Brian

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This week I’m cat sitting Brian. We’ve hung out a few times now and it’s always a pleasure spending time with him. While I get on with my work in the day, he’s usually curled up tightly on the sofa. He’ll occasionally pop over to say hello, climb over my Macbook a few times and sit on my lap for a bit, kneading me with his claws.

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Like most cats, he goes a bit hyper in the evening before bed time. Launching himself into the air, skidding through rooms or climbing up my legs while I’m cooking. On this visit I’ve decided to try and sketch him during some of his quieter moments. He’s so dark and fuzzy that sometimes when his eyes are closed he just blends into one big fluff-ball and it’s tricky to pick out any features! It’s been good practice though, trying to quickly get his form down before he shifts position and nice for me to have some cat company.

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Making my game

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Unity game engine

This year i’ve started learning to use Unity; a free, creative engine that is capable of  making all kinds of games and interactive experiences. Initially I wanted to learn it as a gateway to making things for Virtual Reality. I’m still planning to do that, but realising I was trying to gallop before I could walk, I slowed things down and set myself a personal project of creating my own 2D game.

As a freelance designer (by day!) I’ve worked on many games over the years and have even used Unity in some projects to assist developers with simple tasks – but I’ve never attempted to create an entire game myself. When I found this handily titled ‘2D Games for Non-Programmers’ tutorial I decided to get involved and see what I could learn.

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A spot of mood boarding

It’s going well so far and after an initial spot of mood boarding and research, I’ve settled on the title ‘A Witch’s Garden’ and started sketching enemies, collectable items and logo ideas for my ethereal concept. It’s going to be a long journey to creating for virtual reality and I’ll have to remind myself to be patient, but i’m already excited and absorbed by my mini project and will keep sharing my progress until it’s ready to play.

 

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Shetland Adventure

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Last year my brother, father and I went on a road trip to the Shetland Islands. We’d all been keen to explore and to visit our friends who had moved there some years previously. They’d been tempting us with stories of epic scenery and wildlife. I packed my sketchbook, plenty of jumpers and warm clothes (it was May but I wasn’t taking any chances!) and booked us into a series of ‘Böds’ – buildings once used to house Fisherman’s equipment – now turned into basic accommodation for travellers.

We had such a brilliant adventure! I didn’t keep a journal at the time, so will share some highlights with you here, as well as sketches and photos made along the way…

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Dunnottar Castle
Before taking the ferry to Shetland we visited the ruined, Medieval fortress of Dunnottar Castle near Aberdeen. Perched on the headland, it has serious Game Of Thrones vibes to it! The many crumbling windows and arches gave incredible views of the sea and coastline and provided plenty of inspiration for drawing.

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Ferry Crossing
We then took the overnight ferry to Lerwick, the main port in Shetland. It made me realise that I’ve got a bit of a ‘thing’ for drawing modern fishing boats! Something about all the criss crossed lines of the ropes, the symmetry of their cranes and pulleys, the bold strips of colour and chunky iron fittings…Spending a night on the ferry was pretty exciting too. We had fantastic views of the choppy sea as we made our way north. And enjoyed several intense games of Canasta with beers and hot chocolates.

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Arrival in Shetland

It was snowing when the ferry pulled into Lerwick. We spent the next few days staying in a Bod near our friend’s house. They were wonderful tour guides and hosts and took us to some of their favourite spots. At Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (foghorn pictured below) we were blasted by icy winds and saw puffins. A stones throw from our friend’s home we saw the washed up spine of a whale and spotted otters but the big treat came when we visited the lunar-esque cliffs of Eshaness…

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Just as we were about to leave the cliffs, our friend bolted from the car and pointed out to sea. She had spotted a pod of Orcas! We were extremely lucky to have seen them on our first visit to Shetland and luckily had a pair of binoculars with us (nature nerds) but we could even see them with the naked eye; the tall dorsal fin of the male and a baby orca keeping up with the pack.

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Though I made some drawings I was very happy with during our trip, there were several occasions where I was thwarted by the weather and had to admit defeat. Snow one minute, torrential rain and howling winds then beautiful, warm sunshine the next, quite tricky to keep up with! But I was determined to finish my drawing of little coloured houses across the bay and these fluffy Shetland ponies (chalk pastel sketch at the very top of this post).

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Island Hopping
We moved on from the mainland to stay in Yell. This involved another ferry crossing, though this one was so quick there was barely time to finish a Mars bar. On Yell we stayed in a Bod next to a ruined, haunted house. There were a few eerie buildings during our stay which was exciting – until you turned off the lights and let the fires go out!

