Is there anything better than doodling? Yes: doodling for two! This is a fun drawing “game” I love doing with other artists – each one draws a first panel in a six-panel grid, then passes the paper to the next person, who continues the story in his/her own style. Usually, this results in fascinating wacky comics.
Lately, my husband Yiri and I had a lot of fun creating these:
(Translation by me, colors by Yiri)
If you’re lucky as a comic artist, you get to make a comic for a magazine that appears with some frequency. This allows you to build a world, to flesh out characters, to introduce backgrounds and depths.
If you’re really lucky, your comic runs for a few years and builds a readership. A run of two, three, four years is a really good one in this time when magazines seem to re-style at a disturbing rate. (Unfortunately, the comic is usually the first thing to get changed under a new editor.)
And if you’re really really lucky, you get a chance to revive such a comic, even after years and years, in another magazine.
This is what happened to me with my comic Stella.
Stella appeared in girls’ magazine Flo’ from 2005 to 2008, when the magazine folded. Stella was an eleven-year old, as were the readers, and she was well loved.
Last Summer, I was asked to make a comic for magazine Hoe Overleef Ik, aimed at girls around 15 years old. I asked if I could draw Stella again, this time a little older. The editor was OK, and the readers liked it, and by now I have already made six new adventures for her.
Here’s the comic at the very start, in 2005:
And this is the new Stella, that appeared last Summer:
Widely beloved author Neil Gaiman has started the project A Calendar of Tales, in which he invites the world to make art with him. Using the tweets of thousands of people as an inspiration, he has written twelve tales, one for each month, and is now inviting artists to illustrate them.
I love this.
Even though I’m busy enough preparing the translation of ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’ (to be published in September) and the second print of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ (Yay! A second print!) AND the usual assignments and commissions, I’m making time to get into this project, reading and illustrating one tale a day.
It doesn’t pay anything – and though it may generate some exposure of my work, it’s highly unlikely it will make a big splash amidst the thousands of artworks that are being uploaded.
I’m doing this because it’s FUN – with all capital letters – the kind of fun that working aith others in a studio or 24 Hour Comics Day brings me. It’s the pleasure of working without restrictions, combined with the energy generated by a whole bunch of people doing the same thing, riding the same creative wave. Yes, I know I sound like a hippie, but I can really feel this almost tangible energy that surrounds a project like this. It’s crisp, it’s fresh, it’s positive. It’s thousands of people making stuff that did not exist before. It’s miraculous.
I wish the world could be more like this: simply Creative, without worrying about payments or copyrights. I’m so happy with people like Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer, who are showing the world the power of connectivity and what it can do for art.
Anyway, here are my illustrations so far:
Even though the tales are only about two pages long, Gaiman manages to conjure up such a wealth of imagery. It’s in my comic artist’s blood to try to get as much of the story into my drawing: the soldiers, the forest, the beach, the couple with the champagne, and of course the Unspeakable Things that lurk behind the seconds… You can read the story here.
The February Tale became a tryptich. It’s about an old lady who lost a pendant on a beach – but she doesn’t actually feature directly in the story. So I wanted to draw her, and her reaction to what’s happening, something that’s only speculated about.
I surprised myself with this one. Even though I can often picture in my head what kind of drawing I want, it always turns out different. That’s partly, I think, because I never had any formal education in drawing. I have not tried different styles as much as I would have liked to. In the past years, working on my books, I have stuck closely to my “simple” drawing style. After such a long time of full time drawing, I find that I actually have built some skill, a certain routine, a confidence that I can make a drawing work on a page. And now I can apply that confidence to these drawings in a whole new way and style, and here’s actually a realistic-looking Old Woman, that I didn’t know I could draw until now!
The March Tale is about pirates and a Southern porch and when I read it, I immediately saw silhouettes, because that reflects the nostalgia as well as the frilliness of the story. But I’ve never really done silhouettes, so again this was a nice experiment, and again I surprised myself! And lo and behold, it also turned out to be a tryptich:
It’s my intention to illustrate all of the twelve stories in the coming week. It gives a nice new impulse to my work rhythm. It’s like pushing myself into new territories – full of discoveries and unexpected vistas.
If you want to get in on this project, you can! You should! Artwork can be submitted until March 11. You can read all about it when you click this link.
As Neil Gaiman says: “Sure, the world is full of artists, but none of them is YOU. Don’t withhold the world your unique view on things.”
It’s Valentine’s Day! Here are some doodles I made of the loved ones I live with:
Lately, a friend has joined our little workspace, bringing a whole new discipline in our comics-dominated world: Michiel Mensingh is an old high-school friend of Yiri, and an acclaimed composer of modern classical music.
The new input inspired me to make these cartoons:
The piece Michiel has been composing will be performed by pianist Laurens de Boer on 22 March 2013. More information here.
I hardly ever make political cartoons or comics. But when I was invited to comment on the pending Iraq War in March 2003, I made this:
I can only grasp global problems by scaling them down to “sandbox”-size. It all the more emphasizes the pettiness of human behavior and motives – which really depresses me, but at least it makes for an entertaining comic. As you can see, this one was heavily influenced by Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, both in style and tone.
After being put up on the site Stripster.nl, the comic went viral – and I kicked myself for not having put in a recognizable signature (it has one now).
