Friday, 11 May 2012

Transformation animation Research

As part of the research for the transformation animation we were asked to find examples of animations that we had found to take our sessions with Rick. This was so he had an idea of what we liked and to explain to us how they had been done so we could work create our own animated shorts. The brief for the animation was simply to create a short animation or “illumation” that ends where it begins and was open to whatever we wanted to do.

Whilst looking around for examples I found some really nice animated gifs by an animator called Zac Cohen. Above are four of my favorites from his website. What I liked about these animations was that they weren’t over complicated but they were very effective. I particularly like the one of the guy riding the computer hard drive and the smoothness of the transition between the characters. I studied these gifs in great detail and found out I could open them in photoshop and find out how each frame worked, which was really helpful to understand how many drawings I should do to make things move smoothly.

I also found some flash animations on his website and one I liked in particular is called The Chair Not Taken. The animation is about a bunch of politicians all fighting over a stool that’s the only chair left unattended and is meant to symbolize the struggle for seats in parliment. The whole thing had been created using Flash and then edited in After effects. There are some great slow motion bits in it during the fight scene, and the use of close ups and wide shots make it appear very cinematic.

Chester Chronicle Exposure

Back in January a friend of mine who works at the Chester Chronicle messaged me on Facebook. She was running a new feature in the paper called the Virtual Gallery and was looking for artists and photographers from the North Wales and Chester area to include. I thought this would be a good place to get my work seen as the Chester Chronicle covers quite a large area and might be good for reaching businesses needing illustration.

I emailed through some of my best pieces of work from the last two years, which I thought best summed me up as an illustrator and wrote a short 500 word biography of my journey from industry to university and a little about my influences. As well as having a page printed in the paper the virtual gallery was displayed on their website with a link to my online portfolio.

It was great to see my page in the paper, but one thing that really sticks out is the mish mash of styles and techniques I was experimenting with and make the page look a mess. At the time of sending the images I’d only just started my major project so didn’t have anything new to send and looking back now perhaps this was a mistake as the work displayed doesn’t really show my strong points. I have a much better body of work now, which I think would look great on a page, so I plan to give Antonia another call and see if she can update my page with some more professional looking pieces from the MP.

One thing I was disappointed about on the website was the quality of the images in the gallery. I realise they need to reduce the images for web, but because it’s a page displaying creative peoples work it needs to be the best possible resolution to showcase their work.

Here is the online page

Big Illustration Party, Episode 8

Last week we were asked to listen to a pod cast on Big Illustration Party. This pod cast was made by American comic book illustrators Kevin Cross and Joshua Kemble who’s laid back style reminded me of Garth and Wayne from Waynes world. I don’t know if they intended to make it that way but even the intro sounded like the one from the film. However I have to say in contrast to previous pod casts I had listened to on Illustration Island these two guys were a breath of fresh air and were fun to listen to.

The topic of the show was to do with contacting potential clients and in particular art directors. They talked about cold calling and warned about the advantages and disadvantages of using this method to gain work and concluded that this was not really a preferred option amongst art directors. They recommended sending an email to a list of clients every 3 months and said to keep the email short, as these people were really busy. They advised against attaching any artwork to the email as this could cause your email to end up in the junk mail box instead of the in box or could slow down their machines. They also said the fewer things a client has to click on or open the better. One other thing they spoke about was sending out holiday themed images, which sounds a bit cheesy to me, but if it works I think I’ll give it a try.

The one thing that’s evident in their pod casts it their enthusiasm for illustration and the fact they are happy to impart their knowledge and experience to illustrators who are just starting out to help them avoid making silly mistakes. I really enjoyed listening to them.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Colour Experiments

Today I've been doing a few colour experiments to see how my illustrations for the book will look using a limited colour palette. I've found a limited colour palette works well for me because I am colour blind and can often get confused when I introduce too many colours leaving my work looking less than professional. One good example of my success using limited colour was the Craig Oldham poster I did at the beginning of this year.

I thought I should have another go at working this way and at the same time see if I could find a quicker way of developing my illustrations.

