Welcome to the archive of the John Barleycorn blog, produced by Howard Gayton and Rex Van Ryn during the process of creating their graphic novel John Barleycorn Must Die. As part of that process, you'll find discussions of magic, of creativity, and 'Around the Table' discussions with a range of internationally known artists, writers and film makers. The graphic novel was printed in a limited edition, so if you managed to get one, good for you! Although this project is over now, we're leaving this blog online as an archive and as a snap shot in time.

Friday, 24 June 2011

ad referendum.

H - So, Rex, we have the next sequence of first draft pages this week, where we catch up with Maggie's tale.  
R - Yes.
H - Okay. What’s wrong?
R - I'm sulking today. 
H - I can see that. What’s wrong?
R – Well, just when I thought it was safe to go back to the studio and re-engage with our book, I find there's been a further three scenes cut, making a total of 60 pages of art work gone from my original story. That’s six, zero, Howard. 60.
H - Well, yes, Rex. Coming back to the story after my stint in Portugal, we both decided that those scenes were holding up the flow of the piece. 
R - I'm not saying it wasn’t a mutual decision. I’m just saying.
H - Right. Is that why you've just shown me the comment that The Real Anonymous made on one of your posts whilst I was away?
R – Maybe....
H - Well, let’s look at it then. He (or she) writes:
“When does one decide to collaborate, or not to collaborate in production? Is it inevitable, ie: is     everything essentially a team effort to bring a work to fruition? How do strong minded creatives blend seamlessly together? What are the individual skills and contributions? Does it help to have a tolerant personality - or at least a strong business model?! What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration - are there unacceptable compromises etc? Does it help to be crazy? Must there always be a ‘fall guy’?!! What is the give and take?”
There are a number of interesting questions in TRA's comment. It seems that at this moment we're addressing the subject of compromise: how must one compromise in order to create a collaborative work of art?  I grant that you are having to do more than your fair share every time we take art work out of the book. I know that each page of art has entailed a lot of work, and it must be hard to let it go for the good of the overall project.

R - Well, thank you, Howard. I just wanted an acknowledgement of that.

H - So are you feeling better now?

R – Yes, I am. 
      H - Talking about the skills and contributions that we each make to this collaborative process, it's obvious to me what yours are. Your ability to draw scenes in such an interesting and skillful way, and at such speed, still amazes me.

      R - It’s okay, Howard. I told you, I’m fine now. I'm not sulking anymore. 

      H – Oh, good. And, of course, the plus side of cutting those scenes is that you get to draw 70 new pages. That’s seven, zero, Rex. 70. 

      R - Don’t push it.

      H – Well no, I probably shouldn’t. Um....I wonder what my contribution to the graphic novel is?

      R - 
H – Rex...? I was saying: I wonder what my contributions are? I guess one contribution is that I'm helping you to tell the story in a comprehensible way. Creating a story out of pre-existing artwork certainly has its challenges, but there are also advantages to working within these confines – similar to the way that working within the restrictions of the haiku or sonnet form can shape a poet's ideas. I don’t think we would have come up with this particular plot and set of characters if we hadn’t started in this topsy-turvy fashion, with the art work first.

      R - But we'll work differently next time, won’t we? 

      H – Yes, we will. Definitely. This is a crazy way of working! Next time, we'll create the story first, illustrated with rough sketches -- and only once each spread has passed muster will the pages get pencilled and inked. No cut scenes! What will you have to moan about then?

     R - Don’t worry, Howard, I’ll find something.

     H - I’m sure you will! Talking about accepting changes, we have to ask our readers to accept a little change too, don’t we?

