New book soon on Kilgore Comics! Pre-order now!

I’ve got a new comic book coming out called What Happened. It’s a 44 page comic about the summer of 1995, the first blushes of attraction, confusion and being 12.

Kilgore Comics are publishing it as part of their Autumn line-up and are running a Kickstarter to fund the pre-orders. I’m appearing alongside releases by Noah Van Sciver, Emi Gennis and Tom Van Deusen! It’s very exciting.

Do take a look if you’re interested. There’s a $2 shipping deal on UK orders if you order the whole line-up

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New zines // speaking at East London Comic Arts Festival

I’ve made two new zines which will be debuting at ELCAF next week.

Garden is about our garden and is part of the new Lydstep Library series. Rain is a collection of comics and stories based on prompts given to me by some of my regular readers.

Pre-order here: Garden // Rain

I’ll also be appearing on a panel at ELCAF about Championing Comics on Friday10th June at 5pm. Full info here

Notes on 2015, thoughts for 2016

This blog post is a little slow, a little late. Sorry about that.

In 2015, I released something like 400 pages worth of comics and drawings and writing*.

Plans We Made, my first graphic novel, was published by Uncivilized Books after a successful Kickstarter in the Spring. I was staggered that so many people would be interested in taking a chance on my work. I’m really proud of the book, and it’s been getting some nice reviews.

I released three more issues of SMOO after an 18 month gap. I also started a zine subscription service, making all my zines at home, printing, folding, stapling and trimming them myself. I released three more zines of stories and drawings, and a split zine of comics by Jason Martin and by me.

I sold my work at Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Crouch End Comic Arts Festival, Safari, the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival and Thought Bubble. I also co-organised the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair.

Then, in December I drew my ongoing series, SMOO, to a close with the release of issue ten and set about thinking of new ways to make and share my comics.

Oh, and we got a cat.

It was a productive and fun year, artistically. But it has also felt like a funny year.

On the one hand, I’ve seen lots of innovative work that stretches the boundaries of what we call comics, and explores new artistic territory. It’s deeply inspiring and challenging, compelling me to dig deeper into my art and be more ambitious in what I do – which is in part why I ended SMOO, to give me a blank canvas to do just that.

On the other hand, I feel like this innovation and expansion has strained the boundaries of the comics infrastructure even further. I think the ‘market saturation’ we’ve been predicting has started to become more acute: lots of comics events, more and more creators, a relatively static volume of attendees at events, and a small number of review** and sales outlets. Money is hard to find in comics at the best of times, and fairs and shows seem to be yielding lower returns.

Audience building is still a challenge, despite the promise of the Internet the way we use social media is constantly evolving. Platforms come and go. User numbers go up. Attention is hard to come by. Moreover, how we understand what art is, how it is transmitted or experienced are all even more different than ever ***.

So while I strongly believe that the work we are making has purchase ‘out there’ in the world, it feels a bit like the comics infrastructure hasn’t got room for all of us, and we don’t know where else to go.

A few of my friends and peers have expressed similar concerns, and not just people who make weirdo art comics like me. Jamie Smart – whose work is quite different from my own – wrote a piece about this at the end of last year. In it, he describes himself as having ‘reached the edge of his bubble’;

“There’s so much chatter online already, so many other great talents, a wonderfully supportive community but again, one which is in danger of selling to itself. What if your grand idea, your character, your brand, reaches its limit and you just can’t reach any more people than you already have?”

You’ve made some things, and you don’t want to be limited only to an immediate community of makers and fans, but would like to see if those ideas could find a life outside that community.

Perhaps this is just growing pains – in continuing to grow and develop as an artist, you want to seek new ways of doing things, new modes of expression and new places to say stuff, without the constraint of ‘institutional’ boundaries. Jamie reflects that this is both a practical challenge, and a creative one. To be open to the possibility of making new things, or seeing yourself differently is daunting but essential.

I’m grateful to be part of a community of peers that is by and large supportive, self-critical and artistically ambitious, and I think that this is a huge asset for the art form as a whole. I guess I’m just a bit worried about its ability to support its growth, without collapsing under its own weight.

I’m going to be carrying on making things. I’m going part time in my day job later in the year to commit more time to art.

I’ve also stepped down as co-organiser of the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair, too – it’s been fun, lots of hard work, and I’ve learned a great deal, but after five years it’s time to move on and explore other ways to help build capacity in our community ****.

I’m hoping with this extra time to commit more fully to making art I believe in, and experimenting with different ways to share it.

The cat also keeps playing with my pencils while I’m using them, so that’s something to think about.

*Here’s a full list of what I released in 2015:

  • SMOO #10 (self-published zine, available here)
  • Plans We Made (Book: Uncivilized Books, USA order here, UK order here)
  • Bright Nights (self-published split zine with Jason Martin, UK edition available here)
  • Decorating (self-published zine, available here)
  • Monument Road (self-published zine, redrawn second edition w/ new epilogue, available here)
  • A Day Out (self-published zine, illustrated prose, available here)
  • SMOO #9 (self-published zine, available here)
  • SMOO #8 (self-published zine, available here)

** Those reviewers we have are by and large dedicated, passionate individuals, who work hard to support makers and readers, offer critique and reflection, as well as a marketing channel for many of us. They usually do this for free. I am grateful they exist, and I think to take them for granted would be a very bad thing, as would assuming that we are entitled to their attention; we aren’t.