From here we made little expeditions around Yell to see ‘The White Wife’, the figurehead of a German ship that wrecked near the island, some secret beaches and to drink in the Northern-most pub in Shetland (or so claimed the pub). We also travelled to neighbouring Unst for a day trip.

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A grey day on Unst

Unst is one of Shetland’s North isles. We took another little ferry over to explore. It was a very grey and foggy day. On a quiet winding road, a Viking Longboat suddenly appeared from the mist! A complete replica perched next to a reconstruction of a turf covered Longhouse.

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Later we took a walk to the cliffs at Hermaness Nature Reserve. We stuck to the wooden path to avoid falling into the saturated ground – very reminiscent of Tolkein’s ‘Dead Marshes’ – until the path ran out and disappeared into the fog. Knowing this was pretty close to the cliff edge, we decided it would be a smart move to turn back!

At the Keen of Hamar nature reserve we hunted for Edmonston’s chickweed. A small, yellow flower that can only be found in this little stretch of protected land. On a chilly, seaweed covered beach we were eyeballed by a large male seal from the water. We posed in the decorated bus shelter, an attraction straight from Craggy Island and marvelled at one of the moss covered Standing Stones.

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Ferry Home
It was a calm sunny evening when we took the ferry back to the mainland. There was a beautiful pink sunset and the sea had a milky quality to it. We stood on the deck for quite some time watching Shetland shrink into the distance.

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There’s a lot more that we did and saw on this trip that i’ve missed out but these are some of my favourite memories. If you’re a nature lover that’s sturdy enough to withstand the constant weather changes and seeking somewhere untouched and remote to explore, then I highly recommend visiting Shetland. Don’t forget your binoculars!

Self Portrait

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I haven’t made a self portrait in years, probably since college which was…some time ago now 😉 I’m not a massive fan of drawing myself and luckily in day to day life it’s not really called for. However I recently had to face my demons in order to create my new profile picture for the Drawn Chorus Collective website!

It actually turned out to be a really good exercise for me. Not only did I need the image to look (at least a little bit) like me but I also wanted to create it in a style that tied in with the rest of my illustration work. So whilst some sketches looked like me, they didn’t necessarily have the sort of marks and expression that I try to get into my drawings.

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I found that I ended up looking way too serious if I drew from a mirror, whilst drawing from a photo presented challenges too. Choosing the right pose (where I didn’t look like a prat) and trying to get my own likeness was quite tricky. I narrowed it down to these two images and in the end chose the warmer close up of my eye drawn in bright Crayola felt tip as it felt more ‘me’. I won’t be embarking on any more self portraits for a while but I was glad to be pushed out of my comfort zone again!

Nice Announcement

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I’m super chuffed to announce that I have joined the ranks of the Drawn Chorus Collective; a lovely group of illustrators and artists dedicated to making cool things! After meeting them by chance on Twitter a couple of years ago, I’ve enjoyed discovering each member’s work through their exciting exhibitions, books, comics and gorgeous instagram.

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Working with them as a guest artist for the ‘Easy As’ alphabet book and the recent ‘There & Back Again’ show has really helped me to push my illustration skills and to learn the ins and outs of preparing work for an exhibition. I’m excited to see where they take me next and to be part of a drawing gang!

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Exhibition Time

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*Exciting news* I now have the pleasure of inviting you to ‘There & Back Again: an explorative illustration exhibition’! Curated by the wonderful Drawn Chorus Collective and featuring the work of 30 artists, this is going to be a really good one!!!

It’s running from the 29th of August to the 3rd of September at Espacio Gallery in Bethnal Green with the private view taking place on the 31st. Do come along, bring your friends, kids and Victorian safari hat and give your eyeballs a treat!

Over the next few weeks i’ll be putting the finishing touches to my own work for the show, so watch this space for updates!

Stylish Beings #2

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I’m continuing my exercise of drawing every pin on my Pinterest board ‘Stylish Beings’. This is a place where I collect images of icons, celebrities and well dressed folk that I think are especially cool! I did lose momentum recently as life got a little busy, but i’m getting back into the flow of it now.

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I’m enjoying working my way through the board, remembering the people and outfits that I had pinned and getting excited about how I could draw them. It’s pleasing when I discover that a particular medium fits a celebrity well. For example scratchy, black ink is perfect for rendering Alison Mosshart’s mussy bed hair!

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Each pin provides its own little challenge, with some that I expected to be easy turning out to be very complicated and vice versa. *Spoilers* upcoming pins on my radar include rocker Brody Dalle, actress Winona Rider and the iconic Elizabeth Taylor.