Real Things

I usually do a painting for my pal Jo for her birthday, here’s this year’s one:

World War One Nurse Painting

It might look like a colour rough to some of you, but each painting I do is an experiment of some kind or other. Spending so much time only dealing in black and white on paper drawing comics, it’s good to muck about with gloopy paint and colour for a change. I’ve learned to have some kind of concept of colour scheme, but not try to get into detail of form too much – the process of layering up paint for fun is an extended happy accident that you just have to go with. Too much or too little paint on the palette while you’re mixing can shift entire colour schemes, and blending on the canvas can get out of hand and knock out the composition, so you just have to acquiesce to chasing around a slowly-moving, colourful mess. What japes!

Great War Nurse Painting

Above is a scan of it. You can see the blues in this one. (Admittedly I’ve Auto-Levels’d it a little bit in Photoshop, but they are there.) One of the points of the exercise is to create a physical object, so it’s quite cool that the little painting looks entirely different in every scan, photo and snap. It would look completely different to these images if you saw it in the real world, and on top of that the light around at the time would flavour it even more.

WW1 Nurse Painting

This is probably my favourite digital image of it, a snap from Jo’s camera phone – the yellow light coming from a normal household lightbulb has actually pulled the colour scheme into a more orangey one. How about that? Plus you can see the brush textures a bit better.

(And yes, I’ve just put what’s basically the same image up three times. Ahem. We illustrators are bad for that. If it’s not the colour scheme of the piece we’re going on about, it’s the profiles for print on a computer, colour for print and RGB versus CMYK profiles, and then there’s the colour settings on the monitor too! It’s best just to leave us to our inscrutable alchemy.)

The painting’s supposed to be a nurse from the First World War, looking at over No Man’s Land at dawn. Joe does living history events on Edwardian times and ‘The Great War’, you see.

My own family history’s linked with those four horrible years, my paternal Great-Grandfather Ernest Robert O’Connor was a soldier who served throughout the entire war and managed to survive. He was in the Grenadier Guards and the Irish regiments The Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers. He even got a Military Cross medal. Apparently he was at the First Day of the Somme. In the morning there were about 450 men, and by the end of the day there were roughly 45 of them left.

Ernest Robert O'Connor

Here he is. It turns out I had a scan of an old period photograph that my family got hold of on my computer.

Did I mention he was a drummer boy in the Boer War too..? I have absolutely no idea of the horrors this man would have seen, or the daily terror he would have lived in. He then went off to fight in the Second World War with his son – my grandfather John – and the two of them survived that too. Just to provide for their families and their descendants so they could sit around on their arses doing things like drawing comics instead of getting a proper job.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Return to Page Mountain

Hello again, I come before you with visual evidence of the very thing that’s been keeping it so quiet around here recently.

So this is what all 170 pages of inked original art for the Evil Star Graphic Novel look like.

Yes, I’m willy-waving at you with a bunch of dead trees stained with assorted pigments. But give me a chance, this is the longest single piece of stand-alone graphic narrative I’ve done so far.

I’ll carry on flinging up workings posts of the pencils and whatnot on here rather then showing off the inks, because you can see those in the finished book. What you won’t be able to see in print are all the wobbly bits the top secret blog club are privy to.

Come on Matt, at least try and look excited.

Some folks ink digitally, but I’ve not quite gotten into that yet, it still has to be a physical process for me. At least until I get a new Graphics Tablet that doesn’t play the ‘Guess Which Random Pressure Level I’m Operating at Right Now’ game. If I did make that jump, the pencils would still have to be with graphite on a bit of paper scanned in, I reckon. We shall see.

You can see the strata of the different kinds of board and paper I ended up using. Finding out the hard way that two different batches of Bristol board bleed with Rotring Artpen ink wasn’t fun.

Normal service resuming very soon indeed. The next job is the cover of the book!

London becomes the City of Abacus

The opening night of the City of Abacus artwork exhibition at the The Book Club in Shoreditch was certainly an eye-opener. Observe:

The stairs down to the lower level of the venue had this canopy covered in comic pages built over it. Inside were prints of the faux propaganda posters I designed for the event, complete with disorientating lights and sounds being played at you through speakers.

Down the rabbit hole, the title of comic greets you.

The MX-41 is the name of machine from the comic, As too is the Cambonica forest.

