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Colour me naive.
Colour me an idealist pinko liberal.
Colour me a romantic arty-farty fantasist.
Colour me a hippy pacifist fence-sitter.

Most of my friends are heading for, or past, the big five O.
There's increasingly less time for bullshit.

To my eyes, my mind, my experience
- as an intermittently successful artist and writer, boutique publisher, digital pioneer for storytellers, dreamer (in the most iconoclast way), pessimistic optimist, father of three, husband, failure and champion -
it's all bullshit.

Nothing matters, beyond those we love and who love us
- at least not in any personally meaningful way.

The nature of civilization is to be in perpetual crisis
- and I fear we're in the thick of a bigger existential crisis than we, as a species, are prepared to acknowledge.
We feed on fear and triviality, and are in thrall of our baser instincts
- to duck, to hide, to run.
It's left to those without empathy to guide us.
Those without fear.
Those that will stand on the backs of all humanity to survey their temporary kingdoms, as if it had any worth.

No matter your belief, or lack of;
no matter your own particular chosen apocalypse,
the point is
- we all have one.

There's something very telling in that!

Even if your particular 'end' is some vapid white subjugated eternity of imagined peace,
or a bevy of (presumably willing) virgins
- though the misogynistic fantasy of that seems like a hell of some kind for at least some of the participants -
or oblivion...
Whatever your view, the point is:

it all ends.

We avoid that thought.

It ends, and the world
- this planet -
ends.

We either do it ourselves,
or nature,
or if you really insist,
God ends this planet one day soon,
or not so soon.
It really doesn't matter which.

The point is there's no escaping it,
any more than the fact of our own deaths.

We are all people.
Children of this universe, products of this tiny, fragile earth.

What kind of monsters are we?

I will howl this to my dying days!

We are ALL responsible for human life.
We are all part of the quandary.
We can decide,
as a species,
that the lessons of history are valid.

But we won't.

Over 2000 years ago we knew that history repeated itself,
and we wrote it down so we might learn from that.
But we did not, nor will ever, listen.

I'm perpetually angry at our near-sightedness.
Our consumerist, selfish, Money-grubbing bullshit nothing lives.

Love becomes a luxury.
Charity is for sale.

We cannot see far enough.

Our pseudo-empathy extends to a witheringly fragile community of like-minded sailors adrift in a sea of information and misdirection.
There are no stark realities, it's all true and all lies.

If we just let it happen
- because, y' know, there's fuck-all we can really do -
then we deserve our inevitable hellish oblivion, whatever form it takes.

The crush of time will obliterate us regardless.
We don't have to work at it.
Hate or No hate, it will all end.

So WHY the FUCK are we still brutalizing each other?
Why are we so full of enmity?
We are one race on a beautiful spectrum.
We are one species.

We are living on one thinly-crusted ball of magma hurtling through space.

We have only one home.
We have this one shot at life, as a people.

When we are all gone there will be nobody to remember us.

So yes - colour me whatever you like, but I will never understand our inability to see beyond the want/need, petty, selfish and ultimately destructive nature of these cultures we enable to thrive, and to 'lead' us.

I fear for my children.
I fear for humanity.

We should be better than this.

We should be wiser.

Other than that - life is pretty good.

It's funny -

I would have thought that there was an implicit difference between ideals, ethos, the things we reach and hope for, and what we actually expect out of life.
I notice that there's often a derisive snort when I simplify my own leanings - as though my views are considered quaint, idealistic and entirely delusional.

For me, reaching for something means you have to set an impossible goal.
You know it will never be reached, and you know that there are many shades of grey, but still - it's about the best of you, the best of humanity, that utopian ideal that itself is a flawed model.

A gun-free America will never happen, and I'm perfectly well aware there are circumstances in which I would be advised to own one - though I hope those circumstances never arise!
(In my 46 years on Earth they haven't so far.)

Regardless, I think it's a good ideal, to dream of a country - or world - in which guns are for hunting for food only, and people don't feel they are necessary for personal protection.

I know that the mind doesn't always follow the heart.
That money drives the world more profoundly than charity and ideology.
I know this.
But I think that the balance is needed to keep us on track, if we are to have a future at all.

I have friends with profoundly differing views to my own, but somewhere in the middle we connect.

I do not scoff at more conservative views than my own, because I understand them.
I get how people arrive there.
But I do believe we should not cast ourselves in stone, and we should always remain open-minded.


Just my views - you are not obliged to share them! :-)
Pretty full-on few weeks!

New York comic con...

San Diego Comic Festival...

Then early start last Saturday am when I flew to LA to attend Stan Lee's Comikaze event...

On the flight the guy sitting in the isle seat next to Ben started reading Previews.
When we asked him if he was going to Comikaze (he wasn't) we said who we were and he turned out to be a fan of mine - his face was an absolute picture.

Meeting with Stan Lee in the green room for lunchtime photo opp to accompany the news that we're doing some work with the living legend was fantastic!

Later that day I was on 'the Death of Superman Lives' panel - which I did some concept art for - with Jon Schnepp and Holly Payne, introduced by Kevin Smith in a packed hall. Excellent fun!

The whole show was memorable for me in that it seemed like there was more people than usual - by quite an amount - who knew me, and my work.
Very humbling, and always unexpected.

Monday brought more big news, with Madefire going on the google TV.
Then I was in the deviantART offices for a meeting - Clive Barker's Books of Blood, illustrated by Sam Shearon, had hit 52,000 views, and going strong!

Yesterday morning I heard Madefire was been featured in a Windows TV ad.
Then, more deviantART goodness, and home.

So much to do, and never enough time!

Hoping I can find a moment for some more informative journals very soon!

Onwards!
  • Mood: Joy

Timing is everything they say.

One thing particularly central to effective horror is precisely that – timing. And at this time of the year it’s a fitting subject!

The greatest bonus to classic sequential storytelling in the digital realm is that you can really play with this to great effect – and I think we’re only scratching the surface!
The other great bonus is the potential for ambience and sound.

