Jun 29, 2015

The Circle Line-up

I thought it was high time that I formally introduced you to all of the members of my strange gathering of beings that make up The Circle. Say hi everyone!

Here's a little bit of hopefully excruciatingly tantalising information about each of them-

Longbeard was once a great and powerful Wizard who ruled over a great stretch of the Realms of Faerie with pride, coldness and oppression. He is no longer that Wizard. Not even close. He wishes he was though, desperately. He'll do a lot of things to retain that status. A LOT! He's not a very nice person.

Mystery is what Alanna is all about. Mystery, secrecy and destiny. She tries to run from a life she has no chance of ever escaping. And though her path will lead her on her own circle, returning her to where she began, it is that journey that will make her truly whole. Also, she's bloody good with knives in combat.

Wildling is the runt of a litter of Werewolves. Lost in a land where monsters freely roam and hunters stalk for prey just like him, survival is Wildling's only goal. And that sometimes doesn't seem very important either. But though he may be the runt of his litter, he is exceedingly dangerous in his pure beast form.

A real walking and talking nature spirit. Dryad is the beauty of the forest personified. And with that, she has the power of nature to utilise when needed. She can call the very trees and animals to action, and her ability to heal things is a very valuable skill for a group such as this.

Strongbow is exactly the type of person that parents don't want their daughter to ever get involved with. Never ever ever! He is crude, brazen, stubborn, prone to fighting, probably an alcoholic and definitely sexist. But the thing is, women adore him, all the same. He's an expert with a bow, and can seduce a woman with a wink.

Hedgewitch is a nature witch, specialising in herb lore and physically violent spells. She creates an array of hex bags infused with power words resulting in various effects, usually explosive in one way or another. She has a familiar and lives in a cabin deep in a forest. She's not fond of people. Especially men.

As it stands, I should have Strongbow's first story completed in the next week. Then I will be taking most of July off to concentrate on the Galway Pub Scrawl 31 Day Drawing Challenge. I've missed it the last couple of years and I really want to give it a red hot go this time. Then In August, Wildling will be making his debut, followed by Hedgewitch and then, lastly, Longbeard. Then it will be back to the start with another Alanna story and so on later in the year.

You'll be here for it all, won't you?

Jun 26, 2015

The River Watcher

I've never been one for poetry, nor short prose either. Actually, let me rephrase that... I've never really gone out of my way to read poetry or short prose.
But I do like to write the odd little poem or very short story. Sometimes I have an idea for a story that really doesn't need to be more than a once off little yarn. So instead of trying to make something out of an idea not best suited to elaboration, I just leave the story as a short thing.
Like this one, for instance!
I would really like to do more of these sorts of things. They're enjoyable and have a quick turnaround, and they act as a nice little distraction from all things The Circle. So don't be surprised if you see more things like this in the future. I'm calling them 'Realms of Faerie Tales.'

Jun 1, 2015

razzum frazzum

Guess what happened!?! My blasted PC broke!

That means I don't have Illustrator, Photoshop, Audio editing programs... heck, I don't even have something to hook my scanner up to.
It sucks. Hard.

So while work on the Strongbow story has been continuing nicely, it all just exists as pictures and words on paper for the moment. But I'll be getting the computer fixed in the coming week if all goes well, and then Strongbow will be making his debut as soon as is humanly possible. But in the meantime, here are some good old fashioned photographs of some of the illustrations that will be appearing in the story.
A scary monster. Nothing more to say here...
I like Ogres. There'll be more than just a few
 in the continuing adventures of The Circle.
Waller the Gruff makes no more than a passing mention
 in the current story I'm working on. But he might
make a more fleshy return in the future, or is that the past?
This guy is much more than just your average Barman!
(no offense to average Barmen intended.)
Ain't she perty?
I hope so. She's meant to look perty.
Our Strongbow sure does like a drink...
Talk to you soon!

May 16, 2015

Spot the Easter Eggs!

