16 October 2016

Patience by Daniel Clowes

I just finished reading Daniel Clowes new book Patience. The book came out in March 2016 but I was in no rush to read it. Not because I wasn't eager. More so due to the actual patience you develop from waiting years for your favourite comic artist to release a new book.
It's hard for me to pick favourite anything, but Clowes would have to be up there when it comes to comics. Seth and Crumb coming in a close second. Crumb's last comic being the book of genesis (2009) and mystic funnies before that (2003?). 

The book itself has a fantastic design. The full and brilliant colours throughout seem brighter and more comic book pop. More so than some of his previous more subdued colours. The weight of the paper feels nice and thick and has a slight off white cream colour which suits the art well. At just a little over 178 pages the book has a nice weight and thickness to it. 

The story itself is different for Clowes although it still has that distinct Clowes feel to it. Full of strange creepy background characters and main characters with dubious intentions and motivations. It was a little slow to start for me in the first part of the story. But I feel like it kicked in about halfway. I was a little confused in parts which character was which and how it related to the past. But that kept me guessing and resolved in the end.

Clowes is one of the best comics artists out there producing non mainstream work. I have enjoyed his past stories that unfold the story in short vignettes that you have to piece together. Patience is less like this although it does have similar elements to it.

The story itself would lend itself to a movie, although time travel can be a little overdone in that genre. It would be cool to keep the movie like a Clowes world as much as possible. Put in the weird background actors and funky fashions. Have the over saturated bright comic colours...

Who knows if the new movie Wilson with woody Harrison is a hit maybe we will be seeing more Clowes movies. 

Check out Clowes interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast.

12 August 2016

Using Finder to compile PDFs

Unnecessary background info...

I recently had a computer problem which caused me to have to erase and reinstall my entire computer's OS to fix the problem. I backed everything up (well most things) but lost some of the software, as I no longer had the download codes, and to be honest I'm not sure where I even got them from in the first place. One of the pieces of software I relied heavily on, and lost, was Adobe Acrobat Pro.

I probably only used a tiny percentage of its functionality, as I only really used it to compile PDFs to take new books to the printer and create PDF ebooks. Now I didn't have it, I was starting to panic. How was I going to be able to continue printing digitally and electronically. There were a few online upload type services and I also looked into open source and some of the cheaper options; I wasn't prepared to pay for Acrobat Pro officially, it costs somewhere between $300-400. Anyway, nothing really worked the way I expected, surely there's software out there, but I couldn't find it.

I then read about Finder on the Mac being able to create PDFs. Excellent I thought, but when I tried it it only saved on page into the PDF and not every page in the booklet. I almost gave up when I decided to dig a little further to see if I was doing it right, turns out there is a little trick...

How to create a PDF collection for ebooks and print files using Finder on the Mac

  1. In a Finder window highlight/select all the files you wish to include (use the Shift key or Command key for multiple sections)
  2. Control click (right click) 'Open With' choose the defualt which should be Preview
  3. All the filkes open in a Preview window, you should see all the individual pages as thumbnails on the left side (if not go 'View, Thumbnails')
  4. Command A or highlight all to select
  5. Now choose 'Print' and not export as PDF (as you would expect)
  6. Then 'Save as PDF'...Et Voila!

You can read the comic online here. I will be offering an updated PDF version soon.

20 July 2016


Fixed Mindset- people are born with certain abilities, there is not much you can do tho change this.

Growth Mindset- Abilities are learned, effort and training can improve these abilities.

I've been reading the excellent book 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck, that describes her extensive research into how people learn and handle challenges in learning. Carol discovered what appeared to be two distinct mindsets when it comes to learning and challenges associated with learning. Which Dweck called the 'fixed mindset' and the 'growth mindset'. Fixed mindset people get discouraged when faced with challenges, failure or criticism, they take these things personally and shy away from harder tasks fearing failure. However the growth mindset people look at challenges, failure and criticism as a way to learn and grow.

