If you’re not familiar with “The Pomodoro Technique” it’s a super simple technique for focusing on tasks. The name “Pomodoro” comes from the italian for tomato, and is based on a rather cutsey tomato shaped timer the creator of the technique used. The idea is simple, and it’s this:
You set aside 25 minutes to do a single task. At the end of it, you take a five minute break. Do it again, and repeat until you’ve done 4 sets in a row, then instead of a five minute break you take a 25 minute break.
I find, for the sort of work I do (ie drawing comics) it’s a brilliant way to break log jams. Where I often focus on getting a page done, it’s very much a-can’t-see-the-woods-for-the-trees problem. Focusing on a timer that I draw to, rather than obsessing about whether can draw or not .
I’ve also been playing (for decades really) with a way of figuring out how much time I’ve been spending on pages. So here’s the latest iteration, the target below is pretty simple and represents a single page (you can write the page number in the centre). The first set of segments out from the page, the first inner ring – represents pencils, inks, colours and lettering (or, if you’re me, two segments represent pencils and two inks).
The larger outer ring, divided into chunks of four represents individual pomodoros, in sets of four – I’ve been aiming to do around 16 pomodoros per day – so in total the outer circle represents two days worth of work.
The plan, the guarantee, the thinking, is that instead of worrying about how long a page takes, all I’ve got to do is fill those outer rings as I do pomodoros and boom the page does itself (I mean you’ve still got to draw it, but it makes it – for me – much more manageable)
In this example, page 15 is fully pencilled and I know it took me about 3.5 hours.
So I’ve created a weekly sheet (let’s see how long I keep this up…) that contains a day breakdown of pomodoros as I do them along with 12 pages I could finish in the week (I mean 12 is ridiculous, the reality is, I’ll be happy to get six pages finished in a week, so if you’d like to use this, just remember the extra targets are just there for symmetry and balance on the page rather than actual work you should do)
If you want to use this yourself, it’s scaled at A5 so you can cut it out and stuck it in a diary or just use it on its own (or don’t use it at all!)
Sigh. Does anyone want to look back over what they did last year.
I suppose the one significant thing we’ve got to take from it all is that we need to be kinder to ourselves and to others. I fail at both, often. Not through want of trying, but rather the unthinking idiocy of just being human. Cruelty can often be the undercurrent of humour, and I’m probably guiltier of most for going for the joke without giving a thought to the cruelty (and I’m sorry to everyone who suffered one of the tiny little barbs of me making a joke because it seemed funny for half a second).
Anyway, mea culpa out of the way, how was your year? (I realise, 2020 being what it is, sitting writing this on the 29th of December is asking for another Black Swan to leap in and disembowel us all, but here we are)
For me, it started with a decent resolve to make notes on everything – keeping weekly posts on what I’ve done and what I’d intended to do, partly this was just a way to fill the blog and keep a connection to the wider world (a thing easily lost when you’re at your drawing table, head down and working away) and partly it was a good self motivator – yes, work is happening, and look, you even took some breaks and did some creator owned stuff.
Of course, I hadn’t planned on a world wide pandemic, which buggered that right up.
I’ve kept working throughout it, jobs were lost, of course, and productivity took a nose dive as kids had to be homeschooled or my wife ended up working from home, and I had to abandon a slew of things that there just wasn’t time for or required publishers who were no longer looking at projects.
Minor miracle we’ve come through it all, I suppose.
I’m glad I kept some of those productivity notes now though, as I look at a productivity reboot for 2021. I realise new years are entirely arbitrary points in time (time, of course, being an illusion, lunchtime doubly so*) but I’ve always loved them. Suddenly, some mental cobwebs are blown away, and, rightly or wrongly, I reset and think “Well, who cares if you blew it last year, this year… this year could be different”. It’s a placebo date. For many it’ll make no difference, and for a tiny few (me included) it actually does make a difference.
Of course, whatever I decide about 2021 the year itself may have other plans. We’re nowhere near at the backend of the pandemic, certainly here, in the UK, we’re still dealing with it (either we’re at the peak of a second wave, or closing in on the beginning of a much much worse third wave) we’ve got brexit to look forward to (everything until now has been a buffer against whatever the worse brexit has to offer us) and, brexit, panedemic out of the way, what will the government do to pay off the enormous amount of debt it’s had to rack up during the pandemic (and being a tory government that usually means massive cuts to services).
But sod it, those are things I have almost no control over, so there’s little point worrying about them.
