Friday, 20 December 2013

Friday 20th December 2013 - Christmas Closures

Greetings all!

Thought I'd post this here, and just link to it so everybody knows the times I'll be working over the Christmas period - some of my publishers are on a break, well, I'd imagine everyone is, so whatever.

Today: 20th December - My last day in the studio, I'll endeavor to e-mail everyone and everything that needs e-mailing.

21st - 27th December - No work at all! Sorry guys, I'm putting down my stylus and raising a glass. I think I best reintroduce myself to my family and show them I'm still alive.*

28th December - 2nd January - I will be once again at work, but on current clients pieces: feel free to approach with any jobs, but be aware work won't start on them until the earliest of the 3rd Jan.

3rd January - Back to normal**

*I will still be checking my e-mails, and while I may not reply immediately, I will get back to you. Do not worry.

**My part time job also hands out a lot of overtime at this time of year, so while I'll try to be in the studio at regular hours, there may be days when I'm at my other job.


I will also hopefully be updating this, as I have a few things I'd like to post, and having a week off from illustration will be the perfect time to do it.

So where's your Christmas spirit? Here's mine:


Friday, 13 December 2013

Friday 13th December 2013 - Speedy Illustration - The College of Arbanes

I was approached on Monday with the task of painting anywhere between 1 and 3 images, as soon as possible. The deadline had already passed, so there wasn't really any time for niceties; I had to jump right in!

"A large and distinguished college... [with] the city in the background, viewed as if the viewer were standing on a taller point. The sky is sunny and blue and pleasant, like a cool summer day.

The college has an Oxford look, with tall tower-peaks scattered intermittently around as part of the building. But the city and college also has a bit of an Arabian feel; the college [should] be separate from that city-sprawl though." (© Rite Publishing 2013)
Thanks to some images the AD sent me, I had a pretty good idea of the direction to take.

©Rite Publishing 2013

This was the first sketch I done, and actually the only sketch I done, I sent it straight off to the AD - Very bad of me in all honesty, I do like to send at least 3 sketches over, but time was of the essence.

© Rite Publishing 2013
I then done this one, with a river cutting through the city, the difference was minor, and the first sketch had already been approved, so this was more for me in all honesty.


I didn't exactly have time for drawing out a full perspective grid, or finding reference for a variety of shapes of buildings... So I built a city instead. The advantages of this? I had a full value range, a perfect idea of the lighting I wanted, exact perspective, and it only took about 10 minutes scrabbling around on my desk for various boxes, bullets, salt shakers and books.

The disadvantages? I didn't get a chance to practice perspective, which is one of my weakest points.

© Rite Publishing 2013
To start this, I dropped a warm colour over a desaturated copy of the photo, this gave the entire city an orange/red hue. To break up the background, and give me some forms to work with, I added a photo I had taken while in Florence, and set it to overlay. I think a single part of this shows through in the final, but it gives me some variety in values, and some 'tooth' on the canvas to work with.

© Rite Publishing 2013
I began with working on the background, my idea being that once it is laid out with large brushstrokes, I can work on the foreground, a better sounding approach than working the foreground then having to sneak parts of a city or river behind the college. I added in the river and some volumetric fog to start bringing a sense of depth into the image - the city is taking shape! 

© Rite Publishing 2013
I felt as though there was a break between the foreground elements (which I had built), and the background elements, which I had painted - on the left. So I started thinking about whether the city had quite a bustling canal and aqueduct system - I had already planned both in the foreground, so added one as a breaker further back - this allowed for more bridges, and the blue gave the viewer's eye a chance to rest while scanning the image. 

© Rite Publishing 2013
This was the end of the first day of painting. I wanted to try and get the entire image finished in one working day, but it was not to happen. I darkened the college, as I thought it looked more like a gaudy temple with how the colours had interacted to give it the gold appearance. 

© Rite Publishing 2013
The start of the second day - adding in the bustle of an Arabian city; with a colourful marketplace! I thought this could be fed by the canal, having supplies arrive, and maybe trading with the college (the way villages sprung up near the walls of castles or by rivers). I also added in a lot of people to keep the scale going, and patterned the base of the college (I thought that could be the college archives, or vaults for unspecified goings on). 

