Wednesday, 28 November 2012


I did my Laser training at #BuildBrighton last night and now know how not to set things on fire, or break the expensive laser cutter.
I had a little play with the scarily name "Retina Engrave" app, and burnt a pirate robot onto some plywood... very slowly.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Skaar son of hulk

Twenty minute break from other work to have a bash at this weeks ten ton sketch challenge... Skaar son of hulk, who seems to be much like a kind of hipster hulk with tribal tats and silky long hair.

Friday, 2 November 2012


Dropped in on #buildbrighton last night and was distracted by lasers. I have far too much on already, but my mind is whizzing around things I could laser, taking care of course not to be on fire...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

#24HCD 2012 in the ibook store

The Last Dragon, my 24HCD effort is now in the iTunes Store for free.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Authoring in new iBooks

I thought I'd give the new iBooks Author a try on the stack of #24HCD pages.
The interface is much the same, some useful  new templates, and a little more helpful, right up to the point where the publication is submitted... then it's back to the old fun and games I had using the previous version.
I find it strange that even though it insists on an ISO date format, the field to enter the date has no normalisation, it just throws a paddy later down the line.
I guess I should READ the manual... then I wouldn't be surprised that the minimum image size is 1024*768...
ho well..

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

How to draw...

Looking at the stats for this site it seems like a fair few of you arrive wanting to know "How to draw..." "pirate hats"... "A dog made of pencils"... "dinosaurs"... etc
I wondered whether it's worth putting a couple of tutorials up? maybe You tube sketches, or progressive drawings like the Upstairs neighbours series?
Please drop me a line and let me know what you think?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Fin Fang Foom

hmmm what started as a nice turnaround of the Hulk rips wolverine in half story, hasn't worked so well with the red background.
No matter.
welcome to Fin Fang Foom

More dragons ( in pants )

This weeks ten ton sketch challenge is bizarre giant dragon in pants... Fin Fang Foom... No really, look it up..

Sunday, 21 October 2012

#24HCD 2012 - JOB DONE!

Completed 24 pages in 24 hours,
packed up using pages and exported as a .pdf.
I finished and put it on a shared drive at 9.32am... 2 minutes over the timeline I set, but as I started by walking over to my shed, I didn't really lift a pen till around 9.40, so I count this as a success.

Here's the comic..

Hope you enjoy it.

#24HCD 2012 Final straight - hour 20

I had a few hours sleep, because I'm an old man. I have 3 1/2 hours left to do... it looks like 6 pages.
My office work space has become more and more cramped, covered in eraser rubbings, pens, post-its, sketches and inked pages.
also, very important... coffee.

#24HCD 2012 hour 16 -rest time

16 hours in, and I'm too tired to carry on. I need a short nap till 6am, and will finish the remaining 6 pages then.
I'm reasonably pleased with how it's turned out.
Will have another look in the morning.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

#24HCD 2012 hour 9 flagging

Looks like I wrote too much story, and I'm having to trim back. Which I guess is a good thing, I can add the extra back in if there's time later. I'm still really in the preamble even though I'm up to page 10.

#24HCD 2012 hour 4

I've got some backgrounds done, and I've even inked up and scanned in a couple of pages. I've had some lunch, and have a bottle of Crabbies Ginger Beer to start the afternoon with a swing. The problem with the micron pen seems to have been a one off, so hoping to crack on now.

#24HCD 2012 bah! Microns

Just as I was beginning to think these Micron pens were the best thing ever, the nib started to fray... and then WORSE, erasing the pencil lines behind the ink lifted the ink, snagged the paper... glad I found out now, rather than later.

Actually now I've scanned the pic, it gives it an "aged" look... might be a effect rather than a failure.

#24HCD 2012 post 2 - the story

2 hours in my lovely shed and my bum is numb from the hard wood seat. Back to my basement office, and hoorrah for the storage heater which is making the room bearable. I have the story outline plotted in Byword, and am pleased with the overall direction. I've done a few internet searches and grabbed some reference images, and am now set to start doing a bit of sketching. I'll work on a couple of backgrounds first, and get them scanned so I'm ready to build the frames in photoshop... although I remembered the Comic-Book app I have on my iPad, which works very well for putting pages together...
It may be a really stupid idea to even consider switching to an app I haven't used too much, but it may well save a lot of time. It can export pages as .pdf and .jpeg and the speech bubble aspect is far simpler than the way I usually add text in Photoshop...
Time will tell.

22 Hours to go.

#24HCD 2012 first post planning

Ok so 9.30 start rather than 9am... And I'm over to my allotment shed for some fresh air, and coffee to plot the story arc. I've decided to do a story about the characters as I know how they look and behave. I think I'm going for an interlude type story set between wychwolf1 and wychwolf2. I'm also thinking it may be linked to the BrightAngel origins.
So open Byword, and start making the clackety noise.
More later

Friday, 19 October 2012

#24HCD The Final Countdown - arrrgghh!

