Tuesday 18 December 2012

More Brave New World Progress

I have finished my second illustration for Brave New World but it's probably best not to release the completed artwork until after the competition. However to appease everybody's curiosity, below is a photo of the second illustration in progress which I took last week.

The next image is my tonal study for the final interior illustration. If you have read the book you'll know what is going on here, if you don't know - read the book!

It's time to start painting...

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Spectrum 19...

And I'm in it!!!! It's such an honour to be featured in a book alongside artists like Sam Weber, Michael Whelan, Jean Baptiste Monge, James Gurney and Dan Dos Santos, I could keep going. I have a strange mixture of emotions right now but the overriding one has to be excitement.

I picked up my copy of 'the best in contemporary fantastic art' annual from the post office yesterday after I missed the initial delivery - sorry Mr & Mrs Fenner, I really do want the book.

Can you spot 'Jacques' Rest'? It's on page 264 if you happen to have a copy yourself.

Monday 10 December 2012

HOW Magazine Cover

Out of the blue I received an email from the Art Director at HOW design after she had seen one of my blueprint illustrations on 'Pinterest.' Thank goodness for social media or else I might never have got the commission to do the next cover. Below you can see the fruits of my labour, however this time I'm not going to tell you how I turn a drawing into a blueprint because it's a trade secret!

Tuesday 4 December 2012


Here are a couple of photos just to show you what's on my drawing board at the moment.

The above image is the finished watercolour for my first entry into the Folio Society competition (see previous post)

In the last half an hour I have just prepared the paper for another Brave New World illustration. I'm experimenting with toned paper for this one, achieved with a crimson acrylic wash.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Tonal Study For Brave New World

I used to do tonal studies in charcoal but recently I've been experimenting in photoshop to get the same results, sometimes better.

First off I work up a detailed rough in pencil as normal and then scan it in. Once I have the image in Photoshop I turn up the levels and ghost the pencil layer. Ghost is a filter effect I found on flaming pear and it has been so useful over the years that I don't know how I managed without it. The Ghost filter means I can paint underneath the pencil image as if it is on a piece of tracing paper. This makes it incredibly easy to fill the image with a mid grey and then add highlights and shadows just like a charcoal drawing on toned paper and as an extra bonus the original line-work is always available on a separate layer.

The end result is so useful when it comes to keeping control of values on the final painting. However I can't take all the credit because I got the idea for this process after viewing this post by Dan Dos Santos.

Monday 19 November 2012

The Alchemist

 The Alchemist
Watercolour & Gouache
31 x 24cm

Completed this morning, and I'm reasonably happy with the final product, especially the lighting. To help me along I created a very simple set with elaborate lighting (a lamp minus the shade) in my living room, put the camera on a timer, threw a blanket over my shoulders and posed inside ten seconds. Going the extra mile for reference can make a huge difference and save time in the long run because you can be confident throughout the painting process.

Friday 16 November 2012

The Alchemist (Progress)

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four
I plan to finish this on Monday. Wish me luck!

Friday 9 November 2012

Brave New World Roughs

The Folio Society is running a competition to illustrate 'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley. Click here for more details.

Above you can see the roughs, drawn without reference, for the three scenes I have chosen to illustrate. Previously I had worked up a number of thumbnails before selecting which composition I would like to take forward. Now I have to take photo reference based on these roughs and then develop detailed roughs for each.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

RWS Call For Entries 2013

The deadline for this year's RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition is the 9th January. Click here for more details

I hope to enter again this year. I have a large painting in the works at this very moment. You can see my rough sketch below.

I'd say it's about time I did a watercolour of Whitby. The tall ship is the Endeavour replica being tugged from the harbour which will probably be the first of a few fanciful additions to the scene.

I shall post more as I progress.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Autumn Scribe Part. 2

Below you can see more progress photos of 'Autumn Scribe'. As I gradually worked up the local colours I began to give everything more form by working out the light sources and cast shadows.