     R - Yes, and I hope they can do it with the same magnanimity and good spirit as myself.
     H - Quite. So then, dear readers, we have warned you before that the comic pages posted here are in first draft form. As you read the following pages, one thing you need to know is that the earlier scene where Vali first meets Maggie in the Mundus has changed a little. In the scene we're showing today, she says: “The Tattooed man knew my name.” This wasn’t in the first draft of the previous scene, but will be inserted into the second draft. Rex and I hope you all enjoy the new pages:

- 38 -

- 39 -

- 40 -

- 41 -

- 42 -

Friday, 17 June 2011

arcana imperil

H - Hello, everyone. I’m back and fully functioning now, and want to say thanks to our readers for all the words of welcome. So then, Rex....
R - Yes?
H - Is there anything you need to tell me?
R – Er.... Nope.
H - Everything went smoothly, then, whilst I was away?
R – Er.... Yep!
H - Buttons got pressed?
R – Indeed they did.
H - Blogs got posted?
R – Indeed they did. Why do you ask?
H - No reason. It’s just that some of the comments last week seemed to affirm your capability a little too strongly, to my mind, and I've wondered if I shouldn’t look through the posts to make sure that everything functioned properly in my absence. Also, Terri has been decidedly cagey whenever I talk about the blog ….
R - You know what, Howard? All’s well that ends well. It’s not going to help anyone dredging over past posts. We have a book to write and it's time now to press on. Draw a line under it all. Never look back. Onward and upward.
H - To infinity and beyond?
R - Absolutely!
H - Well the blog is still here, so you obviously haven’t deleted it. The Internet is still here, so you managed not to blow that up! So, I guess that whatever happened, or didn’t happen, is just water under the bridge. I’ll do a deal. I won’t look, you don’t tell. How’s that?
R – Agreed. Absolutely. Yes, that sounds very fair. The first rule of blogging is don’t talk about blogging.... So then, what have we got for the next couple of weeks for our readers to look forward to?
H - Well, Rex, I’m glad you asked that question. We are back to working full time on the comic from Monday, now that I have recovered from my excursion abroad; and next week we will be posting the latest first draft pages, where we find out what happens to Maggie after she has been thrown out of her home.
R - Yes, that should generate a bit of pathos, shouldn’t it?
H - There will not be a dry eye in the house, I suspect.
R - Then we have the long-awaited “Around the table” interview with Yoann Lossel and Claire Briant?
H - Yes. It's all recorded in my laptop, and I just need to transcribe it. I haven’t listened to it since we first recorded it, and I am eager to listen to it again. My memory was that it was a fascinating discussion. 
R - It really was.
H - So, aren’t you going to ask me about Portugal?
R - Yes. So how was Portugal?
H - Don’t ask.
       R - Okay then, I won't.
H - Do you remember the discussions we've had on this blog about art and life mirroring each other?
R - I do.
H – Well, that happened again in this instance. In the end, the play we devised wasn’t called The Tempest, but: Commedia Dell ‘Arte: Lost and Found. This seemed to be a more appropriate title after the work ran into a tempest of its own. It actually ended up being a great show, but it was a little like pulling teeth to get there. I’m glad to be back here. With you. Writing.
R - Did you get to wear your funny masks, and do some dances and stuff, like you do?
H - Do you actually know what I was doing out there, Rex?
R - I thought you were doing funny dances and stuff, like on the Ophaboom DVD you showed me, where your legs were going all over the place and you were dressed like an old lady or something….
H - I was directing the show.
R – So...?
H - So, I wasn’t doing funny dances. I was getting other people to do funny dances.
R - Oh. Right.
H - And what were you doing, while I was away, apart from running the blog ‘smoothly’?
R - I’ve drawn 26 new pages of art.
H - Wow. That’s a lot.
R - They have yet to be inked…but you need to look over them first and check that they are all okay.
H – Well then, let’s go and do that ….

Friday, 10 June 2011

cursum perficio

R: You're back! Hurray!!!! The blog is saved...er, I mean, the blog is back to running on full steam again.

H: Slow down, Rex. I've literally just got back, and I'm completely exhausted. We're going to have to keep this post short today, and put up one final piece of deleted art work. I'll be back at full steam next week.

R: No, no, no!  Let's do it today! You're here, I'm here, the readers are here. The Rex and Howard Show is live again!

