A rare sighting of an Owl Cat. Part owl – part cat, it dwells in trees, curls up in the sun and stares regally down at lesser species…I’ve been enjoying experimenting with Indian Ink in my sketchbook lately! You can get a variety of shades from mixing the ink with water. Using a range of brushes can create very different textures too.
I had such a pleasant experience playing through Old Man’s Journey. Created by Austrian game studio Broken Rules, it’s an emotional game told through stunning illustration. I found it so refreshing – the perfect choice if you’re looking for something different to play on your phone.
I don’t want to give too much away but at the start of the game our white-bearded hero receives a letter. We never see the contents but after reading it he promptly packs his rucksack and sets off on his journey.
He walks through pretty little towns with houses like jewels, rolling pastel coloured hills, over train tracks, up narrow winding roads and even sliding down waterfalls. The art is style is just so beautiful! Clearly the creators know their way around a colour palette! They layer soft textures and play with composition to draw you into his world.
The atmosphere builds as the journey continues. The weather changing from gentle sunshine to howling winds and driving rain. The carefully considered SFX build the world even more. Tiny sheep bleat and miniature bells can be rung. The original score means that even playing through trickier puzzles is a relaxing experience.
The puzzles themselves are unique to me. In order to progress, we must use our fingers to literally move mountains! Pushing hills closer together and rearranging the landscape to make a safe way through. Whilst some levels were trickier than others, the puzzles never feel frustrating and the super minimal UI keeps the screen free of clutter.
The story is an emotional one. More is revealed as you progress and you start to build a picture of this little character’s life. I love to play and work on games that make you feel something. If you’ve got any suggestions for games that you’ve enjoyed – please do share them with me!
My Unity game ‘A Witch’s Garden’ is taking shape! The 2D games tutorial that I used as a starting point was a great way to kick things off. It makes use of the ‘Playground Project’ a very useful pack of ready made scripts and assets. After making their demo game, I was able to move on and use the scripts like puzzle pieces to create a simple, object collection game.
Initially I used the pack’s existing spaceship art to get the foundation of my game working, then I was ready to replace them with my own, witchy designs. I’m so inspired by beautiful, artsy games by developers like State of Play and Simogo, making my own game has given me the opportunity to explore styles that I haven’t had the chance to use for client work yet.
In A Witch’s Garden, you control a disembodied skeleton hand, guiding it around an ethereal garden to collect glowing pagan symbols whilst avoiding the monsters that lurk there. It’s going to be a long journey to finishing my game and I’ll have to remind myself to be patient, but the fact that i’ve already got the foundations in place feels like a big achievement. My next steps are to add as much polish as I can and then explore how I can share it with you all to play!
The Playground Project is a free resource created by Ciro Constinisio
As a long time fan of Tove Jansson’s illustrations, seeing the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery before it closed was a big treat. Though the Moomins took centre stage, there was an excellent variety of her work on display.
Watercolours and drawings from Tove’s illustrated versions of Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit. Large oil-painted self portraits and abstracts. Also a selection of her political cartoons and magazine covers, some of which were created during the Second World War. There was even a series of models, like this one of Snufkin (below) that I took the opportunity to sketch!
However, what I enjoyed most about this exhibition was the touch of insight it gave me into Tove’s creative process. Evidence of pencil lines not quite rubbed out underneath delicate ink work. Some barely perceptible tippex-like corrections on typography. Roughs and layout sketches shown next to final versions. I noticed that a few of the watercolours had sections which appear to have been carefully cut out, perhaps by scalpel, and removed or replaced with a new layer of card fixed precisely in place over the top.
It was very heartening to see these little human touches and imagine that even my illustration heroes made/make changes and tweaks to improve their work. That things don’t always come out perfectly first time and that there are many different ways to create. It’s all part of the process and one that we don’t always get to see – especially in today’s slick, Photoshop world.
I love it when illustrators share what goes on behind the scenes and how they make their work. I’ll be sure to share more of my creative process this year too!
The above Tove Jansson Illustration from Alice In Wonderland is used here without permission via Pinterest.
I’m currently enjoying Glen Baxter’s Blizzards of Tweed, a fabulous collection of whimsy and nonsense!
I was lucky enough to receive my copy as part of a work-place Secret Santa (a rare occurrence when freelancing!). It must be the best one I’ve ever received and I felt pretty guilty for giving a standard chocolates and sweeties combo when I unwrapped it.
Baxter’s wonderfully ridiculous humour and embracing of the absurd aside – it really is a beauty to behold. The first part of the book is made up of elegant line drawings, then towards the middle he uses layers of coloured pencil to great effect.
I find it can be difficult to do this well as sometimes the colours can turn muddy or the texture refuses to build up evenly, but he’s clearly mastered this.
I love that at first glance, any one of his sketches feels like it could be a legitimate illustration from a classic children’s book and it’s not until you look more closely that you can spot the oddities and weirdness of his storytelling. Lots of owls to enjoy too!
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.
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.
I’ve been enjoying working my way through Simogo’s beautiful mobile games. I’m a big fan of the Swedish developers who created Year Walk and Device 6. Their twisted storytelling, unique puzzles and high production values really inspire me to be a better games designer.
The Sailor’s Dream is a wonderfully crafted experience in which you take to the seas, exploring little islands in an attempt to discover what has happened to the story’s protagonists.
The side scrolling horizon is stunning, I’d love to know how they created the gently lapping, animated sea. Each island illustration is covered with minute details, the Secret Lighthouse, the Celestial Sanctuary; every time a new location was revealed I got a buzz of excitement.
Navigating through each location is unusual. Scenes are stitched together, fading to black as you shift between them. Dotted trails connect you and are roughly mapped to a floating compass.
They put so much effort into all elements of the game, secret sketches to be found, specially written songs that reveal parts of the narrative and without giving too much away…once I’d figured out what to do in the Transmission Horologe I was so excited about it I was telling anyone that would listen for weeks!
I have to admit I got a bit confused by the story for this one. Perhaps I didn’t uncover things quickly enough or in a good order to work out what was going on. But it didn’t really matter. Simogo always create beautiful experiences full of twists and delights – The Sailor’s Dream is no exception. Set your sail and weigh anchor!