Lyndon White’s distinct art style has graced the covers of books, comics, albums and even uniquely designed clothes. He goes out of his way to engage with and encapsulate the story of everything he works with, and has even written his own comic books. By blending narrative and themes, he creates art that tells a story in every piece and leaves a lasting message.
He has used his singular talent to create concertina books of classic stories. Following the success of his Dracula and Dante’s Inferno adaptations, he has now launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new concertina inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu.
We spoke to Lyndon about his career in comics and how he’s breathing life to Lovecraft’s cosmic horror.
Kirstie: How did you get into art?
Lyndon: I’ve always enjoyed drawing, even when I was pretty young. Although I didn’t realise I was any good at it until I hit high school. Ever since I walked through the door, I knew I wanted to practice some form of art for a living. Flash forward all the years in education, college and university I interned at an illustration studio, started freelancing and built up my client base.
I realised I wanted to work in publishing, so I made book covers, comics, graphic novels, children’s books, etc., which started me off with a broad portfolio. It’s just kinda snowballed from there.
Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?
Lyndon: Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing was definitely an early one. I loved the manga and how detailed his inks were, but how it remained very dynamic. I used to draw a lot of the characters and mechs from Gundam Wing, which started showing in the UK as I was growing up. I’m not even a mech guy but that series it amazing. There are so many layers to the characters and the story. It goes well beyond robots fighting one another.
I read comics growing up but because I’m from a small town I had limited access to them. I loved reading comics but I was restricted to what I could find in a WHSmiths. I didn’t even set foot in a comic shop until I was fourteen.
Oddly enough, it didn’t quite click that it was someone’s job to draw comics for a living for a long time. So, a lot of my early influences were people like Derek Hess and Russ Mills, more artists and illustrators than comic creators. I then found comic artists and writers like Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Craig Thompson, Jeff Smith, etc. It simply expanded the scope of what I was looking at.
Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?
Lyndon: It all really depends on what I’m working on, they change from book to book. For example, you wouldn’t be heavily influenced by someone who draws horror based comics, if you were working on a book for all ages. Unless it was a scary children’s book, then maybe.
Ben Templesmith is a clear one for me. Both as a creator and as a “how to do it yourself” model. He puts out an insane amount of work, it’s really impressive. I really like what Alexis Deacon is doing with Geis. His background is children’s illustration and he is a really strong storyteller. As for the third, it would be the team behind Monstress (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda). Reading that book and seeing how they’ve told the story and also put so much into the art has made me adapt and push myself forward.
Generally I’m always looking at new stuff, but you do have to know when to close it off. Otherwise you risk mimicking what’s already out there and just become a clone of another creator.
Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?
Lyndon: I use a combination of traditional and digital media. Pencils, inks and paint for linework and tone. Digital to colour, final texturing and editing. It’s mixed media with a few different tools. If I had to narrow it down to one, it would be a Staedtler pencil. My line work can tell a story and stand on its own without the rest if needs be.
Kirstie: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like?
Lyndon: I’d say it would be the Dracula illustration I did that became the cover of the concertina book. That works as both a book cover and an illustration print/post. There’s room to add title credits and names at the bottom of the piece.
For something new, I’d like to do a Dark Tower poster. I’m half way through the final book and King is such an amazing storyteller. I’d base it purely around the first book, The Gunslinger. I’d have Ronald (the Gunslinger) and The Man in Black crossing a desert as a storm rages across Midworld. It wouldn’t be overly detailed, but it would showcase Roland following The Man in Black, trying to catch up to him. It’s a shame the film adaption flopped.
Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?
Lyndon: It would be Pinnacle, a silent comic about an old man trying to climb to the top of a mountain while a monster hunts him down. It was all drawn in pencil. I used mark-making to showcase a blizzard and him struggling to move through the snow. It’s now out of print but people still remember it. It was really unique compared to a lot of other comics out at the time because it was very stripped back. With only pencil and no dialogue, everything else had to be perfect, otherwise the story wouldn’t work.
Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?
