Saturday, April 17, 2010

Colouring In

Not only have I been reading comics, I'm also being 'trained' to color inked pages. Dan bought me a nifty Bamboo tablet and I have been learning how to use Adobe Photoshop to colour.

I can only do flat colour at the moment. It will take ages for me to learn how to understand shading and light sources etc. I draw a bit (badly! If I can find them I'll publish the various pictures I've drawn over the last couple of years. They are hilarious) but like to dabble and, hopefully, will eventually understand more of the fundamentals. So, here is my first attempt. It's rubbish! The colours are garish and I have coloured it very lazily: there are lots of white spots, I've basically ruined Dan's sketch:

A few more goes later and I finally did something I was pleased with. It still just flats but it has a nice mood to it:

You can see that Dan does all the hard work really. It's really a case of choosing the right colour palette to compliment the style. This worked well for me when I coloured the next piece. A scene from an idea Dan had about a boxer called The Red Bolt. He's got loads of ideas for very cool comic strips, but too busy to develop anything properly right now. Bah!

Anyway, here is the coloured panel:

Again, you can see that Dan's inking does most of the work.

Mouse House

by David Petersen

Published by Archaia Studios Press

Before Dan I knew a little about comics and graphic novels. Since Dan, I can hold my own at a comic convention with any comic book guy or gal. My usual reading is 19th century fiction, and a bit of 20th century modernism. This diet is bolstered with a bit of teen and children's fiction and by the occasional dip into modern adult fiction. Iris Murdoch and Margaret Atwood are probably my favourites in this category.

And now I also read comic and graphic novels. I like Dan's Doctor Who stories, for example. Mortal Beloved and The Deep Hereafter are particular stand-outs. I can even boast I've contributed an idea or two during Dan's 18 month tenure writing the 10th Doctor's adventures.

I also love Jersey Gods. Glen Brunswick is a jolly good writer and a lovely guy too.

One comic series I've really liked over the last couple of years is David Peterson's Mouse Guard. I'm hardly alone in this: it's been a big hit for Peterson. He was at the New York Comicon last year in artist's alley and I'd taken my book all the way from Dundee to get it signed. I'm such an idiot though I didn't go over. I can be weirdly shy sometimes.

The gorgeous artwork is just one of the reasons to get seriously into the series. Dan introduced me to the book when it first came out. We were living in London and were pottering around Forbidden Planet in Shaftesbury Avenue. We saw Kim Newman there! He was browsing the shelves, looking very dapper as always in a waistcoat, pocket-watch ensemble. He's quite short.

Mouse Guard is published in lovely little paper-back editions, eight inch square, full colour, and feature the adventures of a brave, intelligent colony of mice. The stories focus mainly on three characters: Leiam, Saxon and Kenzie, who are mighty warriors facing deceit in the first issue, then winter famine and attack in the second.

There is a collected edition of the first story and it looks beautiful - autumnal gold being the main theme of the cover. The second issue has a winter theme and the little mice, their mediaeval houses and their forest habitat looks timeless and iconic against the white falling snow.

Dan also got me the little PVC figurines of the little guys and they are actually very well done. So well done, in fact, that I was inspired to...well, build one of the little houses from the one of the stories. It's still a work in progress as it's a pretty big project. A wiring and lighting job is next. Is this sad?

This is the house I built

which is meant to look a bit like this:

The inside is far from finished:

and is modelled on the map-maker's room from the first series:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Artist's Corner

Dan's art table and other drawing and writing necessities are a major part of our little flat. His corner of the room is a Dickensian muddle of all sorts of interesting things: sketches, brushes, India inks, French curves, pencils, books, toys...
I sit on a sofa just out of shot, when I'm home, and generally blether about my day at school. We thought about moving to a bigger place so that Dan could have a studio, but how could he get by without my excellent stories?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I think I may be a walking cliche. I'm an English teacher with a cat who loves Victorian literature, fabrics and paintings. Ah well. I stumbled upon a picture of a lovely vintage quilt when browsing the internet for reference pictures for a children's story I'm trying to write (another cliche) set during the period.