I already had most of my illustrations drawn up in illustrator so I placed them all together on the same document and began trying different colour combinations. Once I’d decided on the colours this made the cross-hatching stage a lot easier and I methodically went through each illustration borrowing bits of cross-hatching from the previous illustration and speeding the whole process up.

Whilst researching about limited colours I came across the brilliant work of Michael Hacker, an Austrian illustrator who uses limited colour to great effect. I really enjoy looking at examples like this. Using one bright colour in certain elements of the image is something I’ve recently been trying to get into my work. For the image below of Uncle Monty I chose to use bright yellow for the egg yolk as I thought it would stand out well against the sepia. I also thought a brown fried egg would look wrong so it simply had to be yellow. 

Michael Hacker
Michael Hacker

These experiments have been important to my progress because they have given me more confidence and less opportunity to worry about whether my colours look right. 

Major Project Book

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been frantically working to get my book finished for the hand in tomorrow and today I got it printed at uni with the help of three different tutors. After a few hours of Ian pulling the remaining strands of his hair out Rick came along and figured the problem out in about 30 seconds flat. We had been trying to sort out the pagination of the pages and it wouldn’t make a pdf to print from and it turned out all we needed to do was copy the folder from the flash drive to the desk top to get things working.

Below are some of the sample pages from the book and as mentioned in a previous post I have been working on using a limited colour pallet for my work, which is now making my work look really good.

Until last night I didn’t have a front cover for the book and hashed it together in illustrator using an illustration that didn’t make it into the book. The illustration was meant to be a kind of recipe page on how to make liquorice bootlaces, which came from Roald Dahl’s autobiography “Boy” and is a story a father told his son to try and put him off eating sweets.

I really enjoyed making the illustrations for this book and through the process have become more familiar with using InDesign, which is another string to add to my bow. At first I was not very confident with this software as I was more familiar with QuarkXpress, but the more I used it I found it wasn’t that different to using Illustrator.

Although I’m really happy with the book for the hand in once it was printed I could see things I want to change. I didn’t realise how big the fonts were until I saw the printed copy so I will want to change them for the final version for the end of year show.

I also need to add the cross-hatching to one or two of  the illustrations like the worm image at the bottom, but these are things I can sort out after deadline.

Transformation Animation

When we were given the transformation animation brief way back at the beginning of term (seems like a life time ago) I was really excited as animation is something I’ve always been fascinated with and have experimented with over the years. I always admired the great animators of Disney and Warner Brothers who’s work seems effortless, but full of movement and expression and took great skill and planning to execute correctly.

When I read the brief I had ideas of an animation, which would morph from one character to another and loop back to the beginning. I know what I want to do with animation but sometimes it takes me a while to work things out and so I did a few experiments to test out the ideas I had.

The first test I did was done in Flash and was just a bit of a mess about to see how I could change one character into another. It runs a bit fast and jerky, but as a quick test I found it useful to figure out how to make things morph.

The second test was to morph some of my sketchbook characters together and I actually started drawing this one up but couldn't work out a way to get back to the first character and ditched it. I wish I’d stuck with it as it was looking really nice.

The 3rd and final test was a rough I did for the finished piece, I was really happy with the smoothness of the transitions and learnt though the previous tests to add more frames to make things flow smoothly.

(I fully intended to post up the 3 tests, but can't figure out how to convert a flash file for web)

Final animation

I decided to go all retro and hand draw it using a lightbox hence the wobbles and specks of ink that pop up here and there. I’m planning to draw the frames again in illustrator ready for the end of year show but am thinking I might just have the rolling heads bit only with more character transitions.

Hopes, Fears and opportunities 2

Reading over my previous blog post about my hopes and fears, I have realised that my hopes and fears have changed since the beginning of my final year. I have come to a few realisations regarding my job prospects, my style and the way I work.