This photo doesn’t do the ‘forest’ any justice as while the event proper was running, the room was full of DRY ICE, giving a beyootiful misty effect. Next door are some giant musical instruments to muck about with and a giant, blank comic mounted on the wall to draw in…

Comic pages are projected on the walls…

More of the propaganda posters, and Emma‘s design from the cover of issue one enshrouding the DJ booth.

Blown-up pages of my artwork from issue two on the walls upstairs…

The crowd, and COCKTAILS. (I can personally recommend the ginger beer, lime and Drambuie. Note the City of Abacus T-Shirts the baristas have on!

And then eventually the night was over and most folks went home, giving me an opportunity to snap a few photies upstairs.


I am return’d from cavorting about the streets of the nation’s capital – much fun was had, old friends were met, new ones were made, and many baozi buns were eaten. It was top.

First of all, you can now buy the Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption book online from the charity’s shop here while stocks last. The book’s 96 pages long and has a beautiful (as you can see) wraparound cover from Laura Oldfield Ford.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption

Here’s the Lazarides gallery in Soho on the night of the Private View. Phono-chums Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are somewhere in that crowd:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption

Inside, the two-floor gallery has been deliberately made into a scraped-out concrete shell. It’s a pretty unique venue – Here are some prints from the Iraq book on the wall:

Downstairs, my original art pages for The Ayatollah’s Son are on the wall with prints of Dan Goldman‘s strip in the book to the right:

Facing my work on the opposite wall was original mixed-media artwork from, erm, some bloke called Dave McKean. Mental. (I hadn’t gotten around to mentioning he was in the book too yet, had I..?)

Dave McKean Originals

A few days later, it was off to the imposing facade of the Institute of Contemporary Arts on The Mall:

Dave McKean Originals

Good lord, there are comics everywhere.

While a whole bunch of us were loafing about in the bar, (Uncle) Pat (Mills) dropped into the conversation that his artist pal Kevin O’Neill had seen the strip and said he liked the art..! Will wonders never cease..?

And to round off the evening, I got to see Blood Orange, which involved yer man Dev Hynes here of Lightspeed Champion and The Test Icicles fame take command of every single inch of a stage with nothing more than a laptop, a guitar and a few monitors… Comics and music – what more do you need..?

Iraq Book Roundup

Well, the Institute of Contemporary Arts panel was flippin’ great. Many thanks to everybody who turned up and sold it out! I was a bit nervous, but I thought I managed to engage the audience pretty well.

Here’s a few photies.

One side of the Nash Room Lecture hall at the ICA, before everybody turned up. Friendly tech guys can be seen rummaging about checking everything works.

The view out from the balconies of the Nash Room, of The Mall. Trafalgar Square is off to the left, and Buckingham Palace is down the road on the right.

See just how exciting it was… Heh. That’s me in the white shirt, writer Sean, then Ruth from War on Want and Paul Gravett on the far right. I don’t have any photos of us talking at the event, but I’ve nicked this one off Sean. We’re working on getting some from War on Want, who were snappin’ away while we were gabbin’ away.

The book on sale in the ICA bookshop! And sign copies of it in the bar afterwards we certainly did.

Click to see full sizeScan of the ICA’s events programme with – unlikely as it seems – some of my artwork alongside Posy Simmonds’. Will wonders never cease?
We’ve been getting some great press for the book, which just goes to show what the Press Officer of an International charity can do for your project. Look! We were in The Guardian Guide, where they used the cover to the Iraq book to sum up the whole of the ComICA 2007 festival. Blimey.

The book’s being reviewed by Paul Gravett in the December issue of Plan B Magazine. There have been reports on the book on; BBC Arabic, Reuters (In Korean!), United press International (UPI), the multi-lingual Euronews, French news service France 24, and on the radio in Austria and in print in Dubai! Apparently, we were nearly on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme, too. Click all those links above for articles and videos (of Sean looking glamourous in Gosh Comics in London, talking about the book…) The nice little promo video used was put together by a lovely fellow called Adib at… Al-Jazeera.


The book’s out now. and y’know what..? It’s available to buy from from the War on Want website, and the Boychild Productions website. It’s also in the December issue of Previews, on page 350 or so, under Boychild Productions, order number DEC07 3504.
G’wan and give the gift of charitable comics this year.