The Portable Studio

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…

Folklore Thursday: Food

If you sign up to our patreon you’ll have read this post already, and you’ll be helping us create brand new comics every week.

Originally posted here.

Hey ho! 

Started with a bunch of different kids and ended up being one based on me experiencing all of this, because, you know, I did…

Green Crisps, even to this day I’m still a little wary over green crisps, I’ll eat them, but I’ll be suspicious.

Pips – oh man, one of my best mates in primary school (age about 7?) was a fella called Paul Brolly who would eat an apple whole, core, pips, the bit of twig if it was there. A feat that would leave me wide eyed. It was fairly plausible a tree would grow from your stomach straight up your throat and out your mouth. This seemed entirely consistent with all the facts, and yet, Paul Brolly defied all of them. He was a medical marvel.

Blue Smarties. I was pretty hyper as a kid, so I’m not sure if I ever remember this one, but I’m certainly aware of it now. (Fun fact: red colouring E120 is made from insects, I’m pretty sure that would’ve blown my mind as a kid)

And finally…

I can actually remember where I was the first time I was told swallowing gum would stay in your gut. I was about 6 or so, and my mum told me. And I remember thinking “but I’ve been doing this for ages, is all the bubble gum gonna stay in there??” 

To this day, I’ve no idea what happened to all the bubble gum in my gut.

John Reppion wrote a fun little essay to go with this week’s tweet here.

Midweek update

Hello sports fan, it’s time for the midweek update.

So, what can I tell you so far: I’ve lost track of the days, I’m unsure what work I’ve done, and I’ve had my second cornovirus haircut and now my hair is a clumpy mess of shaved and unshaved bits.

Ok, on to work:

Last week I finished inking a WWI story that I’ve been doing for a little while (it needs approval)

Here’s a sneak peak:

Spiky Mallet. Timmy Mallet’s more angry cousin.

My original plan with this was to do traditional inking, but time got away from me, so it ended up being all digital. Annoyingly I think the all digital looks better, but it feels less satisfying to do.

Also, on the cards: started ep 2 of an entirely new Chimpsky! Bad news for those Chimpsky haters out there (I know you exist) no idea when we’ll see this but it’s fun to let loose in mega city one again. Also, did a cover for it.

Been tasked with doing a cut out and keep Judge Dredd, so that should be fun!

Couple of days ago the Times ran a Roy of the Rovers story written by Rob Williams, and drawn by me (colours by John Charles)

Image
Photo from the 2000ad/Roy of the Rovers twitter stream…
The actual strip, coloured so the colourist could see the white logos I dropped on there. (c) Rebellion Developments Ltd, probably.

It’s been a strange month, this. With Judge Dredd: Chimpsky’s Law running in 2000ad, and Judge Dredd: Bad Sector running in the Megazine and then the Roy of the Rovers and, unbelievably, NEXT week finally the graphic novel “The Stringbags” by Garth Ennis and me comes out (ably assisted by Rob Steen lettering, and Kelly Fitzpatrick colouring) and shepared with love and care by Gary Thompson at Dead Reckoning.

Book Cover: The Stringbags
pew pew pew / cover by Me with colours by Kelly Fitzpatrick

Since there’s an 11 page preview of this here, I think I’d be ok to show you a few of those pages unlettered in b&w, right?

If you’re not sick of hearing me talk you can listen to the 2000ad podcast I did last week here:

Oh, if you’re in the mood for WAR stories by me, Rob Williams and I have a destroyer strip in the Battle special coming out on the 19th of September.

Image
pew pew pew too

I really shouldn’t, but here’s a bit of this too… (which you might have already seen on twitter)

Crikey, that’s been exhausting. I hope you don’t get sick of my art!

I came out of last year a bit worried that I didn’t have much in print to show for the work I did – I think I’d a few little bits from 2000AD (actually about a year ago first Chimpsky strip was printed) and I think the Image Comics Savage Dragon and maybe a few other bits and pieces, and after finishing the graphic novel I wanted to get stuff in print. Anyway, for reasons I don’t quit understand it’s all arriving at once. That’s the way, though, innit.

And I haven’t even mentioned Dept K yet…

Papercraft Dredd

Ok, paper craft is overselling it. It’s a Judge Dredd standee.

One of my earliest memories of Dredd is building Justice-1 out of computer punch card, and making little Dredd and Hershy figures (these were, doubtless, no where near as good as I remember them being).

