Feb 15, 2015

Excuses, excuses...

I can't remember the last time I went so long between posts. And there are no EXCUSES!
I've been doing plenty of design work, some writing, some life drawing, attended a workshop run by PJ Lynch and a couple of local artist meet-ups. So there's plenty of stuff to show and tell.
But I think I know why it's been so quiet here lately...
It's because January sucks and all I wanted to do is crawl up into a ball and hibernate for it. Honestly, I think I'm still getting over some residual Christmas tiredness and I just can't seem to shake it.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel! I have a slate that pretty much only features my own projects for once and there has been a great deal of groundwork being laid for the rest of the year.

So seeing as I have so much to get through and because I want to be more personal/diary-like in these new posts, let's just treat it as a sort of 'here's what I've been doing since last I was here' sort of thing. Okay?

So, yeah, I had promised to have an illustrated short story complete by now. Well, it's nearly there. Kinda. I have it written and a couple of illustrations have been completed. I just have a couple more pieces to do for it and then I can choose fonts and all the nitty-gritty stuff  that needs to be done before I release the whole thing into the wilds. It's shaping up nicely though and I really like the format I've chosen for these sorts of things.
So as soon as that story is done, it will pop up here. I'm thinking PDF for it but haven't quite decided yet.

Next up is some design work for The Circle. This has been taking up a great deal of my recent spare time and most lunch breaks are spent sketching away while chomping on either a healthy salad or some seriously UNhealthy fast food (there is no room for anything inbetween!).
So here's how the characters are starting to look...
Yep, I blocked one of the character's names. Can't be giving away too much now, can I?

There's a little bit of work to be done on a few of them, but for the most part they are pretty locked in. This has been a really fun and important step. I am constantly amazed how the flourish of a single stroke can take you down a completely different direction with regard to character design.

Let's see, what else... oh yeah, speaking of PJ Lynch. I discuss the class I went to that was run by PJ in Episode 8 of the podcast with Gord Mackay, so I won't go into it too much here, but I do want to say thank you to PJ again for such a fascinating and inspiring day! Here's some pics from it...
The portrait at the point where the details have been worked on and the colour is starting to be applied.
The only selfie I will EVER take! That's PJ on the right, by the way.
the set-up.

The portrait at the end. Ignore the eyes. Ignore them, I say!

And while we're on the subject of model depicting, here's a recent life drawing piece I was relatively happy with. I thoroughly enjoy using the gouache for the highlighting. When you get the consistency and flow just right on it, it's a dream to work with.

Finally, we big-wigs at the Galway Pub Scrawl HQ decided that meeting up every second Monday evening to draw and chat simply wasn't filling our requirements. So we now meet up on the Sunday afternoon in between the evening scrawls to further feed our need. It was kinda the brain child between myself and all-round good guy/boss, Donal Fallon. We've wanted to meet up for some more prolonged sessions for a while now (post 24-hour comic day, I believe) and the Sunday afternoon sit-down has run into its fifth hour on the two occasions that it has been held.
It's a smaller crowd involved and the setting is more intimate, and it's really fun to work in such close proximity to everyone. Here is Donal's write-up of the most recent gathering.

And that just about wraps it up, I suppose. I promise I won't be gone for so long for the next one! I'll be heading back to the land of Oz soon for a couple of weeks, but there are a few events lined up for march that will probably get a mention here too.
So I'll see you all soon.
Good Journey!

Jan 4, 2015


It's that time again...
Can you believe how quickly 2014 went?

As is tradition around these parts, at the end of a year I take a look back at the previous 12 months and see where I went wrong.
But I'm not going to do that this time.
I think that when I looked back at 2013, I was too focused on the negatives. Not that it was all positive or anything, but I didn't balance it right. But I think perhaps that is an important point I want to make here. The 'me' of 12 months ago is quite a different beast from the person I am today.

Rather than looking back at what 2014 entailed, the new me is all about looking ridiculously positively at what 2015 could have in store. This IS a subject I have talked about recently, but I have a few more solid plans in place now that I would love to share with you all.

