A Short Ramble

In Times Such As These, sometimes there’s not much you can do but sit and draw comics.

I’m sorry for the recent radio silence– I’ve been pressed under the weight of Giant Monsters and every spare minute in the evenings I’ve been cleaning up some older stuff. Going over the early comics has had me thinking Deep Thoughts about character design and the shape of the comic and stuff, and for lack of actual comics here are some sketches and scattered thoughts– very disconnected I’m afraid I’m a bit short on sleep..

I’ve been trying to develop a visual language for this comic here and for stuff of this nature I confess I’m embarassingly fond of woo for someone about to make my debut in the Geek Calendar as Ms August! Brace yourselves for some woo-y talk about shapes.

The drawing above is a stab at getting a proper model of Babbage, however he always seems to be a little off-model every time I draw him and that is no exception. I think I haven’t quite nailed him in detail but I do have a very clear feel of his energy now I think (and by ‘he’ I mean the character in the comic!) Babbage is a very earth-and-fire sort of an element, stable, stubborn and explosive at the same time, which is pleasing on account of his fascination with volcanoes. It is VERY obliging of him to have in at least one photograph styled his hair in a shape so very suggestive of a cartoon flame, and even more obliging of the painfully pompous Lawrence portrait to inform me that he had reddish hair (‘he’ now being the actual person, this does get confusing..) When I pose him out I tend to draw a big block with some shapes either flickering or bursting out– very simple, straight, square and active.

Lovelace is also quite linear and active, but she has more complicated, twisted, unstable stuff roiling under the surface– I’m starting to look for more sinuous lines on her, diagonals and spirals; I’m experimenting with putting her in costumes that have more of that messiness, layers, and eccentricity to them, and I’m lucky that she had those big coils of black hair to play with. The real-life Lovelace loved flying machines and swimming and was nicknamed ‘The Bird’ in her family circle, which gives a great airy/watery contrast to Babbage’s earth and fire.

This works nicely with the hardware/software thing with the Engine, programming is a very ‘air’ skill to my mind and there is much to be made of the visual of the long tapes of punchcard winding and flowing through the rigid engine (much to be made, by someone with more time on their hands than myself at the moment!). The sketch above came out of some myth-y stuff I’ve been doing for User Experience. I talk a bit about how I use Orpheus to build The Organist here, User Experience I’m back to the useful Greeks and the obvious one for something set inside the Engine, which is Deadalus and his Labyrinth. With Labyrinths you get Ariadne and her thread winding through of course, but Lovelace also makes me think of Icarus, anyways that’s where that came from.

Something I found in a pile of doodles– I can’t clearly remember drawing this but you can see I’m looking at bringing the contrast in shapes into the hands here–

While I’m on the subject of woo, might as well put this Fact in here- Lovelace and Babbage were both born in December of Pig Year (the Year of the Pig is the very BEST year by the way), 24 years apart; Lovelace a Saggitarius and Babbage a Capricorn. I’m enchanted to see the Capricorn-Pig described as “The Merry Megalomaniac” while the Saggitarius-Pig is a wallower in shenanigans on the sly.  I’ll leave the compatibility/chart/influences of Saturn to the floor.

Well that’s possibly the most disconnected post I’ve put up here.. please bear with me only a couple of months of crunch to go and the I shall Devote Myself To My Art!


  1. Ceridwen on September 5, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Hi! Posting here because, for some strange reason, my computer refuses to acknowledge that there is a comment section to the next post. I think it’s miffed that I have so many tabs up. Anyway, why, yes, we do have an iPad. I think I can wrestle it away from the husband. ;)

  2. Hugh on August 27, 2011 at 9:12 am

    If you feel like casting another entertaining and informative doodle unto the waiting multitude, and can do so without giving away film secrets, how about the problems of beasts with six or more limbs? Maybe Babbage and Lovelace take a Very Grand Tour of Mars and adopt the local body as an experiment?

  3. gotheek on August 15, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Love the comic, and the tangential (sp?) panels. I saw this in the Guardian today and thought of you, the comic and all things engineering…


    • butting on August 17, 2011 at 8:04 am

      Why oh why would you tell her about that? She’ll never be seen again!

  4. Clare DeVries on August 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I loved your explanation of character design… so much so that I linked to it on my design blog. I hope you don’t mind, I borrowed one panel from “The Organist” to illustrate the point (credited and linked, of course), but I’ll remove it instantly! if you’d like me to.


    I really admire your work and look forward to your next post!

  5. Malcolm Ryan on July 29, 2011 at 2:28 am


    Could you possibly release the slides from your Organist/Orpheus talk?


  6. Anon, a Mouse on July 28, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Thank you so much for the link the video of your talk on using space! It’s one of the many, many things I love about your work!

    Your update series on The Hand have been hugely fun. It certainly is tiding everyone over until the next episode. Had to send out an APB on your last with Brunel– Guess it’s not too much of a stretch for the Top Gear guys to host the program on him, really. Looking forward to your survival of the giant monsters!

    …and should I be worried that your Organist character is almost a caricature of both my first younger brother and my youngest uncle? Boy, do the Chinese have a better vocabulary for describing familial relationships…

  7. Quakerlol on July 28, 2011 at 2:17 am

    The Year of the Pig is ABSOLUTELY the best year and it’s nice to know that i have something in common with these amazing people! I find these rambles and rants very informative and funny, and I appreciate them in-between comics. Best of luck with wrangling the Giant Monsters!

  8. Ken on July 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Making me want to dig out my copy of Comics and Sequential Art….

  9. Owen Fleet on July 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I’m such an idiot. I didn’t recognise Mr Bruce as The Organist! Sheer genius.

  10. Valerie Aurora on July 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

    I love getting to see how comics are made! I know nothing whatsoever about either drawing (last formal art class age 9) or developing plot, and each of these posts helps me appreciate the comic, the era, and of course Lovelace and Babbage better.


  11. Debbie G on July 26, 2011 at 2:55 am

    I enjoy these kinds of posts… seeing into the thinking and the plotting and the reasonings. Love the hand comparison. And the thoughts of ‘blocky Babbage’ compared to the more layered nature of Lovelace. Always willing to wait for genius…

  12. Ceridwen on July 25, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Nice to see you posting. :) I enjoyed the video – forgot about the use of space to define an interaction.

  13. the doodler on July 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    This is some really neat stuff — it shines through the comic, even if I don’t pick up on it consciously. Also, I’ve been playing with character designs for a comic, and I’m delighted to get a free lesson from the pros!

  14. Timmy on July 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I don’t mind waiting longer for a new comic if you keep teaching me more art-type stuff!

  15. Maxicus on July 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Despite the sporadic releases of comics I find myself coming back here daily. The posts in between are almost equally entertaining to the comic, and your fascination for Babbage and Lovelace and the gang is strangely contagious.

    Keep up the good work, and good luck with the monsters.

  16. Malcolm Ryan on July 25, 2011 at 5:05 am


    Thanks for the update. It’s just as fascinating to see how you think about these drawsings as to read the comics themselves. Having them side-by-side fits with the whole steampunky/makerly nature of the entireprise. Please keep up the reflections. Like all good makers, we love to see how it works!


    PS: Great photo in the Geek calendar.