Still time moves on, and here I am now a professional artist working on Judge Dredd and you know… I thought it would be fun to go back and do a Judge Dredd Standee and here it is:

Having printed it myself I’d say: don’t stick it to card that’s overly tough! I should probably have added a cutting guide, too. And the little inset cuts should probably only be half the height, with whatever little bits you’re using about half that height too. (And I should probably have drawn those little inset bits too, just for completeness)

I drew this Dredd to fill an A4 page, which is a little big, I also did a youtube video – a 25 minute long, me chatting to myself (and using cues from Richard Herring’s Emergency Questions 1001 Conversation Savers for Every Occasion) to prompt thoughts while I draw. The 25 minute time is the length of a single pomodoro, and I obviously didn’t get the Dredd finished in that time, but it was enough to start, and you can watch it here:

If you enjoy it, would appreciate a like, and any comments you might want to leave – to help me figure out whether it’s worth doing more of these things.

April 2020

Woosh. Where’d it go?

Look, I could beat myself up here, but the reality is no-one could’ve been expected to get much done this month. Dealing with lock down, two kids needing educated, wife working from home and then, after a year long illness that required almost constant hospitalisation, my Father-in-Law went in to hospital, visiting a hospital an hour round trip away, for my wife donning PPE gear, while I went home and looked after the kids was tough through the month, but then, sadly, last week we were told he’d have days to live. He passed away on Monday, his funeral was on the Tuesday.

But, the harsh reality is, I only get paid to complete pages of work, and this month was particularly bad. Last month, by comparison was fairly good, so I’m hoping with a bit of care we can navigate from this month to the next without being too squeezed on income.

(If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the pattern of how it works:

DAY 1: I look for work. (If I’m lucky that won’t take a month, it’ll take a day)
DAY 2-30 : I do the work. And invoice for the work.
DAY 60: I get paid for the work.

So, that’s a two month gap between needing money and getting money, which is why you’re always trying to keep work flowing. And have enough savings tucked away you can move through any speed bumps)

Now, here’s what I actually drew…

Folklore Thursday: I drew 3 folklore Thursday strips. (I’m double checking that because, wow, I’m amazed I got any of those done). That means I missed one strip, though, for the first time. Understandable, but not ideal.

Judge Dredd: I finished inking a six page Dredd strip, I can’t honestly tell you if I pencilled it last month or this, but let’s say I finished it this month, and that’s what’s important! (because I can invoice it)

Judge Dredd: Finished a cover. Yay!

WWI Story: Finished a cover! Hurrah!

Roy of the Rovers: Drew a one page Roy of the Rovers, it’ll turn up somewhere cool, but I can’t tell you yet.

So, if you’re keeping count, I’ve drawn a total of 9 things I can invoice for, and an additional 3 things I can’t. 12. Easily the worst month I’ve had this year. And certainly, I hope, not a prelude to how this is all gonna shake out.

I’ll be honest, my big hope is I can hold things together long enough to get to the Government freelancer income that will be 80% of my average income over the last three years. That plus whatever work I can find should keep the homefires burning. But it’s a finite time period, after that, the hope is there’ll still be a comics industry, and they’ll still be looking for artists…

Five things I wish Clip Studio Would Add…

I love Clip Studio and have been using it for years, it IS full featured – to a remarkable degree, but there’s things it doesn’t have (and, unbelievably things it used to have too) and here’s my person wishlist:

  1. Auto Actions expanded to include settings for export / print options. I export for two reasons: one is to send preview png files to editors/writers and the other is to send tiff files. I do both from the export menu, but I need to remember the settings between the two – please let me save those settings so I don’t forget and have to redo exports. It’s driving me mad!
  2. Give me a toggle to automatically hide/show draft layers. Clip Studio is smart enough to allow you to ignore draft layers when you use the fill tool (so if you have four layers and a draft and fill on layer three, it will look at the four layers as a complete unit and ignore the draft, super handy for digital inking) – but sometimes i want to see the lineart with the clutter of the pencils, and I have to go to the layers option and turn off draft layers individually (though, if you’re smart you keep all your draft layers in a single folder)
  3. Smarter perspective rulers – let’s see the perspective line you’re about to draw before you draw it – there’s precedent here both Paint Tool Sai and Lazy nezumi Pro (both windows only) allow you to see the perspective line you’re about draw before you draw it (great for ensuring you’re following the same perspective of a building when you’ve drawn it with gaps)
  4. PDF Export on desktop. Come on! I can do PDF export on the ipad but not the desktop. That’s just bonkers.
  5. AI Flatting. Let me select a layer, ask for flats, and get a new layer with flatted fills in one smart go. Come on. Clip Studio in Japanese apparently has a plug in feature and this (or something like it) exists as a plug in. But I’d love it as a standard feature in clip studio. I realise there are people out there earning money as professional flatters, and I suspect they still will – because any automated flatting will never be as smart as a human flatting (esp if you’re working with a colourist for a long time) but for me who does the odd colour job, what I wouldn’t give for an AI flatter.

