Nov 21, 2014

Designing The Circle - Dryad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back super-soon!

Nov 19, 2014

An afternoon with Eva Widermann... and Patrick.

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

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

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

Nov 12, 2014

An intellectual property to call one's own

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 4, 2014

The Other of One

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 29, 2014

...now with A3 scanning facilities...

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

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

Anyway, here it is-

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

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

Back soon!

Oct 21, 2014

On Comics

I've always had a hot and cold love affair with comics over the span of my life.
I was big into superheroes when I was quite young, dressing up like Batman, the Incredible Hulk, Spidey... Then in my early and mid-teens, most Saturdays would include me taking a train into Melbourne city to visit comic shops and spend waaaay too much money in them. I always took spare bags and boards to put the comics straight into after the comics were purchased and my collection reached into the thousands.
I still have fond memories of those trips into town. The annoying walk from home to Blackburn Station. The anticipation of what I would find while on the train, looking at the eastern suburbs of Melbourne as they flew by. The eagerness to be there already as the seemingly endless escalator at Parliament Station rose in front of me. Sitting at the bottom of the stairs at the old Bourke street Minotaur shop, securing my comics with a sigh of contentment.
Then I kinda lost interest in comics in general after my teens. I still picked up the odd book, and anything by Bart Sears was eagerly snapped up. But I just didn't have that same love of them that I once did. I never completely lost the love, but I think I just found other things (faerie and fantasy art) more appealing in my twenties and the first half of my thirties.

Today, not a huge amount has changed. I still like the idea of comics, and do pick the odd book up, but there's no use denying that my tastes have permanently changed. I'm no longer a comics reader.

But the strange thing is, my future artistic pursuits directly involve comics.
As I've mentioned a few times recently, I've been wanting to get back to that comic I created a few years ago, called The Circle. The more I've noodled with the story and the characters in my mind, the more I really like the project and what it represents. Because, to me, it encapsulates all of the things I love to draw and write about: fantasy, faerie and comics.
I recently heard a bit of advice attributed to the wonderful artist, Rebecca Guay, of whom I used to collect the Magic cards she illustrated back in the day. To paraphrase, she basically said that for an artist who may be encountering difficulty with conflicting influences and tastes (ie. me!), they should pick their three top favourite artists/disciplines/media/genres and just treat them as their desert island choices. By this I think she means that an artist that is having trouble deciding in which direction to go, may need to make an ultimatum and just stick to it.
Bloody good advice, that. And like all good advice, it is startlingly obvious once you know it.
I made my choice on my own artistic direction last year. Implementing it has been the sticky bit.

But I'm seriously working on it. Now that I've closed the doors on commissions for a little while, I've been able to get back to some of my personal projects. Numero uno is The Circle. Numbers 2 through infinity are also The Circle. There is The Circle. There is nothing else.

I had it all mapped out with how I want to get The Circle done. It all started with this year's 24-hour Comic Day. Regular visitors may recall that I made a children's book called Klogg the Troll back in the 2012 24-hour Comic Day. Well, this year, I came armed with serious intent to do a The Circle comic.
Of course, I failed miserably.

As I tend not to exactly follow the rules tied to these sorts of events, I came armed with an already written story, including page plot breakdowns (in text, not rough drawings) and a lot of the panel layouts already in my head.
I also had a fairly clear idea of how I wanted to draw the comic. I was thinking of a nice and simple style, kinda cartoony (but not really), with some rich blacks and limited detail.
Of course, it didn't take very long for those plans to going flying out the window and for me to end up with work like this-
 
I can barely stand to look at this stuff. It is sooo not what I intended and there's some terrible work in there.
So the 24-hour Comic Day was a total bust. I basically came out of it with nothing usable. You can hear me talk in more depth about all of this in the upcoming third episode of The Gord & Jay Talk Art Podcast.

The experience DID strengthen my resolve to do this story and to do it well, though. So it's going to be back to the drawing board with a healthy dose of development before I even attempt another page of it again. So stay tuned for lots of character studies and such in the near future. As a taster/teaser, here's the old rendition of the character Wildling, now in colour!!!!

