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.

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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.

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

Fin.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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