Both of these aspects have been used to great effect in the series ‘Houses of the Holy’ by Mike Carey and Dave Kendall.
This issue is one of the most chilling I’ve ever read:

Houses of the Holy - Episode 3 by MadefireStudios

On Tuesday another fantastically realized, utterly chilling book was released – ‘Books of Blood’ #1 by the visionary Clive Barker, as illustrated by the brilliant Sam Shearon.
The atmospherics here are astonishing, and the torments suffered by the protagonist are both epic and intimate – just as Barker wrote it.

Barker himself said of the motion book format “What we have done with the ‘Books of Blood’ is, I assure you, nothing short of astonishing. Prepare yourselves for an experience the likes of which you've never seen."

Check out the amazing preview here:



Happy Halloween all!
  • Mood: Joy

Do me a favor:

Get out your Android, iPad, iPhone, or mobile platform of choice, and open the Madefire app. There's a bunch of new things I'd like you to check out.

The sections work like this:

Print Books

This is 'classic' comic material. No bells, no whistles, just no bullshit, honest comics. (Indie creators and publishers should know we can put their material up within a couple of weeks of sending us a PDF. If your book isn't here you should ask yourself why not?)

Motion Books

This is where we continue to push the medium with a wide variety of cutting edge digital storytelling unique to each book. We also have books from top publishers - those that have had vision and were willing to push the envelope. You can get sucked in for hours.

We also have a deviantART section that features two categories:

Sketch Books

The catch-all for pretty much everything anybody publishes on dA using the motion book tool. This ranges from single image parallax pages, to print and motion books. They can be whatever you like. I have two art books published in there. So can you. 

Hot Books

These are curated books picked out of the sketch book section - in this instant myself, but in future by other known creators.

Once you have done that I have two questions for you:

What are we missing? 
Why isn't your creator-owned book on the app?

  • Mood: Joy
If a thing is to succeed it needs love.

Love first from it's author, the instrument of creation.

Love second - and most importantly - from it's audience.

I wanted to thank you for support of the Captain - my Captain - Captain Stone. It's our second most popular title after Dave Gibbon's Treatment, and that's saying something! (If I can't concede the top slot to the mighty Dave Gibbons who can I concede to?)

It was not an easy start for the book I co-created with my wife, Christina. It's taken time to find its feet, and a place in the pantheon. It was, after all, created in a completely new medium. And it wasn't strictly a comic at all, but something else that used the tropes of comics - words and pictures, but with added sound and motion. These have long been troublesome additions to the purist reader!

It has been created in multiple styles, and it is a VERY slow burn.

It features a retro hero in a pink costume - who is missing. This was not hip!

It utilizes captions to a degree unheard of since the late 80s, and generally not advised.

And it had to contend with fear - that digital would kill print. In fact the opposite has happened. And I'm VERY excited to be able to say that the print version hits comic stores in December, via Titan and Diamond.

So again - thank you for reading our book. It matters. It is appreciated. It validates everything I have been trying to do for the last five or six years. Your feedback at the New York Comic Con, here, and in the number of reads the book has had has been a massive validation for me. I can't stress enough what that means.

Best always - and onwards!

liamsharp.deviantart.com/favou…
  • Mood: Joy

Once the cons were like stepping-stones. They were the firm-footing that anchored me to my medium, which otherwise flowed in blurs of time, year to year, in the changing space that lay behind my drawing board; the monitor of my computer.

Cons are different now. Back then we fancied ourselves street poets, fashionistas, gypsies and rockstars. We drank, smoked and caroused. We had dreams of artistry and decadence. We were newly minted in the afterglow of revolution, certain that at last our stories mattered. We were the shocking new, the foot soldiers of consequence that would scrawl indelible legacies in paint and ink – great works, monumental works, works that could change everything.

It mattered. We mattered.

First nervous meetings with legends that would eventually mellow into old friendships, swell, dreamlike, in memories festooned with wreaths of smoke and distorted through a wash of alcoholic amber lenses.

Falling and failing words that nevertheless flow endlessly, because there is never enough time – it will all soon be over, and there is so much to say...

I loved the cons back then. They were messy and rude, and we were an ill-disciplined rabble, but they were effervescent with nascent excitement. Great icons of the industry traversed the vast Atlantic ocean from another world – a bigger, more heroic place that only existed for us Brits on the TV – and deigned to give us a few spare moments of their precious time.

Eisner came, like a statesman.

Michael Kaluta regaled us with tales of New York and The Studio.

The unimpressive green room at UKCAC was none-the-less a hub of clamoring, half-voiced dreams when Karen Berger came to London for the first time. We knew well enough, us beginners, who had her eye. We knew our place behind those whose names were household – the true veterans of 2000ad, that great shop-window for talent, the test-bed of almost everything important that was to come, or had already come, from our little, influential island.

We drank till the morning light briefly turned the dusty grey London concrete to gold. We slept fitfully in the packed all-night film show theatre.

I brought Alan Moore a pint of Guinness, and Glenn Fabry a pint of white wine. I bummed smokes off Jamie Hewlett, and found myself wandering the empty early-morning streets with David Lloyd and Barry Kitson in search of more beer.

The wake of such cons was bleak and depressing. Week-long hangovers, topped up with half-hearted semi-reprisals in dim London pubs, dulled the will to create. Life was never quite as good, day to day, as it was at those shows. We would return to the normalcy of our unremarkable existences, that other place where nobody knew or cared who we were or what we did. The z-list fame of the youthful creator. We imagined heroic lives on other continents, and dreamed of what our own great books might be, planned our heirs to The Watchmen, The Dark Knight, Electra Assassin, and all that was good and proper and radical and brilliant in comics.

Social media has changed many things, some good and some bad. For me, though, knowing too much of my peers lives online has taken away much of that familial excitement - the genuine joy I felt on seeing a fellow creator I had not seen for a year, or not since that show in Spain two years earlier, or in Belgium the summer before. We don’t trip over a torrent of words as we strive to catch up, fill in gaps and share work stories. We are all older, more jaded. Somewhat battle-worn.

