Sep 9, 2014

Life Drawing

I'm absolutely loving the Life Drawing classes I take at the moment. I feel as though I've come a long way, artistically, in the three or four months that I've been doing it. Which is precisely why I took the classes in the first place! After all, I'm not there for a haircut...

I am a big believer in the notion that life drawing increases your skill in a more refined way and far quicker than any other form of artistic learning or practice. It's difficult, I find, to discern or conclude why this is so, though. I mean what's the difference between drawing a model in front of you as opposed to painting a landscape? Or a still life? Heck, something from your imagination!?

I think the answer lies in this: when you have a live model in front of you, there are many contributing factors you have to address to make a convincing picture, especially if you're a realistic representational life drawing practitioner like myself.
First and foremost is the form of the figure. The human body is endlessly fascinating to study and draw; the way the muscles move, stretch and bunch, how the skeleton contorts limbs, compacting parts and elongating others. An artist can spend a lifetime in the pursuit of anatomical knowledge. It never gets old!

On top of the form, you have many other elements that contribute to the whole. You have:
  • lighting how light and shadows play on the form.
  • atmosphere and other surrounding factors.
  • style how developed you are with how you draw.
  • perspective on the form is a difficult thing to master.
  • foreshortening is perhaps even more so!
  • media what you depict the figure with.
  • technique similar to style, but less naturally achieved. It's more conscious too.
  • time how long do you have to achieve your desired result.
So while other methods of artistic learning/practice/application might cover some, many or even all of these areas, I just don't think any of them can cover it all in such a clearly refined way.
Personally, I prefer a long session with limited poses.
If possible, I prefer to just dive into a single pose. Many artists need to do those quick one- and two-minute poses. I think they're a lot of fun, but I do okay without them. I'm a slow going sort of artist. I like to build up tone and layers over time, and in my own time.

But saying that, I do enjoy the variety of the classes I currently attend. I have my regular Wednesday evening class that usually involves a single long pose, examples of which are the first and last images in this very post. I also have the once-monthly (not nearly frequent enough, Scarlett!) Dr. Sketchy Burlesque/Life Drawing class that entails many different poses at a variety of lengths.
I've just had another one of these the Saturday just gone (the theme of which, almost custom-designed for me, was 'Magical Creatures'). Here's an example from that session-

So while I do love the Wednesday class and its sustained poses, the sheer fun and exhilaration of the Dr. Sketchy classes are also more than worth the entry fee.

I think that the way to artistically look at the two different events is to perceive them as just that: two different events. With the Wednesday class, I can feed the classical artist in me and really knuckle down to some realistic drawing and painting.
With Dr. Sketchy's, I am only just starting to get a grip of what I should be doing at it. Because of its set-up, the classical and 'realistic as possible' way isn't going to be very effective. There's just not enough time, I find, to do this justice in any of the poses.
So I tried, at the Mythical Creatures show, to try and be more stylistically inclined toward simple line, with less detail and rendering than I would normally do. I think the results worked, with the promise of further refinement and success in this method.

The system I am using for the long poses at the moment, and what I am quite enjoying too, is drawing onto a grey paper with a variety of graphite pencils (usually an HB to begin with, then moving up to a 2B and 6B) and a white pencil for highlighting. It's a low-tech system that can have great results and has been practiced for literally hundreds of years by artists. I do plan on changing it up in the future though.

One of the other Wednesday nighters, Kathy, broke out some watercolours the other night and the results were fantastic. I'd like to give that a go at some point too. Getting some clay going might be fun as well!

For far too many years, I fell out of attending life drawing classes. I really wish I hadn't done that. I honestly believe I would be a far better artists now if I had have regularly attended classes.

But I plan on making up for lost time.

Sep 6, 2014


Okay... Podcasting.
I mentioned briefly a couple of posts ago that my old buddy, Gordon Mackay and I are in the planning stages of doing an art podcast together.
Well, I can happily say that things are moving along quite nicely with it.

It will be some time in the next couple of weeks that Gordon and I get to sit down and actually record our first podcast. That first one will really just be a bit of an introduction episode, for listeners to learn a little about us, what we do as artists and where we plan on going with the podcast.

We still have some kinks to work out and some technical things to overcome/learn, but the biggest thing I am finding trouble with is what we should call the podcast!?! I'm usually pretty good at coming up with names for things, but I'm encountering some serious name-creating block at the moment.
That said, here are some of the names I have come up with so far-

The Artistrators
Gord & Jay talk art
Gord & Jay make an Art Podcast
The Angry Giant Podcast
The Fantastasists (or, alternately, The Fantasists)
The Artist Path

I guess any of those would be sufficient, but we're also happy to hear anybody's ideas for names too. So leave a comment if you can think of something better!

We'll be coming up with a logo for the Podcast, whatever its name ends up being, before the podcast is launched.

