Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Mortal Engines - The Gut- final stage

'The Gut' painting from Mortal Engines is finally finished. It took quite some time to get the colour and lighting right, and to keep it in balance. Adding the blue light at the top of the eaten city was a way of balancing the composition with colour, as it's surrounded by orange/yellow colour, and the uplighting is red, so made a lovely hellish contrast.
I drew from a lot of research material- mostly steel mills for the smoke and atmosphere, and Hugh Ferriss drawings to see how light and dark could be used in the composition.

You can see an animation showing the picture being developed here:

Friday, 21 April 2017

Mortal Engines -The Gut

The next big artwork is The Gut, from Mortal Engines (the previous entry covered London the traction city chasing Salthook).

As usual it starts with very simple composition sketches. I find this part the hardest, it's something that has to be really worked on. There were two angles I was interested in, looking down from a walkway onto the industrial scene, and looking from the floor across and upwards. The latter has more impact, I really wanted to show how hellish, dirty and crazy it is in The Gut. This part of London is at the base of the city, and so has 6 storeys of suburbs weighing down on it, so it needs the heaviness of the ceiling bearing down on the viewer.

The drawings look very rough, but the way I think and draw at this stage is rough so I don't get attached to any particular version. It's more likely I'm wrestling the ideas from abstract fluff to a solid concept. Drawings 1 and 2 are looking down from a walkway, using a strong zigzag and criss-crossing. 3 and 4 are showing the scene from floor level, trying to find the strongest angles to use. 5 was too weak, and 6 is looking down at a skewed angle to make it look unsettling. 7 and 8 are back to the floor level, finding the strongest shapes to lead the eye in. 8 was the one I settled on, it had the weight bearing down as the girders and the giant heap of wrecked town in the centre. Halfway through the sketching I realised that you can't have The Gut without it doing it's job, which is disassembling towns and stripping their assets. So you have a central focus, and the girders acting like a frame around it. Some of the references I took are Piranesi's prison prints, Hugh Ferriss' city scenes, and a lot of abandoned factories and refineries. Also, we had an exhibition in the city gallery of WW1 art, views of munitions factories which were really dramatic and huge, like set design backdrops.

Drawing stage 1- using a grid to stop me from going off angle, starting to rough out girders and a town. The town is actually a part which has been sawn off by the rotary saws at the front outside of London. That's why it looks a little like a cross-section.

Stage 2- The town was too small, it didn't look like a big deal to cut it up, so increased it to scrape the top girders. The image looked like it needed a foreground element to make it more 3d, so I added a girder being ripped and lifted from the town.

Stage 3- the final drawing, everything is clear, and I know where to paint. The drawing is actually going above the painting layers, either as overlay, or multiply. It's hard to tell from the picture but I used a Wet Pencil brush to get the rough organic line.

That's the lot for now, I'm hoping this weekend lots of colour will be added. It's set up on layers so the background can be faded/blurred, and likewise with the foreground. There may even be some bits added in After Effects, like dust and smoke movement, or even a camera move as you get closer to the central view.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Mortal Engines

The latest personal project is a scene of London the traction city from Philip Reeve's book Mortal Engines
This is such an enjoyable series that I was inspired to make my own vision of the city. There have been several different pictures by other artists, but I wanted to make a comprehensive version where you could really see each tier's architecture. 

I concentrated on the overall feeling of the scene, how I felt about this giant beast of a city rumbling across the land, and the terror felt by the smaller cities it consumed. 

Pinterest was a real help for research, and I could keep them online instead of downloading loads of images. Reference included old pics of London docks, the Barbican, enormous rock cutting saws, and oil rigs.

In addition I was keen to not fall into the trap of concept work having too much detail in the distance, so gave a veil of Turner-esque raincloud as a backdrop. 

Stage 1- roughing out after the line drawing 

 Stage 2- adding grungy colours, especially the rust and decay on the metalwork and concrete. 

 Stage 3- the caterpillar tracks didn't look beefy enough to carry the city across mud and rock, so I added an extra row each side. Before it looked like it was on tip-toes. 

 Stage 4- working on the sky and smoke, and adding little airships. 

The buildings took a lot of work, including deciding how much tiny detail to have.

 Stage 5- Adding the town 'Salthook' as London's prey, and finishing the hi lights, backdrop and shadows. 

The line layer- (for drawing fans). 

Back into the blogging and more Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

well I've been away for too long, making amazing books for Carlton Books Ltd has taken up a lot of my energy, and now it's time to get some new posts written.

Last year I started a series of large drawings about Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell BBC TV drama. The portraits are in the previous post, but last year I decided to make a set of book pages.

It was created as a challenge to make consistently good drawings for a project, and as the work progressed it became more and more enjoyable. It was very satisfying to be totally creative and push myself, to really improve my drawing and colour skills.