But we are the survivors, hidden amongst all the new faces. We’re still here, plying our trade. Some of us still reach for greatness, dream of producing that masterwork that never quite materialized, and remained just out of sight – but only a step away.

The cons are no longer stepping-stones, they are the great metronomes of the industry, marking time and driving us forward. They are the heartbeat, the strong and telling rhythm of it. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, they are the industry observing itself.

See you in New York!

  • Mood: Joy
Dear all,

Apologies for my lack of an update on the Cap Stone fan art competition - unfortunately life got in the way!

I was delighted by the quality of the entries. Such a broad set of styles and approaches!
It was not an easy choice, and we pondered all the entries for some time.

 Gallery 

However, I can now announce your winner!

Drum-roll please...


The winner is...Winner 



CapStone-FamilyPortrait by uwedewitt

by uwedewitt !!!


These three images, we felt, really captured the characters and the feel of the book. Great design, great stylistic flourishes. Wonderful work!

The two runners up were likewise a tough call, and we opted not to have a 2nd and 3rd place.

So, in no particular order...

we have...

The Pet - Fan Art by Kqbuckley

By Kqbuckley


I loved this. So much flair and energy!

And...

cap stone contest by esculiereric

By esculiereric


We loved the weathering, the design and over-all feel. Great work!

Honorable mentions must go to Jason Kimble, who sent me this via FaceBook:

10688051 869456439731780 8857020454729616369 O by LiamSharp

And this fantastic piece also on FaceBook - www.facebook.com/JSisonArt/pho…

The truth is there was something to love in all the entries, and it was a lot of fun seeing all this wonderful work come in.

I'll be in touch with the winners via their inboxes on dA after the New York Comic Con, which is next week!

Congrats, and thanks again!

Party 

Liam.
  • Mood: Joy
I just don’t understand. I really don’t.

There seems to be a growing tribalism in what, for now, we’re often labeling ‘Geekdom’ - or some other reclaimed formerly derogatory term.

A few examples:

There’s a healthy debate about sexism in comic, and the edges of what is an ingrained misogynistic streak that goes back decades.
There’s also a number of very buxom and proud of it cosplayers creating incredible, intentionally sexy costumes for comic conventions.

(Re. the points above: The debate gets hazy in the area that sexy and sexist butt-up against each other – no pun intended. What is cheesecake? What is pin-up? What is erotica? What is porn? What is artistic nude? You can’t simply say I know it when I see it. To some the statue of David is offensive! Either way, the debate rages while pin-up art vies with big-name superhero imagery as the easiest to sell. I can’t budge any pages that don’t feature either, or, or both of the above.)

Then there’s:

Camp I hate superhero films.
Camp I hate mainstream comics.
Camp I hate DC.
Camp I hate Marvel.
Camp I hate all modern comics.
Camp I hate fangirls (Really?!!? WTF?!!?)
Camp I hate cosplayers.


Off the back of the last San Diego con my overwhelming experience was of roughly 150,000 people rubbing shoulders with each other, having fun, being loud, getting drunk – but getting along! That’s a big swathe of humanity, right there!

So here’s the thing, I’m not going to go through the whole list, but—

To you people who hate modern superhero movies and won’t bother going to see them.

Really?!!?

We’re in a renaissance of incredible extravaganzas where we can, at last, see a character like Thor and teams like The Guardians of the Galaxy actually WORK on screen. Big-budget (and you NEED a big budget, therefor a big studio) fantasy and sci-fi movies have never enjoyed so much play. We can’t expect them to resemble the comics of our youth, and neither should we. But can’t we just enjoy what is happening right now? Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, all the superhero movies… even Lars Von Trier has made a scifi movie!

What do you want?
What are you looking for?
What is so terribly upsetting?

Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own tribe. I’m not saying ALL these films are great, but point-blank deciding that ALL the superhero movies are bound to be shit is, to my eyes, cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s just bloody-mindedness. “It won't be how I saw it, so therefore it’s shit.”

Please – don’t be this way!

To you people who hate cosplay – here’s a little anecdote:

My great friend, the brilliant editor and our editorial director at Madefire, Ben Abernathy, asked a female cosplayer visiting our booth – out of pure curiosity it should be noted! This was not a loaded question! – why do you do it? What is the attraction? The answer was this:

“I’m not an artist. I’m not a writer. I can’t sing, and I don’t play any instruments. This is how I express myself creatively.”

Would you REALLY want to stop somebody doing that?

Personally? I love the cosplayers. They bring colour, fun, entertainment, and good cheer. They get to play dress-up for a day without a care in the world, it really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. They are expressing something of themselves that only a few decades ago would have been considered extremely odd.

A bit like comic fans.

A bit like us.

We should be careful not to place ourselves too high in the imaginary geek pecking order. It’s a bit embarrassing. Diversity is something to be celebrated. Let’s not make targets out of our brethren. Let’s not build yet more tribes, and cultivate little creeping memes of dislike. We’re better than that.
  • Mood: Anger
It's almost easy to see why people stop caring about anybody else and just start to look after número uno.

The world fosters it.
The media fosters it.
Consumerism fosters it.

And sometimes giving a shit just doesn't seem to pay dividends - it isn't the yin yang we hope for in our hippy days.

Good people can live miserable, forgotten lives.
Bastards can live and die like kings.

The universe doesn't care. 

I remember hearing once that we are communists in our youth, socialists, then eventually conservatives in our selfish old age.
Nobody cares about the old, so speak your mind and take what you can get, that message suggests. 
Your every thought of freedom was folly.
Every aspiration towards a better, more caring world was pointless.
Lock the doors.
Don't trust the strangers.
Arm yourself.
If you don't you're a damn fool.


Looking at groups like ISIS it's hard to argue an alternative point sometimes.

Where are we going so wrong?

But I flew into LA a couple of days ago and it stuck me, looking down, how wrong that picture might actually be - how distorted.
Because when you see a big city from the air you see a vast swarm of humanity shoulder to shoulder.
Living together.
You do not see a battlefield.

We are far more successful as neighbours and strangers than we tend to give ourselves credit for.

