Stevo’s Bigg Review of 2012

At the end of 2011, I was considering my position as a comic artist and maker after a poor showing at Thought Bubble 2011 and a general creative rut that can happen when things are a bit shit, plus the fact the fact that after all the hard work I was putting in, I was barely breaking even. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I’m going to take a step back from everything for a bit, not worry about the scene and what other people are doing, and try and recharge my appetite for this lovely genre which still hasn’t seen its potential realised. i’m probably gonna do a bit more drawing for drawing’s sake, maybe a bit of painting (the recent posters are possibly evidence of me cheating on comics a bit) and soak up a bit of proper culture, not just off tweets and blogs”.

Not long after this, I decided to pack in my rubbish office job and see what would happen if I tried to be a full time creative, and with the support of my partner we said we’d give it three months and see what happened.

The break from comics and the freedom to follow my creative whims meant that I was raring to go in January, and luckily I got a couple of jobs doing copywriting which provided some actual money as I tried to work out how to turn my comics and art into a living (I’m still working on it, let me know if you know how it’s done pals!- ed) and I came up with a few ways of trying to monetise my skills, setting up an animal portraits business and advertising a one-hour drawing service for £20, both of which had a bit of uptake without ever coming anywhere near paying the bills.

My other intention was to try and get some illustration work, and to this end I spiced up my illustration site, and also paid a large amount of money to join the AOI, but to this day, I’ve not had any genuine interest from potential commissioners, so that’s a bit shit, but I don’t really know what I could have done any different.

So three months into the experiment, and I was doing alright. I was still in the honeymoon period of having a list of things to try, and the copywriting was more or less paying the bills, leaving me enough time to draw things in the afternoon. LACF4 took place at the end of April, and I wanted to make a new comic (I hadn’t done one since Chris Sandwich in May 2011) but with my new business head on as a freelancer I wanted to make something that was cheap to produce but had a bit of substance to it.
cwhorribleflatlg

This necessity was the mother of Christopher Wren- In Search of Excitement, a comic created from one piece of A3 printed both sides, that I could fold myself without staples. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and how the unfolding of the paper has its role in the telling of the narrative, and the format meant it was possible to have two different endings, another possibility suggested by the unusual format. This went down pretty well, and LACF4 was the best attended and most lucrative of the five Leeds Alternative Comics Fairs that me and Hugh Raine have hosted.

The free time I had allowed me to explore a lot of new ideas, and during these glory days I worked on a number of projects including Banal Pig 5, aka the Banal Pig Apocalypse, where a nuclear explosion throws our pals from the BP universe into chaos, with hilarious consequences (I’m about 12 pages into it currently), The Space Wars Colouring and Activity Book (19 pages complete) Monsters Of the Schwarzwald (just the 2 pages). I also actually finished some things, including this Star Wars painting (which I also turned into a print), stuff for Comical Animal and this animation, which i’m pretty happy with:
eyeghost

So, three months became six months and the honeymoon period was over, slowly but surely the copywriting jobs started to decrease, but I thought I’d use my free time to put together an entry for The Observer/ Jonathan Cape/ Comica Short Story Prize. I’d entered a few half-arsed efforts before, but I basically spent the majority of September to make my entry ‘I Yeti’ as whole-arsed as possible, and I felt I had a decent chance. Pig lovers will know what happened next, a creditable 2nd place, a lot of exposure and by the time it came around a very welcome prize of £250. More than the money though, this piece of recognition has given my freelance year a point, and it’s satisfying to have something to show for my efforts- I was seriously considering jacking the whole fucking thing in if I didn’t get anywhere, as I was getting pretty disillusioned with all my efforts coming to nothing.

The exposure from the competition provided a welcome boost to my coffers, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to keep me in bread and water, and in December I had to return to exactly the kind of irrelevant and uninspiring office job I had left at the beginning of the year. We also did another LACF, and i printed a very small run of Banal Pig’s Royal Assortment, a collection of recent stuff and although the fair wasn’t the worst, it was pretty disappointing in terms of sales and attendance.

So what have I learned in my year out? Firstly, it’s really fucking hard to get people to pay you to do something that you like, even if you’re (>ahem<) good at it. I’ve also decided to stop making small press comics for the foreseeable future- my experience over the last seven years has been that the small runs of comics I’ve made have taken a long time to sell, and there is such a small profit on each comic that it really doesn’t make sense for me to do it anymore. I was happy to do it for the love in the first few years, but I can’t see a viable business ever evolving from this.

My strategy therefore is to focus my efforts onto a big project, namely a book version of Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure, which I will be working on this year and will hopefully be taken on by a publisher. I will also be looking to put other stuff online for free, as if I’m not making a profit anyway I may as well cut out the middle man. Hopefully, at some point I can go back to freelancing, but I’ll have to do a bit of earning actually money first, and hopefully I’ll find something where the remuneration actually reflects my skills and the effort I put in. Ha ha ha, i wish!  Happy New Year Pig Lovers! xxx

Leeds Alternative Comics Fair 5, Christmas Special


It’s been a bit longer than the usual 6 months since the last fair as me and fellow organiser Hugh ‘Shug’ Raine have been a bit distracted with amateur dramatics and pulling out of buying houses amongst other things, but LACF5 is going to take place on the 8th December at the usual venue, A Nation of Shopkeepers. We thought it be a bit different having the fair in the run up to Christmas, and maybe our attendees will be more interested in buying stuff as gifts as well as for themselves, we’ll see, but if it has a similar attendance to last time we’ll be well happy.
I should have some new stuff for it, I will probably make a short comic out of my strip for the Jonathan Cape/Observer Graphic Short Story Prize which I’ve just sent off and I’m very happy with, and I’ve got my vampire story nearly finished which I could easily knock up into a minicomic. I’ll probably also make a print of my ‘Don’t Confront Me‘ picture, and there’s maybe some other things i’ve done recently that would make good poster/prints.
Anyway, It promises to be a goodun so please come down, the facebook group is here, and LACF related tweets are here

Competition Results!

