Finished watercolour sketchbook

It's always a grand moment when you finish a sketchbook, but especially a watercolour book. I tend to put a little more effort into the watercolours because the paper allows it.

These sketches were made between 2011 and 2014 into a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. It doesn't have the best paper but the book is extremely well designed and portable. It has about 70 pages – not all are here, but quite a few. Some sketches were adapted from photos or tv, some from life.

Making these small paintings was a good way to take my mind off the series of flus I've had recently. While painting with a runny nose might be challenging – you need to make sure your nose is never directly above the painting – it is a good excercise and does not require two things that are missing when you're ill: a. brain activity , b. strength.

LakiWoman comic strip 2009 – 2013

1: "This comic is exactly like my life!"
2: "Do you really still read magazines? That's so 2000's..." "Their webpages are much ahead of the print version. I'll prove it."
3: "It's not about speed." "What?" "How do you know what I'm about to say?"
4: "Stop it!" "Stop it right now!" "That does it…"
5: "'…no Playstation for a week and dish washin–' But mom!" "You said it."
6: "Well, you were right, this is better."

I had a comic strip in Akavalainen magazine, that started in 2009. It was about a trade union lawyer and the strange problems she had to face at work and at home.

Right before it ended last year I was presented with a very fun opportunity. The magazine made a transformation from print to web and somehow this had to be reflected in the comic. So, I made two strips that communicate with each other. This was the first time I broke the fourth wall in the strip.

The top strip is the first webcomic, which actually came out slightly before the bottom strip, which is the last print version.

1: "Have you noticed?! You are online!" "What? Let me see…"
2: "But that doesn't look at all like me! Just look at the hair." "That's just a digital representation. In reality, your hair is much more three-dimensional." "And look at that. What's that supposed to be?"
3: "That's your son… He is just not fully loaded." "Oh, I guess that's his normal state."
4: "But wait, if I am online, does everyone see everything I do? The whole world?!" "Um… have you actually never looked that way?"
5: "That w-"

I will post highlights from the four years of strips in the near future.

10 years, a look back

It has been 10 years since I did my first commissioned magazine illustration. I thought it would be fitting to compare progress… to my work as a ten-year-old. I had some time on vacation, so I revisited some early subjects.

I was quite a fanboy when I was little. Definitely not a fan of Wolverine, though.

That's the way it was actually spelled in the eighties. For some reason I don't remember getting into trouble for swearing.  
HB pencil vs. Procreate on the iPad

But the Hoff had a huge impact back then. I used to draw complete comic books with Knight Rider stories in them. Then I sold them to my parents for a premium, so that I could buy more actual comic books. Afterwards, I took the comics back because my parents didn't read them enough and I liked them.

That's his nose, all right? Nose.  
Cheap markers vs. Watercolour with white and yellow gouache
That's actually Garthe Knight in the 2014 image. Michael Long's (Michael Knight's pre-fake death persona) plastic surgery operation was modeled after the evil Garthe, so that he and Michael Knight ended up identical… except for the inevitable moustache and goatee. Garthe drove K.A.R.R. – K.I.T.T.'s evil predecessor who was not programmed to protect human life. Duh, the scientists should have read their Asimov.

So, what's changed?

At least some of the delightful punk attitude has gone and turned into gentle fun-poking. I still describe hair the same way. I'm more squeamish about swearing in print and less while working.

Compared to the speed I worked with in 1987, I'm like a sleep-deprived snail who forgot the handbrake on. It took an hour and a half to draw / paint a single picture of Knight Rider while back then, I would have had a complete story done. Cost-effectiveness has taken a steep down-turn.

I now have way better equipment, which is a big relief.

I still love it, but a whole lot more than as a ten-year-old.

Illustrating disputes

Kuluttaja magazine commissioned me to illustrate a continuing section of the magazine called "Ratkaisuja riitoihin" (Resolutions to disputes). The section lists the most interesting and funny consumer disputes lately and their resolutions by the Consumer Disputes Board (Kuluttajariitalautakunta). It's very popular among the readers. I draw two illustrations for every spread and it has been a blast! I loved the section even before I was asked to take over the illustration.

Here are some of the illustrations so far:

"AGONY" – There is an annual heavy metal festival in Helsinki called Tuska ("Agony"). The main performer of one festival day was arrested, could not perform and was replaced with a Finnish band. A fan was so disappointed that he demanded a partial refund for his ticket.

