Saturday, 31 August 2013

My Top Jim Carrey Performances

Last week I went to see Kick-Ass 2, a little bit because I'd seen the first Kick-Ass but a whole lot more because one of my favourite actors ever, Jim Carrey, was in it. I've been thinking about the many roles he's portrayed over the years for a while now (since catching The Number 23 the other month) and it's roles like Fingerling in The Number 23 that reminded me how he's so much more than just a rubber-faced comedian. I would be amazingly honoured if he ever chose to portray any of my characters. So here is my list of my favourite Jim Carrey roles in chronological order:

Riddler / Edward Nygma - Batman Forever (1995)

I'll be the first to admit that Batman Forever has as many bad moments as it does good. It's horribly camp, completely deviates from any cannon and basically deserved better but once you accept these facts it becomes kind of fun too. Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones steal the show as Riddler and Two-Face and I would love to see (in some magical alternative universe) them reprise their roles with a stronger script (hello Paul Dini I'm channelling you) and a more serious approach to the directing. Being a Riddler fangirl I love that Jim references my second favourite Riddler, the almighty Frank Gorshin, as an inspiration and love him even more for inspiring the vocal delivery of possibly the best Riddler that will ever exist, Wally Wingert's Arkham video game series Riddler.

Chip Douglas - The Cable Guy (1996)
The Cable Guy is classic rubber-face Jim Carrey but look beyond the ballsy, over-the-top 1990s comedy and the character of Chip Douglas is actually very tragic. In the middle of the film he sings Jefferson Airplane's 'Somebody to Love' and it couldn't be more relevant as he literally has never had anyone actually love him for himself. His parents were deadbeats so he was brought up by the TV and with no real concept of social interaction all his adult 'friends' are people he services cable TV for. Whenever he meets someone he considers friend potential he completely latches onto them and when they try to break away he systematically destroys all their other relationships. On the surface Chip may seem the stereotypical funny idiot character but he is also sadly sympathetic and actually quite terrifying, especially if you've been in a relationship with someone like him!

Truman Burbank - The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman Show is a glimpse at the more serious roles Jim Carrey would later take on and is genuinely not just an amazing film but a social commentary which is just as relevant today as it was back in 1998. It is about Truman Burbank who, from the day he was born, was a TV star in a TV show he believes to be reality. Slowly he realises things are not what they seem and he must come to terms with not only the fact that his whole life has been a lie but that there is a whole world out there just waiting for him. This is the kind of role Jim Carrey is perfect for. His ability to fill characters with humanity is amazing: Truman is endearing from the start - you want him to break free and find his freedom - and not only does Jim act with a subtler, gentler humour than in his previous films but with a complete understanding of the complex emotions Truman must be going through.

Joel Barish - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Jim gets all mumbly in this indie sci-fi romance about enduring love (or at least obsession). It is his most love/hate role depending on if you can bare the mumbling and if you mind your Jim Carrey coming with a side order of serious acting. Once again Jim applies a perfect assessment of the human condition into producing an endearing performance for a character who, despite all better judgement, you root for to win the girl despite knowing full well that she has and probably will again bring him as much pain as she does happiness. People often scoff at the idea of Jim Carrey being a serious actor but it's roles like Joel that show just how complex and talented he is as a performer and also how complex and empathetic he is as a person.

Fingerling - The Number 23 (2007)
Oooh look at me being all controversial! But in all honesty Fingerling is amazingly hot and edgy and troubled and perfect for good girls who lust after bad boys to fantasise about. Even though The Number 23 is a little uneven (and Jim's other character, Walter Sparrow, is less charming) the scenes featuring Jim Carrey as Fingerling are wonderful homages to film noir - I could quite easily watch a whole film shot in the style of the Fingerling sections featuring the exploits of Jim Carrey as the hard boiled, broody detective. Jim Carrey as the loveable good guy is so established in our psyche that Fingerling is the kind of role you have to experience to believe. No amount of 'I saw him do serious in Eternal Sunshine' will prepare you for his performance in The Number 23. It's like visiting that alternate universe I mentioned earlier. Even if you find you don't like the film I whole heartedly recommend giving The Number 23 a watch so as to see Jim's delivery for Fingerling as well as his amazing tattoo. Fabrizia is one lucky femme fatale!

