Oof! Wish I had as much energy in the mornings as this chappie. I’m calling him Hoppleby.
I’ve had a lot of hits on my Thirteen Dwarves pic lately, thanks in part to the film and a post by the people at Pixelsmith. For my morning warm-up I’ve sketched a baker’s dozen of hobbits to even things out. I might get to add some colour later on if there’s time. I’ve not seen the film, and reviews have been mixed so I’m not certain I will. I think the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo was a great choice (though my favourite Bilbo will always be Bernard Cribbins from a Jackanory special in 1979) but it sounds like the charm of the book has been substituted by action scenes. Here’s another hobbit pic from a couple of years ago.
I’ve read through my recently arrived copy of Le Roman de Renart (Book 1: Les Jambons d’Ysengrin), the first of a series of adaptations of the mediaeval fables about Renart (usually Reynard in English) a crafty fox and trickster.
This French comic book version is written by Jean-Marc Mathis with art by Thierry Martin. It’s Martin’s art that’s the draw for me, as I can get by in written French though I’m a far from confident speaker. The beauty of comics, of course, is that the text is there to complement the images (and vice versa). Whilst you may not get the full story there’s plenty of information available to work out what’s going on. And what pictures! I’ve been a fan of Martin’s for a while and love the way he makes use of the landscape as the backdrop for his tales. The forest setting for the Renart’s scheming is filled with magnificent naturalistic tree, yet giant and threatening (from a fox’s eye view), providing hiding places for ambush as much as shelter and food. I think I love his trees almost as much as Bill Watterson’s.
A bit of fan-art from me:
A selection of seniors. Old people are cool.
I hope you had a good weekend. We paid one of our regular trips to one of London’s city farms. The turkeys seemed to have survived Christmas remarkably well and were particularly fascinated by our dog, who’s rather taken with the pigs herself. Well worth a visit, if only for the excellent fried breakfast.
Why do the models in fashion blogs always stand with their toes pointing together? Is there a fashionable way of standing? “Darling, I hear rickets is bang on trend this season.” It’s all a mystery. [Source.]
This year I’d like to make better use of my time. I’ve not had to make real long-term plans for quite a while – projects happen, I work on them, they finish and I move onto whatever is next. Planning has paid very little part in any of it. But with a series of books coming out, and the events and marketing that have to go with them, I’m realizing that a greater part of my year is already mapped out for me. If I’m to do all the other things I want to do I need to start planning.
I love what I’m doing and I feel very privileged to be able to work for myself and to have the opportunities I have, but my career is not my life: I have a family I want to spend more time with, a home that needs maintenance, a small garden that needs attention, a new dog that needs exercising and training, friends I want to see and places that I want to visit. I want to do things that don’t involve drawing, writing, books and comics (I think it makes for a healthier, balanced mind – the body needs looking after too, don’t forget – but all experiences add depth and roundness to your creative work as well, so it’s all for the better in the end). And yet I also want to have time to experiment on my art and improve my craft and travel down some wonderful, creative blind alleys. I want to read, for education and pleasure (I buy books regularly, as I have a large bookshelf that needs filling, but haven’t read any of them). I want to surf the web and watch crap, pointless TV without feeling guilty about it. And then, of course, there are those chores that are never-ending: house-work, laundry, shopping. Having a panic-attack yet?
I don’t think I’m asking for the world, just a bit of balance and some time to breathe. During the Christmas period, I researched and experimented with tools and techniques to help with this. Fairly basic things as it turns out, but I’m hopeful that together they’ll make a difference to the way I work and live. I’ve had some experience of project management from previous jobs, and have an idea of the kind of working methods that go best with the way my mind functions – logical, linear, focused. Everyone is different and I’ve cherry-picked those tools that I feel work for me. There’ll be times when the rules have to go out of the window, but a good foundation means you have something to go back to when the world returns to normal.
Previously, I’ve made use of a paper diary and a (paper) to-do list. The diary was for events: meetings, birthdays, trips. The to-do list was for work tasks. There’s nothing wrong with lo-tech methods: I recently read an interview with Caterina Fake, who co-founded Flickr, where she said (perhaps surprisingly) that the tools she couldn’t do without in her work were a pad of paper and a pencil. But there were two problems with this for me. Firstly, they were never around when I needed them. Secondly, they didn’t work together: time (the diary) was never a factor associated with tasks (the to-do list).
To get around the having-things-to-hand issue I’m making better use of my smart-phone and the way it integrates with the PC/virtual universe, rather than just treating it as a texting device/clock (I appreciate I’m five years late to the party with this but you have to bear in mind I still view the microwave oven as a miracle). It’s very rare that I forget my (Android) phone when I’m out and having it sync with my (Google) account so that everything I do is available on any piece of hardware with an internet connection is a real blessing. But, as mentioned above, it’s how you use the tools that’s important.
