Dip Pen and Brush

I was at Sheffield Zine Fest over the weekend. I had my stuff on the shared table as I couldn’t do a full day and consequently it was the first time I’d displayed without my full set up. Normally I layout a table with a banner behind and more importantly original artwork on the table for people to peruse. I find this is a great way of drawing attention as there’s something very authentic about seeing the original art, warts and all, before it gets cleaned up for the final print. The other eye-catching feature of it is that it is HUGE.

Each page is drawn on an A2 sheet, taking up about 2/3 of it. This is because I want the comic to be pretty detailed, and whilst it’s a little larger than it needs to be, it really helps making the final comic look dense and more alive. Especially the crowd scenes, which I’m really pleased with.

Since drawing the comic is a real pleasure for me, I like to do it manually as much as possible. I ink using a dip pen and a brush for the larger areas. This can be a very slow process, I did do a test using purely digital inking and it wasn’t that much faster but definitely less fun. Also there is a great pleasure in seeing parts of the page become black, and patterns emerge. This means most of the pages are fully pencilled out and a lot of work goes into making each page. As proof, here’s the evolution of the demonstration title page spread from issue 1.


This image is actually A1 size, as it’s two sheets taped together. This spread took absolutely ages to draw (about three months of evening where I could get them), I spent a lot of time squinting over Google maps and using Street View. The setting is the junction outside the Bank of England – it’s the building at the top right. I also try and get good references for cars and things to make everything feel real. There’s was only one concession for time, I didn’t bother sketching all the protesters till the inking stage – there’s not any great detail to miss. Try looking for the four horsemen of the apocalypse – I copied them from a real protest.


Next comes the inking. This takes less time than the pencilling and I really enjoy inking. It’s a bit like playig with a colouring book of your own work. Most of the inking decisions I’ve already made at the pencilling stage and written notes about on the margins, there was about 5 months between drawing and inking. This is one of the joys of doing a large project in your spare time, you have to have a lot of patience with yourself. I’ve actually inked in the whole crowd this time, whilst the thought of using Photoshop’s clone tool did cross my mind, the result is better without. The page is largely finished now, I try and get the inks to look as good as possible and save the digital parts to minimal cleaning up.


Here is the final page! I’ve cleaned up the image, removing any obstinate pencil marks that refused to be erased and sorted the levels to remove any grey. Most noticeably I’ve added panels borders and dialogue. I like panels borders for the construction they give the page.

With Insurrection I’m trying not to use speech bubbles as I feel their use has become too automated in current comics. They tend to normally be perfectly computer generated ovals, filled with computer sanitised fonts and as a result feel lifeless. There’s an energy to hand drawn bubbles. Anyway – away from my high horse, I’m working on a style I first saw in the Adventures of Luther Arkwright, which is to make a space for the text and use a line to indicate who is saying it. I try and make the space feel natural in the art by rounding of all black areas it cuts into – rather than have a Photoshop generated mask, making it feel like the text is supposed to be there, it’s all part of the same world. I’m interested to know if anyone picked up on this and what they thought.

This has left me with an issue in representing different types of communication, such as loudspeakers and thoughts, but it’s always a challenge.

The text is written in a font based on my own handwriting. After my rant about the fakeness of CGI bubbles it might seem a little shallow to use a font, but this is where practicalities come into play. If it was hand written it would take much longer to make sure I didn’t make mistakes, and get the spacing right. I’d probably end up spending my time cutting out each letter and re-spacing it. The font is mine and my hand – improved to make it more legible!

So there it is, that’s how I make a page, I’ll take original art to most of the events I go to, please come along and have a look!

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Progress Update

Hello, I’ve not posted on here for a while – just to let you know that I’m still working behind the scenes on the next issue. I’ve been held up by moving house and having a new addition to the family, which is great! Still I’m continuing on – just to prove it, here’s a page from the next issue inked and ready for scanning and lettering.

ImageLooking forward to showing the new stuff soon!

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News from Nowhere

Hello, here’s another update on Insurrection!

I had to pull out from going to the Bristol Comic Expo, which I did because I’ve had a bit of a change in my life recently which is delaying issue 2 amongst other things.

Instead I turned my attention to another more local convention – The Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair. This was an excellent chance to reach out to the more political side of the comic and see how it faired. I had an great day there and met some really interesting people. Thanks to all those who came up and chatted.

Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair

As I mentioned above progress on the next issue has been delayed, which means I’ll slip on my original May goal. Work is continuing on it though and I’ll keep this site updated.

The Obscure Cities

In other comic news not relating to me, I’m excited that it looks like some European rarities are finally going to be translated into English. François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters Les Cités Obscures are a French series of graphic novels which blend philososophy into stories set in fantasical cities (Schuiten comes from a family of architects) whose structure truely influences and sets the scene. A big hit in mainland Europe, we’ve only seen fragments in English, via American sources such as Heavy Metal and NBM. A specialist publisher, Alaxis has been formed and will use a Kickstarter campaign to see beautiful versions of the so-far untranslated albums made available. Well worth a look at http://www.theobscurecities.com/home/


I’m a big fan of comics from the the continent and it’s great that more and more of them are finally becoming available in English. It seems to have a been a process happening in spurts and we’re currently going through another phase thanks to the always excellent Cinebook, and my new favourites Fantagraphics (new to me anyway), amongst others.

Finally, apologies to William Morris for ‘borrowing’ the title of one of his most famous works for the post title.

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Updates, Zine Fest, BAFTA and games!

