An Afternoon In Meditation

Over the next few weeks (and past couple weeks) I’ve been exploring the idea of ‘Wake Up’. I chose this term because there’s a great degree in which it can be explored. Of course, there’s the literal waking up we do most mornings, but also the idea of having a ‘wake up call’, so to speak. Many times we have these realizations that can very much feel like the sensation of waking up. Sometimes we wish to show things to people to wake them up about topics of politics or their lifestyles.

I’ve created a number of small, test outcomes already (all of which I hope to share here at some point), but most recently I’ve been exploring the connection between Waking Up and our consciousness. After watching CGP Grey’s fantastic video on teleportation (which, while geeking out over star trek, also delivers on some interesting food for thought) I wanted to look into the idea of the ‘self’ a little further. In essence, the argument goes, the only way for future teleportation to work is if we somehow copy all of our atoms, perfectly reproduce them somewhere else, but then delete the atoms in the original location. So is the teleported person still you? They would, of course, hold all the same memories, personality traits, experiences and so on. Regardless, it’s hard to shake the idea that your original body would have to die for the new one to exist, and then perhaps the new one is merely just a clone of you.

So, taking this idea further, if the clone at the other end isn’t you, then you start getting into ideas of ‘what is you’. If we define ourselves as a single stream of consciousness, which would be halted by this teleportation process, then likewise we have no way of knowing whether or not our consciousness dies each time we sleep, only to be replicated and replaced by an entirely new one. Sleep, after all, requires us to be unconscious. It’s impossible to know without attributing the ‘self’ as something that exists intangibly. Really it’s just something fun to think about, but it opens up a number of other questions that ought to be discussed.

When assuming the ‘self’ is something that exists beyond science, we enter the realms of spirituality. While not convinced myself, I’m certainly open to the idea. This idea of being ‘reborn’ or ‘awakened’ or even ‘enlightened’ has always interested me, though I’ve never investigated it much in the past. Haven’t really had any oppurnity to.

For my research, I decided to attend an open meditation session with the Bristol Buddhist Centre. I was very warmly welcomed as a newcomer, and explained a couple times that while I’d attempted meditation before, I never really had the patience to persist with it. We sat around a coffee table and had a short group talk, which soon ended up with our eyes closed, focussing on how our feet felt on the ground, and how it felt to be in that particular place at that particular time.

Before I knew it we were told to make our way to the other room, and without hesitation everyone got up to grab copious amounts of blankets, matts and pillows. Obviously I look a bit lost, and was selected a beginners recommended selection, which consisted of a mat, and five stacked pillows for me to sit on. Once everyone had constructed their pillow forts of maximum comfort, we were asked to pray to Buddha. This wasn’t something I was familiar with. Some did, some didn’t. I decided I would stand up and copy those that were, saying each mantra one after the other, because I felt I was there for the full experience. We sat for what I think must have been forty-five minutes, mostly in silence, occasionally pointed towards a certain thought we would replay in our heads for a piece of time.

It was quite alien for me, perhaps slightly surreal. Being sat, completed still and silent, in a room of twenty people doing exactly the same. Once the time was up (just enough time for people to get back from their lunch breaks), I certainly felt a wave of something over me – maybe calm, or refreshment. Most people grabbed their bags quite quickly and left. I stayed for a cup of tea and a chat about Waking Up, the Buddha, consciousness and so on. It was certainly interesting discussing things in this more abstract sense – something you don’t always get the opportunity to do.

It’s hard to gauge if everyone there was attempting to work their way up towards enlightenment, or feel closer to Buddha. Or maybe there’s something comforting in just sitting still for a while, maybe with a group of people, and being welcomed in. Before I left, one gentlemen got to talking with me about how much better he sleeps now since starting meditation in January. I’m sure there’s still something that’s not necessarily spiritual about the experience.

Everyone was eager to hear about my project – something I don’t always get the privilege of!

So I went home and finished of my animated typographic piece. I’m not sure why, but since going to the meditation session it all feels a bit too clinical now for the subject matter. Limited to just 30 seconds (which I liberally went over) and knowing I should probably leave the part out about Star Trek transporters, I found it very difficult to get across my ideas in this one. Adding some abstract sounds and music has given it that slight edge I was looking for. Oddly enough some sounds help illustrate some points better than when they were absent, but I feel like most of what’s trying to be said here would go over most people’s heads. It’s all a bit too fast and a bit too much.

Oh well, the animations are quite pretty.

Where’s Its Pair?

Over the past year or so I’ve been working with Jef Lippiatt over at Star Pupil Books to help illustrate a number of children’s stories. It’s been a real delight bringing these stories alive and I’ve contributed some of my best work over this time into the books will be available to purchase in the near future.