I'd like to apply some small musical elements to the podcast as well, mostly for intro's, outro's and breaks. I had lined up my brother, Ryan, to produce some guitar pieces especially for us, but he unfortunately doesn't have the recording apparatus or the time. A shame, that. So I guess we'll just have to use some open license stuff, unless anybody reading this would like to contribute music?

The podcast will get its very own blog to post show notes and various affiliated items onto, and once I work out how to do it, the podcast will be available free on iTunes, naturally.

So I'm hoping to have everything up and going, including the first podcast recorded, edited and released, in the first couple of weeks of October.
I'll bring more news on this closer to the launch though.

And I'll be back here in a couple of days with a post about Life Drawing.
See you then.

Sep 2, 2014

World Art Drop Day

I know, I know... I was supposed to be writing about Podcasting in this post, but that is simply going to have to wait until the next post!
Because today, I want to talk about a fun 24 hours I've just had.
It all began, as so many cool things do, at the Galway Pub Scrawl. Our fearless leader, Donal Fallon, mentioned on Facebook yesterday that today is World Art Drop Day. WADD is this nifty event where folks create a piece of artwork and leave it somewhere for somebody to find and keep for free. People can simply stumble upon artwork, not knowing anything about WADD, and get some free artwork. Artists can also initiate a sort of treasure hunt by giving clues and images as to the artwork's whereabouts.
It really is a fun event; where generosity, goodwill and sharing are the order of the day.
So I drew up a couple of quick pieces at last night's Galway Pub Scrawl.

And then this morning, before work, I planted the pieces around Galway-
Each picture came with a little official WADD note with a brief explanation and where I can be contacted. I also included a business card and put all of the contents in a sealed plastic card sleeve so that the elements didn't get to the artwork.

I left the first piece on a sculpture of Oscar Wilde, the second was on the windowsill of Charlie Byrne's bookshop. And then I went off to work.
I can tell you, the idea of somebody 'discovering' the artwork was a really fun feeling. I had to wait several hours before I could go see if the art had been taken. I posted on Twitter all of the details and a clue to the location of each piece, and waited...
When my lunch break finally came, I dashed about Galway, only to discover that the artwork had, indeed, been taken.
Now, of course, somebody might have just picked the package up and threw it in the bin. Maybe somebody scrunched them up and kicked them along the road for a while, until they were rolled over and finally destroyed by a bus. Sure, things like that could very well have happened! But I like to think that some lovely person was simply minding their own business, spotted one of the drawings, picked it up, turned it over, read all about WADD and the finding of the artwork really made their day. That's what I hope happened. Maybe the people that found the packages will get in contact with me, maybe they won't. It's cool either way. I really didn't do this to gain a fan, it's all about the random act of sharing that attracted me in the first place.
So here I sit, writing this post, keeping an eye out for that magical little indicator number that tells me I have a new email. Could it be...?

Aug 29, 2014

An English sojourn

Greetings to you, dear and gentle reader.
I've just returned from a three day holiday in the UK, where many things were seen and even more things were done. Here's a sampling of what I got up to...

1. I visited J. R. R. Tolkien's grave.
It has been a wish of mine for some time now to visit my favourite author's resting place. It turned out to be the first thing ticked off the list after arriving at Heathrow airport. The drive up took a little over an hour (thanks to traffic and some pretty heavy rain), but the graveyard was eventually reached without any difficulty and Mr. and Mrs. Tolkien's grave was found soon after.
I must confess that I did shed a tear as I stood there. For the vast majority of my life, Tolkien has been a big part of who I am. So to be standing there, with him resting before me, hit me a little harder than I had expected. But I expressed my thanks to him for all that he had given me, and paid my heartfelt respects.

2. I got up close and personal with Stonehenge.
Well, I would have if there wasn't a barrier erected to stop people from touching the stones. Also, it was severely lashing down with rain. Proper torrential stuff.
You can see the rain in the shadows.
So I couldn't do all of my Spinal Tap jokes. That was a pity...

3. I found River Cottage.
My wife and I have been fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's programs since the first River Cottage was aired. So I was able to track down the original cottage's location on a map and managed to follow said map correctly!
This is a pretty magical spot. Hugh no longer resides here, but the place looks essentially the same and I didn't even have to do any trespassing, which is a bonus.

4. I walked through Kensington Gardens.
This was undertaken to fulfil a bit of an Arthur Rackham dream of mine. Rackham, of course, illustrated many books back in the day, including Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
It's a very impressive place, full of massive trees, people exercising, plenty of wildlife (including geese, pigeons and grey squirrels) and lots of landmarks.
The highlight for me was actually the Albert Memorial, which is just an amazing example of what can be done with realistic sculpture. It is fantastic.
5. I bought stuff.
It wouldn't be a holiday without me buying lots of things and stressing out about breaking or generally damaging them on the return journey. But I'm happy to announce that all items arrived safely. Here are a few choice pieces:

Some Stonehenge swag: The guide book, a commemorative coin and a cheap replica dagger.