Google mail/calendar: I use other Google services too, but these are the most directly useful.
Trello: very basic project management software. Group related tasks (“cards”) together for small projects (“boards”). I’m using this to keep track of all the renovation work that needs doing in my home – each room becomes its own project. Having the phone app means I can go to B&Q with a ready-made shopping list of things that are needed. The ability to assign a task to others means I know that I’m (probably) not going to be doing something the other half is supposed to be doing.
Evernote: a personal database of anything you like, which I use for collecting images, text and ideas for projects when researching.
Twitter/Facebook: These are on the list as they are both now essential ways of fast communication with friends, colleagues and customers, and are particularly helpful with events. I use them (just about) but mostly as a consumer of other people’s news. They devour time but limiting use through the day means you can’t be genuinely interactive and so you end up using them merely as marketing tools. I can’t think of anyone who’s got this right in a way that works satisfactorily both for them and their ‘audience’ – the information flow always ends up one-way.
Wall calendar: I have a year planner stuck to my wall for a quick at-a-glance view of the year. I have a different coloured sticker for meetings, deadlines, events and key dates. It sounds infantile but I’ve found colour-coding to be amazingly useful (see below).
Evernote and Trello are fairly self-contained and I use them for specific purposes within work and home life, with Evernote for storage and Trello as a sub-management tool dependent on my calendar. The real key to time management for me is in the use of calendar/email/task list.
Email use: I’m trying to stick to the five sentences rule. If I need more than five sentences, I question whether I’m using the right method of communication. If you receive emails containing screen after screen of text do you ever sit and read them all the way through straight-away? Or do you think “I’ll read that later”? How often do you actually go back to those emails again? This is worth a read too: the email charter. Some methods listed here can sound a little cold, particularly if you are using email to cultivate a relationship with a client, but the bottom line is that less time on email means more of the good stuff gets done.
In Gmail (and I assume other email systems are similar) I make use of the labels (with colour!) to organise mail into subject matter and urgency. Emails that are effectively work requests can be turned into calendar entries with a couple of clicks.
I’m going to try to restrict email use to three periods a day (first thing in the morning, lunchtime, and around 3pm). Of course, some emails have to be answered straight away but this should be less painful if I’m dealing with all the non-urgent stuff better.
Calendar/to-do list: I’m a great list-maker and my to-do list has been the foundation of my organisational methods up until now. But every day when I came to re-write my list the exact same tasks would be on it as the day before. Frustrating and demoralising. When I used my calendar to assign time for these tasks I realized that I had massively under-estimated the time these tasks needed and I needed a 60-hour day to do what I wanted. Hence, tasks would never get done. It reminds me of when I kept a diary of my drinking habits and found out I drank twice as much in a week as I thought I did: it’s not obvious until it’s written down.
I’ve now thrown my to-do list in the bin and assign time in the day for doing a particular task using the calendar. It’s made me more realistic about how long things take to do, forced me to make more concrete plans if I really want to make a particular project happen and face-up to those things that I know, deep down, I’m never going to do. Google has its own task list function which I use to make temporary note of tasks that don’t get completed in the time allotted. I obviously try to avoid this if I can. Below is the template for a normal week-day for me, assuming I get up at 7am and go to bed between 11-12pm. I try to do a 9-10 hour working day (I’m too old for the all-nighter thing nowadays). NB: colour!
The “domestic half hour” is the daily period when I do laundry, clean a room, tidy a cupboard or whatever needs doing. Half an hour is short enough to stop it being boring, but 5 x 30mins= 2.5 hrs a week means the home should stay in good order. What I noticed when I first created these daily tasks is that once you’ve put all the admin stuff in, there is a surprisingly small amount of time left in the day for actual creative work.
Another key thing is that you need to spend time on time management. The calendar needs daily maintenance – I allow about 30 mins a day, with an hour on Sunday evenings, just for planning.
So that’s it – my life is officially organised. I’ll let you know how I get on, and if I’m back to pen and paper by the end of the month. Maybe everything I’ve written above sounds obvious (and I suppose it should, as it’s mostly common sense) but how many people actually practise this? If you’ve any ideas or experience in these things I’d be very interested to know.
Happy New Year, everyone! I tried to think of some Hog-manay pun but the funny cells aren’t fully charged today – you’ll have to settle for a jolly, jumping farmer instead.
