May 30, 2014

Podcasts & the 30-Day Drawing Challenge returns!

I'm feeling really good about art at the moment, both with my own (not necessarily a good thing, of course) and the art I like to look at. I have this lovely sense of a real and tangible community existing in not only the Galway groups, but also on a larger scale, online. As I've mentioned previously, so much of being an artist is just sitting at a desk, alone, drawing away with little contact with the outside world, let alone other like-minded people.

But I think I've found the cure to that with my trusty new studio companion... the podcast. Specifically, illustration podcasts.

Friend and all-round good chap, Donal Fallon, has been extolling the virtues of podcasts for a very many years, but I guess I never really got the urge to actually check them out until last week.
I'm glad I finally did look some up and give them a chance, but I'm also peeved with myself for not doing so a lot earlier, as they really are tremendously good on many levels.

The one I have started off with and am totally and utterly addicted to, is the W.I.P. PODCAST. I've downloaded all of the episodes I could to my iPod and listen to it on the way to work, during lunch and in the evening while I'm drawing. The only problem is, I'm running out of the available episodes fast and am seriously considering contacting one of the hosts to see where I can find the earlier dozen or so episodes.

But even if I am successful in tracking down those earlier episodes, I will probably churn through them quickly enough too. But fortune is on my side, because there are some other seriously good podcasts waiting for me on the other side. I have all of the Ninja Mountain, Drawn Today, Big Illustration Party Time, Escape From Illustration Island and The Illustration Underground episodes to get to next. That's probably hundreds of hours of listening, and I really can't wait to listen to every minute!

I want to talk about podcasts and what I have learned from them, which is quite a lot in such a small amount of time, in greater detail soon. But I'll leave it at that for the moment. But if you're reading this and like the sound of them, I definitely and whole-heartedly recommend the WIP Podcast.
On the drawing board at the moment
The next thing I'd like to mention is that thing that seems to pop up at about this time every year and fills me with a combination of sweaty dread and giddy excitement... Yep, the 30-Day Drawing Challenge is BAAAACKKKK! As if my life isn't busy enough as it is...

It is my intention to do as many of the listed daily challenges as I can, but I know I won't be able to do all of them. I have a couple of really nifty paying gigs lined up for June, neither of them are massive undertakings, but I really want to give them my all and do the very best work I can. Granted, I endeavour to do this with every job I take on, but these ones are particularly poignant as the completion of these will mark the end of my old system of working and the beginning of new things for my art.

I won't give away too much just yet, but let me just say that the changes I am planning will bring me considerably closer to the career I dream of and have aspired to for a very long time.

Obviously, there will be more said on this topic closer to the big change-up. I'd like to close this post with a few photographs, if I may.

As I am sitting here, writing this blog post, on a very warm Friday evening in my home, I am surrounded by my books, my trinkets and my art supplies. My study/studio is a bit of a tip at the moment, as I can never seem to find the time to clean and organise it beyond making neat piles of everything. But from certain angles, in a particular light, parts of it look lived-in and almost welcoming.

So I thought I'd share some of those views...
I kinda have a thing for mushrooms
That is, indeed, a full shelf of He-Man figures
My study drink of choice, hot chocolate
See you back here in a few days for Day 1of the 30-Day Drawing Challenge!.... sigh...

May 26, 2014

ImagineFX FTW!

Soooo, do you remember a couple of posts ago, when I said that I would hopefully have a big announcement soon? Well, the time has come for it.

Let's paint a magical mental picture, shall we? Yes, let's...

Imagine, if you were to go to your local newsagent today, a decently sized newsagent, that is; you would probably find in the digital art section a magazine called ImagineFX. This is pretty much the go-to magazine for fantasy artists, be they of a digital or traditional bent.

The most recent issue looks like this-
ImagineFX #110. Perty.
If you were to take that magazine down and start flicking through the pages, you would see some pretty spectacular artwork on display from some truly amazingly talented artists.

If you were to continue flipping through the pages, you would eventually get to a 2-page spread on pages 104 and 105-
There, you would see an interesting article on a group of artists you might have heard me mention, the Sceitse sketching group based in Cork and run by cycle-sketching champion of the world, JG O'Donoghue. You could then read the article and perhaps find it a rewarding usage of your time.

As you look at this two-page spread, maybe your eyes might glance to the right of the page, where you will see a sidebar running from the top to the bottom with various pictures and words inside it.