I’ve illustrated a handful of children’s books before, but it’s very exciting to announce that Star Pupil Books has published its first story ‘Where’s Its Pair’ featuring illustrations from yours truly – making me, for the first time, a published illustrator. It’s a fun little story that looks at the secret lives of those socks that go missing one day and never seem to return, resulting in you having a collection of unwelcome odd socks.



The story really lent itself to creating a cast of different socks and their personalities in various quirky situations. I really wanted to capture that sense of mischeif that I think is only natural to associate with unruly socks, but always to be clear to the reader that they’re only doing it because they’re adventerous at heart, and simply can’t help themselves.

Jef’s written a really charming story here, which is currently available at the US Amazon Kindle store, and is more than worth the $3 asking price (if I can say so myself). I’ve been informed the book will become available in other regions quite soon.

There’s a good few more books that are finished up and on the way, and we’re in the process of illustrating yet another short story right now. After all this work over the last year and a half it’s great to finally see it in the wide world, and I hope you’ll enjoy what Jef and I have in store in the coming months.

Buy 'Where's Its Pair?'


Always Autumn

It’s surreal to think it’s been three months. Summer is over, and as we encroach on the Autumn seasons, University will begin its course. Even more surreal is that I’ll be entering the third and final year of study, and very soon will be leaving the world of education, most likely for good. Such is life, and I’m as excited as I am daunted by the prospect.

But let’s not dwell so much on the future. I’ve had a very busy and productive summer working on a number of projects that I’m very proud of. Most prominantly, I’ve been working with the guys at Brain Crack Games working on an upcoming card/board game to be known as ‘Treasonable Doubt’. I’ve been tasked with completely setting the look for the game, which is set in a sort of mish-mash of Prohibition America, Film Noire and the Cuban Revolution. It’s been a great deal of fun working on the designs and tone of each piece, and it’s incredibly exciting to be developing a commercial game for the first time.

The Kickstarter will be launching soon, and I’ll be sharing more details and artwork here on the blog alongside that, but for now I thought I’d just share some of the concept artwork I created when starting the project back in mid-June. Created very quickly, these were just to get a real sense of shape and colour that each character would occupy – setting the silhouettes and personalities for the primary characters of the game. Although very rough, I think taking the time to create art like this as quickly as possible is very good practice. I’ve always had a softspot for pieces like this, both because they’re a blast to do but also because they’re much more wild and abstract than the final drawing tends to be. Some sketches here work better than others, that’s a given, but once you’re able to pick and choose, then you start getting an interesting and considered design.

SecretPolice_ConceptArt2 TheDictator_ConceptArt TheDictator_ConceptArt2 TheSmuggler_ConceptArt

Stay tuned for more ‘Treasonable Doubt’ in the coming days.


And with that, my second term and, thus, my second year has come to a close. I’ll take some time now to just reflect on the last four months as a whole.

I chose Image and Narrative because I feel it plays to my strengths. A lot of people were surprised that I didn’t go with motion, but I didn’t want to be pinned down to just creating motion pieces, and ultimately I believe it’s story-telling (which has become a fairly cringey term) that I enjoy most. While I still love making lo-fi publications, I never had much interest to go beyond that into making professional publications, and Type and Print feels as though it’s closer to a science than an art at times – at least within the graphic design sphere.

I couldn’t be happier having chosen Image and Narrative as my focus for the term. Again, it’s placed the focus on my work, not on the technical ability of it, but on the storytelling core. I’ve adored breaking down aspects of narrative, how to convey parts of the story, grip the reader or audience, and all the different ways this can be achieved. It’s also really allowed me to draw on my own inspirations, which tend not to be pieces of design, but often movies, music, video games, history and (exclusively down to my previous study of English Literature) writing. I’ve enjoyed exploring and applying tone, feeling and moods to my work than the work of other designers – it’s greatly widened just what my inspirations can be, and so I think my work is far more rooted in influences this term than it has been before.

I really enjoyed last term’s bombardment of small, weekly projects, because it meant you could commit and week to something and then forget about it. This term, being given an eight week project did feel a little bit like being thrown into ice-cold water, having only done smaller projects for nearly a year. That said, once I got into the rhythm, I found it extremely rewarding to contribute something toward a bigger picture each day, and as a result I’ve got something that I might not have pushed myself to complete otherwise.

I’m sure whenever I look back at last term, the eight week project will be the flagship brief. It’s been a long time since I’ve been given that amount of creative freedom, and while I might usually be overwhelmed by the number of possibilities, I think I’ve been itching to create something for myself for a long time. Sure, I had target audiences, but ultimately it was for myself, to prove to myself I could create the art, the animations, the story, the music and the coding all for one project. Every project you complete for yourself can be a milestone to your ability at your craft at that one point, because you can shape it entirely to your strengths and tastes – and that’s exactly what I chose to do. Whether or not the game is good doesn’t entirely matter (it never feels good to create something crap) because I thoroughly enjoyed my time creating it, and it’s been a huge confidence boost seeing what I accomplish if I’m given the time and the creative freedom. I feel I work better alone, it’s a cold thought but I’ve found it to be the case. Had this project been in groups, I feel like there would have been a large amount of time convening and planning, whereas I feel much more comfortable just getting on with something, knowing the only person I have to please is myself.