OKAY ONE MORE BONUS – please for the love of god, give this to me – feature request:

Let me save and share document presets. I use two document presets, 2000AD and US Comics, and every install of clip studio I have to recreate them (and it’s not easy since the numbers try and automatically correct themselves which means you key it in right, but then find the numbers have changed themselves and now you’ve to fix those) every time I recreate presets it’s a 20 minute job laden with mistakes. JUST GIVE ME SAVED/SHARED PRESETS – I can save and share brushes, why not this one thing?

Look there are probably loads of other features missing, and many people will probably think these features hardly matter – but honestly, I think these are things that could really improve workflow.

Now, someone at clip studio, go ahead and do these, thanks!

2020 Week 11 Review

Oh boy.

Ok, let’s get stuff out of the way – this week got weird and it’s gonna get weirder. And sadly, not in a “I’ve an exciting project I can’t talk about yet” more in a “oh so, this is how civilisation ends”.

As much as my attention was entirely focused on brexit as it was happening, post election I turned the news off and decided I couldnt fight that fight any more (not that I did, I mostly sat and waited to either make funny jokes on twitter or to vote with my conscience.) And then the corono virus. I’ve been aware of it for a while, because my younger brother was in China teaching English as a forign language when it all got weird out there, and he came home (four months into a year long job).

Slowly but surely the UK following the path of china and italy and the rest of europe, we’re now at the beginning of it. Personally, I don’t think the world is gonna work the same after wards. It’s as close as a world wide existential threat as I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime (And I’ve lived through the troubles, 9/11, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the rise of the idiocracy)

It’s meant, I’ve got work done, but it’s been hard to get anything started.

So, that all said, let’s review last week:

FIRSTLY: NO Stomach Pains. Phew. A week off.

Workwise, finished a war thing for Alex De Campi’s War related charity book (this is Gulf War period). Did a few touch ups on another war thing (this is a near future war thing, not for comics) and got roped into doing some pitch art for a tv thing (that’s always a fun little side gig, when it happens).

Had planned on starting DK, the new thing for 2000AD. But that didn’t happen and I didn’t even get a look at Channel Hex.

I’m not gonna beat myself up. Channel Hex may have to go on hold, while I concentrate on getting as much paid work done as possible, because I think we’re in for some bumpy ride ahead (and by we – I mean all of us).

Next week, my plans are:

Mon-Fri : DK 2 pages of pencils per day.

It’s a 10 page strip, so 2 pages per day is very doable.

The current government advice is that schools in the UK will stay open. The Irish government order is schools should shut. I’m in Northern Ireland, and there’s a very obvious disconnect between these two things (yes, we’re in the UK, but we’re on the island of Ireland, so having two rules for two chunks of the same Ireland is odd. Especially if you’re on the border where schools intermingle)

In NI, lots of schools are moving teacher training days around to do their training days early in the week in anticipation of the UK Govt advice changing and schools having to teach remotely.

Should that happen (and I think it’s pretty certain, our kids are due back to school as normal on Wednesday and I doubt very much they’ll be back in) I’m gonna be working from home with the kids trying to do remote schoolwork (how that works I have no idea). And, possibly, my wife will be here too.

We’ve already started figuring out what room each of us will work in – I have my studio. Our bedroom as a nice chair set up in it, maybe needs a table, but Annette can work from there. Thomas can work from the living room and Nathan from his bedroom.

Of course, that plan probably won’t survive the first day. But it’s a start.

Look, it’s going to be rough, and I have a stupid job where sometimes the only thing keeping me going is the knowledge that when I grew up in Belfast and the news was full of awful, terrible grim things, reading comics kept me going. So that’s why I draw comics. Sometimes it’s what you need.

