Thursday, 26 July 2012

Thursday 26th July 2012 - Workflow Part 3.

Feels weird not writing anything up to accompany this. But then again, there's a lot of writing in the damned things.

Next step: Final Drawings, then painting it!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday 23rd July 2012 - A Slew of Team Fortress 2!

A few years ago Team Fortress 2 was literally the only game I played, clocking something like 300 hours over the course of one summer.

Extreme to say the least.

It has also been the subject of numerous attempts at fan art by me. Some so unsuccessful it hurts my eyes, and, more recently, some slightly improved variations.

Some fairly poor attempts can be found by rooting through my archives on DeviantArt, but i'm more interested in displaying the recent ones, so won't deeplink them here.

This was a piece of fan art as a congratulatory/celebratory image for my friend who landed a job as a civil engineer. Can see the initial sketches in the sketchbook, I then took it straight from that to the brown paper for a value drawing. Then framed it to make it look all fancy.

The typography is hand done by lightboxing the official Team Fortress 2 typeface onto the paper.

These were final communicative sketches made as part of an extensive prep. for a friends birthday. Her favourite class is Pyro, so I initially sketched that out, but it was (too) heavily referenced from someone elses art. So scratched that idea. Then I decided on a medic, thinking the two pieces could make a nice pair, the pyro on the left and the medic on the right.

As it turned out, I liked them both, but, the Medic wasn't a Pyro.

This was what I finally went for, a different take on the Pyro, with a party hat as it was a birthday present.

Fortunately; the present went down well.

Monday 23rd July 2012 - Second Part of Tutorial

The second part, looking, in its entirety, at the initial sketching phases. Next will look at refining said sketch with the use of reference, photography and brown paper...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tuesday 17th July 2012 - The Workflow Begins.

I have been meaning to start this a lot sooner, but, as it happens, things came up, and it has been delayed until now.

I was asked on DeviantArt to do a walkthrough/tutorial/workflow of my general process, and have wanted to take a crack at one for some time.

Hopefully the reflections involved in writing one will help me to look at my own working process to see where it needs improving. But for now, about one fifth/one sixth of it is finished. The progression will be recorded here.

This is the first possible stages of any project or image, and i'm endeavoring to try to be as useful as possible, and not just be overly wordy.

That isn't going too well...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wednesday 11th July 2012 - Varangian Processes.

A quick run through of my most recent digital piece, mostly to stop my blog gathering dust. 

'The Varangians Ride' started as these two sketches underneath:

The problem with these sketches is that, well, that's all they are: Sketches. This needed expanding upon, as I liked the idea of a well defended fortress built on an island between a forked river...

The block ins were nice and simple, I used photos of the Ukraine and Russia in the winter as reference - as I envisaged the sailors Varangian Guard from the Byzantine Empire approaching Kiev, which at that time (if I remember my history) was part of the Novgorod empire, and was actually visited by the Byzantines. 

The longboat was giving me continual problems...

The model in Google SketchUp of the fort. SketchUp is too good for nailing a good perspective and creating interesting shapes. 

Said fort, blocked in on the painting. It was about this time I realized the sheer ineptness of my attempt at the longboat. That needs fixing...

Using a simple block in correct perspective, I managed to use SketchUp to help get a better looking boat. I also began adding in some detail to the castle.

Adding some final touches like smoke rising lazily from the fort and reinforced buttresses on the outer walls, I called it complete.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sunday 8th July 2012 - Snail Mail Away!

Now my art books have been delivered, quality checked and signed (unsigned copies available here: and off the back of a successful week of interning, I thought it would be a good idea to post a package to ImagineFX magazine - a magazine dealing nearly exclusively with Sci-Fi and Fantasy Illustration, and a magazine I have been collecting for years.

To be published in their monthly portfolio section would boost my ego no end, and hopefully widen my audience somewhat. Plus, the benefits of being published should hopefully reflect in my CV and by being able to show my family, friends and classmates the magazine.

Being a contributor to IFX in the future would be a pretty cool thing as well, and initiating contact now could hopefully reflect positively in the future. And, besides thinking of myself, ImagineFX has lead to me improving dramatically in terms of digital media, led to me discovering some fun events to go to, and has generally helped my development as a creative person overall. I hope my enclosed goodies go someway towards thanking the team for the work they put in!

Firstly; A covering letter, explaining the package, and why they would be interested in the contents!