Finds from Lyme Regis: A cool little stone sphere and a Trilobite.
Lyme Regis is on the Dorset coast, also known as the Jurassic Coast because of its abundance of fossils. I also visited a sci-fi/paleontology painter by the name of Richard Bizley's store and watched him work on a piece for a while. He has a cool set-up where he actually works in his store. So you can browse his paintings, prints and other items, while he paints away in another section of the store. It's a great marketing idea.

The Natural History Museum, in London, is pretty awesome. It's free to get in, and is probably the best Museum of its kind in the world. I went straight for the dinosaur section and finished up at the gift shop. The badger thing at the right does look like some kind of a coffee mug, but the reservoir is actually quite shallow. I'll probably use it for some artistic purpose, no doubt. Possibly a watercolours water cup.

A half dozen Cretacolor AquaMonolith watercolour pencils in a cloth Derwent pencil holder.
I didn't get much in the way of art supplies while I was there. Though I did visit a store called Cass Art in Charing Cross in London, just around the corner from the National Gallery. They had some great stuff and I would have bought a whole lot more if I had the luggage space.

Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble volumes 2 & 3
I love Knights of the Dinner Table. I first got into them when I was working at Gamer's Realm back in 2002. Anyway, I picked these two books up at a gaming store called Orcs Nest on Earlham Street in London. I already regret not grabbing more copies...

I also visited a glorious bookstore on Charing Cross Road called Henry Pordes Books. Quite simply, it is the greatest bookstore I have ever been in. That is saying a lot, obviously. But there is a justifiable reason for me saying that. It's because that bookstore has the biggest selection of books that I personally want that I have ever come across. Often, when going to a bookstore, I would normally find maybe 2 or 3 books I'd be happy owning. Well, this bookstore had about 30. There was a huge selection of Arthur Rackham early editions, the largest selection I have ever seen in one place, as well as lots of books illustrated by golden age masters like Dulac and the Robinsons, and there were a couple of gorgeous early editions of the Wind in the Willows.
It pained me to leave that store empty-handed, but the cheapest book I wanted was already way out of my range at the time. But the experience of standing there, looking up at a high shelf full of Rackham books was pretty amazing, all the same.

And now I'm back at home with paintings to paint, illustrations to illustrate, networking to network.
My next post should be a bit of an update as to the status of the podcast I keep going on about. It should be up in less than a week.
Chat to you then!

Aug 21, 2014

My Etsy store

I've taken the giant, yet incredibly simple, leap of opening up my own Etsy store. You can find it right here. It is, of course, called RealmsofFaerie.

The main reason I set up an Etsy store is so that I can have a place, aside from this blog and my gallery, where the purpose is to sell artwork.
To be honest, I was never comfortable trying to sell stuff here, as this blog is more about the process of art and the things I like (and often dislike) about it. But when it came to putting a price tag on things, I felt it sorta betrayed the whole reason for doing this blog.
But with the Etsy store, that is not a problem, that's its sole purpose. So why don't you pop on over and take a look-see at my wares. They'll be added to as frequently as I am able with sketches, sculptures, paintings, drawings and whatever else I can cook up.

Aug 15, 2014

A Starting Point

So I mentioned recently that I'm embarking on a change in media from black and white inked work to full colour paintings. I stated that I am going to be essentially beginning from scratch in this regard.
But before I start down this road, I thought it might be a good idea to put a marker in the ground at the start point, a sort of skill-level indicator that I can look back at to see how far along I have come.

So this painting below was produced using all of the current skill and knowledge I could muster.
It's a roughly 90 minute acrylic portrait from my Wednesday night life drawing class, the model's name is Ivan.I would still consider this piece unfinished. It would probably need another couple of hours to clean it up and tighten areas. But for the purpose of this exercise, it's clear enough.

It's not an awful painting, but by no means is it any good. But I'm okay with that. More than okay, actually. It shows me how much I have to learn and what I have to do to get further along the path. And my feet are very itchy...

Back soon with more! Maybe even some actual fantasy or faerie related artwork...

Aug 12, 2014

Lord of the Rings portraits

Have I mentioned before how much of a Tolkien fan I am? Yeah, I'm sure I have.
I love Tolkien to bits and am currently reading Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time. I'm one of those people that reads Tolkien obsessively and tackles LOTR every couple of years. I'm a Tolkien purist, too. That means I don't like the movies in general and consider them Peter Jackson's retelling of the story, not the story itself or how Tolkien wrote it. Essentially, I consider the movies an adaptation of one of the greatest stories ever written.

But here is the dilemma of the Tolkien purist who has seen the LOTR movies. The Peter Jackson dilemma, if you will.
I, like so many others, saw the Peter Jackson LOTR movies when they came out. I even enjoyed them! But time has not been kind to my view of them. I have no intention of ever watching them again and I have thus far given the Hobbit adaptations a very wide berth indeed. But still, it is difficult, when reading the books, not to picture images from Peter Jackson's adaptations as you go along. This is frustrating for somebody like myself who loves the books and doesn't like the movies.
I would like to read the bit about the Mines of Moria and not see Orlando Bloom as Legolas; or when Merry and Pippin flee into Fangorn Forest, I would rather not see Peter Jackson's version of it, nor his Ents, but my own.