The lighting is surprisingly complicated in this painting. There is a cool natural back-light, warm candlelight that creates interesting shadows that is not very far reaching and a weak warm light source on the front so that you can see the details in the main character. The last light source probably wouldn't exist in real life but this is fantasy... so there!  

Autumn Scribe 
31 x 23cm 

Above is the final painting finished in watercolour with slight highlights in gouache. Below you can see the items that are meaningful to Suzanne I mentioned in my previous post. It was a lot of fun putting these in and it all adds to the narrative of the image.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Autumn Scribe Part.1

As part of my wedding present to Suzanne I wanted to paint her a watercolour based on a similar theme to 'Jacques' Rest'. It didn't take long for me to come up with the main character so I began to work on some thumbnail sketches, I was hoping to post those too but I have mislaid them. In the end I did about six and then developed my favourite, adding another Owl in the background. 

Now that I had a rough composition I could stretch some watercolour paper and draw up a detailed version. I worked with a HB pencil as I knew the painting would be dark covering up pencil marks.

As I drew away the thought came to me to add objects to the setting that are meaningful to Suzanne so I secretly 'borrowed' a few things from around the house to copy them into the final drawing. All the time I was keeping the painting a secret, making sure I covered it with paper at the end of the day and not answering questions regarding the missing items.

The two photos above show the gradual painting process. When I do something as complex as this I tend to outline most things in sepia watercolour before adding local colour and washes. This helps to maintain the detail and add character to edges, such as the frayed corners of old books and gnarled tree bark. 

In my next post I'll show you the completed artwork and details of the 'secret objects'.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Test Illustration Part 2

To follow on from my previous post about my test illustration for the Folio Society, below you can see my first attempt at the finished colour version, executed in watercolour.

All the criteria was met with the above illustration but I felt it wasn't good enough. The sea wasn't particularly well painted and the Merman was flat along with the submerged sharks. I was trying to pull back on detail so I put this failure down to my lack of skill working loosely with watercolour.

After some time of pondering my finished illustration I decided to do another version that was more in my comfort zone. I deliberately concentrated on the shape and form of the Merman and sharks which led to my decision to simplify the sky. I also stylised the sea so that underwater details were easy to see and hopefully didn't complicate the image.

I was much happier with my second version and so was the Folio Society but in the end I still didn't get the seal of approval. Being an illustrator you get used to rejection, it may be depressing on the day you hear but by the next day you have to move on and learn from your mistakes and above all improve.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Test Illustration

Last month I worked on a test illustration for the Folio Society. Although my test wasn't successful and the job was given to a different illustrator afterwards, I would still like to show you what I did.

Without giving too much away I was asked to illustrate a scene in colour taken from a short fairytale which was provided by the Folio Society. The scene I picked was full of characters and very complicated. What can I say, I was probably trying to show off! Below you can see my detailed rough.

There were are at least another three different versions of this composition drawn before I reached the one above. I was struggling to fit all the relevant information in to what would be a small illustration so not surprisingly the art director suggested an alternative scene. Maybe in the future I'll paint this one for my own amusement, I actually think the colour will save it.

Above is the much simpler scene I decided to tackle instead. The main figure (Merman) is prominent and the direction of the narrative is obviously between him and the maiden in the tower. We both agreed to go ahead and paint this idea instead.

Stay tuned for the colour version(s)...

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Instructional Videos on Proko.com

I have just recently signed up to proko.com which for me has been a bit of a revelation. The website and videos are made by Stan Prokopenko, an artist and teacher. Proko is a resource for artists to get good art instruction videos, so far Stan has uploaded a selection all about how to draw the head and each important feature. The above video concentrates on the nose and it's structure, it might sound a bit dull but believe me they are very entertaining.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Sky Future Portraits

Above you can see a DPS illustration I have done recently for Management Today Magazine. I believe all of the figures are involved with Sky (the satellite broadcasting company not that blue thing over your head) and are in discussion about the company's future.

