Dead Hares and Mad Hatters

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Since finishing the Crooked Imp (read the first two episodes online here) I’ve been largely unemployed.

But I haven’t been entirely idle; apart from catching up on lots of television I’ve drawn a couple of things. The Death Hares is an alternative, pirate version of the Tinner’s Hares, a symbol found in medieval churches and businesses in the area. I was going for a morbid look, but they seem quite happy. I’m going to try a different version with a black background in the hope they look a bit more heavy metal. I thought they might look good on bag or t-shirt, so I set up a Redbubble account. I’ve not received the items yet, so I can’t vouch for the quality at the moment, but they are available to the general public.

Also last week I made a poster for our first ‘Save the Library’ event, featuring the Mad Hatter and Dormouse from Alice in Wonderland. I think this is the first time I’ve illustrated anything from the books – I have a vague memory of doing the Caterpillar, but I can find no evidence of any artwork. Must have dreamt it…

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Massive Pirate Troll Attack

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Last week I finished The Crooked Imp, and made the cover that goes with episode 12, the penultimate chapter that will appear in The Phoenix in about 2 months time. This Friday’s edition contains Episode 5, so there’s a way to go yet. I’ve also prepared the book version, which involved removing titles and juggling a few word balloons about. Hopefully that will be out in Autumn. I’m off to Oxford (the Imp’s birthplace) this week to discuss the possibility of a second instalment…

Meanwhile, a quick word about how the cover was created.

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Firstly, a rough is required to send to the editor and designer – luckily the leaping trolls were approved straight off so I didn’t have to do much fiddling about. I scan the pencils in, push things around a little in Photoshop, then put a sheet of tracing paper over the monitor and transfer the image to a sheet of Bristol Board (smooth card for drawing on). As I’ve mentioned before, I plumped for a style of inking that involved not actually using ink, just a clean pencil line. Panel two is the finished pencil art – I increase the contrast a bit to make the lines darker. Having just finished 53 pages using this technique, I don’t think I’ll do it again. I thought it would save time (it didn’t) and it also led to sore knuckles on account of the extra pressure I had to apply to make the pencil line nice and crisp.

The picture is coloured in Painter. I like the textures the program allows – you can see the grainy quality in the extreme close up of the Troll. I do a bit of general tinkering in Photoshop until I’m happy with the overall look. Paul the designer requested the foreground figures were on a separate layer to help integrate the image into the cover design (this way the title and other text can go underneath if required). It’s also quite handy to have cut-outs like this for use in promotional material and the like – you can easily grab the characters and stick them over other backgrounds (see last panel).

Other than wrapping up the Crooked Imp, this week I have putting up a shed to replace my previous one that came a cropper in the winter storms. What has this to do with the creative industry? Well, I was assisted in this endeavour by the excellent William Todd-Jones, who has worked on films such as Labyrinth, Harry Potter, Batman… (the impressive list goes on). Last year he went over to the States to assist Toby Froud in puppeteering his short film, Lessons Learned. On Saturday night we were treated to a private viewing of the film (featuring music by Lillian Todd-Jones). Fans of the Dark Crystal and Storyteller will love it.