this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

August blogfest – day 29

Busy today, lots of inking, paint-splattering, scanning, photoshopping. No time to put together a blog post of any note.

I’ll just leave a picture by one of my favourite artists here…

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Hellboy, Mike Mignola.

August blogfest – day 28

Everything I know about art (or did at the age of 15)

When I was a kid my mum enrolled on an Open University Course in the History of Art. One of the books that appeared on the bookshelves as a result was E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art. For a good eight or nine years, pretty much everything I knew about art came out of that book. My current copy is the third I’ve owned, and it’s still pretty indispensable.

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The Story of Art, first published in 1950 (and updated regularly since) is a fantastic introduction to the world of art, from prehistoric cave paintings to modern art, Gombrich discusses the development or art, painting, sculpture, and architecture. It really is an invaluable resource – even in the age of the internet, and if you want to learn something about art, particularly in a broad sense, it’s hard to beat.

For me the Story of Art was a real introduction to renaissance art – BerniniTitian, Bellini, Bosch, Van Eyck, Dürer, Holbein… The first time I saw many of the works of these artists was in the book, and it wasn’t until decades later I saw some of them in real life.

Years later when I was studying Art A Level, my teacher would read sections of The Story of Art to us, I think this was the history of art element of the A Level in its entirety. The thing was the teacher wasn’t really very good at pronunciation – so when she was reading sections on classical art, it was kind of hilarious. Heracles, became Herrackles, Hermes became Herms, Praxiteles became Pracsittles… Some things are just beyond the scope of Gombrich’s influence it seems.

 

August blogfest – day 27

A few days ago I blogged about a couple of the pens on my desk at the moment (out of many dozen) and I promised another post on the same topic.

I’ve been using a couple of brush pens quite a bit recently, swapping between the two and comparing them. The first is the Pentel Pocket Brush, a cartridge based brush pen, with synthetic bristles. It’s quite a short pen, almost like an old fashioned fountain pen with a fat body. This does make it pretty comfortable to hold, and it’s a pen that feels good in your hand. The other pen I’ve been using is a Kuretake Fude Brush Pen No 8. Again this is a cartridge based pen with nylon bristles. It’s a slightly shorter brush than the Pentel, which makes it seem a little firmer to me and easier to control. The Kuretake has a much longer body than its rival, perhaps symbolic of Kuretake’s history of producing traditional Japanese Sumi brushes. For me the Kuretake is slightly better balanced, but it’s so close between the two pens it’s really whichever suits you.

In terms of ink there’s little to choose. Both pens have a good, deep, opaque black which covers really well. The Kuretake might be a hint warmer in colour, the Pentel drying to a slightly blue-black.

For me the one area where the Kuretake really wins is ink flow. It’s really easy to draw a fine and steady line of continuous ink with the No 8, whereas, for me, the Pocket Brush just tends to dry up or drag a little. If you like your brush strokes to have more character then you might actually prefer the Pentel for that reason.

Pens

Kuretake No 8 – top, Pentel Pocket Brush – bottom.

The other pen I’ve slightly fallen in love with recently, and it couldn’t be more different, is the Uni Posca PC-1MR white marker. Working predominantly in black ink on white paper, finding a decent white pen has proved really tricky. Recommendations have been found wanting on many occasions. White hybrid gel pens, Sakura Glaze pens – all a bit rubbish. What you need in a white pen, over pretty much everything else, is opacity. That’s what the Posca gives you in spades. I love it.

Posca

August blogfest – day 26

“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.” Alexander McCall Smith.

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Mapping an imaginary place.

I drew this map for the episode artwork of the North v South podcast I make with Jon Elliman. Every week we have a topic, last night’s recording featured us discussing maps. We love a map. Doesn’t everyone?

August blogfest – day 25

Playlist: Summer in the city – The Lovin’ Spoonful, 99.9 Fahrenheit Degrees – Suzanne Vega, In the heat of the night – Ray Charles, Summertime – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

It’s been hot today. Almost too hot to draw. My arm pretty much sticking to my desk, risking smudging ink or pencil or paint. Nice.

