N.I.C.E. POSTSCRIPTThis was the third NICE convention and the best. It's a con for comic fans. There's a little cosplay, a few dealers, but if you like sketches and meeting artists, getting stuff signed, then this is the con to go to in the UK.
Jeff and Bub, who own the Close Encounters stores and put on the con each year really look after, not only the artists, but the fans too.
Can't say enough about how awesome the con was. I'd recommend it to anyone who's into comics. I'd also recommend it to any artists or writers who are approached as guests. You'll be treated well, there's food and drinks available all day for the guests (Jeff's mum makes some awesome food, and for people who like to eat badly there's crisps, chocolate bars and doghnuts too).
As always the weekend was an adventure. I went with Russell Payne (he was hosting a few panels) as I usually do. It was a trip that, for him, was combined with taking his daughter Chloe (you'll remember her from the LSCC post) to University in Westminster. So we needed to set off a lot earlier than usual. I figured he'd be late and so I read a book in the bath for most of the morning. It was the 4th part in the Adventures of Odysseus series by Glyn Iliffe. Recommended.
Russ arrived 90 minutes late with his wife Wend, Chloe and a lot of stuff in the car. We got the postcode put into the Sat Nav (borrowed to eliminate Russ' random, erroneous left turns on every journey we do together), I squeezed into my alloted space and off we went, following the purple road to Bedford. Well, after we'd put all the stuff that fell out when he opened the boot...and made Russ put back the pair of broken glasses he found in the road (he collects rubbish, he pulled a mouldy book out of a skip recently).
The plan was to drop me at the train station in Bedford and then Russ and his family would head off to London and stay the night in a hotel, Russ would be back at midday on the Saturday to sort out his first panel.
The M6 was one long roadwork. And then we hit the M1. Someone had decided to park their car in the third lane. Great idea. Thanks.
But, with the help of the Sat Nav, I was dropped at the train station during Friday afternoon. After a quick walk to the Close Encounters store I was escorted to the hotel where I'd be staying.
I checked in and went up to my room. It had a single bed. I looked everywhere for the second bed that Russ would be using. Nothing. Turns out, Russ and me had been split up...he was sharing with someone else.
I got some sleep that night, the only sound being the air conditioning. Great view overlooking the river in Bedford and a bridge. There was entertainment on at breakfast the next morning, rowers speeding down the river in those long boats you see in the Olympics and the Oxford Cambridge races. It got really exciting when one of them decided to drive straight into the bridge, adding the extra suspense of whether any other rower would stop to help her drag the boat to the bank.
I set out to not do too many sketches this year. I failed. I also didn't bring two vital Copic markers, my W1 for skin tones and my Blender...so I was artistically compromised. Maybe I shouldn't have been cocky and spent so long in the bath...Russ arrived at about midday and headed off to do a panel. When he arrived back his ego was out of control. To be fair, he'd only had a couple of hours sleep after a night in an awful London hotel. Him and Wend were awoken at 6am by the sound of drilling in another room. But there's no excuse for swaggering about.
I'm not able to draw and talk at the same time. I like to look at people when I speak. So if I was a monosyllabic fool to anyone who came to my table I apologise.
Sunday...me sketching, Russ looking very tired
That night Jeff and Bub had put on a buffet next door to the hotel. It was a little dark but I discovered plenty of veggie food and sat outside chatting and eating by the river. It was a great set up. I had a haloumi wrap (...I don't know how to spell haloumi and can't be bothered doing a spell check, but you know what I mean). Everyone who was there enjoyed themselves. There was a lot of chat about what title or artist got people into comics in the first place. George Perez on the New Teen Titans was thrown about a lot in that respect.
I got to have an in depth chat about American Football too, that I had with Mick. I've never mentioned American football at a con before but we'd been chatting about football for a while and were talking about whether we'd played at school etc. I never did, I started playing American football at college though. Mick asked 'what position?' immediately. There was a bit of back and forth, throwing out names of players to test each other, see if the other one was a civilian or not, thankfully we both know what we're talking about. I enjoy the probing, the striving to discover if the other person has real knowledge of a subject or just looked it up on Wikipedia ten minutes ago (...Nick Hornby covers it well in the book Fever Pitch, even if you hate football it's a good book) ...I've been trying to find out what Mick does for a job for a while...he may work in IT. Or that might have been a lie...I will find out.
It was a late night Saturday, like the old Bristol days, creators and fans chatting in the bar till the early hours. A variety of subjects were covered, comics obviously, art, TV shows, football, Star Trek and an in depth chat about baldness with Adi Granov and Ian Churchill. Ian also did a trick with his head and a glass.
I headed off to look at the art Barry Kitson had brought to the con and left Russ and Steve Dillon chatting with Jeff about 70's films. I was pretty amazed at Barry's new work. The detail was incredible, some of the lines were so fine and precise...it's really changed the way I look at inking. I'm not a very good inker but studying those pages has helped a lot.
