January 2014

Australia, November 2013.

I had inadvertently found the best way to get the most out of such a short trip to Australia and this was to hit the ground running. Due to an invitation from Andi Spark of Griffiths University Film School, Animation department, to judge students work on the last day of the College semester. I had no choice but to go straight into an exciting and energetic college environment which put any jet lag and flight tiredness at the back of my mind - and I didn't even nod off in the dark and warm film auditorium watching the animated shorts... A good sign that the work was interesting. Talking to and meeting the students on this day, and subsequently at Supanova over the weekend, was a pleasure, some of whom are going to do private projects to create short animations for Razorjack and her world. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Below are the students I helped assess with their named projects that I commented on - to see my name associated with a further education arts project is a great kick. Thank you to all I met on the day at Griffith Uni in Brisbane, and Andi for being so enthusiastic about life, art and all her students.

Highest Achievement in Animation Direction:
Aidan May for Tracker

Most Outstanding Achievement in Animating:
Claudia Jakubowski and Danika Catchpole for One Step Ahead

Most Outstanding Animation Sound Design:
Cody McGrath for Monument

Most Outstanding Art Direction:
Elena Renn for Surface Tension

John Higgins' Special Mention for Unique Production:
Geon Frank Kim, Andrew Del Aguila and Jerico Cinco for Frying Pan Dutchman

John Higgins' Special Mention for Craftsmanship:
Elle Bryce for Lafayette

Overall Highest Achievement in Animation Production: THE SKIN FACTORY

Audience Choice Awards in Animation: THE SKIN FACTORY


 

We ended the first day in Brisbane at Gilhooley's Irish Bar and had a not-too-bad pint of Guinness and a very good steak with Ken Jones and Jamie Lloyd-Jones who both became helpers at my table on the following days at Supanova Brisbane. With the Judges' additional help, a hot spot to visit!

One good and bad thing combined was no real draught Guinness to speak of anywhere I went except at Gilhooley's, and trying to drag fellow drinkers there when I was the only Guinness drinker was not gonna happen, but draught in a can was a slight fillip. And being the Guinness advert I am, turning Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson onto the black nectar was a job well done, I feel. You know it makes sense!

A special thanks to Tom Taylor for introducing us to the Japanese fast food burger joint, MOS Burger in Brisbane, great burgers and different to any burger joint you may have been to before. So no massive sessions and the hotel bar closed at 10PM ... Unheard of for a con hotel, so I really did not over indulge as much as I usually enjoy, so my liver thanked me and no hangovers this convention trip.

All Conventions are similar and set in a conference centre that could be anywhere in the world, like airports they are more or less the same. But I do enjoy them all, as long as they are well run and friendly and this one was. The big different is made by the mix of guests and the fan's who attend them. I met some old friends which is always good. Below, Paul Mason, who I first met as a student at the aforementioned Griffith University and who is now a professional comic creator!

I did some cool talks that were well attended. The sketch off panel was a new thing for me and fun, done in the company of the talented artists Leinil Yu and Duncan Rouleau, both whom did lovely sketches under pressure. The panel is basically to draw a character picked by the audience, to be drawn over 45mins. I was beaten hands down by both artists, I feel by not really knowing what Loki the marvel comic character looks like left me at a slight disadvantage and I think I also did most of the talking to the audience ... honest!

Then off to Supanova Adelaide. Sally took off to NZ for that weekend. This was another happy and great fun con, with a couple of neat panels, 2000AD is always a good topic for a panel and I had the pleasure of sitting with Colin Wilson and Ashley Wood for that one. I also got punched by a mini Rorschach, which was a first.

I met up with an local independent publisher I had done some work with over the internet but had not met in person before, Darren of Dark Oz who publish Decay, a real quality comic magazine. This is what I get a real kick out of: when you see how enthusiastic local publishers and artists are, and the quality of their output.

Both great cons were well organized, meticulously run with lovely fans and great guests.

Looking forward to the next opportunity to go to Supanova.

A side-bar to being invited to Supanova was that it triggered my first pre-con sketch commission. Thanks to Stephen Wroth for that, and since he asked others have also expressed an interest, here are the first ones.

Gallery of Pre Con Sketches


 

My Adelaide Adventure

There is a saying ­ "Every journey, no matter how long, starts with just one step!" Riiight.