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition, i’ve been really impressed with the range of fantastic entries. There has to be a winner though, and to jump straight in, the winner is Sadie May (aka @candylikesfrogs) with this pic inspired by the horrible ending to Christopher Wren :

I really liked the way it develops the narrative of the comic, and features a cameo from Albert the tramp, who has now happily been installed with a colostomy bag so he doesn’t piss himself anymore. Congratulations to Sadie, who wins some original art and a nice pack of comics and stuff.
Here’s the rest of the entries in no particular order, who all get some pdf comics as thanks for their efforts.
This slightly intimidating Chris Sandwich is by Phil Maude, who also chucked in a Space Wars colouring book page:

Kent Tayler‘s great credit crunch inspired gag:

Gareth Van Brookes also had a crack (cos i made him), with an embroidered incompetent shark:

Marco ‘Brunez’ Brunello’s cheeky effort:

My homey Hugh Raine also had a go, going a bit obscure with Truculent Strawberry:

And lastly, Andy Lee‘s classic Banal Pig at leisure:

***UPDATE*** A belated, but nonetheless brilliant entry from Ellen Lindner, a wistful Ethel Sparrowhawk:

Thanks again to everyone who entered!

LACF Aftermath


So it was the 4th Leeds Alternative Comics Fair on Saturday, and by all accounts (certainly in my opinion) it was the best one so far. We had a great lineup of exhibitors, and a fantastic turnout with loads of people really interested and enthusiastic about what we’re all doing. As usual, co-organiser Hugh Raine has taken a masterful selection of photographs of the event so please look at them if you need evidence- the above photo is also one of Hugh’s. I was selling Christopher Wren for the first time (and made a little display especially), and there was a good response to that, with lots of people buying both the happy and unpleasant endings- there are a few left of the original edition, so go here for ordering details, along with a shonky video demonstrating the unusual format of the comic.
I’ve taken down the April Sale Madness page as promised, so thanks to everyone who took advantage of that, and yesterday i went through all the shop pages on the right hand side to update them and make sure there wasn’t any old weird offers and stuff that i’d forgotten about, and also to put prices up unfortunately. I’m not happy about it, but i’ve had to increase prices by 25p to cover the hike in postage costs (thanks David Cameron you cock), except for the BP Portrait Anthology which i have reduced to clear, and is now only £3 inc p&p. However, if you would like a few comics please email me at banalpig@gmail.com as I can work out a discount with the comics being posted together. Don’t forget, i’ve also got poster prints for sale and will do you a nice one-hour drawing of your choice for just £20, an ideal gift for your loved ones.
I also updated my about page, so have a look at that if you like.

Elsewhere, I’ve got a piece in the Star Wars show May the 4th Be with You in Leeds this weekend, so i’m looking forward to that, and i’ve got a table at the Handmade Art and Craft Fair at Wharfe Chambers, Leeds on Sat 12th May.

Leeds Alternative Comics Fair 4, 28th April

Yes it’s back, once again myself and Hugh Raine are putting on a comics fair at A Nation of Shopkeepers, and this is my poster for it. As usual it will be marvellous, all the details are on the Leeds Alternative Comics Blog, and there’s a facebook event and a twitter if you like that sort of thing. I’m making a little minicomic/poster thing especially for it, here’s a little sneaky pic of a bit of the rough plan:

this is a new character which i think i’m gonna call christopher wren, although i’m not settled on the name yet, he’s a spunky bird on a quest for excitement. All being well it’ll be ready for LACF4, see you there…

New for Thought Bubble!

here’s another new poster which, all being well, will be available for thought bubble this weekend. it’s the father of science fiction, HG Wells, riding on a pig. I just thought of it the other day, and i fancied drawing it. Along with this and these I’ll have 5 posters for sale in total, which is a new thing for me really but i’m enjoying doing the big images. Also available will be these fine badges below, representing some of my best loved characters (and chris sandwich). i recommend buying the chris sandwich badge, as it will be the collector’s item of the future due to it’s unpopularity at the time of release.

Of course i will be selling a selection of my comics, plus gareth brookes’ masterwork The Black Project and i will be sharing a table with Hugh Shug Raine, which means you may as well not go to any other stand, but you probably still can if you want…

LACF3!


booom! have a look at these loverly posters by me and hugh for the next leeds alternative comics fair on the 1st october. here’s the facebook page and the blog. it promises to be the best one yet, so write it in your diaries and psion organisers, book your tickets and plan your routes now in readiness.
elsewhere, sorry i havent posted any untitled ape pages recently, i haven’t really been arsed. i’ve been away recently, and got to move and stuff soon, so i’ve had the dreary business of real life to get on with.
i’m thinking about doing some prints of epic scenes featuring beloved bp characters for thought bubble- any suggestions?