Tired, and with a sore throat, the thought of spending 24 Hours drawing comics is looking less appealing. My basement office is freezing - I've spent the last few months working in the kitchen, so I've been warmer. My saving grace is a heated pad- I think they are designed to keep old ladies at room temperature, if I could have one for my feet too then I'd probably be sorted. Anyway. I have made my excuses, to no avail. I'll try and blog progress tomorrow from 9am, and tweet on @strangebiros


#24HCD 2012 Countdown to 24 Hour Comics Day - 1 day to go

Just one day to go till 24HCD. I've been looking at Hellboy short stories, which have the benefit of minimal dialogue, maximum action.... buuut I'm not sure I could do something like that for a whole 24 pages.
I guess I could string 3 or 4 around a central theme, but maybe not.
I also have an idea rattling about for what I planned to be a series of short - single page stories for "the Phoenix" comic - Alan Turing -Maths detective. Where Alan Turing is involved in iconic Scooby-doo plots, using maths to solve the problems.
Realistically I should probably stick with the Wychwolf characters as I've been drawing them for a couple of years.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

#24HCD 2012 Countdown to 24 Hour Comics Day - 2 days to go

In the past I've mentioned the "stuff" I use for drawing, but wasn't sure whether it's of interest to anyone, then I stumbled on a whole podcast about pens - 70 Decibels network "the pen addict" ... so I figure it's probably ok.
For years I used a trusty set of Rotring Isograph pens, for pretty much everything, but I used to have trouble when I had tight timelines on illustration jobs, as unless you let the ink dry really well it'll bleed when colouring.
So I switched to using Staedtler pigment liners, which are really stable, don't bleed, and are reasonably quick. The downside is I go through them at a fair rate, and there is a long period when there's too much life in them to throw them out, but not enough to do the job properly.

For this years 24HCD I'm going to try some pens I've been after for a fair while - COPIC liners, and Micron pigment liners.
They both produce good stable lines, and don't bleed.
I have a pack of Staedtler pigment liners as a back up in case I can't get on with them, but first impressions are very favourable.
I'm not sure whether I should fill blacks with DELETER ink and brush, COPIC markers, or in Photoshop.
Likewise with lettering, I'm happy to hand letter, but it may be faster to pick that up in Photoshop.
Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Countdown to 24 Hour Comics day

24 Hour Comics day starts for me at around 9am on Saturday the 20th October
Last year I succeeded in the challenge to write, draw and publish a 24 page comic in 24 Hours.

24-Hour Comics Day is now in its 22nd year? originally a challenge from Scott McCloud to Steve Bissett, it's now an international event, with comic shops, libraries and schools opening up to support challengers.  It sounds easy, 24 hours to draw a comic, but that 24 hours includes everything, creating the story, pencilling, inking, lettering, colouring layout and printing (or posting to the web), everything.

The 24 hours are continuous, you can rest but the clock doesn't stop.

 The first year I tried I failed dismally and stopped (the "Gaimen variation"), but last year was far better,  I bought in paper, biscuits, coffee, and pens, and cracked on.

This year I'm hoping to do a story related to the Wychwolf webcomic I draw. 

Obviously it isn't in the spirit of the challenge to do any planning before the event, except for the logistics of getting a wad of paper and pens together... Paper is ready, hoping to pick up some pens on a London trip on Wednesday.
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Crafty Loving

At a loose end this evening so I did another sketch for the ten ton sketch challenge...
Pentel P200 0.5mm pencil on Daler sketchpad..

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mighty Cthulhu

I think the latest version of Mountain Lion is playing games with my scanner. It takes some "rubber chicken" magic to get it working, plug, unplug, press copy button etc.
I must spend a bit of time to work out what the problem is or I'm sure it'll bite me on the bum at a time of urgency.
Annnnnnyway. Here's the scan of the ten ton sketch challenge entry.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The call

This week the 10 ton sketch challenge is lovecraftian monsters... Couldn't let an opportunity to draw Cthulhu pass me by. So pens and water colour inks, ill scan it when it's dry.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Brighton Mini Maker Faire

So tempted to start so many other projects...
So hard to stop myself...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Dredd full

Ten ton sketch challenge this week is Judge Dredd, with whom I grew up back in the 1970's.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

quick draw

On a recent "comics are great " podcast Ryan Estrada talked about a pen he'd been using that allowed him to speed up his work. I bought a couple: Pentel Stylo refill MLJ20. There are quite fast, but I'm not sure I like the feel of the fibrous nib... it seems a little fragile, and at the wrong angle it "sprays" Anyway I did a quick sketch for this weeks 10 ton challenge, and have to agree it's quick...
UPDATE- weird as it may seem this one was a 10Ton Sketch Challenge winner. Guess I must have captured something of the shock the little fella would feel as 1 pile of innards plopped on his head...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Followers of the

My friend and colleague David Kernohan asked me to scribble a header for his long running blog Followers of the ... which is obviously a bit of a gift in terms of illustration, as the amount of imagery surrounding the apocalypse is vast. I immediately scribbled something on a post it note...