And while we're on the topic of comics, I thought I might list my Top 5 all-time favourite comics, as it's been a while since I've done something like this... so here they are:

1. Brute's & Babes: Mael's Rage. Just an awesome comic in every way.
2. Slaine: The Horned God. Has it all, really.
3. WildC.A.T.S v X-Men: The Golden Age. Painfully good.
4. Amazing Spider-Man #347. A great self-contained single issue.
5. Dota 2: The Secret Shop. Gods, I love it!

Good Journey (still going)

Oct 18, 2014

Podcasting and technical nightmares

It's been busy times here at RoF HQ lately. I've had the past week off from work (the last one until February, sob), so I've been hard at the drawing board getting projects complete and setting up the next ones.
But the big thing has been the recording, editing and release of the very first 'Gord and Jay Talk Art Podcast.' Gord and I have managed to spread ourselves all over the interwebosphere to promote the podcast. You'll be able to find us on Facebook, iTunes and a new blog specifically created for the podcast, and on that very blog you will find all of the pertinent links and information. So instead of me putting up all of the links here as well, why don't you pop on over to the blog right here.
This is Gord's design that we went with for our logo.
Awesome, isn't it?
So we're pretty pleased with how it came out. Granted, the audio isn't super crisp, and there's a delay on Gord's voice that I couldn't work out how to fix. I think we've made a solid start. There's plenty of room for improvement of course, but that's all part of it.

Let me tell you, though, they don't make it easy, those nerdy folks. Trying to work out stuff like RSS feeds and how to get iTunes to acknowledge that feed nearly made my poor artists brain go flop-bot. Seriously, I'm not awful with technology, but I felt like a stubborn 90 year-old grandpa being forced to work out email for the first time with this stuff.
And the worst things is, I'm relatively certain I haven't done it right anyway. The first episode of the podcast IS on iTunes, but it doesn't seem to recognise it as a channel with future episodes to come. It looks like it is set up as just a once off. sigh...

So we're putting the call out to all techno-humans everywhere that may know their way around this sort of thing. We (really just me) need your help! We need somebody who can get all of this stuff sorted and make it run smoothly. We'll give you a fancy 'technical director' title and praise your obvious superiority on the podcast too.

If you're interested in lending a hand, just let us know through the FB page. And thanks in advance!

So I have a few other things on the go at the moment that I'll make individual posts about, including one on the recent 24-hour comic day (what a disaster!) and a long life-drawing session I recently attended (not such a disaster), so I'll be back soon with more stuff to show very soon.

Good journey! (yep, still on that He-Man kick...)

Oct 7, 2014

How He-Man made me 'me'

I'm going through a bit of a He-Man kick at the moment, of which I do so about once every 10 years.
I don't know how it happens, it just sort of clicks and then I'm obsessed with it all over again. It usually lasts about 3 months, then I'll move onto the next re-discovered obsession.
But for the moment, it's all about He-Man, Skeletor, Stratos and my personal favourite character, that aquatic fiend Mer-Man!
Some of my very earliest memories, and certainly some of my fondest ones, involve He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I was at the perfect age and definitely the target audience for the He-Man toys and cartoons. And I happily obliged by gobbling up as much of the franchise as I possibly could.
I can vividly recall He-Man-themed birthday parties, running around the back garden with my brother, and fellow fan, Ryan, with plastic replica He-Man swords in hand. I can still see the toys aisle at the department store we used to go to and the lines of MOTU figures on display.
And those mornings when the cartoon was on. I can still almost feel the carpet beneath me as I sat in front of our huge old TV, with the twisty dial to go through the stations. There were a couple of Christmas' there that were pretty He-Man intensive. There's a few photos of our old living room after the tornado that was Ryan and I had torn through all of the presents. There's MOTU toys, wrapping paper and my brother striking an uncanny He-Man pose. I must try and find that photo.

I think that my most vivid He-Man memory, though, is the one where I recall getting Mer-Man and just loving how he smelled. Something about that particular figure made it smell different to the others. I can still remember sitting on the back seat of our car and looking at the Mer-Man figure, still in his packaging. That night, I put the figure of Mer-Man on my pillow with me and fell asleep quite the happy little lad.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was obviously a big part of my formative years. I believe that its early influence is still evident in me to this very day. Granted, I'm still a fan, so it affects me aesthetically in that respect, but I think it has deeper roots too.
As fans of the Filmation original cartoon will know, the episodes ended with a character essentially summing up the moral of the story of each episode in an outrageously overt manner. Sure, it was corny, but one wonders how much of my own moral code is based on those little monologues?
My parents managed to instill in my two brothers and I a good grounding in morality. We weren't religious at all, but somehow we grew up knowing the difference between right and wrong (the shock and horror!). But I'd say that, at an impressionable age, what kid wouldn't be influenced by He-Man's treatment of those around him, be it friend or foe?
I certainly was.