It's actually been an educational couple of weeks concerning art. I spoke with Alan Davis about Neal Adams recently and we spoke about artograph machines and the way Adams pencilled and inked. Again, massive eye opener, altered the way I approach drawing...(well, it will, I've not actually tried yet, it's all in my head though. And I've only done a couple of recreations and a painting in the time since the conversation.) and then on the Sunday I was kindly gifted a copy of the Bolland cover book (thanks Katie). Inside Brian talks about a colouring technique from when he was working on Animal Man that again, opened my eyes to new techniques.
The other art discovery was made when I received a package through the post last week. My friend Aidan Lacy told me it'd be coming but I had no idea what was inside. I was speechless when I opened it and saw a Giffen page from Legion of Superheroes #294 and a Nick Cardy page from Aquaman #37, my favourite issue. When I'd recovered from the awesomeness of the gift I spent a good while studying the art, especially the Cardy page, and again, it's already affecting the way I draw, making me a little bolder with my lines, more confident. It's very, very different seeing a scan of an original piece of comic art and seeing the actual art.
Aquaman #37 page 17. Love the perspective on the final panel
Legion of Superheroes #294 page 11. A page from an awesome storyline.
So it's been a good few weeks educationally. I'm hoping to see some changes in my art over the next few months.
I left Barry pondering when the last time a classic villain had been created in comics and slept for a few hours. I was really looking forward to finding out how Chris (who was sharing a room with Russ) would deal with Russ' snoring.
Breakfast wasn't as exciting, no-one crashed, but there were some longer boats that had many rowers in them. And I got to chat to Dave Kendall about Madefire and animating comics. It's something I'm working on quite soon and he was making the concept of it clearer to me as it's a different way of approaching the art.
Russ turned up eventually and, as I suspected, Chris had to deal with the snoring. He woke Russ up at 04:20. Russ had been in bed for 10 minutes and already Chris had had enough.
I quite like having my own room.
Jeff had brought a box of old fanzines to the con and I went through them with Dave Hine. Some of the prices of comics for sale were hilarious. Spider-Man #1 for 60p...some early Gibbons, Bollland and Don Newton art in them too.
I almost got through my sketchlist, I fell two short in the end.
I met a lot of new fans over the weekend, the lady who I found out later read my blog (thanks! and if you're reading this then I'm sorry I was slightly subdued, tiredness and my lack of communication skills whilst drawing is what I'm blaming!) Arni from Denmark, Simon and a Blackpool fan who relocated to Bedford years ago...I've just drawn a blank to his name, typically, but we had an in depth chat about the ineptitude of Oysten and the general destruction of the team (I went to watch them tonight, I was convinced to buy a season ticket this year...they weren't very good. According to Radio Lancs, Gomes saved the penalty with his legs. He didn't, he missed it). It made the supporters of other teams feel a lot better about their own teams.
After the con I headed back to the hotel with Russ. I didn't see him much at the con, he was all over the place, he did a Barry Kitson retrospective that genuinely went well...we barely saw each other...he was shouting a lot on the Sunday, the two nights of sleep deprivation had affected him. And he had a couple of drinks.
The plan was for Russ to head back to London, pick up Wend and say goodbye to Chloe. I didn't want to intrude on the farewell (translation: I wanted to stay and chat at the hotel about art and comics) and Russ said it'd only be just over two hours before he returned. He left at about 5:30.
I figured I'd just sit in the bar and get something to eat later with Russ and Wend. I spent some time chatting with Ian and his wife Sasha, great people, thanks again for the Wacom and also Bub who I'd been wanting to chat with about art for a while. He really gets into the details, which I love, he can chat for a long time about it and is very knowledgeable.
Jeff, massive fan of Sons and Daughters. I've never watched it, Jeff. It's rubbish.
Russ rolled in after 9pm. I'd eaten one of my ribs by this point. We stopped off at a service station in Northamptonshire. It was full of nutters and there was nothing good to eat except pretentious meat based sandwiches for £300...we didn't make good time on the way home, we had to traverse the M1 and M6 car parks again...and Russ, despite Wend, me and the Sat Nav shouting at him not to, turned off the road for no reason. It's like driving tourettes, he just veers off inexplicably...We got back at about 0130. Yes, it's earlier than the last one, but it's getting ridiculous. Late returns have become a staple of cons.
Russ and I discussed putting on a con at the Norbreck Castle hotel, it's only a minute from where I live and has a big exhibition hall. Apparently there was a Trek con there once with William Shatner. We discussed panels, talks, guests. But it'll never happen. we're poor and have no organisational skills at all.
After talking with Adi Granov and Tamsin I may see if I can attend the Thought Bubble Con in November...