Colonel Stars and Stripes - Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Though since appearing in Kick-Ass 2 Jim's views on violence in movies has changed I don't think he should feel bad about his portrayal of probably the most endearing and kind-hearted character in the whole film. The mafia heavy turned born again Christian and superhero is an inspiration to all the other superheroes in Kick-Ass 2 including Kick-Ass himself. He doesn't believe in guns, he doesn't believe in swearing, he doesn't believe that a woman is asking to be raped just because she chooses to walk home at night alone and he has an amazing love for his job. In a film full of over the top violence he is a beacon of (yes I'm going to say it again) humanity and I think due to this his fate speaks volumes about the futility of violence as a means or an answer. If I got in a sticky spot I'd want Colonel Stars and Stripes saving me!

I hope you enjoyed my list, I hope one day one of my films will be on the list, and finally the big question...what is your favourite Jim Carrey role?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Friday Feature - Margret Helgadottir

This Friday is another guest post by an author, this time Margret Helgadottir. It is about writing her character Iselin from her short story Shadow, self-harm and The Moomins and is part of the Impossible Spaces Blog Tour (if you click on the button you can read all the other posts in the tour - I shall be contributing two guest posts very soon too, though I'll tell you more about those as they happen).

Margret is an Icelandic-Norwegian writer who has travelled all over the world and has just started to write fiction in English. She mainly writes speculative fiction and is very much inspired by Nordic culture, climate and folklore. Shadow is about a young woman called Islelin who thanks to both nature and nurture has always felt isolated and different.When she meets freedom fighter of sorts, Berge, she is flung into an alternate, desolate world where lizard creatures, not humans, are the apex predators but could it be that in this hopeless future is where her salvation lies?

Margret with her copy of Impossible Spaces, one of the many publications she has stories printed in.

"I’ve had the image of Iselin in my head for a long time. Iselin is an old Norwegian female name that means dream or vision. Originally I wanted it to be more a chaotic and confusing horror story that travelled through visions and dimensions, with Iselin as the key factor. Then, as I started to write, a different narrative wanted to be told. This often happens in my writing. I’ve started to spend less time on the planning of my stories, because they often seem to have a life on their own. You asked me to take pictures of my notes. For this story I only had five small sentences, in Norwegian, and the only thing that I used was that Iselin entered an elevator on her way home late one night.
I’ve had the image of a scarred young woman who hides from the world, too scared to pop her head up, for a long time, and I’ve also played with ideas of how an outsider would react if suddenly almost all the people were gone and the person had no society to avoid. Would this encourage the person to take up more space in the world, and no longer fear being visible? You know, like plants do when you give them a larger pot and more earth. Their roots will stretch and they will grow larger and blossom. But if they’re forced to stay in the same tiny pot forever, they will remain the same size until they die, and maybe never blossom fully.
In hindsight, I see that the story about Iselin is a sad story about self-preservation. Iselin is a young woman scarred mentally and physically by her childhood. She’s been raised to not be a burden to her parents and has always managed on her own. As an adult, she’s been sucked into a vicious spiral: she shuns contact with people and they in return avoid her, leading to her feeling even more isolated and misunderstood so that she redoubles her efforts to stay away from people, and so on. Getting stuck in such a self-reinforcing spiral is much easier than people think.

Street art by C215 in Oslo that inspired Margret.
Iselin learned to keep all her emotions on the inside early on, so she wouldn’t provoke or disturb her parents. This has stuck with her. The emotions are locked up inside her and someone seems to have thrown the key far away. She suffers, but she doesn’t know how to deal with it. She tries to ease her pain with substitutes, like many people do when life gets unbearable or they want to escape their heavy thoughts. However, she does not resort to starving herself, drinking large quantities of alcohol, losing herself in drug-induced highs, or throwing herself from cliffs. No, Iselin works until she drops, and when that doesn’t help, she cuts herself with razor blades. Numb and exhausted, she drags herself from day to day, hoping no one will notice her, yet secretly longing to be seen.
The world sees only a stone face. Iselin has not only become a shadow of herself, she’s also a shadow in the world. She is like the shy, scared little girl in Finnish author Tove Jansson’s story The Invisible Child, from her book Tales from Moominvalley (1962). Because an adult made sarcastic comments about her, this girl became totally invisible. Under the kind care of the Moomin family, she became secure enough to act spontaneously on her emotions and this led to her gradually becoming visible again. The story about Iselin spins around the same ideas of invisibility. The guerrilla soldier Berge is Iselin’s tolerant, accepting and generous Moomin family. Berge is an old Norwegian name that means “to save”.

Ninny and Moomin play hide and seek in the 1990 Moomin animated series.