© Rite Publishing 2013
Looking at this, the entire image seems darker - I can't remember doing that, but okay... I think I was introducing cool shadows into the foreground to counter the warm hues of the city. All that was left was the college itself! So I began by blocking that in. 

© Rite Publishing 2013
And that, as they say, is that! 

I had to darken the bridge, I wanted the university and the bridge to appear to be made of the same material - different from what the rest of the city was built of. 

Onto the next one!




Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thursday 28th November 2013 - Working with Illnesses

A totally boring post today, as this is something I've had to deal with a fair bit in the past couple of weeks: Working whilst ill.

I had the joys of getting food poisoning from an undisclosed location, which put me down for about 3 days, then, thanks to been immuno-compromised, I got some horrible flu/cold illness to follow this up. If I had an actual job, I'd have probably been sent home. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury, so I had the choice - sleep it off, or just work through it.

I chose to work through them, as best I could. I still required two days solely focused on the improvement of my health (mostly sleeping), however, even when feeling quite under the weather, I endeavored to work through it - deadlines aren't forgiving, and being such a noobie in the industry, I don't really have the weight or reputation to be able to, well, have an unnecessary day off basically.

This did have its bad aspects - It was harder to paint, methods I generally use weren't as effective, tricks were falling through, generally the task of painting took longer, which was incredibly annoying.

However, it did have its good aspects - even a half finished painting is better than a painting not even started, and working digitally means it's no problem (other than the aspect of time) to improve it, overpaint areas, and so on.


I can't show the paintings I was working on while ill - they're for clients and so forth,but I was also working on this personal piece - still to be finished.

A lot of this basically had to be painted twice, the initial pass was okay, but not great. This is basically the summary of my past couple of weeks - paint a painting, then come back to it the day after, or the week after, and have to spend a considerable amount of hours fixing what was already there. The frustration was as bad as the actual illness.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wednesday 27th November 2013 - A Late Halloween

I do have a backlog of things I think I could/should/maybe might post here, so in an attempt to atone for my lack of posting, I'll try to work through them.


This was the pic I devoted a couple of days to over Halloween, as I always try to do some image for various holidays, but I generally seem to find myself without time. As a freelance illustrator with no university work to do, I think I ran out of excuses not to do anything. So yeah, this is it.

Quick walkthrough of how I went about it.

I started out as all of my images start out, with a super rough, 2 minute thumbnail in my Moleskine.

I then done something which I'm doing more and more recently - I scanned the image in, blew it up to the desired size, lowered the opacity in Photoshop and started sketching/blocking in over it. This I then printed out onto Bristol Board for fine detailing:


As you can see, there are some differences in the pencils to how the final appears. That's just the way things go at the moment, and is the reason I'm spending less and less time on the pencils - I often change them dramatically in the painting phase.


I wanted to keep the background white and simplistic, so using abstract brushes I blocked in contrasting colours - Pink and Green, such spooky colours. Yeah.

Out for trying something new, I decided to paint the butt and legs with a super smooth airbrush, a brush I practically never use, as I hate the real smooth digital look, but I thought it would suit this, and contrast nicely with what I had in mind for the focal points.

As it turned out, this was awesome, and I now have a standard soft airbrush which I use to paint smooth skin.


Next stage was adding in the tears in the flesh, not the easiest thing to find reference for, but I knew if I combined dark reds and greens, with white speculars, I'd get a dark gore-laden look, combined with a wet appearance; good enough!


Adding in the rest of the gore, it's time to start on the zombie! I thought this would be easy, and almost quick... I'd painted some before and found it quite fun. I forgot I painted those small, and this was a focal point.


I knew I wanted a blue rim light coming from the side, I honestly think that looks better here than it did at any stage from here on out. Over rendering the zombie perhaps?


I think compared to the previous stage, I've evenly rendered the zombie too much, so there's little sense of depth. But I still kind of like him, and the image is close to finished, just the hand to go!


And adding in the hand, it's more or less finished! The painting as a whole was just an exercise in patience and repetition - Paint skin, soften, erase, repeat - paint a tear in the skin, repeat x3 - and so on. The lingerie wasn't exactly easy or entertaining either, just monotony and carefully omitting details.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tuesday 26th November 2013 - ImagineFX feature!

This is so totally late in terms of posting. I really need to get better at this.