Traditionally, I look over whatever my resolutions for 2020 were and see how I’ve done – but, frankly, getting the other side has been an impressive job. (Also, I don’t appear to have made any resolutions last year beyond “DO THINGS” so, even getting out of bed counts)
Get more organised. Stay organised. Try not to work all the time (or, rather try to limit work + worrying about work to 5 days out of seven). Keep on top of the boring tax stuff and invoices.
Not sure what work has lined up for me next year. Doing some Chimpsky, there MIGHT be a long project in there (originally scheduled starting in November, so we’ll see if it comes off) and, you know, just try to get through 2021 in one piece.
This coming year marks the 20th anniversary of my first 2000AD Published work.
tl;dr Just that. This year, twenty years drawing Judge Dredd, and hopefully I’ll get to do more… now read on…
I’ve told the story many times, but to recap, following 2000AD’s purchase by Rebellion, Rebellion decided to have the first 2000AD Convention DreddCon:1 in November 2000 –
Having previously wheedled my way in to the online 2000ad fan community, via the fanzine “Class of ’79” (itself a product of the imagination of sadly missed WR Logan aka Stewart Perkins) and drawn a few strips for it, I’d also become friendly with Gordon Rennie – who was writing Dredd at the time – from doing some small press work for the fanzine “Violent” (created by Mike Sivier) It was clear I needed to go to the new convention.
I was pretty active on alt.comics.2000ad – a newsgroup (newsgroups were message board type things that had elements of social media to them – ask your parents)
And had set up a nascent web cam type operation to draw live from my drawing board (twitching before there was a twitch) And thanks to the wonders of the internet, here that is:
There’s a reason I’m telling you this and it’ll be clear shortly…
The year 2000 was a seminal year for a multitude of reasons, I’d applied for a new job that I’d started on the 1st of that year, working for a charity as their IT manager, but, importantly, it was a part time job and I’d intended to spend the remaining time drawing more and – as a kid growing up reading 2000ad – the year itself, obviously, meant something.
Plus, and this might have been the clincher, 2000 was the year I turned 30.
So I went off to DreddCon, with a pile of comic pages (having advised people over the years you only need a few pages, I decided I’d try a slightly different, idiotic, tact and bought a whole load of work with me, the hope being I’d show it to then editor Andy Diggle and he’d relent under the pressure of my resolve and volume of my pages)
As it turns out, Andy was one of the people who’d watched the webcam (see, told you it would be relevant!) and said he thought (as he surface skimmed the art on the top of the massive pile of comics pages I’d bought) that my art had improved, so yes, he’d give me some work. I was a little anxious because he wasn’t really looking at the mountains of artwork I’d bought for him to look at.
In one of those happier coincidences, my girlfriend (who’d become my wife a few years later) was with me, so it was a glorious glorious con – best of my life, probably. (She remains not-a-con goer though)
I phoned Gordon immiediatly, and Gordon, to which I’ll always be in his debt, said he’d just sent in a Dredd and he’d ask for me to draw it.
And lo, I ended up debuting in Prog 1233 in March 2001 in Judge Dredd.
Some mad person has done the leg work of checking all of the contributors to Judge Dredd and the number of appearances (in the Megazine and 2000AD) and in the twenty years since, of the 146 artists to have worked on Dredd, in terms of number of appearances, I come in at number 9. Something which even now I’m slightly baffled by – how did that happen? In my head I’m still trying to break in to comics in general and 2000ad specifically. This past couple of years I’ve gotten more comfortable with how I handle Dredd himself, even as I’m still casting around trying to figure out how to draw his entire mad world.
That first Dredd strip, I redrew it maybe three/four times, a curse that has followed me around on almost every job – the most recent Dredd I abandoned pages and redrew them with just as insecurity.
Anyway, twenty years. Kind of remarkable to do anything for 20 years really – I think my life working in IT lasted from the age of 14 to 37, in comics 30 to 50 (seven year overlap). Maybe, as the comics time frame takes over the IT time frame I’ll stop thinking of myself as an IT nerd who draws comics and instead ease into old age thinking of myself as a comic artist first and foremost.
This next year, in the bag already for 2000AD is more Judge Dredd, a solo Chimpsky series and more Dept K – if I end up spending the next twenty years working for 2000AD, well, it’s a life well lived as far as I’m concerned.
