Tuesday 10 September 2019

NICE 2019: Postscript

I'm reasonably tired.

For the first time in what seemed to be an age, Russell Payne was travelling to Bedford with me. I say travelling with, but in reality, he was driving me there. I'm unable to drive as I've never learned. I've travelled on the train to NICE before, but it would've involved setting off in early July to arrive in time and an extra £300. So, Russ agreed to drive after my former chauffeur Scott bailed on me (to be fair, he was starting a new job in something tedious involving software and screens).

Russ arrived on time to pick me up. I blame that for the things I forgot to take with me. The plan was to arrive at 6pm. I'd not been in a car with Russ for a while and I'd forgotten he doesn't believe in, or understand, anything about stopping distances.

We arrived at 545. Unprecedented. I put the smooth journey down south to the Sat-Nav. A svelte Jeff was waiting at the reception. He insulted Russ and we were given our keys.

We sat in the bar for a while as people bought pieces of art from my folder. Whilst my friends were rifling through my bags, I chatted to the ever-pleasant Mark Buckingham about Miracleman. It took us some time to realise that the key cards for our hotel room only worked because the door was already open when we entered. We managed to lock it upon leaving the room, only to find that it didn't open again. The limp handle and the fact the entire unit listed to the right was a clue that all was not well. The man from reception was convinced it was simply a case of us being too simple to use the cards. Exonerated, he couldn't open the door either! We were assured it'd be functioning when we returned from our meal.

A sketchcover I sold in the bar, Friday night

We ate at Wetherspoons. The food was warm. Two friends, Alex and Michael ordered about 12 meals and 3 litres of cocktails between them. I ate a dry veggie burger. Russ ate something but he inhaled it so fast I've no idea what it was.

Upon returning to the hotel, Jeff asked Russ to compere a panel the following morning; Sketch and Chat with Ben Oliver and Dylan Teague. They'd no idea what that entailed. No one had. After high level comic talk, we headed for an early night around 1am. We'd forgotten that our room was inaccessible. No longer, we were in! The early night became a memory when Russ started talking and throwing questions around. He finally fell silent at 0430 so I could grab a few hours sleep.

Russ had to make money over the weekend. His plan was to share my table and sell Jack Kirby based prints alongside some actual Kirby comics from his collection. He reckoned that if he sold all the comics then he'd make £800.

Breakfast was excellent. Sat with Greg Staples and Dave Kendall, both great guys and artists and talked about the lack of opportunities for kids to create and use their imagination within today's school system.

Set up at the con was simple. I sat on the left as the light was slightly better (we were in the second building where there's only one window about the size of an egg box to light a gym sized area). Russ kindly let me put some comics I didn't want/have space for anymore in the box with his. I did point out that his comics were massively overpriced. For example, I had the first appearance of John Stewart in pretty decent shape, signed by Neal Adams, for a tenner more than Russ had an FF 19 in 'left to die' condition. But Russ was convinced he'd sell out, like he did at LFCC. I enjoy his blind optimism.The panel with Ben Oliver and Dylan was cancelled. No-one will ever know what it was going to be about.

The con opened with an explosion of people. I didn't manage to start sketching until two hours later, I was so busy selling art, meeting fans and signing comics. This year, for the first time for years, the sketches were normal; Hobgoblin, Black Cat, Wolverine. I did do an Obi-Wan on a blank variant that may have been a mistake. I said I wouldn't do any likenesses as it takes an age at cons with the constant breaks for chatting and the guff reference. I did a portrait of Prince once that took hours. I tried to do an Alec Guiness. Russ helpfully pointed out, as soon as I started inking, that the blank was an Anakin and Obi-Wan so I should have been drawing Ewan McGregor. I also did a Quislet sketch, not many of those around!

An action shot of Watson and Payne. I look like a medieval lackwit. Terrible hair.

Russ posing as reference for a Hobgoblin sketch.

I sold a fair few of my comics and even managed to shift one of Russ' while he was compering a panel about concept art with Greg Staples and Adi Granov. Russ had realised that I was right about his comics (he had a Lois Lane with part of the cover missing, I think it'd been sat under a tractor for 40 years, priced at £20. It was worth 50p, at most) and halved all his prices.