The style requested was a simple watercolour portrait with pen and ink for the bodies and surrounding objects. You can see a previous set of illustrations using the same style here.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Stop... Experimentation Time Part 2

In a previous post I showed you a drawing of Sir Chris Hoy which I was hoping to develop into, what is for me, a different style of portrait illustration. I have now completed that little project so let me take you through it.
Above you can see my grey acrylic under-painting. Why grey? Well I've been struggling to create an even overall skin tone in watercolour so I decided that I should try an acrylic wash underneath to unify all the transparent colours glazed on top.

Watercolour is notoriously difficult when it comes to skin because it's too transparent, oils work well because they offer an opaque sheen. Above you can see the results of glazing with watercolour just before I moved into photoshop to tweak everything and add background detail.

Above is the final image, you can see I have adjusted the levels on Chris and added a London 2012 Olympic gold medal. I have also contended with the slight speckle in the background colour by reducing it's contrast. Hopefully all of these changes reinforce my overall value concept of middle tone/lightest/darkest. Below you can see a progression.
In conclusion (sorry if this sounds like an essay) I very happy with the results, especially in the subtle skin tones. Without a doubt I shall be using this technique more often. I also have a mind to add gouache in the hope of becoming more realistic. Some aspects that I was disappointed were the accuracy of the portrait and the slight speckle still prevalent in my watercolours. The speckle could be solved by changing paper or concentrating more on acrylics, as for the drawing its just more practice I need.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Shortlisted In Artist Of The Year

My painting 'Cracked Matador has been shortlisted in the 'Other' category of the Artist Of The Year 2012 run by Artists & illustrator Magazine in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum.

All of the 50 shortlisted entries are on the Artists & Illustrators website here, If you would like to vote for my painting please click here, I would be extremely grateful.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Need Some Autumnal Inspiration?

 'The West Wind' by Winslow Homer

Irene Gallo at Tor.com has posted 'Picturing Autumn, An Equinox Celebration' which features close to 100 images that represent the new season by artists from the past and present.

It's quite a collection and well worth a look, however be warned you might just find time slipping through your fingers.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Bath Prize 2012 Review

The Bath Prize exhibition opened it's doors this Saturday and has proven to be very popular with the public. It certainly helps that this year's exhibition took place in a previously empty shop unit in 34 Stall Street, one of Bath's busiest high streets.

For those who don't know, the competition is in it's fourth year. Any artist can enter so long as they are willing to have the city of Bath as their subject. During the entry process each artist is given a certain location in the city that has to feature in their first piece of artwork, this means the views on show in the final exhibition may all be of Bath but the views are incredibly varied.

Artists Reception at The Bath Prize Centre, Stall Street

 That's my painting of Lansdown Road in the window!

The overall prizewinner this year was Matthew Phinn for his oil painting of Walcot Street. Matthew is a watercolourist who has just recently decided to move into oil painting. I particularly like his piece for his obvious watercolour sensibilities appearing in how he was suggested the wet tarmac, somehow his has managed to make the oil paint literally drip and spread down the canvas just like the watercolour wet-in-wet technique.

Other winners were Ben Hughes for his painting of 'The Royal Crescent' in the Royal Crescent Prize and 'Laura Place' which won the Plein Air Prize alongside Valeri Pirlot for 'Sun Between The Clouds' and Peter Nance for 'Morning Street Cleaner'. John Mulvaney won the Pulteney Bridge Prize for his colourful painting of guess what, Alison Hehir won the Jane Austen Centre Prize for 'Ghosts Of Gay Street', I won the Minerva Prize with 'Little Owl Under North Parade Bridge', Andrew Taylor received the Guildhall Market Prize for 'Time Out With The Queen' and Jane Riley won the Farrow & Ball Prize for 'A Fly In The Pump Room'.

The overall standard this year is very good, especially when you consider quite a few of the entrants are amateur artists. My personal favourite is 'The Antiques Shop' by Ian Cryer ROI. From what I can gather Ian works from life which makes this particular painting even more impressive. The shelves are stacked high with all sorts of antiques, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to simplify all that detail into a loosely painted but brilliantly solid image.

Unfortunately I can't publish photographs of the artwork which gives you even more reason to pop into the gallery and see the paintings for yourself. The exhibition shall be there until the 29th September after which some of the highlights will be on show in the Bath Gallery on Bridge Street.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Stop... Experimentation Time!

