Advent Countdown

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This year I’ve had a paper advent calendar instead of a chocolate one and I’ve really enjoyed it. My Winter Woodland advent calendar by illustrator Angela Harding is very satisfying. There’s a wide variety of wildlife, big and small – birds, stags, badgers, foxes and a healthy dose of owls!

The blue and white shades of the snow are set off by the reds of the berries and fur of the animals. The warm glow from the house in the distance stops it from feeling too chilly.

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I love the linocut style and the flowing composition which draws the eye around the scene. The numbers on the little doors are quite tricky to pick out, so sometimes it takes a while to find the right one but it’s well worth it when you’re rewarded with a miniature deer or leaping greyhound.

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A spell of pre-Xmas work in Brighton has drawn me away from my advent calendar – but it will be nice to discover all the other doors in January when I return to London and eek out the festivities a bit longer!

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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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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!

Constable, Brighton, Skying

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John Constable is perhaps most famous for his traditional, Romantic style paintings of the English Countryside. Idyllic landscapes on large canvases that must have been pretty time consuming to paint; such as ‘The Hay Wain’.

So I was surprised to see Brighton Museum’s current exhibition ‘Constable & Brighton’ which features sketches and paintings that are so different in feeling, they could have been made by someone else. Constable and his family lived in Brighton between 1824 and 1828. During his time there he enjoyed sketching and walking on the Sussex Downs, recording the countryside and beaches as he went.

Constable, Seascape Study with Rain Cloud, 1828

His beach paintings in particular have such life to them. Quick, expressive sketches of turbulent skies and stormy seas. Moody colour palettes and rough textures. Some of these beach studies are very small. He worked on location, pinning paper to the lid of his oil paint box, which can also be seen in the Museum.

I love the life and fluidity of these small paintings. They seem much freer than the elaborate works he is famous for. These scenes were perhaps not painted exactly as they looked, but instead how they felt, with exaggerated colours and angry clouds.

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He was particularly fond of painting clouds and once said ‘I have done a good deal of skying’. He would often add notes to the back of his sky work describing the weather conditions, time of day and direction of light.

The term ‘Skying’ immediately reminded me of the album of the same name by British band – The Horrors. I don’t know if there is any relation between the two, but the video for the track ‘Still Life’ features beautiful imagery and the song now flows into my head when I look Constable’s clouds!


Finally, I especially love the paintings that feature little figures on the beach. Often hunched against the wind and breathing in the sea air. Having grown up in Brighton and taken many a windy stroll on the beach linked arm in arm with a friend, I feel an affinity with them and like to imagine that friends have been doing the same throughout history.

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The exhibition ‘Constable & Brighton’ is at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until 8th October 2017. Admission is £5.20 for adults, £3 for children and free for Brighton residents.

Opinions are my own. Images are used respectfully but without permission from the following sources (named in the order shown):

Coast Scene with Boat and Stormy Sky – Brighton Museum Website
Seascape Study with Rain Cloud – Wikipedia Commons
Brighton Beach – via That’s How The Light Gets In blog
Seascape Study: Brighton Beach Looking West – Taken from Constable and Brighton Book

Blossom Trees

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There are so many blossom trees in Clapham. I think nearly every street has at least one but most boast an impressive collection. There’s a variety of sizes, shapes and colours and for the next few weeks of Spring we’ll be able to enjoy them all. Soft pinks, vanillas, whites and creams with little specks of green leaves. They contrast against their dark branches and light up when viewed against a bright Spring sky. At night, they loom out of the dark like Christmas decorations that haven’t been taken down yet.

Sometimes I find that painting or drawing things that are naturally very pretty to begin with, such as flowers, can produce results that are a bit twee and boring. I made a quick Google search to see if I could find some blossom inspired artwork that managed to avoid this.

Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Almond Blossom’ (1890, shown below) are beautiful but still have a wildness to them. The branches are crooked and spiky. The flowers are delicate but they belong in nature, not to be put in a vase on a mantelpiece.

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I’m not overly familiar with the work of husband-and-wife illustration team Kozyndan but their bunny themed work is super popular and hard to miss. In Bunny Blossoms (2005, shown below), instead of flowers, tiny pink rabbits bloom from the branches. Apart from the fact that they are HELLA cute, they bring something unexpected and humorous to the piece which references traditional Japanese blossom artwork.

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Hanami, which translates as ‘flower viewing’, is the Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers (thanks Wikipedia!). From March to May the Sakura trees blossom all over Japan and people celebrate with outdoor parties, sometimes decorating the trees with paper lanterns.

‘Chiyoda Ooku Ohanami’ by Toyohara Chikanobu translates as ‘Cherry Blossoms Party at the Chiyoda Palace’ (1894, shown below). I love the elaborate clothes and bright splashes of red. You really get the sense that the people are enjoying playing underneath the blossom.

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I made some experiments myself working from photos I took of the Clapham Hanami. I’m quite pleased with the results. I think it was a useful exercise, choosing to sketch something that I was unsure of and finding ways to tackle it to create drawings I was happy with. Wherever you are, I hope that you get to enjoy some blossom trees this Spring too!

