Under Construction

I've flossed my teeth and colour-coded my sock drawer, so it must be time to overhaul and update the website. Expect some limitations and dead links while that's underway. It could get messy.

but he was safe!

Thanks for your patience!

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This is serious!

Good chance you're familiar with this landmark work of Australian cartooning:

"For gorsake, stop laughing! This is serious!"

"For gorsake, stop laughing! This is serious!"

Drawn by Stan Cross in 1933 and deemed "Australia's Funniest Cartoon", a sculpture version called a "Stanley" is the trophy awarded every year to the nation's best cartoonists. I was asked by Darren Kozial of DarkOz publications if I'd be interested in doing a version of it with "some 'sci-fi' elements added" for the back cover of Retro Sci-Fi Tales #3. Why not? I've played with one-point perspective in a retro-futuristic city before…

 

From "Dan Panic Funnies #1" 1987 (self-published looong before I came to Australia)

From "Dan Panic Funnies #1" 1987 (self-published looong before I came to Australia)

The start was the obvious place to start, and I did a rough sketch right over a print-out of Mr. Cross's original work.

2B pencil, approx 150mm x 200mm

2B pencil, approx 150mm x 200mm

Using the original as a template reminded me just how strong the drawing chops were of the average cartoonist/illustrator back in the day. Mr. Cross probably whipped out the drawing in a couple hours, but his obvious training and study of anatomy and the human form are evident.

There were things you wouldn't dare change. Stan's composition is perfect, the body language masterful, and the expressions hit exactly the right note. Thank you sir, you've already done the hard work.

A couple things seemed easy and obvious to change; adding those futuristic buildings and flying cars that Darren wanted, and making the second character female. Gender balance and greater embarrassment and humiliation for the other character - win/win!

But that building they were hanging off just didn't want to become futuristic without completely altering its style and making it unrecognizable. I wasn't satisfied, but plowed onto the pencils hoping it would either stop bugging me (never happens) or a solution would emerge (only happens when I'm very, very lucky).

I got lucky. Half-way through the pencils I decided to leave the building in it's original design, only in the process of demolition, not construction.

HB pencil on 2ply bristol board, approx. 300mm x 420mm

HB pencil on 2ply bristol board, approx. 300mm x 420mm

My two are here to wreck the building Stan's guys put up in 1933. Funny how the same thing goes wrong centuries later.

Moving on to inks, I reached for a crow quill pen, rather than the brush which is always my first inclination. I studied the originally closely while I worked, not so much to mimic Stan's style, but see what I could take away from his assured and skillful penmanship, hoping that there would be some kind of dialogue established between the two drawings.

In my enthusiasm, forgot to draw the falling hat. It's there on the bottom of the page, waiting to be cut and pasted in the composition.

In my enthusiasm, forgot to draw the falling hat. It's there on the bottom of the page, waiting to be cut and pasted in the composition.

The original was only ever black and white, and mercifully no clown has ever gone and coloured it, so this clown had to rely on his own nous to colour his. Started by giving them fluro garb, which led to the tested and true "cool background - warm foreground" scheme. Warming up the shadows and adding a green tint to the sky gave it a dank, polluted look over the clean "Jetsons" style buildings. Adding a glowing emboss on a copy of the line layer in Photoshop saved me the trouble of adding form shadows.

Made a publisher happy and I am not haunted by the ghost of Stan Cross, but rather felt something of a kinship with the great cartoonist during the pleasurable time spent on this. Of course I'm hardly the first cartoonist to riff off this work, and doubt I'll be the last.

(Retro Sci-Fi Tales #3 is available in comic shops throughout Adelaide, at just about every convention in the country (and this year's San Diego Con!) and direct from the publisher. )

Back to School!

The start of December means the end of the school year in Australia, so you only have a couple of weeks left to make sure your library has a subscription for next year's The Schools Magazine, because CAPTAIN CONGO IS BACK!

 

Ruth and I are thrilled to be returning with an all new Captain Congo adventure for 2015. 'The Mystery of Mau' will feature all your favourite characters, plus some new ones that perhaps the Captain and Pug would prefer not to meet. See you there!

A good week for 'An Anzac Tale'

'An Anzac Tale' received accolades from two different directions the other week. On Tuesday April 8, the Children's Book Council of Australia listed it as a Notable Book of 2014 in an unprecedented THREE categories; Picture Book, Information Book, and Books for Younger Readers. Three days later, the book was awarded a Bronze Ledger for excellence in Australian Comics.

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The Ledgers have been revived after a five year hiatus and the recent awards ceremony in Melbourne gave out gongs to work published in the interim years. I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear the news 'In For The Krill' #1 was given a Gold Ledger for 2008.

A Gold Ledger hits us right out of left field.

A Gold Ledger hits us right out of left field.

Bruce Mutard's seminal 'The Sacrifice' was also given a Gold for that same year. It's a humbling honour to share podium space with such an important and powerful graphic novel. If you haven't read it yet, get it here.