Upon closer inspection you may see such famed names as Donal Fallon, Eva Widermann, Kevin Gough and, of course, the great JG O'Donoghue again.
You may also notice a small coloured picture of an ancient ring fort there. There is a name attached to that picture, and wouldn't you know, it's mine!
And here's a better look at that picture-
Pretty cool, huh? I've been trying, albeit sporadically, to get a piece of artwork in ImagineFX for, quite literally, years. If you've been reading this blog from the beginning (blessed are thee), then you may recall seeing these posts where I entered some weekly art challenges that ImagineFX runs. Bare in mind, these pieces were done years ago now, so they're pretty dodgy and I cringe whenever I look at them, as should you!

So, anyway, this is kinda like my first piece of artwork to be featured in a proper, worldwide printed publication. Sure, it's a tiny picture, but I still think it's neat and it is definitely something that I plan to build on.

Go get yourself a copy of it then, won't you?
In the distant future, when you finally get to meet me at some huge convention, and have had to wait for hours in a line of people eager to get my autograph and perhaps (time permitting) a photo with me, you'll look like a real fan if you pull this issue out for me to sign instead of some lame first edition novel or art book of mine.
You'll see.

May 23, 2014

Why I am a clever boy

The jobs I'm doing at the moment, and the ones I have lined up for June, are all for illustrations to be done in black & white. This is sort of a self-perpetuating process, I'm finding, and it really adds credence to the idea that what you put in your portfolio, is what you are going to get hired to do.
So, though I am desperate to do more coloured painting in the realms of faerie and fantasy art, the fact that I don't have enough of that sort of thing in my portfolio, means that I continue to get black & white commissions.
Don't get me wrong though, I loooove working in black & white too. My background is in working in that medium, and the process and natural progression of skill is endlessly fascinating to me.

I used to be one of those black & white artists that was absolutely petrified of using a brush, and would avoid it at all cost. The main cost of doing that, I feel, is the art itself. If you're a figurative artist, like me, there really is no substitute for a good brush. You can kind of create the same result with a pen or a nib, but nothing makes a more beautiful line than a brush, NOTHING! Sure, it has its drawbacks and areas of illustration that it isn't as beneficial, namely things like architectural work and straight lines. But if you're drawing an object from nature or a human figure, the brush reigns supreme.

I use this ink, personally-
Speedball Super Black India Ink
I've been using it for a couple of years and just love it. It's a little thicker than your typical india ink, almost goopy after a while of being exposed to air, but it is just so smooth and richly black. The thickness of it takes a little bit of a getting used to, and there's a lot of brush cleaning involved as it dries on the brush pretty quickly and can clog it up if you're not careful. But the results are worth the regular brush cleaning.

I know a lot of artists would dip their quill or brush right into this pot, but I've never been a fan of doing that. The prospect of dipping the implement in too far and getting too much ink on it, or the brush hitting the sides of the pot and then transferring the ink to your fingers when you grip it, have never been that appealing to me.
I much rather the ability to see the brush tip actually make contact with the ink, so this is what I do:

I transfer it to this plastic ink pot-

Once the ink is transferred, I shake it up and remove the lid, which has this little stick thingy underneath it-

It may look like a rigid straw, or something found in a spray bottle, but it is neither of these things. I think it is supposed to be a stirrer. The nifty thing is that at its end, there is a tiny little reservoir of what equates to about of drop of ink. 95% of the stirrer is solid, but the last little bit is a tiny receptacle-

I have found that this tiny amount of ink is just about the right amount to use up before the brush needs to be cleaned. So I dip the brush right into that little receptacle and go to work. It is clean, precise and efficient.

But there's only one problem. It's such a small lid and the plastic (while ribbed) can be slippery, and I live in constant fear of dropping that lid on a piece of artwork and, no doubt, ruining it. I've actually come close a couple of times.

But, thanks to my obvious genius, that problem has been recently solved. Easily, too-

Yep, it's exactly what it looks like. I took a bit of that DAS air-drying clay, wrapped it around the lid, pressed it on tight so that the ribbed contours were picked up in the mould, and let it dry up over a few days. Now, the lid slots perfectly into this little handle mould and I can get a much safer grip on it all-

Told you I'm a clever boy.
Back soon!