Possibly the most important part of the parcel; my book. The quotes of my A to Z were sourced and referenced from ImagineFX, so in that respect I hope the editors of the magazine like how i've adapted the quotes of their current contributors.

Some business cards - always good to send out when conducting matters of a slightly professional nature! In my opinion anyway.

4 Postcards, each of a different style, with customized reverse. These were printed through, and turned out very nice! The images were my favourites of the A-Z at the time, in hindsight, I'd rahter 'U' (The one not pictured) To have been substituted for either P or R, as they turned out better than expected.

The most glamourless part of the parcel - a DVD, containing digital editions of everything tangible sent, along with my submitted images for ImagineFX's monthly portfolio section.

All of it together. Looking fairly impressive!

And here it is all condensed down. The black paper is Fabriano, so, very nice quality, almost too nice to use as glorified wrapping paper!

An authentic wax seal! Used to seal the ribbon and paper all together, I think it ties the whole thing together nicely.

A clear plastic envelope, So that the delicate wax, and part-fragile contents, don't get weather damaged or beaten in the post.

Finally, the address! This will be packed and posted first thing tomorrow, and, if luck has it's way and I cash in whatever good karma I may have, I might be able to see my work grace the pages of ImagineFX!

A bigger, more in depth, and double paged Forest Guardian sketch! This has yet to be finished, so is still slightly unreadable.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday 6th July 2012 - Internship; Day 5.

Last day today! What a week. Fortunately for me, I have kept a running log of what I've learned, potential ways to expand my working routine, and all other things on this blog. That means there won't be any huge consolidation in this blog post, merely a similar entry, and conclusion.

Today once again started with a coffee and a quick sketch (a totally wonderful routine which I want to keep up with), and meeting up with Sheldon. From there, we proceeded to Advance Printwear - A local textile printers who deal with mostly safety gear and industrial work wear.

This was quite insightful, and quite amusing. All the processes used at Advance are processes I have tried, and experienced at uni, except at uni they are obviously on a much smaller scale, but, what else was apparent, was how amateurish some of the procedures at uni are compared.

The first process I was (re)introduced to was screen printing, but on an industrial scale - where everything was automated and printed via a pneumatic press (see vid.)

Whereas whenever i've printed in the past it has been 1 or 2 colour, one at a time, with 1 or 2 screens... These machines can print up to 12 colours, fully automated, with heat curers to expedite the printing process. So, in the time it would take me to register and print about 5 artifacts, this machine can pump out approx. 36.

Sheer crazy.

Along with the printing itself, I also got to see how screens are prepared, treated and maintained with proper due care and attention - picking up a lot of small tips and hints for how to get the best possible screen print, in terms of bleed, purity and sharpness.

Something else I discovered - this company pays £20 per silk screen. How come our university charges £70? Hoping I can somehow get put in charge of some of the print room at university next year, and try to implement some of the procedures I observed at Advance.

Another technique I was reintroduced to was heat press printing. This was what I'd done for 6 years in my previous job, so in my mind that needed no going over.

The final piece of equipment I was shown was the Embroidery machines. This was an 8x16 machine, so 8 separate machines, each with 16 needles, each able to embroider the same pattern at once on multiple items. I got to see all the back up software and how each design is reinterpreted for the machines to read and transcribe into an embroidered design.

What was the most galling however was watching these machines pump out what was easily hours of embroidery work for me (My Embroidery Escapade) in seconds, to a higher quality, with nicer stitching.

Other than the actual shop floor and physical printing process, I was alert enough to inquire about the more business centered side of it all - Understanding the principles of having a business bank account, invoicing all the orders, confirming orders and designs, and so forth.

So, as a final day, today was, I thought, a good way to wrap up what has been an incredibly advantageous and educational week.

Didn't have time for extensive sketches today, so instead decided to finish this one off. Using a brush pen to help with the line weights and wood effects.

Ah yes! And off the back of today I will hopefully eventually set up a LinkedIn account, to help maintain a link with the people I have met and encountered this week.

Also; a lot of comments have been made on the quality of my Business Cards. I love this, as the fact they are a conversational point and memorable shows that they aren't simply just another card to be thrown in a wallet or on a desk. Profit!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thursday 5th July 2012 - Internship; Day 4.

One more day left after today!

Has been very educational today, whereas Monday was very focused on my work, today was sound, all round advice with Sheldon Bayley, who is responsible for organizing, well, everything this week! So i'm eternally indebted...

