Directors Commentary art student special – Will Aldis

Published On November 28, 2012 | By Joe Gordon | Comics

Dan Berry is a comics creator and artist we’ve long admired here on the blog, but he is also a lecturer at the North Wales School of Art & Design at Glyndwr University(where he is the Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication, lecturing on the BA (hons) Illustration, Graphic Novels and Children’s Books degree), helping the next generation of creators to hone their skills and find their voice in the medium. Any artform needs not only established, experienced creators, it requires a constant infusion of new talent, fresh blood, to keep the medium invigorated, and one of the pleasures of working on this blog isn’t just looking forward to new work from the writers and artists we know and love already, it’s coming across interesting new talent. To that end Dan has been kind enough to collaborate with us on a very special themed set of Director’s Commentary guest posts; we put a set of questions to Dan’s students, and over the next few days they will be talking to us about their work, and hopefully this will be just the first time we hear from some of these creators, and we’ll see them back in the future with more work. You can read the previous guest posts in this series with Tom HarleyAndrew ThomasBrian BurkeDaisy HillyardHeather WilsonRosy Higgins and Ted Brandt. Today for the final in this series looking at the new talent coming into comics via the course we welcome Will Aldis– you can find out more about Will’s work via his site and his Twitter:

FPI: What drew you to wanting to make comics?

Will: I’d probably say it started at the end of high school. The only thing I was ever any good at was drawing funny situations or cartoon stylish things. Art seemed, to me to be the logical thing to pursue. Originally after 6th form college, I wanted to look in to the animation side of things. I loved what Pixar did and always thought that working in that environment would be really inspiring and educational, so that was my goal. Unfortunately first time round I didn’t get in to the University I wanted, so decided to have a break from education.

After a few years out, working and drawing when I could. I got more in to comics and developed a real liking for them, mostly mainstream things at that time like Superman and the ‘Angel: After the fall’ series were some of my favourites during this period.

Comics were always something I would occasionally read and think actually, being able to tell the story with a series of pictures would be as I wasn’t to great with words. I managed to get wind of the Graphic Novels course from a friend, Higher education was always something I wanted to get to and this seemed like the time to try. I decided I wanted to develop more as a storyteller artist, this seemed like the best opportunity to do so, it would turn out in the end that I was right.

FPI: What was your experience of the course?

Will: The course was brilliant and a massive help. I don’t think I could have attained the skills I have now, on my own. The amount of knowledge the collective of tutors have is truly amazing and a massive help as was learning from classmates.

You can’t help but feel inspired when there are 30+ people, all being creative and bouncing ideas off of each other. I fully expect to miss that environment later on down the line and wish them all the best in future endeavours.

FPI: What are you working on now?

Will: At the moment I’m preparing for the New Designers show in London on July 4th to the 7th. Making sure I have some strong images in my portfolio etc.

After this I will be getting back to carrying on with the project I set myself at the end of third year. It was a potentially a really big story, I called ‘Our world of trees.’ This book helped me find the technique I was really happy with and some of what I feel was my best stuff so I’d love to get back to scripting and drawing on that. Which will be scary, as I won’t have the tutors to fall back on.

FPI: What are your ambitions?

Will: The biggest ambition for me at this moment would probably be.  Being good enough to live comfortably off of the art that I make. Doing this through producing regular comics that have good enough stories that people would want to read. If this is not the case I will always draw and utilise what I have been taught to create comics or one off illustrations.

….Also to draw on a Superman story would be a goal I’d like to cross off my list, but I think I’m a long way off of that.

FPI: Explain your working process.

Will: First off I need to come up with an initial idea of what I want to do. This was easier when Briefs were given to us, a little trickier when I had to come up with something from nothing.

Research was something that I learnt to appreciate more and more; sometimes looking at reference pictures such as cityscapes, woods, mountains and all that type of thing really helped to form ideas (probably best to have a notepad and pen while you’re doing this.)

Next I would take the small ideas you had and see if you can form anything feasible from them. Usually you already have an idea of where you want to go with it as you’ve made it up there on the spot. So it’s just about making it flow and making sure it would be something other people would want to read. Next it would be to sort out scripts and making sure it flowed correctly. I try not to do too much drawing in the ideas stage but often it can’t be helped as this helps me form ideas and settings.

Thumb nailing pages helps to get a sense of what fits in a panel. Also it lets you get an overall structure of the page and shows what panels best help to flow the story.

Then comes one of my favourite parts which is character studies, working out what characters should look like gender, build, ethnicity and so on.  Once this is done I start pencilling the story but as I like to ink more so the pencil is very basic stickmen style and settings and background get work out more in this stage. Once I’m fine with this, I draw most detail and everything using a Pentel brush pen and a lot of patience. Once this is done, I take the inked pages into Photoshop for the clean up stage.  Any lines out of place get removed and the work gets colour if needed. Words go into the work at this point also.

Most of the time my work goes on to my website or blog.

FPI would like to thank Dan and his students for taking the time to talk to us here on the blog, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into some of the new talent coming into comics and illustration and perhaps the course will appeal to some of our other up and comers as a way of honing their skills. Fingers crossed we hear more from them in the future!

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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