One of my initial hopes was to refine my style at the beginning of the year. Initially it was thought that using pen and ink would be the route that I would take my style, improving on the techniques that I was using and encompassing cross-hatching. But on reflection I have always thought my greatest pieces have been where I have used digital methods to create illustrations. And so, I decided to leave the pen and ink behind and go back to my digital illustration roots. This has meant that my illustrations look more professional and I can produce these images easily and quickly. Over the course of my major project I have learnt that I can develop some really nice work from an initial sketch, then refine and colour the piece in Illustrator. I have been using limited colour within these illustrations and cross-hatching the images digitally, which I have become quite skilful at. I’m already starting to see some interesting results with this new working method and am starting to gain more confidence in my ability to be a professional illustrator.  
I have also found from my major project that I can compose a character from a small amount of text. I have realised that I prefer to create surreal images and characters, rather than characters that have no substance. I read through many autobiographies for my major project and found that many of them did not sustain my interest or evoke amusing imagery. The best books I found for evoking imagery were “Boy” by Roald Dahl and Alexi Sayles “Stalin Ate My Homework”. Roald Dahl was a surreal and creative writer and I think this kind of text with it’s surreal content is what works best for me in terms of coming up with ideas for me to illustrate. I would hope to illustrate other children’s stories and will be looking to find editorial work for newspapers and magazines in the future. My ultimate dream is to be a character designer, maybe for Disney.


I still have the same fear that I may not be able to find illustration work after I finish my degree, but I believe the best way to overcome this fear is to get out there and promote myself and not be so nervous about getting knock backs. It’s taken me a while to update my portfolio, but I’m really proud of the content that’s currently in there and I think It best represents my style and who I am. I have received some feedback from my previous employer saying that they find my illustrations are of a higher standard than the illustrator that they currently use. They mentioned that they would be in touch with any illustration work that comes their way. I have a few contacts from when I worked in the design industry and hope that if I keep networking alongside my employment, I will be able to build up a substantial client base. Upon looking for design employment, I have noticed that a lot of companies now are asking for web design experience. This is something that I do not possess, and I am worried that I may not be able to get a position within the art industry at all! As mentioned in my previous post, I must have a regular income with a family to support, so I may not have a choice but to take a regular “job”, rather than a career.
If I am unable to secure a position within the design industry, I may have to do an additional web design course to open doors back into the design industry.
My confidence would need to be increased further if I am to be successful as a freelance illustrator. I need to have a thicker skin and make sure that the confidence knocks that I may receive do not make me quit from the path of illustration.


I will make sure that I utilise the contacts I have acquired over the 14 years I have been in the design industry. This may be to acquire a position within a company doing graphic design, or to build a client base for my illustration work. I am hoping that I will not have to complete further courses to get where I would like to be and would ultimately love to be a character designer. I feel my work is now well on it’s way to being of a professional standard, as well as my portfolio. I will need to keep updating my website with further pieces and hopefully I will be in a better position in a few months time to build my own website.
Now that I’m feeling more confident with my portfolio I will start making opportunities for myself by sending work out to design agencies in the my local area and contact the agencies I visited for the portfolio visits. I have already made a hit list of editorial clients I want to send work samples to and I plan to start putting my plan into action next week.
I need to widen my scope a bit more and make more connections within the world of illustration and if I can make it to one of the Draw North West meets one evening this could be helpful. I also found Leeds Comic Con was a brilliant place to make connections with professional illustrators and am really looking forward to going there again this year armed with my business cards and samples of work.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little bit on Adobe After Effects with the transformation animation and although I was more confident in drawing everything by hand I found it useful as it helped me to get my head round Flash. Now I know the basics I will be looking to make more animations from my vector work.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Portfolio Visit 2

I've just come back from a portfolio visit at Elygra Marketing Services in Chester. It’s worth mentioning that these were my employers before choosing to start my degree and it was the work I did whilst working there that put me on the path of illustration and in particular character design.

Since recently moving back to the Wrexham area I was keen to show my face again and show them how my work had progressed and also to see if they could throw some work my way. Whilst working for them I was heavily involved in marketing campaigns for many local authorities up and down the country helping to make children aware of the importance of healthy eating. This involved designing characters, game packs, comics, canteen branding, themed events and any other promotional material the schools required to market their healthy school dinner menus.

