Stuff I've been doing
I am not yet into the editing phase for the Zang Fu book so it has given me an opportunity to work with other people in quite different ways. I have completed several cartoons which were commissioned by a client in December, launched a fun web based comic strip on tapastic and just this week completed a logo for my friend Ren. I am also continuing my work with my students at the London Art College and a growing number of illustration mentoring projects.
Ren is a freelance editor offering a wide range of publishing and editorial services as Last Edits. She asked for a logo which fitted the design of her website, used purple and grey and was primarily text based. Knowing someone well makes the design process much easier, and after a brief visit to her website to refresh my memory on its design I produced a handful of options for her. Within a few days of refining we arrived at this logo shown here. One satisfied client and an enjoyable creative exchange :)
With the first draft of the Chinese medicine book in the hands of the publisher I have turned my attention to some outstanding commercial and personal projects.
I can't show any of them right now, but the thumbnails on the right were doodles I sent to a client to determine their preferences for a cartoon I was producing. They are considering the final cartoon now, which I hope to share in the future.
I am also excited about a new project for a web comic which came to life within the past week. The intention is to produce a 'slice of life' genre simple cartoon strip which I can produce regularly for reading on phones and tablets. I will share this once I have progressed it further.
More cartoons for the same client, inevitable edits on the book, too many ideas and not enough time to draw them all. When you spend your day doing what you love though this is a blessing not a complaint :)
I completed the final comic for the Chinese Medicine book for Singing Dragon today! Hurrah! Since my last post I also completed over thirty illustrations to accompany my co authors words too. Hence the delay.
I feel a huge sense of achievement and I am looking forward to cracking on with other projects once this is put to bed. On my desk already I have three cartoon commissions, more ideas for Cartoons From the Horses Mouth and a spin off from this book.
I expect there will be some more work here yet after the editing team have studied the stories, but I am still going to do a little Snoopy dance around the room to celebrate!
That's it! The Kidneys are completed so only one syndrome comic is left to conceive and draw of the 78 I started with. I want this last one to be a little different to the others, and I have been sketching and planning and doodling for a couple of months in preparation.
I am very pleased with how this project has come together and I look forward to seeing the finished book :)
I completed Kidneys and Heart Disharmony today, which leaves only two syndromes to draw! Damo's writing is looking good, and I have spot illustrations to complete for his sections....and then we are into the editing stage for the Chinese Medicine book with Singing Dragon.
This last syndrome was quite exciting, as i decided to create my own version of a well known diagram the Nei Jing Tu to get the message across. I can't wait until this hits the shelves later this year.
I completed Phlegm Fire Bothering the Heart today, which has the greatest number of potential symptoms of all the syndromes with a whopping sixteen(!)
As the purpose of these comics is to communicate these symptoms in a memorable way, this syndrome was always going to be a challenge. Luckily for me inspiration comes from many sources. I will read Chinese medicine books, interrogate web pages or just discuss it with my partner Vicky. As the facts and opinions flow around me something stupid happens and a cartoon is born. For this one I misheard Vicky when she told me something about the five elements. I heard five elephants.....and the rest just happened :)
Four syndromes left! Ha ha ha ha! (I am also listening to Jim Henson's biography on audible, so my life is very muppet orientated at the moment). The guy was a genius.
Today's entry is brought to you by the number 5!
Yes, that is how many of the syndrome comics I have left to create to complete my half of the Chinese Medicine book that Damo Mitchell and I are producing for publishers Singing Dragon.
The remaining five Zang Fu syndromes have a total of 65 symptoms......so there is still a lot of work to do.....but the end is in sight, and my co-author is working on the crucial written elements which will join all of my cartoons together.
This project has been a fascinating study of creativity for me. Turning a dry list of syndromes into a relevant and memorable comic with consistency has taken almost everything I have for the past eight months. I hope that readers of the book will enjoy it and get as much out of it as we have put in.
I have a love/hate relationship with those television programs which compile a list of films or tv shows etc and then count down from 100 or 50 in order of merit. However, on Boxing Day on Channel 4 they presented the top 50 of the Sunday Times best children's books, and I grudgingly recommend it.
