Saturday, 10 November 2018

Website and mock ups.

I have completed eighteen pieces of work to date with the nineteenth well on the way, and so I  am near to the final twenty I require for a comprehensive overview portfolio, for my upcoming website. With this in mind I have now begun to finalise my work one by one. I am doing this in two ways, the first is to put my work through digital editing software to enable the best viewing for the web. I use two packages, the first is Picasa I use this to crop and fine tune the individual pieces, to ensure utmost clarity, colour, and exposure, This is very minimal, but it is necessary, mainly to make up for the inadequacies of photography. I photograph my work myself after a few misfortunate episodes with a few photographers and the poor results they offered me. Now the daylight isn't as good as in the warmer months, it is more difficult to get it right. waiting for a sunny day in the UK in the winter lol. The second digital software I use is Gimp. I have found this an excellent package, in a lot of ways better than photoshop, and it certainly has the majority of functionality of photoshop. Again I use this software to fine tune the images, and in some cases I do use a tablet and pen to touch up areas that may require it. However, this is largely unnecessary. I am trying to produce beautiful artwork , I have worked hard on my technique with traditional media, to perfect the techniques to enable the right 'feel' I am trying to create. That of a warm depth, that only traditional media offers.however as soon as it is introduced to the digital format, things change, not only for the artwork, but also the way others may view it, with regards to differing computer screens and resolutions etc. And so because the process of trying to arrive at the correct visual dynamics as in reality a certain amount of adjustment is required to replace what is lost going from reality to digital and trying to achieve a solid grounding by which everyone will 'see' the work. I have experimented widely with digital methods, to achieve this and now I have a standard application I stick to. like I say, its minimal intervention but it is necessary. I have also begun to position my work within the  context that the work was intended for, namely I have begun to introduce text as mock ups . This serves the purpose of enabling the viewer to see the illustration as was intended, ie in a book/page layout. I believe this is good for two reasons, it shows the context of the work to the original story/text it was made to illustrate. And it further supplies the viewer with the reality of the story, and potentially bringing a more pronounced enjoyment of the illustration. It is also good for prospective agents,publishers, and commissioners to see the work in context. And so I have been adding text to each of my illustrations, I have also digitally drawn around the work to strengthen the white page, enabling a more pronounced professional bias. The process would in fact be used by the graphic designer, before going to print. amongst other manipulations, and so I am preempting this,  to a degree also.  Obviously there are a number of ways to add text to images within a book format, and so what I have achieved is an indication of what could be done and how the work would look within a text context. There are hundreds of fonts, sizes and layouts possible, I am just offering an alternative an indication. I have designed my illustrations variously to encompass all the relevant formats , for example I have produced some for Insets within a page or possibly a rap around text option., some for half pages and others for full pages, I am also aware of the potential bleed an image may have for a prospective publication and this would be a requirement from the commissioner.
                                                                 I am very pleased that my new website dedicated to children's book illustration  is near to completion,  by the end of November I should be in the position to finally publish it. I researched extensively to find a web designer that would offer the kind of website I was looking for, essentially a portfolio website, that also offered extensive SEO optimisation. I eventually came across a husband and wife partnership, who were also professionally qualified in Marketing. The website designers are : and the host is wordpress. My domain name is certified and will be I am now in the process of adding text and images to the website. I have  also designed and produced my Logo and avatar, below:
Below are a selection of the final images that have undergone the process as described above, I am a perfectionist and so I hope they are complete now , the first three are actually part of a book I am writing and illustrating in my spare time. Little Jack's big adventure.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

New work, photography and inspiration.