But what is the solution to this dilemma? Well, thankfully, there are ways to get around this:
  1. Time heals all wounds. Over the years, those Peter Jackson images have faded more and more, leaving many scenes clear of his input.
  2. There is a funny irony in the fact that Jackson deviated so very much from the original story. The thing that bothers so many of us hardcore Tolkien fans about the movies is also it's saving grace. Jackson famously omitted Tom Bombadil from the movies. Great! That means that the vision of him is unsullied by Jackson's hand! The same goes for Farmer Maggot, Goldberry, the Barrow Wights and so many others. There are whole scenes, characters, settings and plots that are left alone for the reader to create their own mental imagery for.
  3. A solution I have only recently discovered and it only really applies to those of an artistic bent- One can simply draw the characters how they alone see them! This way, they can trump Peter Jackson and any other person who has depicted these characters in the past.
So that's what I have been doing...
A Mirkwood Elf and good old Gimli
A young Frodo, A Moria Orc, Barliman and Khamul.
These little sketches have been quite a lot of fun to do and have been pretty successful in nullifying Jackson's visual influence; but what I really want to do is move up to doing proper painted portraits of some of the characters. I have ideas about how to go about doing that, of which will be covered in a later post, so look out for some painted Tolkien portraits by me in the near future!

Aug 3, 2014

The Other of One

Here's something I've been working on lately-
There's a book that was written by a fellow resident of Galway, Ireland named Brian Burke called The Other of One. It's a fantasy novel in the vein of the Narnia books and The Hobbit and is getting some great reviews.
Not my cover, I must stress!
Brian contacted me a while ago and commissioned me to produce three black & white interior illustrations for it (I'll reveal them when the book comes out soon).
Brian has since gone on to commission me to redo the cover for book 1 and possible book 2, as well as some other promotional stuff.
I'm having a lot of fun doing the work for him and it will be awesome to see the book in print with my cover (still in the works) on it.
Here's a sketch I made of one of the characters. I was going for a sort of How to Train Your Dragon vibe with it, obviously.

I will share more from this project as I get approval to do so.

Ciao for now.

Jul 23, 2014

The road goes ever on

So, the last post dealt with the things I would like to do with my artwork, both on a personal level and commercially. This post is all about how I plan on getting there. It requires a few changes, as you'll see.

First and foremost, I am going to be changing my main medium.
For basically all of my professional freelance illustration career (all three years of it), I have been working in black and white, with pen and ink. This has been a lot of fun and I think I've produced some decent work in that medium. But I think the time has come for me to move on to something else as my main tool of creating the images I do. This is not to say that I dislike the black and white stuff all of a sudden. It's not that all. It's just that I want to express myself artistically in a medium that can give me more.
From this moment on, coloured paints are my medium of choice. I've been wanting to move on to them for quite a while now and the thought of learning all about them fills me with excitement. And when I say 'learning,' I really mean it. It's not going to be a case of  me simply transferring my skill level from the black and white stuff over to the paints. It doesn't work like that at all. Painting and colour are their own beasts and they each have their own set of skills to learn.

I really can't wait to sink my teeth in. I'm going to be starting from the very start and being smart about how I go about learning how to do it all. And I will be joined along the way, by my best art buddy, Gordon Mackay. We've both been talking about switching to paint as our main medium, and we plan on learning together as we go. It's going to be a lot of fun and hopefully I'll have my first pieces to show in the coming months, even if they are just simple still life's or portrait studies.

So the painting covers most of the personal goals I have, but it also spills over into the commercial side of it too. Because I want to paint Magic:The Gathering card art, I want to paint book covers, I want to paint Faerie stories. So in order for me to do that, I should probably learn how to paint properly, right?
I believe I have a core ability or 'talent' (despite what Greg Manchess says) that will enable me to progress well and I honestly believe I should be at a decent enough painting level sooner rather than later. But that won't stop me from learning every beginner-level lesson I can find and developing a base of acquired skill through experience and experimentation. So there will probably be a lot of references to James Gurney over the coming months and years. Be warned.

All of this painting stuff is going to take up a lot of time, I imagine. Which is why I am going to stop taking commissions and jobs for the next little while. I have some regular clients that I will continue to honour our arrangement, but I'm afraid I won't be able to take on any new jobs for a while. But when I do open myself up for commissions and new jobs again in the future, it will be as an artist that works in colour and with paint. This will mean that I will have a new portfolio, a new product, a new price list and, hopefully, a new career.
It is my plan to open myself for painting jobs and commissions on January 1st, 2015. That gives me roughly five months to knuckle down and get some serious, intensive painting done. I imagine that the learning curve is going to be steep!

