Sunday, October 9, 2016

Don't fear the Inker

So we're well into Inktober now,  and I wanted to talk about my experience working with wet media.

I used to hate two things ; working in colour and working in wet media. We'd have painting classes in college and sometimes we'd use coloured inks. It was nightmare fuel for me.  Dry media couldn't run,  there were never questions of opacity,  or what it would look like in the page. Every stroke was pure fear,  even though everyone else looked right at home.

In hindsight I actually did good work in some of those classes,  once I pushed through the fear and got in with it.

This leads me to step 1; get stuck in!

Different inks,  paints,  paper types and other media all combine in different ways,  with different results. You're not meant to be a master automatically,  and experiments should be treated as such. You'll find things you love,  you'll find things you hate,  and you'll find things you know you need to work on.
This doesn't start unless you do,  so even make some marks on a page and see where it goes from there!

2- Brush pens.
These are expensive, and daunting to use at first,  but they are my  favourite tool for both drawing in terms of quick emotive gestures AND as a gateway drug to the other wet media.

I use a Pentel one and a similar water brush for washes, but I'll get back to that.

For those that don't know,  a brushpen has a head like a brush with a small reservoir for ink and a squeezable cartridge that makes the handle.  Squeezing it causes more ink to flow into the reservoir and then into the page.  It allows for wet and dry brush techniques, without the need for dipping and wiping.

The first time I tried one I thought ' this is powerful and I'm just making a mess'

The fear was back.

So I took a month during the days when summer holidays are a thing and drew with it every day for a month.  the paper I used was all wrong and it bled everywhere,  but I wasn't scared anymore.

It was FAST,  and the ink was unforgiving.
It required confidence and took no prisoners.  It was a good kind of pressure,  so whenever I would draw at conventions,   I'd reach for the brush pen straight away.

3- Wash my love

Conventions were my proving ground,  as the day job usually involved colouring in photoshop and little actual drawing.

I'd seen Declan Shalvey do con sketches with ink washes so I tried it out on happy con goers! Cups of inky water were eventually replaced by a water brushpen, except filled with a pre-mixed ink wash.
the skills are the same,  but this opened up so many doors for making cool pictures, quickly.

Sometimes this would go horribly  wrong,  and I'd run out of ink or something else,  and I'd be forced to improvise.

I started inking with a brush. A BRUSH. and i was enjoying it,  too. Another time,  I had no ink wash, but an empty water brush so I used that with some watercolours.

4- watercolours! I am a photoshop painter first,  and work from the 3d sensibility of starting with a dark room and add light as I go.  Watercolor works light to dark, so I avoided it for the longest time.  I started thinking about it like inkwashes,  and like step one above,  i've been playing!  Getting stuck in,  and getting a handle on using colour in this medium. I've been playing in acrylics and I've a set of gouache waiting for me to try them out too.

Oh, the water brush and a set of watercolours is a GREAT workforce by the way!  Try it!

None of this is for the day job, just getting stuck in with learning more of the craft,  and getting the confidence to branch into even more things.

If you've seen my inktober stuff you may notice they're not the prettiest things in the world,  and they're not meant to be.  I'm playing!  Learning what I enjoy,  what I don't,  and what I need to work on.

So if you're doing inktober and you're getting stressed about posting every day or other people being wizards,  RELAX. It's a learning thing,  try and have some fun!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Breaking Ground

This was fun-originally based on rain running over paving slabs, but turned into some fun shape exercises mixed with trying some colour things out. I'd had orange pixies in the rough, but opted for big green lilly pads instead :D

Thursday, June 9, 2016


So, as you may know I've been working away at a film for these boys. and I've a smaller little project with them that should be ready soon* here's a pic of them adventuring in a local park!

Oh, and here's one I made earlier! 

These have been SO much fun. Expect to see more of these guys to come!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Here's a pic based on one of the characters in the film I'm hacking away at in the background! Cian!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dublin Illustration Workshop

Hey everyone; so yesterday I went to the Dublin Illustration Workshop at Digit Games, where Denman Rooke showed us good work methodologies for character design. It was really interesting to see how everyone approached the brief, using both traditional and digital media. This was the first time I put the surface through its paces, and after a few hours I didn't find the screen to constricting.

I find the menus incredibly annoying on smaller screens, and of course working zoomed out (as I prefer to) is inherently *much smaller* on the smaller screen. The touch screen bothered me every now and then, but mostly it was fine. Workable, albeit slower. That's good to know in case I go travelling at some point and need to do some work.

Anyway, Sunday awaits!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 a year in review

This has been an immense year for me.

I finished a 52 episode season, headed the background department on 2 pilots, made pitch art for a game, did concept work for a game which was successfully kickstarted, helped illustrate 2 books and began teaching professionally! Oh, and I did some conventions as well! And I coloured a book for a friend of mine! The list goes on, it seems!
Along with some friends and colleagues we went to Annecy Film festival where one of our Nelly and Nora episodes was up for an award. We didn't win, but it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many like minded folk, along with great weather (some of the time!) and brilliant films.
That lit a fire under  me to make a film that's more personal for me, and it's actually started growing into something bigger. I'm determined to get the film part of it done, and a lot of headway has been made there!
Then life continued, I did some illustration for a pastry company in London that kept me busy and on my toes for a while!
Finally, September arrived and with it Trojan Horse Was A Unicorn (THU) in Troia, Portugal. To say it blew my mind was an understatement; I learned so many things and met so many great artists it took me til mid November until I could parse a lot of what I took in. Having THU TV to go back and rewatch talks DEFINITELY helped :D

I've been SO busy, but everything you see above was created after all the day jobs were done- I see an art test for the banner saga, some fanart, a piece for Chris Oatley's Magic Box, as well as the last three months trying to implement some of the tips I got in Troia.