I've started a little contest over on The Circle's Facebook Page.
Basically, there are four secret things I put into page 6 of the Dryad: A Dream of Awakening story. It's your job to find them.
The first person to find each one gets a sketch of Dryad absolutely free! That includes postage and everything!
Now, the hidden objects are really tough and won't really become apparent until they are discovered, and even then I won't make any promise that they make sense or are legitimate easter eggs! But there are some hints over on the Facebook page, but there's another one right here... faerie anatomy!

While you're over on the Facebook page of The Circle, you might consider giving the old page a 'like' for me too if you're feeling in a generous mood.

May 14, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening collected

And now, for your viewing pleasure, is the Dryad: A Dream of Awakening story all in one convenient spot as a perty looking PDF. Enjoy...

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm in the process of getting a Patreon program together and it's slowly coming along. This Dryad story is the perfect example of the sort of thing I want to produce much more of from here on out. And with the awesomeness that is Patreon, folks can have the option of supporting me in some way so that I can keep on doing just that.
So how much would you pay for that Dryad story? How much do you think it is worth? $1? $2? $5?! Let me put it to you this way- if I were to produce maybe two of these sorts of stories every month, would you miss a couple of bucks from your bank account if it meant you could continue to see these stories? Not to mention all of the perks you would get...
Anyway, that's enough of me trying to get my hands into your collective purses, wallets and coinbags for the time being!

I'll be back soon with some renditions of Strongbow and maybe even a few other of The Circle's characters. Who knows, I might even give some of them away to folks that like them...
See you then.

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening ends today!

And we've made it to the final page of this little tale of Dryad.
It's been a hugely enjoyable couple of weeks producing these eight pages and I hope that that comes through in the work and that you, too, get some enjoyment out of reading it!

I will be converting these eight separate pages into a self-contained PDF in the coming days, and I'll link to that as soon as it is done. I think the story will flow a lot better once all of the pages are put together in the way they were always intended to be.

Past that, I'll be moving straight on to the next story, which centres around a character by the name of Strongbow. He's a really lovely fellow, salt of the earth and all of that (dripping sarcasm fully intended). Strongbow's little introductory story is a bit more long-winded than the previous Alanna and Dryad ones, so it will be presented in the form of illustrated text, like Alanna's was. It's so long, in fact, that it may turn out that I need three or four installments to get it all out there. So the first one should be out by the end of this month, with the other parts being peppered between the other character stories.
I actually have some decently-sized plans for this Strongbow story, but I shall only leave it at that allusion for the time being...

See you soon and thanks for reading!

May 12, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening page 7

And here I am again with page 7!
I'm running a little bit behind with everything, I'm afraid. So the final page, which was supposed to be done by today, will have to be delayed a day. But you know, I'm penciling, inking, colouring and lettering each of these pages myself, and holding down a full-time job in the meantime. You'll allow me one extra day, won't you? No?

So tune in tomorrow for the final page in this, the first of many, Dryad story.

May 11, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening page 6

I know, I KNOW... I'm a day late with page 6! I'm terribly sorry about that. It's because page 6 took a very long time to draw...

As you can see, there's a lot going on in it and it had me up until after 2am last night and back at it at 8.30 this morning. But it's done and I'm happy with it and I hope you like it too. The good news is that page 7 is mere hours away from being released. So while there were no new pages yesterday, you'll be getting two pages today to balance that out nicely.

Anyway, in page 5's post, I mentioned that the music of Jeremy Soule has been having a marked effect on me lately. Well, it's had such an effect on me that I've decided to learn how to play the piano with the full intention of composing my own music to possibly accompany these The Circle stories.
It sounds pretty flippant and crazy, I know. As if learning to play the piano and composing complex orchestral arrangements is just a couple of hours of tinkering with a keyboard away. More like ten thousand hours... but it's something I've wanted to do for a while now and I'm not completely musically illiterate.
I have tunes in my head that I want to make recordings of. If they're good enough, I'll upload them to share, but I imagine a lot of it will either end up in the Recycle Bin or just on my iPod to listen to while I'm drawing or commuting.
I'm ruddy excited by it, I must say.
Now all I need is an actual keyboard...