My effort uses similar colours, but is much less interesting. I wanted to keep it very simple, so that I would actually finish it and have something that can actually be used. It makes a very lovely throw on the back of our sofa by the window.

It's all hand sown (I don't own a sewing machine). The middle block is made from pieces of cotton squares which I bought as a job lot from Ebay. The border is a lovely fake silk which I bought from my local fabric shop. It's an olive colour and feels and looks exactly like raw silk. The backing is, again, a fake silk, this time in a deep red.

It didn't take long to do and has inspired me to be a bit more ambitious with the next project - a Mucha inspired quilt.


As well as kntting, I've also become a patchwork fiend. I put together a very untidy (and still unfinished) quilt three years ago, when we were selling our flat in Scotland to move to London for a bit.

It kept my mind busy when the roof suddenly started to leak and the rain never seemed to stop. Selling then moving all that way on a budget, to a flat we'd only heard about on the phone ...from my dad, of all people. Dad, who I love, is not the best person to ask about home comforts. A carpenter since he was a boy apprentice, he never quite mastered the art of home comforts in our house when I was growing up. Everything was half finished. I suppose that's why mum became the jack-of-all-trades. But, then again, this quilt is also half-finished and has been for three years, so who do I really take after...?

Dad's description of the flat in Kentish Town sounded okay. We arrived by train, excited and nervous, having finally sold the flat to a lovely young chap (roof repaired), while our few bits of furniture arrived via Shore Porters. We walked around the flat in the half light of a September evening. It seemed fine...until we realised there was no bedroom.

The tiny living room would double as our sleeping place. The flat we'd just sold had been enormous...Victorian and lofty...with seemingly hundreds of huge bay windows. I sat down in our tiny new flat and wept. Of course it all looked fine in the morning and we set about our London adventure.

The quilt is made up of patches of embroidered cotton. I chose quotations from Shakespeare (typical English teacher) which I could illustrate with simple embroidered pictures. Dan helped me with the illustrations. I really like it. I have no idea why I haven't finished it. Perhaps I am worried the finished piece won't look as good as it does in my head - nothing ever does!

The flowery bits are cut up old shirts which I'd worn to death but couldn't bear to throw away. It's backed with a piece of French red toile fabric which I'd originally bought to make curtains with, then couldn't be bothered.The quilt is edged with a lovely silky cranberry red ribbon.

The quilt is being modeled by our cat, Cosmo, who loves to sleep on my quilts. Sweet prince!

A red red rose

Next project: a lovely corsage to put on to my new spring jacket - a purple cord mac. This was finished in no time at all and I got the excellent pattern from

Easter Bunny

My first project - finished in a matter of less than a week. Yes, I am gloating. It doesn't look as good as it did in the picture in the magazine (Debbie Bliss, Spring/Summer 2009), or as good as it did in my head, but it's not too bad.

The back of the jumper is a bit wrong, but it's not noticeable, thanks to the slubby tweed wool used.
He's called Colin.

Knitting! A New Obsession

My mum patiently taught me to knit when I was little. She's a jack-of-all-trades, my mum: she can turn her hands to just about anything. She used to make little outfits for my Sindy doll. It's long gone now of course (and I couldn't find the exact one on the Internet) but I particularly remember an outfit she knitted for Sindy which was a lemon pleated skirt, matching jacket and a handbag. I loved the lemon colour and the perfect lines of the finely stitched little pleats. Sindy looked really good in that outfit!

I haven't knitted in years, however. I've always preferred embroidery. I started in February again, I think as a way of relaxing during what is always a stressful school period (I'm a teacher). I bought some nice colourful needles, found a pattern and got started. Only two months later and I have a dedicated knitting box and a long list of lovely projects...