All posts by PJ

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Time Marches On

Ok, I’m gonna take stock…

I’ve been lucky to secure a decent sized table in a giant sized, empty room, with some computer coders – which means, OMG, people! I get to talk to people again! (and thanks to Greg at inlifesize for letting me use that space!)

Monday – work time! Head to inlifesize studios, to work. Pencils (going for three pages of loose pencils per day)

Tuesday – home / kids. Hoping to get inking/admin/other things done while kids at school, and again when they’re asleep (this plan always goes awry).

Wednesday – home/kids. (as above)

Thursday – work time! as Monday.

Friday – home/as wednesday.

Really enjoying going into a studio (though I’ve only managed a day and a half so far) the walk is good, there are other human beings there who I’m neither related to nor married too – which is a plus when 90% of your time is spent with your kids.

I’ve been playing with sculptris – a free simple sculpting tool. Turns out I’m surprisingly competent at it! Really enjoying it, been doing lots of quick sculpts of heads though, at some point I’ll have to turn my mind to something more ambitious.

I’m about three pages away from the end of a one-off Dept of Monsterology story. I’m also in this weeks 2000AD, and I’ll finally turn back to something that, rather shamefully, got put on hold in december –  but I’m out of paying work (which is a worry) hopefully something will crop up (it usually does… but what a way for a grown man to make a living!)

(And for those interested, Nathan is still having problems, but the severity is MUCH MUCH reduced, thankfully)

 

Farewell February

Whoosh. There it goes.

This month has been, so far as I can remember anything about it at all,  a pigs ear of a month. My wife, completed her last month of work in her day job – 13 or so years working for the bank, to be made redundant. She’s got a new job lined up, but things will be tighter in the future.

Nathan has made steady progress, but where still at what looks to be the beginning of a life long journey with him. He’s back in school, but everyday is matter of doing some hard armour and dragging him to school while he cries.

I did a full month of jury service – which amounted to about four half days sitting in a big room waiting to see if I’d be used. I wasn’t. It made making any sort of plans impossible.

I’ve never felt more drained and I’ve drawn what amounts to nothing this month.

Starting the new month off a little better I hope, I’ve managed to blag some free studio space, so hopefully that’ll introduce a change of pace to my working life, so I can get back to those glorious days when I could draw a page in a matter of hours rather than weeks.

That’s it, that’s all she wrote. I need to start doing things again. Right now I can barely remember the days of doing.

Happy Chinese New Year.

Tom (5) came in from bed earlier and said “I’m very excited about tomorrow” “why?” “because it’s CHINESE NEW YEAR!”.

I’m not sure what he’s expecting, but based on his wildly extravagant announcement, I suspect something like Christmas, New Years Eve and his Birthday rolled into one.

He will be disappointed.

Anyway, to catch up:

Numbercruncher hardback came out, to, again, exceedingly good reviews. I think I can be proud of this book in 20 years time. That’s two graphic novels (tpb/whatevs) books I’ve done that I’m proud off (the other is Happy Valley by Garth).

Dept of Monsterology #4 is also out, also to great reviews. I’m proud of it too, and can’t wait for it all to be collected at which point that’ll be three (THREE! HAHAHAH! THREE BOOKS) to be proud of.

I will be writing the final article for the core skills article I’ve been writing on Manga Studio for Imagine FX this weekend, if you’ve read them, I hope you’ve enjoyed them (or found them useful) it’s a curious format to work in, and I’m naturally given to vast digressions that this format does not allow me to get away with. No idea if I’ll be doing any more writing, the writing bit is fun but the doing accounts/invoicing end of it is as pain in the bottom. Still, I’ve made money from writing this year, which means, I’m a writer. Look at that. Amazing.

Ok, on to personal stuff.

Nathan, my oldest, as some may know was diagnosed with Aspergers over a year ago (though they’ve taken to saying he’s been diagnosed with ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder – as Aspergers is being taken away as a diagnosis, but aspergers is a convenient term that sets up certain expectations that Nathan sort of meets, so it’s a good shorthand – in the way that this parenthetical diversion isn’t).

This has mostly been manageable, he enjoys school (though not homework) he gets obsessed with things (like most kids can do) and he’s a funny guy.

Unfortunately over the fortnight or so, an undercurrent of anxiety – always present, always something to consider/plan for – took a far worse turn, and it became difficult for him in school. He was in tears going in.