But first, here are some things that are going to change in 2015-
  1. No longer will I be a slave to self-promotion, new audience reaching, platform building, crowd pleasing. It is my aim to not be obsessed with hit counts and all of that stuff anymore. I'm just going to do my thing and if people like it, awesome! It's kinda like Field of Dreams, but it's more a case of 'If you draw it, they MIGHT look at it. But it's really okay if they don't.'
  2. I'm going to not be so fooled by internet fads like Twitter and such. I just don't get Twitter and I don't think it is necessary for me and what I want to achieve. So I'm making a conscious effort to cut out that unnecessary stuff. So, yep, I'm a Twitter Quitter, once again.
  3. 2015 is about creating narratives. I've produced a lot of single pieces in the past number of years that don't really tell a story or would be considered part of a written piece. That will change. 
  4. Generally speaking, my art is going to become self-indulgent. I won't be catering to any particular audience or trying to please a certain client. I will be creating art that I want and in a way that gives me artistic pleasure. I think this may be the best way to make art, actually.
  5. I will be more prolific than ever, because I will be immersed in my own little Realms of Faerie world.
  6. This blog will remain essentially the same, but I'm going to try and make it more personal, filled with things from my daily life. Because my art is my life and permeates all that I do.
 So the things that I want to specifically create are still open to change, but these are a few things I definitely want to do-
  • I want to produce at least 100 pages of The Circle this year. I might need to create a website for all of those pages, and I wouldn't mind printing a book up once the first arc is completed. I might try and do this with crowdfunding, or I might even approach a publisher.
  • I want to write and illustrate a single, stand alone illustrated short story every month. These might take the form of a 'further adventures of...' sort of thing featuring characters from The Circle or some such. These might also take the form of a children's book every now and then.
  • I have a love of gaming and comic character sheets. You know the ones, with all of the vital statistics and a cool shot of the character. Yep, I want to do some of them too. I'm trying to format a template that I'm happy with still, but look for them to start appearing in the near future.
  • lots of stuff on toned paper!
  • more sculpting!!
  • more painting!!!
2015 is going to be a really busy year, but I also think it is going to be satisfying and full of happy art making. So this is my pledge to you, dear reader-

I am going to produce as much art that I think is cool and is as close a representation to what I want and like in stories and art that I possibly can in the year 2015. All of it will be free and made for the pure love of what I am doing. It will all be made by me, for nobody really except for me and my crazy whims. But it will be lovingly shared with anybody that wants to look at it. I will create the art and words only for their own sake, not for popularity, money or anything like that. I have stories to tell and pictures to draw and 2015 is the year that they come to life.

So the next post here is going to be the beginning of the new phase of my artistic life. I'm pretty darn excited by it, I can tell you.
See you then.

Dec 23, 2014

Bookmarks Mark II (see what I did there?)

Okay, it's the 23rd of December. That means I've finished up at the bookshop for Christmas and the bookmarks I made for my fellow staff members have all been handed out. So now I can show them all off here! Glorious day, hey?
For those of you that have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about... yeah, that's probably everybody actually... I started a tradition at the bookshop last Christmas where I give out a bookmark to each staff member for Christmas. Last year, I made a printed bookmark of my Goblins piece for everybody. But this year, I went a little nuts and made a one of a kind original bookmark for everybody instead.

Here they be!
I found these little bookmarks rather enjoyable to produce, I must say. I would usually start off with a head at the bottom for the vertical ones or to the left on the horizontals. Once I had that first one in, I would start blocking in the other objects to get the feel for the whole thing. Once I had everything roughly worked out, it was simply a case of inking the individual creatures and then adding the white touches. The inking was done with the fantastic Tombow brush pens my buddy Bart Sears put me on to, and the whites are done with varying degrees of diluted white gouache.
I previewed a couple of these bookmarks on Facebook last week and they seemed to get a pretty lively response. So I'm going to keep making them. I have a few people down for the next batch, but then I'm going to start selling them in my Etsy store. I'm also going to do some larger pieces in this vein. One of my art pals, Ruth Campion, is going to do an art swapsy for an A4ish piece in this style while I get a piece she is going to do for me! Very much looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

So anyways, I hope everybody out there has a really great Christmas, spent with loved ones in good cheer.
Talk to you soon.