There’s no central committee to say “Here you go, twenty years of service, well done” so I make no apologies fort the self-congratulatory nature of this blog post, almost everything I’ve ever done in comics has been a way to connect to an 11 year old me, sitting in my room drawing Judge Dredd and trying to escape the real world, so well done you – you did it. I love drawing Dredd, I always have, I always will, and now I’ve finally gotten good at it, I’d like to do more.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped me get here – WR Logan, Gordon Rennie, Andy Diggle, Mike Sivier, Christian Dunn (former Warhammer editor) and, of course, Matt Smith – Thargs current incarnation who’s been there as long as I have, as well as the pals I’ve made along the way, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, Arthur Wyatt, Al Ewing, and many, many more. And, finally, of course, special thanks to the readers who’ve put up with me as my art style has evolved over the years, there will always be ups and downs in quality, sometimes because you learn and try things out, sometimes it’s because drawing is bloody hard and life is hard and everything is HARD. But it’s never, NEVER because I don’t love the job.
I asked yesterday on twitter for a some films I can watch during decemember as a kind of Christmas run down – specifically looking for films that are seasonal (but not xmassy) and then xmassy films. So you start the month with something set at winter (or in the snow, like, for example The Thing) and you end on something that is a perfect xmas movie (like It’s a Wonderful Life)
So here’s the suggestions (copied and pasted from innumerable twitter replies, so forgive any duplication/missing suggestions), and in no particular order:
Billy Wilder comedy Stalag 17 is actually a Christmas film.
The Junky’s Christmas on Christmas Eve
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
Christmas In Connecticut. Dec 14.
Holiday Affair. Dec 19.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Dec 23.
KISS KISS BANG BANG
THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT
A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
WHERE EAGLES DARE
CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE
TV episodes: MILLENNIUM – Midnight Of The Century
THE X-FILES – How The Ghosts Stole Christmas
THE WEST WING – In Excelsis Deo, Noël
BTAS – Christmas With The Joker, Holiday Knights, Heart Of Ice
JUSTICE LEAGUE – Comfort And Joy
TALES FROM THE CRYPT – And All Through The House
The Night Before
Jingle All The Way
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a TV special, not a movie, but it’s required viewing, and is best in mid-December.
Von Ryan’s Express.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Christmas Day, after dinner.
Black Christmas 1974
Better Watch Out 2016
Muppets Xmas Carol,
Nightmare Before Christmas,
“Trading Places”. Christmas Eve
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 remake = New Year’s Eve
The Office Party,
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Iron Man 3 Spider-Man: Miles Morales (begins on Christmas) Elf
The remake of Miracle on 34th Street is a fave
Coming to America
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night II
The Bishop’s Wife
THE DEAD ZONE
Anyway, trying to work my way through them, started on the Dead Zone, which is about the least xmassy (probably more an oct/november film)
I’ve been using wordpress for … well, as long as there’s been a wordpress. At various times, I’ve attempted to make it work for me to do comics online, and I’ve never really managed it. This time though, it was time to give it the old college try.
Over at channelhex.com – the generic website I set up for doing comics stuff with people, which has been underutilised for some time, I’ve made it the new home of the webcomic Monster Macs by me and John Reppion. Monster Macs will be on patreon, and twitter, but over at channelhex.com it’ll be displayed as a simple webcomic. At some point I’ll look into adopting it to fit the webtoons format, but that’s a fair bit more work, I think.
One of the problems with WordPress is that I like NICE BIG CHUNKY IMAGES – get me to the source of an image as quick as possible, this especially useful on webcomics, but wordpress just absolutely refuses to do so – for reasons best known to itself.
With wordpress though, there’s usually a plugin – and because this website is hosted at Stratgem.host (highly recommended, and fairly cheap) rather than wordpress.com it’s a fairly simple matter to install one (wordpress.com wants you to pay extra for adding plugins)
So I added two plugins, firstly: simple lightbox. This makes any linked artwork display on screen in a maximum resolution on a layer on top, a nice classy way to view art. (And adds navigation when you need it)
Secondly I added the plugin Manga+Press for WordPress. This simple plugin lets you create a comic that you can update and it will archive it for you.
A neat solution, but it still wasn’t displaying the strip large enough and for that, I’m afraid, I had to dig deep deep into the archives of my brain for how wordpress worked.
(And you can nope out of this now – unless it’s relevant to you!)