I’m still piecing it all together, looking for clues like a very bad Sherlock Holmes. As near as I can tell, the time line looks like this (and this is as much as for my information as yours, so feel free to bow out now, I’ve covered all the comics stuff, I think…)

Two weeks ago, he was sick (bad cold/sore throat) Off for two days Mon/Tues.

Mon he’s normally assigned spelling words for the week.

Friday he complained of a bad tummy and didn’t want to go to school – I assumed (possibly wrongly) this was because he missed the spellings and I knew he’s normally tested on a friday on them (which of course, he’d find difficult).

Friday he complained in school of a sore tummy and I ended up having to take him home. Unknown to me, on Friday morning, the school announced a teacher’s sister had died. And I think this may have set off an anxiety attack in Nathan – worried that he’d catch whatever it was the poor woman had died from.

Saturday he had a music class. Again in the middle of the class he complained of a sore tummy and I ended up having to pick him up and take him home.

The rest of the weekend was fine. (I think, it feels like a million years ago)

Monday went to school, complaining of a sore tummy, so anxious that he started crying on the way to school (this was new).

Was ok in school (as far as we could tell – unknown to us, he was crying in school, anxious about catching things).

He started around then getting a little obsessed about cleaning his hands before eating/after the loo (not, prima facia, bad times, but going from very typical 9 year old who never wanted to wash his hands to this, and holding his hands in such a way as to not touch anything was upsetting).

We put a call in to his Autisim Intervention officer, hoping to get a little help and nip whatever problem was developing in the bud.

Tuesday, anxious crying/worrying over everything. (Bubonic Plague, does it still exist? How do you know it doesn’t? Can you get spots inside you? but what if you can?) deep irrational fears, that we tried to allay but it wasn’t working, and he’d start tearing up and crying. We got him in school, assuming that was fine – it wasn’t. Teacher phoned saying he was crying in class. It’s a very disquieting thing, how upset he’s been. Not screeching tears, just welling up and pretty much inconsolable.  School kept him in. I phone his GP who suggested this was a bit of a crisis and we should take him out of the school for the next couple of days (something I felt we should do anyway – when he’s at school he’s out of sight/out of mind, and we’d fooled ourselves into thinking, because he wasn’t upset in the house, he must be fine in school).  When he came home he told us he didn’t want to eat his lunch because he couldn’t wash his hands before hand.

Wednesday morning, he was, again, very anxious – feeling a little better about not being in school, but still panicking (actually this is when we had the “can you get spots inside you” conversation). I have the kids wed-fri (my wife and I are together, but she works wed-fri, so she tends to do the lion share of looking after them on mon-tue -though I’m also in the house- so I can work, then I do wed-fri while she works). I don’t mind saying, I was distraught. I couldn’t get any instant help (GP could only offer a referral to the hospital which would’ve meant going from a home situation to a hospital sitution much faster than I would’ve liked, and the autism intervention people had yet to get back to me).

Talking to Annette (my wife) then talking about it online I hit a mini brainwave.

Up until now, I’d assumed what was happening was he was starting worry about something, then get anxious then worry and it would feed in to itself. My assumption was that the subject of his worry could be explained, and shown to be safe- this wasn’t working at all (because, no matter what my argument or proof it was always logic vs irrationality – everything would boil down to “but what if that’s wrong”). Then I figured, well, why not distract him, assuming he was feeling anxious then looking for something to justify it in a sense, then feed it. So the solution I came up with was basically to interrupt his thought process – once he voiced a concern (or even before) I’d ask what he was worried about (“what if something happens to my kidney”) and the conversation would go like this:

“Ok Nathan, spell Kidney, and for each letter, name me a pokemon with that letter”
“K – Kakuna, I – Inkay, D – Deoxys, N” (etc – his previous obsession was pokemon, so naming pokemon for each letter was actually easy).

This seemed to work. Instead of spiralling down into worry/anxiety/tears, we’d be talking about pokemon and I’d be goading him for not being able to think of a different one for the letter I.

I’ve been doing that all day yesterday and today.

It’s been working, but it’s hard work – it’s literally every couple of minutes I’m checking on him and making sure he’s not falling into that dark spiral. At least today we’ve gone the entire day without any tears at all – in fact, I think we’ve only come close once, when I didn’t see him start to darken in time to break his thought process – but even that one turned around pretty quick.

