Jun 30, 2014

A Pitiful Display...

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

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

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

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

Jun 26, 2014

Brian Froud & Alan Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 22, 2014

When Urban Sketching & 30-Day Drawing Challenges collide!

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

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

As for my artistic effort for the day...

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

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

Jun 17, 2014

The Circle

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 15, 2014

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 12, 2014

The 250th Post

Can you believe it?

250 Posts!

Yeah, I think that is entirely worthy of large red letters.

I've been looking back at all of the posts on this blog lately and I think it's safe to say I've come a long way since that first post back in March of 2010. Let's have a look at some really cool and irrelevant statistics for this blog:
  • It has existed for 1539 days in its current incarnation
  • There is a new post every 6.15 days
  • Nearly 82,000 words have been written on it, that's about an average book length.
  • I gain a new follower, on average, every 55 days (must do something about that)
  • 319 individual pieces of artwork have been shown
One thing that occurs to me, looking back at all of that work, is that I have left many big ideas behind without seeing them come to fruition. Even just stand-alone paintings that I was all excited about at the time, never got completed. This bothers me a lot.

That is why, once my current stack of commissioned work is completed, most of which will be at the end of this month, I am going to change my working system. It is my intention to take on less commissions and to raise my fee to a more competitive rate.
This will enable me to strike for the next level of professional freelance illustration and will mean that I can concentrate on attracting clients looking for colour work which I will be able to provide examples of through the development of my colour portfolio.

Because colour is where the real art is and that's where I want to be and what I want to be doing more than black & white. But I will lay all of this out in a post in the future. This is just a quick heads-up.

Anyway, here's a belated little landscape sketch for yesterday's 30-Day Drawing Challenge. I actually completed it on the day, but didn't get a chance to scan and post it until now:

Back soon for another 250 posts, it is hoped!

Jun 10, 2014

30-Day Drawing Challenge '14 - Day 9

Today was a weird one. The bookstore was pretty busy for a Monday, which is good, it makes the day go quicker. But, goodness me, the rude folks did seem to congregate in my section for the duration. I'll never quite understand how the people that go for the spiritual books, the self-help guides and such, tend to be the most rude and messy. I mean, surely they should be the nice and tidy ones, shouldn't they?

Anywho, today's 30-Day Drawing Challenge topic is 'Manic Monkey.' So, keeping the literary theme going...

I'm going to try and do as many challenges as I can this week, but we'll see how it goes.

Oooooh, also, good buddy Katie Creaven just did a post about li'l old me over at her blog. Go check it out! Did I mention she's been in Game of Thrones? Yeah, she's been in Game of Thrones. And not just any Game of Thrones episode, the Red Wedding Game of Thrones episode! Yep.

Back soon.

Jun 8, 2014

30-Day Drawing Challenge '14 - Day 8

Well, I'm back again with another entry into the 30-Day Drawing Challenge. It's been a heck of a week and this whole month of June is going to be crazy busy, with all sorts of artistic adventures to be had. Personally, I can't wait to do some Urban Sketching, Pub Scrawling, Dr. Sketching and Life Drawing. And that's on top of the jobs I have on the go and the 30-Day Drawing Challenge!

Anyway, today's challenge is to 'make at least one 3-panel comic of your day.' Here's what I came up with:
Yeah, I started playing Skyrim again... I know, I know. I have too much work to do to be fooling around on a game for hours. I am aware. It's a momentary lapse, I promise! It's been at least 6 months since I've played Skyrim, but I always felt as though I was just about to pick it up again, but I managed to somehow resist. But I'll be back on track with the work tomorrow... probably...

Before I forget again, here's a nifty little article that appeared in one of the local papers on Thursday to promote the Urban Sketchers talk that night.
Between this and the ImagineFX article from a few weeks ago, Donal and I can barely walk down the street without being mobbed by imaginary groupies.

Oh, and while I'm at it, here's a little interwebular post from the company that myself and a bunch of my close art buddies were doing work for over the last couple of months. You can see in the update of it that one of Gord's and one of my pieces for the project are on display. So if it's on display there...
...it can be shown here! I'll keep you, my dear, dear, readers, in the loop with any further announcements for this project. I really can't wait to see the final product. A huge thanks goes to Kieran Turley for setting this gig up, I hope we gave you what you were looking for!

Alright, gotta go, Skyrim is calling again...

Jun 6, 2014

Bliary Entry #11: Nude Dudes and & Talking Urban Sketching

Ruddy hell I'm tired. But in a good way, I promise.
The big job that myself and a bunch of my close artistic buddies have been working on for the last couple of months has been wrapped up and I am beginning a couple of new ones this very day. There's the 30-Day Drawing Challenge to find time for, and I'm quite keen to get in a couple of Skyrim today too.
And on top of that, I managed to attend a life drawing session and a talk about the Galway Urban Sketchers group.

The life drawing class was really fantastic. It was on Wednesday evening and took place quite close to my work, so it was pretty convenient.
The session lasted two hours, and the model stayed in the same position, minus a short break midway through, for the duration. This is pretty much an ideal life drawing class set-up for me. While I can see the merit in quicker poses, I much prefer the longer ones, where you can really get involved in the work and not feel rushed. This is the piece I produced for it-

The scan isn't very good, I'm afraid. A lot of detail seems to have been lost and it's obviously a mashing together of two scans to make up the whole. But you get the idea.

This was the first time I've drawn a nude figure in absolutely ages, and the first time I've attended this particular class. It runs on a weekly basis, and I will definitely be returning for it as often as I am able.