Essentially manga+press gets you to create new pages in wordpress for the current comic, and it uses two template documents stored deep in the bowels of the plugin directory in order to display that. AND you need to edit these files if you want the thumbnailed image to have a clickable link to the larger image.
The first file you edit is wordpress/wp-content/plugins/mangapress/templates/single-comic.php – this php page simply the comic one page at a time along with a bit of navigation, but I wanted a link to larger image.
Normally this very simple file contains not-much and so I simply added a bit of code to do what I wanted…
All my little addition does is grabs the url of the full file for the post and creates a link to that.
This is sufficient to give each archived comic page a link to the full image. But, weirdly, not the current page which, oddly, has a slightly different template and as a little harder to figure out (because it’s been years since I’ve dabbled in html, php or wordpress)
You also need to edit the file in the wordpress/wp-content/plugins/mangapress/templates/content/latest-comic.php
Next week finally sees the Battle Special from 2000ad/Rebellion released, including the 8 page destroyer strip I drew written by Rob Williams. Here’s what it looks like! (Lettering here by Simon Bowland)
Plus it’s filled with even more gorgeous stuff.
Also coming shortly, True War Stories, the anthology on kickstarter which I have a 14 page strip in. Here’s some pages of that, coloured by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Alex DeCampi
Also soon … Grimmfest – an online horror movie festival that comes with a free comic if you buy a ticket.
And lastly, and I’m super excited about this – I make my DC comics debut in DC’s the Doomed and the Damned… can’t show any art, can’t even tell you what I’m drawing (nor who with, though a bit of google searching might shake that out of the internet) but I can show you this fab cover by Kyle Holtz.
I dunno if there’ll be more DC work in my future, if this ends up being it for me, look, you can see it when it comes, but I’ll have hit everything you’d want in a bucketlist of DC comics… TTFN!
Hey! Hope you’ve had a decent old summer, and now it’s coming to an end, it’s time to start Season 2 of PJ’s live Sketch Show. If you’ve never seen it, it’s just me drawing sketches for an hour. I try and get a list of commissioned sketches up front (and it’s fairly cheap: £30 for an A5 pencil sketch) and get through about 5 or 6 on the day.
The show starts again on SUNDAY 30th of August at 8pm. This is a live show, but kid friendly, so if you’ve kids who wanna watch a comic artist draw bring ’em along!
I did about five of these before July, and you can watch them on my youtube feed, had an enormous amount of fun and people got inexpensive sketches!
If you’d like to get a sketch, simply email me firstname.lastname@example.org subject line “Live Sketch” and I’ll add you to the list. Right now that list is empty (and I’ll happily take payment after the sketch is done)
I’ve a faq here where you can find some frequently asked questions…
I’ve been getting up early and going for long walks, about two/three times a week. The terrible truth is if I don’t do this, my step count (which is about the only way I have to measure activity) hits around 1.4k steps per day otherwise. In fact, yesterday, according to my phone, I walked a staggering 240 steps all day. Christ alive. And most of those could’ve been me accidentally nudging the table and it miscalculating a step.
When I go walking, I take the same route every time (when I worked in an office, I’d walk exactly the same route – I spend most of it in my own head so it’s not like the scenery matters much)
The walk is about 3.5 miles and takes just over an hour and I tend to hit around 9.5k steps.
I’ve been figuring out the best way to keep myself entertained over the walk, initially I was listening to music (And Spotify is great on that front) I’ve listened to some audiobooks (I dunno what it is though, I find audio books hard going) I’ve even read – holding my kindle in front of me and walking and reading and making sure my old “don’t walk into a telephone pole” radar still works (when I was in my teens, I was notorious in my family for reading and walking into things on the street while I read)
This morning I started mulling over story ideas. Again.
Anyway, that’s it, that’s the post. Look, I realise it’s dull, but it’s all I’ve got going on at the moment (well, that and a top secret job I can’t talk about, but if you’ve been someone whose followed me for a while, you’ll probably be as excited as I am – though it’s short, but it’s fun!)
Ah man, I love my mac. But, my mac has decided it no longer loves me. It’s doing some weird weird stuff.
So this blog post is an aid memoir, so if I need to come back and figure out what I was doing/when then this will have it.
I’m running a mac mini 2018, 8Gb RAM, 256 GB SSD hard drive. Connected to a Cintiq 27″ and a USB-C 1Tb external hardrive (formatted as exFat)
I tend to upgrade to every version of OS X as it hits, every version of Clip Studio and I upgrade the cintiq with caution (primarily since the cintiq updates are rarely useful to me, and they can bring new problems).