In terms of learning and somewhat my art practice I have always thought of myself as a growth mindset person, at least in terms of realising that drawing is an ability that can be improved with practice and training. However I think my growth mindset only went halfway. There was still a part of me that thought that certain people start with a bit of a head start, that is they are born with gifts already and then improve on that. I know this now because in reading the book I could definitely relate to some of the things that Dweck listed as fixed mindset traits.

I could also see how that lingering elements of a fixed mindset have held me back in certain ways from improving, and how that as your art practice matures there is a tendency to become more fixed. That is as you grow and improve you then fix yourself on that level and fear challenging it further.

Examples of my own fixed mindset

  • Believed in a certain amount of inherent ability (or at least interest)
  • Blamed lack of proper tools for non progress
  • Mistakes or failures made me feel worthless, like I should give up at times
  • Jealous of others and their achievements (even though you know you shouldn't be)
  • Compete and compare yourself to others (and feel like crap because of it)
  • Avoid certain challenges, believing you're not good at certain things
  • Saying "I'm not good at XYZ, I never have been..."
  • Seeking perfection
  • Resting on your laurels

Examples of my growth mindset (and things I want/need to do more of)

  • Practice the elements of the work
  • You can always improve and get better
  • effort always amounts to a better end result
  • Learn from your mistakes, do it different next time and or stick with things that work
  • Enjoy effort and challenges
  • devise methods for tackling challenges, instead of outright avoidance
  • Always be competing against your past self, be better than before (always be improving)
  • Ask questions of others
  • Saying "I'm not good at XYZ yet...But I'm working on improving by doing AB and C"
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes and take risks (as long as you learn from them)
  • Don't seek perfection
  • Don't rest on your laurels

I was recently given a really good example of the fixed mindset when it comes to art making. Someone on my Facebook feed pointed out that they dislike it when people compliment them on their art by insinuating it is a gift. They were upset because it disregarded all the effort and hard work that went into learning their craft. It is very rare that anyone is born with immediate abilities. The vast majority of people must take an interest in learning something and put in hard effort and work to progress in it. I have often pondered the saying 99% perspiration 1% inspiration. Often when we look at a successful artist we only see the inspiration, the actual idea. however we totally miss 99% of how it came about, the blood sweat and tears that went into making something work.

I am also reminded of a past student I taught. He was a young guy, not long out of high school. You could tell he thought of himself as an 'artist' and dressed and acted accordingly. Whenever I gave a new class project, this 'artist' was not able to even attempt the project. Instead he would do his own version of the project. And when I say 'his own version' I mean he would do whatever he felt like doing and pretend to relate it to the task at hand. Needless to say he didn't progress his art any further during the year. The last I heard about him, he was still creating the exact same kind of below par work and parading around town as an 'artist'. At the time I knew that a big part of his problem was that he had been praised far too much as a teen, for being an 'artistic type'. It had given him an inflated sense of himself. Looking back I can see how he had the classic fixed mindset, he already thought he was awesome, so why try. What would happened if he failed or didn't do well? He couldn't risk it. In fact I later went on to write these list of limiting beliefs to address his attitude.

If I was to teach an art class again, a major thing I would change would be to set up an environment of the growth mindset right from the beginning.


  1. http://mindsetonline.com/
  2. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/
  3. https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en

8 April 2016

Drawing process

After watching the trailer for Rogue One, I felt inspired to put some characters I've been developing into a Star Wars scene. I took progress shots as I went to hopefully show a little bit of the process.

1. I often draw freehand without any penciling but I knew it would be tricky crowding these characters around the display, and I opted for some light pencilling (H). I prefer only doing light pencilling when I'm inking with my tech pen, otherwise the drawing becomes too stiff. It would have been good to have a photo of just the pencils so you get and idea of how I build on the. The robot guy in the background gives you a pretty good idea how lightly I tend to pencil. I try and not add too much detail, preferring to leave that for the inking stage.