The past couple of nights he’s also been afraid to go to sleep. I think this is the hightened anxiety (lots of “Daddy, I’m afraid of bed time”) tonight though, for the first time, he confessed that what he’s actually afraid of is something his friend told him about a film, that turned out to be “Nightmare on Elm Street” – which, according to him, his friend saw when he was 4years old and has been telling Nathan about it non stop for years. He’s always been a bit reticent at night time, but I’ve always put that down to the normal kids thing (though up until Thomas, now 5, was born, Nathan wouldn’t go to sleep on his own at all, in fact there was a stage were I had to stand beside his bedroom so he could see my shadow…!)

Having figured out exactly what the problem with bed is (“he murders you in your sleep then when you wake up you die in REAL LIFE” – I think the distinction between “real life” in the movie, and “real life” in nathan’s real life, got blurry) I’ve been assuring him that movies are made up and that they can’t harm you- this also seems to be working, and for the first time in a while he was actually laughing and joking in bed (he still started getting a little obsessive over medical stuff, but the pokemon technique seemed to work.)

And that’s where we are. We’re sending him in to school tomorrow for a couple of hours, we’re keeping him off music this weekend and HOPING to go to school again normally on Monday.

I hope by breaking his thought processes we can turn the anxiety down, and by turning the anxiety down he won’t be so quick to latch on to other bad things. I hope by explaining freddy krueger is just a movie character we’ve started making bed time a non-scary experience again, but I’m still flummoxed about what to do about this first steps towards OCD – maybe it’ll disappear when the anxiety dies down? I don’t know.

It’s been tough on me and Annette, and Nathan. Thomas remains blissfully unaware.

On Wednesday morning, I just didn’t see a clear way out, now, at least, I feel like I can get this sorted, and give Nathan back to himself.

The NHS is a thing of wonder if you have an obviously sick child, Tom, when he was younger, was frequently in the Accident and Emergency ward (he was a ‘viral wheezer’ – a bad cold could stop him breathing – there was at least one occasion where I thought this would be it) and they were brilliant. But this, brain stuff, it feels like they’re not set up to do anything but patch you up after the fact – there’s no accident and emergency of the mind.

Sorry that got longer than I anticipated.

 

New Year, New Day, New structure

So, yesterday I told you one of my resolutions, which was, to boil it down, more time to draw. I’m going to go over it here, more for my own edification than any other reason – just cus I can.

I’ll break my week down as follows:

Monday

12 Pomodoros – split 6/6 – six in the morning (between 9 and 12) and six in the afternoon (between 1 and 4) given, approx, 5 hours of work.

(A pomodoro is a 25 minute chunk of time, each separated by a five minute rest period – in the 25 minutes it’s just pure concentration on a specific task – and seems to work very well for me)

Tuesday

As Monday.

Thur – Fri

Six pomodoros, in the morning (probably running (9:30-12:30) giving about 2 half hours.

Now, by my reckoning, it’s been possible – in the past – for me to do a page in about three hours. I’m pretty rusty (and some of the work I’ve done recently has been fairly labour intensive so I’ll be lucky if three hours can kill a page) but, I also reckon those times above are the bare minimum time spent drawing (I’m still a stay at home dad, so comics are a part time gig for me) and I’ll get doing work outside those hours (weekends/evenings/whenever).

I’ll be tracking those working times, I have a week at a view diary, with the right number of tickboxes on each day which I can tick off as I do them.

My entire focus will be ticking those boxes, not pages finished. Pages finished should result, neatly, from ticking the pomodoro boxes.

Now, at some point, I imagine, I’ll be flying high and I’ll be tempted to wander off the book keeping aspect of this (or even using the pomodoro at all) – I’m especially susceptible to that when work is just flying out of me – get two pages a day done in rapid succession and you’ll think “why bother with the system”. But the system is the job. I need to treat that aspect of it as the reason I’m paid. The finished pages are simply a result.

I figure in a day I’ve done the pomodoros set aside for me  I can relax a little and watch tv or something while I work – otherwise it’s all audio.

The system hasn’t properly kicked in yet, today, for example, a Wednesday I actually managed to get 12 pomodoros done (and about a good half a page finished – still half of it to ink, but it’s a cracking page). But, with family stuff, lunches and getting up late, I’ve ended up finishing the, at 9:30pm, rather than 4. Even that’s instructive though – now I WANT to get them all done early – being able to knock off at four sounds great (and imagine, if I’d got this far with the art by four, I’d have HOURS to get it finished!)

Anyways, that’s my system. Wish me luck!