He-Manic morality aside, I think the biggest way that MOTU influenced my young and impressionable mind was through the themes and settings it contained. Masters of the Universe is essentially a sword & sorcery story. As proof, the two main combatants utilise both of these very things. He-Man, with his brute force, uses his SWORD in a variety of ways (as a weapon, a shield, a deflective devise and whatever other needs require it for.). Skeletor, that dastardly fellow, is pretty buff too, but he relies on his skills in SORCERY in battle.
Also, the setting for the original series is a land called Eternia. It is a place of wild and wondrous beauty, populated by a huge variety of beings and creatures. Essentially, it's a fantasy setting, much like Middle Earth, or Narnia for that matter.
These settings and these sorts of beings are still very much the type of thing I am still drawn too... and like to draw! In fact, I would go as far to say that the reason I am a fan of fantasy things is because of MOTU. It's possibly also the reason I tend to dislike Science Fiction, but that's the subject for another post, methinks.

So, couple together the fond memories, the moral compass and the aesthetic appeal, and you get a strong connection to the subject at hand. That's why I still have lots of the action figures, the original theme song as my ringtone, a healthy stack of comics, DVD's and books and a big chunk of my head and heart for it. I, in some way, am a product of that world.

I'd love to do a whole series of illustrations depicting the MOTU characters; but for now, this is all I have time for...

Back soon, by the power of Grayskull...

Sep 30, 2014

Larry MacDougall: My new Mentor!

That's right! You read that correctly, folks. I am the proud new owner of a shiny new mentor in the exact shape and form of one Larry MacDougall. I can't tell you how silly excited I am about this. Well... I can tell you, actually, and at length...

So for a couple of months now, I've been putting some serious consideration into seeking out a mentor to help guide me through these complex artistic times I'm currently living in.
The main reason why I think I require the aid of a mentor is mostly to do with how I think I am failing as a productive artist. I think this year of 2014 has shown me many things, including the fact that I appear to be unable to walk the walk, whilst being splendid at talking the talk. In other words, I'm full of hot air and very little substance. With this hot air inside me, I often find myself bouncing around from one thing to the other, without really completing anything or delving deep into a particular subject.
So I need somebody to ground me; to sit me down and tell me to stop floating about and just get some serious, consistent work done on a single subject.

About a month ago, I put some feelers out there.
I had a very short list of artists who could be potential mentors. Larry MacDougall was at the top of my list, but it appeared that he was very, very busy at the time, so I didn't even dare ask him. I asked another artist who I thought might be a good fit, but he, too, was very, very busy and couldn't do it. He did say that I was well on my way though, which was rather nice to hear. Thanks Mr. Ejsing!
And that is where I left it. I'd put an open call out to any artists (I have a lot of artist 'friends' on Facebook) interested in mentoring me, and it wasn't very long at all before Patricia MacDougall (Larry's wife and incredible artist herself) put their names forward.
So back in about the middle of August, I contacted Larry and briefly outlined what I had in mind. He replied that we could discuss matters further at a later point (he was, it turns, very busy after all).

Cut to a week or so ago, when I dropped Larry another line and we organised a Skype chat for the 26th, the Friday just gone. Let me tell you, reader, that one hour Skype chat we had really cemented my belief that I was right in seeking out a mentor. Larry managed, in a proportionately tiny amount of time, to speak to the heart of what I knew deep down was wrong and he did it in a way that makes me feel empowered and optimistic about what lies ahead. But Larry didn't sugar coat anything. But he wasn't harsh either. And therein lies the reason why I think Larry is of a champion breed and that we are going to be firm friends- it's because we seem to think alike in many respects. There were several points in the conversation, to my mind at least, where we seemed to be in sync with our beliefs and views.
So, yeah, I'm pretty chuffed with how things have worked out.