Hello, just a quick update to say that this weekend (16th of March) I’ll have a stall in my home town of Sheffield at The Sheffield Zine Fest. It’s at the Electric Works in Sheffield, which is the new (ish) building in between the train station and the bus station – which also happens to be the place I work (no direct connection between the two). Come along and say hi, there looks like a good collection and local stuff!

Image I’ll be selling copies of Insurrection and will bring along the pencils for the next issue, which should be hitting the press around May time. Production has been slow, which is frankly because I draw very slowly. Several people have noted how detailed the panels were, and that takes long process. I’ve thought about cutting down on the background details – but bah! It just wouldn’t be as much fun without it. It does seem likely as my May deadline approaches I will probably go into some kind of meltdown though, hey ho.

Another excuse reason for the slow progress (and not many updates to this site) is that the comic is very much a spare time obsession. During the daylight hours I don another hat, that of Lead Developer at the lovely little Sheffield games company Team Cooper (based in the electric works, as mentioned above). This means that during the day I get to think up and make ‘digital amusements’ one of which was recently nominated for a BAFTA, yes a real live BAFTA! This is huge news for us and something I’m immensely proud of, having put in a lot of effort last summer (very nearly not having anything ready for Thought Bubble) to pull off the BAFTA nominated Hoopla! Go and have a play – you might like it!


It was also very fun as I got to appear on BBC regional news – or more specifically, my glasses made a star appearance.


Not only that but I’ve also had a little tidal wave of good news as the project I produced after completing Hoopla has now gone live. Are you a fan of retro sci-fi, aliens, Zelda type games? Than you’ll Love Strange Invasion! It’s fresh on the Addicting Games website, give it a play and tell me what you think.


To round off with a bit more comic-based news, my May deadline is because I have a table booked at The Bristol Comic Expo! There I shall be selling issue 2, hope off the press, I’ll see you there!


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Launching at Thought Bubble

It’s a week ago since I launched Insurrection at Though Bubble. It’s the first time I’ve ever sold a comic, let alone hire a table to do it and I really enjoyed the experience. It was great to talk to other comic creators and Thought Bubble has a really great, more independent atmosphere. I had time to have a chat with all the people coming to browse and got some great ideas for future issues.

My stall at Thought Bubble, with some interest punters (in reality two good friends who came along on the Sunday for support).

As you can see from the picture my table was quite home-made and I spent the Friday before cutting making stands and signs out of card to make it look more attractive. The thing that attracted people was the double page spread of original art. The comic art is all drawn on A2 sheets as I wanted the art to be as detailed as possible. I’ll go into the full reasons in a later post. For pages 2 and 3 of the 1st issue I’ve drawn a big double page spread of a protest passing outside the Bank of England. The fastidious person I am, I spent about three months doing it in the evenings and weekends, as it’s so complex. It really did have a big impact though with a couple of people asking me if the original art was for sale! Sadly it’s not as I’d like to hold on to the original art at least until the full comic is finished in case I need it for anything. It was very nice and flattering to get such responses though I’ll be sure to keep up the level of detail in future issues.


I’ve been to Thought bubble for last two years running and always come away with armful of swag and this year was no exception. Having a comic of my own meant that this year I could get a few comics by trading. Taking an idea from Rob Jackson, who had the table next to me, here’s a slightly blurry picture of the additions to my collection:

Top left is my annual update of Blake and Mortimer comics from Cinebook. I’ve been collecting these since they started in 2007, having seen the French original via Tintin, more on that another time.

Continuing the Ligne Claire theme, I finally got around the buying the final part of Garen Ewing’s ‘Rainbow Orchid’, and on impulse bought the omnibus edition too. He very nicely agreed to trade a copy of the new supplement for a pair of Insurrection comics, so a very happy me.

A new interested has been sparked in Escape Publishing, and a copy of The Pleece Brother’s collection, ‘The Great Unwashed’. I’ve not read it yet, but it looks promising.

The Thought Bubble is always an interesting read, and with the profits going to good causes, it’s an easy purchase.

Porcelain was giving out a free preview, and I’ve heard of it, but not read it, so I’ll reserve judgement but it certainly looks nice.

Nick Soucek traded with me for a copy of ‘A Working City’ as there’s some cross-over in themes.

Also in trades were Rob Jackson’s ‘Segway’ and ‘California’. I’ve read Segways so far and like the everyday life humour of the stories (though ‘Professor McGregor’s Fantabulous Time Travel Device’ could hardly be described as everyday).

Finally there was a free copy of Commando up for grabs so I can relive my childhood!

I’d also like to thank my wife Nikki, who kindly looked after the table with me and was generally great all weekend.

I’m now on the lookout for other conventions to go to, whilst continuing apace with Issue 2 of Insurrection, watch this space!


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Welcome to the Insurrection!

Hello and welcome.

This site supports the brand new limited series comic Insurrection which is being launched at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds on 16th November.

Insurrection is the tale of Matt, a man whose life seems OK until it comes into contact with the mysterious Frieda, who is on a path to change the world. He becomes wrapped up in a world of protest and change, exploring the world we live in now and what the alternatives are.

As a special launch promo, the first issue of Insurrection will be launched alongside a special prologue edition, setting the scene further. Buy them both for a special discount rate.

The Cover of Issue 0The Cover of Issue 1








I’ll be at stall 7 in New Dock Hall. I hope you can make it, and I’ll be posting new things up as they’re ready. Roll on Thought Bubble!



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