Story time: Waaaaay way way way back in about 2004/2005 I was browsing in the local newsagents and saw Issue 5 of ImagineFX, picking it up was my first introduction to good fantasy art, and the medium of Digital Art. At the time I could barely think in a straight line, let alone draw one, so it didn't get much further on than that.

Shooting forward to the academic year of 2009/2010, I actually bought my first Wacom - the one I'm still faithfully using! - and, in an attempt to better myself, I subscribed to ImagineFX - to give me access to tutorials, walkthroughs, brushes, and so on. Once I got into Uni, actually got my arse into gear and discovered the potential importance of being a published illustrator, the monthly portfolio section of IFX suddenly became a shining beacon of hope, and a couple of consecutive new years resolutions - to be featured in the magazine - really spurned my discipline forward.

Well, this month it has actually happened! Woo! Issue #102, 97 issues on from when I was a bright, blue eyed, optimistic pre-pubescent schoolchild, I'm at the stage where I may well be having my work seen by some other kid who is silly enough to consider chasing after a career in art.


So yes! It can be done. Takes a lot of willpower, discipline, and dauntless application of academic principles and imagination, but one can hope it will all pay off, and it can lead to a life of super fun work painting dragons and half naked barbarians!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Tuesday 5th November 2013 - Declining jobs

Quick post today as I realized I've spent the last month... well... not updating this.

When I was in uni I considered the biggest milestone possible was getting paid work - which arguably is the biggest and most important milestone. However, recently I had to decline some work, which looking back, I think can be considered another milestone.

Not giving out any details at all, the general principle was that I was approached with a job offer which required 6-8 hours a day of work, for an undisclosed length of time, with remuneration only being forthcoming once the project was complete. Now, when I was in uni I took some low paying jobs, because I had money in the form of a part time job and my student loan, and the experience was almost worth as much as the money, so 7 or 8 months ago I may have asked for more details and considered taking the task onboard.

However, as it stands at the moment, I have a lot on my plate - working 5 days a week with my other freelance contracts, and my part time job on the weekend. Without the safety net of a student loan, I've found myself having to prioritize, and, as is expected with real life, landlords and bills come first.

So, I had to turn the job down. It's simply unaffordable, and damaging to the industry, to work on promises of money to come. Especially, when the expectation is to work 8 hours a day with no recompense - Plumbers won't fix all the pipes in your house and accept a handshake and a smile, with a note saying the payment will be sent over when the pipes have worked for 6 months, so illustrators shouldn't have to expect to wait for the product to finish/sell to get paid.

So yep, some naive introspection and reflection on something which happened to me recently.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Wednesday 9th October 2013 - Dragon Tiger Ox - The first of many?

A bit of a different blog post today.

One of the first professional jobs I'm actually able to speak about and share (at the behest of my Art Director). I'm currently working with Little Red Goblin Games ( littleredgoblingames.com ) on one of their IPs - a tabletop RPG campaign based on the Pathfinder rules, which are themselves based off of official Dungeon and Dragons rules (I think!).

This is totally cool as I've wanted to work for D&D since I first picked up one of their rulebooks and checked out the art, waaaaay back when I was like 13/14, and now I kind of am!

Anyway, I was approached with the opportunity to illustrate an entire rulebook, which is totally awesome, and has gave me an excuse to research, investigate, and illustrate ancient china, which as far as I have discovered, involves exotic weapons, funny hats, and so god damned much folded cloth I'll be able to paint it with my eyes closed upon conclusion.

But there's a kickstarter page up, which includes an awesome video with an even better namedrop!


http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1294249392/dragon-tiger-ox-pathfinder-wuxia-sourcebook

So yeah, check it out! It's all good fun, and if you pledge $5 I think it is? You get $10 worth of a .pdf rulebook, which will contain my first published illustrations!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Thursday 19th September 2013 - Army Brush


Something I'm faced with, not exactly regularly, but often enough that it's a constant presence, is the necessity to paint a whole army. Undergoing such a task by painting the people one by one I feel leads to the image feeling awkward and flat, as when looking at a crowd in the distance, you don't see all the detail, just blocks of colour, light and shadow.

So to expedite the whole process, I made a very quick, and very rough, stamp brush, this stamped, while changing the size of the stamp and the transparency can very quickly create a massed horde of warriors - excellent!


