Tales of the Unexpected

Here is a series of illustrations I have worked on recently. They are all based on the book “Tales of the Unexpected” by Roald Dahl, which contains a large selection of short stories, all tied together with a hint of mystery. All of the stories in the book were very interesting, but I chose four of my favourites to turn pictorial. As you can see below, the idea of the pieces are simply to illustrate elements of the story in a playful way. They don’t show exact scenes from the stories but include major props.

The way I created the images was by starting off with deciding which elements of the story would work best together, so there were things I ended up having to leave out even though they were important parts of the stories. Then I drew them all separately before scanning them in to be edited and composed.

After playing around with the compositions a little I settled on where I felt it worked; in each piece there isn’t too much going on, but in no area is it boring. Then I coloured them in digitally but I thought it took away a lot of deep mystery to it- it just seemed to look a bit childish so I desaturated the colours and ended up with some very nice tonal ranges.

There are still features I want to play around with on these images. For example, an early idea I had, and one that’s been backed up by everyone that has had an opinion on it, is to add a spot colour to each, just to add a little flavour and bring them together thematically. I’d also like to choose another story from the series and produce a front and back cover to make the series feel whole.

Lord Whitney

Today we had a visit by Art Directors Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney, who make up Lord Whitney. They were here to give us a little insight into how they got where they are now from leaving university, and later to chat to us individually about our own direction.

In the morning they gave us a talk in the lecture theatre about how they became… them! They started off in different disciplines in the same uni; Amy was into photography, while Rebekah was working with 3D illustration. They collaborated just before they finished uni, but carried on after, and still do to this day. I felt a little better about my current situation when the revealed that they didn’t really know what they wanted to do until after they left, and the rest of the talk was based around the realization that what they wanted to do was right under their nose the whole time.

Lord Whitney told us that they find inspiration in things that make them laugh, and generally just the playfulness that can come out of low budget design. They also said how hard it could be pursuing a passion like design/ illustration because so much time and money goes into it for little return (apart from the obvious fun and experience) so make sure you do it for you and not money.

After the talk they had a look at my recent work, and I revealed how worried I am about settling into one specific niche in illustration. They helped me massively, when they showed me that my styles could be brought in, taking the best out of all of my pieces, and putting them to better use. They also told me not to worry about that too much though, and when I told them I was interested in working big they encouraged the experiment for my next project, which is the brief they set me!

Click here to take a peek at their wacky and wonderful website.

Graphic Guru

Today I had my first meeting with my Graphic Guru for the year, Ben Jones. His role is generally just to answer any questions I might have about direction with my work, what it’s like making the transition from the course to the real world and any other guidance I might need.

I found that it was very easy to talk to Ben, and the 20-30 minute session went really fluently. I thought it would be best to start with him looking at some of my recent work, so I showed him three recent projects I’ve been working on and my “Monkey” piece. He loved the fact that I’d put some of my finished, the book title pages, in context. I pretty much started the conversation by putting a downer on every piece I showed him, saying what I’d not considered, and trying to justify it. However, he didn’t think that way at all, and helped me look at the strengths in the work. He said that he liked my drawing, and could tell that I enjoyed it, and after going through my desk found some old planning pieces from an earlier project. He told me that it would be good to experiment with work like this more, and after I told him I was into comics he suggested how I could develop a style like that.

After looking at all that he showed me some illustrators that I’d be interested in as our works are similar, and told me it would be a good exercise to take their pieces, deconstruct them and see how its made again. He also showed me his work, which I thought was very good, and as his forte is widely print, I showed him some old print work, which he seemed impressed by.

He then gave me advice on my portfolio. He pretty much read me straight away though, and said that if I’m still not confident with my portfolio don’t bother finding people to show it to as they’ll see through it straight away and it wouldn’t sell very well. For now my advice is to continue my drawing until I’m at a stage where I can happily show it off!

I’m glad I got the chance to speak to Ben today because I feel that it was good to have someone from an outsiders point of view look at my work, and the fact that he was supportive throughout the session means that I wont be worried about asking him for advice in the future!

Click here to have a look at Ben's work!


Alice Dupre: Big Scary-- Tuesday is Rent Day.

I came across Alice Dupre in an article in a recent Varoom magazine. She has done work in animation for the likes of Channel 4 and even on one of my favourite films, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The video i'm sharing here is for Tuesday is Rent Day-- a single for the band Big Scary in summer of 2010.

I like the idea of stop-motion, i've given it a try before so i understand the painstaking time it takes, and effort that goes into making a good, well-flowing piece. In the article Dupre talks about how long it took to move and keep tabs on the 100 building blocks, where they all go and which ones need adding to the mix. She says that this was the most difficult part of the production. However, what i like about this video is the mx between the stop-motion and the 2D character/ elements she overlays. She captures the interaction between the blocks and the character in the story in a fresh new way.  It's good to see how for simple drawings can be extremely effective when the transition from still image to moving image is made. It shows that there doesn't need to be a real life element to moving image, as long as it captures the audiences attention in a fun, or cute, or moving way. I'll go into this more in the future, when i explore how illustration might progress in the future/ digital age.