One comic I sold was to a young lad. It was a golden age Flash comic that was beat up, but the price reflected it. I did a deal for him and he was dead happy. It's really encouraging to see someone so young who cares about the Golden Age stuff and is so obviously excited about finding an issue like that. I remember being that age and the excitement I felt upon finding something unexpected, old, and affordable! Everyone in the area had their mood boosted by several points.

People brought me gifts! Thanks Nige and Ben for the Legion stickers, badge, hat and the art book! Had a brilliant chat with comic retailer Tony Addison about old school bmx. I had no idea he'd been a rider for Mongoose when he was a kid. Ace.

We dined with Mark Farmer, Julian Clarke and Rob Rundle, all members of the Legion of Superheroes APA, conversing over excellent Indian food. We walked past the restaurant where at least 80 of he con party were eating and saw Jeff serving people. He really looks after his guests.

Later in the afternoon. I think Ben Le Foe, Russ and myself were talking about how insane Paw Patrol is.

Russ, Mark Farmer and I retired to the hotel bar. Pretty much everyone else was still eating at the collective meal Jeff organised, so it was quiet. Except for the wedding party. Mark regaled us with industry tales and we talked about old artists and writers. A really cool moment was when Mark talked about his favourite covers of all time (he'd been asked to pick his top ten for a recent article) and we began to finish each others sentences; 'that Bat Lash one where he's,' and the other person would say, 'behind a grave.' Or, 'the Hulk cover where he's' and the other finishes, 'holding up the logo.' The same thing happened with Joe Jusko when we spoke about covers. Seems there's a collective agreement about what constitutes a great cover!

One story Mark shared, from the early days of his career, was when he appeared on Wacaday (a kids TV show from the mid to late '80s presented by Timmy Mallet) with Jim Shooter. Barry Kitson was supposed to be there too, but didn't turn up. The idea was to show kids how a comic book page was created with Shooter explaining, Barry talking about pencilling and then Mark inking the piece. It went wrong when Mark was asked to ink wearing a massive werewolf hand. The tale involved a wardrobe malfunction involving Patsy Kensit and other general failures. Mark has the show on tape but it's not something anyone will ever see unfortunately.

A4 White Queen pre-con. 

My eldest daughter messaged me whilst Mark was talking to us about what it was like inking Gil Kane. She asked if we could watch an episode of Fringe together that night. She hadn't noticed I'd not been at home for the previous two days.

I awoke the next morning with a spotlight shining in my face. Thanks, Russ. It was better than the constant snoring I'd endured though. He was eager to get to the con, wanting to sell everything so he could eat upon returning home. He'd added more prints he'd had concealed in his car boot, a Kirby portrait he'd digitally vomited on and a Galactus that looked as if a young child had drawn it and then accidentally pressed some keys whilst using Photoshop. He didn't sell any.

Russ drew the above. He copied it from an Artgerm drawing. If anyone wants to buy it then I'll make sure you're barred from next years con. 

Russ may not have made any money, but he made a lot of people happy. His Kirby talk went down very well and was met with a standing ovation from at least four people. Although he didn't do the promised rap, which was a huge disappointment to all.

Nice is more of an art event, less what passes as a 'comic con' in the UK. There aren't hundreds of cosplayers wandering around, a random Batmobile parked outside, a bloke dressed as a clown for no reason at all. There are no celebrity guests or people who may or may not have been in an episode of a tv series from 1978. There are no artist guests posing as industry professionals who've never worked in the industry. Those events are fine, they're what comic cons are today, kid friendly, for the family. But Nice is different. It's a con where 30 or so artists and writers, pro and self-published, are gathered to sketch, sell art, sign things(for free) and talk with fans. It's a convention for people who collect art and want to meet the creators. It's very laid back and relaxed. Jeff and Bub, and the rest of the team, do a great job putting it on each year. It's not put on to make cash, cramming as many people through the door as possible. Instead, it's a con based around a love of comic books and the creators who work on them.

