d be proud of? My contenders would be:
Wet Leg
Stealing Sheep
Sleaford Mods
Yard Act
Lil Simz
Your choice would be..?


So, our big problem with AI is that it models itself on the work of artists who've come before and performs an uncredited, unpaid rehash of their stuff, right?
It was with this in mind that I was taken aback when someone shared some pages of artwork today. I thought I recognised them, as they were very obviously the work of the late John Buscema, who drew Conan The Barbarian on and off for nearly 40 years. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they weren't. They've been produced, long after John's death. See if you can guess which of these is a Buscema original and which is a post-Buscema work.
NB: I think you'll spot that the final image is what you get when you ask Craiyon to draw Conan in the style of John Buscema.

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May 18: Having just woken up from one of my typical dreams, I’m struck with the thought that AI like ChatGPT is a bit like a dream.
It randomly draws elements together from your memory, in a pastiche of real life, but it remembers things badly. And if you try and return to a subject it can’t remember what it was doing just two thoughts ago.
AI imagery is like dreams too. At first glance it reconstructs convincing locations - in the case of my dreams we have large party rooms and rambling buildings with towers - but when you investigate them they have no logic, and you can never retrace your steps.
All of which reminds me why I’ve always thought Christopher Nolan’s Inception to be the worst representation of dreams on film, cos his dreams don’t behave like any dream I’ve ever had.
Which means, by extension, I’m calling AI more interesting than Christopher Nolan. Your words, not mine.

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May 19: For every post on my Facebook from an artist railing against AI (and those include me) I get half a dozen from the latest publisher with their new AI drawn colouring book. It’s become an avalanche.
And for obvious reasons. It takes me a few days to draw my silly pop star colouring books by hand, and as long to write the articles that go with them. Whereas someone typing AI prompts could produce a 50-image book, assemble it as a PDF, and publish it on Amazon before breakfast. Every day.
And given the response from colouring book group members , which range from “lovely” to “cute” to “I want this”, these books have completely won this particular online market.
It is no good artists resisting AI. It needs the paying public to resist. And I see no inclination from the paying public to do so.

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May 20: Article on Brexit in Guardian

"Turns out Britain needs migrants – but now they have to come from far away, rather than in reciprocal movement between us and our nearest neighbours."
This is something I've become very aware of in schools which I visit with my comic classes - the European kids have all disappeared. Ten years ago schools were dealing with the interesting situation of sometimes having kids with a dozen different languages in their classes. And I got into the habit of learning how to say "I'm sorry I can't speak (insert language here)" in a variety of different languages. At one point I could say it in Polish, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Turkish and more.
Now the only European language that comes up in class is Ukrainian, for obvious reasons. The exception to this pattern came a couple of weeks ago when I was teaching in schools in County Kerry in Ireland, and suddenly there was a cluster of kids from Portugal, Italy, Spain and elsewhere, who were part of a school exchange thing. Of which there's still a lot, because Ireland is part of Europe.
I never understood the desire for Brexit. I still don't. I haven't yet heard an argument in its favour that showed me how it was going to benefit the people of either Britain or Europe. Would anyone like to have another stab at explaining it to me? I still want to know what people were voting for and what they thought would happen. (It's very rare that I predict anything correctly, but my gut feeling that cutting ourselves off from the EU could only be an economically and socially destructive exercise turned out to be the one thing I've got right.)


1980 - you had to be there. Who else got caught in this trap? You heard a band on Radio 1 and all you could remember was that their name was a letter and a number.
So you went to the record shop, secure in the knowledge there could only be one band like that...
Hev came home with UB40. She wanted the B52s. Who came home with U2?

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 A niche question here: why do so many Chinese takeaways only take cash, not card?

I’m ordering in one in Wakefield as I type, and I had the same thing with two other places, earlier this year. Both in the North, I think. Anyone know why this might be?

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Re: Stanley Baxter's 97th birthday

We were watching Stanley Baxter just the other night, in an episode of The Goodies (which we hadn’t seen for at least fifty years and still remembered). He stole the episode, and did lead us to wonder whether he was still around.
I’m delighted to find he is. And must be the last surviving British comedy actor of the 1950s, surely.
Now I’m off to check out his Parliamo Glasgae on YouTube.

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May 25th: You what?
Calamity James, yes the one out of The @BeanoOfficial , has been made into a live action TV show!
No, me neither. Now I can’t wait for Brian Cox as Desperate Dan.

My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 

Eurovision Colouring Vol 1 Amazon -  Lulu  - Etsy 
Eurovision Colouring Vol 2 - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 

Eurovision French edition - édition en français
Eurovision Spanish edition - Libro para colorear
Eurovision German edition - Popstar Malbuch
Eurovision Italian edition - il libro da colorare 
Eurovision Swedish edition - Popstjärna Målarbok
Eurovision Colouring Best Of British - Amazon

Doctor Who Colouring - Amazon - Lulu  - Etsy 
Punk Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
60s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
70s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
80s Pop Star Colouring Amazon
80s Superstars - Amazon
90s Pop Star Colouring Lulu - Etsy
2020s Pop Star Colouring Amazon
Bowie Colouring - Amazon
Scottish Pop Star Colouring - Amazon
Rom Com Colouring - Amazon
Royalty Colouring - Lulu
Christmas Movies Colouring - Amazon

NB: Etsy editions are signed and posted by me, and generally cheaper  

Thursday 25 May 2023

Thomas The Shrek Engine - comics by kids

My annual two day visit to Colmore Juniors in Kings Heath, which has been going on for over a decade now, we preceded by a couple of visits I've not made before. All gave us splendid creations by kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses.