I think that it's really interesting the way i found out about Dupre's work, through being suggested to me that i should look at an article in the magazine, i came across her article instead and decided to pursue her work. Then i found out that she has done the 2D graphics on one of my favourite films, it feels like i've gone full circle to come across her even though i watch her talent nearly once a week (i really love the film)! If i were to compare the two pieces though, i would never have guessed that they were done by the same person, so it's interesting to see how versatile she is in moving image. I'd love to speak to her about her techniques and inspirations.

Eduardo Bertone

Here is another example of this type of graffiti art. This work is by a guy called Eduardo Bertone and i stumbled across him when i saw one of his designs in Computer Arts Projects #155. He'd been asked by the magazine one question: What product would you love to design if budget wasn't an issue? Bertone replied that he would like to create outdoor wallpapers, because he likes the idea of decorating a city. Again, it was the concept of working large scale that enticed me. I liked what i saw so far and thought i'd investigate a little further.

I found his website and was immediately interested. Bright colours and wacky drawings of robots and scenes with buildings sticking out at odd angles, i loved it! Aside from just the drawing, Bertone has an eye for the flamboyant colours. Although in one work he will only use about three colours, they all help highlight elements, and not using many colours brings in the composition to make the piece look finished. You can see that there are things drawn entirely from imagination, but work together to create this fantasy world, rich with action and fun.

This is the twist i should be putting towards my personal work. Like Bertone, i draw a lot of things from my head but where i'm going wrong is that i'm restraining myself to real life objects, that exist here, that can be compared. Bertone invents a new world. Yes, many components can be traced to everyday life, like in the bottom picture, but the idea of fresh new imagination is still what makes it stand out.

Phil Noto

I'm very fond of Phil Noto's art, and anybody who knows me well would be able to tell you why. He draws portraits of iconic comic book characters, and we all know that i love comics! He has a really fun, sketchy way of drawing that i quite like, and then the colours he use brings his work to life. His work shows me that drawing features on people is a lot simpler than i usually imagine. I like the way that some of his portraits don't adhere to the conventional square border (for example the Wonder Woman one).

I have two favourites out of this selection and the reason i like them is because they include some of my favourite comic book characters out of context. In the image on top he shows many of Marvel comics superheroes on holiday, having fun, and it's generally not the place you'd ever see them when they get drawn for fighting the bad guys! I also really like how he's put The Beast out of focus in this image, almost as if it's a holiday snap! The other one i love, and this is the first picture i'd seen by Noto, is of Psylocke (the girl with the purple hair), a popular x-men character. We'd usually see her as a fighting ninja with a telepathic sword (yeah i'm a geek) but Noto has placed her at a bar wearing a Joy Division t-shirt, bringing in real world influences to help us relate to her.

Nobumasa Takahashi

I can't remember how i found Takahashi's work but i know that i was instantly drawn to it. Although he does many different types of design work including portraits and ink drawings, it is this style that i am particularly interested in. First of all, i love the scale. Working big has always been an interest of mine, and the idea of getting a linear drawing on a wall as a canvas is exciting. I really like the detail that goes into each piece as well; there is so much going on in his work. You can be in awe of it the first time you see it and explore it for hours, then upon the next viewing find completely new characters!

The actual elements of Takahashi's pieces are also interesting. He has influences from Japanese are and Western art and you can see it in the work. Using only black lines, he sets the scene, which seems always to be a fantasy world we can get lost in, but also includes familiar landmarks. It's a very good mix. Everything in his work just appears to fit so well together. 

I like working to a large scale, and i like working just linear with my drawing as well. I also enjoy drawing buildings and places much more than i enjoy drawing people, so this is a real opportunity for me to explore a fun path! I link work like this to some of my personal work, like the Monkey piece i showed earlier on my blog. I think that if i find the right characters and elements there is potential in that kind of work to evolve into what we see here. When it's this big though, i always wonder, did he sketch it out first, was it already set in his head or did he just go with the flow and see what happened? My guess is that work like this, a kind of graffiti art, would include a little bit of both. When i produce pieces like Monkey, it's all from memories in my head, no planning goes into what the main elements will be or composition, and maybe this is something to think about in the future.


100 Abandoned Houses Project.

Kevin Bauman is a photographer who decided to photograph the concept of abandonment as a creative outlet from his professional work, and as a way of exploring his city of Detroit. As the number of things he photographed increased, it naturally led to this project. A lot of his first photographs were in black and white but as the project began to take form he converted to full colour photo's. Here is my selection of his photo's i thought i'd share. These eight are probably my favourites, but this could change as easily as the weather.

The reason i want to share this on my blog is simply because i find the project interesting. I'm not a photographer, and there are no direct links i could really take from this to add to my illustration work but i like the concept. I've always been interested in abandoned properties, it really makes you think about what happened before, who has explored before you, are you the first to find something new in an old place? I think that most people seeing houses like this would see "ugly" but i see adventure. I takes me back to my childhood when my friends and i would stumble across one of these on our travels, find crazy old documents and writing on the walls. It was like walking into a ghost house, exciting!

