Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July Guest - Matt Timson!

1) What was your first published work?
Technically, my first published work was for 2000ad. It was either "Slade the Warped" or "Tharg the Impostor", which were both printed in Tharg’s Nerve Centre. Both were swipes (from Bellardinelli and John Byrne, respectively) and I think they were worth a tenner each. This was in the days when Tharg gave out actual cash for your efforts, rather than mugs, folders and other assorted bits of tat. I tend to think of how much money is worth in relation to the amount of beer you can buy with it (the halcyon days being when beer was a pound a pint) and although I wasn’t buying beer at that age, I bet you could get a pint for as little as 80-90p. Beer is nearer to 3 or 4 quid these days, so, having applied my rule of beer prices, that’s around 40 quid each in today’s money! Tharg was obviously a bit more flush in the mid ‘80s.

My first proper published work was a caricature of Robbie Williams, for the TV Times. I'd been working as an illustrator for a while by this point, but it was all illustrations for companies that nobody had ever heard of- or caricaturing at student balls, weddings and the like. My number one rival in the cutthroat business of live caricatures lived just down the road from me, though, and there was always the danger that our rivalry would escalate into some kind of terrifying turf war. I preferred studio work anyway, so I sent samples out to a few magazines and somebody from the TV Times got back to me while I was wandering around B&Q with Mrs T. one day. I think it paid £450 (or about 225 pints), which was the most I'd ever been paid to draw anything at the time. I ended up doing loads of those caricatures and, ironically, my number one rival for them was the same guy that lived down the road.

2) Who or what inspires you?
Lots of things catch my eye when I’m out and about- textures, cloud formations and the like- and I’m forever stopping to take pictures of things on my phone, to use later. Obviously, there are lots of artists that inspire me, which is both good and bad. Good for all the obvious reasons and bad because I’m also a terrible self-critic. I might have just drawn the best thing of my career, but then I can look at something that I really like that somebody else has drawn and then spend the rest of the day wondering why I’m even bothering! It’s a really bad habit, made bearable by the fact that I know I’m not alone in this particularly pointless exercise. I should probably start some kind of support group. That said, I do still love to look at great artwork that other people have drawn and I have a pretty mixed taste in styles, I think.

3) What would be your dream job to illustrate?
Heads. Lots and lots of heads. If somebody would pay me good money to sit and draw freaky heads all day, I don't think that life would get much better than that for me. Practically all of my doodles start with heads, or weird shapes that end up becoming heads. Sometimes, I even draw heads within heads- with heads on the side.

I’d like to do a Dredd one day, but I think that Tharg (quite rightly) likes people to earn that privilege with Future Shocks and that- and I just don’t have the time to invest in doing a bunch of Future Shocks (or their slightly more sophisticated and better looking cousins, Time Twisters), just to realise my dream of doing one Dredd.

I think I’ve got a Batman in me as well- so some kind of horror themed one-shot book is something that I might try to work towards one day. Other than that, there’s a few books that I’d love to illustrate- or even adapt into comic form (with ‘A Clockwork Orange’ being quite high on that list). What I really need is a modest lottery win, so that I can afford to work on whatever I like!

4) Tell us a bit about the illustration(s) you've sent?
Time obviously heals all wounds, as trawling through my HD turned up all sorts of odds and ends that I really liked the look of that I’m pretty sure I disliked the last time I looked at them. I actually found it quite difficult to whittle the choices down, so I didn’t bother.

Pic1 - I’ll start with the last comic work that I did, which was for the Lovecraft Anthology, with Si Spurrier. Because of the way the book was laid out, I was able to work two pages at a time and use the dead space behind the panels as a sort of DPS. I love the big panel on page 2.

Pic2 - Next up: Top Cow. I was very lucky to get the Impaler gig. It came out of nowhere and I had, up until then, been drawing comics as a hobby. These were my first designs for Victor and they still make me very happy- despite the Vic on the left being at least 20 years too young.

Pic3 - Progression of an Interior panel from Impaler. I still like this, but it bugs me the way I drew Vlad’s cloak. You get the impression that he’s leaping forwards, not being knocked back. Annoying. Now it will annoy you too.

Pic4 - This was supposed to be my final page of Impaler, but I’d somehow missed a page out, which I had to go back and finish. Talk about an anti-climax! My poor wife had cooked me a lovely dinner as a reward for finishing- and the news about the missing page turned that dinner to ashes in my mouth. ASHES. Also, I took photo-ref for this one and had to answer the door to the postman in full snow gear on a really hot and sunny day. I didn’t bother trying to explain and I think he thought I was just a bit simple.

Pics5-7 - Darkness fill-in issue, with Joshua Hale Fialkov, set in the Old West. Just really liked the way that these two pages flowed. I liked them slightly less once the Jonah Hex movie came out and he too had gatling guns on his horse, though. The other one is the cover for a Darkness one-shot (possibly a game tie-in). Anyway- I was really quite pleased with the pose for this one.

Pics8-9 - Before I drew comics, I was a cartoonist. I worked mainly in editorial and had stuff all over the place, all over the world (I had a Canadian agent at the time). The guy in the hockey mask was for an article all about the dangers of some new fangled internet phenomenon that had just sprung up, called Facebook (this was in the days when you had to go to the right school to be a member). The dinosaur riding pirate was part of a children’s book that I was writing that got interrupted by Impaler, and eventually fell by the wayside. I did the superheroes for fun and still really like them- especially Hawkeye and The Flash. Interestingly (or not), I draw all these cartoons in the same, laboured way that I draw all of my comic work. I’m trying to evolve past this, but no luck so far.

