The BSB Q&A is a continuing series of interviews with the people who make the books that we publish at Blank Slate, delving into some of the creative mysteries they solve every day, asking those nosey and impertinent questions that we wonder about and you probably do too.
The man under the microscope today is Rob Davis, the originator of that smash-hit collective graphic novel Nelson, edited by Rob in close collaboration with Woodrow Phoenix …and which he came up with while he was also working on his adaptation of Don Quixote for SelfMadeHero. He has since written and drawn another book after finishing that one, another brilliant and this time wholly original work called The Motherless Oven. He took some time off preparing the next chapter in that series to answer these questions for us. Read on…
Do you draw every day?
Drawing is my job, so I draw every day for work. If I’m not working I don’t draw. This might seem unusual. It’s not that I don’t like drawing. I wonder if it’s because I’m half writer, half artist and the writer half needs to think and live away from the act of drawing sometimes.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Nope. Never have. They tried to make me keep one at art college, but I just filled it up the day before an assessment like a kid doing homework on the bus to school. It’s just not the way I think. If I have an idea that needs putting down I’ll scribble it on a fag packet or back of an envelope. It won’t be something to look at or show off, just a visual note for me about something for one of my comics.
Describe your daily routine – do you need a special place to work, what do you need to have around you?
I only have a routine when I’m in book-making mode. The rest of the time I’m all over the place, usually the pub. My book-making mode is always to do a page a day from start to finish: rough, pencil, ink, colour, letter. I have a studio filled with books and records and clutter. I need to be left alone to work, I’m too easily distracted by company.
Do you think of ideas anywhere or in some specific location?
The bath. I like baths. I lie just below the water with nose and mouth sticking out, thinking. If the kids allow it I’ll lie on the bed in a towel scribbling notes afterwards.
What do you hate drawing most (and what do you like drawing most)?
Not sure my brain works like that. I hate not being able to draw a thing so that it looks like it is both a drawing and the thing, as in not a copy of reference or just plain unrecognisable.
What is your motivation for making your work?
Mania? Ego? Fear of death? I only know that my life spirals into chaos pretty quickly when I’m not making comics.
How much of your stories are planned and how much just happens on the page?
I write a script and draw it. I’m too bothered about dialogue and character to do that kind of fluid ‘see what happens’ thing. Nothing wrong with that, it just makes for a different kind of comic. Not the kind I want to make. What I hope will happen when I start drawing is that extra layers will emerge. Sometimes that can be from background details, I did that a lot in The Motherless Oven: book titles, strange objects etc. Sometimes it can be additional meaning achieved by placing images next to one another, and sometimes it can just be use of colour. In Don Quixote I did a lot of thematic experiments with colour, to capture the movement from a story within a story back to the main narrative for example.
Does it always happen in the same way?
I write then I draw if I’m making a book. It’s too big to not think about pacing and consistency without an overview. I think maybe some of the shorter pieces I’ve done grew more organically.
What do you think your work says about you?
Jeez… had to come back to this one… and I still can’t answer it.
Do you feel guilty when you aren’t working?
I doubt it. I could get pissed off at the me in my 20s who was off his trolley all the time and never used all the free time he had, but why bother? I get guilty about not doing enough for my kids. And that’s stupid. It would be even dafter to get guilty about not being at the drawing board.
Do you wish you were working in another medium?
No, they can all fuck off. Comics is best.
If you were given a million pounds tomorrow, would you stop making comics?
I’d make more comics and I’d fund people whose work I love to make more comics.