May 9, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening page 5

I was naughty last night and didn't do any drawing. I blame Captain America and that pesky Winter Soldier... So I've been playing catch-up today. But here is page 5, hot off the presses.

I've been listening to a lot of stuff on my iPod whilst I've been drawing. I've been a follower of Peter Mohrbacher and Sam Flegal's excellent One Fantastic Week, which I try and catch whenever I have a Tuesday off. But they also have all of their episodes available as MP3's on iTunes, so I've been fairly churning through them (one of my questions to Cory Godbey in episode 47 gets asked, which is cool).

I've also been listening to a lot of Jeremy Soule (surname pronounced 'soul,' as I've only recently discovered) recently. But I shall talk about what that effect that has had on my in tomorrow's post.
See you then!

May 8, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening page 4

Congratulations everybody, we've made it halfway in one piece!
This was a really fun page to do. I've been drawing these eight pages not necessarily in order, and this page turned out to be the sixth one I did. I feel as though this is the page where I actually started to depict Dryad well.

Tune in tomorrow for page 5 of Dryad's story!

May 7, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening page 3

Day 3. Page 3. Can somebody remind future Jay to allow more lead-in time for these things? Future-future Jay would no doubt appreciate it!
I like the colours on this page. I went for subtle and less saturated tones for this one, and I think it suits the story much more. I am seriously considering going back and re-colouring the first two pages to match this one more. But that would have to wait until after it has all been released, in the far flung future time of next Tuesday.

Back again tomorrow with page 4! Which reminds me, I should probably go finish page 4...

May 6, 2015

Dryad: A Dream of Awakening page 2

Well, I'm back again with page 2 of Dryad's first solo story, A Dream of Awakening. Here it be...
So I promised yesterday that I'd reveal a little bit more information about this unusual character called Dryad. Well I'm all about keeping promises...

Dryad is a creature of the wild places. While technically she is a female, she and all of her kind (all of which are female too) cannot reproduce. But she and her sisters are mothers to the forests of the Realms of Faerie.

A Dryad is intrinsically tied to her own wood. To permanently separate one from the other is to be the death of both. Even long periods apart will cause great illness to each of them. 

Dryads are magical beings. They age little and live for longer than any but their creator knows. They are made of magic, and have some magical abilities, though these vary from Dryad to Dryad.

And that is all I dare reveal at this time!
Back again tomorrow with page 3.

May 5, 2015

Dryad - 'A Dream of Awakening' begins here!

I don't know why it is, but I almost feel more anxious about releasing this second Tales from Outside The Circle story than I did with the initial one, The Wilds Will Bide.  Don't ask me why that is, because I really don't know why! Maybe it has to do with this being 'that difficult second album,' or maybe it's because the release of this second story makes the reality of what I am trying to do that much more concrete. It's almost as if by doing this second story, there's no turning back! But I don't have a fear of that at all. I guess it's just a plain old fear of falling flat on my face with a property that nobody has any interest in looking at. Now that is quite scary.

But anyway, all I can say is that this 8-page story contains my heart and soul. I didn't leave anything off the drawing board here, I just dove right in and gave it everything I had. I'm pretty happy with the resulting work and I hope you find it enjoyable to read and look at.

So I'm going to be releasing this 8-page story at the rate of one page a day. This is an entirely vacuous and marketing-minded ploy to get as much traffic coming to this site as I possibly can. I'll make no bones about it! It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I haven't quite finished all of the pages just yet... nothing at all.
On the eighth and final release day, there will also be the accompanying 8-page PDF of the story released as well, so it can be easily read in one convenient spot.

But that's quite enough of my prattling on! Here now, for your reading pleasure is page 1 of...

I'll be back tomorrow with page 2 and perhaps a little bit more information about this mysterious creature of the woods.
See you then!