Neo Joker, pre-con commission, A3

Jakita Wagner, A3 watercolour, pre-con

A4 Banshee watercolour, pre-con

Russ was tired when we set off for home, having carried a heavy box across Bedford. It was my fault as I had one final art deal to do. I have Cam, Bub's eldest to thank for that! The first warning sign that everything was going to jump the shark came when Russ went all the way around a roundabout and then, after another circuit, headed back to the hotel car park. After escaping that loop, it happened again at another roundabout. Then, Russ ignored the Sat-Nav.

     'It's ok, when I was coming back from London a couple of weeks ago, it said the motorway was closed and it wasn't. They just want you to spend £8 on the toll. It adds ages to your journey. I can't afford the toll.'
     'I'll pay,' I replied, an edge of fear entering my voice. As we drove past the lane for the M6 toll, neither of us expected what lay ahead.
     'See,' exclaimed Russ triumphantly, 'our journey time has gone down by 20 minutes.'
It took us over 2 1/2 hours to travel about 5 miles. My nadir came when we heard reggae blaring from a van window. I don't like reggae, I hate it. I know, it's a valid music form...but...no, it's really not for me.Russ wound my window down to ensure I enjoyed it fully.

We arrived home at 0130.

Update from Russ: ''I was going to go to the bank yesterday to pay in all my profits, but I spent them all on a Curly Wurly instead.' You can read a slightly disingenuous version of the weekend from Russ' point of view here.

Friday 6 September 2019

Writing a book: The finish line

It's been five years. There have been times when the entire project has floundered to the point where the book appeared dead. But, here we are, it's almost ready for print! I was hoping to have the book printed, available for sale online, and copies to sign and sell at the NICE comic con over the weekend...alas, a sentence with a missing question mark scuppered those plans!

My thanks to the fine folks who've read the book, offered comments and constructive criticism and encouragement over the past year. And thanks to Russell Payne also for writing the synopsis!

Setting off for the NICE con in a few hours. I'll be posting the usual account upon my return!

The proof copy that arrived this week!

Cover artwork! 

Monday 20 May 2019

When collectors don't pay for commissions.

There are a few groups on Facebook and other social media sites that name and shame artists who don't produce the goods. People commission art, pay for it, either in cash at a convention or through Pay pal online, and then the artist doesn't do the work, or they do it and never send it. Sometimes they promise it for a while in correspondence but then they disappear, never answering messages again. They keep the money and shaft the fan. Sometimes the money involved is a lot, say $800, $1000. Yes, it's out of order and is basically theft. So collectors call them out and rightly so.

Black Cat A3 watercolour. For sale at NICE in September

But, let's take a moment to look at it from the other side, when someone commissions art from an artist and then never pays, doesn't answer messages and ignores the artist. It's not theft, but the artist has worked hours or days on the art and then gets shafted. They're out of pocket. As freelancers, as self-employed people, that's a problem.

Well, you may say, why not take payment up front? A few reasons. One: It takes away the impetus to do the work. Two: Deadlines crop up, and commissions with no deadlines take a back seat, which means the wait for the art is longer than intended. That irks the commissioner and creates unneeded stress for both parties. Three: I like to complete the transaction when everyone's happy with the finished product, me with the work and, well, the person who commissioned the work with the work too! Fourth: I line up work for a few months in advance, I have a family, so I don't live week to week. If the commissioner hasn't paid any money, it makes it easier waiting for the art to be done, which sometimes takes me a lot longer to get to than I intended. I think those reasons are valid.

With oil paintings, as they're very time consuming and there's a fair bit of cash involved, I do take a deposit when I've done the prelim and I've started work on the finished piece. But, I'm working on the finished art already, so we're talking a couple of weeks until the finished piece is completed.

It used to be rare thing, someone ordering a pre-con commission to be picked up and paid for, at a con and then not turn up or answer messages ever again. But, it was only the odd person, one in fifty or so. Often I could sell the piece to someone else if that was the case.