With the help of a wide open window in my office, and a fan on full blast, I did manage to get some work done though. Making progress on the illustration for Graphite magazine. I’m really happy with the way the picture’s coming along, it’s strange though – as I’m producing this for an article about my process – how cataloguing each stage of the project makes me think about doing things differently. My workflow is almost entirely analog, so it always seems a bit cumbersome and convoluted, I can’t help feeling there are lots of improvements to be made. Step one might be getting hold of a light box.

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A mess of cables

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Pencils

August blogfest – day 24

Well, I almost forgot today, so this will be brief…

I’m working on an article for a new illustration magazine called Graphite at the moment. It’ll be a process type thing, showing how I work through a brief from initial thoughts and sketches to final, inked artwork. Today I finished the drawing stage so tomorrow it’ll be on to the inks.

Graphite magazine is published by the talented people at 3DTotal, and the first issue is out any day now.

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Scribbles on the brief

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Initial thumbnails

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Getting there with composition

August blogfest – day 23

Books and pens

Books and pens

I’ve become a bit of a pen nerd recently. Well, I say recently, over the last couple of years. Tiger Pens, Cult Pens, and Amazon have been seeing way too much business from me. But, pens are the way I make my living, so it’s only fair that I indulge myself a little right?

My latest purchase – a recommendation I saw on Twitter from Will Freeborn, Ian McQue and Mack Chater – is a Carbon Platinum fountain pen. It’s nothing fancy, just a lightweight, standard fountain pen. The nib is great for sketching though, not too flexible, and the Platinum ink is a proper black. As Mack mentioned on Twitter, it does make a lovely noise on paper. That noise, that feel of a pen nib on the texture of paper is probably the reason I’ve got nowhere with digital art – it just doesn’t sound or feel the same.

Carbon

Carbon Platinum fountain pen

I’ve only used the Carbon Platinum fleetingly so far, but it does seem very good indeed. A pen I use all the time, and have done for a couple of years is the Copic Multiliner SP. I’ve got a whole range of nib thicknesses from 0.03mm to 0.7mm. It’s that range of line weights that allows me to add depth to my, otherwise very flat, illustrations.

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Line weights of Copic Multiliners

More pens tomorrow. As I said, I’m a bit of a pen nerd.

August blogfest – day 22

Today I’ve been working on some sketches for an article I’m writing about my methods/process for a new illustration magazine called Graphite. It’s a really nice little sci-fi brief, and having to write about how I approach it has meant I’m probably thinking about the way I’m working more closely. One of the elements of the illustration I’ve been thinking about in particular today is the composition, scribbling down little thumbnails, trying to work out an interesting layout. If I think about composition, I generally think about two artists  – Sergio Toppi and Mike Mignola. I’m going to come back to Mike in a later blog post, so here’s a little sample of some of Sergio Toppi’s amazing work.

Toppi’s composition is always striking, using dramatic contrasts of black and white, finding balance in seemingly impossible asymmetric layouts. I’m not sure there’s ever been a more masterful exponent of the art of composition and blimey, he could certainly draw.

August blogfest – day 21

Tired. Work.

Sums things up today.

Final tweaks on a couple of projects before they go back to the clients. Hopefully next week will be a bit clearer so I can work on my thoughts for prints of my illustrations and my website.

In the absence of any pretty pictures from me, here’s another of my favourite paintings, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, painting by Caravaggio in 1601.

“…reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing”

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August blogfest – day 20

Tired.

Caffeine induced insomnia kept me awake until gone 3am last night, so today has been a bit of a blur. I don’t drink caffeine, but every now and again, if I need a bit of a kick when I’m busy, I’ll have a proper coffee. I always regret it later when I’m wide awake in those quiet, small hours of the night.

I did manage to draw a nice little robot today though.

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Little orange robot

Drawn in a Field Notes Brand notebook, with Copic Multiliner, Copic Ciao Marker, Kuretake No8 brush pen and a white Posca marker.

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