The beach at the end of the road

To say, just being in Oz is an adventure and having a load of great meals, that is all well and good, but swimming or eating and having fun ... well who is really interested apart from family and friends?

But cockup adventures are what make stories. I sometimes think that I should not be allowed out by myself - Sally being in NZ - when I do stuff that should be just a normal everyday event and it goes wrong. I don't really know why that is. Past cockups include Scuba-diving off Bermuda and running out of air before anyone else in the diving group did ­ or skiing down the wrong side of the mountain in the Italian Alps, arriving back at the resort on the right side of the mountain 15 minutes before the Alpine rescue was sent out to find me. Little things like that.

Nothing major, just an absurd Higgins moment maybe? My Adelaide Higgins moment came when I decided to have a wander around Adelaide city to explore a little. After being told by Duncan Rouleau of Men of Action studios about a lovely riverside park walk he had done the day before, 3 mins away from the hotel, I thought it would be a good way to see a little of the native fauna and flora which was abundant in the park. A stress-free wander around to get a feel for Adelaide and a small bit of Australia. I didn't have time to do my first choice, which was to go on a wine tour, as I had to be back at 6pm for the Friday evening Supanova introductions to the Adelaide fans.

I left the hotel at 12 midday, walked down to a street filled with lilac-coloured trees - stunning! A good start I thought, looks park-like already, now left or right? I asked a gentleman who looked like a local, "Is it this way to the river?" "Yes," he said... I decided it looked right, no tall buildings and had what looked like trees in the distance, so I start walking. 15 mins later walked into a major construction area around the Art College. Oh well, not too bad time wise, but it's not the 3 mins it should be. I thought I might as well make it a loop around rather than just walk straight back to were I turned right. Anyway, it looked like a bridge going over a river just a few minutes further on. So of course I carried on, and it was a motorway bridge going over a railway.

Now all you people with a cell phone are shouting, "Use th sat-nav, moron!" Well, guess what? Technophobe! But I did walked into the park next to the road, a good sign? I thought so, but... "Don't be stupid, Higgins," I thought. "Ask the way!" (no male pride here).

As I am not driving it is slightly different when asking for directions, I can suffer that. A smart-looking man walking on the park path coming toward me. Carrying a briefcase high to protect his head against the burning sun. I asked the man what lay that way, "Sorry mate, just visiting from Sidney, but only railway tracks down that way, though."

"OK," I decide, "that's it, just walk to the tracks loop back and go and sunbathe on the hotel swimming pool terrace." On walking by the tracks, I thought it looks like an interesting Adelaide suburb over the other side. Lovely little Victorian-style bungalows.

Might as well check it out, get some local colour. Walked over the tracks and lo and behold, saw a sign saying Henley Beach Road, great, I had found somewhere to go! But being sensible and not wanting to get lost I asked a local called Aideen, who was sitting on her porch. After a pleasant chat I found out that, yes the beach was at the end of the road and there would be bars and restaurants there, also on the road leading down to it. Sounded good to me. Offered a cheery goodbye to Aideen and wandered off to Henley Beach Road. Looked at the shops as I passed by them for the first hour walking and thought, "It is a long way, I must check if I have gotten off the right road." So I asked again, and Kylie, sitting by the park just past the funeral parlour, standing next to the new retirement home (inconsiderate or efficient?) said, "Yes, just stay on this road, you can't miss the beach."

"Cool," I thought, it had become a bit of a challenge. "Been walking for two hours and can't go back, might as well carry on."

After a further hour's walk and the interesting shops and coffee bars had dried up, I asked again ­ Brenda, sitting at the bus stop. "Sure, right down the bottom of the road."

"Phew," I thought, "not long now."

"But it is too far to walk from here!" She said.

"BOLLIX!"

I feel my mistake was thinking a road in Australia was like a English road. if any one had said, "The beach at the end of the highway" I might have had some idea. Brenda made the suggestion to go across the road and get a bus to the beach, which I did, and 20 minutes later arrived at Henley Beach.

Popped into the South Bar for a couple of Stubbie's just around the time everyone got up on stage to be introduced to the Adelaide Supanova audience.

The beach at the end of the road is: 3hrs 40mins walk from the centre of Adelaide with a 20 min bus ride.

But well worth it!