Tom Humberstone is a comic artist, illustrator, and the founder and editor of Solipsistic Pop Books, a boutique publisher of comics. He shares his favourite work tools – from pens and tech to Twitter and podcasts...
Full name/age/job title:
Tom Humberstone, 30, comic artist and illustrator. Founder and editor of Solipsistic Pop Books [see cover of issue 4 below].
What does your job involve?
I generally try and work on comics (whether that’s my own comic series Ellipsis, commissioned comic journalism work for Cartoon Movement, or something else entirely) but will often have to balance my time between comics and illustration work.
Poster art, storyboarding, and logo/website design also get offered to me and I try and take as much as I can on as long as it leaves me enough time to draw my comics as well. I also edit and publish the annual anthology Solipsistic Pop and will be looking at publishing new works from Solipsistic Pop alumni next year.
I suppose the shorter but less interesting answer to that question is: drawing. It involves drawing.
Five things you can’t work without:
1. The Kuratake no.13 brush pen.
I fell in love with brush pens a long time ago. I could never quite get a handle on using actual brushes or dip pens with indian ink (though I feel much more confident with that these days), but brush pens felt completely natural to me.
It’s easy to fall into the common trap of letting the pen rule your drawing as the quality of line can almost make up for a lack of strong artwork, but with enough discipline a brush pen can be a comic artist’s best friend.
It took a lot of experimenting with various makes before I decided to settle on the Kuratake no.13. The brush length, thickness, and weight just seem right for the way I work, but I know other comic artists who swear by other pens.
2. The Intuos 3 Wacom Drawing Tablet
I always tried to avoid producing any part of an illustration or comic on computer – choosing to make sure everything is there on the page before it gets scanned in and prepped for print. Over the past few years I’ve really come around to colouring my work on computer, though, and I couldn’t have done that without the Wacom, which gave me the confidence to try and replicate the way I draw on the page.
I work hard at making sure the computer remains a tool and not an end in itself, and think my drawing has improved a huge amount since I embraced the technology. I’ve yet to upgrade to the Intuos 4, as so many friends have told me not to bother. And there’s a part of me that yearns for a Cintiq as soon as I can afford it. I don’t think I’m quite at the stage at which I’m prepared for my entire work process to go digital, but for the first time, the idea isn’t completely abhorrent to me.
Quite serious about this. When the workload takes over my life and I find I have less and less free time to socialise or take evenings off, Twitter can be something of a life-saver.
It’s the water-cooler of the freelancer’s world, where interesting, engaged debate or discussions about artistic practice sits side by side with banter, banal observations and mindless gossip. And I like it all equally.
When the deadlines are looming, work is often the only thing I can think about and I find myself losing a grip on current affairs and on the ability to maintain a healthy perspective about the world in general. Twitter can often counter that with a bespoke news feed that lets me feel at least partially up-to-date.
While there are certainly times that I have to shut it out in order to work distraction free, having Twitter on hand for the tough days is often the only thing that manages to keep me sane and informed.
Probably a bit of a cliché, this. But my veins pump pure americano throughout my system between the hours of 9 and 11am.
As long as the bulk of my scripting/thinking/emailing/editing (essentially, the left brain work) for various projects is over, there’s a lot of time to be spent pencilling, inking, colouring and designing in my job (right brain work).
Sometimes it’s crucial to be listening to the right type of music when this is the case, but more often than not I need something to engage my brain and allow the drawing work to become second nature. I often produce some of my best drawings when I’m not thinking too much about it.
This is where podcasts come in handy. Whether I’m laughing along to a new comedy show or feeling like I’m learning something by listening to a history/science/news podcast – it all helps to make me feel more connected while I’m sitting alone in my studio doodling, enduring coffee shakes and checking twitter.
Podcasts I’d recommend:
Comedy: The Bugle, Answer Me This, Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown, Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Interviews, Comedy Chat, Film Fandango, The Dave Gorman Show, Josie Long’s Long Lost Treasures, Do the Right Thing, Infinite Monkey Cage.
Other: Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo, This American Life, The Truth, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Decompressed, Scriptnotes, New Yorker: The Political Scene, Citizen Radio, Stuff You Should Know.
Visit the Solipsistic Pop website.
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