I always look forward to the fresh start that a new year offers, whether it’s real or just a psychological kick in the pants. It’s going to be big year with lot’s happening, so I’m going to attempt to be super-organised: I want there to be time for some fun along with all the work that I’ll be doing, and that is going to take some planning. I’ve spent Christmas getting to grips with some tools that I’m hoping will help me get this year reined in and tamed and will blog about them tomorrow. If anyone has anyone has any tips on work/life management that work for you then let me know. In the meantime, enjoy your day off!
“A has the flesh of a fruit which [he/she/it] begins to eat. B has the seeds, which [he/she/it] plants. A realises that [he/she/it] will have no source of food after eating the fruit. B begins to starve while waiting for a tree to grow. The remainder of the fruit will sustain A and B until a tree grows.”
Comics-maker, illustrator and all-round lovely chap John Miers produces work that intrigues and challenges, often using abstract forms and diagrammatic elements as well as more traditional story-telling methods. He’s currently working on a PhD in Comics (I suspect it has a fancier title than that in reality, but that’s what it is) and I was delighted to be invited to take part in a project that forms part of his studies.
John asked a bunch of comics people to interpret a supplied narrative and produce a one-page comic from it. For half the group (including me), this came in the form of a ‘script’: a set of actions performed by unidentified characters. The creators could add as much extra detail as they liked with respect to setting, character, dialogue and other actions as long as the supplied actions were preserved. My interpretation is above.
The other half of the group were given a ‘score’, a layout which specified where detail and action should occur on the page but with no other information regarding that detail or action, or story or characterisation. A difficult task, and I don’t envy those creators who had to come up with something coherent from such a complex starting point.
The results were put on display last night, as part of an exhibition John curated at the Centre for Recent Drawing in Highbury, London. It was really fascinating to see the different (and sometimes similar) approaches people had taken to the same set of instructions – no doubt plenty of material for John’s thesis. Either way, there was a beautiful selection of comics, and I was very pleased to amongst so many talented people.
The exhibition is part of the Comica Festival – details here.
Here’s the press release that appeared in yesterday’s The Bookseller Twitter feed!
I’ve been keeping this under my hat for about six months, which has been pretty excruciating, but it looks like I’m free to talk about some very exciting creative happenings for me.
Early in the year I submitted a manuscript for a children’s book to my lovely agent, Jodie Marsh. I assumed there would be a bit of a wait before I heard anything as I know these things can take time, but after a couple of weeks I received an email from her saying that a publisher was interested. Then another. Then another. And then another…
There followed a week of visits to the different publishers, weighing up their offers and meeting their editorial teams with Jodie as my guide, dispensing words of wisdom and insight along the way. It was a pretty crazy few days. They were all brilliant and I’d have been honoured to have been published by any one of them, but after a lot of thought I’m very happy to say that I’m going to be writing and drawing a three-book series for HarperCollins, the first book due put at the end of February 2013.
Monster and Chips is the story of a boy who discovers a diner run by monsters, for monsters. Naturally, he gets a job there – with disgustingly slapstick results! Lots of fart jokes and revolting food episodes – it was huge fun to write, and I’m thrilled I got to draw the illustrations too. The team at HC have been wonderful and I’ve really felt at home there. Here’s the blurb from the HC page:
Meet the amazing monster customers and sample the foul-food served up daily at Fuzzby’s diner – the brilliant setting for this innovative series from debut author and illustrator, David O’Connell.
Somewhere in suburbia, or maybe smack-bang in the middle of your city, there is a very special diner. What’s so special about it? Well it does the best chips ANYWHERE but also its customers are a little bit ‘unusual’… some people say they are monsters… The diner is hard to find, you have to look carefully, in fact some people say only a special kind of kid can find this special kind of diner. But maybe that kid could be you?
When Joe the ‘hooman’ gets a job at Fuzzby’s diner, he learns to bake zombie-cupcakes, exploding milkshakes and not to stare at the customers – even the ones who are see-through. He also foils a terrible plan to sabotage the annual Grand Cooking Competition.
With cartoon strips, ‘find-the-monster’ features and a Special’s Board that’ll make your tummy churn, take a seat at Fuzzby’s and join the fun.
I’ll posting much more about this as launch day approaches, of course. In the meantime, book one is already available to pre-order on Amazon (I think there will be a Kindle version too), Waterstones, WHSmiths and Blackwells, but of course please support your local independent bookseller if you have one.
As for me: back to the drawing!
Dare I say summer is almost over? Such as it was. My blogging rate has fallen short of its target but that is more a sign of busy-ness than laziness (but there’s a bit of that too).