But Berge has his own scars and is in many ways a shadow too. Rachel, you pointed out that the idea of fate is very strong in the story. You said that when Berge rubs the glove he wears to hide his scales over Iselin’s scars, it feels as if they were meant to save each other from themselves. Thanks for this. You’re right. Berge and Iselin are both miserable and lonely lost souls who live in the shadows of their own worlds. It’s only when they follow their instincts—Berge when he goes to the office building, Iselin when she chooses to follow Berge—that they find the solution. Shadow is all about Iselin and Berge helping each other to come out of the shadows, but on a macro level, the story is about something else: lost souls and a mysterious helping hand from another dimension that responds to their unvoiced cries for help. At least I hope it became such a story. I’ll leave it to the readers to decide whether I have succeeded in this or not.

Street art in Oslo by AliCe Pasquini

So, Shadow evolved from an idea for a horror story to a tale about hope, about how it can be possible to spot the light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of how hopeless the situation is, regardless of how lost you feel. Follow your instincts; follow the good guys; be brave enough to step out of the shadows. There are many kind-hearted lost souls walking the streets, scarred from their own battles, who’d like to meet you."

Send Margret your love via her blog and also on twitter @MaHelgad.

Also if you are a goodreads user / reviewer you can win a copy of Impossible Spaces here!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

I'm Back!

Hi guys! Wow you've all been so busy! It's going to take me forever to look over all your posts and comments but I promise I will!

I got up to all sorts of things whilst on holiday last week so to tempt you in here is a list of the posts I'll be sharing with you very soon:
  • Guest post by author Margret Helgadottir
  • Feature on artist Kate Knight
  • Photos from Hythe's Venetian Float Festival
  • A report from London Fashion Week (yes...somehow I of all people have tickets to London Fashion Week)
  • The last of the Minx Reviews
  • The return of the musical Friday Feature
  • Three faux fur makes
  • Something on Rockabilly fashion
  • As well as more on writing, Batman and graphic novels
Thank you for all your support! xxx

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Arctia Caja - whoever said moths were boring?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
William Blake didn't write The Tyger about arctia caja aka the garden tiger moth but it seems apt that across the Northern hemisphere small tigers are brightening the forests' nights.
When The Big Butterfly Count sent an email out about spotting tiger moths I just thought pffff we never get anything like that in our garden so imagine my surprise when my mum told me she saw a pretty moth in the greenhouse! I went to have a look, expecting some boring brown thing, and instead saw this big moth with a fuzzy orange head and giraffe pattern wings. I looked it up and it was indeed a tiger moth!
According to Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge that is never ever wrong (heh heh heh), the garden tiger moth is protected in the UK with it's numbers declining 89% in the past 30 years! That's terrible! So the next time you see a big, hairy caterpillar don't squash it because you think it will give you a tropical infectious disease, move it to somewhere safe such as a big leafy bush and wait for this to happen:

This will be my last post for a week as I'll be going somewhere with no internet however don't be too bummed out as when I get back I'll have another guest post by another published author for you to enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Ahh! Double post! But I totally have to do this one before I go to the coast on Friday :D

A month or so ago Snow from Garoons held a giveaway. I'd never entered a blog giveaway before so didn't expect to win but I did! Yay! Here are the lovely things she sent to me:

When I return home I will take better pictures of the lovely necklace that she made (wow skill) and those wonderful socks (gosh I love socks).
Please visit Snow and send her lots of love from me <3


Animation + Saint Motel = Awesome!

Monday, 12 August 2013

A to Z book survey

I saw The Perpetual Page-Turner's book survey on On The Shelf so decided to give it a go myself! I hope you guys join in too - being a writer I love to know the kind of books my followers read :-)

Also I have a Goodreads account - let's be friends there too!

Author you’ve read the most books from:
Haha this shows my age! R. L. Stine, who wrote amongst other things the Goosebumps series.

Best Sequel Ever:
Phantom by Susan Kay which is theoretically the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I remember crying as I read the end.

Currently Reading:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Drink of Choice While Reading:
Cranberry and raspberry juice. I live off it.

E-reader or Physical Book?
Physical! I like touching and smelling the pages :D

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:
Back in secondary school I was madly in love with Anne Rice's vampire Armand (and maybe even more so Marius). Out of teenage characters I imagine I would have been horribly in love with Rafael from Alisa Kwitney and Joëlle Jones' Token and Utena from Chiho Saito and Be-PaPas' Revolutionary Girl Utena series. These days it's obviously The Riddler XD

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich

Hidden Gem Book:
Café Nervosa: The Connoisseurs Cookbook by Julie Fisher - café style recipes and excerpts of Frasier scripts all in one book! Heaven!