Folklore Thursday: Sin-Eater

Originally posted to patreon.com/holdenreppion (where if you subscribe you’ll get to see the folklore thursday strips early!)

There’s a few things in the pot for this one. Firstly, I wanted to yank some influence in from Laika – I’d been looking at some of my older (’95) work and the stuff that is super cartoony still stands up. So I figured it’d be easy to revisit that style. But it’s not. It’s NOT.

So googling some Laika, and stealing ideas for how far to push things (my biggest sin is that I don’t push things any whee near far enough).

Panel one was tough, I knew I wanted something obviously sinful, but not too awful and I was teasing out the story that I wanted to tell. My original plan was to have the sin-eater present in panel one, either as a participant in a massive orgy (a plan soon curtailed when I remembered how time consuming crowd scenes are so) or as a background, but I just couldn’t figure out the best way to fit him in.

So shelving that problem, went on to the next panel. I don’t think I conceived of him as a vicar just yet, I figured there’d be someone covering up whatever the sin was, I thought wife then shelved that, then father, shelved that, then a vicar (could be a priest, but I knew this was scotland/wales so priest became vicar) then it occurred to me maybe they’re both vicars. 

The Vicar here is best on a memory of Ian Paisley – all brimstone and fury.

The third panel, sin-eater, was gonna be drawn with detail, but I mapped it out and figured this works as a silhouette and I’ll take any way to save time.

Final panel, hammering home the idea it’s a vicar, I googled scottish churches, got that, for the background. Initial plan was to have our sin-eater plugging his six-pence into a bag full of them (to suggest this is a fairly frequent business opportunity) then I thought if I grabbed the girls in panel 1 it sort of suggests this was part of a conspiracy. And I liked that idea – the Vicar conspiraring to keep the dead vicars crimes silent not just from the congretation but from God, by using a sin-eater, and the sin-eater masterminding a plan to kill the vicar and earn sixpence for his sins. I felt it was delightfully Inside No 9.

Anyway, It may or may not work. But I hope it does!

2020 Week 10 Review

Ok, this week, had a pencilling job to do. 14 pages of pencils, I’m drawing these 1:1 partly to speed this job up a little, partly because I’m trying to draw in a slightly more restrained less detail obsessed way.

Last week…

How’d I go?

Well, cheating slightly as I opened the week with 2 of those pages already done. Things we’re ok until Tuesday – when, boringly another IBS attack took me out for the day. Leaving me about six pages to pencil. But, somehow raced through them. Job done, and happily got a few pages of it inked too.

Then came Friday and Channel Hex day. That … did not go well. Just got stuck. Sometimes a page will just get your brain stuck and that’s what happened. I suppose if I was tackling this one day after the other it would be less of an issue, but I finished last Friday mid-page on a figure that wasn’t working and I picked up and tried it again and it … still wasn’t working. Several pages of attempts later and the angle of attack on the figures (showing it all from a different angle) and finally killed the beast. But it felt like I got no further on. Especially since I ended up fighting that page the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As it happened, I also inked some of the 14 pager, quit fun to ink at that smaller size. Though, boy my eyesight is completely frazzled. Started wearing glasses when I turned 30, initially because I was getting headaches as I worked (at the time in IT) and when I’d draw (just as my career started really) – and had, apparently, an astigmatism.

Over the the years the prescription has gotten stronger and my ability to focus has gotten worse, I’ve two pairs of glasses one for computer screen work and the other – ostensibly – for reading. I ended up flipping between the two constantly when working.

I suspect when this job is done I’ll go to large size again. (And maybe even larger than normal)

Through the week I also started chipping away at Blender. Blender is a 3d program for modelling and animation. I’ve been playing with blender (well, even ‘playing’ is too strong a word – more dipping in and out) for years, but until 2.8 blender took an almost perverse pleasure in being unlike any other computer software (in fact, they all do, there’s one 3d modelling app that puts it’s menu bar items in ALPHABETIC order – like it’s been designed by a psychopath).

Anyway, 2.8+ is where it’s at. It has some similiar features to sketchup, but the bonus is it’s a) much more powerful and completely free. No hidden costs. I can build in blender and export as OBJ files to clip studio and suddenly have a cool 3d model I can trace over.

Here, for example, is a first stab at Dredd’s lawmaster (really just me noodling)

Built In Blender
Rendered as lineart in Clip Studio Pro EX

Ok, ok, the model is simple (and not nearly wide enough, dredd’s tyres should be a good third more of that width) but – as I say – this is first pass attempts.