Lyndon: I usually hate my work a few months after I complete it. Well, not exactly hate with a passion, but I notice things I’d change or do differently. I’ve simply gotten better. Better at drawing, character design, pacing, expressions, general storytelling. I’m still using similar techniques, but I’ve gotten much more confident in how I spin a narrative and present it to a reader. At least I hope so.
Kirstie: How did you get into creating art for comics and graphic novels?
Lyndon: I made my first few comics in college and then studied Illustration for Graphic Novels at Glyndwr University. I studied general illustration, editorial, concept art, children’s illustration – basically the whole scope of illustration and then specialised in comics.
While I was studying I self-published my own comics (Pinnacle was the second) and started exhibiting at comic conventions up and down the country. People bought my work, I networked and that lead to jobs making comics.
Comics are a particle medium. You need to make comics to then be able to get work making comics.Kirstie: How does your creative process differ between creating art for comics and writing for comics?
Lyndon: I never start drawing unless the script is finished. Story is key. If you have a bad story, then you are simply drawing a bad comic. When writing, I usually let an idea stew until I’m ready to start writing it. I summarise it into a sentence or phrase, which boils it down into its simplest form. From there, I break it down into story beats, edit them, expand them and generally change things until I’m ready to write the script.
When drawing comics, I wait until the script is finished and when I say finished I don’t mean working from the script’s first draft. I mean waiting until the script is edited and completely finished.
I’ll sketch out characters and visualise how each of the main characters look. Draw a few environments so I get a feel for the world. Then I’ll thumbnail the entire script, drawing each page at the size of my thumb, not putting in detail but breaking down each page and the composition of the panels. From there I do roughs. Still sketching but more refined. Then it’s final line work, inks, colours and text. Through each stage, things will be edited and changed. I tend to work on a batch of pages at a time. So I finish things as a set.
Kirstie: What made you want to write your own comics?
Lyndon: I like my own ideas. Which can sound narcissistic when you say it out aloud, but I think it’s the same for the same for most creators. You get an idea, it festers, and you get to the point where you have to do something about it. I don’t get to write everything I do but I like to be involved with the story if possible. Which isn’t the same for everyone. I have friends who are artists who have no interest in writing the story.
It’s something that makes me a little different from an illustrator. I like storytelling and I like being able to tell stories.
Kirstie: How did you get into textile design?
Lyndon: I simply fell into it. I was at a party and a family member who I had never even met had worked in the fashion industry for years and was already setting up their own studio. I showed them my work and they liked it.
My portfolio was nothing like fashion illustration or textile design, but they could see the drawing skills, which is apparently something that a lot of people trying to get into the industry lack. They basically mentored me as I created designs. I was involved as the studio was being set up, so I was very fortunate. As with a lot of freelance work it was a mixture of luck, portfolio and putting myself in the position for the opportunity.
Kirstie: This month, you’re launching a Kickstarter for a concertina book of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. What inspired you to create this book?
Lyndon: I’ve finished a very busy year. The vast majority of 2017 for me was finishing off long form projects and work commitments. All of which I am very thankful for and loved doing. Now that we are into 2018 and my work slate is cleaner I wanted to work on something creator-owned but something small while I’m working on other projects and pitches.
We are coming up to the anniversary of the Dracula concertina that I launched on Kickstarter last year. I had a lot of requests to adapt Lovecraft at the time, but it wasn’t feasible due to work commitments.
I decided to adapt The Call of Cthulhu as it was my introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos and because I found a lot of people rush the story when adapting it. Most of them rush towards the part where Cthulhu shows up (at the end) and as a result they miss out of the mystery, suspense and narrative that Lovecraft created.
Kirstie: Why did you decide to retell the story as a concertina?
Lyndon: Concertinas are a bit of a lost book format. You don’t see them very often and I always wanted to make one and tell a story in that format. They are fairly unique as you have to boil down the story into a series of images without the aid of text while still telling a complete story. It focuses you to work in different ways and pin point what makes the story special.