This was also the year I moved in with my partner, and it's been great to have my own office full of posters and artwork that ISN'T my bedroom, even if I end up spending most of my waking day there!

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings,  but mostly I'm looking forward to making things, and learning things. Life is good. Take care, everyone.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Freelancer Tips

So I've been on and off freelancing for the past 9 years, and I thought I'd share some tips and tricks I've picked up along the way. These are geared towards art jobs, but many of them can apply to other types of work!

There's a few other people that I asked for input too, because many sources make for a better guide!

1- Stay on top of your accounts. This includes tracking receipts, invoices and paying your taxes. If any of that makes you twitch uncomfortably, do two things. Firstly, suck it up. You're in business, and that's part of it. Secondly, hire an accountant. They'll make sure that you fill out any forms you need, and you learn *quickly* what you should be keeping track of and how.

2- Respect others' time. Reply to emails promptly. Turn up at meetings on time. Hit your deadlines. There's probably one or more people after you in a production schedule, and lost time snowballs the further down the line.

3- Respect your OWN time. If you work 9-5, work hard. Work well. Then, stop. I'm getting better at this, though recently it's been more a case of logging multiple jobs to morning, afternoon slots at 4 hours each. I've experimented over the past few months doing blazes of 16 hour work days, 6 days a week and then taking a full week off. It's nice, but dangerous. Those hard weeks burn you out quicker the longer you are at it, even with a week off. It's better to be in a solid habit every day, so you're body is trained to turn on and off at the beginning and the end of each day.

4- Train yourself. I've set up a bunch of Pavlovian responses to keep me in the zone. I wear over-ear headphones when I'm working- ONLY when I'm working. I usually get bumped up from a 45 minute focus to a  90 minute window. I try and put on audio from games that I've put MANY hours of grind into, like Skyrim or Dragon Age. They're ambient and unobtrusive, and there's a built in experience of hearing them for many hours. For late nights, If you've seen the Shawshank Redemption a few times, that's a great film to minimise as you work, because Morgan Freeman's voice on a three hour track that ends with 'I HOPE. That's a great little uplift if you can aim to finish at that point. 

5- Stop checking your email. I said earlier that I've got a 90 minute work window, and it's at the end of that I QUICKLY check my email, twitter and facebook, use the bathroom and get a fresh cup of tea. The only exception to this is if I'm doing a morning of quick fixes, I keep my inbox open on my second screen so I don't waste my time doing fixes that'll be cut for one reason or another.

6- Have an office space. If you can, have it in a room that ISN'T your bedroom, and preferably a room you can close the door on and have your own space. I don't have kids or pets, but I've heard that there needs to be a divide to get any sort of productivity out of the day. Trying to go from working all day in a room to sleeping in the same room will mess your body rhythm up

I've had to do this several times in the past, and I've found several ways to break up the feel. 
-Use different lighting when you're in 'bedroom mode'. For me, that means airing the room for a few minutes, switching to just lamps instead of overhead lights, and getting out for a brief walk.
If you've a weirdly large bedroffice, you can keep to different parts of the room.
If you can help it, don't have your computer in eyesight while you're in bed, so you can add more of a mental gap. 
Anything you can do to create two distinct room feels will help get you better sleep.

7- Sleep well. If you get a decent 8 hours kip, or whatever your body actually needs, it'll show. You'll have better focus,  make better decisions and feel better.

8- Too much coffee? Drink water. This sounds weird, but it works. I am a voracious tea drinker, and a coffee lover, even if it doesn't love me. I had to cut down to one coffee a day, and a friend recommended drinking more water.  It's made such a difference, so it's getting included. In winter, I usually go for hot honey and lemon, or MiWaDi, or just tea :)

9- Eat well. I try and eat good meals, as it's most practical to make your own when you work from home. I do go out to lunch at least once a week, so I can do a bit of sketching as well as get some fresh air during the day!

10- You will get hired to do what people KNOW you can do. If you have a web presence full of doodles, don't expect a job as a concept artist. When studios hire they are looking for people to solve a specific problem. You need to show them that you can solve their 

For me, I specialise in colour keys and lighting. This has got me work in tabletop games, TV, magazines and comics, but only because I had put something online that exemplified their requirements. 

If you want to colour comics, colour comics. If you want to storyboard, ACTUALLY STORYBOARD. As a freelancer, the ball is in your court. Schedule time to work on those projects. If you keep an eye on your cashflow, you can upskill at your own pace and branch out. 

11- Go places! Expos like CTN Expo, Comic Conventions, film festivals or the absolutely amazing Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn will open doors for you in almost every sense of the word. You'll meet new people, learn new things and maybe get some job leads. I spent a considerable amount travelling to events last year, but I'm still trying to put into practice all of the great things I learned. 

12- Spoonful of Sugar- Research maketh the project, and I find it can be useful to build it into your downtime. I like to watch relevant films to projects I'm working on to build my vocabulary, or if relevant go on a little trip to take in the sights and sounds of the setting. I tend to end up studying random stuff like how a tree has cracked, or the spread of rocks heading away from a river- not necessarily related to what's needed for the project, but it adds to the visual library. 
That's the kind of thing that'll resurface when you're doing thumbnails.