2. This is the final drawing after inking. As mentioned I inked with my Staedtler .05 tech pen, I also used a GFKP brush pen to add some thinker lines and fill in blacks. I also occasionally use this thinner fountain type pen to do the cross hatching. I'm not sure exactly what the pen is called. I picked it up from the excellent JetPens and it has 'Carbon Pen' written on the side. There's at least 3 areas where I made a mistake and just redrew the line. Also some practice for two of the hands (one's covered by the pen) and my son started drawing that squiggle on the right halfway through.

3. Final piece after being scanned at 1200PPI, cleaned up in Photoshop using curves and threshold. I then save a pure hi res B&W version. Reduce the PPI to about 300PPI (and save as) and convert to an RGB file. I then copy the line art layer and delete the black lines. I use this copied layer to add the colour and set the top line art layer to multiply. I was originally only going to do this in the light blue colour but I felt it needed some more tones, so I added the light grey too. I can grab a web version from this file but if I was setting up a print file I would save the colour layer only as a jpeg, then place it in an Illustrator document and place the high res bitmap art over the top then save as a PDF.
There you go. I hope you enjoyed a little behind the scenes. I should try and make another one of these but take more shots as I go through. Feel free to ask any questions.

13 March 2016

Start before you are ready

“If you’re working on something important, then you’ll never feel ready. A side effect of doing challenging work is that you’re pulled by excitement and pushed by confusion at the same time.”

11 February 2016

Act rather than think

Sometimes when you're caught in a bit of a drawing or writing rut you can't help but go over and over things in your head. I was reading a post on one of my favourite non drawing blogs, a fantastic blog on the process of innovation, and I came across this quote,

"...build a bias towards action, not thinking"

When you feel stuck it helps to get the pen moving, just get started on something anything. If you have new ideas, try the new ideas. Be ready for failure too, that's ok, but don't be scared to just jump straight in and try out some new things. This is one of the many reasons I think sketchbook practice is important, it helps you get out of your head and act on ideas, and you never even have to show anyone if you don't want.

In short, if you ever get stuck, just keep on moving.

30 January 2016

Paper tests with a tech pen

I decided to do a quick paper test for a new comic I'm working on. I was going to go with Bristol board as the drawing substrate and thought I'd give it a quick test.

drawing of a chair in a corner with lamp and side table
Test drawing number 1 (bristol)
I was a little unhappy with how the pen moved across the page, the Bristol makes my tech pen drag a little which caused a few minor errors.
I decided I needed another test drawing, and seeing how I mostly draw in my sketchbook, I gave that a go next.

drawing of a chair in a corner with lamp and side table
Test drawing number 2 (sketchbook)
This was definitely much easier to draw on and I found the pen flowing over the paper more easily. These kind of tests can be hard as by the second time you have drawn an image you have become better at it anyway and make less mistakes. I was sure the second one turned out significantly better, although after scanning, cleaning and saving they look almost identical to me!

Do you see any difference?

I like to follow blogs on creative thinking and innovation and a mantra that is often repeated is 'fail early and often'. By testing the paper out with one panel and then realising it's not going to work, I have made a small mistake instead of the massive mistake of penciling and inking the whole thing on that paper. I could argue that the difference would be minor, but you have to take any small wins you can get.

4 January 2016

Name change, back to the old...

After updating this blog from awcomix to anthonywoodward at the end of 2014 I have made the decision to go back to the original awcomix. After all the original is usually the best.*

Speaking of old things that are new, I'm finally putting some time into my long neglected GumRoad site. I must have set that thing up a couple of years ago and I never really felt like I knew what to do with it or how to use it properly. I have decided to upload my back catalogue of comics there for free. I have chosen to go with the 0+ model which means you can name your fair price, and to be totally clear and honest I am happy for people to put in $0, I am also happy for them to name their price too. I made a decision last year when I started making digital comics that I always wanted to offer a free option. I believe artists should have the opportunity to be paid for their work if it is appreciated, but I also believe in having things freely available. People can't always afford to pay or they might just want to sample the work before committing to paying.

Link to GumRoad store

*I originally did it as to not confuse this site with my main art site awcomix.com. A lot of google searches were still hitting old the awcomix pages, and the reason for changing the name were not as important as people not hitting dead links to old tutorial posts.