Important Moment in your Reading Life:
Wanting to be all grown-up and read one of the old books in my mum's bookshelf only for it to be Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It provided me with a role model and a whole new level of imagination to culture.

Just Finished:
Well the last book I 'finished' was The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs however by 'finished' I mean got to the end of chapter two before deciding I really didn't enjoy a page of it and didn't want to inflict a single word more of it on myself.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:
I have an instant desire to run the other way from chick lit romance books however I appreciate that to some people (like my mum) they are great and if a book encourages a person to read who otherwise wouldn't then I'm more than happy for it to exist in the world! I also refuse to read anything which was once fanfiction and is now an 'original fiction' such as Fifty Shades of Grey and The Mortal Instruments series. I very much enjoy fanfiction but I think it is both a huge disservice to the original author and your readers if you take a fanfiction and change the names then call everything about it your own. If you are a good writer you should be able to come up with your own characters and scenarios with no problem.

Longest Book You’ve Read:
Ulysses by James Joyce.

Major book hangover because of:
Wet Moon by Ross Campbell - it feels like such a cool place to live - alternative heaven! Volume seven can't come soon enough (if it comes at all)!

Number of Bookcases You Own:
Four in my office and two downstairs.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
Alice Through the Looking-Glass never gets old for me.

Preferred Place To Read:
In the bath. It has got to the point that I can only read Wet Moon books in the bath. Weirdly I can also only read Neverwhere in London...which is why it's taking me so long to finish it!

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:
Grammar Nazi time...the correct word is quotation - easy way to remember it is "I quote a quotation" *hides* 
"We are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter" - Alan Ginsberg, Howl (part III) 
The moment I read that line it stuck with me. It spoke to me so much about that indestructible friendship that forms when you meet someone who has suffered as much as you have and has survived. Just being with someone who has survived makes you want to keep on surviving.

Reading Regret:
Can I say spending good money on The Soft Machine? Actually a bigger regret is that I buy books faster than I am able to read them.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):
The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor. The Looking Glass Wars is by no means my favourite book however I feel I owe it to myself as such a big Alice fan to read the whole series and then maybe even the Hatter M graphic novels.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:
Oh no! Choices! Erm....Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Wet Moon by Ross Campbell and Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston.

Unapologetic Fangirl For:
BATMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In particularl Paul Dini's various forays into Batman. He writes characters that are so often reduced to stereotypes (aka villains and females) with amazing depth and humanity. I absolutely applaud his numerous attempts at creating more female characters who actually are characters rather than arm candy for Bruce Wayne and eye candy for the male readers.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
Oh gosh I don't know! I'm not very informed with new releases, I usually get tempted in by good reviews, pretty covers and recommendations.

Worst Bookish Habit:
I'm not sure how bad this is really but I'm a terribly slow reader. I can't skim read. I like every word to really sink so that the book becomes a memory rather than just a stack of paper. I guess also I get horribly freaked out when I lend someone a book and it comes back to me with the tiniest scuff or bend. It's my OCD.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
I tell no lie - on the first bookshelf it was Impossible Spaces. On the other shelves in my study it is: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Walt Disney's Peter Pan and a 2002 Digimon Annual........

Your latest book purchase:

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
Hehe probably browsing the erotica samples on the iBooks store.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Minx Review: Re-Gifters

This week's Minx Review is dedicated to my friend Len. I trawled the whole of London to find a copy of Re-Gifters for her and it got 'lost' in the post (being a parcel I had weighed at the post office that means someone stole it grrrr). I know a review isn't the same but perhaps we can live vicariously through it. Re-Gifters is written by Mike Carey and illustrated by Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel.