May 1, 2015

Patreon & Dryad

So some of you may recall me saying that I had planned to have the 8-page Dryad comic complete and ready to release by the end of April. And wouldn't you know it, it's the first of May and Dryad isn't here yet. Well, she's close, I promise. Real close...
Here's a sneaky look at a finished inked page.
But because she's a little late, this will give me the chance to try out an idea I've got for releasing this particular story. I was, initially, just going to simply release the 8 pages all together as single jpegs here and as a PDF file all together, the same as The Wilds Will Bide story was.
But instead of that, I thought it might be cool to release each page on a separate day. That'll give me a bit of breathing room to get the later pages done and dusted. At this point, I have four pages completely inked, scanned and in various stages of colouring. I have the other four pages roughed out and ready to go. And the good news is, it's a bank holiday here in Ireland this weekend, and I have been generously granted a whole three days off in a row! (a rare thing, as anybody that works in retail will know) So the plan is to start releasing the 8 pages at the rate of one a day some time over those three days, probably on Tuesday the 5th of May.

I must say that I'm really excited about this story and the artwork, and I can't wait to start getting it out there. So keep an eye out for that early next week!

The other bit of news I have to announce is that I am in the process of putting together a Patreon campaign. For those of you that don't know what Patreon is, it's basically a system where I tell people about the project I am working on (The Circle, amazingly), and I give people the opportunity to help support me in my endeavour by donating an amount of money each time I release a story.
So, for instance, if I were to release a 12-page illustrated story about The Circle's character called Longbeard, people that had chosen to become patrons of mine would automatically donate a predetermined amount of money. There are different levels of monetary contribution to be chosen from, and mine will start at $1 and will probably go up to $20 per publication, maybe even higher for the crazy rich folks that love me.
So each time I release something, you donate the amount you have chosen. You can set a monthly cap on how much you donate, so that if I go on a spree and release ten stories, you will only pay the capped amount.

The fun thing about the tiered system of donating money is that each level comes with its own incentive reward. So while all of the stories are going to be released for free this year anyway, as promised, those that donate money to each release will get to see it earlier than non-paying viewers. There are also rewards such as free books (both digital and printed), a 'patron only' blog through the Patreon website and lots of behind the scenes stuff such as video commentaries and looks at early drafts. One of the top tiers even gives a select number of patrons the chance to appear in the actual story!

It's a really awesome program and it has the potential to make creating personal projects much more financially viable. I'm probably still a little ways off going live with my Patreon campaign, but it will be here some time in the next few months. There are videos that need to be made and I want to get a few more stories under my belt, not to mention trying to get a few more potential patrons interested in my work too! But I'll talk more about all of this Patreon stuff soon enough. But you have been warned!

And that's it for me today. I have a couple more days of work and then I'm off for those glorious three days! So I'll be back then with page 1 of Dryad's first story.
Ciao for now.

Apr 30, 2015

Back on the Networking Trail

I think Kevin Costner was wrong. I don't believe for a second that 'if you build it, they will come.'

It'd be lovely if that were true though. That way I could just concentrate on producing lots of The Circle content and not have to concern myself with stuff like Twitter, hit counts, cross-media spread and all of that other stuff that eats up waaaay more time than it should.
But the reality is that if you don't do that stuff, if you're a creative person trying to find an audience, you'll most likely get left behind. And I'll be gosh darned if I'm going to let that happen!

So I'm back out there again, trying to be a presence on the interweb and attempting to build my audience. Not that I ever disappeared, mind you, but I will be amping up my output. I'm even reading a book about making social networking work for you. I'm learning some very important lessons about this thorny beast of an issue. Mostly it's about what I don't want to do!

The book I'm reading, which I won't name (because I'm about to lay into it!), suggests doing at least 20 tweets a day and maybe half of that on Facebook. It says that maintaining a high presence in this way is bound to bring you followers. Well, most likely that is true, but I'm a firm and unflinching believer in the idea of quality over quantity in both content produced (tweets and posts) and the type of folks I'm trying to attract.
I mean, sure, I could go on posting blitz and commit to Twitter every random thought I have, but seriously, what the heck is the point of that? Sure, they'd no doubt be hilarious, but they would be entirely frivolous and meaningless for the most part. And what sort of an audience would that attract? To be honest, not the sorts of folks I think I want!