Dec 7, 2014

While you're waiting...

I know, I know.
It has been quiet here for the last week or so. The bookshop is proving to be an exhausting and unwieldy beast at the moment (something to do with a fat home invader in crimson), so I don't really have anything new to show, unfortunately. But I do have a few things in the works, including that blasted Slaine picture, some more bookmarks and a few other odds and sods. They'll be appearing here as soon as I can get a spare couple of hours for my own art (a couple of fresh quick drawing jobs have popped up recently too).
So as I have nothing artistic to show at the moment, now is as good a time as any to show off some pictures of my dog, Louie.

And here's a video of him brushing his own teeth:

Back soon!

Nov 25, 2014

Bookmarks (not the website kind!)

I can still remember quite vividly a day all of 18-odd years ago now, when I discovered the charm of toned paper. I was working in an awful bookshop in a dodgy shopping centre (a mall, to my state-side friends) and I hated every second of it. Well, nearly every second. There were some moments I suppose.
One of those moments that didn't totally suck was when a box of books was delivered to me and as I opened it, I saw that the books within were wrapped in a really nice and toothy toned paper.

For those of you that don't know what toned paper is, it's basically a type of coloured paper that can vary dramatically in texture and, indeed, colour. Generally speaking though, it's that sort of brown paper that is used for paper grocery bags, wrapping paper, envelopes, etc. It can be quite grainy, even woody; sometimes it's rather waxy and smooth.

So anyway, it didn't take my puny little brain long to look at that toned paper in the box and decide that I wanted to draw stuff on it!
Thus began my love of making my own bookmarks out of toned paper. I've done lots of them over the years. Some were for family members, to sell in a bookshop (Kenny's bookshop in Galway back in 2001), and to use myself.

Here are some old ones:
Earlier this year, I purchased a big stack of pre-cut blank toned paper bookmarks from a person called Marylou Holvenstot through her Etsy store time2split. Marylou creates some really great stuff and she may well be able to sate my toned-paper obsession all in one place!
I've only just now gotten around to placing a single pencil line on any of the blank bookmarks I got from Marylou, but I want to start creating lots of bookmarks for my very own Etsy store. Also, I've started a crazy tradition (all of 1 year old now) of giving bookmarks to my co-workers every Christmas, so no doubt they'll be getting some of these news ones too!
I love making bookmarks. There's something about the tall and thin frame shape that makes drawing something on it both a challenge and a great effect if done right. You can do some very designy things with it too. Couple that with the toned paper, and the way white pencil and gouache looks on it and it's no wonder I love doing it.
I'll do another post on these bookmarks I'm making once I have a big stack of them for sale. The vast majority of them will feature characters and setting from the Realms of Faerie, of course.
Back soon with Slaine (most likely).

Nov 21, 2014

Designing The Circle - Dryad

I'm going to do a series of posts here about my process of designing, and in many cases re-designing, characters and elements of my The Circle comic/illustrated story. I think I can safely say that none of the initial designs from the 8-page Chapter 1 are going to be left unscathed. Some will have physical alterations, others will have origin re-imaginings, one will even have a name change!
I am doing these things only because I want this story to have legs and longevity. So I want to do it right and proper. To do this, changes are required.

So I've been working on some stuff with Dryad. I think I had her pretty close the first time around, it's just more about fleshing out her personality and locking in her origin. So here are some Dryad design pages from my trusty Cahier sketchbook.

I've been doing these designs in my lunch break, mostly. I normally wolf down some food (usually a homemade salad, because I'm sometimes a good boy) and then get right down to it.
I've probably been a serial offender at not giving the design process the full attention it deserves in my desire to move on to the finished product in the past. Which was silly of me, really. Because it is in the design process that those magical moments happen when just a few little scribbly marks can lead to a true eureka moment. I had one on the first page where I wrote that bit about Dryad's emotions being tied into the shapes of her horn-thingies. Up until that point, I had imagined them just being rigid objects that served no other purpose than to look somewhat interesting and be a means of making her recognisable, even in silhouette.

