Well, this is about as Christmassy as I’m going to get this year people! Just a few sneak peak images of my upcoming silent book called ‘Emperor’ which is being entered into the Concorso Silent Book Competition next year.
A quick synopses:
"Emperor follows the story of a colony of penguins and the mysterious arrival of a new penguin into their group. While he appears friendly and offers them the benefits of technology and scientific progress, one child suspects that a more sinister ploy is at stake."
Dealing with themes of the environment, technology and voice, Emperor is my exploration of the dangers of revolution.
This will be keeping me occupied over the xmas period so keep an eye out on some more sneak peak pages coming soon…
Here’s’s my prep process for my Maui Prime zine.
I’ve gotten a couple questions from people curious about the riso printing process, so I thought I’d share what I know and how I construct my work. In general, riso printing is really similar to screen printing (only way easier in my opinion).
All of my drawings for Maui Prime were drawn at 11x14 with ink/graphite/watercolor and then scanned at 300DPI. I added ziptones in photoshop using the “color halftone” filter. I’ve found it gives me more freedom to draw things on separate sheets of paper and keep the elements on different layers until the final steps (I’m constantly changing my mind as the process rolls along, so I like having options).
At the end of this process, the only thing that matters for riso printing is that you have a B&W master sheet for each color you want to print. The risograph is sort of like a mix between a screen printing rig and a xerox machine. You put your master sheets one by one into the scanning bed, and the machine shoots your sheets and pushes ink through the black areas. I learned from Kris Mukai that if you print your master sheets at about 90% opacity, it doesn’t saturate the paper quite as much, and leads to slightly less smudging/quicker ink drying. I nudge things around during printing to try and get the registration right, but another thing about riso printing is you kind of have to let go and be ok with minor imperfections. It’s rare that a print will come out exactly perfect, and that’s part of the charm.
I hope this was helpful! Risograph printing is really popular right now, and I can understand why. It’s relatively easy, affordable, and the results are always surprising and nice.
As we were talking about Apocalypse Romance stuff from the dawn of my comic writing, I realised I probably should link to one. This is EXTERMINUS, drawn by Charity Pomaybo (then Larrison).
This was done as a break from drawing our largest thing, BUSTED WONDER. It leans into the art comic place, and - to be frank - is pretty fucking weird. Dates from 2005.
[Edited: Make sure to read the full terms and agreements, and like most online course sites, do not expect this to act as a replacement for a real-life class unless any specific course you sign up for states it offers transferrable credits. Make sure you know most online-courses will not be recognized as a replacement for any part of any curriculum by credited educational institutions.]
Through Academic Earth, you can take courses in all of the fields below:
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A small step closer to the future I want to be living in!
Here’s a piece of the 6 page comic I made for it.
Anonymous asked: Hello John, Your work is incredible. How long did it take you to find your "voice?" I feel like I am still jumping all over the place and I don't really understand how I am supposed to focus and draw one type of thing all the time. It is making me pretty anxious, which tends to paralyze me so I haven't been doing any good work at all in a while. Thank you so much for everything you share, you are my hero!
First off, thank you!
I used to define “voice” (in regards to illustration) as “what you’re saying” combined with “how you are saying it.” Then, I’d make two fists and mash them together, as if that helped drive my point home. I’m a hand talker, guys.
I don’t know how other people define it, but for my purposes, that seemed like a reasonable definition: what and how? The big trick then, is how do you go about developing those two questions?
It’s funny that you say that I have an established voice, because I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. But, let’s take a look at the premier example of an established voice:
Ok, so that Rockwell guy. Pretty good huh? We closely associate Rockwell with hyper-rendered, almost saccharine-sweet depictions of a mythical Americana. In the majority of his illustrations, he shows us an America without murder, prostitution, sexism, and racism (although he would tackle this in other paintings later), etc. He was quoted as saying “I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be. So I painted only the ideal aspects of it - pictures in which there are no drunken slatterns or self-centered mothers…”
The key words there are “it should be.” So in countless Saturday Evening Post covers, he presented to the public an idealized America, shown in the most realistic way he knew how, in an effort to make it manifest. And in a way, he succeeded, mostly in part because we Americans are a sentimental lot. Flip on the TV and watch any commercials around Christmas, or July 4th, and tell me that America hasn’t bought into that mythology.
So his “what”: an idealized America. “How”: realistic painting. What happens if you throw either one of those things off? Robert Weaver, one of the grandfathers of the “avant garde” within illustration, once said “I wonder how Norman Rockwell would handle this article I have to illustrate titled ‘The Psychological Complications of Being Left-Handed’?”
It’s not that Rockwell was in any way limited by his voice. In fact, most of what we know about Rockwell flies in the contrary of his work (“The life revealed here is one of anxiety, depression and loneliness, with feelings of failure, neglect and inadequacy.”) It’s that he had something very specific and personal to him that he wanted to express in the best way that he could. And that’s how I think you should approach your own investigations towards a personal voice.
What is it that you care about? What is personal to you, and only you, that you can speak authoritatively about? What injustices do you see in the world? What stories aren’t being told that you think deserve to be? If you don’t think you can answer those questions yet, just sit down and do some writing. Start with what you know. Then branch out, get out of your head; go live your life, read books, have conversations, fall in love. All of this informs your work.
The “how” is the technical side of this equation. It is your classes on color theory, your countless newsprint pads from figure drawing, and your experiments in your sketchbook. Honestly, it’s the easiest part. It just takes time and good practice to develop.
And there’s one more little bit that I’d throw in there for good measure, and that’s “why?” Why are you making the work that you are? Dean Cornwell said this of Harvey Dunn’s Leonia school: “Perhaps the most valuable thing that Dunn taught us was honest dealing with our fellow men and a constant gratitude to the maker above for the privilege of seeing the sun cast shadows.” Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, I like this idea of “honesty and gratitude.” As an illustrator, artist, however you choose to define yourself, if you’re in this trade and you have the skillset, you have to ability to influence. What will you do with this ability?
For example, have you guys seen this illustration about “stop and frisk” that Richie Pope posted yesterday? Absolutely killer. I know that the subject matter is very close to Richie’s heart, and you know what? It shows, man.
If you’re not making good work right now (and let’s be honest, that’s a hard thing to admit to yourself), then you should take heart: that means that for every failed piece, you are one step closer to finding that voice. And that means that tomorrow has the potential to be a much better place than today. You just have to keep at it.
YOU GUYS are my heroes. Images have power. Stories have power. You guys have superhuman, mutant powers. Use them for good.