Pics10-11 - Good old Boris! He takes no effort at all to caricature, because he IS a caricature! I couldn’t find any of my old TV Times caricatures, but I used to have a regular slot with Cycling Plus magazine and illustrated some cycling-related story for them, once a month. I was always drawing bikes with no chains, or missing brakes, though (like John Byrne and his two-wheeled wheelchairs)- and the timing always interfered with whatever regular work I was doing, but I always enjoyed doing them. I picked these two because they had caricatures in them.

Pics12-15 - Doodles can occasionally take on a life of their own. I tend to doodle more in Painter than Photoshop, for some reason- and these were all done in Painter, during a pretty hectic deadline that had me working stupidly long hours. These bedtime doodles helped me to unwind before packing up for the night and going to bed. I particularly like the last one- which is just a tiny part of a whole page of doodles.

Pics16-19 - A couple of pieces that I really enjoyed doing that I still liked once they were finished (unusual). Shakara, from 2000ad- done because I’m a big fan and I’d resisted the temptation for nearly ten years- and Rom, Spaceknight, for the Bill Mantlo benefit book. In the comics, Rom was forever banging on about having given up his humanity to become a Spaceknight, but this was the first time I’d ever thought about what that actually meant- and the horror involved.

The lady is Val Saunders, from GL Twynham’s ‘The Thirteenth’ series, which I predict big things for. The BBC have already snapped up the audio rights to the first three books in the series and I believe that there’s another three books on the way.

The last one is 54 Jones, a character created by Paul Scott. 54 Jones only had two outings (in Paul’s anthology, Omnivistascope) but is a character that I’d love to go back to some day. I actually had an idea for something I wanted to do with Jones, but I knew that it meant going off in a direction that Paul wouldn’t like, so I asked if I could buy the character from him. Paul was having none of it, though- and fair enough, I say. So look out for 45 Smith*- coming soon! 
*not really, Paul!

Pics20-21 - These are a couple of illustrations for a werewolf story that I’ve just finished working on for HarperCollins. Amazingly, I actually had to fight to draw the transformation pic- as the editor wanted me to roll it back a couple of seconds to where the character was still human. After I’d finished laughing, the editor and commissioning editor eventually agreed that this shot was slightly more likely to grab the attention of the target audience (teenage boys) than a shot of… well… a normal teenage boy.

Pic22 - One of the illustrations for my off and on again project, “Monsters riding Monkey-bikes”. It’s  another children’s book and it owes a lot to the ‘Pirates riding dinosaurs’ book that I was drawing before I started on Impaler. Chances are pretty good that I’ll actually finish this one, though!

5) What can we expect to see from you next (what are you working on)?
As mentioned above, I've just finished illustrations for two books for HarperCollins- one about a time travelling gladiator and one about a werewolf. They're books for (mainly) teenage boys that aren't too comfortable reading- and I think the general idea is to get them interested in the artwork and sort of trick them into reading at the same time. In between jobs, I'm working on a kids' monster book for myself- and I'm still loosely writing LogicEngine, my own creator-owned wotzit. I haven't written much, though- and I've drawn even less. If it ever sees the light of day, I'll probably end up calling it something else- but that's the working title for now. It’s going to need a very patient editor, I can tell you that for nothing!

I’m also going to be working on the follow-up to a sociology book that I finished illustrating earlier in the year, for Mike Haralambos (if you’ve ever had to do Sociology, you’ve almost certainly read Mike’s books). This doesn’t start until October though, and although I’d like to say that I’ll spend my free time between now and then working on my own stuff, I’m probably just going to try and enjoy the summer holidays with the kids. My youngest is going to be going to school after this, so this is probably my last chance to spend some quality time with him before the brainwashing begins!

One other project that I’m quite keen to get off the ground is a short epilogue to Impaler, with William Harms. Neither of us were particularly happy to leave the story up in the air like that, but we were both soon off doing other things and so that was the end of that. Also, to be honest, I’d been quite burned out after 120 pages, plus covers (the most I’d ever drawn before that was 8) and I was almost relieved when we got cancelled. By chance, I drew Vlad as one of my bedtime doodles one night and I was surprised to find that I’d actually enjoyed it. I knew that Bill had known exactly how the story was going to end from the outset, so I asked him if he felt like doing some kind of epilogue that we could release as a free download. He was up for it and has since written the script. As usual, it looks like a nightmare to draw – but I’m actually quite looking forward to it!

6) If you hadn't become an artist what do you think you'd have ended up doing?
I was always reasonably confident that I was going to draw for a living from an early age, so I never really applied myself to anything else- apart from English, which was my next favourite subject. I wasn’t so keen on dissecting Shakespeare, but I enjoyed the creative writing aspect and wasn’t too bad at it. I think writing is a lot like drawing though, in that you have to do a lot of it to get any better- and although I was pretty good at it when I was 16, I never really wrote enough to get any better at it. I also wanted to be an actor for a while, when I was younger- and I suppose if I could choose to do anything else, it'd be that (although, in reality, my acting skills are probably like my writing skills: not bad for any average 16 year old- but they never really got any better!). Other than that, I’m still the proud owner of a fork-lift truck licence, so I could probably fall back on that if I wanted to. I don’t think I want to, though.

7) Where can we see more of your work (web links)?
Since Apple have rather brilliantly dropped iWeb publishing with the end of MobileMe, www.matttimson.com currently goes nowhere, but I’m sure that I’ll fix that soon. In the meantime, I can still be found on Tumblr: http://matttimson.tumblr.com/ and on twitter as @matt_timson.

I also post a lot of stuff to Instagram- but that might change once Zuckerberg starts to clog it up with a load of pointless Facebook crap!

Thanks for having me over to visit- sorry for waffling!

1 comment:

  1. Very enjoyable, nice one chaps. I regularly look up from my desk to gaze at that Dirty Frank print I bought from Matt at BICS a couple of years back. A fantastic style and a true talent :)