Re-Gifters is about Korean-American hapkido competitor Dixie. She blows her $200 entry fee for a big championship on a birthday present for fellow martial artist and crush Adam only to discover that not only is he disinterested in her present but also her! Completely off her game, Dixie must now fight the street rounds to get the chance to re-qualify for the championship where she takes on tough guy Dillinger. Re-Gifters is also the story of the warrior statue Dixie buys for Adam and its journey around LA.
Re-Gifters is the most accessible Minx comic if you're a guy: it features sport, tough guys, girls who act like tough guys and eye candy Megan. That is not to say it's not also entertaining for young women, in fact it is perfect for young women who are bored of the weak, bland, overly-girly lead characters that often appear in young adult media: Dixie and her very charming best friend Avril are tough-talking city girls who are more than capable of standing up for themselves (though the male characters do spend a lot of time talking down to them). Dixie is also trying to battle with her teenage hormones resulting in a volatile temper and a giant crush on Adam. When Avril makes Dixie over for Adam's birthday party Dixie is literally stripped from her armour revealing her more fragile side. This provides a nicely balanced heroine you instantly want to root for.
Adam is a douchebag. Not as much as a douchebag as Jake from Water Baby (Water Baby is probably the most adult of the Minx titles) but he gets pretty close. Not only does he not realise that Dixie is crushing on him (even when he makes her give him advice on how to get closer to Megan) but he gives the warrior statue to an equally unappreciative Megan without a second's thought and even plays mind games with Dixie when he thinks she might beat him in the hapkido championship. Apart from being blonde he really has very few redeeming features.
Though Dixie harbours feelings for Adam for the majority of the book  the last thing you want is for her to get together with him. Enter Dillinger. Dillinger is the rather unbelievable bad boy. He's a tough guy with morals (not always logical morals) who, when he's not beating up Megan's brother is helping Dixie get out of her Adam-induced funk and win the championship. He is much more likeable than Adam but does feel strangely motivated. He's there to prove that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (aka just because he's a street kid it doesn't mean he's out to murder you) but his desire to pound on Megan's admittedly annoying brother (a device to get the statue to continue to circulate LA) somewhat sullies it and makes when he is being nice a bit cheesy. The men in Dixie's family are always spot on though, in particular her twin brothers who are lively little monkeys and very endearing.
The ending is pretty predictable however because you're rooting for Dixie from the very beginning and she gets the ending she deserves (rather than the one she thinks she wants at the beginning) it has that warm, cute, satisfying feeling.
Much like the subject of Re-Gifters the art feels very male centric - it doesn't have the smoothness and artiness you expect from a graphic story aimed at young women - if anything it looks perfect for a comic aimed at pre-teen boys. I appreciate that a young woman new to graphic stories might reject it for something more elegant however if she is already into graphic novels she'll appreciate its indie feel and obvious quality. It somehow manages to balance simplicity with detail and is wonderfully lively - which is perfect for a story about martial arts. Also a quick thumbs up to Jesse from Good as Lily for the shading. It might just look like a bit of grey but that bit of grey adds so much dimension to Sonny and Marc's lines.
Re-Gifters is about learning to expand your horizons and by attempting to blend boys comics with a female protagonist it mostly succeeds on both physical and thematic levels. It is also a story about not only people but things going on if you see a copy of Re-Gifters floating about it's probably the one I sent to Len. Do a blogger a favour and gift it on to someone you care about and maybe, like Dixie's statue, it might also eventually find its way back to Len.

You'll like Re-Gifters if you like:
Confessions of a Blabbermouth, My Faith in Frankie, The Next Karate Kid, Bamboo Blade, Peach Girl and being a tomboy.

Selected graphic novels also by Mike Carey:
Lucifer, The Sandman Presents: Petrefax and The Furies, various Hellblazer volumes, Batman: Gotham Knights #37: "Fear is the Key", Detective Comics #801-804: "The Barker: When You're Strange", My Faith in Frankie, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, various Crossing Midnight volumes, God Save the Queen, Faker #1-6, Confessions of a Blabbermouth, The Unwritten, Ultimate Elektra: Devil's Due #1-5, Spellbinders #1-6, various Fantastic Four volumes, various X-Men volumes, Ultimate Vision #1-5, Ender's Shadow, The Torch #1-8, Thor: Wolves of the North, Sigil #1-4, Red Sonja #0-6, Vampirella: Revelations, Wetworks: Worldstorm, Voodoo Child and The Stranded #1-5.

Novels also by Mike Carey:
The Devil You Know, Vicious Circle, Dead Men's Boots, Thicker Than Water, The Naming of the Beasts and The Steel Seraglio (co-written with Linda Carey and Louise Carey).

Also by Sonny Liew:
Fighting Turtle, Malinky Robot: Collected Stories & Other Bits, Marvel's Sense and Sensibility, Au Pays des Merveilles, Le Tour du monde en bande dessinée vol 2, Marvel Adventures Spiderman #50, Wonderland, Liquid City (Vol.1, 2), Flight (Vol. 2, 5, 8) and My Faith in Frankie.