Then, on Thursday evening, Róisín Curé held a talk at a bookshop about our Galway Urban Sketchers Group.

Róisín did a cracking job of it, mixing advice, humour and anecdotes very nicely and hopefully we'll have some new members joining us at our next meet-up in a couple of weeks.

And that's it for now. Skyrim calls.

Jun 5, 2014

30-Day Drawing Challenge '14 - Day 4

Crushed for time tonight, so it's going to be a quick post.
Today's challenge is 'Favourite poem/lyrics.'
I had wanted to do a nice complimentary image for some lovely poem I like. But time is just not with me today (more to come on that at a later date), so all you get is me scribbling down some lyrics I've always liked on a piece of paper at work.
Have I mentioned how much I love Neil Finn? A ruddy lot, that's how much.

Here's a link to the song. Just beautiful.
I'm going to valiantly try to do tomorrow's challenge, but I have a feeling that the next couple of days are going to be crazy and I can't be certain that I will have time for the challenge.
But we shall see...

Jun 2, 2014

30-Day Drawing Challenge '14 - Day 2

Today's challenge topic is to draw your 'opposite self.'
I've given this one a good deal of thought over the last couple of days, and it's really had me stumped as to which direction to go in. There were plenty of seemingly obvious options, such as drawing myself as a woman (which was one of the challenges last year), or as an alien, or short or dashingly handsome...
But none of that really grabbed me.

So I started thinking about the things I like and dislike and what the opposites would be. My so-called friends often chastise me about the fact that I seem to hate everything, everyone and everywhere.
This is absolutely not true! Granted, I passionately dislike a great many things, but they are totally outweighed by the things I whole-heartedly love. I think I've mentioned that I am actually a happy person when I wake up in the morning. I like to listen to music or podcasts in the morning and my thoughts are never far from my loved-ones and the things that interest me as I make my way into work. Most mornings, I walk along the river in town and delight in seeing the Mallards, the solitary Grey Heron and the odd swan. I love the sight of budding trees and flowering plants, the morning sunlight on the water as it runs past the odd visible trout or insect alighting on its surface.

Usually, by the end of the working day, I've been beaten into something resembling a grumpy old Troll by a variety of things, mostly in the shape of humans, but my mood never lasts long and as soon as I open the front door to my home, where my wife and our boy, Louie, await me, my mood is instantly brighter.

I also have my opinions. Like everybody. They aren't necessarily justified, nor are they always logical. But they're my opinions, and mine alone. A lot of them tie into my own personal taste, which, as an artist, is a very important thing. An artist's taste is suggestive of what sort of artist they are themselves. For instance, I doubt very much that if Leonardo da Vinci were alive today, he would be a fan of somebody like Jeff Koons or Tracey Emin. He'd probably dislike them as much as I do, actually.

So, getting back to the challenge topic, I started thinking along the lines of 'what if I didn't have such strong convictions?' 'What if my tastes were more vanilla?' Well...

In other news, I'm going to be up very late this evening finishing off the last piece on the big job that a couple of art buddies and I have been working on. I should have a link to show that will give some more details of the company we have produced the work for in the next couple of days.

After that, I'm going to take a couple of days off from drawing just to recharge the batteries a little, as they are running pretty low right now. I don't think I'll be able to get tomorrow's challenge piece done, but we'll see how we go with Day 4. But you know me, I'm always around.
Back soon.

30-Day Drawing Challenge '14 - Day 1

Oh god, IT'S HERE!
The 30-Day Drawing Challenge has returned for another year and as with previous years, despite the piles of work I already have to do, I've signed up for it... why do I do it?!?!
Well, maybe because it is a whole lot of fun and it usually attracts more folks to this little blog o' mine. So, yeah, it has its benefits.

I mentioned in the last post how I am really enjoying the sense of community with all of the artists in Galway and online. I've heard it said that the Fantasy Art community is especially welcoming, helpful and loyal. I have found this to be exactly the case.

It is through challenges like this 30-Day one that artists can get themselves out of that thick-skinned bubble that we usually reside inside. We can learn from each other, interact, inspire and, most importantly, have fun while doing it.
In this regard, our fearless Galway art group leader, Donal Fallon, must be commended for bringing us all together. Without him, I would probably never have met half of my close friends and my artwork would be nowhere near as progressed.

So my hat is tipped in your general direction, Donal.

Jeepers, I can be mushy sometimes... now where was I?
Oh yeah, the 30-Day Drawing Challenge. Today's challenge is to draw a Portrait of a Family Member. In another moment of mushiness, I suggested to our gang recently that I considered them an extension of my family in many ways, and that maybe we could draw each other for this first challenge. So that's just what we did!

We all met at Donal and Yolande's place on Sunday evening, where much consumption of delectable delights was done, scintillating conversation was had, and delightful drawings were... drawn.
The gang (minus Jenny who left early,
 and Donal who was playing some weird computer game)

Katie & Mez getting it done

Mez drawing so fast that her hand is a mere blur

Patrick getting a head start on a future challenge.
I call foul, sir!

Ger using a modern technological device
for a purpose only he knows

Here is my portrait of old Pub Scrawl buddy, Jenny Magaharan.
Great seeing you again Jenny

'Twas a great evening and I'm certain to pay for it tomorrow, as should be the case with all great evenings. You can see all of the other portraits from the artists participating in the challenge right this way.

But I must rest now, for tomorrow is another day and another challenge.
See you then.