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!