Here I am again with an update of my work and life as a children's book illustrator. I have been busy lately trying to get the best out of photography to show my work in its best light. Believe me I have tried countless times to achieve the best quality photos,  I have tried taking my own pictures outside and in, in different lighting conditions, at different times of the day etc. with both my mobile phone and a new camera , which at the point of purchase I was promised it was the best thing since sliced bread, (I know they would say that) anyway I thought I would give it a go. The results are better than my i phone, but only by a small margin. It doesn't over expose to the extent of the phone but lacks in other areas instead. Anyway, after lots of trial and error I finally decided to have my work photographed professionally to see if they could do any better.Now i told all the photographers concerned that i wanted the best they could do as the images were intended for not just my website, but eventually they would be used for sending out postcards etc to publishers /agents etc, i was expecting high results.  First I tried a local wedding photographer who swore they could capture anything extremely well. In short, they didn't, I was very disappointed. suffice it to say it ruined my work. and so, I left with the guys voice proclaiming 'well you will never get a true representation of reality with a camera' ringing in my ears. I tried again thinking it was just my bad luck, with another local photographer. Now I will say that they both had premises and 20 years experience, so I was expecting something half decent. The next lady this time was very sweet 'yes i will have them with you in 3 days, I was so looking forward , and...pow! unbelievable! again work ruined, believe me it was bad, terrible in fact. Now I'm not one for giving up, I thought I am going about this all wrong, I need to find a commercial photographer. I tried the Bark website. pretty handy for finding someone for your project.  I looked up commercial photographers and within a few hours I had a phone call from a photographer, based in Chester he was extremely professional and talked at length about the technicalities of achieving the best results, I was hooked, and after considering hard the hefty price tag/hike I thought this is it. He picked the work up and promised the images in a few days.This guys work was amazing he had 15 years experience, was a Getty photographer and specialised in commercial still life subjects for packaging/advertising etc. I was exited at the prospect of brilliant photography....A few days later he sent them via an email link, before he would return with my originals later in the day...Oh my god!! They were awful , absolutely terrible, what had I done to deserve this I thought 3 separate photographers all promising they could do a great job... all rubbish!, my own attempts were better, far better, with no specialist camera or lighting equipment. I was and still am perplexed , I did receive my work back and had a nice word with the photographer.He was adamant they were great , and even came in to where I live to view them on my computer along with my own attempts, he still didn't see it!He sent me his invoice, then there were a few email returns until he said that he would try again with the ones he had taken to make them good, I'm still waiting, and I am not at all convinced of any improvement. now oi know what your thinking 3 different photographers , your thinking it must be me, I must be wrong or I'm the one who is not looking at them right. believe me they were that bad I was going to put some of them here to illustrate but they are so bad that I thought it not the best idea. I am an artist/ illustrator, I create my own reality I stage the scene and design the set, I conduct all the lighting depth of field, tonality etc etc, I must have some insight into what is good and what is not good surely. One of the reasons I am not fond of wholly digital work is because apart from it all looking the same, it doesn't allow for finite nuances , I don't care what the moguls say. If photography is not what it is made out to be, and that in its revolution of art and how it has forced artists to partake in all things digital, then I am not convinced. I know everything eventually becomes a digital representation in the end, but if its not like reality and doesn't reflect reality in the truest sense then there is some injustice going on , how many images seen on line are not a true representation, it brings into question the validity of what we are given to view. Anyway that's my rant over. To be quite honest I thought it would be quite straight forward to photograph my work. My work in the flesh so to speak is a good distance away from the photographic reality I am achieving presently. The depth of tone and colour is far more pronounced, and the light is far more finite and underrepresented in the current photographs. Until I can find the best way to reproduce it to its best, all I can do is post what I have until hopefully I am ready to publish my website with the best photographic examples. If anyone has any advice please feel free to post in the comments below, I would be eternally grateful.

Someone asked me via social media recently who my influences are. I have many, indeed along the road of development and style change, my hero's of illustration altered, however, some of the main illustrators, i have admired have never changed they include Ralph Steadman, Ronald Searle, and Quentin Blake. As my style emerged, and knowledge grew, I found others that would inspire me and the direction my work would take, two in particular are Chris Riddell,(Uk) children's laureate and Jim Harris (American) both are expert draughtsman in the traditional sense, both work mainly with traditional media, both work within naturalistic, and anapromorphic paradigms, and to me are what true illustrators are, you wont find any wholly digital working illustrators in my hero list.  I have recently finished my seventeenth work of the twenty I am aiming to complete before I re launch my website. I had a plan to start with single figures and small groups then the latter ones would be more complex in design with a multitude of characters, and more akin to full or double page layout illustrations.The next three will continue to develop more complex designs. The first below, is a work inspired by my postman who said he  had been chased by a dog one day. I took this idea and as I wanted to make some monster pictures I decided to place a monster instead of a dog, that the postman was running away from:

Charlie the friendly monster meets the postman.