There is, of course, violence going on in sad places, broken homes, within the desperate trajectories of myriad disfunctional lives.
But that is not the majority.
That is not the overwhelming experience - at least not in most major cities where there is no warfare.
Even in poverty people find humanity.

I falter sometimes.
I think I should keep my mouth shut, my head down.
That I should give up on humanity - this desperate, pointless strain of mammalian life currently dominating the globe.
That there is no rhyme nor reason, and I'd best just take care of me and my own in a narrow, selfish sense.
After all, that's what this world seems to tell us we should do.

But then I hear somebody laugh.
I see something beautiful.
I witness an act of kindness,
share an intimate evening with loved ones.
Meet yet another wonderful, sensitive, caring individual.
Feel the love of my children. 

It's NOT all cut and dried! 

It's NOT so simple!

We have an exceptional capacity for empathy, and it's there because it's a natural part of humanity.
It's real.
It's chemical.
It is a part of our evolutionary process - informing the angels of our better nature.

We should not ignore it, bury it and bully it into submission.

We should listen to the sweeter inclinations that whisper to us in moments of introspection,
and maybe - just maybe, y' know, once in a while - we should act on them. 

This is not a world of individuals.
Everything we have made we made as a collective. 
We need each other.
 
So I'm not battening down the hatches just yet.

I'm not a religious man, but I'm going to retain a little faith in humankind.
I'm going to choose to think there might be a better future possible, if we just listen.
If we don't give up, turn away, and stop giving a shit. 

Call me deluded, call me a fool, but I think you seem like good folk on the whole.
There must be more like you out there... :-) 
  • Mood: Love
Before I get started, don't miss this fan art competition!

Fan Art Contest!Right - here's a bit of fun as an interlude to the revolution that's starting here (oh, you missed that?!!? http://fav.me/d7px6r0 :-))
I want to see some Cap Stone fan art or fan lit!
It can be any of the three main characters - Cap Stone, The Pet or The Craven Panther.
This is open to anybody, and in any medium. Use your imagination!
Keep any written entries less than 500 words please!
I'll post a journal featuring all the art, short stories, etc. and the winner will get a signed original piece of Cap Stone art from the series (Valued about $600.00)
The first two runners up will each get a head sketch of Cap Stone.
Here is the story so far, which you can read for free by clicking the thumbnails!




Please post thumbs/links of your art/s


So then - what's been happening in the world of digital storytelling and Motion Books here on dA?

As it happens, rather a lot! My favourite work of the last month or so has to be the motion poems by Igor Goldkind beautifully built by EvanLimberger.


What Peter Said to Wendy - Is She Available? by EvanLimberger
The one above is stunningly illustrated by Wendy Farrow. I was very happy to be asked to contribute, along with the peerless Bill Sienkiewicz and others.

Here are a couple of my favourites, and I think they demonstrate the incredible bredth of what is possible using a medium like this:

What We Do - Is She Available? by EvanLimbergerLed Astray - Is She Available? by EvanLimberger

I'd also like to give a shout-out to QueenDomina for the book below, which shows great imagination and innovation! The key is to have fun and see what is possible, and this definitely demonstrates that. :-)

#2 Bridget the Bot Girl - Running Away From Home by QueenDomina

As does the book below by Ghost-Notes which is pure text, but shows that there's room for prose-writers in the digital space. A real innovation in how a text story can be told:

The Great Escape - A Motion Story by Ghost-Notes

Lastly - I have to plug the final part of my Sherlock Holmes story, and the excellent second episode of MONO: Pacific!

Sherlock Holmes: The Greek Interpreter - Episode 3 by MadefireStudiosMONO: Pacific - Episode 2 by MadefireStudios

You can go here for all Madefire related info, including tutorials etc - kb.madefire.com/hc/en-us Have fun!


Meanwhile:

Who are YOUR favourite dA artists?
  • Mood: Love
Right - here's a bit of fun as an interlude to the revolution that's starting here (oh, you missed that?!!? fav.me/d7px6r0 :-))

I want to see some Cap Stone fan art or fan lit!


It can be any of the three main characters - Cap Stone, The Pet or The Craven Panther.

This is open to anybody, and in any medium. Use your imagination!

Keep any written entries less than 500 words please!

I'll post a journal featuring all the art, short stories, etc. and the winner will get a signed original piece of Cap Stone art from the series (Valued about $600.00)

The first two runners up will each get a head sketch of Cap Stone.

Here is the story so far, which you can read for free by clicking the thumbnails!

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Episode 2: Ada by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 3: Charlie by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Ep. 4: Captain Stone by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone is Missing... E5: The Craven Panther by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Is Missing... - Episode 6: The Pet by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone Is Missing - Episode 7: Brother Sun  by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Confidential - Episode 1 by MadefireStudios

Please post thumbs/links of your art/stories in the comments below!
(Please don't pm me. I'll send you a pm if you win!)

You have one more week! :D

GO!

  • Mood: Love
I promised, a while ago, that I would write a journal that addressed the writing
and creative process as much as anything else - how I start, and even why.

What makes a memorable character?
What are the themes?
How much do you care about popularity - ie. is it a project you're doing for
yourself, or because you hope it will generate a huge, mainstream audience?
What age-range is it?
And as mentioned earlier - why is it important you do it?

But let's start with...

Where do you get you ideas?

Great ideas do not come fully-formed out of the ether. Even the ideas I've
had that were born of dreams, and dragged screaming from my subconscious
before I forgot them, were an accumulation of living experiences. In Metawhal
Alpha the setting is somewhere I lived as a boy. I know every inch of the
Clock Warehouse, the noises and smells of the place, as well as the referenced
folklore. The Pub in Death and the Myrmidon was indeed a local, and it does
have a well covered in glass that you can imagine some ancient, slime-slick
creature inhabiting...

Metawhal Alpha by MadefireStudios Death and The Myrmidon by MadefireStudios

The point here is that it pays to write about what you know.