H: Alright then, Rex. As you know, I haven't been online while I've been in Portugal, I needed to keep my mind focused on my work out there, so why don't we have a look at what you've been up to here while I've been away --

R: Er, maybe you're right. Let's wait till next week. No need to look at that now, Howard. 

H: But --

R: In fact, you're looking very, very tired indeed. Maybe you should go to bed. Rest. We'll start up again next week...here, let me press the button...

Goddess 1

Goddess 2

Friday, 3 June 2011

Rex Week III

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

R - Okay, this is getting crazy now. I’ve lost my notes about this week's post, and I’ve wiped my hard drive, whatever that is, and I can’t think of what to say about these scenes. I'll be glad when Howard's back. I need help! Hmmm, maybe his wife will help me. She's good with words. TERRI! TERRI!

T – Good lord, what is it, Rex?

R - I need help with the blog!

T – What are you doing here in my kitchen? Why aren’t you working at your own house?

R – I don't know. This is where I come to work every day, isn’t it? Isn’t that what I do?

T – Well, yes, when Howard’s here, but —

R – When is Howard coming back?

T – (sigh) How many times are you going to ask me that? He'll be back from Portugal next week. Now, what's the problem?

R - I don’t know what I’m doing! What am I supposed to write? Howard usually starts a post by asking me questions, but I can't very well ask myself questions, can I? I don't want to run the blog anymore! I've gone from being Captain Kirk to the guy in the landing party with the tight red shirt who gets killed on the planet.

T – Rex, what are you talking about?

R - I don’t know!!!

T - All right, calm down. I'll make you a cup of tea. Just take a deep breath while I put on the kettle. Would it help if I asked you some questions about the art?

R – Yes!

T – Okay then, let’s go through this week’s deleted scene. Isn't that what you're meant to be doing?

R - Thank god somebody knows....

T - The first few frames of the sequence are close-ups of hands and feet, which seems to slow the action down. Why did you decide to draw it that way?

R - I wanted readers to have a sense of: I don’t really know what is going on here, but I don’t think it's going to be good. Hitchcock does this a lot in his films. In The Birds, for example, when the protagonist finds a body in the local school, there is a long sequence of the man searching the building looking for his friend. He goes down a lot of long corridors. This was designed to agitate the audience and create a sense of stress. When the man finds the body, Hitchcock focuses on the corpse's eyes in a series of three jump cuts...and we see that the eye sockets are empty. The birds have pecked them out.

T – Gross.

R – It is truly a horrific sequence.

T - Is that why there are birds in your scene, too? As an homage to Hitchcock?

R - No. They're just there because Ray keeps pigeons.

T – Oh. So then talk me through the rest of the scene.

R - We don’t see the antagonist immediately, just his hands and feet. We don’t know who it is, until the reverse cut, which reveals Ray, looking at a photo. On Page 3, the flight of the birds emphasizes his madness. Ray has actually ripped open the feather pillow that he used to smother his mother-in-law, but the idea here is that in his mind he sees the feathers as a flock of birds. Then, when he leaves the flat and enters the hallway, he is confronted with himself -- as in: What have I done?

In the first set of notes Howard wrote for this scene, the cat in the hallway talks to Ray, instructing him to confess to the murder. We were intending to imply that the 13th Conjuror was manipulating the cat. Both Howard and I really liked the idea, but in the end, Ray wasn’t an important enough character to justify the length of this sub-plot, so the whole thing was cut.

T – The same thing happens when writing a novel. Sometimes there are scenes that are perfectly good in themselves but that don't serve the overall plot, or that slow down the pace of the story. You have to take those scenes out, even when it's painful to do so....  Is there anything else you want to say about this art, or are you finished?

R – I'm finished.

T – Well done!

R – Thank you! I feel much better. But Howard will definitely be back next week...?

T – Just press the button and publish your post, Rex.

R – This button?

T – No! No! Good lord, don't touch that one!!!

R – This one?

T – (sigh) Yes.