(Of course, system derailed instantly tomorrow ‘cus the kids are off school and wife is at work, then I’m off to Dublin for a weekend with the wife…)

I love New Year’s Eve

When I was younger, New Year’s Eve was when I’d celebrate my birthday (officially it’s the 28th of December, but like the Queen, I reserve the right to have a second date, unlike the queen though, it’s more to do with the fact that not a soul wants to go out drinking on the 28th of December).

My only memories of my 18th birthday (the first time I had a drink) are actually from the party I went to on New Year’s Eve (and there aren’t a lot of memories: trying every booze I could think of, getting involved in a conga, puking up in my mate’s mum’s toilet).

As you get older though, the number of people your age that want to head out to a bar on NYE start to diminish. My wife and I stopped heading out for NYE over a decade ago, I think the millenium was the last time we went out for it.

The past few years have been difficult, with family members sick or dying, kids very ill and more. But every New Year holds the promise that this time, this time everything will be just fine.

For that, I love NYE.

I’ve started compiling my resolutions, I do it every year, and they very soon fall by the wayside, but, even so, fresh starts.

Before I begin, let me thank a bunch of people first:

Thanks to every one who bought my work, or supported it in any way. I’m always wishing my books sold more, as though readers are some sort of abstract pokemon counter, but really, I have a lot of friends and – as much as it fields weird to say the word – fans (I only call you fans, because we haven’t met, but I imagine if we did, we’d be friends).

Thanks especially to Alex Finbow of Renegade Arts who’s had to put up with more than his fair share of delays with Dept of Monsterology. New Year, new resolve.

Thanks to Matt Smith and the other droids at 2000AD – which remains my home for most of the things I do. Next year I intend to push things a little further.

Thanks to the guys at The Big Bang (John, Bruno and JP) for their support.

And thanks to all the brilliant, smart and creative people I got to work with this year.

(Worried this is now starting to turn into my acceptance speech for an imagined award, only minutes away from listing all the people in my life who never thought I’d amount to anything, while shouting drunkenly “Who’s got the last laugh now?!”).

I’ll be honest, 2013 wasn’t a great year financially – I don’t think it was as bad as 2012, and some projects suddenly coming to fruition in 2013 made it look like I was super busy, when I was super not.

Next year, more discipline, more work.

I’m going to have to stop worrying about whether I’m in the mood to draw and just sit down and do it. Less focus on the quality / quantity of work and much more focus on just sitting down and drawing. Hoping both will take care of themselves (I’m pretty sure if you plot quality / quantity on a graph you’d find they’re pretty closely linked). I’m abstracting my

Aim for 12 Pomodoros per day. (That’s 12 chunks of 25 minutes each). It’s not a lot of time, so should be doable. There will be days when I’m not working so much (when I have the kids) where I’ll aim for at least half of that.

I’ll keep a chart by my drawing table to see if I can do it. If I get a page of work done (paid work) and there are remaining chunks of time, I’ll invest that in either the next page or in something creator owned.

Eat less bread. Really I want to lose weight, but I figure rather than diet, I’ll just bread out altogether, and the consequences of that should be I’ll lose weight (I eat a LOT of bread).

And that’s it. Two. Simple. Very simple things. I’m hoping instead of focusing on a result, just focusing on the act of doing something (or the act of NOT doing something – like eating bread) will result in big things happening.

I have a list of things I’d like to do, but those are the resolutions.

Hope you have a great night tonight (and, for god’s sake, stay safe!), and a fantastic, productive, fun, relaxing and great New Year.

 

-pj

Review of the Year 2013

Somewhat staggered we’ve nearly reached the end of this year. It’s also my birthday tomorrow, double digits (which I’m refusing to tell you).

Anyways, as ever, here’s my personal review of last year.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

 

(drawn in my sketchbook and photographed with a contrast pumped up a little).

2014 is a bit of a worry. Annette will be properly unemployed in February, I think. She’s been with the bank over a decade, and the new uncertainty isn’t great. She’s got some great qualifications though, and with a bit of luck we’ll not have to eat into the redundancy too much before she finds a job. Though it’s likely to be full time, which will mean some adjusting – I’m a househusband usually three days of the week, going full time house husband may not suit my delicate nature (frankly, I’m lazy and often just want to draw). But we’ll see.

