Introducing the Artists: Andrew Strachan

The next artist to be profiled by Caitlin Mitchell is the newest member of the DCCS studio; meet Andrew Strachan!

AndycarTell us a bit about yourself.

My name’s Andrew Strachan, I’m 55 and I’m from Edinburgh originally but lived in Dundee for 20 years – I now stay in Newport.

What made you want to become an artist?

That’s a really good question. I suppose it comes from being influenced by comics at a young age – my first aspiration was actually to be a comic book artist, but everybody said that was daft so I kind of got deflected. That’s why I’m here at 55 coming back to comics after doing other art related things – I’ve worked as a graphic designer, an illustrator, and a character designer. I also spent a few years in the games industry, which was a lot of fun.

Do you have a preferred style of art?

I like to use both digital and traditional methods – I suppose I’m focused on old school just now, as I’m getting into the art of inking. Also I don’t have the budget for technology like Cintiq tablets – that’s a wee bit in the future for me. I do use digital Photoshop a lot – I use blue line pencils and scan things in, and when the work’s scanned in I can do a  bit of editing – not too much hopefully.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Reading, which has also been caught up in my focus on comics – I’m reading science fiction books that might be an influence for me at the moment. I like to keep fit by going running, and like a lot of people I enjoy watching movies and that sort of thing – my favourite movie is American Beauty because the themes touch on me, being of an older generation, and I slightly identify with the main character. It’s not your run of the mill plot but it appeals to me quite a lot. My favourite animation might be The Jungle Book – I like the old classics.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

I’d probably have to say 2000AD – I like it because it’s one of the only surviving British comics. I read it for a while as a kid but it got put aside. Then when I started thinking about comics again, I looked back into it and started reading it again. I suppose it’s because I like the writing of the comics and the diversity of the scripts.

What are you most looking forward to about working in the DCCS?

I’ve got a wee studio of my own at the moment but I’m looking forward to working not just on my own but in a more social studio environment, where you can see what other artists are doing too. It will be good to meet and make connections with other people.

What are you working on at the moment?

At this moment I’m working on a sample script for 2000AD – I’m illustrating this and am looking to send it within the next three or four weeks, when 2000AD have an open submissions period. One of my ambitions is to be published but this is more if you send it in and they like it, they might do a Future Shock strip or something.

How can we follow you on social media?

I’ve actually almost actively avoided social media in the last few years because it uses up a lot of time and all of my time is spent drawing or reading at the moment – but sometime soon I will start it up!

I do have a blog of my caricatures –

Also some of my work for 2000AD is online –


Introducing the Team: Dr Chris Murray

The second member of the DCCS team we have profiled is Operations Director Dr Chris Murray – here is his interview with Caitlin Mitchell!

14002555_892629600881864_129391861_oTell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Dr Chris Murray, I’m from Dundee, and I’m 41.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I’m a senior lecturer of Comic Studies at the University of Dundee. I teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. My role at DCCS is the Operations Director – I have overall responsibility for the Space.

How did you get to where you are today? (Note to readers – better get comfortable!) 

I’ve been reading comics my whole life, my first memory is of reading comics which my mum bought me from when I was about 3. There’s a funny story about my entrance into the world of comics – my uncle was lorry driver and he used to go to a pub in the Hilltown, where there was a guy who had his comics delivered to the pub so his wife wouldn’t find out he read them. The guy would turn up, sit with a pint and read his comics then give them to my uncle Dougie for him to pass on to me to read! I have no idea who this mysterious benefactor was but thanks to him and his grumpy wife, I was reading a lot of comics when I was young.

I did think about drawing and going to art school but I was never good enough so went the other way and did an English degree. I felt the comics I was reading were as good and as worth studying as those I was reading on my course, so wondered why we couldn’t study them. I found my supervisors were very supportive of this and had no objection to comics. I went on to do a PhD on comics and the relationship between propaganda and comics during World War 2. Over the course of doing that, I did teaching in the English department and at Duncan of Jordanstone. I also started to teach film studies.