After that there was a somewhat entertaining interlude between the morning coffee and meeting today's contact, which involved a roundabout walk to the studio, critiquing all the god awful design found in Birmingham city center, reflecting on some interesting drawing possibilities around Birmingham - The university clock tower, Sarehole Mill, Edgebaston Folly, Moseley Bog (areas which inspired Tolkien), some awesome sculptures and statues to draw (to help with personal stuff), and so forth.

This was quite fun, and today's weather was incredible, so no rain, no coat, and looking at Birmingham from a designer's point of view. Eventually wound up at today's studio; TVS Media/Stunn ran by Karl Baxter - Who seemed to know everything which is worth knowing about business, accounts, and how both of these relate to, and are effected by, design. As is visible from the link, he is also a bit of a photographer on the side, which was pretty interesting to see.

Stunn was more than a one man army - with 5 different people, each with a distinct role, but with overlapping skills, it was good seeing how a job is transferred between different people, and how the whole thing was organized and overseen.

Also, having a fair few people around, the dynamic and atmosphere of the studio was awesome - really light hearted, and quite fun. There was a slot open for a position on the staff, and if I had anywhere near the level of experience required, or the training, or the programmes, or well, if I suited there at all(!) I would definitely apply.

On an interesting side note; I was there to experience how not to inquire about a position. When someone rang Karl, the lead account manager, and their opening gambit was; "y'alright mate, who's the boss, what's this about a job?". Well, I was happy I was in the studio to see the response (10 minutes of bile, venom, hatred and laughter), it made me realize I may sound like a bit of an idiot when I phone people and open with; "Hello, sorry to bother, may I ask who I am speaking to/Is that Mr./Mrs. X?" But I can't be called impolite or informal.

After a lazy walk back through a sunny city center, enjoying a sandwich and afternoon of sketching under a suspiciously part-timing summer sun, I had a couple of hours back in Sheldon's company, looking at some more jobs he's working on, with this all being wrapped up with a meet and greet with the local picture framers, whom I will potentially source for framing images ready for exhibition.

Learned many things today!

  • Author's corrections: How much 'overselling' you can actually do, what could be considered a good will gesture, and when companies are trying to use you. 
  • Always invoice immediately, and chase up any payments owed - it's your time, and your work, money makes the world go round, and if you're owed it it's worth chasing. 
  • Realized I need to work out how to take payments, how to invoice, etc... Might be something to question tomorrow...
  • If you're asked to quote a job, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed it: So your quotes should be responsive - be easy to get in touch with, and respond as soon as is possible. It's only polite, and if you start planning a job before it's a go ahead, you could be in for a huge let down.
  • There's a tonne of stuff worth researching, sourcing, photographing and drawing in Birmingham.
  • Rotoscoping is an interesting route involving some painting skills, some animation skills, and it's a strange hole in the market, with avenues into film, cartooning, etc. 
  • The Unity game engine is an upcoming, very powerful piece of software, which supports freeware, so could be interesting in terms of marketing, and a potential client base.
  • Mobile/handheld games are sweeping the market - If I can make works to suit the upcoming developers, I can make a living. 
  • There could be an arena for bespoke and private paintings of historical re-enactors in their gear, or of LARPers, or things like that - Photograph, paint, sell to clients/the group as a whole.
  • I really need a dSLR. 
  • I could do with an A3 flatbed scanner. 

The coffee sketch of today - changed Starbucks, so less time drawing and more time travelling. 

However managed to make up for that by doing a full sketch at dinner.

More forest guardian folk, could do with getting my arse down to a forest/wood and drawing some actual trees. 

Also; spent my dinner buying some air drying modelling clay and brown sketchbooks - so am fully prepped (including my desktop tripod) to model, light, shoot and then record chiaroscuro style any sketched ideas ready for the final paint! 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Wednesday 4th July 2012 - Internship; Day 3.

Day three! Over half way through my intern week now... Not sure whether it's the commute, the necessity of taking a lot of my art gear with me or the fact i'm trying to learn new stuff, but i'm shattered!

The day today began with a more in depth look through Quark - watching someone work with it, it does seem to have some plugins and some features which help much more with design aspects, especially in terms of accuracy and layout, than are present in InDesign. Considering I already own InDesign CS6 though, I doubt I will look at switching. Yet...

Once I helped (observed) to finish off a design project for Huntsman's conference material for it's Indonesian branch of the company, I traveled about two miles down the road to Colprint who are a design and printing firm accommodating both small print runs, and massive industrial print runs.