So, yes, I'm going to be making more posts on social media like Twitter and Facebook, and here too. But I am always going to strive for a level of quality with my contributions. I'm not just going to post something for the sake of posting, it will have substance and relevance.

So here's where you can find me on various places. Come and say hello, won't you?

Me on Twitter
Me on Facebook
Me on Google+
Me on YouTube

I'll be back tomorrow with some news on a few fronts.
Later Alligator.

Apr 19, 2015

Thumbing My Way...

YESSSS!!!! I got a Pearl Jam song title into my own blog post title! Self props!

Anywho... I'd like to talk about thumbnails today, as I really haven't had much time to do anything other than those very things lately.

So what is a thumbnail? Well, a thumbnail is essentially a very small drawing or quick colour study with the aim of establishing composition and tone and various other key elements. It is usually done quite roughly, and the less time spent on them the better.
I think they are probably most used in the comics medium these days, though I've seen a lot of fantasy artists use them quite a lot too.
The general idea is to make a little mock-up of ideas you have for the final piece. You can work out figure placement, lighting, gestures and all of that fun stuff, while not having to spend a huge amount of time on making full size roughs of each idea as it comes to you. You can just scribble down your ideas on a really small scale and still get an impression of what works and what doesn't.

Basically, a thumbnail got its name from the size of the drawing. While most artists who utilise thumbnails would tend to draw them larger than an actual thumbnail, the name just stuck.

Personally, I use thumbnails (or thumbs for short) for many things. From paintings to illustrations to comic pages.
As I'm currently working on a comic at the moment, I thought I'd show you how I use them and why I probably need to change my system.

As it stands, my system is this: I work on a roughly 10 x 6cm thumbnail size. I have made the below frame using my beloved Adobe Illustrator, based on my buddy Bart Sears' preferred dimensions and have reduced the original size so that I can fit four of these on an A4 page-
I've kept the above picture at the correct A4 size, so if you want to use it as a template, go right ahead! Feel free to save the image and use it yourself.

So here are some of the thumbs for the 4-to-a-page sheet I've been drawing for the Dryad comic.
I have then been taking the layouts that I like and redrawing them on a 2-to-a-page sheet.
In this way, I can bump up the detail a little and get a better feel for the success/failure of the page. I like the idea of this system, but I think the execution of it is a little off and it needs a tweak.
Here the template for the 2-to-a-page layout:
I think the issue is that my initial 4-to-a-page thumbnail template is too large a scale. It is just big enough that I am still putting in detail and trying to get likenesses, proportions and such in there. Which is absolutely not what this stage is for. This stage is for big, dirty and ungainly strokes. It's about quickly trying out ideas and moving on to the next one within a really short amount of time. It's about the relationship of shapes and forms.

So what I am going to do is start using this template for that initial stage:
Again, if you want to use this template yourself, it's all yours.

I think the two-to-a-page size works well for getting in the slightly finer points. This is where I try to nail down likenesses and get the details loosely in there. What I then do is take one of those 'roughs' and put it into Illustrator and blow it up to the final page size. I have Bristol Board cut to this size and the guide lines pencilled in. So all I have to do is print out the scaled up rough and throw it on a lightbox with the Bristol on top and transfer the roughs.
Then it's just a case of tightening up the pencils to a point I need (which varies depending on the object) and then slapping on some inks. But I might leave this part of the process for another post, where I'll show you how the pages shown above progress.
Sound good?

Mar 31, 2015

Shaping The Circle

Now that the first installment of The Circle is out the door and setting the internet on fire (one can only assume...), I thought I might take a little bit of time to talk about what form these stories are going to take in the future and what I hope and tentatively plan to do with them as they start to stack up on top of each other.
Because this is it for me, this is what I want to do for the foreseeable future. It's so important to me that I am making 99% of all of my future artistic endeavours be in some way related to this stuff.

I've spoken about this on the podcast and probably elsewhere as well, but I don't think I've gone into any kind of detail here on how I plan to present these stories.

