My initial thoughts was, I’d obviously get The Wave in there, that was a dead cert (it was only a few years ago watching a documentary it was pointed out the boats and crew bowing before the wave as it was about to hit them…) Then I started trying to figure out ways to join the wave with a panel before it that would be a reverse of it somehow – giving me a neat ying yang symbol built in to the page, googling Hokusai I stumbled across another of his pics (I was looking for how he’d drawn a whale – terribly, as it turns out) called Whaling Off Gotō which suited the bill. Some quick research on whale skeletons and boom! we have all the ingredients for a page of comics.
I just had to trace them then!
Maybe the BBC will make the documentary about Hokusai available again, it was fascinating, incredibly prolific artist generally considered the father of Manga.
*Ok, it’s much more than a nod.
NEW: I’ve set up a redbubble store where you can now buy all sorts of cool things with this on it! The original image is 600dpi, A4 in size, so even enlarged up to be a blanket(!) it should still look super sharp. The redbubble store for this strip is here.
Crank up the manifest, hoist the gibbert, weigh up the anchorage. We’re back!
Having tried to push myself to do a little bit of writing over Christmas (you can see the results at my blog pauljholden.com) I thought I’d approach this first Folklore Thursday of the new year with an eye to creating some sort of story (and I mean more than just the surface thing). I started laying out the pencils to the tweet and found that, well, all I was really doing was illustrating John’s words. Not actually adding anything of significance. So I thought I’d add a character – that at least gave me a little agency.
Having adding something like a protaganist, I figured the easiest thing to do with those words was make him get younger – so he’s stepping back in time, but ONLY in his own lifetime. Then I thought – I don’t think that’s what John meant, but I liked the fact there was room to decide that’s what it could be. So then I added a little impetus to our character, maybe he’s finding this place and wants to travel back in time but he’s been tricked.
That decided, I started seeing what I needed to add to the art to sell that little narrative. I added a loved one in panel one (thus fulfilling something I’ve always wanted to do which is to draw a doomed romance comic) and then panel two I was going to have him drop a note detailing the cancer diagnosis of his wife. But then I wondered if I couldn’t add a second narrators voice, a conversation he was having. (or had had). Which would help explain what was going on for him. Layering and layering the story telling. I’m hoping it worked.
Also, that last bit of captioned dialogue is partly the response in the conversation he’s having with some unnamed person but also partly me having a little fun and saying to John [Reppion] har har, I tricked you – you thought this was going one way and it went another 🙂
I’m not sure what John makes of it yet. Could be he hates it (hope not!) but we’ll see.
Chronos was the Ancient Greek word for time, Cronos their sickle carrying God of Agriculture. Romans related Cronos to their own Saturn, and made him an old man. His sickle became a scythe, and Cronos became Old Father Time who, in turn, became The Grim Reaper. #FolkloreThursday
As befitting a strip about time, my time has not been my own the past few weeks, so the resulting strip isn’t quite what I wanted, but it’s good enough for government work (as they say)
One thing I like doing is a little bit of research, and panel one, the first sentence was an opportunity to ask yourself some questions – like “wait, what DOES and ancient greek time keeping device look like”. So I googled it and got this odd looking sundial. Now I have a new friend on twitter, Dr Rena, an archeologist and expert in this time period and she pointed out that this isn’t wrong, BUT more common would’ve been a water timer – but I’d already drawn the damn thing, and that at least looked like a thing I’d recognise as a time keeping device, whereas the water timer just looked like two pots.
I wanted, in the strip, to get across how simple and obvious the transition from Cronos, to Saturn to Old Father Time and then the Grim Reaper. I think I did that, but it’s clumsy and not at all subtle, but I am pretty happy with how that last grim reaper panel turned out.
I’m always making decisions about the rhythm of the strip, and these one pagers are interesting exercises in that. The tweet informs the panel layouts, but the panel layouts also inform how I’ll handle the tweet’s breakdown – in a neat little feedback loop.
I’ve always been interested in panel layouts, I used to keep a notebook that had a bunch of interesting panel arrangements, I’ve always preferred simple, straightforward reading experiences, but even with that limit (a zig zag panel layout) there’s a billion ways to slice it. But some panel layouts work great at the start of a book and some work better at the end. Middle is more open, unless there’s a scene transition in there.
It’s a fascinating exercise to open up a favourite book and just draw out the panel layouts. (For a certain level of fascinating, that is…)
Oh man, let’s start with the Tweet. I admit, on first read of this, I got very excited, I knew EXACTLY what I was gonna do. Which sounds great, but it’s inevitably crushingly disappointing as your abilities fail to meet your ambitions (and even worse when the failing is one of laziness more than anything)
60AD. Britain 18 years into a Roman occupation lasting nearly 400. Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni – widowed, whipped, her daughters dishonoured – fought back. 70,000 fell before her. A layer of ash in London’s soil still marks the day she burned it to the ground. #FolkloreThursday
Straight off the bat, I knew we’d see Britain (grabbed here from an internet search of Roman Britain, just used as a placeholder graphic for inking over), then a single strong image of Boudicca killing thousands of romans (ambition) because of the nature of these things you don’t get too bogged down in realism, it’ll slow you down (if she was in the midst of the murderous revenge rampage, you’d probably not even see her at any angle, buried as she would be by roman bodies). So her leaping over a bunch of shields to get to the next tranche. Ideally I’d’ve drawn literally thousands, but (abilities) couldn’t (lazy) do (time) it.
