19 April 2013

Brian Bolland speaks at Comica

Brian Bolland is one of the grandees of British comic book art and so I leaped at the chance to hear him speak at a Comica event.

The venue for this was the new home of Central Saint Martins which has grown out of disused industrial buildings just north of Kings Cross Station. This is already an impressive site and building with a large courtyard of fountains outside and large open spaces inside. Comica has held in the Platform Theatre. That is at the back of the site where the next stages of the sites redevelopment are in full swing.

The Platform Theatre has a comfortable bar so arriving a little early was not a problem, I always like to allow some time in case of tube hold-ups.

Brian came prepared with a presentation with dozens of examples of his work from throughout his career. He went through these are some pace pausing momentarily to tell us about some of the more important milestones, such as Killing Joke which launched him as a major force in the USA too.

Another milestone, and a much less obvious one, was Brian's move to digital working and his views on this were interesting.

Brian saw the original pen and ink work as the definitive look and feel and with digital he is trying to replicate that, not to do something new, though he has done some playing with the capabilities of Photoshop such as incorporating photographs.

His reason for using digital is for the improvements it gives in the mechanics of drawing. An obvious benefit is the ability to change or delete things easily. A less obvious benefit is that drawing on a slate with the picture appearing on a separate screen means that the drawing hand does not get in the way of the eye and the drawing.

The other insight that I found interesting was that Brian prefers the traditional 9-panel structure of a page believing that the panel should be a window on to the art rather than part of it. He found complex page structures distracting.

This was a whirlwind presentation that could only scratch the surface of his long and wide career. Unfortunately the timetable for the evening meant that the journey was shorter than I would have liked and the host thought that questions from the audience were more important than just letting Brian tell his story.

This was a Chinese meal of a talk that left me satisfied but wishing for more. Hopefully Comica will deliver that something more one day.

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