Put simply, I am going to jump from the illustrated prose seen in The Wilds Will Bide to a comic page format whenever and wherever I think either is required, and back again if needs be.
I don't think this is a drastic measure, nor is it particularly novel or new, but I think it is a system that isn't really used often at all, perhaps for reasons I will soon find out!
But I like it. I like the flexibility of being able to look at a part of a story and decide whether I want to tell it through detailed text with some accompanying images, or to look at it and see how it would be more dramatically told through comic panels and word balloons. That, to me, is an exciting way to tell a story.

The Circle, to me, is a story that could probably be told in either a straight novel, or a straight comic, without the need for the intermingling of those two formats. But I honestly don't think either way would reach the full impact I think the story deserves. A novel would be great, because I could get right into the nitty-gritty of character motivations, emotions and reactions. But the actions scenes wouldn't be as fun to do. Conversely, if I were to do it as a straight comic, the action would be enjoyable, but I would be restricted with how much character development I could inject into the story. Many people may argue that the comics medium is a perfectly fine place for character development, to which I would totally agree. But I don't think you can achieve as much depth through pictures and word balloons as you can with the freedom of the written word. Just my opinion, anyway.

So I've gone for the blended format. Now this won't actually take effect until probably 2026. Here's why...

For the rest of 2015, I will be doing short stories that introduce you gorgeous people to the characters that make up The Circle. The Wilds Will Bide (a title I quite like, don't you?) is a mere entree to the main meal that will be The Circle comic being produced next year. But there are going to be lots more entrees to come before we get to that. There are a total of six main characters in The Circle (Alanna, Strongbow, Dryad, Wildling, Longbeard and Hedgewitch), and I want to do at least one (I'm planning on doing two though) story on each character like the Alanna one before I get to the main continuity in 2016. These entrees, which will come under the umbrella of...

...will come out in different forms. Where the Alanna story was told in the form of illustrated prose, the Dryad piece, currently being worked on, will be a traditional comic. Some of them will be your typical origin story, others may just be chapters from their lives, some might even involve circumstances leading directly up to the main story. I am currently working out how to make these stories best fit into the build-up to the main story in a way that is both informative and exciting, with a healthy dollop of enticing in there for good measure.

Once these short stories are done and released for free, things will really get interesting.
Ideally, I want to do a Kickstarter campaign for the main The Circle story. Maybe a Patreon sort of thing too/instead. By then I will have all of these 'Tales From Outside The Circle (TFOTC, for not much shorter) already produced and hopefully they will be getting some sort of notice. The more I can get these stories out there and read (and hopefully liked), the more successful, theoretically, the Kickstarter campaign will be. I'm not entirely certain of how I want the main The Circle story to be released, but my gut is telling me that a nice chunky book (in the blended format of illustrated prose and traditional comic) of a healthy page length is the way to go. But we'll see what happens with that.

This is the area I am the least certain of. I want to keep my options open at this point and there is a lot of work to be done before those decisions need to made. So I'm staying open to what way I go with the project as a product in 2016. The product will get made whatever way I choose, but that way is unclear still at this point.

But let me get one thing clear- I'm not doing any of this for wealth beyond need or some ridiculous and utterly repulsive thing like fame. I just want to make fun stories that hopefully people like. If The Circle gets popular enough for me to be able to quit the day job and concentrate on it full time... well, I won't say no to that!
But only because it will give me the freedom to produce even more of these stories. I really believe that creating The Circle and the Realms of Faerie are what I am best suited to doing creatively with my life.

One guy that I am kinda in awe of and think has it right is a comic artist by the name of Erik Larsen. If you haven't heard of him, go check out his Savage Dragon comic. As you'll see, he's produced over 200 issues of that comic on basically his own steam. He writes, pencils and inks 99% of it all himself. I think that is a bloody amazing effort.