I've broken that down more specifically into three areas to write about:

1. What you live
2. What you love
3. What you learn


What you live is your first-hand experience - your direct knowledge
of interfacing with the world. That is your feelings, your emotions, what
scares you, excites you, angers you or gives you peace. This includes the
people you know - which will become important for how you build your
cast of characters. You know from living how people interact, how they
respond to things. You know from living how everybody responds to
the same stimulus in unique and individual ways. You know from
living how things smell, how they feel, how they look. And you can
extrapolate whole imagined worlds from this knowledge. Use it!

My life in Shardlow informed Metawhal Alpha and my upcoming
novella 'Paradise Rex Press, Inc.' My life in London informed
'January Man'. My life in the UK and the US, as well as what I
have witnessed historically and culturally, has informed 'Captain
Stone'.

January Man by LiamSharp Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudios

What you love is part of what defines you, and you will almost
certainly be an expert in these areas! It will help you chose the kind
of characters that populate your world, the genre, the period, the
the smells, sights and sounds. Your love will give your project one
of the most essential ingredients - authenticity. This is crucial to
any fiction if it is to be believed, no matter how outlandish!

I'll comeback to this in the next section!

What you learn is where your world gets its depth. In most great
stories you learn something from the author, and quite often it is
something the author learned that triggered an idea in the first place.

Over the years I've gone from blindly believing in God, for instance,
because my teachers told me I should, to discovering evolution at
a young age, to realizing that there are many compelling points of
view around just about everything. There is no one answer. Over
time my views have radically changed, but my trajectory took me
from blind faith, to science, to a wider look at all religions, to finding
a deep love of anthropology, to new age hippy spirituality, to a
fascination with particle physics and astrophysics, to agnosticism,
to pretty much atheism, and still onwards. My point isn't to say my
path is the RIGHT and only path, it's just to say that my questing
and inquisitive mind led me to a wide and wonderful variety of
subject matter - material that has informed ALL my writing over the
last couple of decades, and the net result is richness and balance.
'The more you know the less you know' is a cliché, and therefore a
truism. It's is also the best way to generate story ideas. Learning
and research will form the bedrock of your story. You need to
know the answers to any questions that may be asked of you. 

What makes a memorable character?


The best characters feel real, and that is generally because they
are based on somebody the author knows, or a fusion of two or
three people. Giving your character the voice of a friend - or
enemy - gives them an immediate cadence. You can imagine
precisely what they sound like, their use of language, their
mannerisms, etc. The way they look can also play a big part.
A friend of mine very precisely matches a character I drew in
'Spawn: the Dark Ages', and he later became Tunny MalTuboly
in my novel 'God Killers'.

You may also be inspired by historical figures, or aspects of
yourself. You may find that a character represents all the aspects
of yourself that are suppressed. He or she may be the calmer,
spiritual aspect of yourself, or the fearless, uncaring beast.
There's fun to be had with wish-fulfillment, setting yourself on
a journey within these stories, this world you are building -
though you should be wary of creating a perfect protagonist
who wins at absolutely everything.

When it comes to imaginative characters you can go way
more exotic. Here your knowledge - what you have learned,
your research - will really help. You might have discovered
the incredible clothing styles of the Inca's, for example (maybe
you watched Apocolypto!) and think, hey - this flying reptile
would look amazing covered in dried white chalky mud, and
festooned with Indigo gemstones!

Alway go a step further than you think you need to. The
added layers of thought will bring your character more life.
He/she/it will seem to have lived more years, and have a
mind unique to them. Remember, your characters have
generally lived a long time. With that comes nuance.

While I was writing 'God Killers' almost out of the blue
it struck me that my character Cherry Longorn could get
really ill at some point. She developed psoriasis, which almost
killed her, and directly informed how she looked and acted
in the wake of such an experience. In fact if she hadn't had
this (unnamed, undiagnosed) condition in the book much
of her resulting experiences would have seemed, well, lame!

Here's a character I am currently developing. I know he
needs to be powerful, and ancient. He needs to have horns,
but I want to somehow not be overboard with that. I'm
fixed on the beard, but should it be white or brown?

New character concept 3 by LiamSharp

A little detail is the tattoo on his face, which represents his
familiar - a horned snake.

New character concept 1 by LiamSharp

And with the musculature - because he's so far beyond human
concepts of strength and power is it OK to go really over-the-
top with him? Or should I reign myself in?

New character concept 5 by LiamSharp

Do I show his face, or does he wear a mask?
Is his face always in the shadows?
How do I make him more alien and other?

When you create your characters you need to know what
part they play in the grand scheme. Are they pivotal? Do
we need to care about them? Even love them? What is their
most prominent quality? Their kindness, or the fear they
instil? Or does the way they look not conform in any way
with the way they actually are?

Regardless of all the above - nothing will ring as true unless
YOU fall in love with your characters and believe in them.


Next up:

What are the themes?
How much do you care about popularity - ie. is it a project you're doing for
yourself, or because you hope it will generate a huge, mainstream audience?
What age-range is it?


Meanwhile:

Which fictional characters have you most identified with over the years?
  • Mood: Love
For Madefire’s last artist hunt on deviantART, waaaay back in 2012, our goal was to simply find a great artist to draw a monster story that our CCO, Liam Sharp, had written. And to say we were really pleased with the results is an understatement — not only did we have dozens upon dozens of remarkable submissions, we found a truly amazing creator who’s gone on to produce a number of stories for us. Here's the episode that came about from that contest:




This time around, however, we want to make it a bigger, more involved challenge — and a challenge it’ll be! Like before, the winner will get a paid Motion Book gig through Madefire; but rather than simply sending us your existing samples, we’d like you to take the initiative and show us how YOU would approach the story and characters. We’ll provide the script page, character designs and the deadline and we want to see your take on the characters and world — in whatever your style is as we don’t have a specific “look” in mind (so, while the character designs are gorgeous they’re NOT the desired style per se). Additionally, we’ve enlisted an eclectic, star-studded group of guest judges that will be helping us find a winner as well as giving all sorts of advice and pointers on creativity, business, etc. We’re hoping as many deviants as possible will participate!