Another factor i love about this is the idea of change. Houses like these aren't like the pristine suburb exactly-the-same houses you see all the time in real life. They decay, they rot, the weather can tear a house apart. When i entered houses like this i would have changed things, moved things, added footprints. Trees grow around the houses, taking them into their environment.

I don't have any justification as to why this would be linked to my illustration work apart from something i read the other day in Paul Arden's book, 'It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be:'

To be original, seek your inspiration from unexpected sources.

But Isn't that Your Job?

A couple of weeks ago we had a visitor come in form design company MUSIC to talk to us about the relationships between the designer and the illustrator. Craig Oldham talked us through how he got on with Illustrators when working on his own projects, and gave us lots of helpful tips. 

Before the day though, we were also set the brief to create a poster for the event, and the winning ones would be exhibited around the college. Here's my poster below. I noticed that there was a lot of information to go on the poster so had the idea to integrate the type into the stationary. I kept the designs simple again, as my style appears to be leaning in that direction, and i think it reads quite well. In hindsight though, a couple of things i would change are the colours; the blues are far too garish tot he eye, i'd tone that down a lot. I'd also work harder on the type, there are too many different styles on the poster and while some information should supersede other information, that doesn't really happen towards the bottom of this poster.

Anyway, moving on the the event itself, Craig himself seemed to be a very down to earth, interesting guy.  He brought something to the talk that other designers might miss out, and while we do get the same advice from many different practitioners, he did well to put a different spin on it, so it engaged me very well.

Apart from the main part of the talk where he went through working with illustrators, time constraints and budgets, i took a lot from this talk. He explained the breakdown of ideas, which i found helpful (although they were obvious points).

For example, when you hit a brick wall with idea generation, think about what MUST be in the project, then what idea's are good for the project, then what might be useful, and finally what isn't needed. Ten you can see what the better solutions are. Craig also came up with the idea of "The Mum Test." Tell her the idea, if she doesn't get it, the idea is too conceptual and therefore the idea wont relay to the audience well. Genius. Other words of advice were,  if you genuinely care for the idea, go for it, and bizarrely, but probably helpful, never eat yellow snow!

Overall, i learned a lot in this talk about what it is to be an illustrator outside the classroom, how better to manage our relationships with other practitioners, the best ways to pitch and perhaps  most of all, what colour snow to avoid!

Personal work.

As well as working on the brief i'm being set by uni i've decided to test out mixing a lot of doodles together into one piece. Here is one image, which is essentially just a collection of memories accumulated in the first few days of me moving into a new house over the summer. All of the memories are real to me, and i think this could be a good new direction to move forward in. I wouldn't usually include work like this on my blog but since starting my facebook page, which now has 111 followers in just six weeks, this has been the one to generate the most interest. I feel that work like this (maybe it's because it is more personal to me, i don't know yet) seems to appeal to my audience a lot more than the other work i've been showing, like my editorials, for example. This is definitely a factor i need to consider for when i leave uni and would like to use my skills in the real world, so to speak!

I like to call this one "Monkey" for reasons unknown!
As this is a personal piece i would appreciate some feedback, i'd really like to build on this work so comments on how to improve would be very helpful!



To break the class into the new year we had a one day brief-- simply to choose a quote or saying that we found motivating and make a sign out of it. We had a free run as to how the sign was made, media and size. I knew that i wanted to make a 3D hanging sign so had to choose a small slogan. I opted for SMILE! as i feel that one of the most important things you need in life is to be happy and this is especially important in the workplace, otherwise why do it?

As one of my other passions is comics i thought it would represent my personality well if i covered the sign with an old comic or two. I stuck the panels on so it wasn't possible to follow a story, but enough so the audience can see the action. Then i simply covered the word in thick black pen, almost as if it were panels in its own comic. The decoration can be seen from all angles but only the actual word can be seen from my desk, which for some reason i kind of like!


Uganda Book Project.

First and foremost I need to make an apology; I haven't been keeping up to date with this blog recently! So with that in mind i will be spending the next few days bringing you up to date with my recent adventures!

Back in September we were approached by a lady called Denise Ead who works with a charity called Helping Uganda Schools. She had the aim to raise funds for the charity by making a book for young children in schools, so the brief we got was of a story already written and established. There was freedom to play around with some of the idea's but some things had to remain the same-- namely, the main characters, who were chosen by the children in Uganda.

This was a competition brief, so to start off we all had the same pages to illustrate for Denise so she could chose the best concept to be produced into the final book. We had to produce for her a double page spread, a single page and two vignettes.

I opted for the simple look. I thought about what 4-5 year olds would want see when looking at a story like this and decided that bold, bright colours would work best. If there was too much detail they might be overwhelmed, and so used few elements. For the main characters, the monkey, the elephant and the crocodile i had the concept of drawing them using basic shapes, so i made the monkey very circular to portray a mischievous and curious manner, the big strong elephant was to be very square-like and the crocodile quite triangular to show him as feisty. This way they all had their own personality even though i'd made them minimal.