Archive For "Art + Design"

Kingdom Ka #2 – Establishing Tone

Writing music for my pieces is my guilty pleasure. That is, I spend longer on it than I probably ought to, and deep down I know it’s still probably procrastination at times, even when it’s still technically work. But I’ve learnt that music is also a very powerful tool in discovering the tone of a piece. As such it’s been very valuable creating music this early on, as music tends to more abstractly convey a sense of emotion and mood compared to a written narrative. Music has always been a great source of inspiration, and I’m sure that’s a universal truth. It plants moments and characters and thoughts in your head that simply theorycrafting couldn’t. Music gets inside your gut. And while it’s probably typical to have music composed for a piece towards the end of its development, I’ve found it might just be best to get working on it as soon as possible. Okay, sure, certain moments will need very specific music – you can’t just compose a few tracks and glue them onto every situation – but once you have those first few refrains down to begin with, I think it’s really helpful as a guide for the visuals and story.

Kingdom Ka already has a wider soundtrack than Cold Valley (if it’s appropriate to compare), and I’m kean to take it even further. I’ve been working with a trained cellist to help record some of my compositions to help really give them that sound of authenticity. I’m so happy with some of the results, and believe these pieces to be some of my best work. As it stands, I’ve built a very traditional soundtrack, with mostly strings and piano (inspired mostly by Thomas Newman, Yann Tiersen and Mark Hollis), but since Kingdom Ka will feature more abstract imagery, I’m hoping to create some more glitchy and unplaceable tracks as I move forward, incorporating electronic and modern sounds. I’ll also be looking to create some more ambient tracks, the kind that sit behind and aren’t designed to be noticed, but help keep the mood rolling. Anyway, feel free to listen to what I currently have available on SoundCloud:

In push for presenting my ideas at a sort of mini-exhibition my tutor group held, I spent last week building the first part of the game that would introduce the player to the setting and the world. It was well recieved, which was a relief because as it stands it throws the user the deep end with very little explanation. And that would be its main criticism, which is fair at this point, and I’m working on ways to make it less obtuse while holding onto its ‘mystery’. Still, it was selected as the piece that felt the ‘most finished’ (which we agreed was slightly ironic as it’s about a tenth of the entire thing!), but no one could really give a definitive reason why they felt that way. What was certainly highlighted as a strength was the visual style. And I think the direction I’m taking is one of the most interesting I’ve attempting yet. Combining black and white pattern work with faded colours of real world photography has been really successful so far, especially when combining live action footage into the mix. I feel like I’ve only skimmed the surface of what I might be able to do with the art style, but so far it’s worked best when the collage chosen is unusual, but not entirely out of place. The beauty of it is when the characters move around it like it’s entirely normal, and when the photography starts to feel like a relic or memento of our own world and culture.

Kingdom Ka #1 – New Beginnings

It’s been a while! And in that while the holidays and the new year have already flown by, and we found ourselves in the last part of Winter. I’ve no doubts that this year will represent a permanent shift. Certainly no part of my time in education has flown by as fast as the last three years. As things conclude in the Summer, I’ll be turning my efforts towards entirely personal projects that I’ve been excited to start work on for a number of years, as well as my freelance work.

But, as they say, summer is so close but also so far. Before then I’ll be completing my single largest body of work to conclude my time at University. It’s daunting and exciting. A few weeks have already passed me by, but I feel confident I’ve been productive. With nothing but my project on ‘Awakenings’ to complete now, it’s very theraputic to return to a fresh mindset, not dissimilar to where I found myself last year with Crossing to the Cold Valley.

I’ll be returning to Visionnaire to build another interactive designed piece. ‘Game’? Maybe. But I’ve been hesitant to describe my idea as a ‘game’ when there really isn’t anything to play. Following my investigation into Buddhism and Awakenings, I will be creating a piece where you are invited to explore a digital, fictional, ‘spiritual kingdom’ that will be mapped and made. Every corner will feature a new story, concept, conversation or imagery to consider. It will be experimental, but I’ll be working hard to not let that turn people away.

Kingdom Ka at its core is designed to be something to bring to light many ideas and states of mind to the user – parituclarly that of focusing on their own body, their selves, and their finite life. That said, there’s nothing I want less than the piece to be labelled as New Age, or (on the other end of the spectrum) cynical.

Death and rebirth will be keen topics, but explored in ways that feel contemporary and tangible. That’s the biggest challenge – making the piece feel relevant today. Because so much of life and death within religions is not, in itself, religious, but is still ignored or been made taboo. I think above everything, the piece will be a celebration of the cycle of life, and the importance of ‘living in the now’.

I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks both collating stories, writing music and defining an art style. My current direction seeks to combine traditional patterns, as well as modern objects, photography, typography and sounds. I always want it to feel like something that’s aged and old that’s been strangely taken over by things that seem alien, but contemporary to us – because that’s ultimately what this will be, taking old ideas and bringing them to light in the present day.

