Monday, 25 May 2020

My style

Ok, I have been approached a number of times asking me about my style and how I achieve what is present in my portfolio on my website, so, here goes. I recently set up a character design tab on my site to show potential commissioners the raw beginning state of a potential illustration, and the possibilities that my style could be utilised to achieve anything that you may desire. I can draw anything, anything at all, drawing in the traditional sense of pencil on paper is the basis of my style. 
I don't have any limitations as to the breadth of nuanced style. I can draw in a cartoon style, with minimal line and exaggerated forms, or conversely, I can draw in a more naturalistic style encompassing more realistic elements. Some may say then, that is different styles, but I concur, It is my style singular, because whether I draw in a cartoon manner or a realist manner, or anything in between, it is still fundamentally from me and my interpretation of reality. If it comes from my hand its my style, there are nuanced attributes, for example, the way I draw ears or noses, over time drawing these things I have built my own vocabulary, my own way of seeing and interpreting to the best (as I see it) advantage. 

Once I have completed the initial drawing, which is usually sent to the client for approval. I then begin the next process. I use watercolour to block in the image with colour, this usually takes two to three layers. I then go over again with coloured pencils, I may also apply some more watercolour to build up depth. When the image is at a point where I feel that it is complete, I then scan the image into my computer and finish off utilising Gimp and photoshop software. It all depends upon the desired end product really, the more refined something is meant to be, usually dictates how much digital intervention I use.  Over all I would say that my work is produced 70% traditional media, and the remaining 30% digital intervention. Over time, and much experimentation, I have realised the purely traditional media takes on a new look once it is scanned in to the computer, it is now pixels, the light of the computer affects it, pencil lines become less intense, colours are dulled, traditional media just doesn't translate well once it is within the computer. Its just not a pretty site, and so complementing with digital media becomes a necessary requirement. Now there are variances to the methods by which you do things, and again through a great amount of trial and error, I have come to the conclusion that if you just scan in the drawing and colour it completely in photoshop, or painter or any other digital method then The work becomes purely digital and as such has its own look and feel, you can't escape it, I have tried, if you begin to use textures it becomes ever more prevalent. The only way I have found that actually preserves most of the traditional feel is to do as I have described and complete the work with traditional media to the highest point then upscale and attribute utilising digital media. 70-30 ratio. 

So, What do I do with the 30% digital stage, well once The image is scanned in I can then use photoshop in post production, to extend and enhance colouration, and bring up the whole image so that it sits well and works within the digital frame. I do this by utilising 2 methods. firstly, I set the paint brush tool to a very low opacity, touch the part of the image with the colour I want to replicate, and paint a very thin film of colour over the existing colour to strengthen it, I do this with most of the colours, That require strengthening, some don't and are best left to sink back. The second method I use is to use photoshop as a photographer would, to colour correct and enhance. I use levels quite a lot, and colour evolving in the form of contrast, and vibrance. You can also build on layers by duplicating them, but you have to use all of these things sensitively because the programme is very powerful and it is very easily over used, for example I have found that vibrance rather than saturation is best. There are a thousand of methods to use in photoshop, and I have experimented vastly, but as soon as the image becomes too digitised (which is easy to do if you get carried away) I back away because I do not want that look. So there we have it, my style is actually a complex set of defined practices. Traditional drawing at its base. I realise of course that there are a number of ways that technology has even tried to emulate and speed up the drawing process, In adobe illustrator, for example you can scan a photograph in and trace it. making a drawing like image. I use a small Wacom drawing tablet, but there is the cintique, available that enables you to draw horizontally directly into digital programs.  After I found my way of doing things, I realised that my style, supplemented with digital methods is actually more relevant in many ways. I have far more breadth of accomplishment available,  than most, my work can be pushed in many directions, and so I am happy with it. After all, I am putting myself out there as an honest illustrator, I am saying, use my style to create your characters (any character, human, animal or monster) Tell me the direction of your final desired outcome, in a cartoon or realistic manner, or anything in-between, tell me your wildest imagination , help to make your words come to life visually. My style is all encompassing, extremely versatile, not limited by time, fad or fashion, it does what it says on the tin, it gives you good honest, readable and fun imagery that can be focused to any given project. by the way you may be wondering how I made all my drawings uniform, Well it took a while to figure out, but I found that within Gimp software, (and you can probably do it in photoshop too some how) If you go to colours tab, scroll to desaturation, and then colour to grey. It then cancels out all all light defects during initial photography, and colours everything to a uniform grey/white, Its interesting to watch the process slowly unfurl. If the work comes out too light then you can use the brightness and contrast tab (usually lowering high lights) to the required state, and your done. One final word on speed of execution as Ive heard this countless times, believe me when I say this, Its just as fast, if not faster (with the right skill level) to produce work with traditional media against digital, and as long as the final product is industry standard, perfectly fits the brief, and is a wonderful evocation for children to enjoy then that is all that matters. My style is a personal reflection of how I interpret the world,  I have observed of course a million different styles, both traditional, and digitally produced. In todays market place there appears to be a preference for the naive digital. usually flat colours and shapes with little or non form making. This is fine. in its place, (everyone producing it seems to be doing very well and are usually agented) I am never going to do this kind of work just to fit in and follow the masses. I may be more successful if I did, but as an artist I would never be happy with it, not that I am happy with everything I do now, because I am never truly happy, but I couldn't live with that kind of work. So where does this leave me, well judging by the reaction I receive, then it is worth doing. I know through the extensive research I accomplished on my MA that children psychologically read realistic work far easier than abstract work especially over the age of six. And, they also posses a far greater visual sophistication than most appear to acknowledge. I certainly did when I was a boy, I hated work that looked amateurish to me, I found it patronising. For someone like myself who prefers  illustrators work such as Jim Kay (Harry Potter Illustrator)and Ann Yvonne Gilbert, and Charles Fudge (children's illustrator) amongst many more too many to mention now but I will mention them as I post in the future. It makes sense that I have high standards for my own work. Which I would say rests somewhere between realism and cartooning. 

