Thursday, 18 September 2014

Manga Workshops in Wisbech

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to run two manga workshops in Wisbech Library! I met a great crowd of enthusiastic young people who had taken part in a Reading Challenge as part of ImagiNATION project. Here's the project blog where you can read more about it and see more photos! Day 1 and Day 2
I had a fantastic time ^^ Many thanks to Louise Aldridge/Cambridgeshire Libraries for making it happen!

(young peeps hard at work!)

Monday, 2 June 2014

New events added!

Hey everyone,

Just letting you know I'm still around, having had my second child recently ^^ Please check out the Workshops & Events page for upcoming appearances!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Workshop in Chatteris + BBC interview!

Last Saturday, I hosted a session in Chatteris Library - the first of two parts. Thank you for everyone who attended - it was great fun!
If you would like to attend the second session, on December 8th, here's more info about it.

And - surprise! - I was also interviewed by Nick Carter on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire! It was a bit strange being on air, and I was a bit nervous. Here's the programme, (available for the next 5 days) with me coming on at about 0:37 ^^

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Creating Manga Characters review!

The latest book I've worked on, Creating Manga Characters, has been reviewed  here by!

"There is little to fault with this book, though the title suggests that creating manga characters is all you are going to get, when really the book provides you will a deep insight into the beginnings of a great character, story and world with some great tips along the way."
The book will be on sale at the London MCM Expo on October 26th - 28th!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist review part 3: Mixed Media

In this third (and final) review of the amazing Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist range, I am going to put the products to the ultimate test: I'll be using them, and comparing them, with products from other ranges. Most artists don't use materials of just one type, or one make - it's often a combination, whether it's traditional & digital, or a mixture of traditional media.
Now, here's a vast array of materials I'll be using:

Kuretake Mangaka Flexible sepia fineliners in Fine and Medium, and Mangaka sepia fineliner in .02;
Kolinsky small and Menso medium brushes and Kuretake white ink, also used in previous reviews;
Kurecolour Fine and Brush markers (Hair and Muted Tones; Flesh and Neutral Tones; and Sky and Ocean Blue Tones) - see my previous review of them. These will be used against my trusty Faber-Castell PITT brush pens. They are water-based "Indian Ink" pigments with fairly fine brushes. I've also used watercolours and a pink watercolour pencil (not in the photo!)

Here's my lineart for this test. As in previous review, I did it digitally, then printed it with 20% opacity onto smooth card. I then added basic background with watercolour. (Artist Confession #1: for those who don't know, I love love LOVE the look and feel of 70s and 80s shojo manga. Whilst drawing this piece, I started making up a little period-set story about these two... maybe about a refined city girl sent to spend the summer in a relative's countryside manor, who befriends the gardener's little son. She would teach him good etiquette and city fashions, and he'd introduce her to the delights of country life...)

...Anyways, back to the review! I used the sepia fineliners for inking. As the boy is standing further than the young lady, his lines should be finer - so I used a combination of .02 and Fine on the boy, and Fine and Medium on the girl. The pens give great flowing lines, much like their black counterparts. I was wondering about the .02 being too thin - but it did not give any of the "scratchiness" you sometimes find with very thin liners. I am particularly impressed with the Fine flexible fineliner as it's so easy to ink with. It's great to just use the same pen for all the details, from the frills on the girl's dress to the tiny strawberries in her basket, and STILL keep the line nice and variable.

(Artist Confession #2: out of the whole creative process, the part I like the least is inking! It always takes me the longest and feels like a bit of a chore. So it feels good to find products that make mundane things like adding lineweight enjoyable!)

Next step is the markers. Before embarking on this piece, I tried combining the ZIG markers and liners with the Fabers in my little black sketchbook. I find it also helps decide on the colour scheme beforehand, without the risk of ruining the actual picture by using colours that don't go! (And as I am mostly a digital artist, I really miss the Undo button...)

The Kurecolour Flesh and Neutral Tones marker pack was an absolute lifesaver when it came to choosing skin tones. I had the idea of doing the boy's skin darker as he would spend most of his time outdoors, whereas the girl would have more of an "English Rose" complexion (although it came out as rather grey in the photo ^^''') I used Rose Beige and Porcelain respectively.

