Celebrate With Cake

Oyy, long time no update. Sorry, I’ve been busy. I do have a bunch of cool stuff to show as well as the usual blog backlog though, so let’s get right to it with an easy update…

Yes, this is silly. Here are some cakes I drew for my illustrator pal John Spelling‘s birthday. If you were at the British Library‘s ‘Comics Unmasked‘ exhibition, you might have seen his work on the ‘Fight the Power‘ anthology on display there. Apparently the Ctrl-Alt-Shift Unmasks Corruption anthology I worked on was there too!


Anyway, cakes! John likes a card game called Fluxx. He’s already received a custom, home-made, fully-playable edition of Garth Marengi’s Darkplace Fluxx for a previous birthday. John also likes cake. So ‘Cake Fluxx’ was inevitable, really.

Cakes for Cake Fluxx special birthday edition

So while these were just quick little things to be printed at about the size of a postage stamp for a mate, I still found myself rather getting into the art, describing as much as I could and getting something interesting going on with the colours. Then I looked up what Sun and Moon Cakes are. What are they..? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

cake flux cards

Printed up, they look like this… Am I a big enough nerd to not get excited when I see something game-a-rific with my art on..? No.


The amazing Henry Flint and Jock did some art for this too, y’know. I suspect these two sets of Fluxx might probably be the most remarkable bits of custom gaming in existence.

Anyway, stay browser-tuned for more art-for-games waffle, of a more mass-produced bent…

Happy Holidays 2013

Highly Questionable Santa wishes you a Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and yours the very happiest of holidays, and all the best for 2014!

Could this be the end of Highly Questionable Santa..?

Enjoy, and – as always – sorry.

(And if you’re a glutton for punishment – even of the capital’ variety – and want to look at HQS’ previous yearly assaults against common decency, click his tag…)

Drift Record Shop Christmas Window 2013: The Comic Blow-out

Just drew on the windows of the Drift Record Shop yesterday – this window was the most ambitious I/we’ve done yet as it was an eight-frame comic spread accross eight giant window panes!
The story was written by R.G. at Drift, and for the common touch, concerned (un)popular hate figure Simon Cowell and a Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol‘ analogue…

Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013

Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013

I drew little arrows telling the readers where to go next, and there will be a little ‘how to read a comic’ blurb on the shop door (because I’m shocked to see that there are some people who don’t know, or at least think they don’t know.)
The funny thing is watching people read it, you have to use your legs and feet as much as your eyes to go from start to finish, because it’s so big…

Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013

And here’s some snaps of odd bits of the drawing that snakes around the entire shop…

Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013

Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
(Totnes’ Norman Castle is visible at the bottom of the blue sky behind Cowell’s neck in the image above)
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013
(The silver sheets here are to keep the sun off the record racks first thing in the morning.)
Drift Record Shop Christmas window mural drawing in Totnes, 2013

And there we’ll leave it. It’s always good to work in public, meet people, and have a chat. It was even sunny too. If you’re after something else to read, have a look at Drift’s very lovely records of the year list.

Subterranean Iron-Pick Blues

Little limited-palette digi-painting I did quickly after I’d just finished a long photo-shopping session. This is a Dwarf (yes, one of those Tolkein-esque fantasy things) from the indie game phenomenon that is Dwarf Fortress.

Digi painting of a Dwarf worker from Dwarf Fortress

He’s a worker of some kind and is just brooding away in the darkness at the bottom of the pump stack of his underground home, thinking about how he’ll only ever see sunlight again if he’s really lucky, and how he’ll be spending the rest of his life eating subterranean mushrooms…

I’d been curious about Dwarf Fortress for a long time after seeing it crop up again and again on the internet. It’s the game that inspired that Minecraft game you know, and it’s been called one of the most complex games ever made.
So when I had some free time after finishing the inking of the Evil Star graphic novel, I settled down with some tutorials and had a go. In ‘DF’ you’re in charge of a colony of dwarves who have to set up a sustainable home or gradually die. There are lots of ways for your little guys to die; be it thirst, hunger, madness, disease, infection, violence, violence by friends who have gone mad, wildlife, bandits, suffocating, trading disagreements, drowning, or more madness. The list goes on. And on.

I’ll leave Tim Denee to explain more about it, with the brilliant comics that really got me curious: Bronzemurder, Oilfurnace and Akrulatol.
There’s also a good intro here from a fellow called ‘Zweistein’. If you’re keen on finding out more, there’s ‘The Song of Onionbog’, the multi-media Fortress story ‘Bravemule’ and the ‘Glazedcoasts’ playthrough.

If you fancy playing the game yourself, get a New Player bundle pack – for Windows or Mac – and turn on the Ironhand graphics, ‘Soundsense’ sound pack and use ‘DwarfTherapist’ to actually control the little fellows.
Mostly though you’ll be needing some tutorials, which you can find here, here and here, and be prepared to spend some time on the Dwarf Fortress Wiki.

Gift Comix

Here’s some scans from the interior pages of a birthday comic I drew last year for my illustrator pal Hannah Megee.

This will make little to no sense for the passing reader, since it’s half made-up on the fly from private gags, Hannah’s life and the fact that she was having a Mexican Day of the Dead party.