The past year or so, it's started to become more frequent. It happens in a few ways. Here's an exchange...
Commissioner messages, bloke who's bought stuff off me previously although he did take a long while to pay...
'Hey, have you managed to start my piece yet?'
'Sorry for the wait, I should be able to get the piece done over the next week or so.'
'Ok, great.'
I draw the piece, in the case I'm re-enacting here, it was on a Superman blank. The next week I send a jpeg.
'I love it, but I didn't think you'd do it so soon, can I pay you at the end of the month?'
Irritating as he knew I was going to do the piece over the next week. And then the guy disappears and never answers another message. Is it a case that he didn't see the message? Well, no. He just decided to not pay for it. Be honest and at least get in touch...Thankfully, I sold that one several months later.

One guy (another, have you done my piece yet bloke) was going to pay me at the end of January this year. It passed, so I messaged a reminder in early March, followed up with another message asking if he still wanted the art at the end of March. Early May, messaged again. Nothing. Three times, there's intent. I figure its over. That particular sketchcover I'm going to sell at NICE for half price, out of spite. Petty? Perhaps. At least it's a popular character. At least half the people who disappear have commissioned something a little esoteric (or weird) that I basically have no chance of selling.

Julie Newmar sketchcover

This year being shafted is happening with about 20% of commissions, which is alarming. I get it, situations change, people have something happen in their life where suddenly they can't find the money and they send a message. That's fine. Communication! I don't mind waiting for payment, if I know what's happening. And, those people who let me know before I start the piece that they can no longer go ahead with the commission, thank you! But, the majority of people just never reply. They read the message then go dark.
Are they dead? No, they still post pics and comments on Facebook. And, it's not just first time commissioners who are doing this, it's people I've met, people who I've done work for before. If there's an issue, send a message, 'sorry, been a nightmare, situation's changed, can no longer afford commission.' Ok. But ignoring the artist? No.

Is it a case of the collector not being happy with the piece? Well, no. sometimes people aren't happy with what I do and I either make changes, or we work something out. No, this is a case of people asking me to provide art for them and then reneging on the payment. It's not something that happens to only me, it's happening more often to other artists too. It's an issue. It takes time to draw and I rely on commissions for a decent part of my income. It's becoming an issue.

This is work I've done, taken time over so, I'm out of pocket when people don't pay. It's not like I spend 5 minutes doing these things. When I work my way through my list of commissions, I message people before I plan to start the work, give them a heads up. Sometimes people tell me not to go ahead, for different reasons. Fine, I've not put pencil or brush to paper, not a problem. Sometimes people never reply, again, no problem outside of having to change my schedule. But when I've done the work? Bang out of order.

Maybe there's a group on FB that names and shames non-paying fans and collectors?

I don't want to take money upfront and then have people moan because they've had to wait for 2 months (ok, it's likely going to be longer) before I can get to their piece. But, it's probably something I'm going to have to do if the number of shafters continues to grow.

Should I charge double to make up for being shafted? No, because that punishes the people who do pay and are honest.

If you're reading this and have disappeared on an artist, reneged on payment, then think about it, get in touch with the artist, tell them what the problem is. Do the right thing.

And to any artists who've taken money upfront and then never done or sent the art to the commissioner, don't be a thief, do what you've been paid to do, or at least contact the client and explain what's happening.

 West and Ward, communicating. You know it's the right thing to do

Monday 15 April 2019

NICE 7/8 September 2019

I'm now taking commission requests for NICE 2019, which takes place on 7/8 September this year. I'll be at the con all weekend sketching and signing. I'll probably be sketching on the Saturday night after the con too. 
As always, I'll be sketching for free at the convention. These won't be as finished as the commissions I do but they look pretty good.
I'll also have a folder of pieces to sell, sketchcovers, watercolours, the usual stuff. 

For those interested in a commission for the con, here are the details!


These are still £50 for a b/w Copic sketch like the examples below, a single figure bust, a close up etc, even a single full figure or basic background. For a wrap that'd be £100. Colour (Copics and ink with watercolour wash) will be £60, £120 for a wrap. For anything like multiple figures, detailed background, complicated compositions etc then it'll be on a per job basis. We're not talking hundreds of pounds or anything, but they will be more money than the base price!

Newmar and West, £70

Tom Holland Spider-Man, watercolour, £60

West Batman, £50. I still have this one for sale, sometimes you just can't get rid of a bomb.