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Granny Cake

Here is another book Ive been working on recently, entitled Granny Cake. It is aimed at a young reader demographic, ages 6 -12. The basic premise of the book is to encourage children to eat a balanced diet. The idea is that the work could be used in conjunction with other methods to encourage children into good eating habits, I thought it would be fun to give them what they truly wanted (sweet things) and then give them the healthy eating message at the end. I wanted to create a book that was simple and clean in format. Far less detail and complexity than my previous books. I also decided this time to create my own hand written text, this enables far more freedom, and so I will be continuing with this method for future work. This approach takes far less time, although I am mindful that a great impact can be made, and so I will be pursuing this way of working again for future books. I have decided to self publish this book. Its good to have self initiated work running in between commissions, I know many illustrators employ this practice. I will be utilising Amazon, along with Ingram spark and Lulu publishing formats concurrently, this is a new direction for me and somewhat of an experiment, to test the water so to speak. I will also be doing the same with my previous book Little Jack's Big Adventure. ( I will leave the whole book on my blog for you to read for now) until I publish it. It is great to be able to create books for other people, however I do need an outlet/method to quickly publish my self initiated work, as I can produce these quite frequently. Granny cake has taken around 3-4 weeks to complete, from start to finish. The story itself (text) is only 250 words, and so that has brought down the time aspect of production. I will aim to complete many more of these short stories. The images are in order:

Monday, 17 February 2020

Book Commission

I have recently been commissioned to produce a children's book for a client. I have now completed the book, and it has been received and accepted by my client. The book is 32 pages at 10x10". 21 illustrations. and a book cover. I thought I would share my process in completing the book, and so here goes. Firstly, I was contacted by my client who had found me via one of my advertising/ marketing profiles. He advised me on what he envisaged for the style of illustrations and we discussed the graphic design format. The fee for my work was agreed, along with the timescale for production. I then supplied my contract, which once signed, enabled a beginning of the work. The main body of the story involved three characters, two male and one female The story was entitled Stan the cave man invents fire. My client sent me his manuscript , and after much deliberation, we arrived at a general format for the illustrations. My client then sent me some images he had found on the web, as to the style he wanted for the illustrations. After agreement, I then produced a rough visual/story board of the whole book showing my initial ideas as to where I thought the images and text should be placed. This was only a guide, as elements would alter as the work progressed. 

When the storyboard was accepted I then began to collate character designs, I produced three sheets of A3  drawings of heads only, I repeated this until all three characters were chosen. Once each of the three characters were chosen from the rough drawings. I then produced more refined versions of each of the three chosen characters as line drawings, in a three pose format ( the same character facing forward and to both sides) We then agreed on the musculature, hair colour/length, clothing style, and agreed that all three characters were about the same age of around late teens.
Once the characters had been finalised, it was time to produce one of the illustrations as a line drawing showing the agreed character attributes. I produced the first illustration in the story to exhibit this. I also gave some indication as to where the text of the story would be positioned.

After the style and element design was agreed, I then began to add colour to enable an insight into how I would render the work. ( the chosen image was a double page spread form the book.)