Other touchstones were Herge and Tintin, school hi-jinks stories, and how well that plugs into mid-twentieth century British adventure stories where the Caucasian main characters are always more important than the inhabitants of whatever country it is they are visiting. Hello, Mexicans! I don’t really hate you.

Oh and Luke Lux Harmonium special-guest-stars as the baddie henchman!


I was on a mini road trip with my pal Morgoth recently, and we ended up inventing an entirely new franchise. DEATHSCAPE is the name of the post-apocalypse wasteland in the back of Morgoth’s van where the rag-tag survivors of car accidents pull together to survive in the cybernetically-enhanced ruined future!

So I made Morgoth this little rear-view mirror ornament to remind him of the promised future as he goes around collecting victims from the burning wreckage littering the highway of destruction.

And as I saw when I was a’zoomed-in with Photoshop, all the imperfections and cut-marks in the bit of mount board this is made from look interesting up close.

Keep checking your rear-view mirror, road-users…

Stripping for Friends

Here’s some pages from the birthday comic I gave to my pal and “heterosexual life friend” Rupert Morrison recently, since landmark birthdays deserve decent presents… Caution: In-jokes years in the making, personal histories and the fact I was half making this up as I went along conspire to make this mostly impenetrable to anybody but its original recepient.



Of course this is just a cheeky glimpse for everybody else, there’s a colour cover, an extra page and the dedication in the actual art object itself, but unfortunately you’re not the dude in question, so ya nae privileged enough tae see it, man!


As I’ve alluded to before, whenever I’m out and about, I usually have a messenger bag slung across my back with a hardback, A4, usually Daler Rowney sketchbook in it. Depending on who I’m talking to, it’s either called ‘The Travelling Sketchbook’ or ‘The Pub Sketchbook’, since if I ever find myself out and about at a lose end without a comic script to thumbnail up, I’ll open it up and draw whoever’s around me – and if there’s no people about – then whatever’s around me.

It’s all down to a fellow called Ron Tiner, a veteran illustrator who I was lucky enough to be tutored by at the comic-drawing-college-for-cool-kids ‘Sequential Illustration‘ course at Swindon College, at that point the only course of its time in the country. Apart from being One Of Us, Ron’s also responsible for one of the best figure-drawing books around, ‘Figure Drawing Without a Model‘, and also its follow-up, ‘Drawing From Your Imagination‘.
One thing you might not know is that when Dave McKean was working on the art for the famous Arkham Asylum Graphic Novel, he used Ron as the visual model for the character of Amadeus Arkham, the founder of a sanatarium who ends up going insane himself.

Anyway, I owe Ron a lot for shoving me as hard as possible down the pathway to becoming a ‘professional’, and if everything he taught could be rudely boiled down to just one sentence, it would be, “Draw from Life.”
An artist uses – and trades on – their visual memory, and if there’s nothing in it apart from a few stylistic ticks, then you’re buggered. You won’t be drawing anything worthwhile or telling any good stories with that. Drawing human figures and faces is one of the hardest things you can do, not only to comprehend what you need to do yourself as the artist, but your work must also to pass the test of being viewed by other people – human beings – whose human empathy towards other humans needs to be triggered by your scribbles.

So yes, there you are sitting in the pub, waiting for some of your friends to turn up, you’re at a bit of a loose end, so it’s time to top up the visual memory. So off you go.

Since Facebook‘s still with us, I thought I’d try and use it as a force for good(hah!), scan these sketchbook pages and put them up with the people in them ‘tagged’ (as the young people of today say) to serve as an alternative to all the cameraphone shots.

The Facebook album with all the scans in to look at is right here.

When I’m Drawin’ (On) Winders

My brushes with public art continue in a most pleasant fashion, it beats sitting at home at the desk anyway. There’s sunlight and people and everything. Another window for The Drift Record Shop, this one is all about the Mercury Music Prize, an annual musical talking point and media circus over here in the UK. Twelve differing musical artistes’ albums are nominated, then a month or two later a shadowy conclave of secret masters with unknowable motives decide that one of the offerings is – in actual fact – the Record of the Year.

Those with a special interest in squinting will be interested to know that the artistes represented are:

(Top Row, left to right) Tinie Tempah (who might be about to Pass Out, and is alright and all, but needs Labrinth producing him to make it sparkle, guv), Katy B (who had a single I really liked h’actually), James Blake, ‘Fence‘ collective founder King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Adele, and Gwylim Simcock the token classicist/instrumentalist.

(Bottom Row, left to right) A slightly harsh rendering of Elbow‘s Guy Garvey who hosts a show on BBC 6music, looking a bit like he’s building a rocket, the fox from the front of the Everything Everything album (whose ‘Photoshop Handsome‘ is essential listening for artworkers everywhere), ‘local lad’ Joe Mount from Metronomy (who was in the extended gang of kewl kids I hung out with at lunchtime at school), the bit-Earth-Mothery-recently PJ Harvey, Ghost Poet eating a Peanut Butter and Melancholy Jam sandwich, and the intensely smouldering Anna Calvi.

There are a couple more photos – including a handy tweaked one so you can see the drawing more easily – over here on the Drift Blog.