I got a full time job as a lecturer after my PhD and I thought I want to teach a module on my specialist subject – British comics – it was well received with lots of students so I made the case to the uni to start a comics Masters project. They took a bit of convincing but after we got good numbers they were sold on it. From there, it was about making the right connections, like with Phil from the art college, and everything started to take off, and we later launched the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies. The origins of DCCS are in Dundee’s bid to be the City of Culture a few years back, for which we sought funding, and the comic school was part of that idea. The funders were keen on this and we were put in touch with The Rank Foundation. We were delighted when our bid was successful! It’s been up and running for a year now and things are going well.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

One of the thing I’ve been doing recently is combining creative work with research. I’ve started drawing again, doing thumbnails for comics I’ve been writing – I find doing comic strips and drawing thumbnails very relaxing. I also love handing it over to an artist who can draw properly, who bring them back completed. That’s an important part of what we do at Dundee – the critical and theoretical on one hand, and the practical on the other.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

I’d have to say The Invisibles, I have to say that because that’s where my tattoo comes from. I’m very interested in British independent comics from the 1950s, and also 2000AD – gotta love 2000AD. I should say in particular obviously Dredd, but also Zenith is one of my all time favourite things.

What is the best thing about working in DCCS?

The opportunities to be working with all the talented people in the studio, and also to see how enthusiastic the kids who come into the workshops are. Lots of them pick it up intuitively and it is really fun to see.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve got a book on The British Superhero which I’ve just finished. I’m working on the Being Human festival which is in November of this year, the theme is HG Wells and there’s several lectures and talks I’ll be doing. I’m also working on a collaborative project about organ donation, to raise awareness about the issues surrounding that. My next research work is going to be on the relationship between the British pop art movement of the 1950s and British comics round about the same time.

How can we follow you on social media?

I’m not really on social media but other people run the accounts for projects I’m in charge of.

Twitter – the DCCS page (@dccs) and the Scottish Centre for Comic Studies page (@comicstudies)

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Introducing the Team: Phillip Vaughan

Over the next couple of weeks, as well as profiles of our artists, we will also be creating profiles for the team behind the DCCS! Up first, Art Director Phillip Vaughan.

image2Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Phillip Vaughan, Course Director MDes Comics and Graphic Novels. I’m 43 and I’m from Dundee.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I run two Masters courses at Duncan of Jordanstone, I currently run the MSc in Animation and VFX and I will be running the MDes in Comics and Graphic Novels from September 2016. My background was in animation, video games and storyboarding. I’m also the Art Director of the DCCS.

What made you want to become an artist?

I can trace it back to my childhood, and watching a stop motion animation called Rupert the Bear in the early 1970’s. My parents would sit me down in front of it and I watched it constantly as a kid, which got me interested in animation. Being from Dundee, the newspapers were always delivered with The Beano and The Dandy, which got me interested in comics from a very young age. I would draw my own versions of the comics and hand deliver them to my neighbours! I suppose that was the start of my entrepreneurial comic career.

Do you have a preferred style of art?

I work basically 100% digital these days but I came up through the traditional route. At art college I never missed any life drawing classes, and worked with traditional means on paper. Over the years, working in the games industry, technology kind of took over so I now work with a Cintiq tablet but try to replicate my original style so I don’t think you can tell the difference between my original line work and my technological line work.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to catch up on comics and graphic novels I’ve not read. I do like to travel, recently that’s been travelling to comics events – I just got back from Comic-Con in San Diego, which is the biggest pop culture event that there is! We were lucky enough to be invited over for the academic conference, it was also great for networking and we were able to spread the word about Comic Studies in Dundee and projects like the DCCS! To put it into perspective there’s more people in the Comic-Con conference centre than there is in the population of Dundee. It’s a strange one, when your hobby becomes your job, you try to find other things to unwind, so I like to get out and about and explore the environment a bit more than I used to. But I’m always looking for sources of inspiration when I’m out and about.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

I’ve got a real soft spot for a comic from the 80s – the New Eagle, which had a mixture of photo stories (!) for boys and a brilliantly illustrated new interpretation of Dan Dare. That was my favourite growing up and my influence in a way. I really liked that run because it was one continuous story line and if you invested the time in it, it rewarded you for sticking with it. I loved the artwork by Ian Kennedy, who I am now lucky enough to have in as a guest lecturer at the art college! Currently I’m very impressed and excited by DC Comics Batgirl: Birds of Prey, illustrated by our ex-Dundee comics student Claire Roe.

What is the best thing about working in the DCCS?

It’s got a very vibrant, creative atmosphere! Also seeing the comics that the kids from our workshops create is really inspiring to someone who’s been around the block a bit, because they see comics from a different perspective and their ideas are really just off the scale sometimes. It’s also great to see that the kids have an outlet for their creativity, because I would have loved to have had something like this when I was younger. It’s great they can come together and share their comics with a tangible outcome.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m preparing the coursework for the MDes – I’ve updated the course substantially. Out with university work, I’ve started work on my own creator owned comic, which is as of yet untitled! More news on that to come later.

Finally, how can we follow you on social media?

Twitter – @phillipbvaughan