Friday 17 February 2012

Images in sand...

When I was a child in primary school playing in the sandpit I drew images with my finger in the sand.

When they gave me crayons I clenched them in my fist, stuck my tongue between my teeth, and drew images on coloured paper. As I grew up so did the drawing materials. Pencils and brushes, watercolours and gouache, acrylics and oils. The airbrush dominated for a time and then digital tools arrived.

There are occasions when I face a class of eager graphic students (and I confess the term ‘eager’ may be wishful thinking) hoping to learn the techniques of illustration and design, and I tell them there is one rule…

And that rule is… that there are no rules. There is no one established way to do a thing; nothing is set in stone; no one has a right to say this is the way it should be done and no other is permissible.

So what has that to do with the two illustrations above?

To begin with let’s explore their differences.

Well, for a start, there is twenty years between their production.

The one on the left was produced by designer watercolours on Saunders Waterford 190 lb watercolour paper with a sable No. 5 brush and measures 280mm by 340mm.

The one on the right was created using various digital programs with digital colours and brushes on a computer and has no fixed measurement.

What do they have in common? I created them both.

Well, I am not going to deny that the hand-produced artwork has a more charming and attractive appearance. I would probably choose it myself if I had to make a comparison.

So if I am capable of producing both styles but have a soft spot for the more traditional style why have I followed the path of digital painting?

I can answer that in a word… DEADLINE.

There is one other difference between the two pages… The hand drawn watercolour artwork took ten days to complete… the digital took just under two. On the demands of a 128 page graphic novel… well, do the math’s yourself.

There are other advantages. Flexibility. The format of the frames can be altered right up to the last moment, changing the whole grid of the page. The colours can be balanced so that one frame can dominate or be blended into the overall colour of the page. Frames can be deleted or moved into subsequent pages should the narrative require it.

And when it comes to camera-ready artwork you are no longer relying on second or third generation distortions.

So that is why I am using digital tools at the moment.

But like I said, there are no rules, and tomorrow you may see my outcomes revert to the traditional style because time might be available. After all, illustration is visual story telling. There are many ways to tell a story.

Yesterday I was walking along a deserted wintry beach where the sea was a grey strip on the horizon. The sand was still dark and damp where recently seawater had submerged it beneath the waves.

I bent down, pointed a finger… and began to draw in the sand.

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Afterword from "Tales From The Clockwork Empire"


It is a noted fact that most inventions however innocent their initial purpose, are soon converted to, and developed for, the killing of one human being by another. Take
Dr Guillotine’s Cucumber Slicing Device. Excellent for cutting thin slices of vegetables for aperitifs and side salads. Also excellent for removing 20,000 heads from their shoulders during the French Revolution. Take the Wright brothers introducing us to powered flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. This opened up the possibilities for intercontinental journeys, airport waiting lounges and in-flight packaged meals. However, ten years after it’s first flight the aeroplane was dropping bombs onto the enemy in the trenches. Probably not on the Wright brother’s ‘ten most useful things to do when man can fly’ list.

Well, the same can be said of the submersible. There are records showing
William Bourne, an English innkeeper and scientific enthusiast, proposed the idea as early as 1580. From his drawings one suspects he was really thinking of ways of reusing the empty beer barrels in his cellar but it was quite a practical design. Sadly it ended at the drawing board stage as few people could see the advantage of being submerged in a pond in the 16th century. However, by 1775 David Bushnell had invented the Turtle, the first submersible to be used in war. An American patriot, Bushnell tried his new invention against the Royal Navy. In fact the Royal Navy seems to have been the brunt of early submariner attacks as the inventor Robert Fulton, assisting Napoleon, was having a bash at them twenty-five years later using his Nautilus submarine.

So you realize I have taken certain liberties with 19th century history… though it is fair to say that it is more speculation than pure invention. Lord Dashwood’s description of the automata in the Mechanical Museum in Princes Street is quite accurate. There was an ingenious chess-playing manikin called the Turk but it was a conjurer’s trick, built by Wolfgang von Kempelen to impress the Empress Maria Theresa. Certain historical events did, and were, happening. The Victory had just completed a three-year refit. France and Britain had explorative forces hunting the Rosetta Stone in Egypt. Napoleon stood on the shores of France and contemplated turning the British Isles into his world fortress.
Tsar Alexander, having succeeded to the throne after his father had been accidentally struck with a sword, strangled and trampled to death, entertained the high society of Imperial Russia at his Winter Palace while looking over his shoulder for possible assassins.

The 17th and 18th centuries were the pinnacle of clockwork mechanism and can be truly considered the age of the mechanical machine. By the 1850s steam power had replaced clockwork and the Victorians became the masters of the steam age. The fine and intricate clockwork was replaced by the awesome power of hydraulics, pistons and boilers. The delicate precision mechanisms of clockwork motion had been replaced by the size and power of steam engines. In short, the Victorians had steam coming out of their ears.

But what if that age of steam had been delayed and the inventions of clockwork had continued unheeded. Such are the devices that the characters of this chronicle employ and develop.

Copyright Ian Duerden and Markosia Enterprises

"Tales from the Clockwork Empire" is available at Amazon, WH Smiths, Waterstones and all leading booksellers from April.

Digital instalments are available now on Comixology, Graphicly and Sony PSP.