I'm going to lay out some plans I have made in a future post here. But for now, all that remains is for me to thank Larry, my mentor, for setting me on the right path again.
Here's to the future!

Sep 23, 2014

Podcastiness & Sketchbookery

First off, I have great news! Gord and I recorded our inaugural podcast a last week and, amazingly, it wasn't a horrible mess of stutters, giggles and gibberish. It wasn't half bad actually.

Now all I have to do is put on my editor's cap and work out how to turn that raw file into a serviceable podcast, resplendent with music, an introduction and a bit of polish here and there.
Give us a couple of weeks to work out the kinks and we should have an actual, proper podcast on our hands. I'm excited about it and I'm really looking forward to recording future episodes with Gord.

And we decided on a name, too. We went with, after much deliberation, 'Gord & Jay Talk Art.'
We chose that name because we like the fact that it says exactly what it is on the tin. The podcast ain't trying to be something it isn't. It's a podcast that involves to friends talking about art.
So apart from the required editing, we still have a logo to design.
Here is my first swing at it:
I think I can safely conclude that I leave a lot to be desired as a graphic designer. But I'm okay with that. There are plenty of great graphic designers out there already.
Gord is going to be trying his hand at the logo too, naturally. He's really good with this sort of thing, so don't expect to see my above lame attempt anywhere else but right here!

When we get closer to launch date, I'll let you know.
Exciting times, these.

The other thing I wanted to talk about in this post is a subject I've been mulling over for a while now and I think it may solve some issues I've been encountering with my artwork in general. That thing being... sketchbooks.

I used to love working in sketchbooks. I always went for an A4 size one, hardback and with a green cover if it could be helped at all. Back then (we're talking the late 90's and early 00's), I wasn't the most prolific of artists, as I've mentioned before, so I didn't really fill that many sketchbooks really, maybe 3 or 4 big ones. I've still got them in a box somewhere, I'll have to pull them out and post some stuff here. Maybe one of those book flipping videos would be good too.

But anyway, somewhere along the way, I fell out of using sketchbooks and went for single sheets of paper in their stead. This was probably around the time when I started getting really serious about making a career in art. I think I took the conscious decision to stop with the sketchbook stuff, and just concentrate on making complete images.
I think this was like 50% a mistake. Sure, I created a lot of finished artwork, much more than I used to. But I think I should have continued with the sketchbook work AS WELL.

The reason I think I should have kept at the sketchbooks is for several reasons.
Firstly, sketchbooks are just fun. You can doodle little nothings all you want, or work out a difficult composition, a complex character design, or just let your hand make the decisions for you. The sketchbook is where an artist should feel uninhibited (not that they should feel otherwise elsewhere too, of course), an artist should let it all hang out in a sketchbook.
Secondly, you look cool walking along with a sketchbook in hand. I've heard that chicks dig it, but have had no experience with such a response.
Third, a sketchbook is considerably more neat and tidy than a bunch of loose sheets of paper.
Finally, there is something magical about a sketchbook. To look at an artist's sketchbook is to look, in a very real sense, into their soul. It's where ideas are born and problems are solved.

How an artist fills a sketchbook can vary greatly. I tend to be a fairly neat sketchbooker. I look at each page as a little piece of canvas itself. So my pages tend to be tidy and even compositional in quality. I like to work up the drawings to a degree higher than a sketchbook probably requires, but that is just me. I've seen many sketchbooks similar to mine in this regard. It's as if a sketchbook is a piece of art itself, and some artists, including myself, want to put on a good show.

The type of sketchbook used is another important element. As I said, I used to go with the A4 sized ones. But now, I find them far too big and clunky for what I want. I like to be able to fold a page, and page in the sketchbook, completely flat, to be able to fold it over, even. Hardcovers aren't great for that, especially ones with hundreds of thick pages.
I also like a more compactly sized sketchbook. One that can fit nicely into the smallish sachel I use every day. I've purchased many sketchbooks in the hope that they were the perfect fit for what I require in a sketchbook. But no matter how nice they all were, they all had at least one fatal flaw that I found too restrictive or even prohibitive at times. The main fault was in the fact that the sketchbooks I bought wouldn't fold out flat or over on themselves. This is a big problem for me and it stopped some truly lovely sketchbooks making the grade.