                                 Its raining cats and Frogs.(How many cats and frogs can you find)

The above image and the one below are designed to show that a image can be produced with an area left without any image for the text to be placed. The above work was inspired by those picture books that offer some kind of interaction from the children, in this case counting is advocated. as you can see with these two designs I have placed the characters centrally with differing frontal elevation perspectives.. Again this work is self initiated for my portfolio. The way I have produced the illustrations is to illustrate how my style can be manipulated, within a page. If the work was a real commission then there would be more finite requirements, that would need to be adhered to, such as working within a specific page size framework and allowing the correct bleed of the artwork to fit within the printing parameters. By the way If you would like to follow my progress as I go then My Instagram page is where I post work as I complete it, along with Work in progress drawings, and other drawings that I complete:

                                                    The price monster family visit the Zoo

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Children's illustration

I continue build my portfolio, twenty pieces of work for my website is my goal. I am reminded occasionally that my progress as an illustrator has been long and arduous. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, my development has covered many styles and as any artist will contest, there have been many howlers, experimentation is important in finding your niche and your style. There was a time when I became infatuated with new technology and dismissed  traditional working methods. However over time I realised that I was never happy with the feel of the medium. (tablet and pen) not least the long hours staring at a screen, to me  the craft was lost. drawing felt mechanical, touch and feel where compromised, in the end it made me unhappy and subsequently, the howlers were many. The ideas generated at this time where useful though and so I have been utilising some of them to create new work in my new style and approach. I have revisited a side project i started a few years ago now and I will keep plugging away at it, as a sideline to my main work. below are 2 examples from little jacks big adventure I have re imagined to encompass my new style.

                      Little Jack discusses his plans for his new adventure with his parents.

                                                         Little Jack meets the Bullies

My current work involves a lot of drawing from my imagination, I don't know exactly, what potential clients within the children's book industry would be looking for, but I have an idea of the things I can include in my portfolio that may inspire. There may be  moments from my own history as a young boy I can utilise. Also there is the standard, almost cliche narratives that are universal. I try to place my focus on imagery that a young child may enjoy. There is universal coding that can explain certain narratives that can enable the translation of imagery to young viewers. Namely, infantilization, large eyes, and exaggerated features can add to the humour content, as can the use of exaggerated colouration ( strong unnatural primary colours). Everything is parred down to a simplified naive aesthetic. I intend to have a separate category on my website just for drawings. This will show my process, and my skills in completing initial sketches for character design and initial layouts. for a brief, it will also show work in monochrome, that may be used for small insets within a story. I would like to have an equal amount of these as my main work, Below are a few  recent examples :

 The generation of ideas for final artwork sometimes comes from the initial drawings. I begin a drawing by seeing the final concept in my minds eye, I may lightly place the individual characters where I want them on the pictorial plane, usually just a tiny  indication, I then usually work from top to bottom, defining details as I progress. I realise the drawing process may be of interest for some and so I have plans to produce a video of me drawing from blank piece of paper  to finished drawing. (and upload to you tube) 

The above drawing was the initial layout for a new piece of work inspired by the recent change of seasons, entitled Its Windy! this concept enabled me to include all the seasons as ideas for future work. Below is the final artwork taken from the drawing.:

Its Windy!

I have tried a different approach with this work, leaving the characters free from any unnecessary background detail. I like this approach and will produce more work in this manner. In line with universal imagery that I wanted to include in my portfolio I have produced a work where all the different generations of a family  are present within one image, first I present initial drawing followed by the completed artwork: 

The miles family visited the countryside to look for a new family home to purchase. They enjoyed their walk in the countryside, and had found a lovely road with houses for sale. They liked very much one of the houses in the street, and where heading towards it, but Fred the family dog had his eye on another beautiful home.