One of the reasons I am doing this is because I can envision a time when I don't have to get up at 6:30 in the morning to go and work at a retail job and come home 12 hours later and try and squeeze in a couple of hours of art before bed, if I have any energy left at all. I can envision a time in the near future when I get up at 7:30, instead, and work on my art for as long as I need over the day. Essentially, I plan on getting to a point, hopefully in the next few years, when I can be a full-time artist. If I want to seriously be a proper Faerie and Fantasy artist, I will simply have to take the plunge and change the way I live. At this point in my career/life I work long hours for little pay and the time I have for the thing I actually want to do, the art, is restricted and severely compromised. I'm not being the artist I know I can be and I don't want to live like this for too much longer. Honestly, it's what I am meant to do with my life and I will only ever be creatively content if that is what I am doing. So I plan to make that happen. And painting is the way it will happen.

But there are other things I want to do, too. I've been going on a lot lately about how much I love Podcasts. I think they're great! So great, in fact, that Gordon and I are seriously considering doing our own one. We're still working out the kinks and actual viability of it at this stage, but we're both keen to at least give it a go. The reasons I, personally, want to do a podcast are many, but really, it's mostly just about further getting my name out there. I look at a lot of the podcast presenters I listen to and how their careers have blossomed with the aid of their podcasts, and I think I'd be mad not to give it a go myself.
One of the other big reasons for doing a podcast is that it will be a part of the learning process. Hopefully, by openly discussing the process of painting and art, the lessons learned will filter back to the actual artwork. That's the idea anyway.
But I'll keep you posted on the podcast thing. If it can be done easily enough and we can do it justice, then I'd say we'll be going ahead with it in the next few months.

There's a couple of other things I have in the works, but I imagine your excitement is already at dangerously high levels, so for the sake of public safety, I'll leave it at that for now.

Back soon with paintings!
A recent Urban Sketchers painting. It sucks, but it's a good skill level marker.

Jul 17, 2014

My artistic Bucket List

This post is going to be a two-parter of sorts. Each part is going to deal with vaguely the same subject- where I want to go with my artwork and how I intend on getting there. So let's get straight to it, shall we?

PART 1: The Dream Bucket
As an artist, I am in a state of constantly striving to attain new skills, new levels of artistic knowledge, new elements to add to and refine my style. 

Most of my artistic goals are purely for my own sake. I want to have a better understanding of colour, of light, of form. I want to continue to grow, to never rest on former achievements and to always seek out new things. This is all in aid of me becoming a better artist, for the pure purpose of creating more interesting and, hopefully, more beautiful art.

But some of my goals are more to do with the world outside of my own head. I may want to see some piece of mine in a certain place, reaching this audience, or that buyer. These goals are more tied into ego, but are also bound to a willing desire to be successful through creative production, to make a living out of making art that people like. Egotistical, yes. But it's also about communicating beauty, expressing emotion, making tangible things that people may like to look at. 
It's kinda like a cake, I guess. Each one I make is hopefully a little tastier than the last, with better decorations and a nicer consistency. Part of me wants to bake to show off how good I am at it, but the other part, the far greater part, is all about sharing the cake with people. They might be hungry, they might not be. They may like the cake, they may not. One bite might be enough for some, others might come back for more. All I can do is just keep making cakes, and hope that I find enough people hungry for them. But if I don't... well, I'm more than happy to eat the cakes myself. I like cake.

So anyway,  I've got goals in both respects. Personal and commercial. Let's have a look at my big goals in these areas:

  • I want to be proficient with oil paints. They are, to me, the pinnacle of all artistic mediums.
  • I want to be able to depict closely, through paint, images I see in my mind.
  • I want to sculpt more Faerie Stones and make other crafty things.
  • I want to get good at plein air painting.
  • Same with portraiture.
  • I would dearly love to attend the IMC (Illustration Master Class) some year. That's where the best fantasy artists go to party and learn heaps of stuff from other best fantasy artists in the world. It costs US$2,500 just to attend it though. So that's an 'if I win the lottery' one.
  • I would love to visit a couple of artists at their homes to chat and have a drawing session with them. Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Larry MacDougall, Jean-Baptiste Monge and old buddy Bart Sears, I'm talking about you!
  • If Muddy Colors were to ask me to become a contributor, or if Drawn Today wanted me to chime in on the odd podcast, I'd agree to that quite quickly.
  • Mostly, I just want be successful enough to enable me to pursue my own artistic dreams and ambitions. I don't need huge amounts of money for that, just enough to get by and be happy.
  • First and foremost, I want my Realms of Faerie books to some day get published. This will allow me to die happy.
  • I want to have my artwork appear on at least one actual Magic: The Gathering card. I'd prefer it to be a green card, and an Elf one if it can be arranged...
  • I'd like to have at least one painting appear in a Dungeons & Dragons manual. A Pathfinder one would be sweet also.
  • I want to get a piece approved for inclusion into that wondrous annual tome, Spectrum. I'm aiming to send something for consideration for #22, out late next year.
  • I want to do something with my The Circle story.
  • I'd be cool with having a booth at something like Illuxcon or Dragon Con. I wouldn't even have to sell much, it'd still be an unforgettable experience.
  • I'd like to do an exhibition of my work and do the whole fancy opening night thing. As silly as all of that sounds to me.
  • A Tolkien book cover assignment would be nice.
  • Illustrating a new edition of The Wind in the Willows would be great too.
Yeah, some of those goals are pretty lofty. But you have to aim high, don't you?