Also by Marc Hempel:
Sandman: "The Kindly Ones", Breathtaker, Mars, Blood of the Innocent, Gregory, Tug & Buster, Marvel Fanfare, Epic Illustrated, Heavy Metal, Jonny Quest, Tarzan the Warrior, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Flinch, My Faith in Frankie, The Dreaming, Lucifer, and Disney Adventures.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


I'm very proud of being a natural blonde (though it comes with so many negative connotations) however ever since playing Dead or Alive 2 I've always wanted to have pink / lilac hair like Ayane.

Naturally then I was so excited to see that Schwarzkopf now offer a Live Color XXL Ultra Brights range in Electric Blue, Shocking Pink, Pillar Box Red, Purple Punk, Raspberry Rebel and Fiery Copper. I've sort of dabbled with hair dyes bought over the Internet before but always been a little wary / unsatisfied with using a brand I'd never heard of before. Seeing that such a trusted brand was now offering semi-permanent unnatural colour dyes and that I am always so envious of people like Popi Atom and the girls who appear on Tokyo Fashion News I thought I'd try again!

Here are my Grimes-esque blonde-pink ombre braid results:

Earmuffs - Claire's
Button hair bands - a gift from a birthday party I went to back in the 90s
Glasses - Vogue (they use UV reactive lenses so double as sunglasses)
Vest - Pull and Bear
To get pink eyelashes I used Boot's No 7 Extreme Length Waterproof mascara in 'brown/black' on my top and bottom lashes then went over the top lashes with Barry M's Shocking Pink Lengthening Mascara. If you are going to use the Barry M mascara over another mascara I recommend applying a lot as it has a tendency not to show up. It applies better to lashes without any other mascara on however I've found coloured mascara doesn't show up on pale skin unless you use dark a base coat. People with darker skin shouldn't find this a problem though!
To carry the pink motif through I used Rimmel's blush in 'Pink Rose', Rimmel's 1000 Kisses lip tint in 'Timeless Tango' and went over the top with Boot's Natural Collection Sheer Natural Lip Colour in 'Sorbet'.
If you could dye your hair any colour which would you choose?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Undefeated - Drawing

This is the third and final part of my guide to creating your own short graphic story.

First let's do a checklist. Have you:
  1. Planned your story?
  2. Written your script?
  3. Left your script?
  4. Returned to your scripted and edited it?
  5. Designed your characters?
  6. Practiced drawing your characters until you're happy with easily recreating them?
Good. Then we can continue!

I drew Undefeated using a digital program (I'm an old school cheapskate so swear by Photoshop 7, DON'T use MS Paint) however wherever possible I'll also explain each step as if I was drawing the comic traditionally. I'll put the traditional bits in pink.

N.B. I'm not a professional artist. These are tips from personal experience. Anything that doesn't fit for you, don't do!

Step One

Make a rough sketch of what your page will look like on a separate piece of paper. If you are creating a short comic / graphic story with a limited page count like me you will have already done this in the planning stage. If your story has an open page count you probably won't have already sketched a plan. Sketching a plan is not so much about how each panel will look but the over all page layout - panel placement, text placement, etc - it is purely for you and as long as you understand your plan it is more than allowed to look completely rubbish and incoherent to everyone else!

Here is what my plan looked like (I drew all four page plans on one piece of A4 paper):

Step Two

Make your document size really big (nothing under 200 pixel resolution and 1500 pixel length / width). It's much easier to resize a picture down if it is too big than increase its size if it is too small. If you plan on getting your comic published publishers require digital copies to have big resolutions so as to not look pixelated when printed. Working big then sizing down later also makes it easier to draw finer details.

When drawing a page using traditional materials pick whatever size paper feels right for you or is specified by the publisher. Generally publishers don't like receiving work bigger than A3 (also it's really expensive to send something A3 or above in the post).

Step Three

Create a new layer and draw your panel lines. Never draw directly onto the background. Always create a new layer for each step / set of colours! Think of drawing with layers like drawing on tracing paper. Each digital layer is like a layer of tracing paper and whatever happens on one layer does not affect the others. By drawing on separate layers you do not ruin everything if you make a mistake. You can just erase the mistake on that single layer rather than everything above, below and around it.

When using traditional materials I'm afraid you don't have the safety net of layers however drawing lines is easy, just draw guide lines with a pencil before going over with ink.

At this point I also place my text boxes / speech bubbles (in separate layers) because I'm lazy and don't enjoy the idea of putting a load of effort into part of a panel only to cover it with text.

Once again you don't get the luxury of this choice when drawing traditionally. If you haven't placed your text by the time you start inking you're screwed!

Step Four

Make a new layer and sketch in the design for your final picture / pencil your design.