Anyways, have a good 2014 – I’m more optimistic and hopeful than the above paragraph may suggest (or the above comic). Let’s try and get this year right – every new year is a new chance…

Sounds Like…

I’m writing articles for ImagineFx – the Core Skills for Manga Studio – each of these are one page articles on what I feel are a specific core skill in Manga Studio.

This month’s feature is on Hand Drawn F/X and the article had included a little piece on inspiring sound effects lettering, but that bit didn’t make the cut, so here it is, just for you:

If you’re looking for inspiration, some of the best sound effects can actually be found in older comics – ironically, before the advent of digital lettering, when sound effects where more often hand drawn than digitally delineated.

Todd Klien’s lettering blog is endlessly inspiring and a great source of examples of hand lettered sound effect. kleinletters.com

If you can find the early 90s version of the Dark Horse editions of Apple Seed, the hand lettered sound effects by Tom Orzechowski are just amazing. (His website is serifsup.com )

And for integration of sound effects and art together, you should really look at the work of Howard Chaykin on American Flagg – where sound effects are on top, behind and integrated with the art as lettered by Ken Bruzenak.

Sound effects are really their own tiny drawing on the page, and, as such can be enormous fun to do – whether you make noises while you do them or not. (I don’t. Uhm…)

Advent Day 20: Mail it like a boss

I’ve been mulling over a mail shot list for some time. In fact, back in the days of Yahoo Groups I even had one. But, at that time, blogging was where it was at.

Oddly, it feels like we’re coming back round to mailing lists, so I’m doing one. I think if I’d had a comprehensive mail list, Id’ve stood a better chance at getting Numbercruncher and Dept of Monsterology wider exposure and helped them sell more. So, since there’s a new year starting, it’s time to begin the daunting task of building a massive mailing list! HUZZAH!

Here’s what it’s likely to contain: an irregular (maybe monthly?) post on what I’m doing, what’s in print, what you can buy and what you can look like. It’s called CHANNEL HEX, because – well, I needed a name, and that seemed a good one.

Almost everything I post will make it on to the blog as well, or twitter, or some other internet venue, but it’s likely you’ll see it first on the maillist, and who knows, the maillist might be the only place to see some of my art from abandoned projects or pencils or behind the scenes work that I won’t be able to put on the wider net.

You can sign up on this here blog (you should see a sign up form to your left) or you can sign up via Mailchimp here.

You’ve missed the launch blog post (it wasn’t that exciting, more a chance for me to test it out) but you’ll get a Christmas one and a new year one – and I promise, some exclusive art…

Advent Catchup

Ugh. Ok, looks like a blog a day was optimistic. Still, I’m still here and so are you (presumably).

Here’s a catch up!

Numbercruncher (the four issue miniseries written by Si Spurrier and drawn by me, with colours by Jordie Bellaire and letters by Simon Bowland, published by Titan and now available in a awesomly cool hard back you can buy here) has been named one of the top 10 miniseries of the year by Multiversity comics (I mean, sheer modesty should stop me saying it was the number #2 mini series in their estimation-it should, but it wont) and, not only that, but it’s been shortlisted in the awards for Broken Frontier as one of their Best Limited Series of the year.  You can help out by voting here.

Dept of Monsterology #3 came out in all good comic shops yesterday. PLEASE GO AND BUY IT or ASK FOR IT in your local comic shop. I really want to do more of this book, and the ONLY way that’ll happen is if it sells – preferably through the traditional route of comic shops!  (though if you’d rather, here’s where to buy it drm free digitally)

Publishing any new material with a new publisher is fraught with all sorts of risks, and the idea that you’ll be able to buy a trade of that material is entirely dependent on whether people have bought the comics – they pay for the trade. Don’t trust that a trade will happen. I want it to happen, but, if you like the book (and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you will) and you can do, please buy the individual issues. (I’ll be honest : at this point if a trade happens it’ll be despite the numbers, rather than because of them.)

Here’s the third issue cover in all its black and white spooky splendour.

mscover3_024_025

And here’s a wonderful review that seems to really get the book. 5/5!

 

On the personal front, my wife was informed that her department in her work is closing and that she would be offered redundancy (in the same way the mafia might make you an offer you can’t refuse).

She’s taking the redundancy – which is a fair old amount, basically a years worth of salary tax free. So we’re likely to be ok. And her background/skillset means she’ll probably be ok to find a job (she has some specific qualifications that set her aside from normal admin type posts).

Which all means the new year may see some big changes. No idea what, exactly, but we’ll find out, right?

Now, go and buy my books!