So the next post is going to be all about how I plan to reach those goals and may contain some medium-to-large bits of news. But before I close out this post, here's some recent Life Drawing work I've done:

Chat soon.

Jul 8, 2014

The relevant worth of Podcasts

I've been self-medicating myself on a fairly heavy dose of Podcasts over the last month or so and I'm now totally hooked on them, real bad. They are fantastic to listen to while drawing and painting, and I also listen to them during my commute to and from work.

Let's get one thing straight, though: I don't just listen to any old podcast I come across. Heck no! I only choose to listen to the very finest quality podcasts; the cream of the crop, the diamonds in the veritable rough.

Naturally, the podcasts I do like to listen to are about the things I have more than just a passing interest in. For instance, there is a fellow that goes by the name 'The Tolkien Professor,' who has several hundred episodes available to listen to for free that go into incredible detail about my favourite author, J. R. R. Tolkien. So I've listened to a whole bunch of those.

But what I am really into at the moment is the fantasy art and general illustration podcasts. And, thankfully, there's a good few of them. Here are the ones I particularly like:

The WIP Podcast is the one that started it all for me. I can't recall how I ended up listening to this one, but I am so glad I did. This podcast is hosted by two married couples, Jeff & Caroline Himmelman and Pete & Ania Mohrbacher.
I've only managed to find episodes 15 through 24 to listen to on iTunes and the internet at large, but I plan on asking the creators (a couple of whom are Facebook friends) if the first 14 are available anywhere.
Unfortunately, the last episode (#24) was recorded over three years ago, so it is unlikely that there will be any new episodes from the WIP gang. I believe the Himmelman's are no longer together, which is probably why, sadly, the podcast is no more.
The thing I really love about the WIP podcast is the feeling of openness and sharing one gets from it. I've heard it mentioned in several places how the Fantasy art scene is one of the most welcoming and sharing groups in the art world; where artists are more than happy to help other artists out and strong bonds of friendship are often forged. This is very evident in the WIP podcast.
Episodes 15 to 24 are available for free on iTunes.

Ninja Mountain is another great one. There are currently 126 episodes (and counting) full of fantastic tips, interviews, discussions, theories and commentaries on fantasy art and related topics. I've only listened to maybe a dozen or so of these episodes, but they are really good and will probably be the next series I will audibly consume once the current one is complete.
All of their episodes can be downloaded from their awesome BLOG.

Sidebar Nation is more of a comic-related podcast, but it is still really good. There are a huge amount of podcasts, some with interviews with the very best comic creators around today. I just listened to a wonderful and revealing interview with the great Whilce Portacio a few weeks ago.
Sidebar is probably the best know comic-related podcast and their website can be found over here.

This is the podcast series I am currently listening to. It's bloody good and I never want it to end!
The thing I really like about the Drawn Today podcasts is the diversity of presenters and their views. They talk about important artistic subjects passionately, and there is a good mix of perspectives and respectful disagreement.
There seems to be a good roster of contributors to the Drawn Today podcast and blog, and many of them go to the big conventions and workshops like the IMC (more on this in my next post), so they bring to the table a certain level of clout and current knowledge of the industry of fantasy illustration.

So, with all of this listening to folks talking about artsing and artsistry, one would assume that I have picked up all sorts of valuable information. One would be right in thinking that! I've actually started writing the really earth-shatteringly brilliant pieces of advice down on post-its and want to make some sort of shrine to them in my studio. Let me share a couple of them with you-

"You are only going to get hired to do the same sort of artwork as is in your portfolio"
-Dan Dos Santos paraphrased, WIP Podcast #2
This is such a simple and obvious thing, but it is so important to keep in mind and has certainly had an effect on my mid-range plans. More to come on this at a later date.

"95% of all painting problems are actually drawing problems."
-attributed to an art teacher, Drawn Today #12
This is another great one to keep in mind as I try and move to a career that deals with much more paint.

"Make great art for the sake of making great art, not for where it is going to appear."
-kinda my paraphrasing of a similar statement attributed to Donato Giancola.
This is one I heard just last night and it is really resonating with me. That's the sort of artist I want to be, who cares about the art, not so much the book cover it appears on.

The next post is going to completely contradict that last quote. I'm going to talk about my artistic bucket list!
Ooh, yeah, how about I show some artwork? Here's some head roughs of one of my favourite characters from The Lord of the Rings...