I spent a bit of time trying to do something fancy based on a Durer etching, and then went back to this sketch... often the first thing I draw has so much more life and energy.

I inked it up in Photoshop, added a spot of colour and some text and reasonably pleased with the end result.

I think  I've made the image a little longer to prevent the repeat on the site...  

comics competition (in UK)

Useful post on the #24HCD blog: about a competition being run by print express. Send them a .pdf of your comic and if you win, they'll buzz you some copies printed all nice and shiny. I will have a bash at creating a pretty cover for the old 2011 #24HCD A-Z and submit that. Deadline is 6th September.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

ARE(s) coluring

that is a spectacularly bad pun for a title.
Anyway, added a smear of blood for the challenge entry

Monday, 25 June 2012

10 Tons of Greek Myth

This weeks ten ton sketch challenge is Greek Mythology.
I had a quick go at ARES, and a less convincing Medusa.
Ares looks a little stumpy in this pic, but I like the overall look...

I'm going to add a splash of blood, and will then play about colouring in Photoshop.... although the entry for ten ton has to be hand drawn...
"Sketches can be pencil, ink, black & white, or color.You CANNOT use your computer to render, color or enhance your drawing --the posted version that people vote on has to be exactly what you can physically send to the winner if he/she wants your piece as a prize.NO copying or tracing.  Your image has to be original. NO SWIPING! NO OLD ARTWORK, your entry has to be a new piece of art specifically for the Sketch Challenge."

Saturday, 23 June 2012

and now.....the Gallery

Back in the days of "Vision on" Tony Hart would let us take a look at the gallery of submissions from viewers...
I never submitted anything, as they always said they could not return any of the pictures, and I knew then, that was just plain wrong...
Anyway, I've started to collect stuff that I've done in a Gallery over on

take a look

Friday, 22 June 2012

me and you

I like the me and you pics that Dan and Merlin share...
I changed the wolverine sketch to join in...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Back to my mac

I've had a useful, if not entirely entertaining back and forth with the version of 24HCD A-Z (the thing I did for last year's 24 Hr comic day) in the iTunes iBook store.
Chiefly the issues concern the layout of iBooks, which change radically from Landscape to Portrait mode... niot much of a problem in a regular book, but very significant for a picture book. The solution is to lock the book in Landscape mode, with a setting in iBooks Author Inspector, but for some reason the setting wasn't sticking:

In some ways it's good to have had these issues with the free book, with it's simple layout rather than running into issues when I eventually get round to publishing Ninja Dinaosaurs vs Pirate Robots.
The feedback from the iTunes Connect service has been helpful, and suggests fixes,  and then dug deep into the problem when the suggested fixes didn't work.
This stands in contrast somewhat from the stories from app developers, but I appreciate the testing processes are going to be different, and there are more unknowns....

Anyway, the iBooks version of 24 HCD is back in the iTunes store: 

When I get a little time I'll write a post on the submission process.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Adam is home from Uni, so I thought I'd check out how the ibooks stuff looks on an iPad3 (which he has) compared to my lowly iPad2. can you tell which is which?

Dom - Flash Ninja

My son Dom is a Flash Ninja, he'd been complaining about the creaky old version of Flash MX 2044 not working, so I sprung for a student copy of Flash CS6 pro++ gold star, or whatever ridiculous title it has.
Installed it at lunchtime, and Dom has managed to animate the ninja dinosaur quite nicely...
obviously it's flash, created on a PC etc... so I can't look at it on my iPad etc, but I think the lad is showing some promise...

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Isograph clean up

20 years ago when I was a proper illustrator, I used to work chiefly with Rotring Isograph pens. These days I'm a bit more relaxed, and use a lot of pigment liners, because the ink dries so much more quickly, and I don't end up with ink stained fingers. However, the bolder lines with the fibre tip pens aren't as pleasing, so I used my trusty old 0.5mm isograph for the outlining of the pirate robots I've been drawing. 0.5mm isn't really thick enough, so I have had a rifle through my drawer this morning, and found the components of half a dozen old isographs, including a 1.0mm nib.
There's something comforting about disassembling an isograph pen, cleaning the bits and putting it back together... maybe it's because it was a displacement activity from olden days, maybe because it's good to see the pens have lasted 20 years. Whatever, I'll soon have a chunky line isograph up and ready... trouble is I seem to remember it never worked very well, which is why I put it aside all those years ago.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Tumult Hype iBooks Widgets - preview

Hype is very simple to use, and the export function, and import into ibooks is a doodle. It takes a bit of tinkering to see what is going to go where, and I need to think a little about how the design will change the way I write the book, but basically there aren't any massive issues.
I do need to remember to include a back button on the widget, as it doesn't seem to reset once the action has happened, if it's launched again.
I also need to remove the "built with hype' link as that opens a browser window.

