Happy Valentine's Day!
I put a cleaner version down on paper this morning. It's rare that I'll have a stand-alone drawing these days and I figured someone might like it so I slapped it up on my online shop for £24 (pretty reasonable, I reckon) and pointed Twitter its way. Someone snapped it up within half an hour. Easy peasy.
The whole process went so smoothly that I'll probably try it again in the future. Even if nobody buys anything, it's incentive for me to draw and share more stuff, and that's something I'd like to do.
* ps. I started a little Sketchbook Blog for posting odds-and-ends that don't belong anywhere else.
I've been considering making big lists of things for ages - my favourite illustrators, my favourite podcasts, my favourite films etc. The idea got outta control and I never got round to starting.
So instead, here's Favs. Small, semi-regular lists of things I like on a given day.
I've only recently discovered Bad Machinery, John Allison's follow up to Scary Go Round (which I never read, despite meaning to for the entirety of its 7-year run) and it's quickly become a must-read part of my routine.
I started sometime last year with The Case of the Missing Piece *, which is still ongoing. The characters have lovely, distinct voices (literally in the case of Claire's adorbs lisp) and, once you're hooked, the interweaving storylines are proper exciting - romance! crime! fights! It's like Grange Hill but good.
Last Monday I got so frustrated with our crappy tin opener that I straight-up Googled 'what's the best tin opener in the world?'. According to The Sweethome, it's the OXO Good Grips Magnetic Can Opener With Lid Catch (really it's this Zwilling J.A Henckels number, but I wasn't ready to pay £35 for a tin opener).
Anyway, the OXO is a beast and opening a tin of tuna without having to -snip- -snip- -snip- around the lid is the best thing in the whole wide world. £14 on Amazon.
Throughout January, Ashleigh posted an animation every day on Instagram. The above video collects them together and adds a soundtrack. Super nice.
Sammy Bethune is a skateboarder from Glasgow. I don't know him, although I'm sure I've seen him skating Kelvingrove on some of my skate dates.
Clips of Sammy recently blew up. His approach to cab tricks - sort of a quickly whipped 180 whilst popping - is crazy. I've never seen anyone do them like that before. Fakie 540s on lock!
Also from Glasgow, one of my favourite podcasts: Bit Socket. Bit Socket is about computer games - it's good natured, weird and funny.
The hosts, Scott and Joe, regularly make quizzes for one another. They reached peak-quz on episode 19 where Scott attempted singing game soundtracks in the style of Auchtermuchty's favourite son, Jimmy Shand. The MGS3 cover'll be rattling round your skull on your death bed. Sn'keeta.
More Favs coming soon. Or maybe not!
* (a note to new Bad Machinery readers - John occasionally drops unrelated strips into the timeline. These come at weekends and holidays and can be confusing if you don't know what's going on)
Despite evidence to the contrary, I don't generally go for collectables. I've never bought an action figure as an adult and the few bits of Lego dotted around my studio are my favourite sets from when I was a kid rather than pricey AFOL bait.
Saying that, I did pick up this beauty of a Captain Haddock statue from Tojo in Glasgow. I had spotted him when I was Christmas shopping and couldn't justify spending money on myself at the time. Luckily there were still a couple in stock today and my Santa-cash burned a hole right through my pocket.
Oddly enough, I don't know much about Tintin. I remember that I found the TV series kinda boring as a kid and I know that the comics got a little un-PC from time to time. I also saw the Spielberg version which was fine. Creepy, but fine. Beyond that, not much.
Hergé's character design, though, is beautiful. Haddock in particular is timelessly cool-looking (that pullover!) and this little statue of his iconic, pissed-off stride is about as perfect a translation to three-dimensions as you can get. As an object, it's a lovely thing and it looks better in person than my photo makes out.
I guess buying a Tintin figure without having read Tintin is daft so I'm gonna give the comics a shot. Any tips on where to start (or what to avoid) would be great.
For eight years I've been making these things on New Year's Day. Eight. That's crazy. Back when I started, I was still living with my mum and dad, working in Argos and had only just met Alex.
