Inspired by... blog

5 posts from May 2014

23 May 2014

Announcing winner of Comics Unmasked competition with Arts Thread

Lots of good news this week related to our Comics Unmasked exhibition! Today I'm happy to announce that Fionnuala Doran (currently an MA student at the Royal College of Art studying visual communication) is the winner of our comics competition in partnership with Arts Thread. 

Back in March we asked creatives to submit a 9-panel comic exploring the six themes in our Comics Unmasked exhibition: To See Ourselves, Politics: Power and The People, We Can Be Heroes, Let’s Talk About Sex & Breakdowns. 

We received a lot of fantastic entries covering a rich range of subjects from psychedelic rebirths to crime and policing, finding inspiration for art to porn addiction. 

Fionnuala's comic 'The Amazing Roger Casement' explores the themes of Politics: Power to the People and Let's Talk About Sex. It chronicles the career of British Diplomat turned Irish revolutionary Roger Casement and his influence in spreading awareness of the Belgian crown's atrocities in the Congo.

The judges, including journalist Paul Gravett, said "Fionnuala's comic perfectly demonstrated the efficiency and potency of documentary comics, crystallising a momentous lifetime and making a meaningful political point in only nine panels."

Acclaimed comic book artist Dave Gibbons said, "it was succinct and elegant, her comic page is a perfect blend of words and images.”

Co-curator of Comics Unmasked John Harris Dunning added, "Here is an artist whose confidence is evidenced by her clear style. She is a natural visual storyteller - and I get the feeling we will be seeing a lot of her work..."

Many congratulations Fionnuala! You've won a sweet £1,000 and a place in our graphic novel short course programme.

  Fionnuala Doran_The Amazing Roger Casement

In close second and third place respectively:

Bridget Meyne (Falmouth University, BA Illustration) for her comic ‘Tonight’ which explores the theme of Breakdowns and is based on the idea of astral travel and dreaming.

Bridget Meyne_TONIGHT

Sean Bright's ‘Peas in our Time’ - a take on the Politics: Power to the People theme with a vegetable and a robot! 

Sean-Bright -Peas In Our Time

Follow me in Twitter @BL_Creative for more competition announcements. 


22 May 2014

Announcing short courses on creating graphic novels

I am very excited to announce a series of short courses on graphic novels as part of our exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK.

These courses will take place inside the exhibition gallery after regular opening hours. The exhibition space was designed by award-winning comic book artist Dave McKean - it'll be like being inside a living comic! 

Practical and inspirational, these courses are for writers and illustrators working/studying in all levels - beginner, intermediate and advanced. We've got a stellar line-up of course leaders: John Harris Dunning, co-curator of Comics Unmasked, Dr Ariel Kahn, senior lecturer in creative writing at Roehampton University and special guests Sarah Lightman, director of Laydeez do Comics and Emma Hayley, publisher at SelfMadeHero.  

Explore and create. 

Newly commissioned artwork by Dave McKean inside an artist's studio in Comics Unmasked (c) Tony Antoniou (1)Newly commissioned artwork by Dave McKean inside an artist's studio in Comics Unmasked (c) Tony Antoniou

Becoming a Graphic Novelist - Who is in charge? The dynamics of image and text
Thu 19 June 2014, 18.30 - 20.30
Becoming a Graphic Novelist - Subverting Stereotypes
Wed 25 Jun 2014, 18.30 - 20.30

Creating great comics characters means having the courage to subvert stereotypes and challenge yourself. Together we’ll find a space where myths are remade and personal demons are confronted. We’ll introduce the key elements to allow you to develop your own unique creative process and liberate your own comics voice. But creating character isn’t enough. It’s all about the way you tell it. The playful and passionate relationship between image and text is at the very heart of comics. Taking inspiration from fantastic scripts by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, and channelling everything from silent film to online gaming, we’ll find a rhythm that will make your story dance.

Mastering the Graphic Novel - Playing with Fire: Sex, Subversion and the Self
Thu 26 June 2014, 18.30 - 20.30
Mastering the Graphic Novel - Pushing the Boundaries: From Pitch to Publication 
Wed 2 July 2014, 18.30 - 20.30

Bring it on! We invite you to bring your ideas, scripts, works in progress, and also your blocks, challenges, places where you feel stuck. We believe these are the keys to transforming your work. We’ll show you how to unleash the power of the page to enhance reader involvement and maximise the impact of your work. The most inspired comics are not afraid to look deeply into self and world. They draw on scripts that are a fluid dialogue between writer and artist. Come and be part of the conversation.

Rogan Ghosh, by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy, 1990 Revolver (c) Peter Milligan (1)
Rogan Ghosh, by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy, 1990 Revolver (c) Peter Milligan

Dotter of her Father's Eyes, 2012, by Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot (c) Mary and Bryan Talbot (1)Dotter of her Father's Eyes, 2012, by Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot (c) Mary and Bryan Talbot

Illustrated London News (Christmas 1884), Dolly's Revenge (c) British Library Board (1)Illustrated London News (Christmas 1884), Dolly's Revenge (c) British Library Board

Knockabout Comics, 1984, no.4 'Obscene' issue (c) Hunt Emerson. Published by Knockabout ComicsKnockabout Comics, 1984, no.4 'Obscene' issue (c) Hunt Emerson. Published by Knockabout Comics


16 May 2014

Illustrator Rob Flowers on comics that inspire him

I met illustrator Rob Flowers at our Spring Festival. When I learned more about his work - which has been described as 'trippy.... as if you took a whole load of acid, ate too much candyfloss and went on the waltzers at your town's local fair' I thought 'this guy needs to come to our Comics Unmasked exhibition.' And he did. Here tells us about the comics that inspire his work. 