After much deliberation I decided not to take up my position at university to study for yet another MA  this month. The reasons are many but the financial concerns are the main reason. I think I would of enjoyed the experience and meeting like minded people, however I do believe one MA is enough to validate my seriousness and professionalism within illustration. I also believe I have the imagination and ability to accomplish my goals within the children's book Illustration industry. I have around 14 pieces of coloured work and around 8-10 drawings. now and so I have 6 more full artworks to complete and another 10 drawings before I organise and publish my website. Although I am happier than I was with my new camera purchase results, it is still hit and miss, and so I am considering employing a professional photographer nearer the time to make sure I am representing myself and my work professionally. The camera just doesn't achieve true colours or the depth and detail in my work.  It also tends to over expose. My future goals involve sending out postcards to publishers, and so it is important my work is print ready and the best it can possibly be.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

New work old style.

As an illustrator I am constantly searching for new ideas. This is especially true at this particular time as I build my portfolio. Not all of the work I present here on the blog will make it to my final website portfolio as some pieces I am not entirely happy with. The work may require extra tweaking, a process I dislike doing  because I have high standards and to me an illustration should be right the first time, not withstanding the practical problems of working on an actual brief where tight deadlines may be present, this would not be a good time to adjust things generally. besides I don't know where my inspiration will take me, how good the ideas will be and if the final artwork is up scratch.When searching for ideas, I have a number of methods to inspire inspiration. Namely, I either produce quick arbitrary sketches and develop them further if the idea is sufficiently worthy. The majority of the time I have an idea in my minds eye and draw it as a concept/layout drawing for the final artwork. Recently, I was looking through some of my old digital illustrations, and realised that although I dislike them tremendously, mainly because 1 they are full of problem areas, that have become more apparent after another look, but also because I don't intend to produce completely digital work any longer, also  I don't posses  the technology  any more anyway. The work I present today is based upon some of these older works, I realised that some of the original ideas/designs where sufficiently acceptable and that because I needed to produce a consistent style/body of work for my portfolio, and rather than waste decent designs, I decided to re use the concepts, and some of the elements to make new work, and I refined and simplified them further to fit within the children's book aesthetic. oh and I have saved my pennies and purchased a decent camera that I am really pleased with, its a cannon powershot SX720 HS, and so my work should look better represented now, anyway I have photographed what i've got again, and re uploaded them .

Little Jack meets the good witch Inca who had been jailed by the evil king.

Timmy is nearly swallowed by the Loo monster! dad comes to the rescue

Concept drawing for Harry, his grandad, and the clever rats

The above  drawing was produced from an amalgamation of two old works and combined further with extra elements. At this stage, as with all my work, I generally 'see' in my minds eye the final colouration, I build up layers  slowly, laying in washes of watercolour, on top of each other becoming progressively darker and opaque in tone. if a colour doesn't work for the final design balance, I have the opportunity to change it at the watercolour stage. Building further with various coloured pencils,graphite and acrylic. I am trying a few other ways to give the proposed text room on the page, and so as you can see I am cropping more of the design/ composition so that the  illustrations are more in line with an inset rather than a full page artwork.

                          The finished artwork for Harry, his grandad, and the clever rats


                                 Concept Drawing for sticks and stones may break my bones

above is another earlier drawing I produced for a possible finished artwork that I have cropped/fazed out at the top corner. Before I commenced on the children's book illustration specialism, I, not unlike every other artist/illustrator went through a great deal of other drawing styles before settling upon my current work with a naive aesthetic designed for children's literature. I guess its part development,  part practise, and part experimentation, although  I tried very hard in the past to 'find myself' and my style. eventually after much time effort and experimentation I arrived at the conclusion that my style was really how I naturally drew. and no matter what style of drawing I tried to accomplish I always ended up at work that was ultimately mine.below is a very small selection of previous work in various styles and media from my drawing history. Not unlike any artist I started my journey when I was old enough to hold a pencil, as a boy I constantly drew and my mum would often complain that I did it too much and should be out playing with my peers.