Saturday, 17 July 2010

ENSIXTEEN EDITIONS - THE BOOKS - 'Ensixteen Editions Seasonal Range' 2006 - 8

The 'Ensixteen Editions Seasonal Range' was created during the course of around a year and some spare change, 2006 to 2008.

My inspiration was the grab-bag style of the kids comics of my youth, especially the seasonal 'Specials' they brought out – albeit usually just in summer as an extra treat during school holidays (the heavy-hitter, hardbacked 'Annuals' being saved for Christmas stockings). They would contain familiar characters as well as articles, photo quizzes, joke pages and maybe longer versions of regular strips.
As regards the significance for Ensixteen, these books allowed me to create new strip stories - some along seasonal themes like 'Baked Meat in a Can' in the 'Special Summer' edition – but also pool together lots of sketchbook material which I had begun to accrue in recent years. Some single pages and small sequences were from other sources, but almost all the material was previously unpublished.
Page counts were higher across the quartet, giving particularly good value for money, either when sold separately or as a set within an attractive 'belly band' design.

A couple of points are worth noting, and are illustrated in the previous post.

First point: Some strips herein feature the last appearances to date (2010) of my earlier alter ego character 'Ron', who I had drawn since 1970's school exercize books and had most recently starred in my 'Stokey Comics' line between 1999 and 2003. In the 'Autumn Almanac' (actually the first in the set to be completed) I return from work to find him in my flat, having somehow crossed the divide between drawn page and reality.
I guess in some senses this was my guilt surfacing – at having abandoned him in favour of all the fun I was having drawing myself and my own life in 'Ensixteen Editions'.
Certainly Ron himself is unconvinced during this metafictional little 'team-up', as he reads some of the recent stuff. He and I proceed through my pen and ink Stoke Newington to mull it over, walking through Clissold Park, eating at the – now sadly-departed – Shamsudeen Restaurant and taking ales at The Rochester Castle public house, allowing cameos by both the living and the dead.

Second point: In the 'A Winter's Sale' edition there is a more coherent narrative from first page to last, as I consider my home town in the Lake District as it must have been in the 1960s in winter – a more isolated and characterful place, I suspect. I experimented here not only with new elements like family photos but most significantly with selective colour. In this I was aided by my old friend David Ellis at the Why Not Associates, who essentially took my art direction in the use of an intentionally understated colour palette.

It seemed to me, in the season we least associate with colour, that I should use some for a change.

Alone – and together – the issues proved popular, and were collected by regular customers who now included public collections like the Tate Gallery and Manchester Metropolitan University's All Saints Special Collection.
Indeed I'm pleased to say that the latter has made sure to retro-collect the entirety of both Ensixteen and Stokey Comics output published since 1999.

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