I’ve read a lot of books this year, almost sixty already, and these are my favourites so far:
Drew Williams, The Stars Unclaimed. A great big slice of action-movie fun, with pace, invention and humour poured on generously.
Kirsty Logan, The Gloaming. A slower-paced book than anything else here, this is Logan’s second novel and it is beautiful. It manages to be about island life without ever feeling isolated, and is entirely magical.
Luke Pearson, Hilda and the Stone Forest. The Hilda series continues with this latest instalment, and it’s my graphic novel of the year.
El-Mohtar & Gladstone, This is How You Lose the Time War. Short, crystalline, and without a spare word.
Wells, Murderbot series. This series is up to four novellas, with a novel coming next year, and my word they are fun. An extremely efficient robot security operative with a heavy case of social anxiety and a sarcastic attitude might be my favourite character in any medium this year.
Valente, Space Opera. Every single page is studded with inventive touches, there’s not a humanoid with a prosthetic head in sight, and Valente goes all-out in writing, imagination and wit with this Eurovision-in-space that is soaked in her love for the subject, and the whole book shines in the best and most glorious way.
This week I am mostly listening to Boogie Stop Shuffle and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The Illustrator’s payment survey for this year has published their results, so I’m parking the link here for my future reference.
I’ve had a recent commission to hand-write some cotton shopping bags for ace local greengrocer Clementine, I do like busting out the bright inks:
I’ve been a huge fan of hard-working comics legend Jamie Smart for about fifteen years now, ever since reading Bear straight through back in 2004, and my oldest kid has managed to catch the fans off me. Well, Jamie just wrote Flember, an illustrated novel, and he sent us a signed copy. Look at the inky glory!
Yeah, he’s an actual Boss. Cheers Jamie!
I’ve been making lino cuts on and off for twelve years now – it’s a very satisfying medium, as the results of your drawing, cutting and inking all come out in one big reveal. Here’s some tips on what I’ve found are the most effective ways to turn out good prints at home.
Lots of people swear by heating your lino – maybe the average lino is a little harder than my supply, but if you store it in a warm room, or have a table set up to catch a sunbeam, you should be good to go. If it’s cold inside and the blade is absolutely refusing to dig in, then yes, absolutely, use your oven on the lowest setting. Give it five minutes, and see how you get on. If it gets too warm, it will start tearing instead of cutting and your details will just crumble. Use short, careful strokes, like you’re slowly writing a word, instead of longer ones like you’re using a knife, and you’ll be much less likely to slip. Always make sure your fingers aren’t in front of the blade!
A toughened glass chopping board is my surface of choice for rolling out ink.
Your printing material will make a big difference as to how your prints will come out (I am writing about oil-based inks here). Cotton t-shirts are by far the easiest surface to ink onto, as their soft, slightly fuzzy surface grips the ink amazingly well. As a rule, softer papers like newsprint or printer paper take ink much more dependably than artist’s papers, which tend to slide around a heartbreaking amount when hand-pressing. My advice for paper prints is to try and find a local college or print studio that has a relief press and will let you use it, as it is just about impossible to get clean prints on thick paper if all you have to press with is a big spoon. That same spoon, or a big book, are all you need for printing on fabric though – for the most consistent results, I use a wool felt mat as a base, with a newspaper cover, as this lets the lino and the printing surface join together evenly. Some people advise glueing your lino to a plywood sheet, but unless the sheet and your table are exactly flat you’ll get spots that just won’t print evenly.
Clean-up is important. For oil-based inks, stay away from white spirit – the best solvent is cooking oil. Use cotton rags, because paper towels mush up and fill in all your glorious fine details you slaved over. Have some extra newspaper on hand, and make some quick newspaper prints to soak up the extra ink – wipe off your lino and get the excess off your roller too, it means there’s much less scrubbing to do.
Lastly: drying. If you have a sunny, windless day, go right ahead and hang your prints outside to speed things up. Otherwise, leave them in the warmest, most out-of-the-way spot you can find – if you’re in a mad hurry, some very careful ovening will do the trick.
I love old Penguin covers, to an entirely unsuitable degree, so finding a whole reel of them in one place is a lovely surprise:
I was invited to take part in the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail for Glasgow Children’s Hospital this year, with my Adventure Islands design. This will be on show at Glasgow Airport till September 13th, so stop by and have a look if you’re passing through. Ace!
It’s Local Degree Show time again! I spent a good Saturday afternoon looking around, with the one bad point being that the Illustration kids were too hungover to open their shop table. Anyways, my favourite dozen, in no particular order, were:
Cecile Bec combined illustration and sculpture, such that her whole show formed one giant composition.
Joanna Migut used a tightly restricted colour palette to great effect.
Eleanor Begg used enormously energetic lines in her paintings, with vibrant colour splashes
Catherine Paterson was my favourite in sculpture – an interactive show encouraging people to make rubbings of her brass and laser-carved wood wildlife images. It looked like it had been enormously popular on opening night as well.
Courtney Szabo had one of my favourite shows – intense, spontaneous movement, massive energy and great colour contrasts all over the place.
Hannah Benassi was another stand-out show, with subdued tones layering into some remarkable compositions.
Sam Renson left me utterly confounded and entranced – giant painted seascapes that look like distorted aerial photographs on crumpled paper.
Kirstie Behrens had some beautifully crafted near-abstract landscape prints on show.
Maia Aitken had some wonderfully expressively alien compositions, with careful colour work.
Lucia Pearla was another highlight, with highly detailed abstracts giving the impression of cityscapes, dominated by almost-legible letter forms shouting into the illuminated dark.
Maike Herrmann was one of several shows in Textile Design that caught my eye. Amazing multi-layered prints, with great depth and complexity.
Katie Scott, likewise, had enormous vitality and playfulness in her work, with a great interactive board for kids to add to her designs.
Molly Marshaley completes the set of vibrant, joyous textiles, with geometric shapes abraded and worn into textures.
Aimee Coulshed finishes my list, with sublime landscapes created in fabric.
That’s fourteen, but don’t make me choose.