How on Earth has it been 5 months since my last blog?? Well, they say time flies when you're having fun and I have been having a lot of fun, that's for sure.
The previous blog detailed how I'd been invited to draw my first set of officially licensed Star Wars sketch cards for trading card company Topps, something I've wanted to do for years. I've now completed three sets: Masterwork 2017 (released Nov '17), The Last Jedi Series 1 (released Dec '17) and A New Hope: Black & White (arriving Feb '18).
Each set had it's challenges and I've learned so much in a short space of time. I'm not gonna lie, it's been a very hectic, non-stop few months - I was sketching in my lunch breaks at work, sketching most evenings and weekends, and would even think about the characters I wanted to draw next as my eyes were closing for much-needed rest!
But it very nearly didn't happen.
Masterwork followed on directly from Terminator 2, my first licensed set with Unstoppable Cards. The T2 set was an excellent first experience of sketch cards with a deadline of a couple of months and free choice of characters to draw but literally the day after I completed the T2 cards and posted them off, I became ill and had to spend some time in hospital.
As rough as I felt, all I could think about was getting home and drawing Star Wars before the dream that had finally become reality slipped out of my grasp. Thankfully I was only out of action for a couple of weeks and as soon as I was able, I was able to get stuck in.
If you follow me on social media, you'll know that I'm not used to holding work back. I'm always posting work in progress (WIP) photos and finished pieces so not being allowed to share work as I was completing each card was very odd. As a result, the buzz I felt on release day was incredible and unlike anything I've ever experienced. I was finally allowed to share my 30 cards with the world!
The same happened with The Last Jedi set in December and I'm looking forward to sharing my cards for A New Hope: Black & White next month. Sticking with the monochromatic theme, all my cards for the set are greyscale and I genuinely believe they include some of my finest sketch card work to date. Being my third set, I didn't have the nerves I'd experienced previously. I went in with a new found confidence and I hope to put this to good use on future invites. But for now, I shall be having all the sleep.
Be sure to add me on Twitter & Instagram for the most up to date news (clearly this blog is not the place for that!), the latest work and those first sneak peeks at the latest set when release day comes round. I've also added galleries for each of the sets right here on my site. Thanks for stopping by and let me know which cards are your favourites!
I’ve been a Star Wars fan all my life. Literally, for as long as I can remember. I was a smidge too young to see the movies on their original release so had to rely on them being shown on TV. Remember, this was a time before home video and on-demand movies, kids. I’m pretty sure I saw Jedi first, then Star Wars, then Empire. Thus I spent most of my formative years utterly confused about the order in which they were supposed to be watched.
Topps is an American company that have been producing trading card sets for decades - including baseball, football and The Garbage Pail Kids - and when they invited me to contribute some hand-drawn sketch cards for their Star Wars Masterwork 2017 set, I was absolutely over the moon. “That’s no moon…"
Trading cards are much like the football stickers we used to buy in the UK in the 80s and 90s. Each pack contains a number of mass produced base cards plus, if you’re lucky, a ‘hit’ which could be an autograph, a swatch of Ewok costume (yes, really) or a sketch card.
The sketch cards are one-off, miniature pieces of art measuring 2.5” x 3.5" created by artists from all around the world. They’re not reprinted in bulk so if you find one, you have the only one and this can make them quite valuable. For this particular set, we were free to draw any character from any of the movies so I quickly started to form a list of who I wanted to draw but by the end of the project I’d drawn fewer of those than I expected and more of the ones I didn’t.
I even drew Jar Jar.
The set is due out in November 2017 and that’s when I’ll be able to share all the cards I created, plus lots of work in progress shots, and a trilogy of brand new time-lapse videos. So, if you’re following me on social media, I hope you like Star Wars!
My face is getting wrinkly. It's getting wrinkly, I have eye-bags, and I'm starting to get Old Man Brows™. So when it came to drawing a self portrait for the purposes of applying to Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year 2018, you can probably imagine I approached the task with trepidation.