Sent John pencils cus I actually thought this would be a winner of a strip and I wanted that early Dopamine hit of the writer seeing it and going “Awesome”
The last panel would be a transition from the battle to modern day london, I thought that would be suitably poetic. The caption in the pencils was, though, destroying the transition – so I ended up moving it for colour.
Boudicca I drew as an older woman out for horrific revenge, coated in Blue Woad, unfettered by clothing (apart from some trousers – I mean my thinking was she would start fully clothed and shed it as the battle continues over days, untroubled by modesty)
Strongly muscular, and I tied the hair into a single braid – there is a historical description of Boedicca by Dio (not Ronnie James)
“In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire …”
Dio, Roman History (LXII.1-2)
I’m willing to bet money he never set eyes on her (I mean, given she is reckoned to have died around 60/61AD and he wasn’t born until c155Ad, it’s a safe bet).
That said, the way these things work (and the way they HAVE to work to make them viable) is John sends me a tweet (which is always smart, well researched and based on extant folklore myths or legends) and I use that as a basis for an inspiration that I do WITHOUT RECOURSE TO RESEARCH. I literally don’t have time to do that. Plus, it’s more fun.
Now, having read the description, I’d’ve probably kept the single mohawk braid, but made it a lot longer (down to her hips) and definitely given her a gold torc around her neck. But, that aside, it’s been interesting watching the reaction to the strip (there’s been some negative reaction which seems to come from certain people who reckon I’ve drawn her as a strong feminist and “ugly” – though they don’t seem to give two hoots about the diabolical liberties I’ve taken with the roman uniforms, so I’m choosing to ignore them)
Anyway, here’s the final, hope you like it!
And, finally, John wrote a really interesting article on Boedicca and it’s worth a read here.
Klagenfurt, Austria is home to a nine tonne statue of a Lindwurm, erected in 1590. Folklore tells of the beast plaguing the surrounding swamp, until it was eventually slain by a band of brave knights. Its skull was found in 1335, and is still on display today. #FolkloreThursday
Well, this one came down to the wire. And, as a result, it’s the first one that’s been drawn digitally. Let’s talk you through it.
When I first read the tweet, I thought it would be fun to build up to the big dragon picture, have lots of Knights huffing and puffing and running towards it, lots of panels – a twenty panel page.
Then, I forgot about it and realised I needed to draw this just a few hours before midnight and so that all went out the window.
Luckily other options presented themselves. I took the text, chopped it up and popped it on a digital page – lettering before art. That gave me the structure and some notion of how I’d draw it. So I blarped out this super fast sketch that is, I suspect, utterly meaningless to anyone else…
Hit the drawing board to pencil it traditionally (still a more enjoyable experience than digital pencils) and … I think you can see the shape of those god awful scribbles above coalesced into what I had in mind (on panel 2 I dropped the idea of seeing lots of nights, because, frankly, I didn’t have time)
Notably Panel 1 the map I knew I’d basically find the location on google maps and redraw it, so that was blank, and the last panel, since it’s a real thing, I wanted to get the skull right – though I couldn’t find a decent picture of it, so figured it’d be alright on the night (which er… was the same night, I just mean it’d come together in the inking)
I wanted the inking to be be… richer? More line-y than previous pages. Wasn’t even sure I knew what I meant, but I wanted a different texture for the inks of the dragon. Woodcut.
Of course, I failed.
I’ll show the whole inks here, but notably, I inked panel 1 then coloured it, before moving on to the rest of the inks – I decided to keep panel 2 and 3 as a flashback / b&w but it didn’t want it to just look like I was being lazy – so – AHAH! a red spot colour would work really well.
Googled up some “medievil knights austria” to get some notion of the weaponry that would be suitable (though I wanted pikes) and here we are:
And, finally, the coloured art without lettering (for completeness sake)
Oh, John has written a fair amount of follow up on the origins of the Lindwurm in twitter (and if you’re curious, the skull they found was of a Wooly rhino). So go here to read all about the monster…
Earlier today, my friend John Reppion posted a little musing on twitter about a local Church being knocked down.
John is a great writer, and the tweet had a lyrical quality that I really responded to. So I thought, as I’m winding down to relax for a holiday (hahah) I’d do a quick drawing of it as I saw it.
Here’s the tweet:
And I quickly scribbled out a layout and chopped the words up as lettering (drawn in Clip Studio at the digest art size, so I couldn’t get too precious and fiddly)
Took a minute or two. Sent it to John for his approval (I mean he was surprised to see it I’m sure, given it was just me faffing around).
Then I went off and did some paid work and came back to it.
Speed drawing is funny, the trick is to cheat as often and as much as you can.
Cheat one: don’t pencil. Just go straight from the roughs to inks.
Cheat two: photo reference. Just google the hell out of everything and trace it. Google a church. Google a wrecking ball. Google a digger. Using maps to get an overhead shot of some buildings so you can quickly use that to build out a panel. Copy a panel and draw over it. And finally google some birds.
Cheat three: TRACE EVERYTHING. Don’t grab photoreference so you can internalise what a digger looks like, grab photoreference so you can trace the digger. If you’ve any sort of eye at all you’ll introduce enough variety in what you’re doing that it won’t be a problem to describe it as a reinterpretation
Not gonna lie. There’s a lot of tracing in this.
Here’s the black and white:
Now for colour, I skipped the flatting/rendering stage and just stuck with simple colours – but I grabbed a page I liked by an colourist I liked which covered similar colours to what I knew I needed and sampled it for all the colours. That to is big fat cheat.