Anyway, if you don't know what's going on, every January 1st, I make a little photo-montage of the past year. There are 12 photos per month in chronological order - the top row is January, the next February and so on. I try to give myself a nice overview of what happened in the year, from big events to daft day-to-day stuff.
Because things are going well family/health/home-wise, 2015 goes in the 'good' bucket. It can't go anywhere else. I'm doing pretty well in the scheme of things. Taking that as a given, though, one word keeps coming to mind when I reflect on the year: unproductive.
Without going in to too much detail (I did that in 2014 and it made me cringe), I've been taking my creative projects and opportunities for granted recently and, to be honest, I've been phoning it in a bit.
(As an appropriately lazy aside, I'll point you to Craig Robinson (the guy behind FlipFlopFlyin') and his Best of 2015 and Best of 2014 posts which mirror my own feelings about my work quite closely. Thanks for feeling glum, Craig, you saved me a couple of hours of soul searching.)
Anyway, that's by-the-by. I've got plans for 2016 and I'm good to go. Always forwards, never backwards.
Happy New Year! Thanks for reading! I love you!
The John Siracusa Paper Doll that I posted on Monday was a talking point at the start (like, 0:45 seconds in) of episode 145 of the Accidental Tech Podcast hosted by Casey Liss, Marco Arment and John Siracusa himself. I'm chuffed about this.
ATP is one of the biggest (certainly amongst those with an Apple bent) and best tech podcasts around. I've listened from the start and have followed the work of each of the hosts for years. Hearing them talk about one of my dumb drawings was weird (in an embarrassing, everyone-is-looking-at-me kinda way), but mostly really cool*.
Have a listen, subscribe if you haven't already. There's a good chance you'll like it.
So big thanks to the ATP guys and hello to any new readers / followers that I might've picked up. I look forward to irritating you until you eventually unsubscribe.
* Casey pronounced my name correctly too. That doesn't happen often.
This is the nerdiest thing I've ever done.
During a conversation about clothes on episode 14, Merlin suggested to the audience that they maybe make a paper doll of John so that he could get a makeover without actually getting a makeover. John didn't seem too thrilled with the idea but it sounded like fun so, y'know, sorry John*.
These days, most of my illustrations exist as thoroughly layered Photoshop files - keeping things flexible can be useful when a client asks you to move things around. I figured that a paper doll would be a natural fit for this way of working and, with the exception of a few fiddly bits, it proved pretty straightforward.
So I battered out an unflattering drawing of J-Sir (again, sorry!) and spent an hour or two on the lightbox fitting him with some clothes and things. Scan it all into Photoshop, add a bit of colour and that's a pretty productive Saturday night right there. I know how to party when I need to.
I had planned to add more outrageous items of clothing to the collection but, honestly, I was already plenty embarrassed that I was playing dress up with a man from a podcast. Putting him in a Darth Vader suit wasn't going to make either of us look any cooler. Most of the clothes are things described in the episode, I guess the makeover will have to wait.
You can download a PSD version of the paper doll over here (there's a fully knolled-out illustration on that page too). Turn different layers on and off to create different outfits. Feel free to add to it and share it around.
If people like it, I'll probably revisit the Siracusa doll sometime in the future. Drawing more clothes doesn't take long and it might be cool to try out some different ideas. If you have any requests or feedback, let me know on Twitter or in the comments below and I'll see what I can do.
* A note to JS - if you see this and really don't like this stupid thing that I've made, I'll take it down right away. I know it's weird.
This is an excerpt from the I’m Alan Partridge, 'Alan Attraction' DVD commentary where Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham talk about 'funny' numbers. I've always found it tremendously insightful.
- I love that comedy writers, good ones at least, even think about this stuff.
- They're right. 50 is funnier than 37. 37 is a try-hard number. 37 is the definitive 'random' number. 37 sucks the fun outta the room.
Here's an excerpt from a GQ interview with Kevin Smith, to really hammer the point:
GQ: Speaking of hockey, why do you wear the number 37 on your jersey?