As for Dryad's origin... well, it wouldn't be at all fun for me to give that away just yet now would it! But here's a little bit of new information about her that doesn't give anything too serious away:

Dryad, like all of her kind, has no name of her own. She is of the Dryad, and that is enough. Each Dryad is the caretaker and spiritual embodiment of their own area of forest.
Dryads live forever, really, after they are 'born.' Once they are attached to their own wood, it physically pains them to be apart from it and they cannot endure long without renewed contact with it. Other woods can heal them to a great degree, but they are only ever whole while as one with their wood.

And that's all you're going to get out of me regarding Dryad for the moment. I still don't think I have her design 100% down, but I'll keep working away at it and you'll definitely see more of her in the future.

Back super-soon!

Nov 19, 2014

An afternoon with Eva Widermann... and Patrick.

On Saturday the 15th, I had the great fortune to attend a talk given by the great Eva Widermann on the subject of Concept Design for the Film & Gaming Industry.
It was part of a bunch of events geared toward younger humans than myself, but my good mate Patrick Gavin and I decided to go anyways, as we kinda know Eva already and we have an interest in the subject. In fact, we Galway based artists have been trying to get Eva up here to do a talk just like this for years now, so there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity.
The thinking Patrick
I tried to record some audio from the event, but the room was pretty big and sparse, so the recording ended up being quite echoe-y and barely anything could be made out. Which is a pity, because Eva gave some awesome advice throughout the talk. (I talk about this event in episode 5 of the Gord & Jay Talk Art Podcast)

Eva also gave us a little exercise to do, involving some random outline shapes on a page that we had to make objects out of-
The class was SO intense that this poor lass got a nose bleed half way through it! But don't worry about her, she draws great and will definitely go places.

And this poor girl got some marker on her face! But, yeah, she'll do big things too.
Here are my fairly unimaginative exercise results
After the class, Eva, Patrick and I met up with Galway Pub Scrawl chieftan, Donal Fallon for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. We were joined by new Galway resident and fellow artist Anna too. 'Twas a great time had by all...
...despite Donal's look of contempt. That was just directed at me, not the general vibe.
Oh, and I got to add Eva's business card to my folder. It's flipping cool!
Yummy transparency
A big thanks and sincere shout-out goes to the artist that is Eva Widermann. Thanks for a great day and some fun chats!
Go check out her website, won't you all? Yes, yes, you will...

Nov 12, 2014

An intellectual property to call one's own

I've been doing a heck-tonne of deep and serious pondering lately.
I have ample opportunity to do so whilst commuting to and from work, walking the dog, etc. But I tend to be a bit of a muller anyways.
The main topic of my ponderings lately has been the future of my artistic endeavours and what shape I want them to take. I know, I know, this isn't exactly the first time I've talked about this sort of thing before on this blog. But it is that very fact that I am here, pulling at this same old thread, once again.
You see, here's the thing... I've been looking back at all of the little projects I wanted and planned to do over the last number of years. The Faerie Stone sculptures, the individual painting ideas, the stories I wanted to write and illustrate... the list, it doth go on. One thing ties all of these projects together though. One thing that is mine and mine alone: My vision of the Realms of Faerie.

The Realms of Faerie encompasses nearly all of my intended future output. The Circle takes place in my Realms of Faerie. Willow and the Otter are there too. The Faerie Stones are part of it, as are the short little stories I have written. That's because the Realms of Faerie, my version of them at least, are my own Middle Earth, my Eternia, my Fantasia... It's the world of my imagination, where many things are possible and my creative self can roam free through its wilds.
Its kinda hard to explain what having this world inside my head feels like. It is always there, waiting (not always patiently) to be explored further. It is a place of comfort and retreat, but it is also a place fraught with perils and not all together healthy temptations. But it is my world, and it is formed by my ideas and its boundaries are defined only by how far I have pushed them.

The one thing my Realms of Faerie hate is to be neglected, though. They aren't too demanding of my time, but if I go too long without walking their woods, they tend to make me pay for it in some way. In other words, I get grumpy. So whenever I get a chance to, I retreat into my Realms of Faerie.
I AM aware of how that sounds, by the way. It DOES sound a bit nuts, weird and, well, lame all at the same time. I get that. But I don't think it is actually any of those things. To my mind, it is fun, fantastic and inspiring. It's as though I have this endless reservoir inside my mind, where there is no end to the artistic and writing possibilities.