Boromir. Proud, strong, flawed, redeemed?
See you soon.

Jun 30, 2014

A Pitiful Display...

Well, the 2014 30-Day Drawing Challenge has come to an end. And I absolutely sucked at it this year.
I had a feeling, initially, that I was going to struggle to get many daily challenges done, but I had hoped to produce more than the entirely pathetic sum total of seven pieces over the thirty days. But despite my best efforts, that was all I could muster.

Part of the reason that I have failed so miserably with the challenge is because I have a couple of other juicy commissions that are taking up a healthy chunk of my spare time. They are moving on a pace, but they will still hold my attention for a couple of weeks yet.
Another reason is because work at the bookshop is very tough at the moment. It's turning out to be a rather busy summer here in Galway, with a huge amount of tourists around (more, I feel, than last year, despite that being the year of Irish Tourism's big marketing push - 'The Gathering'). So I have found myself quite exhausted most evenings, and a million miles away from being capable of doing justice to these 30-Day Challenges.
So I'm going to chalk this year up to being the one that got away... to use a fishing term aptly, I think. I believe next year's challenge will be moving back to July and will return to being a 31-Day Drawing Challenge. Hopefully, I'll be able to get my ducks in a more manageable row for then and will be able to contribute more.
So, anyway, this year's final challenge is a continuing tradition, where the artist gets to chose to draw whatever they want. Here's what I've gone and done:
I started reading the Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time a few weeks ago, and am snatching the odd paragraph to read every chance I can get. But as with everything, time is an issue and as of writing this, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin have only just bid their farewells to Tom Bombadil (hey dol!) and are on the road to Bree.
I adore that world, and have long since wanted to produce lots of artwork concerning Middle Earth and its inhabitants. We shall see what the future holds, but I enjoyed doing this little portrait of Gollum as I see him (not unlike the movie version, but not as cutesy, I think).

I really like drawing on brown paper. Which is a good thing, because I just found a box of brown paper and card that I must have been hoarding when I worked at a bookshop in Melbourne all of those years ago.
Many book publishers and suppliers ship their books to stores with all sorts of packaging materials to help protect the books during transit. Some use those little foam 'peanuts,' others use bubble wrap, butcher paper, etc. Some use brown paper; some even use a really nice olive coloured paper.
Whenever I am on the book processing duty, I try and keep the brown and green paper, because it is great for life drawing and little portraits like Gollum. It gives me an opportunity to use my Karisma pencils (the brown and white in this instance) and some diluted white gouache as well. It's a nifty and quick system that was probably best used by the master, Alphonse Mucha; but several artists I admire still use it today (Justin Gerard, Travis Charest, Donato Giancola, to name a few) and I've been a fan of it for a long time.

Anyway, I think I'll leave it at that today. But I should be back in a few days with a post about my new obsession: ART PODCASTS!!!!!
See you then.

Jun 26, 2014

Brian Froud & Alan Lee

I can still vividly recall the feeling I had when I read Brian Froud and Alan Lee's book, Faeries, for the very first time, something like 20 years ago. That book, as I paged through it, filled me with such a feeling of mystery and beauty, and a real sense that this sort of thing was what I wanted, above all, to do with my own artistic career.
Even today, after reading it countless times and staring at the images for what must accumulate to weeks and weeks non-stop, I still feel that raw energy within those pages. It is a powerful book for me in many ways.
And, being the obsessive collector of things I love that I am, I have multiple editions of not only that book (reading copy, first edition, anniversary edition, etc.), but everything else by Froud and Lee that I have been able to find. Sometimes this has been difficult (Mr. Lee's The Golden Book of the Mysterious) and sometimes expensive (Mr. Froud's The Land of Froud, totally worth every cent!), but there have been some truly wonderful discoveries over the years and fond memories have been made in the hunt.

And the hunt continues! This very year has seen fresh publications by both creators.
Here are a couple of new ones:

After flipping a coin, Mr. Froud gets to go first:
I discovered this magazine while looking into what Brian had coming out in the future. Naturally, I'm rather excited to see Brian and Wendy's Faeries' Tales, out in September, and have been gobbling up any little bit of information they have been releasing to the public through their wonderful blog and various social media outlets.
Looking forward to the new book, so much, am I, that I bought a copy of the above magazine, even if the article about Brian and Wendy is only a couple of pages long. But that's what a serious fan does, they snap anything and everything up. It is a neat little article though and it's always great to add something new to the collection.

Where the Froud article is short, the Lee one is a monster, found in this publication:

Illustrators has been around for a little while now, and I've managed to pick up a few issues of this fantastic magazine so far. When I saw that Alan Lee was going to feature in issue 7, I started saving up every coin I could for it.
And I wasn't to be let down.
Firstly, the print quality is unbelievably good. The text is crisp, it is all laid out nicely, and the images, of which there are many, are incredibly clear and detailed. And the best thing is, the Alan Lee article goes for a whopping 48 pages! Basically half of the magazine is dedicated to him.
I cannot recommend this magazine enough to any Alan Lee fan, it's pretty special.

