The beautifully illustrated pages of Oi! Tales of Bardic Fury tell the tale of Bryan, a bard in Iron Age Ireland who has just completed his first twelve (!) years of training. Sent to a village in the north that has never heard music before, the story explores his route from trainee musicmaker to tribal megastar as he forms a band. Advanced Photoshop caught up with writer and artist Daniel de Sosa to find out more about his incredible creation, which is currently in need of Kickstarter funding.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in illustration?
I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in California. I’ve been drawing weird characters and cartoons for my entire life, but I never really thought I could do it for a living. I moved to London to study architecture at the University of East London and soon realised that I had no talent for it. Most of my drawings I would ignore scale and measurement and focus only on the illustrative aspects. I was working very hard in class, but producing very poor work. One night in the school library I found a book about the legendary cartoonist Jaime Hernandez, and I instantly realised I was doing the wrong thing, and that I should be making comics, and telling the stories I’m always coming up with in my head. I switched out of architecture in to illustration and have been drawing comics ever since. I started a small press comic publisher with some friends from uni called Backwards Burd and we’ve been making zines and comics and touring UK comic conventions for the past two years or so. I actually met Jaime Hernandez at a book signing about a year ago and told him that I dropped out of architecture school because of him. I think he got scared.
What was the inspiration for Oi! Tales of Bardic Fury and what is the basic storyline?
Oi! developed from my lifelong passions for Irish musicians like the Pogues, history, and classic fantasy stories. The story stems from an experience where I tanked at an open mic night in second year. I got stage fright while trying to sing ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. The story is about a Bryan, a bard in ancient Ireland. It opens with him getting sent on a work placement to a tiny village in the north that’s never heard music before. There he meets a bunch of cool characters. My favourite is Star Seal the druid, who’s appearance and mannerisms are inspired by Luke Kelly, David Bowie and Beck. With Oi! I’m trying to tell a slice-of-life story in a historic fantasy setting.
When did you start drawing it and how long has it taken so far?
I started drawing Oi! in January 2013 as my final project for the last year of university. I currently have two chapters done, and am doing pre-production work for the next three. Each page takes about 6-12 hours to complete, depending on complexity. It has taken so long because I have only been able to work on my comic in my free time outside of my full time job. In the few weeks where I’ve been able to focus entirely on the comic, I can get 5 pages done a week.
Tell us a bit about how you create the artwork. What media do you use?
I use traditional and digital media just about equally. The linework is done using a number 2 brush and india ink on bristol board, and then the shading and lettering is done in Photoshop and Illustrator respectively. I oftentimes adjust the size and placement of my inked panels in Photoshop, to improve the dynamic quality of the page. Sometimes I experiment using acrylic painted backgrounds, or photography layered over painted textures, but I try not to do this too often, to keep the comic from looking too overproduced.
Tell us about the techniques you’ve used to create evocative artwork?
Here I’ve picked one of the later two page spreads, where Rhiannon hears music for the first time and thinks it’s a magic spell. Each page begins from a tiny thumbnail sketch. I usually do about 3-4 different thumbnails until I settle on a layout with the best storytelling. Once the layout is finalised, the page is redrawn at A3 size and then inked with a brush, on bristol board. I scan in the finished inked page in to my computer, and separate the line work on to its own layer. On this page, the drawing of Bryan rocking out in the bottom right corner was drawn on a separate page and added in digitally afterwards. After the line work is finalised, I add in my custom watercolour painted texture and start using the Dodge and Burn tools to give dimension to the characters and backgrounds. On this page for the starry sky, I just used a black sheet of paper and threw white paint at it. It wound up having a pretty cool effect that I was really happy with.
What’s your vision for Oi! going forward?
I wish to get to a point where I am able to focus my time entirely on Oi! The first three arcs of this story are entirely mapped out, and once that arc is complete, I can go anywhere with these characters and this concept. The first arc talks about the forming of the band, the second arc will follow the band going on tour from the top of Ireland to England, and the third arc is going to be about a giant battle of the bands taking place in Stonehenge featuring groups from all over Britain, Scandanavia and Gaul. I’m really looking forward to drawing the Viking musicians, who are going to be based on modern Norwegian death metal bands. My dream is to be able to draw Oi! full time, but it will take a lot of hard work to get to that stage.
Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign?
This campaign is to raise production costs and printing costs for Oi! Volume One, the first five chapters of the story. If the campaign is successful, I will be able to focus my time entirely on making new comics, as well as get the full book printed risographically. Riso printing gives a really cool effect that will help to make each page to look and feel like a vintage gig poster. It’s also going to be printed using a special woad-coloured ink. I am aiming to make for people the most beautiful book that I am capable of creating.
How can Advanced Photoshop readers get involved with the Kickstarter campaign and what will they get if they pledge?
To get involved, just take a look at the link. In return I am offering, besides a printed copy of the book, cool things like custom drawings, guitar plectrums, a screen-print Oi! band shirt, and even a chance for a character based on you to be added as a permanent cast member in the story of Oi! I’m offering the first two chapters to read for free, and if you want to see where the story goes next, I encourage you to please consider donating. If you can’t donate then social media shares are appreciated too.
What’s your advice for other up-and-coming comics illustrators?
Always draw all the time. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from drawing. With your drawings, try to put something into this world that no-one’s seen before. Also always be open to feedback and critiques, and share your work all the time with as many people as you can. You never know who might see it.