Next come the hair - ta-da, moment of truth! The boy's hair was done in a very light, barely-there Faber-Castell marker and shaded in (I think) Kurecolour Mellow Yellow (from the Hair and Muted Tones pack). The girl's hair was done entirely in Fabers. You can see that the Kurecolours give a much smoother, subtler transition, mostly due to their base, which blends well with other colours and binds well with the smooth texture of the paper. It also layers well, unlike the Fabers that "bobble" the paper slightly when layered on top of each other. On the plus side, the Fabers have a thinner brush that is good for precise shadows... then again, the Kurecolours have the fine tip for that!
 Whilst colouring and shading the clothes, I also found out that with the Kurecolours, there isn't much danger of going too dark. The colours turn to be a lot lighter than you'd expect - but it's not a problem as you can always add another layer of the same colour. The shadows on white, some of the background, and the girl's basket was done in Kurecolours, and the rest in Faber-Castells. I then added the shineys using the white ink (my absolute star product!) and brushes:
Having two different brushes is extremely convenient - I did highlights on the hair and skin using the Medium brush, then grabbed the Kolinsky small brush for the really fiddly details like shojo sparkles in the eyes!
I then used the same brushes (wet) and a watercolour pencil to give the happy pair their rosy sheeks.

So, the only new Kuretake products I haven't previously reviewed and used today were:
Kuretake Mangaka Flexible sepia fineliner in Fine - 5/5
Kuretake Mangaka Flexible sepia fineliner in Medium - 5/5
Mangaka sepia fineliner in .02 - 5/5 (a pleasant surprise!)

With regard to the markers, I would like to say that the Kurecolour markers are very easy and enjoyable to use. I definitely prefer alcohol base to water base (and not because of the smell LOL - by the way, Kurecolour markers are virtually odourless, compared to the Letrasets and the Shin Hans!). They give a lighter watercolour-style finish, whereas the Farer-Castells' look is a lot more "cel". The liners are very durable, as they went over watercolour and under two types of markers - and did not smudge once.

I am much looking forward to using the ZIG Cartoonist range A LOT in the future!

And, as always, here's the finished picture:

Monday, 20 August 2012

Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist review part 2: Monochrome

So, I am continuing to review great products from Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist range! This time, I am using the products to create black and white artwork. As we all know, manga is largely black and white - so decent black fineliners, markers and fillers are a must for every manga artist, whether a beginner or a pro!

This is a sketch of Nathan from Chemical Blue, looking slightly Sherlock-esque (not intentional!). I did the lineart digitally then printed it out with 20% opacity, so the grey lines are barely noticeable. (I learned a lesson from the last review, and this time I am using bleedproof marker paper!)

The products I will be using are (1) a flexible, quite chunky PK3-10 marker (not sure what the exact name is as the packaging is all in Japanese), (2) BIMOJI brush marker, Kuretake Menso medium brush, Kuretake black ink, and Kuretake Mangaka fineliners in Grey (0.1 and 0.2). I will also be using the Kuretake Mangaka Flexible liners from last review (in fine and medium), and markers from the Sky And Ocean Blue Tones pack (mostly Iceberg Tint.)
A little tryout of the new markers shows that the PK3-10 (1) gives a nice variable line which is perfect for inking. The BIMOJI (2) feels just like using ink and brush, and promises to produce line ranging fro 0.5 mm to 8 mm. There are no ink splodges because the ink is inside the pen. If it's refillable, it's priceless!

A thick outer line around the whole figure, using PK3-10, then fineliners on smaller details. A gentle change of pressure creates a variety of line weights.
 And the finished outline.

Time to try out that ink! I really liked the smaller brush I used last time - the Menso medium brush is slightly fluffier, but just as easy to use.
I use the ink to fill in stripes on Nathan's scarf, and the BIMOJI for his t-shirt. Apart from a couple of tiny smudges, the ink is very easy to use and provides even coverage without any lighter patches. By the time I got to the bottom stripes, the top stripes are nearly completely dry! The BIMOJI brush provides an ideal tool for working around small details such as the motif on Nathan's shirt. I then use the Iceberg tint marker and the Mangaka grey fineliners for the shadows. These days, I mostly do all my toning digitally, so the fineliner feels slightly awkward and scratchy at first. But after a few minutes, it gets easy and enjoyable - not dissimilar to using a pencil for shading (but of course, with a lot more staying power).
Next , I add a few highlights using Kuretake white ink, and the small Kolinsky brush I reviewed last time.

