QUICK QUESTIONS WITH Patrick Brown
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO COMICS?
I’m Patrick Brown, and I’m a writer-artist.
WHAT COMIC ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
The Cattle Raid of Cooley, my ongoing online adaptation of the ancient Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which has been running at a page a week since 2008 and is about half done.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
Bringing stories and characters to life out of your head.
WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
There’s so little money in it for the amount of work that goes into it. I’ve spoken to several jobbing illustrators who say they’d love to make comics but can’t afford to. For some reason, if you make a 30-page comic with five to seven drawings on each page and try and sell it for three quid, people will think that’s a fortune. But make a print of a single drawing and sell it for a fiver, people will think that’s perfectly reasonable. I don’t get it.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER COMICS?
I blame my grandfather, Alec Magill. He was a comics fan of a sort – used to subscribe to the Sunday Post from Scotland just for Oor Wullie and The Broons. When I was three the family moved to England for a few years for my dad’s job. My granda used to post us a copy of the Beano and the Beezer every week.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
It’s probably not very obvious, but Hergé. Not in the style of drawing – although I did waste most of a decade trying to draw clear line, before realising that just wasn’t me – but more in the way I set up scenes, choose angles and sequences. In terms of drawing style, Eddie Campbell, Donna Barr, Mick McMahon and children’s illustrator Charles Keeping are probably the most significant.
WHAT TOOLS OF THE TRADE DO YOU USE?
I’m a pen-and-paper man. I do use a graphics tablet for colouring and cleanup, but I can’t get comfortable drawing with it. Some of my older comics were done in the traditional pencil, letter then ink fashion, but these days I don’t pencil, I just go straight in with ink. I draw The Cattle Raid of Cooley with a red Bic fine ballpoint and a Pentel correction pen. I have a grid drawn in black marker dividing the page up into two, three and four tiers and columns – I trace the panel borders from that, and just start drawing, leaving room for dialogue which I add on the computer using a font made out of my best hand lettering. In other work I experiment with other tools – italic markers, half-dead permanent markers for grey tones, Pitt brush-pens. I’ve tried brushes, but I have a heavy hand and that’s not a good combination. Dip pens are very nice, but messy.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE WORK OF WHICH YOU ARE MOST PROUD?
I’m proud of what I’m doing on the Cattle Raid, but Rise at Sundown, my 24 hour comic from last October, may be better. My first children’s story, done in full colour (markers, pastels and coloured pencils), and all executed in 24 hours. I was in the zone on that one. No idea how I managed to pull it off.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Neil Gaiman gives good advice to writers, which can be adapted for whatever your chosen artform is. He says that if you want to be a writer, then write – don’t think about writing, don’t plan to write, just write – and finish what you start.
WHAT IS THE WORST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
I’ve received some spectacularly bad advice on my love life, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking. Another artist once advised me to look at the comics being published, and what kind of lines they use, and copy them, which is probably fairly decent advice if you’re not as stubborn as I am. The drawing style used in most comics, based on black brush and pen lines and overlaid colour, is based on letterpress printing technology, which is obsolete. If you want to work in that style as an aesthetic choice, fine, but it’s no longer obligatory, even in superhero comics. Look at what Fraser Irving or J H Williams are doing.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT IRISH COMIC SCENE?
I really enjoy being part of it. Making comics is a solitary pursuit, but events like 2D and all the others mitigate that, make it sociable, and make me feel a little less weird, and all the talented people I meet keep me on my toes. The internet’s great for keeping in touch, too.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN IRISH COMICS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
More creative ambition – the Great Irish Graphic Novel has yet to be created – and for Irish comics to find a larger audience.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN COMICS IN GENERAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
New routes of distribution. The direct market has got very narrow, and if we’re to find new readers it’ll probably have to be mostly outside the comic shops. Also more comics for children.
WHAT WAS THE LAST COMIC THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOU?
The Wrong Place, a translated graphic novel by Belgian writer-artist Brecht Evens. It barely uses line and does wonderful things with colour and perspective to create a sense of place.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START MAKING THEIR OWN COMICS? (And don’t say DON’T :) )
See Gaiman’s advice on writing. But don’t make comics your whole life. Live, and bring your experiences of life into your art. If you’re an artist, try as many tools as you can til you find what suits you. And don’t expect to get rich.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
It’s midsummer, and somehow, I have a cold.
Patrick Brown is from Belfast, and puts most of his comics online at http://paddybrown.co.uk. He’s responsible for a substantial part of the Irish Comics Wiki, and along with Andy Luke, runs a stall selling Irish small press comics at local arts markets.