Fowey Literary Festival, formerly the Daphne Du Maurier Festival, were kind enough to allow me to stage a one off class as part of their programme. There was I, rubbing shoulders with the like of Vince Cable. In the programme, at least. I never got to meet him in person. Our overnight stay saw Hev and I in a room above a pub trying to watch Eurovision while a covers band played below. Then when it came to my class, which was on a doorsplit basis, only 7 people turned up, and only one of them was under the age of 30. I may have miscalculated the demographic in Fowey. But a pleasant excuse for a day away in a pretty Cornwall town.


Heron Hall in Enfield gave me an excuse for another overnight stay, which I only lined up cos I thought Hev would come with me and go into London. In the end she didn't, so I got to school bright and early. Interesting side note about Heron Hall: they call e female teachers Madam rather than Miss. No, me neither.


Colmore Juniors had me back again, to spend two days working with the Year 5s, and once again they came up with brilliant suggestions. I've already got 2024s return booking in the diary.


The celebrities these seven groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Jackson, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (three times, he really is this year's most popular choice), Virgil Van Dijk (a footballer, m'lud), and Will Smith. 

My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 

Eurovision Colouring Vol 1 Amazon -  Lulu  - Etsy 
Eurovision Colouring Vol 2 - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 

Eurovision French edition - édition en français
Eurovision Spanish edition - Libro para colorear
Eurovision German edition - Popstar Malbuch
Eurovision Italian edition - il libro da colorare 
Eurovision Swedish edition - Popstjärna Målarbok
Eurovision Colouring Best Of British - Amazon

Doctor Who Colouring - Amazon - Lulu  - Etsy 
Punk Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
60s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
70s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
80s Pop Star Colouring Amazon
80s Superstars - Amazon
90s Pop Star Colouring Lulu - Etsy
2020s Pop Star Colouring Amazon
Bowie Colouring - Amazon
Scottish Pop Star Colouring - Amazon
Rom Com Colouring - Amazon
Royalty Colouring - Lulu
Christmas Movies Colouring - Amazon

NB: Etsy editions are signed and posted by me, and generally cheaper 


Monday 15 May 2023

Captain Clevedon Returns - again!

Captain Clevedon's back again, sort of, slightly.

I was delighted to get a call out of the blue this month, from a nice chap called Clive who's high up at Clevedon Town Football Club. He wondered whether my superhero creation from years ago might be interested in being a sort of mascot for the club.

Inspired, obviously, by Ryan 'Deadpool' Reynolds buying Wrexham, he remembered Captain Clevedon, whose last comic appearance was way back in 2011, and wondered if we might do something together. I liked the idea, so I've drawn a few images of the good Captain, with his costume redesigned to match the team's new strip, and they'll possibly be using them in publicity.

I also scripted and scribble a 4 page comic strip adventure about the Captain and the Club, featuring a cheeky parody of Deadpool. Sadly there's no money for producing that, so here's a the strip in its rough form (below).

I was also inspired to put the original 2011 Captain Clevedon comic up for sale on Amazon (sadly it has to go at too high a price, because I have to publish via Lulu). Here it is, should you want to add it to your collection.




Captain Clevedon first saw life in 1994 as an 8 page photocopied comic. I then revived him in 2011, since which time I've never not had the inclination. He remains one of those things that sounds like a great idea every time he comes up in conversation, but about which I soon lose interest. It was fun to draw him again.


My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 
Captain Clevedon - Amazon

Eurovision Colouring Vol 1 Amazon -  Lulu  - Etsy 
Eurovision Colouring Vol 2 - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 

Eurovision French edition - édition en français
Eurovision Spanish edition - Libro para colorear
Eurovision German edition - Popstar Malbuch
Eurovision Italian edition - il libro da colorare 
Eurovision Swedish edition - Popstjärna Målarbok
Eurovision Colouring Best Of British - Amazon

Doctor Who Colouring - Amazon - Lulu  - Etsy 
Punk Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
60s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
70s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon  - Lulu  - Etsy 
80s Pop Star Colouring Amazon
80s Superstars - Amazon
90s Pop Star Colouring Lulu - Etsy
2020s Pop Star Colouring Amazon
Bowie Colouring - Amazon
Scottish Pop Star Colouring - Amazon
Rom Com Colouring - Amazon
Royalty Colouring - Lulu
Christmas Movies Colouring - Amazon

NB: Etsy editions are signed and posted by me, and generally cheaper  
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