Kevin Smith: That was the number in Clerks when Veronica, she'd sucked 36 dicks, and then Dante was like, "Thirty-six!" And he's like, "Does that include me?" She goes, "37." And he's like "I'm 37! 37! My girlfriend sucked thirty-seven dicks!" And my friend from high school, Mike Belicose says, "In a row?"
GQ: Was that number chosen randomly?
Kevin Smith: I knew a girl who I was very familiar with who had given twelve blowjobs, and I thought that, at that age, was excessive. So for [Veronica's] number to do something that would kinda shock Dante, I looked for a number that was high, but not ridiculous. And I talked to a lot of my friends that were girls, like, "Hey man, how many fucking blowjobs you think you've given?" And once you get them past the lie, you get to numbers that usually were in the double digits. But the highest one was maybe 28 or something like that. And I was like, "Good god!" So I was like, "I'll go for 37 because that's out there but not too out there." Fifty would just seem like too much. Thirty-seven seemed like a doable fucking number.
And everyone knows how funny Kevin Smith is. He uses 37 everywhere. He even brings up 50 as a counter example for Christ's sake. Get outtahere Kevin Smith, go sit with the Birds of a Feather guys.
For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of 100 but I worry I'm trying too hard in the opposite direction.
Getaway, a comic by friend Beth was shortlisted for the Cape Observer Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2015. She didn't win (screw those guys) but that's by-the-by, it's a beautiful piece of work. Make sure you read to the end*.
A high-res PDF version is available on Beth's site. Share it around if you can, it deserves a wide audience.
Beth's other work is equally amazing - comics, illustration, animation and jewellery. Follow her on Twitter (@bethmadethis) and on Facebook (Bethmadethis). You can also read an interview with her (by me) from last November when she came runner-up in the COCGSSP 2014 with her comic After Life.
* Sorry for going all clickbaity, but you'll see what I mean.
I'm very happy to say that I'm part of Pissed Modernism, a group show opening tonight (16th Oct) in Edinburgh.
At the opening party there'll be beer from Edinbrew (it's also BYOB, so go nuts), a charity auction of beer bottles with custom labels and the chance to say hello to the artists (and maybe buy something?). Pissed Modernism'll run for a week at Gayfield Whitespace.
A group show featuring 12 artists.
11 Gayfield Square
Edinburgh, EH1 3NT
Runs: 16th - 21st October 2015
Opening party: 16th October, 6-9pm
Come along if you can. I've put together some new work, some old work and some bits and bobs on the merch table. Say hello. Righto, I gotta go catch a train to Edinburgh.
Big cheers to Marco for sorting everything out.
Going by other articles, I'm now meant to say something about Scottish hip-hop and how crazy a prospect that might (or might not) be but och, you're a smart cookie. I'm sure you can figure it out for yourself. The video for Life Drawing is a good starter:
The official album launch is tonight (Saturday 12th September) at the Glad Cafe in Shawlands. I wholeheartedly recommend you come along. J&J are fantastic live and the Glad is a brilliant venue. Don't be scared of the Southside. It's, what, 5 minutes on the train from Central? C'mon.
If this appeals, you should follow @carbsinjection on Twitter, check out the Save As Collective and commit to coming to the gig tonight on the Facebook event page. Here's Jonnie's new video for Stick a Flake in Me (I’m Done) as a prize for getting to the end.
I've been taking pictures of odds-and-ends around my studio for a while and putting them on Instagram. Now that I've got 16 of them, I can make a 4x4 grid and put that on Instagram. The photos are a bit inconsistent when viewed together. That's fine, I wasn't planning anything like this when I started.
Since this is a blog, and since I feel like it, I'll talk about the objects in more detail:
Charlie Brown figure - I found this in Forbidden Planet on Buchanan St. years ago. He's a comforting presence and will likely follow me everywhere. (seems to be the Great Pumpkin version)
Goblins - I was big into Games Workshop when I was 10 and I periodically paint miniatures to see if I still can. These goblins are from Black Scorpion. I had planned to paint a full Blood Bowl team but got bored halfway through.