Last February, I wrote this post providing a creative to-do list for the year. Let’s have a recap:
- pitching a children’s chapter book I’ve written to various publishers;
- pitching a whole bunch of other ideas to my agent for other books. I’ll be posting sketches and what-not here;
The very evening after I posted this a rather interesting email landed in my inbox. Then several more. I’m not supposed to talk about this at the moment, but all will be clear soon. It’s something that’s going to keep me busy for a while. I’ve got lots of ideas I think would make good books but time (definitely time) will tell.
- continue working on a book collaboration with Sarah McIntyre which has been bumping around for a while;
- assisting the aforementioned Ms McIntyre in the curation of a kids’ comics festival as part of Pop Up! With Sarah at the helm, I’m sure it will be amazing. Keep the weekend of the 30th June free! Sarah blogs about it here;
The picture book I’m doing with Sarah should kick in soon – our deadline is for early next year. It’s been a bit of a tough ride but I’m hoping a happily ever after is in sight for this particular project.
Pop Up! was huge fun. It was great to see so many children enjoying drawing their own comics with the help of professional comic creators. Here’s Gary Northfield and Jamie Littler having a drawing battle, taking suggestions from the audience:
The venue was wonderful and it was a fabulous, if exhausting, day. Congrats to Sarah on an inspired bit of curating. Here’s her account with lots of pics.
But what about my comics?
Issue #2 is out now – and it really does look great! I’m so proud of this little beauty and so grateful for the wonderful comics that everyone contributed. You can get your copy here. Issue #1 is now sold out.
- working on the committee for Caption, the Oxford comics festival. This year it will take place on the weekend of the 18th August;
And it did! It was a brilliant weekend, in only the way Caption knows how. Informative panels and inspiring workshops – lots of good, constructive comics talk. Lots of new faces attending, too. It was my privilege to be the moderator for the panel on Editing in Comics (with Woodrow Phoenix, Corinne Pearlman, John Anderson and Hannah Berry) and also the panel discussing The Phoenix children’s comic (with a whole bunch of its creators), which proved to be very lively, particularly in the light of the recent loss (in print, at least) of the venerable children’s comic The Dandy. It’s wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for print in defiance of the modern trend – it’s that kind of dynamism that has kept comics going in the UK in the almost complete absence of any kind of industry.
- working on a comic collaboration with Tanya Meditzky. I love Tanya’s sense of humour – check out her work in the Comix Reader and the Strumpet;
Done! It’s very funny – Tanya is one crazy lady. In the good kind of way.
- a strip for a new anthology by the industrious gents of Accent UK
Oops! I’d forgotten that – thanks blog!
- I’ve been thinking about setting up an online archive for people to donate their out-of-print/retired minicomics and zines, allowing them to be downloaded for free. I’m getting some costs/ideas together for that;
Officially shelved. I’d love to see this done but this would eat up all the time I just do not have.
- finishing off the first arc of my webcomic Tozo and collecting it into a single bumper printed edition. I’m probably going to take a year off Tozo after that – it’s been five years and I think I’d benefit from a break;
Done! Well, finishing off the webcomic anyhow. Chapter 5 should be available at Thought Bubble in November, the collected edition in the spring. I loved doing Tozo but I’m enjoying not having the weekly deadline hanging over my head.
- collecting my Queen Mum comics into… um, a collection;
- resurrecting a half-finished children’s novel and completing it;
To do, to do! These may well be on next year’s to do list. We’ll see.
- re-jigging this website;
- doing more portfolio stuff;
- and blogging about everything in more detail than this!
Ongoing, but not very successfully. I’ve never been much of a creature of routine and that’s what this needs. I can feel a daily drawing splurge coming on.
So not bad going, I’d say – at least in terms of doing what I said I was going to do – and there’s still a good chunk of the year left…
No doubt you follow the blog of children’s book illustrator-extraordinaire Sarah McIntyre. If not, why not?! You’ll see that lately she’s been blogging up a whirlwind about the Pop Up Festival of Stories.
This weekend (30th June-1st July), part of the redeveloped Kings Cross area will be turned into a fun-packed festival, with different book creators curating different sections. Sarah has come up with the brilliant idea of the Comics Big Top of AWESOME, taking place on Saturday where a whole area will be devoting to comic-making. Professional comic-makers like Neill Cameron, Gary Northfield, Jamie Smart, Nana Li and Jamie Littler will be on hand to guide through the processes of comic-making from ideas to character design to stories, and putting it all together under a colourful cover. There will also be a lot of other fun activities like drawing battles (a sharpened pencil is a dangerous object) and Comic Consequences. It is going to be… well, AWESOME. And that’s just Sarah’s bit.
I’ve been helping Sarah out with some of the organisational aspects and have seen the huge amount of work everyone has put into creating the event, from the festival organisers to the amazing St Martin’s students who have design and built the sets and staging. It is going to be a fantastic weekend – do come down and join us!