The artists of the Aardman Animation anthology comicbook Tales of the Spiffing were recently interviewed by Ben Mitchell of Skwiggly Magazine.
You can read the group interview at this link but here is my unedited response to Ben's questions.
•To canvass different work backgrounds, what role do you presently have at Aardman/other company?
I was a Story Artist on Aardman/Sony's 'Arthur Christmas' Feb. 09-Oct 09
•How did you come to hear about ‘Tales of the Spiffing’ and why was it of interest to you?
I worked with Ash Boddy & JP Vine who initiated the project -they're both strong story tellers and I wanted to support them in their first publishing venture. Contributing 8 pages to an anthology book is a good way to see my own work published without having to produce a whole graphic novel!
•What sort of timeframe did you work within?
I played around with different concepts for a while then thumbnailed the final idea over the summer 2010- finishing the final art in a mad dash towards the end of the year after moving to California.
•Given the collection is thematically about Britain, what determined your particular choice of subject matter (such as any British institutions/legends/pop culture that appealed to you in particular)?
Being a Welshman I figured that could be a unique entry into the collection-while searching for ideas an interesting true-life story hit the media over the summer which attracted my attention. Bert Forking's 'wheelie bin rescue mission' appealed to me as a small story on a large canvas; a regular joe literally getting out of his depth & ending up in the national media.
•What artistic influences did you draw upon when it came to your story/illustration style? The comic book work of MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman really inspired me- I wanted to keep the artwork simple & evocative-like his 'Hey Look' strips or early MAD covers. Yann Martel's LIFE OF PI has long resonated with me for its 'lost at sea' passages and an old man on a grand adventure is always entertaining such as Pixar's UP or David Lynch's THE STRAIGHT STORY.
•Were there any brick walls you hit during the process, and do you feel as though you were able to overcome them successfully? As always I struggled to find a satisfactory ending- I resorted to a cheap false teeth gag to round off the story!
•Did you use the opportunity to help strengthen a pre-existing visual style you feel that you’re known for, or was it an excuse to do something completely new and out of your wheelhouse? Oh it was absolutely a chance to experiment -I've made comics in the past but never for public consumption so this was my first opportunity to be published! I wanted to keep the style as rough & loose as possible and hoped working digitally would allow for that. However it transpired that working digitally is still very time consuming as I kept re-working the artwork to find an appealing 'look'.
•Do you feel that working within Aardman is a valuable contributor to your creative process, in the case of this book as well as other endeavours? Aardman is a great place to work! They supported my efforts to gather employees for regular life drawing sessions at a local Bristol art school. The studio is full of inspiring creative folk & the love they have for the medium is reflected in the unique output of the studio.
•I’m especially interested in the angle of the book’s contributors all coming from an animation industry background. Did you find that this complemented and/or helped the process, or was it tricky to get acclimated to a different method of visual storytelling?
Nah, storyboarding & comic books are closely related-if anything I wanted to make my strip illustrative but combine some more cinematic compositions and play with the rhythm of the panels.
•Was there anything about the experience that made you feel you’ve benefited as an animator/designer/storyteller etc? It was a constructive exercise to distill an epic story into 8 pages and relate the tale without dialogue or colour-those were the parameters I set myself to work within.
•Do any of you have future plans for the characters/stories you created, such as a longer-form story or animated incarnation? I'd love to expand mine into a short and exaggerate the sea voyage further-Bert could drift for weeks, months and encounter all sorts of marine beasts, strange islands and hallucinations!
Tales of the Spiffing is available from the website. For orders within the U.S. I have a limited quantity of books here for sale. It costs $20 (excl. mailing).
I will sign any copies and perhaps make a drawing inside . . . just email me at the address in my Blogger profile.