As an artist, you have the power to create something better than real life. By that I mean the wrinkles don't have to be quite so wrinkly, the eye-bags don't need to be quite so dark, and the brows don't need to be so unruly. But that's not the real me and I wanted to create a true depiction of my visage so I picked a photo where the eyes feature prominently (I ruddy love drawing eyes), there's a certain amount of contrast, plus the opportunity to add some subtle colours here and there.
I decided to use Stabilo's CarbOthello pastel pencils - despite only having created two portraits with them before - in combination with the verdaccio technique and I invested in some fancy-pants Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper, after seeking out recommendations on Instagram. And so began the process.
As you'll see below, I was a fairly startling greenish-orange for some time, which scared me a little as my natural skin colour is magnolia. Also, at the point where I added a touch of red around the eyes and cheek, I looked a little like a drag queen. Nothing wrong with that but not quite the look I was after. (No, I did not document this stage.)
Overall, the key to working with this technique is to be patient and not skip ahead which I was very tempted to do. I love details and normally I flesh out the eyes completely before moving on to the rest of the face. Here I had to wait. The last couple of steps involve adding the final highlights and finer detail. That was definitely my favourite part of this piece - making it look like me!
Deadline for submissions to the competition is Friday 3 March.
Wish me luck.
Only 3 months late. You forgive me though right?...
Well, in case you're not following me on social media, I completed my first attempt at InkTober. A drawing a day for an entire month, using a medium I wasn't particularly proficient in. But my, how my confidence improved in such a short amount of time! No-one was more surprised about this than me.
Working with ink requires a certain degree of confidence, especially if, like me, you like an accurate finished piece. Most ink-slingers use an initial pencil sketch to work over so I followed suit and it really helped. But yeah, the final week was incredibly encouraging to the point where I'm now preferring working with ink to pencil, be it the Pentel Pocket Brush, Derwent's Graphik fineliners, or grey Copic markers. My mark-making has improved leaps & bounds and it's all down to practice and that will to succeed.
An easy trap to fall into (and I'm still guilty of this after 25+ years of doing the art) is to expect instant results. Let me tell you friends, that is a very rare thing. You need to fail in order to learn. I'm not gonna lie, it's tough! As a butler once said "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up".
All the InkTober pieces went up for auction on eBay at the end of the month and raised a nice little sum for Kidney Research UK. Three pieces are available in my Etsy store.
I'll be doing InkTober again this year and I hope you will too. 👍🏼
I'm not going to lie, I nearly came a cropper less than two weeks into INKtober. Draw something every day for a month? What can possibly go wrong? That was before I caught the worst cold in the history of mankind.
Of all the months in all the years, someone (many thanks and kind regards to you) saw fit to gift me their virus at a time where I quite crucially needed to be on the ball. Eat, sleep, draw, repeat. Yet, as this blog's title suggests, I've made some encouraging progress with my inking over the last 14 days, despite the goo.
As Week 2 began, I continued to use Cass Art's hot pressed watercolour paper in combination with Pentel's Pocket Brush and Derwent's Graphik Line Maker range. I worked on simplifying my mark-making, being careful to avoid cross-hatching, and spent a while considering more carefully the form I wanted to convey. By Day 12 I was starting to feel pretty grotty and actually fell a day behind.
Fittingly, I chose to sketch with a green pencil that day, reflecting the state of my health perfectly.
At the beginning of Week 3 I picked myself up, gave myself a good talking to and started working with Copic markers on Strathmore toned grey paper. This is one of my favourite papers which I've used for a couple of years. The shade of grey is just right for providing a suitable midtone, allowing you to focus on the lights and darks. Also, despite being quite a thin paper, it holds up surprisingly well to several layers of ink.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, I've admired many comic book artists' ability to work with markers and although I have a substantial collection, including Copic markers and the Letraset Promarker range, I've never plucked up the courage to use them properly. I've dabbled - mostly unsuccessfully - so in the cupboard they have stayed. Until now. I saw INKtober as the perfect opportunity to give them a proper whirl and so, for Week 3, I focussed on creating greyscale portraits with white highlights. In just 7 days, I feel I've accomplished so much but still have an awful lot to learn.
