I was having fun a little while back developing my ‘Forest Guardian’ mini project. There’s more that I want to do here, including working with the little blue forest guardian that you all helped me pick out over on Instagram…but here’s a little sneak peek for now from one of my test drawings. My main aim was to just be as expressive and playful as possible and just revel in drawing a forest.
In all honesty though, I’ve found it difficult to be in the mood to create over the last few weeks with everything that’s going on in the world. I find it tricky to engage with making when my heart is feeling heavy and things feel so uncertain. I know that’s the way of it sometimes though and it will come back when it’s ready and of course it’s no hardship. For now, I know it’s important to remember that there’s always hope, however small. Sending love and hope to you all in these strange and scary times x
I’m attempting to keep up a spot of weekly drawing practice in between my client work and building my new website (more on that escapade soon!). At the moment I’m focussing on practicing people, and in particular drawing faces. I’m growing more confident in sketching faces when working from reference material i.e drawing from Pinterest, as in the above illustration. The next step is to upgrade to being able to draw faces from my mind and to start bringing characters to life.
Though I have done some of this to date, I’d like to grow my confidence and get more of a grip on my style (which I sometimes feel is a bit scattergun!). Who are your favourite artists for character design or their style of drawing people? I’d love to know!
I haven’t had too much forest time lately but will aim to put that right in February. There’s something very vital about getting out under the trees, jumping over logs and generally frolicking about like an excitable fool in the woods. This is the third of four illustrations I created for the Drawn Chorus ‘Words to Live By’ show (do check out my previous posts if you missed the first and second!).
I hadn’t left myself much time to create my submissions for the show and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make something I was happy with before the deadline. I have a tendency to move very slowly and be a bit of a perfectionist when creating personal work if left to my own devices.
So this show actually proved to be a really good challenge for me as I had to just let go and keep moving in order to get the work done. And as it goes, I was pretty happy with what I produced. Sometimes ‘done’ is much better than ‘perfect’ and can get you further and more quickly than obsessing over details and re-hashing things that already work. Something for me to remember for the next show and coming projects anyway!
I’ve been drawing figurines from ancient civilisations for an experimental personal project this afternoon. Which do you think would make a good ‘Forest Guardian’ from the line up below? I personally quite like the little blue fellow, but let me know what you think in the comments…and Happy Friday! 🙂
I find that the most interesting (and arguably most enjoyable) part of my creative process, happens quite near to the start of the project. I love this beginning phase, where everything is still up for grabs and experimentation is key. I begin by jotting down key words, ideas and phrases that come to mind, nothing is too outlandish or out of scope at this point.
Next, I start to research. I look for reference imagery that gets me excited, photos, books, magazines (probably a bit too much Pinterest!) and pull these elements together. Looking for patterns or quirks that I could work into a final piece.
Then I begin to sketch from these. Light pencil drawings and thumbnail compositions but also plenty of ‘tests’ illustrations. In these tests, I try to capture the essence of the idea I’m pushing. Work out what the atmosphere or feeling is that I’m trying to get across. I work quickly and try out various media to see what feels right for a particular project.
Of course I enjoy settling into creating the final artwork too and other parts of the creative process – but there’s something about this fizzy, excited, experimental phase at the start that is so inspiring and addictive!
I’m currently working through some of Andy J Pizza’s ‘Peptober’ social media prompts. To learn more about these, check out Andy’s podcast and have a look back through my recent posts. This post is my response to prompt 5; share what you think is the most interesting part of your process.
Continuing on with Andy J Pizza’s ‘Peptober’ prompts (I know I’m technically into Pepvember now but let’s not worry about that!)…#4 is to share two pieces of work that you feel are closely related to each other. I had a mull through my sketchbooks and landed on these two pieces. Here’s why I feel that they are related…
Both illustrations are practice pieces drawn from interesting imagery I’ve found and collected when traipsing the internet. If I find myself with a spare couple of hours in my freelance downtime and with no larger goal/ongoing project to complete, I’ll sometimes settle down in front of Pinterest, get some drawing materials out and have a play.
The first image is of a small figure beneath a garden of towering cacti (love me some giant cacti). The photo that I used as reference had a vintage tint to it that gave the colours a lovely softness and gave the image that feeling of instant nostalgia. The second drawing is of a cosy cabin in a forest clearing, smoke billowing from the chimney.
Though the imagery is quite different, I feel both pictures have a nice looseness to them that sometimes I struggle to capture when working on more structured projects. Something to do with not having the pressure of a deadline or an audience when working in this way I think! Both use a combination of watercolour and conte crayons that came together in a similar way for both pieces. I felt I was able to lay down large, rough areas of colour, but still achieve interesting textures and areas of sharper detail. On a more obvious level, they are both quite narrow, drawn on A3 paper and in portrait orientation.
I like these two pieces, because I felt that I learned something about my style through creating them. Not a big revelation that I can put into words, but more like another little puzzle piece in my long term illustration journey.
Please note: This post contains themes and content that focus on death and dying. Whilst the tone is positive, hopeful and educational, I completely understand if it’s not right for you at present, but encourage you to return to it when you’re ready.
I had always suspected that our rather Victorian way of skirting around death and basically completely avoiding it at all turns was probably…not very good for us. But in spite of that I hadn’t really challenged my thinking in this area. Shying away from the difficulty and tears that I knew would ensue from my opening up. However since last year, with the outbreak of the pandemic and my participation in a rather unique client project; ‘Life Support’, I’ve found myself ready to make some changes.