I’ve used a lot of 3d stuff for the WWII work – using other people’s models (World of Tanks was great because they supplied all the 3d tank models I could ever need) but, of course, when you come to Dredd’s world it’s a different thing. And while I can draw Dredd’s bike from memory (OF COURSE!) so much more fun to play with the 3d model.

Anyway, that’s my outside of comics project for the moment.

I also wrote and drew another folklore thursday story for this week. I think it’s a fun one, inspired a little by Inside No 9.

Now, on to next week: the plan – ink up this 14 pager. Should be very doable, given I’ve about 6 pages already inked (har! I inked two today!)

Monday: ink pages 7,8,9, 10 (Yes, four seems insane – I’ve mostly inked page 7 and these pages are half normal size!)
Tuesday: ink pages 11, 12, 13, 14 (12 & 13 are a double page spread, reasonably confident I can kill them in one go!)
Wednesday: NEW THING! PENCILS DK(10 pager) 1,2
Thursday: Pencils DK 3,4
Friday: Channel Hex
Saturday/Sunday: Channel Hex.

New project starting on Thursday – really looking forward to it – it’s a 2000ad thing and completely new, something with Rory McConville. New character designs, new characters, new strip! Exciting!

And that’s my week. Hopefully I can navigate next week without a single IBS outburst.

If you’re enjoying these progress reports let me know. If they’re as dull as ditchwater, let me know that too. No wait, on second thoughts, probably best if I don’t know that…

2020 Week 9 Review and February Round up

Ok, let’s start with last week‘s plan:

Draw up some pencils for a project, get started into a war thing.

And that’s pretty much happened. I also had to respond to some emails and… it turns out I’m bad at responding to emails. Follow ups and stuff, I’m just bad at it. This is me shaming myself.

Next week, I’ll get on top of those things. Monday.

Had another IBS attack on Friday, it’s become very regular. Dunno what to do about it at all. It feels like once the doc has gone “Yeah. you’ve got ibs” there’s literally nothing else to be done just suffer the consequences of that.

Will make doc appointment on Monday too. Also gonna try and reign in my eating a bit, nothing after six (I’ve cut out gluten a few years ago when the IBS attacks where less frequent but much more painful and that seemed to work, now the attacks are frequent, but a third of the level of pain)

Here’s how an attack works: usually in the evening I’ll get a sense that it’s gonna be a bad night, my stomach starts telling me it’s not happy. Then around 1 it’s sore, to the point where I know I’ll not be able to sleep, around 3 it’s very painful (I’ve tried buscopan, pain killers, andrew’s liver salts, and the only thing that seems to have a modicum of effect is a hot water bottle)

Around 5-6 the pain starts to lesson, at this point I’ve been awake all night, but now I can hit the bed and be reasonably confident it’ll ease off enough that I can sleep.

And, if I’m lucky, I’ll be left alone to sleep until 11. Sometimes that can’t happen, and I’m up at 8:30. That day though, is often just a write-off for me.

I’m lucky in that I work from home, so I can take a day and just crawl into bed and sleep it off. Many can’t. And god knows what it would be like if I was still working.

Anyway, that’s where we are with that. On to other matters.

Boy this month flew by, didn’t it?

Let’s take stock:

I drew some folklore thursdays (technically I drew 3, and had one in reserve)

There’s a couple of my absolute favs in this last month, so that’s good.

Other things I drew: finished off Chimpsky ep5 (6 pages), pencilled and inked Destroyer (8 pages) pencilled a thing can’t talk about (7 pages) and started on a War Story thing for a charity, pencilled and inked 2 pages.

So, that brings my monthly count to:

ProjectPencilsInksColoursLetters
Chimpsky 566
Destroyer88
Folklore Thursday3333
Pencil Project7
War Story22
Channel Hex2
TOTALS281933

OK, that’s not too bad an amount of work. I managed to get started on Channel Hex, and I’ll talk more about that next month when, hopefully I can tell you much more about it.

Next month I’ve got a war story to finish (time restricted, unfortunately) it’s 14 pages in total, but I’ve two finished on it, so 12 pages. PLUS a new thing for 2000ad, an entirely new strip created by me and Rory McConville. Which should be enormous fun. After that, I’ve got more Chimpsky to do!

If you sign up to my newsletter you’ll see some sneak peaks on the work I’ve done this month…

https://www.tinyletter.com/pjholden