So the overall scores for the products:
PK3-10 marker - 5/5
BIMOJI brush marker - 5/5 (extremely easy to use for those who do a lot of brushwork!)
Kuretake Menso medium brush - 5/5
Kuretake black ink - 5/5 (a worthy counterpart to the excellent white ink!)
Kuretake Mangaka grey fineliners - 4.5/5 (enjoyed using them but I think they are possibly better suited for very smooth paper).

And here's the finished picture, with some digital tone thrown on the background.

Look out for Part 3: Mixed Media!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist review part 1: Colour

Recently, I have kindly been asked to try out and review some great new artist materials. Kuretake is a Japanese company with a long history of producing high-quality ink, and they have recently released a new ZIG Cartoonist range. There's an amazing variety of products, including alcohol-based markers, fineliners, inks, and brushes. It is extremely exciting to be able to test them!

I am going to produce several reviews, focusing on different products. Today is part 1, Colour!

Here's a sketch that is going to be inked and coloured. I habitually use heavier (130gsm) sketching paper with a bit of texture, as it is easier to pencil on. (Whilst it's great for sketching, perhaps something smoother would've done better for colouring work - as we shall see later!)

The pens I shall be testing are Kuretake Mangaka Flexible Medium and Fine (I used black ones, leaving sepia for later!) They have a nice flexible tip, allowing to create variable line thickness in one stroke. I am also giving Kuretake Mangaka fineliners a go (from the picture below, I will be using 0.8 in black and 0.1 in violet).
The brush pens glide very easily on paper, and are great for thicker outline of clothes and figure. The 0.8 fineliner is a touch too thick for my liking (I usually work within 0.2-0.5 range), and the 0.1 violet is quite thin. Because I am using non-smooth paper, the line feels slightly scratchy.
 The inks dry very quickly (within seconds!) so it's time to put them to the eraser test. Erasing pencil lines often scratches off fineliners and brushes, making the lineart look faded. After a few minutes of vigorous rubbing, the brushes fade a bit and need re-applying in places. The fineliner, however, stays put!

It is  colouring next, and I have nice marker sets to play with :) Kurecolour Fine and Brush markers in Hair and Muted Tones; Flesh and Neutral Tones; and Sky and Ocean Blue Tones. Each pack contains 12 colours and promises "alcohol-based dye, quick-drying, Xylene-free, permanent" effect. Let's see!
I am always on the lookout for good skin tone markers. The ones I have picked up before often turned out either too pink or too beigey. Kurecolour Flesh and Neutral Tones contains markers of just the right tones (roses, peaches, nudes) although the colours look slightly too "samey" (ultimately, that makes the pack go for longer!) The brush tip is flexible, the colour easy to apply. The fine tip can double up as liner, too.
I found that the colour blends well (without the use of a blender pen) and also layers well. As you can see there's only one fineliner smudge (maybe the impatient artist's fault!) and generally the fineliners and brushes perform well when coloured. Quite a lot of the marker did seep through the paper, so I think bleedproof paper is a must.

The same can be said about colours from the other two packs. Doing the background (sky and sea) was a delight! Sky and Ocean Blue Tones pack has blue barely-there shades such as Ice Tint and Iceberg Blue   that are very handy for subtle shadows.
 Lastly, it's my favourite part - adding white highlights! For this, I use Menso Kolinsky brush (small) and Kuretake white ink.
The brush is just the right shape and thickness, nicely streamlined. The ink is opaque, not too thick, and touch-dry in 6 minutes! What's not to like?!
Overall, I am really really pleased with these products!
Kuretake Mangaka Flexible Medium/Fine  - 5/5
Kuretake Mangaka fineliner 0.8 - 4.5/5
Kuretake Mangaka fineliner 0.1- 4/5
Kurecolour Fine and Brush markers: Hair and Muted Tones - 4.5/5 (it's lack of a darker skin tone that put it slightly down for me); Flesh and Neutral Tones - 5/5; Sky and Ocean Blue Tones - 5/5
Menso Kolinsky brushes - 5/5
Kuretake white ink - 5/5 (will be using it on EVERYTHING now!)

And of course, the finished picture:

Coming up soon, Part 2: Monochrome!