Stay tuned and watch this space as the countdown for the challenge begins NOW! Over the next 13 days we’ll be announcing our guest judges, running some interviews with the creators, the writer, and character designer for... Fran Kenstein!

It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Go here to the official competition page for updates and info!



Meanwhile:

What would your cosplay be?
It's amazing - there are almost 250 motion books created by deviants now!!!

www.deviantart.com/motionbooks…

I wanted to highlight some more, as well as showing the diversity:

First - here's an entirely new use by krukof2 to promote a competition in both French and English, using the link function:

CONTEST / CONCOURS  2014 by krukof2

We're also seeing the tool used to create single-image parallaxes, which are REALLY effective. Motion pictures in the real sense!
Here's an excellent one by OHMEGA18:

Title Test - The Myth of Terror by OHMEGA18

I absolutely love this simple print-book type read by mothbot:

Clutter Book 1 - Or, How it All Ended Badly Des... by mothbot

But I'm also excited to see people really digging in to the tool to create motion books, such as this from shirishart:

Checkmate-Chapter 1 - The Day of the Reckoning by shirishart
Finally - I'm delighted that our own Madefire books are still winning over fans, as demonstrated in this exception book by ileWolf and Ben-Abernathy:



Keep writing, keep drawing, and keep innovating folks! :-)


Meanwhile:

I'd love to see a simple parallax image from you guys. I think there are creative possibilities that haven't been exploited, so think about patterns, layers, transparencies, fonts, and any other way you could play with a simple layered file, and publish a link to it below!

Don't forget to login to the tool if you haven't already - just go to submit, then to create a motion book:

 Create a Motion Book by LiamSharp

All tutorials and/or help you need is here: kb.madefire.com/hc/en-us

We have to treat ourselves better.

Will we ever find that ease we dream of - the one where we wake, every day,
a bright vessel brimful of inspiration? Anticipating the siren-call of the canvas, so
magnetic in a way. Brushes and paint are drawn to it. We don’t have to think.
This art makes itself. We are a conduit, a mother-father of pigment children. 

Yes - I dream of such things.

There’s not a day when I don’t consider this. Art has weight, and it weighs on us.
Our arms grow heavy even as we contemplate the first line. Fear is a big part of it.

Fear that we’ll be found lacking – not by others, but by the inner bully-child.
Younger, bitter selves that stand at our shoulders muttering obscenities and abuse.

“That is utter shit,” he/she says. “You’re wasting everybody’s time. Who gives a
crap about you? What good is this? Why are you still doing this? The world burns,
and melts, and children are killed. And still you spend your waking hours trying to
give precious meaning to this testosterone-fueled drivel! You can’t draw. You can’t
do anything. Give up. Stop now, while there’s still time…”

There’s barely a creator I know who doesn’t treat themself worse than ANYBODY
ELSE would ever treat them. 

And then – to dare show it, this cruelly battered work! To release it into the world,
where surely it will be likewise mauled?

The reality – bar the auspices of subjectivity, and the pointless cruelties of the
modern troll – is that our art fares much better in the real world than we generally
imagine or hope. Because for the vast majority what we do is like magic. It’s a form
of alchemy, creating new realities born of deft penmanship, a sensitive slip of clay,
a surprising flurry of words.

We ask our worst critics to represent us - ourselves!

These journals are now a huge part of my work, and there’s good reason for that:

Authenticity.

What I’m trying to do is genuine, and it comes from a place of knowledge and
experience. It comes from failing, but trying again – from learning. It comes from
knowledge that only a tiny number of creators get to do what they THINK they
want to do.

Let me explain: I had thought I wanted to be a fantasy artist, or science-fiction
illustrator. But I also wrote short plays in the vein of Woody Allen. I imagined I
might one day make claymation movies. I thought I might write a novel.
Perhaps I would draw comics…
It ended up being comics. And then I got, for the greater part, stuck there. 

Children at some point stop drawing. We shed bits of ourselves. We stop playing.
Games become competitive sports. We are advised by supposedly older, wiser
people to turn to more profitable possible futures, subjects that are sensible.

But some of us rebel – at least at the start.

The more I am free to look at what art is, what comics are, what motion books
are, and what creativity is, the more I feel a need to advise against the obvious.
If this is truly to be a creative revolution then we should, as much as possible,
try and free ourselves of the fabricated shackles that we don’t even know are there.
We have to unlearn everything.

Maybe we need a dogma, a declaration: 

I will not bully myself, or judge myself against my peers.

I will be free of the tyranny of style, the cruelties of fashion.

I will dare to learn. 

I will be free of all expectation, and will not judge the fruits of my labour, as it all
leads to greater knowledge and nothing is ever a failure.
 

I will not follow the rules, as all rules are man-made and subjective.

Well, y’ know, maybe that’s a bit pretentious – whatever that means! But you get
the gist! Let’s create for the love of it, and aspire to that perfect dream I mentioned
at the start. If we take away all the chains, and stop all the judgement, then -
why not? Why shouldn’t it be a blissful experience? 

And then – who knows what we might create?

 
(And damn you who say art should be all about pain! I’m not having that either!
Pain can inform our art – we have enough of that in life. It needn’t be an aspect
of the process. I've had enough of that!)

  

Meanwhile:

This is all part of a learning process for me – a discovery. I always love hearing
about the epiphanies of other creators. Tell me your stories!
And here's a piece from my gallery that has no meaning at all, but was done
for the love of creating! I did it way before 300 was released, and called it
Leonidas because it had a strangely classical, epic feel. :-)

Leonidas by LiamSharp

Favourite things are amongst my least favourite things.

I'm not talking faving something on dA. After all that quickly becomes multiple things, not singular. No, it's the singlular best thing that bothers me - the inflexible, intransigent, and defining thing.

As a kid I went along with this kind of thing:

What's your favourite colour?
What's your favourite car/brand of jeans?
Who's you're favourite band/footballer/cartoon character?
Who's your best friend?
What's better: Pepsi or Coke?
What would be your best job?
"Who's your favourite artist?"
Or best of all from my son, Lorcan, when he was about 9 - "Dad? What's your favourite fly?"!??!