It should look something like this:

Step Five
In a new layer 'ink' your lines. By ink I mean go over your sketch lines with a smooth black line. This is what your final lines will look like so take lots of time with them to make sure they're right. You won't want to be redrawing things once you start colouring. I mean it's completely possible to redraw your lines once you start colouring (and even I do it when I realise I've made a terrible mistake) but it's really inconvenient and I'm all about making this process as simple as possible.
Though it takes lots of practice try to draw your lines in single strokes rather than feathering then trying to smooth with the eraser. If you find it hard to draw smooth lines when your document is zoomed to its actual size try drawing whilst zoomed into 200% - I find it produces much smoother lines.
You may feel more comfortable drawing the background lines on one layer and the foreground lines on another. That way if you make a mistake it is less likely to affect the rest of your lines.
Once you've completely inked your page you can delete your sketch layer / reduce it to 0% opacity.
When inking traditionally take lots of time and have lots of patience.  You get one shot at this and you don't want to mess it up. There are such things as Tipex / liquid paper but any sort of correctional fluid will always show up (which is why people usually use it to add highlights rather than to correct mistakes).
Let areas dry before moving on - the last thing you want is to smudge the ink with your hand - and when drawing with a ruler lift it onto its edge when lifting it from the paper, don't drag it across the paper as it may drag the ink with it.
Try not to erase your pencilling until you've completely inked your page. Also try not to press too hard with your rubber / eraser. Too much rubbing will also remove the ink.
Your inking should look something like this:
Step Six
Using a new layer for every colour (or texture style if working in black and white) apply your base colours. Because you are drawing on separate layers the fill tool won't work - you have to scribble like colouring in a colouring book page
You'll probably create lots of layers at this stage so it's a good idea to name them as you go.
Colour in / shade, once again taking your time. Work on each panel as though it is its own piece of art rather than trying to colour all the page in one go.
Your page should now look something like this:
Step Seven
Shade your work, once again creating a new layer for every colour. Not being a pro I don't want to tell you my way of shading like it is THE way of shading however here are some basic things that I do:
  1. I always decide where my light source is before I start shading
  2. I never use the burn tool
  3. I make one layer where I use a slightly darker version of the base colour to draw shadows then make a second layer where I use an even darker version of the base colour with the gradient tool (fading to transparent) to create an overall sort of dark glow. (This will be clearer from the example image!)
  4. I keep a sample of the colours I use to shade so that the colour palette is uniform for each panel / page. Once the gradient layer has been added it tints everything and you'll never be able to properly recreate your original colour choices.
Once you have shaded and added any highlights your finished page will look something like this:
General tips:
  1. Every so often take a break. Mistakes happen when you overwork yourself and carpal tunnel syndrome happens when you keep your hand clenched for too long.
  2. If you find you're not having a good drawing day don't force it. Go clean the toilet and come back and try again.
  3. Don't draw drunk / high / with a fever. You may think it makes you cool or an 'artist' but unless you're an absolute genius your work will look rough and generally crap.
  4. I draw wearing a fingerless glove so as to stop my fingernails from biting into my palm. It makes you look like a super villain too XD
  5. When working digitally the colouring stage can get really boring so definitely feel free to listen to music as you work. If you get bored of music listen to something entertaining but bland such as a Murder She Wrote marathon or all of BBC iPlayer's backlog of Bargain Hunt. Don't listen to (watch) anything that requires you to actually pay 100% attention to it such as a film you've been dying to see for ages or You've Been Framed.
  6. When working with traditional mediums you may also get bored but don't be tempted to put on the TV! That is the instant road to making an irreversible mistake. Listen to calming music and if you get bored of your music listen to a radio drama / audio book. I especially recommend Radio 4 Extra's horror, fantasy and sci-fi section. If you come from a country which no longer makes radio drama you can listen to Orson Welles' wonderful radio dramas (including that infamous War of the Worlds recording) here. You can also listen to a podcast but don't pick one that will excite you too much or that your are desperate to listen to as you're more likely to make a mistake again.
  7. And the obvious one...don't leave drawing your comic to the last moment.
Well done. You have just completed a short graphic story and got one step closer to drawing that five volume Batman epic.

Four Pages You'll Never Get Back 2013

It's that time of year again: the 2013 Cape / Comica / Observer Short Graphic Story Prize. For the past six months I've been planning my entry and I spent the whole of last month bringing my plans to life.

Please click on the preview to read the resulting story, The Undefeated.