Then, and only then, go read IFTK #1 while you wait for the post to arrive.

Premier's Reading Challenge Poster

The rest of that goggled bird in one of the shards of my facebook cover photo can now be fully revealed. This Friday it was unveiled by South Australian premier Jay Weatherall as the poster chosen by primary students for the 2014 Premier's Reading Challenge. Yay!

The image "in the raw", without the banners and logos that will be incorporated into the final poster.

The image "in the raw", without the banners and logos that will be incorporated into the final poster.

Thanks to all the students who voted and congrats to Jack Bagshaw whose work was selected for the secondary school poster.

The Captain Returns!

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Ruth and I are very excited to announce a new Captain Congo adventure for 2014! 

"The Perils of Pug" will be the next feature comic serial in The School Magazine.  10 chapters of 2 pages will be published in every issue next year.

This is fantastic news for CC readers that have been thirsting for more since "Captain Congo and The Klondike Gold" in 2011 and great news for an illustrator happy to be drawing his favourite characters again. Good times ahead at the drawing board!

Visit The School Magazine to learn more about this great publication and how to get your school to subscribe if it doesn't already! (Individual subscriptions also available.)


 

SA Writers and Readers Festival Workshop

As part of the SA Writers' and Readers' Festival I'll be conducting a FREE (!!!) workshop talking and making comics (or graphic novels, if you insist). This is not meant to be a drawing lesson, so don't be put off if making pictures is not your strong suit, rather the emphasis will be on effective storytelling, regardless of the sort of stories you wish to tell. Might be safe to assume narratives with a Halloween theme will be popular.

When: 6pm, Thursday, 31 October (costumes optional)

Where: The Hub Library, Aberfoyle Park

More info:
http://www.onkaparingacity.com/events/2013/10/31/the_art_of_the_graphic_novel_with_greg_holfeld.jsp

 

Era Publications

Readers of Adelaide's Sunday Mail newspaper this morning would have found a feature article on local children's book publisher Era Publications. The rest of you can see an online version here. 

It's disappointing to read of Rod and Sandra's current frustrations and just about anyone, anywhere working in publishing will relate to many of these problems.  

I owe much of my career in children's book illustration to Era. They were one of the first publishers to provide me with a manuscript and my dealings with this family run company have always been fair, transparent, and straight-forward. I'm proud of the substantial body of work we've created over the past 15+ years, and it was a real buzz to find my nieces, nephews, and sons bringing so many of these books home from school as they learned to read. I have to confess that the "Era" page of this website has remained "Under Construction" for so long because the volume of material makes for a daunting job!

On this cold winter weekend I'm still daunted by that job, but here's an image from one of our first books, "Here Comes the Sun", part of the "Tricky Truck Track" series written by the effervescent Amanda Graham. So many to choose from, and this one matches the weather!

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I urge you to check out more of the great books and other goodies on their site.  

www.erapublications.com

Comics Piece by piece

Several weeks ago I received an invitation from the IllustrateYourLIFE group to participate in "PIECES"; an ongoing, improvisational online comic book where each panel is done by a different creator, picking up from where the previous one left off. Or to put it more succinctly, an international comic jam. Talk about getting invited to a cool party!

Here's a slice of my panel, but I won't show you all of it. You'll have to go read the whole story, which has already moved along one panel since my contribution. It makes for an exhilarating read, like taking a taxi that suddenly goes off-road and has a new driver every 30 seconds.

Go see it here, but please be aware that some of the story's material may not be suitable for young school kiddies.

Drawn to drink

Several years back (or a few vintages back to use vintner's parlance) , First Drop Wines dragged me kicking and screaming into the worst proposition of my career: draw comics about wine. Every year since, Matt Gant and John Retsas have promoted their fine product through the four-colour pulp  medium in "The Adventures of First Drop", utilizing one-page scripts often parodying films and television.

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Those comics found their way onto their labels and a handsome bottled library is building up on my shelf, with the 2013 label on my desk this week.

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   Available in red and white the world over. Always read responsibly.

Big Illustration

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Earlier in the year I was contacted by the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport, and Infrastructure to provide illustration for "the big build", a campaign highlighting the various public projects going on in and around Adelaide. (www.thebigbuild.sa.gov.au) What started as an illustration for web and print soon became an illustration for web, print, and tram,  meaning I had to allow for my image to work at a scale variation of 15000% ( That's going from screen display of around 20cm to the 30m length of a tram. Feel free to correct my math.)

Not to mention having to rearrange everything to fit around all those doors and windows.  

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Even though the tram version of the illustration was the most challenging, that's the one I'm the happiest with. Maybe it's the terrifying thrill of seeing it so darn big, or maybe because when actually applied to a piece of infrastructure it most successfully achieves what I believed was the client's intent: depict what is basically a story of concrete and cranes in a lively and human manner. 

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I just take issue with that "one of the world's great small cities" line. Pfft. Adelaide is one of the world's great cities, full stop.  

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