An adult bought a season card to a riding school with the intention of joining an adult beginner class. Since there was none, she was put in an advanced children's class. Not a great solution.
The riders image was the first one and I actually got a nice email from a reader who had really liked it. It's not very often that happens and it definitely made my day.
A bathroom renovation took over a month and the tenant asked for a reduction in rent for the duration. The landlord did not think there was cause.
This one hit particularly close to home – we've had an upstairs neighbour who has had two cases of water damage within half a year. Buckets of water came down on both occasions and the illustration is fairly descriptive of the aftermath. 
Enterprising mechanics took it upon themselves to make extensive repairs to a car well into its twenties without consulting the customer (the word on the piece of paper is "Invoice").
This is from the latest issue, which is hitting the stores as I'm writing this.

Modesty Blomqvist

Personal – Modesty Blomqvist
I am a huge fan of the Modesty Blaise newspaper strip and especially the original Jim Holdaway drawn era, which tragically ended all too soon. When a fellow Modesty Blaise fan had a big birthday, I seized my chance to do this image which I had been planning to do for close to six years. Nice to see that with all the digital work I'm doing, I can still hold a brush when it comes down to it. I thought it was fitting to pay respect to one of the biggest influences of my early career as an illustrator on the birthday of someone who appreciates it.

Modesty Blaise was a smash hit from the beginning. Why it was so popular is a very good question and a useful lesson even now. Most of the Modesty Blaise stories fall into the general "secret agent" genre. Either they help their good friend Tarrant of the British intelligence services or stumble upon criminal gangs or organisations terrorizing innocent people. Almost invariably Blaise and Garwin deal with the situations by themselves.

Modesty Blaise was one of the first if not the first female protagonist, who was an undisputed leader, physically equal or more capable than the men but also had a stern but agreeable personality. She was the "tough guy" but had plenty of room for human emotions. At her late twenties, she had been a refugee, risen to head an international crime organisation with her right hand man Willie Garwin and retired as independently wealthy.

Despite there being an extremely close relationship between Modesty and Willie, it was never sexual, not even in a throwaway mind control episode like we see in so many tv series today. They exhibit the utmost respect and trust towards each other but their relationship also supercedes any dalliances they might have, which are always temporary. Even Modesty's original nationality is kept a mystery. The British nationality she holds, is illegally bought. They are portrayed as the epitome of freedom, they only have the ties they choose to forge and are always free to make independent decisions. Despite being a truly 1960's concept, it's very appealing in our time.

Peter O' Donnell (1920 – 2010) wrote nearly a hundred Modesty Blaise stories in comic strip form between 1963 and 2001. These were long stories, most of them span well over a hundred strips. In addition, O'Donnell wrote 10 Modesty Blaise novels and two short story collections. 

There have been three feature film adaptations, all of which O'Donnell hated (with good reason).

The first appearance of Modesty Blaise in La Machine, art by Jim Holdaway

Jim Holdaway (1927 – 1970) was an absolute master of linework. His lines look like they were drawn at a breakneck speed with a careless disdain for neatness. And yet, they convey information clearly and with amazing depth. And they are so tight when they need to be. In my opinion, it is this alternation of constriction and release, which made him one of the greatest line artists ever to get involved in comics. He approached Modesty Blaise with a passion that the artists who took up Modesty after him could not match.
Modesty Blaise: The Gabriel Set-Up, art by Jim Holdaway

Holdaway illustrated the 19 first Modesty Blaise stories (plus a short primer story"In the Beginning" for the American audience). He died of a heart attack in his early forties, midway through drawing the 20th story arc "Warlords of Phoenix". The death was so sudden it took everyone by surprise. After a furious search, he was replaced by Enrique Badia Romero, who penned the majority of Modesty Blaise stories and is the artist most people associate with the series. Holdaway's two last strips in the middle of Warlords of Phoenix were drawn by both of them. You can find a comparison of the strips in one of the reprint albums by Titan Books.

Modesty Blaise pinup by Romero
Romero is a very capable artist in his own right, but never had the passion for the character Holdaway had. Romero is also well known for his own (co-)creation Axa, which is a newspaper strip about a postapocalyptic world and a topless heroine in search of love and a true man. To put it bluntly it is everything Modesty Blaise is not.

Sadly, the reprint books by Titan of the early Modesty Blaise strips are mostly out of print having been published nearly ten years ago, and the used copies are starting to fetch quite a price. But hopefully your local library might have some of them in decent shape because the print quality is excellent. Unlike the earlier reprints by Star Books, the Titan versions are made from original films.

These three albums are still available at the moment of writing (links lead to The Book Depository online bookstore):

Modesty Blaise: Black Pearl
Modesty Blaise: Bad Suki
Modesty Blaise: The Hell-Makers (partly illustrated by Romero)

Modesty Blaise on wikipedia