After an agreement was made regarding the style and content of the characters, along with the environment, I then completed  the whole illustration. Once this stage was agreed, this system was then employed for each of the illustrations in turn. Below are all of the interior  illustrations for the book. they are in page order. I cannot show the interior text or design at the present time as per copyright terms.(I can show the cover) However the story will become apparent in the near future when the work is published, and I supply a link. All the illustrations below began life as the examples shown above, my style is roughly 70% traditional illustration methods (drawing, coloured pencil, and watercolour/acrylic) the remaining 30% is by digital means. The digital process, involves around 15% actual digital paint, and 15% dynamics, of environment and colouration. I will produce a separate blog post for this stage in the near future. 

Below are the next 2 illustrations from the story, I have on this Occasion left the text in for you to see the final book rendition.

 Once all the interior illustrations were completed and signed off as good by my client, it was then time to produce the wrap around book cover. Shown below. 

Front cover

Rear cover

When the cover design was accepted and rendered in colour, I then began the graphic design and book formatting process. I began with the cover, sourcing the type face/font, and setting the text. Once this was complete I then began the interior typesetting and design. I produced  the majority of the graphic design and page layout formatting within Adobe In Design and photoshop. When all was complete and my client was happy, I then saved the work as CYMK in PDF format. 300dpi, 10x10"
The completed work was delivered digitally and the final payment was taken. The whole book , from start to finish was completed in around 3 months,  and there we have it, I hope you enjoyed it and found it informative.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Illustration portfolio tips

Firstly, It depends upon which area you wish to specialise in. As I specialise in children’s literature, I can only advise on what to put into a portfolio for this specialism. There are of course cross overs with every type of specialism. Some illustrators specialise within a specialism, one may specialise in people another in animals , although a good artist should be able to be proficient in both. In the beginning you should aim for between 15–20 pieces of your best work. and hopefully you will have already found your style, because a portfolio should be in a consistent style. This is your trade mark, it is your personal identity. The subject matter is important , although this  can vary from illustrator to illustrator, however, In general, a good way to think of it is as it is in life, ie People: You should try and include young children, adults, and the elderly. in different poses and with different emotions. different ethnicities. Animals: young and old, different emotions and anthropomorphism. flying, etc. environment: rural, urban, night and day, weather: water, rain, Fantasy: unusual situations (imagination) Children like the unusual, they delight in the profound and the crazy. creatures, monsters, mythical creatures, try and include dynamism, movement, speed, odd angles, unusual positions. (difficulty in drawing) there should be Character designs. some monochrome work. spot illustrations, some half page, full page, double page spread, and book cover you  can include a piece of work with a few of these elements in one image. Try hard to be original. I know this may appear virtually impossible in a modern image laden world where seemingly everything has been done, but just as important it is to have an original and distinct personal style, it is also important to create as original material is possible. After all it is an illustrators job to realise anything a mind can conjure. and to be frank as an artist you should find it easy to generate original ideas after all. Creativity is an amazing thing. My tip for generating original work, is to think outside the box, an old cliche I know,  but it works, for example imagine 2 things together that seem at odds, or wouldn't happen in reality, and find an interesting way to realise them in one image.  

Every illustrator is in a constant flux with their portfolio , and it evolves over time, as your work , style and working methods/techniques mature you will find your work will become more complex and dynamic, and you will drop images that once you thought where your best work.  A technique is to show a lot of different scenarios and characters and to have a separate section on your website for drawings. As I have done myself. This also shows your aptitude for drawing which is important when sending plans/visuals to clients, who like to see them on your site. Take a look at my website, I have around 36 images at this moment in time. There are a lot of people that state that you should only have 20 pieces of work in your portfolio, That is a matter of opinion, and I disagree, personally, I believe 20 pieces is just not enough to show a breadth and depth of subject matter. I have tried to show something of everything, in my own style, that is all you need to do yourself. potential commissioners want to see consistency, (own style) and a breadth of life scenarios if you achieve this, you will have a good portfolio.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Illustrators code of conduct

As an active member of the association of Illustrators, I am guided in my practise by the code of conduct for illustrators that they produce on behalf of its members.  The association works hard to raise standards, and promote the profile of Illustrators within the Industry. Professional practise is paramount for the  professional Illustrator, both as an individual practitioner and for the industry as a whole. Without an organisation that actively promotes the professional stature of Illustrators, there would be very  little  recourse when dealing with  commissioners. There would be low standards and an undermining of the professionalism of illustration. Without regulation, In short the industry, would collapse into itself, and be resigned to history as a worthless occupation.  Below is a copy of  the Code of conduct supplied to members of the association of illustrators:

Anthropomorphism an overview

Anthropomorphism is nothing new within the art world and especially within the illustration industry. As humans we actively engage with, and treat our pets as if they were human beings we name them, (sometimes human names) converse with them  groom them, and treat them as  family  members, sometimes pampering them as if they were children. Of course human children grow up observing this behaviour, dressing the dog and going on space adventures with the cat. This is reflected within Children's literature which is full of animals because of the interesting characters and relatable human antics. Anthropomorphism, is an integral part of human history, since the believed beginning of art history humans created sculptures of humans with animal heads over 30,000 years ago, advancing into the development of subsequent cultures and religions, from illuminated texts to needle crafts the act of humanizing animals has been a major influence in the development of modern culture. As cultures developed through time, many traditional stories and myths, where passed down through generations, and with the advent of printing presses over traditional etching techniques, and larger production runs, books became increasingly accessible for everyone to enjoy, rather just for the elite. Artists such as William Hogarth, and Wilhelm Von Kaulbach in the 19th century utilised etching techniques to create satirical anthropomorphic illustrations. 

                William Hogarth

                                 London, Baldwin, Cradock & Joy 1822 Copper engraving

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)

Grinning cat taken from ' Alice's adventures in wonderland'.

Illustrators such as Beatrix potter working at the turn of the century, where part of a transition whereby the availability of children's books was beginning to expand to the masses through developing printing technology. By the turn of the century and the subsequent world wars, the marketplace begin to expand and anthropomorphic books and board games are seen more readilyA good amount of this forward progress is thanks to the Uncle Wiggily series by Howard Garis. The Uncle Wiggily series and its contemporaries illustrate the next advancement in the evolution of anthropomorphism in children’s literature. Instead of being animals living in fear of humans, this world has in fact moved to the point where humans are unnecessary for the story, so they are removed. It should be noted that as art transitioned from the 16th to 17th century, degrees of anthropomorphism began to move in unique directions. No longer animals were those who merely talked or walked divided between two or four feet, creatures began wearing clothes, living in homes and having complicated family structures develop.

Howard Garis . Uncle Wiggily and the Sleds 1910-present
Illustrated by George Carlson

Thanks to previous generations, children have begun to think more creatively, and are more likely to grasp the ideas involved in a purely animal setting.This expunging of humans begins a new chapter in children’s literature, no longer being held back by the constraints of our own reality, authors and illustrators have the opportunity to effectively create new universes for their characters to play in. Though many more artists could be mentioned to describe the variety of styles present in the current marketplace, such as Jon Klassen, Ursula Vernon, and John Manders, the works of Boutavant and Brett succinctly illustrate the range that is possible. In a general sense, as the world population has increased, so to has the variety of possible outcomes and artists to fill the needs. In any section of the market, it is possible for any particular style to be relevant and represented. As the world moves forward, and we continue to explore new avenues for anthropomorphism in art, it will be exciting to see what develops, be it realism or abstracted, traditionally painted or digital. The important thing is that children continue to enjoy and learn from these interesting animals and the worlds they inhabit. As an Illustrator of children's literature I am constantly evaluating my own practise.  My style has evolved to such a degree that I don't have any trouble drawing anything I can imagine. Anthropomorphism offers an excellent vehicle for expressing ideas, as it affords an in depth analysis of an imagination, and along with the culturally informed  universality of personification, it continues to offer  a stimulating vehicle for illustrating  children's literature. Over the last month or so I have developed further my ideas and produced four personification illustrations. My style has evolved to encompass a bright and modern aesthetic. Although they are mainly created with traditional media. Artists today have a vast plethora of digital tools to enable a whole new aesthetic, buts let us not forget that too much one sided digital work may endanger an artists originality and also lead to a mass of work that all looks the same. I have tried most digital software and can tell you that although most offer promises of an exact replica of traditional media outcomes, this is just not true, you cannot replicate the reality of traditionally produced work digitally. Technology is not there yet. Digital tools are exactly that, a tool, and not a replacement.   I have included new digital  tools to my visual vocabulary that are utilised to further enhance the images. Utilising digital tools also prepares the work for web and print options, being able to manipulate the environments and augment the differing size and DPI measurements is a vital  step in an illustrators arsenal. My work may have a traditional 'feel' but with its simplified forms and colors , along with relevant deconstruction to create the most pleasing aesthetic for children viewers.

Billy the frog

                                                                                         Frog and mouse motorcycle race

                                                                                        Max the squirrel inventor

                                                               Timmy mouse steals the golden egg .