Another excellent feature of the brush palette in Photoshop (f5) is that you can flip a brush on its X axis, so to avoid repetition, it's possible to just flip the brush and stamp it some more!


This was a quick 10 minute speedpaint to test it out. I added in some banners and flags to keep the visual interest there, and pulled out some shapes to create into some form of commander chap.

Another important thing to note is that adding speculars and highlights onto parts helps to increase the realism - I used an abstract brush stamp and randomly applied them - I didn't want to waste time zooming in and applying them individually.

So yeah! An army brush. If you want to download it and give it a go, the link is here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/69tgqr47al0yvp3/Army.abr

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wednesday 11th September 2013 - Dropbox!



This is something I downloaded while at uni mostly so I had a backup copy of files which I took in on USB drives in case they were corrupted or I lost my memory stick (both have happened in the past). However, its use is really becoming apparent now the responsibility is on me to get my clients the images they've commissioned me to do.

I don't really have many programmes and things I use which I'd blindly recommend - the other one being Photoshop - but I think Dropbox has enough uses to be something to seriously consider downloading: As some examples of how I use it, and what other options i'd have.

Firstly, in an artistic capacity: I have multiple directories on Dropbox, each for a separate client/job, and in here I can have sub directories for sketches, images, paintings, different images asked for, etc etc.


What could I do instead of Dropbox? Well, there are plenty of companies who provide programmes that allow the sending of large files via e-mail (YouSendIt), which is great if you're just sending one thing, but if there's a back and forth, revisions to be made and things to be compared and changed, clients won't want a .5GB e-mail each day, a simple link to a directory with all the images in (which require no download to view) makes life a hell of a lot easier.

There are other websites which provide an online file storage service - Google use Google Drive, Apple have their Cloud, DeviantArt have Sta.sh. Now I can hold my hands up and say I've never used any of these - a client I'm working with at the moment use Google Drive, and you need a G-Mail account, and permission to view files. So while this isn't a problem, if you're trying to be professional and keep personal e-mail addresses and professional e-mail addresses separate, it's impossible with Google drive, as you need a G-Mail account to access the Google Drive, and as my professional e-mail isn't a G-Mail one, I'm kind of buggered.

What use do non arty people have for Dropbox? As well as professionally, I can use Dropbox to share things like wallpapers, mods for games, I used to use it for my Uni work, collaborative assignments, etc.


If you share a folder with multiple parties (The folder with the people on n the image above), who all have Dropbox, they get informed when files are updated and changed, which is helpful, so everyone can be working on the same version of a project. If you have found/downloaded a wallpaper which you think is particularly epic, a lot of image hosting websites resize them to upload them, not good if you have a 1920x1080 monitor. Dropbox doesn't! Which is always nice. If you have a .zip or .rar of game mods and want to share them, the only alternative I know of is things like Mediafire or Rapidshare, who have slow upload times, obtuse, unmemorable links, and often fail the upload at 99.9%.

With dropbox you have the folder on your desktop, so just click and drag the file, it syncs, then you share it. No captchas, no adverts, no potential viruses. It's pretty damn idiot proof, which in this day and age is rather important.

You can also solely use it for yourself, and access your files from any computer (Don't even need to download Dropbox, just go to dropbox.com), and pretty much any smartphone/tablet with the app downloaded - useful if you can't afford or justify memory sticks or portable hard drives.

You can also get 3.9GB of space for free if you trawl the "Get Free Space" option and spam things like Twitter and Facebook.


Really I can't recommend it enough, it makes getting clients files when freelancing super easy, combines the uses of a memory stick, fileshare server and image upload website in one, with no need for downloaders to create accounts, and no adverts.

So yeah, give it a try: http://db.tt/peHGfrnQ

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wednesday 4th September 2013 - Undead Skellies!





Some print screens of the process of my most recent painting. I'm particularly happy with the skeleton in the background and all his implied detail.

Friday, 16 August 2013

16th August 2013 - Warm ups


I'm not a person for warm-up procedures, I generally wake up, have a coffee while answering e-mails and general social media, then just dive into whatever work needs doing.

But there's always a time when the work doesn't happen, and I sit there procrastinating with my brain dripping out of my nose.

Something which managed to circumvent that today and yesterday was drawing girls in stripy dresses. I don't know why. Maybe it's the added complexity of trying to describe a 3D form with stripes, maybe it's the fun of trying to effectively portray folded and stretched stripes, maybe it's just because I saw a very attractive female in a stripy dress and wanted to give drawing one an attempt.