They had 4 separate lithography presses, among digital printers, book binders, folders, finishers, and loads of other quite sturdy, quite fascinating and quite otherworldly equipment.

Almost luckily, I seemed to appear on the scene just as excrement and fans came into collision, and I was crowbarred into helping where I could. Thankfully, what experience I had in the past with traditional printing and digital publishing gear helped somewhat; I was able to expose, clean, reset and repeat the litho. exposing  process, which was quite fun, and I felt a level of achievement when I was trusted to do it unsupervised so the floor manager could get on with other stuff. The room smelt of pickled onions for some unknown reason, I assume pickling vinegar has a chemical compound in it which is also found coating litho plates. Oh, and regardless of the acridity in the litho press room, that smelt amazing.

I was also around to see a short run perfect bound book fail it's quality check, and watch the manager go about the task of repaginating the whole book. I found paginating a 16, then 32 page book hard... He had to do a 136 page book - 140 including covers. I died a little inside.

Happily, I remembered to see about how my work could be printed there, and interestingly, according to the floor manager, they have excellent scanning equipment in house, so I am very tempted to try and book a second day there to see how they work, rumour is there's a £100k scanner there... *must... use...*

I learned a few things today, mostly about how much work goes into actually finishing a print job, once it's considered finished by chumps like me:

  • The prints sent will need to have added bleeds and crops.
  • Things that look pure black, 50% of the time, aren't pure black.
  • Litho presses have trouble printing greens and blues. 
  • Things printed lithographically can look incredible.
  • Industrial guillotines are scary looking things, but can cut 1000 pages at once. 
  • 'matlam' (Matte laminate) is something I will endeavor to use on anything in future. A digital/litho print has some inherent gloss, and the matlam combines really nicely with it. 
  • No day is an easy day.
  • Expecting to only have to do one job a day is a fool's errand.
Oh yes! And more coffee sketches. Trying to build a back story into these strange forest guardian creatures, as they seem to be inhabiting my sketchbooks a lot in the morning. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tuesday 3rd July 2012 - Internship; Day 2.

Today I found myself solely committed to helping a professional photographer (Richard Battye) on a product shoot. He was an awesome guy, and has snapped some incredible works (below).

(c) 2011 R.Battye. Source: 
Model: 'Chloe'.

He also had a very successful exhibition called 'This England' - Which sought to explore and expose some of the U.K's counter and subcultures. Being a bit of a fan of this kind of scene - Metal, Punk, Goth, etc - and having a deep set love for the 'alternative life' I was happy to be working with, and learning from someone who had similar tastes.

I wasn't lucky enough to be there while he was shooting models (boo hiss; the previous day involved a nude model, the proceeding day has a burlesque dancer in full costume and make up) but I was too nervous about being a totally useless assistant to think I could be guaranteed on for such works.

Instead it was a product shoot, photographing packaging of all things - jewellery boxes and gift bags. I felt I was quite fortunate in this respect, as it meant that a model wasn't stood around getting more and more perturbed while I potentially blundered about.

Contradictory to this, the work went fine, I think I managed to made myself useful, and near the end of the shoot (which extended itself to 7 hours rather than 2 [due in no fault to me or to dreaded tech.]) Richard starting doing more conceptual and as he described; 'arty' shots - macro shots under low light with high exposure, really bringing forward contrasting colours and textures, making what could have been quite dry work entertaining, and it was fascinating watching someone who really knows what they're doing with a camera making portfolio worthy photos - ones which would make photography majors at BCU weep - out of what could be read as nothing more than an embossed cufflink box.

In terms of what I learned, it wasn't as definitively focused on illustration, but I don't see that as something bad:

  • Time management: Richard's estimation of a 30 product shoot taking ~3 - 4 hours was smashed by a 7 hour session. I realized I should be prepared for things like this, and not to expect any job to go as described. 
  • 1 job a day? Ha! When I left the studio, Richard met with a model and designer, to do a test shoot, before he had personal commitments to attend. I need to be prepared to not only juggle numerous projects from one day to the next, but to deal with both on the same day.
  • Don't just do what you love: The amount of projects I saw being worked on today was quite astonishing: There were jobs to pay the bills, jobs to do as favours*, jobs which are personal, and probably some more I don't remember. It was awesome to see that Richard's personal tastes and projects had sparked, and he has had the pleasure of being commissioned on jobs off the back of works he has done due to his love of the subject, it was also humbling: There is a necessity to pay the bills, and the services you offer need to pay them bills, so those services need to be flexible. 
  • R&D: I heard an awesome analogy; big businesses have whole teams, funded, protected and paid to basically mess around, explore and experiment with what they have available; to expand the company's toolkit. Why should a single practitioner not set aside time to act in a similar manner? 
I fear this week will be over before it's beginning has even set in. Hopefully the notes I take, connections I make and bullet points here will remind me of things I forget! 