Back in the Summer I had the opportunity to work on a very interesting project. I had been introduced by a friend to The Liminal Space, a wonderful group of creatives who specialise in making meaningful and innovative experiences. They had been awarded funding by Innovate UK to create an engaging, interactive piece that would help people to start having difficult conversations about death and dying, with their loved ones.
Covid-19 has completely transformed all of our lives and people are thinking about death more than ever, but they do not feel comfortable to discuss it with their friends or family. This is having a huge impact on our society, mental health and well being. The Liminal Space were close to this issue and through a previous project had carried out extensive research on end of life, death and dying. They had gathered advice from charities such as Marie Curie and Compassion in Dying, as well as insights from leading experts in palliative care, doctors, nurses and physicians. They also had a collection of real life stories from people’s personal experiences with death.
They wanted to find a way to turn this amazing web of content into a supportive, engaging journey that would empower people with stories, knowledge and practical steps for starting conversations.
I joined the team as their UX and UI designer and over a series of Zoom workshops, we explored how we could do this. We wanted the site to feel flowing. For visitors to be able to choose their own path through the content. To alight on some topics and perhaps delve deeply into others. The tone was very important to us, it needed to be supportive but not patronising, open, clear and to appeal to all genders.
From initial sketches to wireframe blueprints, I helped the team to craft the experience. I worked closely with our creative developer Jonny Thaw and our digital producer Michelle Feuerlicht to prototype interactions and animations that felt right. We created ‘puzzle piece’ content blocks of audio, facts and stories that could be dynamically fitted together to create unique journeys.
As we developed the design style; a striking palette of bold shapes, colours and strong typography – a gentle way of animating that reflected breathing in and out, started to come to the fore. This leant a feeling of calm to the site as you move through it. Encouraging the visitor to explore at a slow pace, taking as much time as they need.
We curated the content to support people through a range of different topics such as; how to have a good death, talking about death with someone who has COVID-19, having control at the end of your life, as well as how you can talk to children about some of these themes. We also created ‘poster’ like, downloadable tips and tools to give people ideas for ways into these topics. The dual navigation was designed to allow people to easily find a specific topic quickly or to follow a more personal, meandering route through the site. The expert audio recordings can be bookmarked making it easy for visitors to collect and revisit the pieces that connected with them.
I learned from Life Support that whilst the unbearable sadness that the death of a loved one causes cannot (and should not) be avoided, talking about death before it happens and making our wishes known, can be a huge help.
Lots of the real life stories included in Life Support discuss how forward discussion and planning made a huge positive difference to the people left behind when a family member or friend passed away. Knowing what their loved one wanted (or didn’t want) in advance often proved to remove huge amounts of unnecessary stress and additional upset.
Having recently lost a family member to Covid-19, I have now experienced this first hand. I wish that I had been more prepared for it. Though it’s early days for me, I can now see how valuable it will be for me and my family to start having these conversations with each other. To consider what we would want at our funerals, what sort of treatment we might accept from Doctors and where we would prefer to die. So that when the time comes, as it will for us all, we can take some comfort from knowing that it’s happening in line with our values and wishes.
The project has been well received so far, gaining lots of positive feedback across social media and via the press. It means a lot to me to be able to work on meaningful experiences such as Life Support and I hope it will help lots of people.
I would love to be involved with more forward thinking projects such as this one in the future. If you’re in need of unique UX and carefully crafted interactive design for your project, please do get in touch!
In between client projects (and trying to soak up us much of the Summer as possible) I’ve started work on the next range of products for the Owlstation Store. There’s still a lot to do, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse of some of the development work that’s been going on. Without giving too much away at this point…I’ve been practicing drawing lots of cabins!
Inspired in part by the awesome book Cabin Porn which features gorgeous, enchanting cabins from all over the world. But also by the idea of escaping somewhere secret, cosy and a little bit magical. My initial scribbled ideas, rough sketches and early thumbnails have started to come together and the new products are taking shape. I’ll be excited to share more soon, but for now here are a few more of those cabin experiments.
Today I thought I’d share a little snapshot of one of my digital design projects – Secret Life of Boys, an interactive comedy for CBBC. I had an absolute blast working on three series of the show with our amazing digital team. As lead designer I was responsible for creating the user experience, interfaces, environment art – plus lots of fun graphic illustrations for game objects like stickers and secret treasure chests!
In the interactive version of the show, players can watch episodes, hunt for secrets, trigger bonus animations, stories and gags and explore the surreal, slightly magical world in which the characters live. Above and below are examples of some of the game screens along with an early wireframe.
Wireframes are almost like a blueprint for a game or digital experience. They help you to work out the best possible experience for a player, and take place before any visual design happens. Investing time on these at the start of a digital project can save a lot of time and effort down the line!…
I’ll share a bit more on this project in the future, but just wanted to let my games design flag fly a little today! Also, for any parents looking for something to keep the young ones entertained, I wanted to give Secret Life of Boys 3 a shout as a really lovely, fun series.
I’ve been making more time to play in my sketchbook lately and draw things just for fun. Little, one off experiments based on references or prompts that I find particularly enticing and exciting. Raiding my Pinterest boards for images that have inspired me and then getting my art materials out to see what feels right.
Whilst not all of these experiments result in images I’m pleased with (aka ready to share on Instagram!) they’ve definitely been helping me develop my illustration skills and learn more about the mediums I work with. I was pleased with how this Crayola and pencil study turned out though…I added the owl separately after finishing the woodland background, sticking him on top collage style. I couldn’t resist adding a bit of typography underneath to encourage the story that was forming in my head!