Dec 23, 2014

Bookmarks Mark II (see what I did there?)

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

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

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

Dec 7, 2014

While you're waiting...

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

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

Back soon!

Nov 25, 2014

Bookmarks (not the website kind!)

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

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

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

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

Nov 21, 2014

Designing The Circle - Dryad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back super-soon!

Nov 19, 2014

An afternoon with Eva Widermann... and Patrick.

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

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

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

Nov 12, 2014

An intellectual property to call one's own

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 4, 2014

The Other of One

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 29, 2014 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.