Today's coffee sketches - More of these weird forest guardian things... Trying to lock down good sketching gear as well - A running out/drying up sharpie is excellent for shading, PITT pens seem to be good for sketching, or, better than Uniball pens, and a blue biro is good for a break up of black on black on black...

Monday, 2 July 2012

Monday 2nd July 2012 - Internship; Day 1.

Time for a week of internship! I have to admit, when I woke up this morning I was almost dreading the day - like someone dreads the first day of school/college. Don't quite know where to go, what to do, who to meet, etc.

However! First day at StudioB9 went wonderfully! Based in Zellig in Birmingham's Custard Factory, I found myself smack in the center of the creative quarter. Starting the day with a coffee in a tactically placed cafe, I managed to get an hour of solitary sketching done, which was somewhat liberating - me, black coffee, amon amarth and a new moleskine.

For a good four hours or so it was a case of me watching two veteran graphic designers blast out drafts for a  brief - a case of collecting stock, refining stock, adhering to a very restrictive colour palette, etc. And in doing so I found myself getting lightning tutorials in; InDesign, Fireworks, Quark Express and a little bit of Dreamweaver, all of which (apart from InDesign - to an extent) are completely new and alien to me, so I was somewhat dazed watching a self taught expert navigate through all of Quarks' quirks at lightning speed.

This was then followed by possibly one of the most surreal dinnertime pub excursions to date; myself and the two graphic designers were joined by the person who prints all their designs, so it was somewhat of a working dinner. Then all of us were joined by Steve Chamberlain, who lectures at my university (BCU), Coventry University and is a specialist in Animation. Although, the wealth of information gained from barely an hours speaking covered so much more than animation, it was like a years worth of tutorials in 90 minutes.

Started by looking at my current work, and getting me to try to understand my own work (a lot more complicated than it sounds - the amount I stumbled over my words made me ashamed, and makes me think I need to sit down and come up with a profile of sorts). This was then broken down and further analysed and picked apart:

  • Look at lighting - Got ideas for micro briefs and how to challenge myself to improve the lighting of my paintings, to improve their readability and depth
  • References - Get as much observed drawing down as possible, not just photographs, actually getting out there and drawing while in the environment. Makes me think i'll be journeying up to Whitby at some point for my next brief.
  • Narrative - Something else to help reinforce my paintings, start thinking of not just the hows, but the whys. Really get into the history of the scene, believe it and it will feel more authentic. 
  • Principles - Leading on from narrative, look at principles of composition, character, lighting, so forth: Start to build characters from the ground up with their back story in mind, look at the aspects of costume and silhouetting. 
  • Photography! - Improve all of them... Through photography! Build marquettes and even entire scenes loosely and quickly, photograph them with harsh/ambient lights, record and recreate them. The justification being that doing this will be similar in working with Google SketchUP - any adjustments to the lighting/scene can easily be done, reshot, and recorded. James Gurney does this with his paintings, as does Dave Rapoza. And if it helps with all of the above, hell, let's get modelling! 
Tomorrow: I get to be a photographer's assistant! 

Coffee Sketch - George and the Dragon.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sunday 1st July 2012 - Hand Embroidery Conclusion

I've wanted to try embroidery for a while, I think if I had the gift of foresight, I'd have abandoned any notion and continued on with grinding Photoshop skills.

Back here: I showed as a small conclusion how I planned to embroider over a design screen printed onto unwashed denim.

Now, about 100 hours of work down the line, it's finished! It's attached to my coat, and while it has taken a surreal amount of time, I think it was worth it, in one way or another:

I've learned another skill
I have something pretty cool to show for it
I can be a walking advertisement of my own work
It's a skill I may be able to implement in the future - bespoke designs, presents, gifts, etc.

The design itself, and typography, and arching/balancing of said typeface, were all hand drawn and designed, so even Thor's hammer, which is a quite widely used icon, is totally bespoke - as I combined successful elements from various designs all into one, so instead of another iteration of the same design, I have a design which is the only one of its kind in the world!