And seeing as I've now finished my short graphic story tomorrow I'll finish my series on how to create your own short graphic story, concluding with the drawing stage! See you tomorrow with your pens and paper!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Minx Review: Good As Lily

This week's graphic novel in my Minx Review series is Good As Lily written by Derek Kirk Kim and illustrated by Jesse Hamm.

Good As Lily is about Korean American high school student Grace Kwon. After getting her head stuck in a magic birthday piñata Grace is visited by three versions of herself (a child, aged 29 and an elderly lady) who seem intent in ruining her life...which couldn't come at a worse time as she is desperately trying to keep her drama club from folding and also win the heart of her high school drama teacher. Through all these events she realises that turning eighteen is not the end of the world but just the start of a new one.
I need to address the elephants in the room: the story has nearly nothing to do with Lily and the cover art is drawn by Derek Kirk Kim whilst the inside art is by Jesse Hamm. I feel the only time a graphic novel should have a cover by an artist who has had nothing to do with the inside art is when the book contains art by multiple artists or if it is a trade paperback where each section was published separately using the cover artist. I mean I hate it when people buy a book then complain about the weird art when it is obvious from the cover what they're getting but in this instance I think it's fair to feel cheated. Though Derek is also an artist and quite obviously wanted a hand in the art of the story too nothing suggests a lack of faith in the inside art than to choose a separate cover artist (the biggest offender being using Kouyu Shurei's amazing cover art for standard western manga Return to the Labyrinth).
You can see more of Derek's art of Good As Lily here.
It is evident from the amount of story packed into Good As Lily that Derek is full of good ideas. Good As Lily is a fantasy with a subtext of embracing life, a slice of life drama about friends fighting to save their high school drama club and even a romance but thanks to the restrictions of the single volume format it feels like too much is going on to be full explored satisfyingly. For instance the first 28 pages (nearly a 1/4 of the entire page count) are dedicated to getting to know Grace's friends. Endearing as this set up is only Jeremy and Rona deserve such a detailed introduction as the other friends barely return again. Perhaps if there was no fantasy aspect we would be able to focus on the drama friends more but once the fantasy part kicks in and Grace's friends retire to the background it makes such a long beginning feel redundant and slightly wasteful. The rest of the story races to deal with the lack of balance and never really catches up.
Then there is the titular Lily. Lily is Grace's dead sister. She is supposed to be this heavy weight that Grace compares herself to throughout the story but she is barely referenced and when we eventually do find out who she is Grace's feelings towards her are resolved in a matter of panels in the middle of the story. Because the book is called Good As Lily you are on the constant look out for her or at least expect to be drip-fed hints about who she was. Because this does not happen it feels like the most unsatisfying aspect of the story.
The story is written in a friendly, sometimes even comical tone and Grace has good conflicts with her other selves (yet another reason why her friends are not needed). In particular she has trouble with her 29 year old self who also has a crush on her drama teacher. This finds a satisfying conclusion as does Grace's evolving friendship with Jeremy however her eventual friendship with her bully does feel less believable.
Jesse Hamm's art is detailed and very indie. I particularly like Grace's look. I can imagine her as a drummer of an indie rock band! There's the odd weird panel (and few too many floating heads for my liking) but it's mostly of the good quality you would expect from a Minx artist. It does, however, have a slightly stinted feel. At first I thought maybe Jesse was a new artist still trying to perfect his style but as I looked over Derek's notes on Good As Lily I realised Jesse was trying to recreate Derek's style rather than embrace his own which is a shame as you can tell there is something not quite comfortable about it. I would like to see something in his own style to see if it feels more relaxed and natural.
Good As Lily is probably the weakest of the Minx books though it is still worth a try if you have enjoyed the rest of the series. Despite its faults it is a perfect gateway for exploring the art and writing of Derek and Jesse. Just surfing around Derek's blog makes me want to read and watch more by him. I hope to feature more by both Derek and Jesse in the future.

You'll like Good As Lily if you like:
Freaky Friday, 13 Going on 30, 17 Again, Glee (and The Glee Project), Western slice of life manga, 1990s kids shows set in and around high school, cheesy Asian drama.

Also by Jesse Hamm:
Negative Burn, Hawkeye Volume Two and Hawkeye: Little Hits

Graphic novels written by Derek Kirk Kim:
Same Difference,  Flight Volume One, Bizarro World and Electric Ant Issue 1

Graphic novels drawn by Derek Kirk Kim:
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, The Eternal Smile and Prime Baby

Online Media by Derek Kirk Kim:
Mythomania, Tune, Yesterday and Orange Tango
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