All I need is the time to start bringing more of these things to life. I need to manifest my Realms of Faerie into stories, paintings, sculptures. Because one of my biggest fears is to not see this stuff realised in the flesh. My buddy Bart Sears has his own world inside of his head. I've been privileged enough to have only a glimpse into that world, and it is pretty darn spectacular. But Bart has always struggled to find the opportunities to make this world real. He is a freelance artist, with mouths to feed, so the paying work will always be actively sought and treated as the priority. But I fear that my own career will result in the same thing. That the working for other people, and visually creating THEIR own worlds, will get in the way of me creating MY own world.
Lets face it, I ain't getting any younger and there are quite possibly more days behind me than there could potentially be ahead of me. So time is running out.
It is with this last thought in mind that I have come to some decisions. Firstly, for the year 2015, I will no longer be considering myself a freelance artist. I have looked back at the last couple of years and how much I have actually earned as a freelance artist and it is a comparatively small amount. This is not to say that I do not appreciate the jobs I have worked on at all. It goes without saying that I have enjoyed them all, learned from them, improved with them, and bought cool stuff with the money earned from them. But my Realms of Faerie still remain essentially in my head, not out in the world.
So, yes, the freelance work has been fun, but I also don't want to do it anymore, at least not for 2015. Again, it's not a negative thing, it's a preference thing. Many artists are quite content with the freelance lifestyle, working for clients and creating artwork for properties not of their own. I'm just not that guy anymore. I may never have been, actually.
But I will be making the very rare exception with this. I have friends that need only ask and I will create art for them. But I won't be actively seeking new jobs, and I won't be taking on new ones that come knocking on my door unless it's an offer I simply can't pass up.
It sounds harsh. It HAS to be harsh.
What I'm going to be, instead of a freelance artist, is an independent creator (but I might settle on a less pretentious title than that). It means that I will be working entirely on what I want to do. 99% of that is going to be Realms of Faerie related, but I am going to leave space for the odd side piece, such as more Lord of the Rings portraits, or a superhero piece, etc. But these, too, will be of my choosing. But really, for 2015 (and possibly/probably past that), it's going to be all about Realms of Faerie. It HAS to be.
So what is the allure of my Realms of Faerie? Well, apart from them being my very own creation and the appeal that inherently brings, I do like a bunch of other contributing factors.

Diversity & Flexibility. The Circle may have some racy and more adult themes in it. Klogg the Troll is a children's picture book (yep, that too is part of RoF). The Realms of Faerie and the stories and artwork to be found within them, can be what I want them to be. So if I want to write a fantasy novel set in those realms, I ruddy-well can. Or a comic, or a picture book... There are no restrictions on what I can write and how I go about writing it. I like that a lot.

Marketability. While I do want to release most of what I come up with free of charge for the most part. There will be opportunities for me to make a bit of coin along the way. I want to collect short stories into perfect-bound books, maybe make some cast sculptures too. That sort of stuff. I would like to approach publishers with books, and maybe self-publish the odd comic. It will be all about striking the balance between giving stuff away and then offering further material for a fee for those that want it.

Longevity. Honestly, I could happily create things from my Realms of Faerie for the rest of my life. I never grow weary of it and I can't imagine I ever will. The Realms of Faerie have been with me ever since I went looking around trees for doors to Gnome houses when I was a small child and imagined far off lands where magic, beauty and adventure awaited.

Lastly, Personal Satisfaction. The decision to concentrate on the Realms of Faerie has been brewing for at least a year now, and it has been steadily growing in the last couple of months. And it's a weird thing; the more I think about the Realms of Faerie, and the more I commit to it being my primary creative outlet, the happier I have been! I usually avoid wishy-washy sentiment wherever possible, but I can't help but feel as though the Realms of Faerie are my calling in life. To deny them is to deny my true self and will only lead to pain and more of grumpy Jay. Nobody wants grumpy Jay. Grumpy Jay is a loser.
On the surface, I could see how saying all of this might be seen as being a little overly-dramatic. After all, aren't I just simply deciding to not draw one thing in favour of another?
Well... yes. I am doing that. But it's far more. It's also about changing the way I look at my artistic career, my expectations for it, and the path it will follow. It's actually a pretty fundamental way in which I will be changing my outlook on one of the most important parts of my life. It's like going from Pepsi to Coke. One cannot emphasize the gravity of such a move enough.

