• Tg_big
  • 1
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Illustration

Tom Gauld: Goliath

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Creatives of all stripes have long enjoyed re-imagining famous stories from new angles, but taking on the tale of a giant whose famous defeat has become a byword for triumph against all odds pushes that to the extreme. Luckily Tom Gauld’s new comic-book, starring Goliath as an unassuming army admin clerk pushed into a situation he neither wants nor understands is a work of depth, pathos and beauty, with the sublime craftsmanship anyone who knows Gauld’s work would expect. We met up with Tom to discuss how he made the world’s most famous loser into a real winner.

The anticipation surrounding Goliath has been huge, as Tom Gauld’s army of admirers look forward to the longest work he has ever produced. It has been two years in the making and Tom admitted he struggled at times with such an all-consuming undertaking, but the finished piece is tremendous.

The initial idea was born out of a Noah’s Ark-inspired story he did for Kramers Ergot “from the point of view of Noah’s sons who thought he was a bit mental” but it was actually a longstanding idea to do a story about a giant that led Tom in a roundabout way to the famous story of David and Goliath.

“Quite a lot of my other work involves looking at something that might seem amazing and heroic and clear cut and taking another view of it. The good thing is that the Bible says almost nothing about Goliath and I liked the idea of having this tragic ending and writing backwards, to try and have a surprising story about he might have ended up there.”

In Tom’s version, Goliath is no bloodthirsty caricature, but a crack penpusher for the Philistine army who is forced into facing down the Israelite army by an unscrupulous superior. Stranded on the frontline with his young shield bearer for company, the main part of the story is about loneliness and losing control of your own destiny, with the muted brown palette reflecting the bleak situation Goliath inexplicably finds himself in.

Of course everyone knows how the story ends, but Tom hopes: “that about two thirds of the way through you slightly forget what is going to happen to him. I hope people get drawn into his story and so it’s a horrible shock when he is killed, but it was always going to happen.”

With first sketches done “in a kind of school cafeteria” during two weeks’ jury service, Tom built the character of Goliath and developed the look as the best way to tell his story.

“I did not want it to be an illustrated essay – there’s hardly any narration in it and it’s told through pictures and speech. For the basic visual I wanted it to look very flat, I did not want the viewer to feel they were whooshing around and zooming in. It is repetitive, showing the same kinds of things from the same angles.

“I wanted it to be simple. For people who don’t read comics, they can seem like a kind of puzzle that has to be solved. I sometimes like that but for this I wanted it to be easy. I heard someone talking about the American cartoon Nancy once and they said it was more trouble not to read it than to read it. I wanted that effect.”

He says that Bible stories have a lot of creative potential because they tend to be slightly less crafted. “Through years and years of translation and reworking they are more ragged – there’s more space to work with.”

The story cleverly lays out Goliath’s journey without any boringly iconoclastic atheism. “You think it’s a small boy against the giant but actually it’s the giant against the small boy and the all powerful creator of the universe. He is bound to lose.

“But I did not want to make David a baddie – he still achieves his great thing. I didn’t want to undermine what he did, just look at it in a different way. David is not a character here, he is a force of nature who says things in this very Biblical, King James language.”

Goliath meanwhile speaks with beautifully pitched normality, an ordinary (ish!) man caught up in an extraordinary situation. ”I just find it funny to imagine how people would really have spoken in these situations – I am not sure I quite believe how it is always written down.”

Although Tom jokes that he hopes it does cause some kind of controversy to whip up publicity, he researched the history involved in case anyone tried to claim there was a hidden message relating to the Middle East conflict buried within its pages.

But as he himself says he shouldn’t have to worry.

“You only have to read it to realise it’s not anti-anything.”

Goliath is released by Drawn and Quartely in March.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. List

    We’d hate to say we told you so, but in the case of London-based illustrator Daniel Clarke, we definitely did. In January 2012 we crowned him our Student of the Month, and two years on he’s still going strong – actually he’s going even stronger. We were always drawn to Dan’s work for its stunning use of texture in the creation of atmospheric scenes; the smudge of ink on paper denoting a bitterly grim London day, or variations in pattern serving as an allegory for tower blocks.

  2. List

    Here at It’s Nice That we spend an awful lot of time talking about, thinking about and writing about creatives but ultimately we don’t get too many chances to really see what goes on in their day-to-day working lives…until now. Our new collaboration with super-cool eyewear brand Ace & Tate – who believe in great design and ultimate customer choice – is taking us inside the studios, and inside the minds, of a host of some of our favourite creatives.

  3. Main

    Let’s get this straight – no one uses colour pencils like Yann Kebbi. His rushing waves of familiar greens and reds depict street scenes filled with fumes, scowls, ageing pedestrians and whooshing movement – always with a dry happiness and a side order of mystery. Recently Yann’s wry depictions of human life have been featured in The New York Times and other prestigious rags, but some of his most interesting work lies in the personal sketches he whacks up on his blog for people like me to dribble at. The seemingly slapdash paintings of his family and the Hockney-esque sketches of the French countryside are exquisite, and proof that Yann has got so many more styles to try out yet before he perfects his repertoire.

