Archive For "Thoughts"

What Happened To The Summer?

Last week I was chosen to be the debut illustrator over at The Illustrated Singles Club – a new blog looking to find the visuals in new and upcoming music. The blog selects a new single and an illustrator and gives the illustrator freedom to interpret the song as they wish.

A week ago today I was given Tom Forest’s single ‘Summer’, which almost couldn’t have been more perfect a choice. The song is densely nostalgic – whimsical, but also completely sincere. Forest sings that, should he ever return to his days as a child, he will have ‘died and gone to heaven’. It’s poignant, while also being lifted by the rose-tinted childhood memories many of us can relate to. If there’s two themes I’ve ever loved exploring, it’s nostalgia and death.

I knew exactly what I wanted to draw by the end of the first chorus. The first few notes of the song immediately brought to mind a vast, baking desert with cracked earth – a single road running through. I soon knew I wanted that road to be lifting from the ground towards the sky, as it brings its travellers toward a ‘heaven’. The plodding bass at the beginning lent itself perfectly to a large, giant-like figure moving through this environment. Importantly, I wanted the sense of thick heat of the scene to lend it a feeling of hazy, drugged up magic – rather than something more apocalyptic.

Lastly is the queue of different characters climbing aboard the bus, mostly just everyday people, but toward the back some childlike fantasies and idols – maybe even human accomplishments – that eventually fade away much like we do.

With only a week to produce the piece, having smaller and less detailed features and characters worked in my favour. The piece was also a good excuse to get a firm understanding on Krita, an open source paint software I’m working towards transitioning to. I think it’s hugely important that artists feel as though they own the tools they use to create the work they do, and supporting open source where I can is an important part of that. There are still a few quirks I’m learning and things to iron out, and rendering feels a little slower than I’m used to (especially on Windows), but for every hurdle I’ve discovered something to keep me coming back, which is fantastic considering I haven’t paid a penny.

This was a brilliant project to get involved with, and a great excuse to produce something a bit more left of field than my illustration typically takes me. I hope I’ve done the blog proud.

I Scream For Ice Cream

Some character designs from about a month ago, submitted for Wildseed Studio’s ages 6-11 demographic. A set of characters that have been in my head for a good few years, the core concept being a Vampire that owns an ice cream stand, but due to his delicate skin complexion – can only open at night. A daft idea, enabled by the surge in popularity of absurdist cartoon shows – Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Regular Show. I wanted something a bit less cynical, a bit more funky.

I really feel as though my vector illustrations have hit their stride in only the last six months or so. I’ve begun to favour rich, contrasting colours that I might have normally avoided. You get some incredible tones when you begin playing around with how shadows and highlights are coloured. Perhaps more importantly is my approach to line drawing. It’s so important that when you draw a line that you mean it. So much life and foundation is formed when the lines that form the image have a real sense of confidence. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can erase a line instantly and redraw it again and again until it feels just right. Sometimes its hard to make that judgement. On reflection, there’s some parts here that I would go back and give another shot, but life is only so short. They stand well next to each other, and I would love to see them come to life.

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.


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.


Print Is(n’t) Dead

So yesterday’s blog was a little bit sour on print, so I figured now would be a good time to revisit a talk from Marcroy Smith I attended. A great deal of talks I attend usually result in just being information that you could probably find with a quick internet search, but Marcroy gave perhaps my favourite talk I’ve attended this term, despite specializing in print, because he shared his experiences, opinions and philosophies, as well as a few heartfelt tips.

After graduating from Brighton in 2008, Marcoy was shipped to New York and worked an unpaid internship at Urban Inks and Post Expose Studio. This was Marcroy’s interesting point, while we’re usually taught to never do any work for free ever out of respect for our own progression, Marcroy suggested that if the experience is a good enough opportunity, then it shouldn’t always be turned away.

Marcroy has since furthered his company People of Print, started the quarterly magazine ‘Print Isn’t Dead’, worked for Levis and Mastercard, and even had his work stolen by Crystal Castles. He attributed much of his early success to his work in New York that helped him expand his passion for screen printing, and launching him deeper into the industry.

It’s certainly reassuring, what with the sheer number of horror stories graphic designers are told about unpaid work robbing them of potential thousands in royalties – it’s good to know the dream of working free for the experience can sometimes be a success story.

In 2011 People of Print were in Berlin with Mother Drucker, and brought with them enough screen printing gear to fill a disused swimming pool, and used it to fill a disused swimming pool. My understanding is only two colours were used, Cyan and Magenta, which any designer will know produces a fantastic retro effect. Despite my favour towards digital media, screen printing can produce some incredibly great stuff, and can produce great looking prints onto a great deal of different materials very quickly, and I’m envious of those who can work the gear with such confidence.




What I love most about People of Print, however, is the store (Department Store). Marcroy explained that if you send him an email, and he thinks your work is cool, he’ll pretty much always put your stuff up on the store, providing a great platform for designers who work with print. While that isn’t typically me, there’s some really fun stuff up on there backed by a great philosophy when it comes to selling work -I always get an itch to purchase something when I visit.

And I think that really just goes to show, while I ranted about the sheer time it takes to use traditional printing media, the care and attention that has gone into something letter pressed or screen printed makes it feel that much more genuine to the touch, and encourages you to cherish it in a way that a digital print might not offer.

I decided as a little bonus I would print out a short publication that featured the background illustration from Crossing to the Cold valley, and it’s great to see how well some of the illustrations have transferred onto the printed page. Since I emulated a brush and canvas for a lot of my drawings, it only makes sense to see them as print. It’s a digital print, but I chose an almost watercolour paper to print on to give the publication some texture that helps the images sit on the page and, in a simlar vein, just suggests you handle it with slightly more care than had it been printed on standard A4. It’s a strange irony that I work digitally but deliberately make my work look analogue, but this goes to show that it can still translate between these two very different realms of working.