And it’s been a lot of fun, playing with pattern work and collage, rather than my typical illustrative style, to build the world’s and characters. I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks, but heres a quick glimpse into my efforts so far.

Crafting Kingdoms


It’s Monday.

Continuing on from my project of ‘awakenings’ I’ve played around with a number of visual ideas and methods to get my message across. It’s not proved easy—the message of ‘wake up’ is pretty vague and maybe even a little condescending. ‘Wake up’ is the sort of thing your mother tells you to do before going to school.

While my project isn’t specifically focused on major Asian religions, it’s certainly settled somewhere in that field. At least for now. It’s a subject that would be almost impossible to entirely wrap my head around in the time I have. The sheer number of ideas and books and people is as exciting to read into as it is easy to forget due to the language barrier. ‘Manjuśrīkīrti’ has proven to be an important figure, for instance, but I can barely say it, let alone remember it.

It makes sense then not to pretend to be the expert. I want it to be clear from the start that none of my work is attempting to be authentic, only inspired. Combining my ideas with ideas formed through hundreds of years of culture. I’m always going to be straddling a dangerous line of pretence.

Still, while looking into the various aspects of these religions, one concept that particularly grabbed me is the idea of ‘realms’ or ‘kingdoms’. ‘Shambhala’, despite losing a lot of its meaning through Westernisation, is originally a mythical kingdom that is believed to have existed as a concept long before both Hinduism and Buddhism. Another realm, ‘Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring’ is a place where happiness is a tangible substance and the entire place is made from it. What I think makes these ‘Kingdoms’ particularly interesting is how they can be tools to teach and to guide. I’ve put it to myself, then, that I could design a similar ‘Kingdom’ that leads its audience to think differently about the world.

That’s a tall order, but it’s early days still. There’s a lot of fun to be had here.

Over the weekend I decided to experiment with artwork inspired by Buddhist Sand Paintings as well as Thangkas—large Buddhist paintings on cotton or silk. These are often built as patterns, and since I’ve never really explored creating patterns before, I felt it could be an interesting challenge.

Krita is an open source bit of software that I’m falling in love with more everyday, and its Mirror Tool makes creating patterns with ease. By creating a mirror line directly down the horizontal and vertical centre, I only have to draw a single corner and then see it repeated in the other three.

I kept referring back to other pattern work from East Asia to guide me when I was stuck, while also making a few creative decisions of my own to give it my own flavour. I knew it wanted it to feel more hand-drawn than traditional, and with just a hint of punk to give it that Western edge.

Once I’d drafted everything, it was easy enough to vectorize in Flash and have repeated three times to make up the image.

Next, I had it in my head that I wanted the image to appear as though it’s drawing itself, like a ‘Kingdom’ rising from the dust, or something romantic like that. We all know destroying is easier than building, so I worked backwards. Frame by frame, I erased more and more of the image until there was nothing left. This was fairly arduous work, taking the better part of a day to complete, and some 730 frames. Still, once reverse it gives it a really gorgeous effect that I couldn’t be happier with.

I created a short bit of music that I thought was both mysterious, melancholic, with hints of Eastern and Western history. Put together and I’ve got something that I think would work very well as an introduction to my ‘Kingdom’, whatever form that might take.

It lacks substance, or a message, or a direction at the moment. What I think I was really able to capture was a certain meditative tone. Where this takes me next, I have no idea.

We Have But Little Dust In Our Eyes


As the expanded outcome for my personal project experimentation, I created a 36 page publication designed to reflect the things I learnt during my short time at the Bristol Buddhist Centre. I wanted to create something where all the artwork was one thickness and as simple as possible, deliberately missing out certain details for effect. This was done in part to reflect Chinese markings and artwork, but also to appear almost like the drawing of a child, or at least someone naive seeking to learn something new.

The story follows a character who feels unsettled with his current way of life and goes on a journey of self-discovery, making a number of realizations along the way. The writing is designed to be both abstract but also very simple to understand. The writing was also set out to help lend itself to a number of different visuals and illustrations on the page, which allowed me to take a lot of creative liberties when piecing everything together.

The final piece was printed as B6 on 90gsm parchment paper, which gives it more weight and texture and feels really great to pick up and flick through. The rough surface of the paper also smudged and misprinted some of printer ink and allowed it to appear almost hand painted.

Response to this piece was really positive, despite being made in a very limited time frame. I’d love to print a small edition of these publications, but for now only the one exists. As I move forward with my project I’ll be taking my approach and designing choices from this publication to create something more interactive and digital. Exactly what, I’m not about yet.

The full story can be downloaded as a PDF for free.


Download PDF

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?'