Recently, I got to make another comic about a global issue, for magazine Open Deur: the theme was Rich and Poor. After giving it some thought, I decided to revive the Sandbox, and this is how it turned out:
Tonight, Dutch Queen Beatrix, after a reign of 33 years, has announced she will abdicate the throne in favor of her son Willem-Alexander. Coming Thursday, she’ll turn 75 – what a grand way to celebrate her birthday!
After seeing her speech on TV, in which she stressed that she really enjoyed being Queen but thinks it is time for the New Generation, I made this cartoon.
The Netherlands has had a run of three Queens (Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix) – now for the first time in 123 years a King will rule again. But his reign will not be without Grrl-power: he has three daughters and a great wife, Maxima, who might even be allowed to use the title of Queen of Holland.
Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School is a life model drawing event bringing together great shows from the burlesque scene and graphic artists, amateurs and professionals alike. It was started by Molly Crabapple in New York, and has spread all over the world into over a hundred branches. When I found out about it, one and a half years ago, I was shocked that Amsterdam had no branch yet, even though there is a very lively burlesque scene here. So I teamed up with burlesque organizer Marco Buschman and we started Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Amsterdam in September 2011 – it has had eight very succesful sessions so far.
A Dr. Sketchy session is always great fun, with good music, an open bar and a relaxed atmosphere among fellow artists from all kinds of backgrounds: art school students, hobbyists, comic artists; people using pencils, chalk, water colors, and even iPads. The models are all very enthusiastic performers with wonderful outfits, that usually come off in a whirling show, and in between they pose and inspire.
Ever since I got into the burlesque scene I keep being amazed by the talent, creativity and enthusiasm of all participants. They are all driven by such playfulness and open-mindedness, which feels very liberating – which is probably why so many women are involved with it, both performing and in the audience. I like that each performance is a little story, with a specific character and a small narrative that is played out – such as those of Officer Frisky, private investigator Ms Rita Lynch, or the tragic Miss Glitter Painkiller, who finds out onstage that her lover left her for a man!
There’s always a Master of Ceremonies to talk the audience through the various acts. Sometimes the MC has an act of his own, like the talented Desmond O’Connor who played the ukulele and regaled us with his own award-winning songs. And then there was The Drip Dry Man and his One Man Beat Revolver, who performed several instruments at the same time!
I have attended a few life model drawing classes in the past – but none of those compare to Dr. Sketchy’s. Well, it wouldn’t be fair to compare, I guess, since the objects of both are so different. Classical model drawing focuses on drawing exactly what you see, getting a grip on the proportions of the human body, learning about stances, all that. Dr. Sketchy’s offers a completely different experience, that appeals to me as a comic artist: I get to draw characters, not mere bodies, and there is no stress on “getting it right” – much more on “having fun with it”.
If this appeals to you, no matter if you are an artist or not, check out the Dr. Sketchy’s site to find out if there’s a branch near you. And if you’re in or near Amsterdam, visit our sessions!
In September, my next book ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’ will be published by NBM. Right now, I’m in the middle of translating this 192-pager from Dutch into English (using my own new font, yay!).
As always, translating poses interesting challenges – not only does the translation have to be accurate, it also has to fit into the space available. Fortunately, Dutch is a much “longer” language than English. The English wording usually comes out much shorter, which makes it easy on me. Except for a word like “circumference”, which is much longer than the Dutch “omtrek” – I’m coming across it in the chapter about Pi.
Pi is interesting for many reasons – this number has a lot of mystic and artistic connotations. And did you know that the search for ever more digits of Pi spurred the evolution of the computer?
In the original book I showcased an old Dutch rhyme that helped people memorize the digits of Pi:
“Wie u eens π heeft verzonnen in aloude tijden
was nooit begonnen inderdaad spoedig geëindigd
als hij had ingezien welk gezeur de cijfers bien”
If you substitute each word for the number of letters it has, you get the correct values for the first 23 digits of pi.
I was really happy with this find, but dreaded translating it – until a quick Google-search taught me that the same kind of mnemonic for Pi has been done in English even more than in Dutch! Here is the page where I found it: Pi Wordplay.
So it was actually rather easy then to put in a good translation. And these are 31 digits, so the English actually teaches you more than the Dutch!
The New Year already brought exciting new plans, prospects and projects – including the intended publication of my next book at NBM in September: ‘Science: a Discovery in Science’. This calls for a new wave of Promotion when the time comes, and this time we’ll include some YouTube videos about the book. I could just video myself, but this seems a great opportunity to make an animation.
I’ve been wanting to learn animation but never got the time and besides, it’s my brother’s expertise. I have two brothers and we equally divided the Visual Media: Paul does documentary, Maarten does animation and I do comics. We never really ventured onto each others territory, but now I’m planning to. And who knows, maybe my brothers will start making graphic novels now.
I’m way at the beginning of this project, and this is the first thing I drew:
Now I just need to get it moving.
About ten years ago, I did a little bit of animation when I learned how to make animated GIFs – now an almost obsolete format but I hope it still runs on this blog. This is what I made:
It was for a site called animationbattle.com, and the characters getting their ass kicked were made by other animators – I even think two of them were made by my brothers. I don’t remember who “won” the animationbattle, but I definitely plan on making my comeback now!