  4. Main1

    Kristina Tzekova is an excellent testament to the belief that there’s no limit to what you can do with a packet of coloured pencils and a sheet of white paper. The illustrator recreates scenes from music videos and cult films in comic strip form, from Kanye West’s Bound 2 to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, and the results are the perfect cross between lo-fi doodles in the margin of a maths exercise book and Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photographic studies of motion. Simple though they may seem, her drawings are incredibly intricate, taking into account the continuity between each image just as scrupulously as they do the the details which easily have been missed, from the cheeky glint in an eye to the quirk of a top lip. Here’s hoping somebody picks up on Kristina’s work and makes them into a book sharpish!

  5. Img_1065

    Here at It’s Nice That we spend an awful lot of time talking about, thinking about and writing about creatives but ultimately we don’t get too many chances to really see what goes on in their day-to-day working lives…until now. Our new collaboration with super-cool eyewear brand Ace & Tate – who believe in great design and ultimate customer choice – is taking us inside the studios, and inside the minds, of a host of some of our favourite creatives.

  6. Main_14.40.48

    Three cheers to Portuguese illustrator Marta Monteiro for executing what I would have believed to be an entirely impossible feat; creating a series about tiny, lilliputian women living in a giant world without it being even the slightest bit cutesy. Her miniature characters are practically heroines; tying up villains with cotton from a giant reel, transporting a slice of pizza on their shoulders and playing tug of war with spaghetti, and all in the style which has won Marta commissions from some of the great champions of illustration out there, including the New York Times and NoBrow. This series has even been awarded a gold medal by the Society of Illustrators in the category of commissioned work, so if you don’t take our word for how brilliant it is, take theirs! here’s hoping for dreams of Borrowers for nights to come.

  7. Main

    They don’t come much sharper than Sara Andreasson, the Swedish illustrator who was on the site back in March but who has posted so much new work on her website that we see fit to feature her again already. The Swede has been hard at work, creating commissions for The Debrief, New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone, toying with witty observations and reassuring block colour to demonstrate that she’s just as nimble whipping up images to suit a brief as she is with personal work. Her experiments with rasterisation and contrasting patterns are especially intriguing, hinting at a whole new technique which is ripe for exploration (and more of which can be seen of on her Tumblr.)

  8. List_2

    Julianna Brion is an editorial illustrator whose diverse portfolio houses projects for a bunch of fortunate clients. Like most creatives who make commissioned work though, when she’s not drawing to a brief she’s filling sketchbook after sketchbook with scrapbook-like doodles which are as beautiful, if not more so, than her finished images. Reclining figures, pastel dogs, picture-perfect houses and foliage all feature, rendered in a rainbow of acrylic paints and sketchy pencil. For me, looking at the sketchbook of a successful illustrator is kind of like peeping into the messy bedroom of an impossibly well-coiffed, super dapper gent. And who doesn’t like to be nosy?

  9. List_3

    Trust Helsinki-based illustration agency Agent Pekka to sign up some of the best illustration we’ve seen in a long while without so much as a cough to show it off! They’ve just added French illustrator Jean-Michel Tixier to their books, and he looks set to be an amazing addition.

  10. List_2

    When it comes to brightly-coloured multimedia creations Mike Perry is king, and as far as we’re concerned there’s little chance of anybody threatening to knock him off his throne any time soon. As if to strengthen his case, he’s just made My Mother Caught Me Doodling, a 160 page hardback celebration of the female form, which sees Mike create tribute after tribute to ladies. Naked ladies.

  11. Main

    Considering it had been a while since I had had a proper delve through this great guy’s portfolio, revisiting his site was a refreshing reminder of just how talented Gwendal Le Bec really is. Sometimes people can be frowned upon for aping or mimicking a style from someone else but in Gwendal’s case it’s different as he successfully takes elements from all the most infamous illustrators of times gone by and adds them to his own style.

  12. List

    We’ve been harping on about what a terrific illustrator, and all-round cheery chap Ryan Gillett is for quite some time now, and it seems people have been taking notice. Ryan now counts the likes of Virgin, The Sunday Times, Anorak and Smith Journal among his many clients, who keep him busy at all hours on commissioned projects. It’s not hard to see why either; Ryan’s cheerful scenes made with the sensibilities of a traditional print-maker ought to excite even the most severe clients. But he still finds time to do the nice things that remind us what a stand-up guy he is; like producing screen printed postcards to send out to all his fans (including us). When they arrived the other week they brightened up our days, and also made us realise it was about time to praise Ryan once again…

  13. List

    Thank God for Laura Callaghan! In an illustrated world saturated with images of pretty girls sweetly baking cupcakes, making daisy crowns and chasing after boys, she injects a much-needed dose of the sinister femme fatale. Her characters have undercuts and piercings instead of being clad head to toe in lace, they read lesbian magazines instead of Vogue and they wear vials of their lovers’ blood round their necks. What more could you want from a role model?