Ultimately what happens is that we start to genuinely invest in this kind of thinking. We carve ourselves, slowly but inextricably, into inflexible stone aspects of ourselves, eventually crushing many of the broader possibilities of what we might potentially be. We start to define ourselves by this narrow list of favorite things.

Think about it:

"I'm an ass man"
"I'm a Manchester United supporter"
"I drive a BMW"
"I don't do sci-fi"
"Hey, I don't hug"(believe it or not, that's 100% verbatim!)
"I hate pussy pinko liberals" (again, verbatim.)
"I'm a Marvel guy"
"I only read DC"
"comics are for geeks", etc.

As I've grown older it's occurred to me that actually I really don't have favourite things. I used to trot stuff out without thinking - "Led Zep are my favourite band" being amongst the most usual - but it wasn't really true. Sometimes I'm into Pink Floyd more, or David Bowie, or Jeff Buckley, or Bellowhead... or any number of bands and artists, new and old. As it turns out I like lots of musical genres, and I'm not really defined by any of them. True, I'm a novice when it comes to jazz - and it doesn't currently resonate with me very deeply. That said, I've enjoyed learning about it in documentaries, and I'm working on it, I can respect it, and there are exceptions. So why should I put myself out there as just a rock guy, when really that's just one (albeit quite large) aspect of my taste?

And yet people do this all the time:

"I'm a punk!"
"prog is shit!" (verbatim)
"I love hiphop. Hate rock!"

I definitely don't have a favourite colour, and why would or should I? (Why are you even asking? What could it possibly matter to anybody, unless you have a personal stylist?!!?)

We have to think about the consequences of this kind of completely ingrained and narrow thinking. There are so many ramifications that when you actually start thinking about it you start to realize that it likely has a profound effect on all of society, and it goes on ever day under our noses.

It was reported to me recently that a couple who had spent time in Africa some 45 years ago had made the statement that "African's don't put the same value on life that we do" - "we" being 'the West', though it's debatable as to whether they were actually referring about Africans as a race, or whether it was with regard to the sociopolitical situation due to their geographic location, history and demographics. Either way, it's a statement 45 years out of date from people who were there at a time when such comments were commonplace, understanding was slight, and also by people who had not made very much effort to learn about how things had either changed in that time, or why (assuming their original comment was accurate, which is doubtful) it might still be the case. As a result, it's bad information that they carved in stone years ago and stuck with, and now tend to preach as fact, whereby it stands a good chance of becoming a meme for another generation. A perpetuated bigotry.

We're in an age where we are expected to be easy to categorize. We are homogenized to the point of blandness - metrosexual, in our sports-casual, or business-casual veneers. We know the freaks are still out there, but we're changing that. And don't forget to vote for your favourite act on X-Factor kids! (Robert Plant or Bob Dylan would have been thrown out in the first round. Actually in Dylan's case he might have been made one of the comedy no-hopers, the judges stifling laughter behind bejeweled and perfect fingers.) These lists help companies predict trends, and the narrower the lists the easier that is to do. The same lists are circulated to keep the same items/acts/celebrities in the spotlight - the ones they want us to see. And the vast majority of consumers are happy to go along with this. Just look at the numbers!

We become what have defined ourselves to be, and as a result we grow limited - stunted even.

Favourites only serve to create division, and to shut down our capacity for learning and growth. They are not, on the whole, about defining ourselves. This is because choices are branded. You pick a kind of music then you can be tagged with a type of clothing, or reading material, or the kind of films you want to see. You become a category, not an individual. More and more programs on websites start to make our choices for us - and this is promoted as a kind of virtual boutique that especially caters to us. But all it actually does is kill chance - the chance we might discover something unexpected in a place we might never choose to look. The more you click off what you don't like, and on what you do, the less you will ever see. You'll be a cliche, a branded item, a good little consumer.

I think we should be ENCOURAGED to engage with many things we don't think we like. (Note: I'm not talking about clear ethical things like racism, bigotry, etc. Some things it is absolutely fine to NOT like!) I think it can be extremely rewarding to watch a documentary on a subject you had not thought you were interested in, or try a genre of music, or read a book you would ordinarily never pick up. I think it can really help to understand both sides of whatever you are into - and that requires actually KNOWING about both sides of any argument.

Meanwhile:

What are your current pet hates?
Sudden change is born of something slower.

Consideration is rarely a factor.

What granite edifices we are inevitably destined to become – even we who claim to embrace possibility and change, who claim we want it and will it - if we are not vigilant!

I only just discovered this intransigence in myself – and I’d have told you to your face it wasn’t true. I’d have sworn it! – and I’m not bloody having it.
If I can’t listen to my own advice I have no right to a voice. I’m a hypocrite.

I have, I realize, not properly listened to the small, true voice of my creativity. I’ve hidden away from it, except for a few fleeting excursions.

I’ve failed it.

And I have pandered to an industry. I’ve portrayed a medium as one of ‘true art’, when reality clearly demonstrates it so rarely is. I’ve tried, to the detriment of any sensible career, to be free of fashion, expectation and commercial shackles – only to fearfully retreat back to the safety of more acceptable, mainstream styles I could riff on, or rip-off. I lacked true conviction for fear that I would further alienate myself from a mainstream that had already tried me out and decided I didn’t have the right kind of consistent, reliable, easy-to-follow trajectory. Or that I was too unpredictable. Or that I was just not the right fit.

But still, in the face of a generally unloving parent – which is how I cast the comics business – I didn’t ever fully cut myself free, and give myself the time to figure out exactly what it was I REALLY wanted to be.

How can this have taken me so very long to realize?

I was 18 when I got into comics, and that introduction was all about mimicry. Could I paint like Don Lawrence, and be his assistant? Could I draw anything like Bolland? Jim Lee? Bisley?

Yes I could, and yes I did.

And like many others too – but not quite as well, and not with the conviction, the honesty of knowing it was MY art, or that it was MY story.