Tumult Hype iBooks widgets

I want each of the pages in my iBook to have a bit of interaction, and it seems a good way to do this is to use widgets. I found a useful "how to" on YouTube, and started following it, only to find that Hype now has a direct export to iBooks widget function. It is useful to view the video to see what constitutes a widget however... not much :)

iBooks Authoring with Ninja Dinosaurs

I've been colouring some of the images I sketched for the iBooks Authoring effort...I'm still not sure what sort of optimisation I need for the book, the screen of an iPad 3 is 2048x1536 pixels... at around 300dpi.. The advice on the apple support pages is to use JPGs, and keep the whole book below 2Gb...Aside from that it seems pretty open to interpretation. So I'm working at around 2048x1536 at 300dpi, RGB colour, and saving at 10 in jpg. This is giving an image size of about 400kb, so for 30 pages of straight book we are looking at 12 Mb... probably double that when I add widgets, which is a sort of ok size I reckon.
I'll have a look at what Sort of size other books come in at, it may be I can save with no compression, or as PNGs?
iBooks Author isn't really set up for building picture books... it wants to have Chapters and sections and table of contents. It seems the way folk have found to get round these issues is a bit of a bodge... but I'm happy to go with that.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

#24HCD registrations open

After last years successful effort:24HCD A-Z, I aim to try something a little more adventurous for #24HCD this year.
Obviously it is against the spirit of the event to plan too much in advance, but I've been working on a number of spin off characters from the wychwolf universe... and am hoping that by the time #24HCD rolls round on October 20th I'll be confident drawing them.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sketching a Seadog

I thought I'd test the video on my iPod Touch to see what sort of quality it produces...
This is me sketching Captain Whelk...

iBooks Authoring - Robot Pirates

Up at 6.30 to walk the dog means I've had a good start at sketching the characters in for my iBook.
I've got a number of sketches of the main Ninja Dinosaur, so I spent a short time sketching out the Robot Pirates.
3 nasty seadogs:
Buttery Jack, Captain Whelk and Salty Pete.

Friday, 1 June 2012

iBooks authoring

I have four days off, four days of typical bank holiday rain and cold. Perfect weather for working on an iBook.
I aim to produce a 28 page children's story about the battle between ninja dinosaurs and pirate robots. I have plotted the story out, and have a copy of tumult hype which allows me to add some rather nice interactions.
I don't expect to finish in just four days, but will be pleased if I can get some of the pages inked up and the interactions and animations tested.

Thursday, 31 May 2012


Just back from a couple of days of nerding out...
Dev8ed ran at Aston Business school, and saw about 90 developers and learning technologists join up and talk about and work on projects. I was presenting my coursedata stuff, and we had talks from Moodle developers, LTI developers, HTML 5 stuff... all fascinating.
... and I did the logo:

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sketchbook ink brushes

There are a number of different brushes in ink, and they are all as unpredictable as each other. They remind me of the brushes in Manga Studio, but without the precision.
Anyway this is the sort of style they exhibit. I got quite excited at the Steadmanesque look of a couple of them, but there simply isn't enough control.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sketchbook ink

Autocad who make the sketchbook pro app, have launched a new app today. I'm not quite sure where it fits in the line up. In theory because it seems to use some vector like formula, and can export at really high resolution it should be the sort of thing that is useful for preparing sketches for print. In fact the export to Dropbox option means it could usefully form part of a reasonably sensible workflow, but... To my mind It's not fully baked.
Too many random artefacts caused by the active brushes, these manifest as diagonal lines.. Sometimes these can be undone, sometimes they append themselves to strokes way back in the undo stack, and the undo is slow. Maybe on a iPad 3 you'll be ok , but stuff takes a while on my ipad2.
The killer for me is the lack of fill... You can do some sort of job using the brush but not great. Zooming in and out takes time and renders lines strangely when compared to their final output.
At £1.49... It's probably worth it for simple sketches, but it's not quite ready for anything serious.

Monday, 21 May 2012


I had another go at the 10 tone sketch challenge entry tonight, determined to take the opportunity to draw giant killer nazi robots... I ended up with a rather small nazi robot.. will try harder next time...