Newmar Catwoman, £50

West Batman, £50

Boba Fett, watercolour over Copics, £60

Billy Dee Williams, Lando, £50

Another Adam West Batman, £50

Spidey v Hobgoblin, watercolour, £70

Watercolour over Copics, £60

Gustin Flash, watercolour over Copics, £60

Frank Gorshin, Riddler, £50

Note:The quality of blank variant titles varies greatly depending on the publisher. For example, DC generally have the best surface to draw on, it's a decent surface. Except Adventures of Supergirl which has a surface like 1970's school toilet paper and has my vote as the worst blank variant ever made. 

Marvel tend to be hit and miss, some are fine, some are ink, Copic, paint and even pencil repellent. The most recent ones are the best but they do have a tendency to soak up the colour from paint. Also, be mindful that some Marvel blanks have a massive logo plastered across them that inhibits greatly where they can be drawn on. Why? No idea, it's inane. Consider that when considering those blanks for commissions!

Dynamite...every tool I use skates across the almost plastic surface and coagulates in a pool of frustration. So, not all art options that I do will be available for every blank variant. We can always talk about it beforehand. 

I can also do the above style of detailed sketches on regular paper, either A4 £50 (£60 for colour)or A3 £100 (£120 for colour), if you don't want them on blank variant covers. Again, it's a similar situation regarding detailed backgrounds and multiple figures. They'll be priced on a per job basis. 
One thing I no longer offer, on any surface, is likenesses of people who aren't celebrities, by that I mean family members, friends etc. It's just a load of hassle. Sorry.

Emma Frost, Copics with watercolour that I did for the con last year. A3, £120

Tom Wilson as Biff Tannen, A4 £50

Cover recreations on blanks start at £70. They're pretty tricky to do although they do look nice!


 These aren't to be confused with the Copic pieces with a colour wash, these are true watercolours, no ink or marker involved. There are a few of them amongst the sketchcovers above.

Prices start at £200 for a watercolour piece A3 in size. That'd be with a fully rendered figure, or two if it's simple, with a basic background. For a more detailed background, for example with rendered buildings, it'd be more money, say £250. For multiple figures, a battle, then it'd go up in price again. See examples below with listed prices for an idea of the different prices.

Rita Farr of the Doom Patrol as the 50ft Woman. A3 watercolour, £250

Universo v The Legion, A3 watercolour, £275

Recreation of DareDevil #8 cover, £200

Deathbird, A3 watercolour, £200

Batman v Poison Ivy, A3 watercolour, £200

Hawkman #19 recreation, A3 watercolour, £200

Black Canary on Triumph bike, A3 watercolour, £200

Poison Ivy v Batman, A3 watercolour, £200

Wolverine bust, A4 watercolour, £60

Green Arrow #1 recreation with Willa Holland as Speedy, A5, £50

Elektra, A4 watercolour, £60

Wolverine #1 recreation with Hugh Jackman, A4 watercolour, £60

Poison Ivy v Batman. Oversized, A2 watercolour. A2 watercolours start at £450.


Cover recreations are £200 for linework, £275 for tonal pieces. 

Tonal piece, £275

Tonal piece, £275

 I also do cover style pieces that aren't based on existing covers but that can be drawn in the style of other artist's work. Same price as the recreations.

I also offer digital colours on commissions (you'd get an A3 sized print along with the original) the colouring costs an extra £80

I paint in oil on canvas board. I can work to specific size requirements but the usual size is approx 18" by 13". I used to paint on stretched canvas but various postal services seem to enjoy bending the art and trying their best to damage it. 

Below are a some examples. I'll talk about pricing underneath each image! I price each piece according to the size and subject matter. It's easier that way!

This was $2000/£1500. 18" by 13", lots of detail. Spidey in oils, background in acrylic.

Lots of figures, 18 by 13, oil. This would be about $2000/£1500

An older piece, but useful for price comparison. This would be about £1000

Oversized oil. 24" in height. This would be $2750/£2000

Another oversized oil, 24" in height. This also would be $2750/£2000

Around £1250, more detail than the Batman v Scarecrow 

Lots of detail, multiple figures, $2000/£1500

So, if you're interested in anything then get in touch via watson904@btinternet.com or send me a message via Facebook!