So I’m glad it was a solo project, but with that said it was great actually interacting with other people again when my group for the ‘Beyond Place’ project came together to do the final touches. I need that reality check from time to time, because while I know what direction I would take if I worked solo, when you begin to throw ideas around with other people you often get something much better, not true-to-self, but often better. I find group work tends to simply take longer, which seems contradictory, but when there’s pressure to balance the workload and appeal to everyone’s tastes, it can take time. ‘Bug Hotel’ was great fun, I just wish we all weren’t so busy toward the end with our solo projects so that we could commit just a little longer to properly realizing it. Maybe the two briefs’ time spans could be swapped, I’m not sure.

It’s been a surreal few months. My mind has been so set on finding stories that the real world is honestly beginning to feel less and less tangible. It’s difficult to describe, but I’m looking forward to taking a break and just grounding myself over the next few weeks.

This blog will be going on hold for about a month as it will be used to grade my work, but I’m hoping the habit of updating it almost daily won’t disappear – it’s a good habit to have (but it will most likely be gone).

Very finally, I created a short trailer for Crossing to the Cold Valley with the spare hours I had today. It’s quite difficult to make a trailer about a game that’s basically just walking to different places and talking to people, but I think it highlights the game’s world and tone quite well.

I’ve sent a copy to a few friends and had surprisingly positive feedback. One friend was frustrated that there wasn’t more, that there was so much of the world that wasn’t explained, and it made me smile because that’s exactly how I wanted my audience to feel. Unfortunately, my friend Sam wasn’t quite so impressed..

That was great man, beautiful art in the backgrounds. I like how the world seems to die as it goes along, with the gardener and the body at the top disappearing, it’s like it gets more bare bones, adds to the pretty depressing theme. The one thing I noticed was the area when you go down from the start, there’s a bush or something on the left which has the eye icon as if you can examine it, but there’s no text when you do. Pretty minor thing, but art is about perfection so 2/10 sry

Thanks, Sam.


Bug Hotel #4

As mentioned in my earlier posts on this project, in order to achieve the non-linear approach we wanted our audience to have with this ‘publication’, and to use the form of the original Bug Hotel we found in Weston Super Mare, we decided to use an system we the paper would be rolled into tubes, pulled out and read like a scroll, in any order.

Turns out paper when rolled is actually quite thick, and we struggled to fit our prints into red plastic tubes without damaging the paper. We sought out larger tubing, and picked up some green hose piping which gave a little bit more space for the paper, and while this time we were able to fit the paper in the tubes with no damage, it would be almost impossible to do so without requiring the reader to use a thin cylindrical object (like a pencil or pen) when they wish to piece it back together. That’s sort-of fine if the audience isn’t expected to put the paper back in, and it becomes a quasi one-time use experience.


So Bug Hotel works more as a concept piece currently. We’ve inserted black paper into the tubes to give a suggestion to how it would look ideally. However we will also be shuffling the pages and keeping them underneath the box, to give an impression that these insects have crawled into the box, and you’re unveiling them by lifting the construction. It’s also more reminiscent of Visual Edition’s ‘Composition No. 1’ by Marc Sapora, which takes the form of a ‘book in a box’, where pages are not binded together, and thus meant to be read in any order the reader see’s fit. It’s a very simple idea, that works very well in execution.


Finally, concern was brought up that there wasn’t enough for the audience to go on initially, and that certain hints needed to be dropped in so as to give a ‘nudge’. The sticks and tubes are obviously derived from the original bug hotel, but perhaps it wasn’t literal enough. So we picked up some wooden letters to label our little building, that way there’s no confusion regarding just what it’s meant to be. We even made the L a little bit wonky, so show that it might not be a five-star hotel. Finally, placing a small message on top ‘Look what’s crawled inside the Bug Hotel’ urges the reader to explore the box, lift it up and understand how it all works.



It’s a bit of a shame ultimately, I think we have some great art, a great concept, interesting origins, and the box is pretty neat too. But it’s not quite come together so flawlessly as I would have hoped, it’s maybe 95% percent there, which is pulling it down to a 50%. But I credit where credit is due, this is the first time I’ve really tried something a little bit outside the box in physical form – we wanted the publication to reflect the actual bug hotel, and I feel we’ve done that. We could have simply printed a book, but instead we got something that’s above and beyond, and just walking this thing around has attracted a great deal of attention. With a bit more time and money it could be something really very neat – as it stands I think we have something that looks fantastic, but might just be that little bit too confusing without explanation.