The Magic Pen

4 October, Hastings City Art Gallery
Readers and Writers, HBAF 2017

The day tickets went on sale for this workshop, I was hovering over the ‘buy’ button at 8.59am. Only 12 spaces and one of them needed to be mine. I have loved comics since I was a snotty kid reading the Beano and Rupert the Bear. While my tastes have moved away from Desperate Dan, the joy of getting a new comic in my hot little hands is the same as it was back then. This was my golden ticket into the world of comic creator, Dylan Horrocks, I was going to have my Wonka moment.

Dylan Horrocks is a cartoonist and writer of comics, he has been published around the world with his graphic novels Hicksville, The Magic Pen and also his scripts for DC’s Batgirl. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop or him; the information said to bring pencils, paper and examples of your work. This is a daunting prospect for someone newly returned to scribbling after a break of almost 20 years, but the moment he started speaking about his work I was at ease. Horrocks talks about his art with a self-deprecating wit, he is warm and genuine and you can tell that he is just really in love with comics.

During the two-hour session, extended because his next engagement cancelled (hooray!), he talked about the process he follows from noting first ideas in his trusty notebook through to drawing and hand lettering the finished comic. This included discussing the obstacles that get in his way, some of which are put there by him. It’s reassuring to hear that a seasoned professional like Horrocks suffers with the same set of drawing demons as the rest of us – fear of the blank page, never getting started and then never getting finished, wondering if you are actually a bit rubbish at drawing, which, by the way, he is not.

While the whole thing was totally brilliant, getting a chance to thumb through his notebook and seeing inside his sketchbooks was a highlight. As was the time he took to look at all our work and offer suggestions on where we could go from here. I hope that when I’m an international comic book illustrator, I am as helpful and friendly to up-and-coming artists as the talented Mr Horrocks.

If you want to dip your toe in the graphic novel pool, may I suggest picking up a copy of The Magic Pen from your local independent book shop, you will not regret it.

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