Spread 1- The Characters

Below is the background drawing. This is taken from a drawing which became an etching a couple of years ago. I wanted something suitably spooky and rich, with lots of branches which I could 'hang' the characters' pictures from. In the series there are mirrors which are portals to the Raven King's world, some of it is in a forest. I also wanted to make the artwork rich and detailed, to match that luxurious quality of the Regency era.

Spread 2- The King's Roads

This is the beautiful and decrepit kingdom of the Raven King, which Jonathan explores via mirrors. I wanted to mix the text with the imagery, without it intruding on the main scene- which was the amazing piled up view of towers. The original was created by Milk-vfx, and was absolutely stunning. I was really impressed with how they'd turned a corner of Fountains Abbey into a different world.

When I was an art student at Harrogate College we used to go drawing in the Abbey, getting very cold and sore knees bending down to draw on huge pieces of paper on the ground, and covered in pastel dust. I suppose this is why I have a soft spot for the place.

Spread 3- Strange and Norrell summon the Raven King

This is the climax of the series, when the two magicians summon the very powerful Raven King to help Strange rescue his wife from the evil 'Gentleman'. Again, I had to judge which part of the scene to use, (and then go down a different route), and finally return to the most powerful image of the storm of ravens entering the library. 

Layout drawing.

Final main drawing.

The Cover
I love book covers, and realised if it was to be a complete project, it needed a cover. All the design is illustrated, no photography, and a lot of time was spent in deciding on the layout, mostly where the 2 ravens sat on the front. Would it be a subtle cover where the design hints at the content, or make it rich and detailed? The latter won- it has to spring out from a bookshelf to catch the eye, and I'm a big fan of dramatic imagery. The BBC and Bloomsbury logos are included as they deserved mention, being the publisher and producer of the book and TV drama.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

First post of 2016

I've really neglected my blog. Bad artist. I had a lot of work and absolutely no time to post or even draw new pictures.
But now I have a bit of time and can add some drawings. 

The last year has all been taken up with drawings of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, BBC's amazing and double BAFTA winning drama adaptation of Susanna Shaw's book.
I'm ashamed to say I only read the first 2 chapters of the book, but will finish it.

Jonathan Strange

Mr Gilbert Norrell

John Childermass

Mrs Arabella Strange

The Gentleman with Thistledown Hair

Stephen Black

Mr Segundus

Mr Honeyfoot


Sir Walter Pole

Lady Emma Pole

Mr Drawlight

Mr Lascelles

The Raven King (John Usglass)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Cardiff Castle's Animal Wall

Cardiff has quite a few architectural landmarks- the castle being the most eccentric. Perched on the battlement-style wall are stone animals, (some with glassy eyes). They're simultaneously humorous and spooky, looking like a second away from springing to life.


Here are the latest viking drawings, from the York Jorvik Viking Festival. The textures and colours are particularly interesting, viking costume can be very rich, especially the Russian ones.

Since I've been using KyleBrushes amazing photoshop tools my love of drawing has really taken off again. It still takes the same skill of pencil and paper, the only difference is that you don't rub a hole in the surface when erasing mistakes. An unexpected challenge of working this way is the temptation to be very detailed, something I have to drag myself away from. There still has to be a roughness to the edges and freshness in colour, and there's still judging what to put in or leave out.


Saturday, 31 January 2015

Hallowe'en dinner

So it's 3 months after Hallowe'en, but I dug this photo out of my collection and realised that it would be a great subject for the next picture. The location is Banners Restaurant in North London, it's such an interesting place, there are so many details to feast on along with a great sense of space. The Jerk Chicken is gorgeous, and the Singapore Sling will knock you out.

In the last few months I've started looking at combining drawing with using textures. The second image has some paper underneath, matching the slightly grungey feel of the place. Usually it's a base of an Ingres or sugar paper, but now I'm adding scuffed and mottled surfaces. The tricky part of that is not to let the background look gimmicky or obtrusive.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

House in the clouds

This is a complex image made with the starting point of a wooden house model. It started as a birthday present for my Dad, then has been on a bookshelf for a year. After seeing it for so long little cogs started working and my subconscious came up with the perfect scenario to set the building in. 

It's drawn in Photoshop, and is quite a large image, about 50cm wide. There was no intention to make it like the house in 'Up', maybe it's a common theme to dream about houses in the clouds. The whole image is just simple fantasy, a combination of two things I love- architecture and billowing clouds.

The first blue-tinted clouds version.

 With an apocalyptic edge to the clouds.

The line is removed, for a nice 'chunky' quality.

Here's the original model:

Monday, 13 October 2014

Etching Class at The Art House

This is a drawing of the etching class I taught at The Art House in Wakefield. It was a two day course, and was very successful for the students, who left still smiling.
The drive to improve and discover new ways of making work has really taken hold. It's interesting how old methods from art school have resurfaced and proved to be still interesting and effective.
There are two different styles here; one is to use a watercolour drawn line and then use a rough conte brush as the colour, and the other is to just have the pastel and no line. I prefer the latter, it's more painterly and chunky, it just about hangs together as a description of forms. This could go more rough and abstract in future drawings.