Very recently I completed a small illustration for a finance magazine. The deadline was so tight that I decided to paint the background and foreground separately so I could speed up the painting process and adjust the final image in Photoshop much easier. The final result I shall post when it is published.

However for now I want to see what I can do with the process if I have more time, partly because it will be an extra option available to me during commissions but also because it should be fun. Another technique I have been dabbling with but not extrapolated is creating a grey acrylic underpainting and then glazing with subtle watercolour to give a desaturated feel.

Above you can see the final pencil work and a thumbnail next to it suggesting a possible background. Hopefully you can recognise Sir Chris Hoy the astounding Olympic cyclist. I plan to paint his portrait as realistic as possible and block in a very simple grey background with a white circle in the middle. I shall then draw out the Olympic medals on a separate piece, colour them in Photoshop and then create various backgrounds to sit in behind the portrait.

More to come.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Have Some Fun!

It's important to have some fun with your work every now and then. I should try to follow that mantra more frequently but deadlines get in the way of sketching for fun.

HOWEVER... I took the day off yesterday and did a bit of plein air watercolour painting by a bridge in the Bowood estate at the back of my house. Perhaps painting is not the right word, more sketching with a brush in the hope that the more colour I add it will look better. Maybe I didn't succeed but it was still fun and very relaxing.

Alternatively if you want the end product to be good without having to think about it you can always copy something, I think they call it Fan Art.
As part of my rough sketches stage for my recent painting of North Parade Bridge I had to come up with a creature design for my hidden Greek Goblins. I thought to myself I need to get my monster juices flowing so after dismissing the usual options (get bitten by a super spider, expose myself to extreme super power inducing radiation and declining a drink from Dr Jekyll) I decided to do a smaller copy of a Paul Bonner creation. Needless to say copying got me in the mood for producing an original design which I was rather pleased with.

Friday 14 September 2012

Bath Prize 2012 Painting Finished

I finally finished my painting of North Parade Bridge yesterday after blocking in the trees and adding a camouflaged Kobalos (Greek Goblin) of which I have shown in a detail below.

Little Owl Under North Parade Bridge

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Bath Prize 2012 'WIP' Part 3

It's starting to come together now with my painting of North Parade Bridge, everything that I've posted so far is now close to being finished which has enabled me to make a start on the overhanging leaves.
You can see I've laid some tracing paper over the sky so I can sketch the basic outline of where the leaves and the odd branch are going. I shall then transfer the outline and draw with a brush instead to avoid obvious pencil lines.

In other news, mixed media artist Carmen B Norris has posted photographs of the Swindon Open Studios event from last weekend - click here to view them. Don't forget the Open Studios shall be on this weekend too so if you're nearby please drop in.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Bath Prize 2012 'WIP' Part 2

I've been gradually scratching away with a paintbrush this week. Below you can see how the painting has been progressing.

Don't forget you can come and see the painting in person and the artist attached to it this Sunday at the Swindon Open Studios in the Reference Library (rear of Central Library).

Monday 3 September 2012

Bath Prize 2012 'WIP'

I've just started laying in some colour for my Bath Prize entry. As you can see the sky is very clear which hopefully will provide a nice back drop to the over hanging branches I hope to add once everything else is painted.

In my previous post regarding this piece I eluded to a certain creatures appearing in the composition. I have decided to add references to the Goddess Minerva as a golden head which once made up a large Roman statue of Minerva was uncovered in the Roman Baths of the city in 1727. The head is magnificent and I hope to produce more art to do with the artifact.

The references I have included are a small owl also known as Athena Noctua (Athena was the Greek goddess who eventually became known as Minerva in Ancient Rome). The Owl represents wisdom and as you can see the owl is very wise to not hang around as Kobalos (Greek Goblins) are eyeing it hungrily.

On a slightly different note I shall be taking part in the Swindon Open Studios this Sunday 9th and 16th in the Swindon town centre Library 11am-3pm. Click here for more information.