Kirstie: What made you choose The Call of Cthulhu to adapt?
Lyndon: I did get several requests for a Lovecraft story and while I’ve been at conventions this past year, people have spoken to me about what they’d like to see. You also see a lot of Cthulhu related imagery at comic cons. He is instantly recognisable and one of Lovecraft’s more popular characters. I nearly did The Mountains of Madness but there’s been a very successful graphic novel in recent years, so I didn’t want to dip into a well already tapped.
Kirstie: What was your process for giving a physical depiction to Lovecraft’s creeping psychological horrors?
Lyndon: Not surprisingly, I first reread the story. Making notes, taking extracts from the original text and listing key points of the story. Once I’ve broken the story down into the key moments that would be the concertina panels, the illustrations just started to feed themselves. Lovecraft’s world is so visual and rich with imagery that as an illustrator, it becomes really fun to play in that world.
Kirstie: Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund the project?
Lyndon: Kickstarter is a really good way for creators to fund their projects and pitch ideas directly to their audience. This book is something people have been asking for, like the Dracula concertina the year before. This is a way to show people, the book is finished, it’s ready to print. In a sense, put your money where your mouth is and help me cover the printing costs.
Kirstie: How are you finding your Kickstarter experience so far?
Lyndon: I’ve funded a number of projects through Kickstarter and each time, yes, it is a lot of work. Creating the work is the first step, then you must promote it, contact reviewers and start telling people about it.
I’m writing this a week before the Kickstarter launches and so far, people have been very supportive. I’ve had messages from people saying they are going to pledge on the first day, they can’t wait for the project and are looking forward to it. One person has already claimed dibs on some original art which is amazing.
Kirstie: What are your plans for once the Kickstarter is over? What are your hopes for the concertina?
Lyndon: Once the Kickstarter ends, I’ll be completely focused on getting it printed and sent out as quickly as possible. The book is finished so there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a fast turnaround. While this is all going on, I’m still working on other freelance gigs. As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on a few pitches for new comics and graphic novels which is exciting. No details yet but hopefully something will get picked up.
Kirstie: Do you think you’ll do any more work with Lovecraft’s stories?
Lyndon: If the opportunity comes up, I’d love to. Especially in a comic or graphic novel format. If a publisher or someone has one in the works looking for an artist or writer/artist to take it on, please, give me a nudge. There’s so much you can do with the work Lovecraft created.
Kirstie: You’ve previously made adaptations for Dracula and Dante’s Inferno. Are there any other great works of literature you want to work with in future?
Lyndon: A few years ago I was signed on to do a graphic novel adaption of The Picture of Dorian Grey, one of my favourite books. Unfortunately, the project never got off the ground before I could start any drawing. That would be something I’d like to do but again, the opportunity needs to be there to do it. These things take time to make, especially graphic novels where you might be spending years of your life working on them. Things need to be in place for you to commit that amount of time.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Lyndon: Short answer: Sit at your desk and do the work. The rest will come (which I’m finding out).
Long answer: Create what you love, don’t follow trends thinking it’s a way to break in to your chosen industry. Create what gets you excited as an individual so you are happy to commit time to it. I’d also find more than one thing to work on. If you draw comics, great. But maybe also try general illustration or graphic design. Make sure you have different areas to work in. Finally, show your work to people and create opportunities to yourself. If your mum and your cat are the only people who see your work, then surprisingly, only your mum and cat know about your work. Maybe your mum’s friend Doris also knows, but that depends if they’ve been gossiping. Get out there, talk to people, not even necessarily about yourself. You can find yourself talking to someone whose working something and they need artwork. Then you majestically hand them your business card (also, get a business card) and just like that you might have some work. Or at the very least someone to network with.
Be proactive and as I tell everyone this piece of advice, remember what Finding Nemo taught us, just keep swimming.
We’d like to thank Lyndon for taking the time to speak to us and wish him the best of luck with his Kickstarter campaign! You can check it out and back it here. To keep up with his work, you can check out his website, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.