Hands have become almost as important as faces for helping communicate both ideas and emotions in the book. I’ve become a fan of constructing hands in various positions. In fact, I like it to an almost perverse degree, some might think, especially given how little people might even look at them. But then again, I’m known for actually enjoying -even looking forward to- dentist visits, so maybe this was predictable.


Of Course You Knew…

Of course you knew that I had to do this… Let me explain, perhaps for your Sunday reading pleasure.

The prevailing culture is surprisingly and frustratingly simplistic when it comes to graphic books and comics. As late as 2017, we’re still at the stage that most people in the USA (and the UK), if asked, will associate the form with the superhero genre: people in capes and/or masks fighting crime and/or saving the world. The other association is with the Sunday funnies. This is unfortunate, and, in case you don’t know, far from the case in other places such as various European and Asian countries where the boundaries between written and visual literature are less rigid.

The confusion of form (visual narrative on the page) with genre (the subject of the narrative itself) drives me nuts, as it makes it very hard to Click to continue reading this post

Another Signing!

Now here’s an interesting coincidence! I came on to write a post about something I did earlier today – signing a contract for publishing The Book, with an exciting new publisher(!) – and then I was reminded of a post I did here exactly two years ago: it was about signing a contract with the previous publisher (who I later parted ways with – see this post).

Anyway, I had a picture in that post (have a look) of me signing the actual paper contract (in triplicate) that had been sent over the ocean on nice paper by pony and so forth, and then I sent it back over the ocean by return pony, and then a countersigned copy was sent over again by yet another pony… Instead, all I have to show you (above) is a screen shot of the electronic signing process I did this morning. Minutes later the countersigned version came back and all was done.

Anyway, in brief, because I should be working on the book (trying to finish a remarkable four pages of art today in one long 15 hour session in the office…), the back story is as follows: Click to continue reading this post


The connector between the blog and Facebook and twitter has been broken and I’ve not been able to make the time to fix it. It looks like I might have to install a whole new system and I’ve not found one that works as well as the old (now unsupported) one, so that’s (partly) why I’ve not posted any updates on anything much. Also, I’ve been very focussed on trying to do more on the book with even less time than I’d planned for the final months on it. (The reasons for the less are actually positive, but I won’t attempt to explain them here.)

Anyway, things change and you go with the flow… Or try.

Well, conduit fixed or not, I’ll be back to giving you regular updates on things… I’ve worked on some particularly fun pages that I’d love to share with you… I can’t yet show full pages, of course, but I can show you some snippets. See you soon.


Neither a Hot Shot nor a Know-it-All, But…

hotshotknowitallI’m neither a Hot Shot nor a Know-it-All, but I’ve agreed to appear as one or the other Saturday night (Sat. Dec. 3rd), in the company of real hot shots Joel Hodgson (from MST3K!), Sarah Silverman, Sam Phillips, and several others. It’s a fun event with the proceeds going to a charity, and tickets are still available! I think (I’m not sure) that I’ll be part of a team sitting at tables around the venue that people can ask questions about… you know, stuff. I imagine I’ll be asked physics questions…?

More information here. Or here.

For the record, I’m a know-it-some.


On Arrival…

Arrived at your (Thanksgiving) destination yet? I hope all went well. Now, here’s some exciting news… This year’s Thanksgiving episode of Screen Junkies is another Movie Science special! This means, as usual, that I sat down with presenter Hal Rudnick to talk about some science ideas and portrayal of scientists in the movies.
movie_science_screen_junkiesThis time, the film is Arrival. We actually had a great in-depth conversation, and a lot (not all) of it made it to the episode, so have a look. (Most of the episode assumes that you have seen the film since there are a lot of serious spoilers that will take away from the movies intended unfolding as you view… There are mild spoilers in the form of general discussion about the film to start, and then Hal stops and warns you that we’re going deeper into the details.)

The embed is below, and then after that I say a few spoiler-y things to end this post:
Click to continue reading this post


Yes, I’m still here. I realise that I paused posting for a while longer than I have in a long time (possibly ever!), and I’m sorry about that. There were a lot of things, not just the obvious one(s). Anyway, I’m still here… still drawing and painting away on the book, and working on a bunch of other things that I ought to tell you about at some point (some of which I need to get clearance for…).