*** There’s a host of issues that intersect here that are bigger picture things; how to value arts and culture, fair pay in the face of universally precarious labour, balancing expectation and reality of work in the creative sector, the extent to which we can create or exploit opportunities, and, very importantly, under-representation and discrimination that cuts across all these scales.

**** There are instances of capacity and community building happening  (zine groups, fairs, residencies, comics schools etc), and I’d like to look and write more about these in the future. But I think, as a counterpoint to my worries, these are a valuable starting point. It might be worth noting that my concern with only the immediately visible infrastructures might precisely the problem we have in trying to imagine ourselves outside of comics. Can’t see the wood for the trees.

 

 

 

 

Bright Nights, new comic out now!

Bright_Nights_cover_smBright Nights is a new collection of comics by me and Bay Area zine-maker, Jason Martin.

The eight stories capture memories and feelings of long nights, from post-party sunrises, to bittersweet New Year’s Eve celebrations, to walks in the snow, drives through the countryside and the slow progress of growing up.

Jason and I have been trading zines for at least five years and in that time we’ve become friends. We’ve been talking about making this split zine for a lot of that time, and we finally did it! I’m really proud of what we made. Jason’s work carries a quiet, gentle grace and I’m really excited to share the pages of a zine with him.

I’m selling a slightly different version to Jason, which is smaller in dimensions so it can be printed on UK paper. As with most of my zines, this one is printed at home and trimmed by hand.

You can order it here

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Only a week left to subscribe!

TCAF_excerpt Not long left to sign up to my new subscription service.

For a whole year you can get everything I make, from new issues of SMOO, zines, comics, writing, drawings, letters, original art and who knows what else.

I’m giving this a go because I want to experiment a bit more with what I make, and raise some funds to help support the costs associated with that. But mostly, I’m doing it because I want to connect a bit more with the people who read my zines – you’re the reason I keep going.

So if you like minimal drawings, quiet stories, comics about landscapes, daytrips, nature, birds, travelling, do consider giving this a go. Fans of johnporcellino, Warren craghead,olivereast or situology will hopefully enjoy it.

It’s £35 for the UK, £50 overseas, and runs from 29th June 2015 to 28th June 2016.

Sign up by June 16th

All the details here.
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SMOO 9 to debut at TCAF

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The other night I sat down and drew the ninth issue of my autobiographical zine, SMOO.

This issue builds on the events described in SMOO 8, and continues a trend of quick drawings, quiet stories, a few words. It also features two prose pieces, which is a first for SMOO.

I reflected recently that the early issues of SMOO tended to focus on looking back to particular periods in my life (childhood,my early twenties, teenage years etc) because they were being made at a time when perhaps I didn’t feel able to look at my present.

Things have changed a lot, and this issue feels like I’m starting to look outwards and forwards. Building on the previous issue, this zine deals with people passing, processing grief, time passing, doubt; family, a happy return to Falmouth, a birth, growth; the recursive themes of life.

The zine will debut at Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) in May, with subscriber copies and pre-orders shipping  late May.

Available for pre-order here.

 

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Two weeks left on the Kickstarter for Plans We Made

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We’ve got two weeks left on the Kickstarter for Plans We Made, my first ever full length book of original work. It’s being published by Grimalkin Press, a US micro-publisher, and (hopefully) being distributed in conjunction with Uncivilized Books.

We’ve raised about $4,500 which is incredible, but there are another $2,000 to go. Kickstarters often start strong and then loose pace towards the end, before a mini-boost at the end. The thing is, this middle bit is really tough. To make this book happen – and there is a chance it won’t happen, or definitely not soon if we don’t get the funds – we need all the help we can get.

So if you’re thinking about getting the book, now is a perfect time. We’ve got original artwork, zines and books from Grimalkin on offer as rewards. You’d be making a dream come true, and I’d be forever grateful.

Take a look at the Kickstarter here

A look at… SMOO #8

To celebrate the imminent release of my new zine, SMOO 8, and the Kickstarter for my new book, PLANS WE MADE, I thought I’d reflect on some of the comics I’ve made over the last couple of years. They’re all available from my new online shop. Finally, SMOO 8!

SMOO 8 (pre-order: released March 2015)

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This is the latest issue of memoir zine, SMOO. It tells the story of a year, from September 2013 to September 2014. It begins on Theodor Roosevelt Island, in Washington DC when I was visiting for SPX, and picks a story across Peru, pubs in Bristol, and ends in Brooklyn. It was undeniably one of the weirdest periods in my life, and this zine tries to get at that sense of the push and pull of a year, of moments and events, of coming out the other side.

The idea for the zine – this sequence of stories, these ideas – has been kicking around for a while, but it wasn’t until this January that it finally felt like the time to write them. I drew the zine in about a week, a little scrappy, but honest drawings.

It’s a 36 page, A6 zine with a fold-out central spread.

AVAILABLE HERE

  • If you use the discount code WOOSMOO, you’ll get 20% off your entire order when you buy two or more zines. Special offer good until 23rd February!
  • If you like the look of this work, please consider checking out the Kickstarter for my new book, Plans We Made
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BCZF date announced

As you may know, I’m one of the organisers of the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair. Well, after another great year for the fair, we’re delighted to announce that BCZF 2015 will be held on Saturday 3rd October at the Station, our home since 2013.

Expect the usual mix of artists, makers, writers and publishers from the UK’s vibrant DIY scene. It’s also our FIFTH BIRTHDAY and we’re hoping to do a few exciting things, too.

If you want to keep up-to-date with BCZF news – like finding out when and how to apply for a table and things like that –  you can do so via…