I'll be drawing a few scary characters as we approach Halloween so if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment and come back soon to see how the rest of my INKtober adventure pans out! I'll also have some news on the 2016 Sketchbook.
I'm a pencil guy (pretty obvious, right?) but I've *always* been captivated by the look of ink. It's bold, vibrant, expressive, reminds me of childhood comics but... it's SO permanent. Make a mistake and you'd better start over or get creative at covering your mistakes!
I briefly flirted with the idea of participating in Jake Parker's INKtober in 2015 but a much needed holiday quashed my plans so I made a mental note (and set a reminder in my phone) to take part in 2016.
So here I am, 7 days in to INKtober 2016 and it's going surprisingly well. I'll admit, day 1 was a bit shaky and I started to doubt myself almost immediately. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Somehow, I managed 60 days in a row back in 2014 when I was drawing a sketch card every day so my artistic endurance wasn't really the issue, it was my unfamiliarity with ink.
I quietly follow, and am inspired by on a daily basis, many prominent inky artists across social media - Marc Laming, Adam Hughes, and Will Terry to name but a few. Their processes fascinate me and because they all share work-in-progress (WIP) shots, it makes it a teensy bit easier to figure out how they do it.
To give myself a fighting chance, I've decided to work at A6 size, roughly 4" x 6". Any bigger than that and I'd get too bogged down in capturing all the detail. Following a recommendation from Holly Exley on Twitter, I plumped for Cass Art's 140lb, hot pressed, watercolour paper which is sturdy but has a smoother finish, taking ink really well without buckling or bleed.
Pen-wise, I'm using a Pentel Pocket Brush. I've tried using it a couple of times in the past but been a little concerned my unsteady hand would result in a wildly wobbly line but with a little practice, I've found it easy to use and the brush tip allows for fantastic line variation with only a small change in pressure. Alongside that, I'm using a set of Derwent Graphik Line Makers which are wonderful to work with. Tip size ranges from 0.8-0.05 and they feel great. Plus a Copic Multiliner and Letraset ProMarker.
If you want to see all my INKtober pieces, follow my Instagram where I'm posting daily.
A blog post! Finally! Good day, hello to you and thanks for stopping by.
Yesterday I had a crack at drawing my own piece of anamorphic art. I've seen a lot of it in the past and always wondered how it was done. You may well have seen the incredible street art of Julian Beever, well that's a type of large-scale anamorphic art. The same theory applies when working smaller scale, which is what I was intending to do. The image is drawn with an exaggerated perspective and if it's viewed from just the right spot, it looks 3D and creates a fantastic optical illusion.
There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating how others have successfully created the effect but I have to be honest, like a few others it seems, I was just a teensy bit skeptical about whether all the images I was seeing were real or there was a bit of Photoshop jiggery pokery going on.
I found the trickiest part to be the very first stage which involves creating a double grid system to skew your reference photo accurately. I used Photoshop & Illustrator for this stage since I'm most familiar with them. Once the grids are in position, the reference photo is added and its proportions skewed. In my case, I took a photo of my Funko Pop Vinyl scout trooper that sits on my desk, so that I could be sure the angle was just right.
These photos show the general process.
Once I'd transferred the outlines to the paper, I had a copy of the skewed ref photo on my iPad to draw from. It'll look a bit odd while you're drawing it but that's ok. A few times, I tried to look at it from the 'magic angle' but it just didn't look right. The illusion wasn't working. Had I done something wrong? And that was my eureka moment - the illusion only works when viewed through a camera lens, so I started to take a few photos to see how the shading was coming along.
The finishing touch involved adding a shadow to really push the 3D effect, and also cutting a portion of the paper away so that the trooper's head appeared to project above the paper. Et voila! I'll be doing more of these, so be sure to follow my exploits on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook and please feel free to ask questions or add a comment below.