So for the rest of this year, of what little there is left, I am going to be tying up loose ends and finishing off jobs I have outstanding. But once these are done and dusted, the change will take place.
Then, in 2015, I will become an entirely different person. I will be more prolific, happier, more consistent, more skilful, busier.

What I produce in 2015 for the Realms of Faerie will mostly remain to be decided. I have ongoing things like The Circle (I'm thinking of maybe a graphic novel for that particular project), but I want to illustrate lots of short stories, and do some children's books, and finally finish Willow and the Otter. There will be some sculpting, some single pictures, some poems (gah!), and whatever else I feel the urge to do. It's all about leaving myself open to ideas, while maintaining a solid focus on producing the very best work, whilst having a lot of fun, doing the thing I am meant to be doing.
As for changes to this blog and my other places. There will be none. I'll still be doing posts here every week, Gord and I will still be doing our regular podcasts, there will still be stuff for sale on my Etsy page (probably lots more!). It's just that you will stop seeing my work for other people, it'll all be of my own creation and doing.
Because, as the sign says on my study window...

Nov 4, 2014

The Other of One

Folks might recall me mentioning a book by the name of The Other of One by local Galway author, Brian G. Burke. I initially produced a couple of black & white interior illustrations for Brian, and then he asked me if I wanted to re-do the existing cover for Book One. Obviously, I jumped at the chance, and this is the result:

This piece was produced with watercolours, with some white gouache in spots for good measure. It took bloody ages to do, but I'm happy with the result. For me, a successful picture, in many cases, is when there are under five areas that I think suck. I count three such areas in this piece, so it passes the grade.

The problem is, it was all for naught.
The artwork I produced unfortunately won't be used for the printed book. The company that Brian is using sent him a message last week saying that the cover may come out blurry in the printing process, even though we met their minimum image quality requirements. They sent him out a sample copy and the cover is, indeed, blurry. Too blurry to use. So Brian, quite rightly, is retaining the initial cover artwork for the book and will not use this cover.
There are, of course, no bad feelings here. Brian did what he had to do and this sort of thing happens all of the time. Heck, it's not the first time it has happened to me! Sometimes these things just don't work out. It's part of the job of a freelance artist.
Book 2 will still have the black and white illustrations I produced for Brian, and who knows, we may work together on other things in the future.
I've mentioned this project in the podcast recently, in case you wanted to hear a little more about it. Episode 4 will have some discussion of this subject too.

Before I go, here's another The Circle character resplendent with a fresh coat of paint:

Dennae. She's got a big secret...
I'll be back soon with Slaine. Maybe another He-Man. Possibly The Circle. Or, you know, all three!

Oct 29, 2014

...now with A3 scanning facilities...

YAAAYYYY! It's been a long time coming, but I now have my very own A3 scanner.
And it only came about, oh,  43 hours after I reeeaaallllly needed it.

But that's okay, because I now have an A3 scanner! So the first thing I scanned was the life drawing study I did a few weeks ago. It was the big, long session I mentioned in episode 3 of the Gord & Jay Talk Art Podcast (an entirely warranted and necessary plug, I'll have you know!)

Anyway, here it is-

The picture isn't finished yet, I'm going to try and get back to it in the next week or so. The model's name is Karen. She was pretty amazing. It looks as though that pose would be easy enough to hold. But ask any life model and they will tell you that there really is no such thing as an easy pose, especially one you have to hold for FIVE WHOPPING HOURS!
So, anyway, the piece was made in watercolours, with that trusty white gouache I love to use for flesh tones.

Before I forget, I want to extend a welcoming hand to my newest follower, jorisburla from Zurich. Please feel free to make yourself at home!

Back soon!