But I think, after much searching, I have found my brand. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Moleskine Kraft Brown XLarge Plain Cahier!

And it gave me a chance to use one of my Art Order stickers too!
These delicious sketchbooks come in packs of three, each with 120 white pages. The cover is made of toned cardboard that is very flexible, with exposed stitching on the spine. Each sketchbook measures 21 x 24.7cm, or 7.5 x 10in for those not on the superior metric system.
I really like them. I'm using one for my everyday sketching and another for the Dr. Sketchy sessions.

Now, they aren't invincible, mind. I haven't tried using watercolours on one of them yet, but I imagine it wouldn't hold up very well. I did find that markers bleed through pretty quickly on them too. But that's okay, I'll probably go ahead and use watercolours on them anyway, but mostly use them for pencil and pen.

Here are a couple of very recent pages-

Yes, the Faerie Stones are back!
Anyway. I'm really enjoying sketchbooking again. It's been far too long. I think that if I can be more consistent with the sketchbook work, in both the frequency and how I approach it, I think my bigger work can only benefit from it.
But the big reason for me getting back into using a sketchbook is so that I can really try and develop a mode of regularity with drawing. I want and need to draw more, using a sketchbook every day is part of creating that habit. I'll be writing about making an artistic routine in a later post, it might even make its way into a podcast (now that I have that awesome option).

But before I go, I wanted to say hello to my two newest followers. Greetings, CathyRae and Grandma Sandy! You are both most welcome here.

Back soon.

Sep 16, 2014

Galway Pub Scrawl turns 5!

Logo by the incomparable Mary Lillis.

On a Monday evening back in January 2012, I walked into McSwiggan's Bar in Galway for what would be my first of many, many Galway Pub Scrawls. It seems a long time ago now, but I do quite clearly recall the nervous excitement I felt as I introduced myself to the group of people already there.

Up until that point, I was one of those artists that was completely isolated from other artists, apart from through the internet, of course. But I was never really part of the cool art group at school, nor did I join any artistic clubs. I'd taken some short courses, but never really managed to find a clique that fit right.

But the Galway Pub Scrawl gang pretty rapidly changed all of that. Granted, I'd known the founder of the group, Donal Fallon, for many a year, and several of my fellow staff members at the bookshop, Patrick Gavin and Oisin Greaney, were already regular attendees. But apart from that, I was entering uncharted waters that first night.

Goodness me, am I glad I went in though. I think I can safely say that Galway Pub Scrawl has changed my life, in lots of ways.
Firstly, some of my very bestest friends are Pub Scrawlers: Mez, Ger and Anita to name but a few. I totally wuv you guys.
But in all seriousness, I do feel as though Galway Pub Scrawl has been hugely beneficial to not only my personal life, but also my artistic growth. Through the many and varied challenges that we manage to sign up for, I have created some pieces that I would never have thought to do if left to my own devices. And it's all been done in the company of like-minded friends.

So it was with great delight that I was there at the most recent Pub Scrawl which just so happened to be its 5th Anniversary!
Fellow Scrawler, Kieran (or is it Ciaran?) and I came up with the idea of having a sort of art swap meet where revelers bring along any art they are happy to give away and it can be thrown in the communal pot. Anybody was free to give and take whatever they wanted.
My reasoning for it was to treat it as a sort of token of my humble and heartfelt gratitude for everything that the Galway Pub Scrawl has given me over the last nearly three years. And, you know, if you're a friend of mine, you're gonna get some free art from me whether you like it or not!

So here are my friends and the pieces of art of mine they chose:
Dermot Canniffe made a late charge for this piece.

Gerard Coady. Joy bringer. Food eater.

James Newell. He has all the cool pens.

The lovely Katie Creaven. I grabbed one of her drawings too.

Kieran got greedy.

Linda was in quick for the G-Gnome.

My pal, Mez.

Mo, provider of high-brow humour.

Philip Barrett. He teaches how to make comics.

Yolande and her kewl earrings.
You wouldn't think it with this picture, but Donal Fallon is actually a massive fan of
mine and he hangs on every artistic stroke I make.

It was a really great night spent with wonderful friends, delicious food (thanks to Mez, Yolande and McSwiggan's), lively conversation and art being created in all directions.

Who could ask for more?

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

Podcasting

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!