But yeahh, these were from today and yesterday, took about 5 minutes each, with the coloured one having 5 minutes in photoshop on top.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Monday 5th August 2013 - Handmade sketchbooks



So that today wasn't a total waste of productivity, and because it was something I've been meaning to do for a while now, I made myself another sketchbook.

Something I do, and I'm not sure, but I can imagine a lot of other people do too, is when a sketchbook is, say, three quarters full, and I purchase a new one, I immediately start to use the new one. This means, that over the past 4 years or so, there's so much blank paper, stored in the back of three quarter full sketchbooks, that I joked I could make a fair few brand new ones.

Then I stopped, thought, and asked myself; "why not?".


Ripping out all the blank pages, I collected myself a fair sized wedge of cartridge paper (of various thicknesses), some watercolour paper, some random off brand stuff, and paper so old and so bad even I didn't want to use it.


There was nothing fancy here, just a very simple (but I think quite nice looking) Japanese binding stitch (anyone feel free to correct me, I believe that's the name of this form of binding) to attach the 'covers' (old pieces of card) to the filling.


It was all super simple kit - my homemade etching tool (a metal clay tool I found and put on a grinder to sharpen up) to poke the holes on the spine, some binding thread, which I bought for 50p off of eBay about 3 years ago, and a cutting mat to protect my desk.


And that's it. I now have a sketchbook, where before there was no sketchbook, it cost me no paper, as it was all sourced from full/disused sketchbooks, and yeah! It's not a nice, clean, clinical sketchbook, it's rough around the edges, and I have no fear about "damaging" or "ruining" the paper.


And finally my cat. Who was perturbed by the whole thing.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Wednesday 31st July 2013 - Products!

http://www.jhillustrations.com/p/products.html

I have finally set up a small place to start collecting the things I'm selling. I'm keeping it restricted to my site at the moment, as I can probably handle the orders myself without the need for a platform like Etsy or BigCartel. Plus, the shirts I will be selling will be printed on demand, so i'll need to affirm with buyers that the week or so wait for me to actually get them printed is fine.






So yeah, interested in a shirt? Check out the designs, and either drop me a message on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JHIllustrations or E-Mail me at: Jack@JHIllustrations.com

There will be more designs added as I get round to making them!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday 19th July 2013 - THIS IS NOT WORLD OF TANKS!

Yup, being the total nerd that I am, one of my favourite ways of killing time not illustrating is playing games. My current (re)obsession is World of Tanks, a free to play game developed by WarGaming. For someone who doesn't have the lightning reaction times of a 10 year old mainlining red bull, FPS's like Call of Duty and Battlefield just make me angry, whereas this is slower paced to a degree, and the historical factor really appeals to me.

Way back when, in March time, they had a contest as it was their second anniversary, the prizes being £40 worth of in game stuff (Yes, I know I said it's free to play, but it has the option of microtransactions, to buy bonuses and limited edition tanks etc.). It was a creative contest, to design - of all things - a birthday card. Sure! I thought, I'm creative, I have an idea, I'll give it a bash.


I painted this in February. Look! It has tanks in it! I thought I could adapt this...


It was their second anniversary... So, I thought, let's add in a second destroyed tank (A t-34 for those who wish to know), and they could signify milestones passed. I also got rid of the swastika and added in the World of Tanks logo as the helmet decal. So yeah, I done this, attached the image to a folded piece of card, added the moniker "That's the Second one Down!" and posted it off to their PR department in Paris.

So I done this in February, and didn't hear anything back, and I thought "meh" maybe they didn't like the picture, maybe the iron cross on the Tiger tank was against entry conditions, I had numerous thoughts.

What I wasn't expecting, was a month ago to get an e-mail telling me I'd won one of the prizes! Not just a regular prize, but the best possible one, a limited edition tank! The Type 62. So this was awesome, and rekindled my interest in the game, and since then, I've started replaying it.

This has also led to me practicing my software skills, and sourcing some video capture software, and learning how to make animated gifs in Photoshop (awesome by the way, the only other method I knew of involved an outdated piece of software; Ulead), by directly importing video files to layers and simply saving for Web as a looping gif. Do you want to see some? Sure you do!