Rob Flowers_Photo by Jenny Lewis_2Photo: Jenny Lewis

Tin Tin by Hergé - A classic of the genre, every time I open a Tin Tin book I'm blown away by the clarity and expressiveness of the drawings. The stories are a great mix of adventure, historical fact, fantasy and mystery that I try and replicate in my illustrations. 

Spring Heeled Jack - Jack has been an obsession of mine for a number of years now, ever since I first discovered him and researched the (true) tale of The Terror of London in the British Library's amazing archives. He appeared in a number of Penny Dreadfuls (a 19th century forerunner to the comic book, usually featuring lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, Sweeney Todd made his debut in a Penny Dreadful) after apparently terrorising Londoners in the 1830s. SHJ is a character I have revisited many times in my work. (You can see an 1867 copy of Spring Heeled Jack in Comics Unmasked.) 

Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay - McCay was a genius of the comic world. The use of colour, pacing and panel structure in Little Nemo is a masterpiece. The surreal nature of Nemo's dream adventures have long been an inspiration for my work.

The Beano - I grew up reading this and I'm still a massive fan of the anarchic humour and mischevious characters such as The Bash Street Kids and Dennis the Menace. The slightly gross, ugly looking way the characters are designed is something I try to incorporate into my stuff. (You can see a 1949 copy of The Beano in Comics Unmasked.) 

GeGeGe no Kitarō by Shigeru Mizuki - Released in 1960, (though originally an early 20th century Japanese folk tale performed as a Kamishibai or 'paper drama'), all the main characters are Yōkai, spirit-monsters prevalent in Japanese folklore. Considered too scary for children when it first came out, the cast of characters are an amazing collection of ghosts, ghouls and haunted walls. Folklore and mythology play an important role in my work, and the way Mizuki referenced traditions and myths is something I try to mix into my illustrations. 

Rob has a new print out as part of the exhibition 80s Youth at The Ritzy in Brixton. Check it out.  You can see more of his work at

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is open until 19 August. Find out more here.


07 May 2014

Comics Unmasked: Interview with comic author and illustrator Max

Our major exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is now open and there's a wonderful buzz in the building and beyond. I bet you didn't even know we had comic books in our collection! Well, this is your chance to see over 200 exhibits - from a 1470 medieval comic to original artwork and manuscripts of Kick-Ass, Sandman and Batman and Robin. Whether you're a comic artist, a fashion designer or filmmaker - there's something to be inspired by at this exhibition. 

There are loads of public events happening around the theme of comics and today I bring you a short interview with award-winning Spanish comic author and illustrator Max who'll be speaking about his work at European Literature Night: The Graphic Novelists on Wednesday, 14 May at the British Library. 

  Max_Vapor_576 px wide

Where do you find inspirations for your stories and illustrations?

My inspiration comes from a variety of sources: myths, fiction literature, philosophy, art... and then, of course, what I see around me in the world. And nature and dreams, too. My stories tend to be quite related to the subconscious side of humans.

What kind of research do you undertake? Do you visit libraries, the location of the story, interview people?

I do most of my research through reading, mostly books, but also in the internet. And if it is really necessary - and possible - I like to visit specific locations and take photographs. My stories deal with imagination more than with plain reality, and so its locations are more generic than specific: forests, deserts, urban sites...

Tell us about your creative process. 

I keep a notebook in which I work daily writing down or drawing simple sketches about anything that comes up in my mind or that crosses my life and that I find might have a narrative potential. Then, some day, any of these notes or sketches suddenly starts to grow, and then I look for connections with other ideas and start to build a story out of it. This process can take quite a long time, because it requires a lot of research and reading and inspiration before the whole story is set up and solid. But it's not really only writing, I try the layout of the pages while I am writing the dialogues, so it's mostly a visual building of the story. Simultaneously I work on character's design and the appropiate visuals for the scenery. And then it's just drawing the story, one page after the other: pencilling, inking, lettering. I use the computer only for the colouring.




All images courtesy of Max - from his graphic novel Vapor. 

Meet Max at European Literature Night: The Graphic Novelists Wednesday, 14 May 18.30 - 20.30. Tickets here

Check out this excellent article about Max by Comics Unmasked co-curator Paul Gravett. 

01 May 2014

Spring Festival 2014 videos

Enjoy these videos highlighting our Spring Festival celebration of fashion, film and design. 

For those who weren't able to join us for the popular Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age talk - you can watch the entire talk in three parts below!

Spring Festival highlights: Inspiring stories, vinyl & film

Using The British Newspaper Archive to tell stories on Twitter; exploring our vinyl record collection plus award-winning screenwriter Tony Grisoni and Bafta-nominated director Jamie Stone on film.  


Spring Festival highlights: Fashion, film and glitz

Fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart and editor of Clothes on Film Christopher Laverty on vintage fashion, film and Boardwalk Empire. Plus The Vintage Mafia take over the Library for a night of Jazz Age glamour with Alex Mendham & His Orchestra. 


Part 1 - Puttin on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age - Fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart

Fashion extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart transports us to the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood and the costumes that took London by storm. She draws on the Library's collection of vintage magazines.


Part 2 - Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age - Clothes on Film creator Christopher Laverty

The ever dapper Christopher Laverty examines the flamboyantly dressed 'Dandy Gangster' as portrayed in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.


Part 3 -  Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age - Q&A