Honestly, I don't think I can produce that amount of work, but I like that Erik has made Savage Dragon his life's work. That's exactly what I want The Circle and Realms of Faerie to be.
It's the sort of thing that if I won the lottery tomorrow, which I actually intend to do, after an extensive tour of the world, I would still want to write and illustrate The Circle and Realms of Faerie.

But at the end of the day, even if I fail miserably at winning the lottery, or running a successful Kickstarter campaign, or even in gaining a meagre readership for The Circle, I will still find a way to tell this story.

So where do I go from here? Well, seeing as I have a lot of stories I want to release this year, and considering how long it took me to get the Alanna story done, I am going to be a little bit more strict on myself. Not too much, though, because I do want to take my time and do this stuff right, and have fun doing it, but I need to catch up by a couple of months if I want to get the twelve individual stories done by the end of the year.

So the plan is to spend more time on the stories, but to still increase the production schedule by actually making more time for the work. That will mean that I simply cannot take on any other freelance illustration jobs for the rest of the year. I have to be very strict about this! I mentioned at the start of the year that I had planned to do this from the beginning, but a couple of juicy projects did come along that I couldn't knock back. But that needs to change. I just can't afford the time or the energy to take on further gigs.
So from this point on, I am only working on The Circle and Realms of Faerie (excluding current ongoing jobs, that is, which will wrap up soon).
So all of this will mean that you will see the first Dryad story, which will most likely be six comic pages long, by the end of April. There will be a Strongbow story soon after that (probably in the illustrated prose format) and I have the first Wildling story written to follow that. Then it'll be Longbeard's turn, with Hedgewitch bringing up the rear for this first round of stories.
So there will be plenty of activity here in the coming months. I've also set up a Facebook page for The Circle, where I will be posting sketches, thoughts and whatever else I think to put up there. I am seriously considering some sort of website too, but that will probably be a while away.

But for now, I hope you like the sound of what I am trying to achieve here and I look forward to giving you all lots and lots of stuff to read in the coming years!

Mar 30, 2015

The Wilds Will Bide

Well, here it is, finally!
This is the first of the many The Circle stories that will be published in the coming years by me. This particular tale is just a first taste, a mere nibble, of the vast and varied world I have created.
I hope it whets your appetite for more. Enjoy.

For your convenience, here's a prettier PDF version too-

Mar 29, 2015

Remember me?

jeeez, I'm bad at this blogging thing this year...

I'll not go into some big long paragraph about best intentions and all of that. I've just been busy, okay?

Busy with important things, though. The first of the 'Tales From Outside The Circle' short stories is mere days (possibly even hours!) away from being released on this blog, and I have a whole swag of stories written that just need art put to the words too. I'm really excited about these stories, especially the ones involving the characters from The Circle.

My aim is to have a story revolving around each of the six main characters of The Circle, a sort of 'Origin Story' as it were, done by the end of the year. Put together, these 'Tales From Outside The Circle' (a title of which will make sense in time, I promise) should run to about 40-odd pages. It is then my desire to look at getting these pages, with some cool extra content like character biographies and maybe even a pin-up or two, printed in all of their glory. But all of these stories will be released digitally for free on this blog or somewhere even prettier first, I promise.

This project is exactly what I have been working toward for the last couple of years. This is the beginning of my Magnum Opus, and I'm loving every minute of doing it. So what if it is taking longer than I had hoped it would. I've decided to make these stories and the art the very best I can make them. And that takes time. But as I mentioned on the podcast recently, I've been putting all of the parts together for this machine, and now that it is up and running, things will go a lot smoother from here on out.

I have plans for this story of mine. Nothing crazy, mind you, but I have plans in the works. I'm weighing up whether I need a website (which I probably do...), there's cool merchandising options to look into, and there's also the notion of selling this stuff to folks. If I were to make a print run of the collected stories, I'd have to look at venues to sell them at, so conventions and all that they entail will possibly come into the mix too.

But I'm not getting ahead of myself. I'm still just happily writing and drawing away. There's plans formulating in my head, but it's all about creating quality content at this point.

So why don't you pop on back here in a couple of days and check out the first little introduction to my Realms of Faerie world?

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.