So there you have it, a brief look at a couple of new acquisitions. I should be back very soon with some new art of my own (the horror!).
See you then.

Jun 22, 2014

When Urban Sketching & 30-Day Drawing Challenges collide!

I know, I know. I've barely done any of the 30-Day Drawing Challenges so far. It's not for a lack of trying, nor desiring. It is, as seemingly usual, very busy times here and there are plenty of things already jostling for attention on the drawing board. So, though I had hoped to do more, and would dearly love to finish the challenge strongly, I fear I will only get a couple more done before the month, and the challenge, is up.
But I do encourage you to go check out what the other folks are doing for the challenge, there is some spectacular stuff being produced.

Saying all of that, today's challenge was one I did not want to miss, as it tied rather nicely into another fantastic Urban Sketchers Galway outing! Here's some snappy-snaps:
I counted 19 of us at one point.
What most of us were looking at.
A fantastic array of styles and approaches were on show.
A Jackdaw scrutinised us from above.
I got to use my fancy new drawing chair/backpack combo, which worked fantastically and is definitely going to be my mode of set-up going forward. It's always good when you find a new piece of kit that makes everything that little bit easier to handle. This piece does exactly that.

As for my artistic effort for the day...

...I'm not happy with it at all. I rarely am happy with any artwork I produce, but I tend to see that as a good thing. The day I am artistically content is the day I stop being an artist.
But this piece is really bugging me. I was at it for hours, but it still feels unfinished and patchy. But most of all, I'm unimpressed with how I went about applying colour. I think the actual colour matching is fine, it's the opacity that is letting me down. I think the tree is okay, it's strong and has shape and solidity, but the building are washy and too transparent. What I need to do is concentrate on the consistency of the mixtures more closely, so that these dreaded 'ghost buildings,' as I am going to coin them, don't appear again.
So, yeah, I don't like this piece, but I think it is an important one. Sometimes it's the weak ones you learn more from. I feel that is the case here.

I'll be back soon with more drawings and some awesome new Alan Lee and Brian Froud stuff I've recently picked up.

Jun 17, 2014

The Circle

It occurs to me that there exists a long list of things I have said I will do on this blog that, for one reason or another, I never got around to actually doing. There's a decent pile of paintings that are waiting for me to get back to them, as well as the odd little story I want to write still. It is my aim, over the coming months, to dramatically shorten this list. I still have a couple of weeks of finishing up commissions for folks, but then I am going to concentrate, for a little while anyway, on getting some of these things crossed off.

One of the things I would really like to get back to, is the fantasy story I came up with a couple of years ago, called 'The Circle.' Myself and a few Galway artist buddies put together a little anthology back then, and I produced an 8-page introductory chapter, resplendent with an illustration on each page, for it.
We always intended to produce more anthologies featuring the continued adventures of our own creations, but nothing ever really came of it, despite several of the artists completing further work for them.

I'm not quite sure where I would like to go with the project in the future. I have the story pretty loosely plotted out in my head, but the real issue I am finding is in which form to put the story. It could work nicely as a fantasy comic, an illustrated periodical, or a straight novel. I think that the way to go is to not really settle on just one of them. The way I see it, if a chapter would work best as a comic, then do it as a comic, but if it would work better as just words, then so be it! I see no reason why the story can't jump between media.

But we'll see what happens in the future. I'm not going to make any promises on what will come of it, but I do want to show off that 8-pager introductory chapter produced for that initial anthology.

So here it is, enjoy! (I recommend right-clicking on the images and opening then in a new tab/window for best viewing results.)
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Back soon.

Jun 15, 2014

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

...there's apparently a land full of very pretty ladies walking around semi-naked all of the time.

Or, at least, that's what one must assume based on yesterday's Dr. Sketchy's Galway 'Wizard of Oz' themed event!

There was a real buzz in the place yesterday. We had a slightly smaller crowd than normal, I think, but we made lots of noise and the performances were great, with some really fantastic poses to get stuck into.
Personally, I was seriously trying to concentrate more on what I was doing as I was doing it, rather than just draw on auto-pilot. I think I had a small measure of success with that, but I still see a lot of room for improvement in procedure and execution.

For the first time though, I was actually happy with some of the initial quick drawings-
One-minute poses
These were produced with my trusty Pentel Brush Pen. This is definitely the way I plan on doing these 1 and 2-minute poses from now on.

The middle poses, the 10-minute ones, are a tough challenge, I find. They are just long enough that you can try and get something of a likeness going, but it isn't so long that you can really afford to concentrate on any one spot for very long without other sections suffering. This is one I did in this time bracket-

dirty speech balloons removed for public health reasons
And here are the two best pieces of the night-
Shir Madness as the Wicked Witch
Kat Moiselle as Dorothy
Now I just have to wait 27 days for the next Dr. Sketchy's...