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Bunny Blossoms by Kozyndan used in appreciation without permission
Almond Blossom by Vincent Van Gogh provided by the Van Gogh Museum
Chiyoda Ooku Ohanami by Toyohara Chikanobu via Wikipedia
All other photographs and sketches are my own.

Drawlutions

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January always feels like a good time of year to think about where you are now and where you’re headed. To dust off the cobwebs, consider lessons learned in the previous year and psych oneself up for some self improvement. I’ve been thinking about how this applies to my illustration for 2016 and what my ‘Drawlutions’ should be (yeah I went there). So here’s the list. I could have gone way beyond eight but for now these feel the most important to me to carry through the year.

1. Get Conceptual
I’d like to create more conceptual pieces. Really consider how I could fulfil a brief and look for unusual and interesting ways to do so.

2. Use Colour
I’d like to be more experimental with colour in my work. I often shy away from it, feeling scared of getting it wrong. The time has come to experiment!

3. Skill Up
There are so many online courses out there, I want to get involved and increase my skill set. There are typography lessons to be learned, use of composition and light to name a few. I’m always attracted to the Skillshare site…

4. Create Portfolio Pieces
My personal projects can get benched and neglected when client work takes priority. Meaning lots of illustration ideas I have aren’t seen through to their final conclusion. I want to add more to my portfolio this year with both client and personal work.

5. Set Up Shop
I see so many lovely prints and products sold by illustrators who have organised, sexy shops. I want to join the online shop gang! Or at least explore the idea of selling work, cool items to share with the world, things I’d actually want to buy myself. I feel like i’ve got a LOT to learn here.

6. Keep Drawing
I’ve been pretty on it lately with sketching which I’m chuffed about and definitely feel like my drawing is improving. I want to keep that up this year and get along to more life classes.

7. Artist Studies
I found this really helpful last year. Looking at artists I admire, examining their style, having a go myself to see what I learn. Mixed results but definitely useful.

8. Texture Play
Layering up marks, messing about in photoshop, this is something I’ve started to do. I’d like to keep it going and try to find my style.

I’ve kicked off experiments here with a young kayaker paddling away from 2015, more experiments soon! If you have any Drawlutions of your own I’d love to hear about them and how you plan to carry them out. Happy New Year!

Artist Study, Kilian Eng

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I decided to take a pause from my personal projects to study the work of an artist I admire and see what I could learn. I started with Swedish sci fi artist Kilian Eng who creates stunning, futuristic worlds. Dark robots, intimidating structures, tapestries of wires fusing together with more organic shapes and nature. His use of detail and composition is incredible. Looking at his blog, it is hard to believe how much work he has made and even harder for me to imagine how long it takes him to make it!

I wondered how he went about creating his complex illustrations and decided to take a magnifying glass to a particular piece and see if I could unpick it and create a copy. I am wary of even writing this because as an artist I know that copying is a very touchy subject. But I don’t mean to copy in the sense of ripping off and stealing, rather to study the work of a master, as many artists in history have done, with a hope to picking up new techniques and skills that might enrich my own work! I won’t share the completed copy I created here (though you can see a section of my attempted line work above and Eng’s original illustration below), as I feel that would give the wrong impression, but I want to share what I learned along the way.

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Line Work
Whilst it is not too difficult for me to mimic shapes and create the same line work as another artist, I could not easily create a similar work from scratch at this time. There is a huge amount of skill and thought that goes into creating an original composition. Which shapes are pleasing to the eye? How do you draw people in? Give a world depth and make it feel real?

Detail
You can’t rush the sort of detail that Kilian draws into his pieces. My patience needs improving! Drawing such tiny, beautiful creatures and worlds takes time and patience. When I found myself rushing to finish a piece of the picture I was studying, it was like breaking a spell. When you lose that interest and desire to render everything as perfectly and beautifully as you can, the image suffers for it!

Colour
He is a master of colour, something that I still struggle with and am learning about. Once I completed a copy of his line work, the next step was colouring in. It was time consuming, therapeutic in many ways and to some degree easy, using the colour picker tool in Photoshop to directly copy his colours. HOWEVER knowing which colours will work in harmony is another skill and his use of light and dark is very effective. Copying is one thing, again, creating from scratch quite another!

Technical Skills
I had a few photoshop issues that it took me a while to figure out. The main problem I came across was matching the colours in his pallet, I couldn’t work out why for a long time, my colours weren’t picking correctly, until I realised a curves layer I had forgotten about was darkening everything and the multiply layer style I’d added to the line work was having an effect too.

Having successfully completed a study of one of his works, I now want to try and create my own fantasy scape using his style. Part of me wonders if that is fair, and whether I should share the outcome, because I would never want to rip off the work of another artist. As it is my scribbly sketches are very different from Eng’s finished, polished work. So I don’t think there is any danger of my work sitting too near his style on the spectrum. I have found this study really useful and it has taught me new respect for composition, colour and patience. Also that I am not the same sort of artist… and that is ok too! My style is quicker to create for me and that suits me. But I will think about spending longer on future pieces and be stricter with myself about cheating and taking the quick route!