I have been a commercial syphon, a cypher. Not a ‘real’ artist at all – not for a long time.

And that's fine, if that is what I want to be - a commercial artist. An interpreter. There is greatness in that. I'm not knocking it. But it's not, nor has it ever really been, the journey I am on. And that's what is dawning in me.

And yet - I have never had the time to learn how to actually BE me. Not in my comic work at any rate. Not really. Not in any greater artistic sense.

We – myself and my wife, and a few visionary friends – started Mam Tor publishing in 2005 so that creators could be the artists they truly wished to be. Madefire has continued that tradition. Both of these companies have dramatically reduced my creative output, but what little I have done - with really only one exception – has failed to take me away from the clichés that my career has been forged upon.

In grabbed and hurried moments I have reached for artistic heights that I have never had time to evolve. I have fallen back on every trick I ever learned, and every corner I have ever cut – and I have cut a great many! I have rested on so many laurels, and cursed my lack of attention, the slipping away of that will to draw, as I yet, and unexpectedly, continued to grow as a publisher and as a writer.

I have a book due out some time in the next few months called ‘Paradise Rex Press, Inc.’ and it is the only authentic piece of art I have ever created. That is the single exception, and it was channeled and excreted. It was a birthing, not a contrivance. It was, and is, an honest dishonesty, as all good art should be.

I have discovered, over the last near-decade, that my true self is far better expressed through words these days, and that my visual art is woefully lacking.

And in that revelation there’s a great joy in realizing that I have this wonderful opportunity to NOT draw – at least for a while. To regroup, and rethink. That is exciting to me.

If I have a dream, an ambition for my future beyond this executive, CCO life that was born of necessity - because somebody had to do it with the right conviction and the right ethical, artistic belief – it is to have the strength of my convictions artistically.

I wish for the time to explore, and make mistakes, and actually do some learning. I wish to deconstruct everything I’ve come to take for granted, and to not fall back into the same complacent routine, fraught with doubt and failing to speak to my ethics, my philosophy or my expectations.

If I were to make a movie – and that is also a dream of mine, like so many other artist (another cliche really) – it would not be a blustery actioner. I know that now. It would likely be poetic and humane, a slow-burn elegiac affair with little of any mainstream intent. Likewise, I suspect, my next comic project - whatever that may be.

At some point I hope to create again – to be able to dedicate a month, or year, or much longer, to making work that matters to me, and is honest. That dares to be flawed and imperfect, and that I don’t judge against my heroes - where it will inevitably fall short, as it always has.

I wish for this. I dream of it.

For now, though, there’s a revolution going on that has picked me out as one of its new champions. I’m scared, and excited – a sensation that has doggedly refused to let up over the last few years, and has indeed intensified.

I hope it works.

I hope writers and artists, and readers, and publishers, take up the call. I hope we see the transformation that is so possible, so achingly near-tangible. I hope all this.

And then – art!
It's been almost eight years since I came across deviantART.

I was looking for a good gallery site, somewhere I could put my work and share it with fans,
new clients, anybody who might be interested.
I'd found sites that supported art, journals, and all the prerequisite needs, but something
was missing
.

The fact is those template sites are dead space. What they lack is community.

That really is the linchpin: When you join dA you join a movement, a community, a city,
a temple erected to art!

And with that comes responsibility - a ready and eager audience, and all the tools you need
to grow personally, artistically and professionally in a marketplace now teaming with
aggressive, hungry life!


Here's my very first deviation from December 29th 2006 - it's a cover for the series I was
drawing for DC's Vertigo imprint, 'Testament' co-created by myself and Douglas Rushkoff.
(incidentally you can read all four volumes on the Madefire app. I specially remastered it
for digital!)

Testament 12 cover by LiamSharp
(All the good themes - sex and death! It looks a bit clumsy to me now, but I was very
pleased with it at the time!)

I've been using my dA page for the purpose it was intended ever since I joined - sharing
my work, directing potential employers towards it. But something else happened that I
didn't expect - my journal started to gain traction.

It's now the case that whenever I post an image or a journal, my journal gets much
more attention. I found a voice, and that people wanted to know what I had to say -
and not just about art, comics and writing, but also life in general.

It's hard to explain how seismic this was for me, but I think it comes down to this:
As with most artists, I'm very critical of my own work. My expectations around my
art are so huge they are insurmountable. I want to be Michelangelo, and I fall so
very short of that! But when it came to writing there was no expectation - either
from myself, or anybody else. And that freed me up. I often look at posts I have
written and I don't recognize myself - it's better than I expected, unlike everything
I draw or paint, which is universally worse than expected, to my eyes at least.

And I get to be me - not just an interpreter of other people's stories. I get to talk
about REAL things, things that matter, and that can give a fresh perspective,
even inspire. I can talk about the things that anger me, or hurt me, or upset me,
or that delight me.

I can share great work by others - like Travis Charest:



I get to talk about the industry from the vantage point of a veteran, and share
my old war stories - all the things I wish I had known going in. I get to talk
about Death's Head II, the book that put me on the map - and still the best-
selling comic of all-time to come out of the UK into the US Market.

 Death's Head II by LiamSharpDHII 4 cover by LiamSharp

I get to show unpublished paintings...

Surprise 40th birthday present by LiamSharp

Personal projects, such as short films...

Heartland Archive 02 by LiamSharp
Heartland Archive 05 by LiamSharp
Heartland Archive 01 by LiamSharp

...and novels...

God Killers cover 2 by LiamSharp
Paradise Rex Press, Inc. cover by LiamSharp

Current projects...



Abstract painting...

Remembering Bleaklow by LiamSharp

Journals about my heroes...



...and about revolutions...




In short - and to sum up - I get to be me in every facet. This is my home on the internet,
my virtual family. I get to breathe, and grow, and challenge myself, and challenge art in
general. In turn I get challenged, and supported, and appreciated, and sometimes NOT
appreciated! That's what families are for. :-)

So - HAPPY 14th BIRTHDAY dA!!!


Thank you for the great times I've had, and the better times ahead!!!

Viva la revolution!!!