(Click for larger view) The other day I went comfortably old school, pencil sketching in a cafe on bristol board with some organic home grown on-the-fly one point perspective work to bring to life a bedroom that has been in my head for a while… Then returning to my office and switching to new school for digital ink, and then some nice brushed colour that has lots of nice bristly-ness to it (but still digital… because:time).

More about this page later.


(Dry) Watercolour

watercolour_share_26_oct_2016All change! Last week another style change took place, in service of a new story/chapter for the book. I’ve transitioned to a looser style, with final line art done with a charcoal-like finish, and the colour done as watercolour. (Click for a slightly larger view.) It turned out that back in March when I went and hid for a week to work on the book, I thumbnailed and roughed a lot of pages (on two stories I think?) in a pretty tight manner, and so I’ve decided that I’m simply going to go in and sketch the final material all by hand, with no elaborate construction work for placing backgrounds (neither analogue nor digital), no measurements, no drawing of perspective grids, etc.

This turns out to mean that I can get the pre-colour work done pretty swiftly on some pages. Rather than take this as an opportunity to sprint ahead and make up some lost time, I decided to do the charcoal+watercolour work, and also to teach myself some new aspects of colour design (gamut masking for those interested*, along with some more deliberate planning of (and attention to) colour values**). The shared image shows an example of a (made up) bit of landscape, first in the rough and then in the final render. Note that this is a panel about 2.5 inches across, so there’s not a huge amount to see in the scheme of things. But the page is made of several of these and has a rather nice look partly because of the narrower “gamutted” choice of palette I’ve used. Took a bit of experimenting, but the idea is that a (half-)day “lost” on learning this will translate into gains later if I use these techniques more… They certainly enrich the variety of the work you’ll see in the book.

Ok, the dirty secret here is that while I have used wet media for the project before, by way of incorporating texture here and there (and you might recall I use watercolour pencils for a lot of my sketch work in my notebooks), I simply don’t have enough time left to do that here. There’s so much extra time needed to be invested in scanning and colour balancing the work, which I don’t have. So all of this is digital, done in Photoshop. Key here are the *wonderful* brush sets of Kyle Webster, which are widely used (I’m sure you’ve seen lots of work done with his brushes – including stuff you probably thought was traditionally done). I strongly recommend his (ridiculously cheap in the scheme of things) brush sets. They make Photoshop a delight for painting.

I’m giving up something else here, in exchange for all this. I normally paint the pages in Illustrator, using global swatches for all the crucial elements. The idea was that toward the end of the project I could redesign all the colour at will if needed, since I can just change the swatches, and then the colour changes everywhere. Moving to painting in photoshop removes that freedom, since the colours are not vector elements any more, with no addressable global swatches… In photoshop I’m closer to actual analogue paint and canvas in that sense. That means that that precision changes are hard to do. I therefore decided that I need to make sure that the choices I make now on this story are at least internally harmonious at the outset, since I don’t have a second pass. That’s why I spent a bit of time getting up to speed on slightly more advanced ideas in colour design. These paints I lay down are here to stay, so better get it right.

It has all meant a new workflow, and I’ve been careful to write down some notes to remind me of the old one I perfected in June and July (I’ll be still be using it for a bunch of other stories), but the last couple of days have meant that I’ve tweaked my speed back up, and with the looser style for these pages I’ve got to slightly less than two full pages a day, which is the fastest I’ve ever been in this final art stage. Sadly, I’m still losing days on other things that take me away from the book, so I’m not making up shortfall on the schedule yet.

Yet. We shall see how this all looks as I move into November…


*The amazing James Gurney invented this. His blog is here.
**This is standard, but I loved reading about aspects of it on Tony Cliff’s site here.



Well, since I just lost the last two and a half hours’ work to a mystery crash (and Illustrator CS6 has no autosave*), I figured I lose another 20 minutes and prep a panel from a page of the book I’ve been working on today to:

(1) Share something from the project after a while of not doing so, and

(2) Show what I’d much rather be doing right now. I’m annoyed but trying to imagine myself in the picture… breathe…

Click to continue reading this post