Anyway, the most recent update of OS X bought some new horrifying problems. My mac would crash frequently (I’d get a few hours use) something in the system would start rebooting the dock, when the doc rebooted I’d often have multiple icons of the same active app open (10-15 copies of mail, each with a little dot to indicate they’re running). It would no longer have access to passwords (I’d get asked to log into google mail, etc).
And Clip Studio would crash.
The computer has had my buddy Ron (from Mac-Sys) do a hardware check, and it’s passing all hardware checks. So it looks like software.
I’ve rolled backed to the previous version of the cintiq driver (6.3.39-1) and using os x 10.15.6 the problem has persisted (oh yes, problem happens whether I’m logged into icloud, or – as I have done with my mac – if I’ve wiped it out and done an entirely clean install)
So today, Monday 3 August, 13:45 I’m currently downloading the previous version of OS X that I know worked – 10.15.5 (from here)
Anyway, will let you know how I get on (as if you’re interested!)
turns out justdownloading the older version of mac os x isn’t enough. Not sure how to proceed with a reversion to the previous one (a simple install stops because, well the hard drive I want it on is in use with the version of t he os currently running. Suspect I need to clean boot it somehow). Plan right now is to disable the cintq altogether and use the ipad as the main drawing tool.
UPDATE Sat 15 AUG 2020
So, I managed to roll back to 10.15.5 and boy things sure do look at lot more stable now. So, it’s an OS problem. There’s been a subsequent upgrade (10.15.6 was supposed to be the last mac os x 10.15 upgrade, before the new version of Mac OS X) so clearly I wasn’t the only one having problems. But they’ve lost me, I won’t be touching another mac os x until the newest Mac OS X version (‘Big Sur’ – because they’ve not lost me THAT much)
Away from home for a couple of days, and so I had a chance to build up a portable studio. There are, obviously, major constraints but that’s ok, I like limits.
Everything fit in a single big bag.
Digital elements on the studio:
iPad Pro 12.9 512Gb, the latest model, with a nice case for it and the Apple Pencil. This case has a fixed cover (I much prefer these kind of things)
I’ve also got a usb-c dongle, which I can plug a mouse in to (for the purposes of this I borrowed my son’s gaming mouse, though it’s a little ostentatious for my tastes – with it’s vegas lighting and stealth fighter looking buttons)
I’ve a neat little Bluetooth keyboard, a separate keyboard with a hardware on/off switch on the bottom. It’s got a nice feel. I like it because it can be placed anywhere – in front of the iPad, or off to the side, so I can use it while digital drawing.
The mouse and keyboard combo means the iPad can act like a normal computer. And, of course, I can just grab it and start drawing, I’ve procreate for colour painting and clip studio.
Big important point with clip studio is remember to pre-download all the files you’re working with. I’ve pre-downloaded the 52 pages of the folklore stories, because trying to do that over a 3G connection is a bit murderous (and would eat up data).
That’s all topped off with my iPhone, and it’s 30Gb three connection which I can easily tether to the iPad (oh, I also have some earphones that plug into the usb-c dongle, bog standard headphones since the iPad Pro no longer has earphone connections)
So that’s the digital stuff, but I still like drawing on paper.
So the traditional tools are a canson 180 notepad – these are great because.- as you can see in the picture, they can be fully opened up they’ve cleverly got a stitched spine that a separate front and back cover, so they can open up without the spine getting in the way. It’s really very clever. Plus I like the paper. This is A4 (my eyesight being rubbish, I used to use the A5 but everything has got to be bigger)
I’ve paired that up with a zebra brush pen (small) – though I should have bought a few more inking tools.
A graphgear 1000 pental pencils – filled with .5 leads (I bought a bunch of .5 HB leads but it turns out not all HB leads are created equal, so I reverse fed a stadler .5 lead into the nib of it, which is a bit darker. We’ll see if we run out of leads)
A Mono Zero eraser pencil. These are great if you’re doing pencil textural drawings and you can use this to pick out highlights.
A Boxy carbon eraser, I like black erasers, they seem to smear less.
And that’s it.
All of that fits in to a fairly sturdy man bag I picked up a few years ago.
Basically I can now do roughs and inks some things, the folklore tales are largely all digital so I can probably do that entirely.
BUT I am supposed to be on a holiday for a few days. So maybe I’ll just sleep. Who knows…