May 21, 2014

Bliary Entry #10: The weekend that was

Wowzer, what a weekend that was. It's Wednesday now and I'm still getting over it (possibly because I am running myself ragged with the impending deadline mentioned in the previous post as well).
I haven't got a huge amount of time today, so I'm going to use few words and lots of pictures, quite possibly a first for this blog!

Saturday was Dr. Sketchy day.
The theme for this month was 'Back to the Future,' and our hosts didn't let us down with the effort they put in-
Image pinched from the Dr. Sketchy Facebook page. Naughty me.
Here are the best three pieces I produced on the night-
Sarah Vixyn as Martha McFly.

Michelle Noir as Doc Brown

I won a spot prize for this one. A shot of alcohol! numnum..
As usual, I'm not super happy with any of the pieces. I'm still trying to find my sea legs with the whole life drawing thing and I feel as though I'm drawing on autopilot when at these Dr. Sketchy events. I need to be more smart and considerate of what I am doing while I'm at it. It's all good and well to just go to town and let the drawing flow, but I think that better results await me if I could just take a quick step back and really think about both what I want to achieve, and how to go about achieving it.
But regardless of my personal artistic misgivings, it is one heck of a fun evening and I really wish we could do it more often than just once a month!

On to Sunday, which was all about Urban Sketchers Galway.
Our ever-changing group met up at a little town just a couple of clicks from the main part of Galway city, called Salthill. Resting on the water's edge, Salthill is pretty much your bog standard seaside town. There's a walking path along the water, plenty of tourist attractions and, as a consequence, lots of tourists.
From L to R: Patrick, Ruth, Phil, Casey & Ro-Ro

To be honest, it's not my kind of place at all. I'm not a big fan of the seaside, much preferring a forest over a beach any day! But being an Urban Sketcher is all about getting out there and trying new things. So, armed with my watercolour rig, I got to work on this piece-
It's a pretty faithful representation of what was there in front of me, you can see the view in the photo above it. And it was the most interesting scene, to my mind at least, to be found there. But it's still rather dull, I think. Maybe it's the amount of buildings, or the lack of even a single tree, but I get no emotion from it at all.
All of that moping aside, I had a great time with friends old and new while drawing away. 99% of the time, my art is produced in solitude, so it is a real blessing and a thrill to be able to be creative and have fun with friends at the same time. It's a novelty that can't possibly ever wear out.
You can see and read my buddy Róisín Curé's far superior write-up of the event over here.

And that's it. So much for being less wordy than usual...
I'll be back with what I hope will be a couple of joyous announcements very soon.
Catch you then!

May 16, 2014

Sneaky Peaks & Grumpy Gnomes

The battle still rages between myself, armed with my trusty pens and that great foe, time. Deadlines approach with alarming speed and they are flanking me on both sides.
But in the midst of this bloody war, a moment of reprieve has been granted (by me, to me), to take a step back, to take stock, and to plot out the final assault.

And in this time allotted to me, I want to talk about a couple of things and show off some others.
Firstly, I really want to give a whole-hearted shout out to good old Mother Nature. She's putting on a fantastic display this Spring in Galway, wouldn't you agree?
The trees are almost in full bloom, apart from the Ash trees, of course, which are late starters by nature. With the mild winter and ample rain, the growth rate of all things green has been startling to observe. I want to do a proper post just about the marvels of nature at this time of year in the northern hemisphere, look for that soon.

But today is all about showing off some recent work. I'm not allowed to show the properly scanned and cleaned-up pieces just yet; but, instead, I'm going to show some shots taken with all manner of image recording devices- phones, webcams, cameras... Let's have a look, shall we?

I've also been playing around with making little videos recently. A couple of Facebook friends do them regularly and I really like the process and results. The videos can be as instructional, informative, educational or just plain entertaining as you like. I prefer to just hit the record button and let the drawing do the work. Here's a quick sketching video I did just the other day:

And here's a fancy two-part video of me drawing a Gnome:

And here's a proper shot of the portrait:

It is my intention to do lots more of these videos, they really are fun to do.

I should be back with another post in just a couple of days. This weekend is going to be a big one for artwork. On Saturday, the Dr. Sketchy gang will be back to put on their fantastic mix of life drawing and burlesque show. I'll be there, rest assured.
Then, on Sunday, the Galway Urban Sketching group will be out and about, located at a spot called Salthill, which is a little touristy seaside off-shoot of Galway. The weather is supposed to be nice, so we should have a good day.
I'll be doing a wrap-up of the whole weekend once I've recovered from it!
See you then.