Glass duck thing - Came from my mum and dad's attic. I remember this lying about the house when I was little. No idea. I keep badges in it these days.
Aberfeldy 'Ramble' Whisky - I designed the label for this limited edition bottle of Aberfeldy in 2013. One of the coolest things I've done. They occasionally pop up at auctions for a nice price. The whisky gets good reviews too.
Lump o' Tarmac - I nicked this piece of the old Stirling skatepark when it was being rebuilt a few years back. I wrote a thing about it at the time. Loved that place.
Captain Red Beard - My most favourite Lego minifigure ever from my second most favourite Lego set*, the Dark Shark**. The feather isn't an official part of his get-up, but it gives him some flare.
Silent Monitor - My mum brought me this back from New Lanark. It's a wooden block that mill superintendents would use to report on the performance of workers. Black for bad, yellow for good etc.
Turtles Plaque My gran gave me this when I was mad into the Turtles. She was great at keeping an eye out for things I'd like. She once bought me a massive slab of wax because she knew I used it for skateboarding.
Argos Team Badge - I worked in Argos for years. The most common item sold during my time there was 875/7049 (Stirling was a student town, figured the clothes rails were for moving in to new digs). Never once wore this badge.
Orcs - Converted these from a set of Warhammer Black Orcs for the aforementioned Blood Bowl Team. Pleased with the wee numbers I added to their shoulder pads.
Christmas Lego - My mum bought me the pretty spiffy Lego advent calendar. You'd get a different scene each day. This only comes out in December, obvs.
Lego Santa - Despite appearing 4 times on this list, I'm not that into Lego. I've rebuilt a couple of my old sets and dug out some of my favourite minifigs but I don't buy new sets or anything. This Santa (again from the advent calendar) is dope though.
Lego iPhone Dock Probably don't need to write any more about this.
Moses? - Just guessing, I've no idea who he is. No idea where he came from either. Cool wee thing. Shame about the broken staff.
Petit Cyclist - Another birthday gift from Alex. Spotted in a shop window in the Merchant City (forget the name, will update if I remember). It reminded me of Bretodeau’s box.
I've tons more junk lying around that I'll likely share. Follow me on Instagram if that's your bag. I try to put some effort into it and I'm quite proud of some of my photos.
* My favourite being 6066-1.
** More commonly known as the Black Seas Barracuda (the US name).
I did a podcast.
A week or so ago I had a wee Twitter conversation with Philip Larkin about his appearance on the Guilty Pleasures Podcast. Shortly afterwards, Stuart Tompsun (the host) got in touch to ask if I'd like to record an episode. I would like to record an episode, thanks very much.
While I'm not particularly pleased with my performance (I didn't hold the mic properly, I ramble, my voice is torturous), I am proud that I was brave enough to have a go. I listen to a lot of podcasts and kinda felt like I had to, I dunno, live up to something rather than just have a chat.
Anyway, that's by-the-by. Though I don't care about what I have to say, you might. And if you do, you'll maybe be looking for more information on the stuff we talked about. Not being one to let an opportunity for painstakingly gathering links pass me by, here are extensive show notes from episode 10 of the Guilty Pleasures Podcast:
- My animation for Pringle
- Some of my illustrations for Wired
- My stop-motion video for Kid Canaveral
- Stuart's stop-motion video for Shambles Miller
- One of the many Skate 3 videos I made.
- The Survival in the City post I wrote a while back
- It’s Such a Beautiful Day by Don Hertzfeldt
- The Red and the Blue - Italian animation, not French. My mistake. Also nothing to do with Pingu.
- Don Hertzfeldt’s Simpsons couch gag
- Banksy’s Simpsons couch gag
- Sylvain Chomet’s Simpsons couch gag
- Marcel the Shell with Shoes On - I had seen this before. Forgot in the heat of the podcast.
- Piece and Pound Coins by Swatpaz (above)
- Swatpaz - the best, Jerry.