I wouldn't watch it again or include it in my top 50 tv shows ever, but if you are a budding children's writer and/or illustrator I suggest you give it a go. If you have an hour to spare then watch the entire show, note the styles of writing and illustration and listen to the reactions of the children readers they interview. If you haven't got that long then at least fast forward to the interviews with the writers and illustrators as they are quite informative. If the thought of watching the show makes you green with nausea....then I at least recommend you check out the list. I have included it here to save you time looking for it.
Studying the works of the successful writers and illustrators is a worthy use of your time providing you (a) Spend a lot more time actually writing and drawing and (b) It doesn't make you despair of ever being that good and depress rather than inspire you. Both of these will not increase your chances of getting your masterpiece on this list in future :)
Finally, I am disappointed that one of my favourite children's books didn't make the top 50 or the top 100, so I have included a photo of it along with a superb Christmas present my partner bought me this year.....the soft toy version of the main character complete with a little soft toy poop on his head! Wonderful.
I am not only a cartoonist, but also a cartoon enthusiast. This photograph is a selection of my books on the subject and doesn't include the growing number of books I own. I always scan charity shops for any cartoon treasures, and I will eagerly snap up cartoon collections, cartoonist biographies and sometimes (but more rarely now) cartoon how to books. A few years ago I shed a huge proportion of my book collection, and amongst the gifts to friends and charity shops went 95% of my how to draw books. All of my cartoon books remained.
I believe it is essential for our craft to study other cartoonists. We are currently considering where to take the equine cartoon series From The Horses Mouth, and it is invaluable to me to pick up a history of of BC or Peanuts, look at how Tim Harries develops his characters or lays out his panels in Never Say Dai or sigh with regret and joy whilst marvelling at the genius that is Bill Watterson. You don't have to admire or even enjoy everything you collect. Some of the books I own were massively successful, but they leave me cold. Humour is like that, and it is worth remembering this as you amass rejection emails. I believe you can still learn a lot from dissecting how a cartoonist creates their work even if it doesn't make you laugh or the style is not to your liking.
I urge all cartoonists to make a study of as many of the others as you can. Browse the Internet, buy the collected printed editions and if you are in the UK and published, consider joining the Cartoonists Club of Great Britain. Just leave me a few gems in those charity shops :)
It was inevitable I suppose, but after over a decade of working with a Motion Computing LE1600 on almost a daily basis it just couldn't handle the workload any more. My new tablet is a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and it is a superb piece of kit. We are getting along splendidly and after some teething troubles with my upgraded Manga Studio software the Zang Fu cover is done, and the stories are flowing again.
I am on the Liver now with only the Kidneys and a few other multiple organ syndromes to go!
I feel as if I have reached a milestone today as I completed the 50th story for the Zang Fu book. This represents two thirds of the illustrations and I really am starting to experience the downward slope towards completion now. There is still a lot to do though, and Damo still has to write his parts.
This cartoon on the right is an excerpt from Heart Blood Deficiency. Each story is about two pages of comic with a summary illustration to remind the reader of the symptoms of the syndrome. There are also more references hidden in many of the cartoons.
I will work on the cover design for a little while now before tackling either the Kidneys or Liver syndromes.
Time keeps flying. I'm still working on the Zang Fu book for Singing Dragon, but I had to ask for more time as there was no way I was finishing this month. I completed Heart Fire Blazing today, and hope to get the Heart completed next week. We are now aiming for completion in February which means a publication date of August 2016.
I am still trying to squeeze in my own cartoons, vegan humour, more 'from the horses mouth', commissions and doodles. This one was drawn earlier.
Half way through the Stomach and Spleen now on the Zang Fu book for Singing Dragon.
The notebook on the right is where I make all my notes and keep my research. The Manga Studio image on the tablet is Stomach Yin Deficiency in progress. It's quite a challenge to translate a list of symptoms into a three page comic strip, but great fun. This book will have almost eighty of them as well as words of wisdom and experience from my co-author Damo Mitchell.
The book will be released early next year.