- @KatoAbes aka TheBoldKato, aka Mrs. Swatpaz
- Limmy on Vine
- Philip Larkin on Vine
- Lizzy Stewart - illustrator based in London
Muppets & Puppets
- Jim Henson making puppets
- Jim Henson's memorial
- Kermit And Fozzy Meet Cows
- Elmo makes Holly Willoughby cry
- Big Bird learns about death
- Ricky Gervais and Elmo
- Zig & Zag
- Mr. Blobby with Wayne Sleep
- Barry Killerby
- Blobbyland, the abandoned theme park
- Gordon the Gopher
- Ed the Duck with Andi Peters.
- Murder on The Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis Bexter
- Jonnie Common - Crumbs
- Carbs - Life Drawing (above)
- Lil' Dicky - Bruh
- Inquisitive Podcast #50: Favourite Album: Bryan Irace and 'Kid-A'
- Presstube screensaver - I use this on my computer
- French Girls - Take selfies, get drawings.
- All This Mayhem - Tas Pappas Documentary
- Tony Hawk - The 900
- Gizzi Espresso in Shawlands
Think that's all of them.
Guilty Pleasures is a great wee podcast - Stuart does a brilliant job at getting his guests to open up. As a good starting point, have a listen to this week’s episode with David Ferguson (aka Swatpaz). He's less painful than me.
Saying that, now that I've taken my first step, I'm tempted to have a go at making a podcast of my own. It'd probably be good for my growing inability to talk to other people. Would anyone out there listen (if I got better at it)?
Cheers Stuart for having me on.
Working from home makes you weird. And, if you're already weird, working from home makes you weirder. It's one of the downsides of a pretty good gig.
After 3 years of full-time self-employment, the isolation has had a noticeable effect. I've got, like, bad at interacting with people. I'm not bloody Gollum, but I'm rusty and I worry that I'm boring for people to put up with.
'I've got no pals' is a half-joke I have with Alex whenever she's busy and I can't face going to something alone. It's not true, but when you've only spoken to two people all month (my wife and the postman), it can be easy to forget that other folk might actually wanna hang out.
Anyway, that's a long way of getting to my birthday, which recently happened. It was a good birthday.
First up, I thought I was turning 33 when I was really turning 32. So even though I technically did get older, in reality, I didn't. I beat the system.
Second, I got a treasure hunt. An hour-long treasure hunt for presents on my 33rd* birthday. When did you last do a treasure hunt on your birthday? You were probably 8. My wife is better than yours.
Alex's plan was elaborate. Clues led into cupboards and under floorboards. Sometimes I'd find a present, sometimes another clue and sometimes a little challenge. I smashed a piñata, I lucky dipped, I broke eggs, I exhibited at the GOMA.
Best of all, Alex asked a bunch of my friends and family to improvise video clues that played at points along the way. This caught me by surprise (see the aforementioned 'I've got no pals' bit).
I'm not going to share the clips here, but I'd like to thank everyone who made one. I'm really touched. Cheers: Mum & Dad, Jen & Alan, Hilary, Johnny Lynch, Stuart, Concetta & Shawn, Frank & Nicky, Kim & Del, Rory. They meant a lot.
Special mentions to Mark, who got the biggest laugh with 3(!) videos of impressions of Alex and me; Jonnie, who sang a song. Fergi; who did his in the bath (props on the strategic camerawork, Katie); Lynne, who got Bruno involved; and Fiona & Ian for their mini-epic, The Godfather-In-Law, recorded in Sicily.
So, aye, thanks to my pals for being my pals. Thanks for the presents. Thanks if you sent a card, a message or a tweet. Sorry I'm a bit rubbish these days.
Cheers Alex x
I've cycled to IKEA to size up some bits & pieces for a job. Since it's dinnertime, I'm eating my dinner. Since it's IKEA, I'm eating meatballs.
Eating alone at IKEA is quite nice. Like a big coffee shop. I could sit here all day using the free WIFI and I don't imagine anyone would bother. It's a bit lonely, though.
This photo is my meatballs flipped and arranged using the new Layout app from Instagram. I've never posted anything to my blog from my phone before but I liked how this turned out so I thought I'd give it a go.