I met with company director Andy Argyle and head designer Dan Parsons. I talked them through some of the projects I’d been involved with at Uni and some of the software I’d been using and they were interested to hear about the animations I had done. Overall they were really impressed with the professionalism of my portfolio and the quality of work inside. I knew they already had an illustrator on their books, which they used occasionally and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but they said they thought my work looked more current so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to leave my card with them.

As they’re a marketing company they offered me some great tips on marketing myself and said business cards were great, but I should make some flyers and postcards with my work on that people can pick up and take at shows or events. They were also big fans of email flyers as a means of sending samples of work.

It was great to start networking in my local area once again and I look forward to the possibility of working with them in the near future.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Portfolio Visit 1

Today I visited Thoughtful, which is a design studio situated in the college. I met with graphic designer Stuart Price who was a really nice guy and I found out later also haled from my hometown of Wrexham (small world). Stuart was really easy to chat to and his first comment on opening my portfolio was how professional he thought the illustrators from our college were, which was nice to hear. I changed the order of my work this time to start with my pen and ink stuff and end with my more recent vector work to see what reaction I would get. Stuart immediately asked if I worked in pen and ink and I explained I'd been experimenting with it until recently and now preferred to work in illustrator. He said the one thing that stands out in my work is my love for character design and how he could imagine my Disney character coming to life. He also liked how I had included different poses and expressions to show how the character would translate into animation. He also liked my LWL Super8 cover and said the concept behind the image was really clever and also commented on how effective the cross-hatching looked. One piece that really grabbed his attention was the ice-cream illustration I did as part of my MP, Stuart thought this was my strongest piece and said he thought it would definitely win me editorial work. I asked his opinion on the colours as I wasn’t sure if they were really working and was surprised to hear he really liked them. He explained that as a designer he is naturally drawn to really bright colours and thought it would look great in a children’s book. Towards the end of the visit I chatted about the end of year show and told him about an idea I had to have my work printed onto Perspex with a colour wash on the wall behind it. Stuart thought this was a cool idea that would make my images look more 3D and at the same time look a little like an animation cell.

Transformation Animation Research

Ink To Vector

Before starting my final major project I decided to go back to producing my work in vector form as I felt this was an area I was more confident in and I wanted to produce work at a much higher degree of professionalism. I guess there was a big fear that I would finish my 3rd year with work I was really unhappy with because I still had a lot to learn with pen and ink. Don't get me wrong I love pen and ink, but I’m such a perfectionist and despite my best efforts I could never achieve the perfect line work I was striving for. I would spend long periods of time trying to get everything just right and then scan it in only to find it just didn’t look the same as it did on paper. Creating artwork in ink is most definitely a skill that takes years of practise and a high degree of experimentation to perfect and is not for someone with sausage fingers like me. However working in black and white has taught me a lot about getting the right balance and tone in my work, which was previously lacking. I also became fascinated with cross hatching techniques, and studied the work of illustrators like Tom Gauld, Matthieu Bessudo (McBess) and Sir John Tenniel (Alice in Wonderland). The styles of these three illustrators are very different in their approach but they all have an affinity with the cross hatch and are masters of their craft. I too fell in love with this way of working but decided to simplify my cross hatching down to enable me to produce my work a little quicker. I first started to experiment in this way last year on the Wellspring project, but it wasn’t until I did the illustration for Little White Lies that I really started to see some improvement in my work and found a new way to use cross hatching with my vector drawn illustrations. Since then I feel much more confident in my style and am actually really happy with the work I am now producing.

Tom Gauld - Beast

McBess - Title Unknown

John Tenniel - The Jabberwocky

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Little White Lies - Super 8

For the last couple of months I've been working on a cover illustration for the D&AD Student Awards.
The brief was set by Little White Lies magazine, which gave the option to illustrate the main character from 1 of 5 films. I decided to work with Super 8 for this one and wanted to make a portrait based on the characters personality or some kind of attribute that defines him. Through research into the film I decided to design a piece based on the characters passion of model making and worked on various ideas to turn him into a model kit of himself.

Through various stages of the design process I experimented with producing the work in ink, but after careful consideration I decided to attempt it in illustrator and go for a cleaner vector look. I am really happy with the end result and this has given me the confidence boost I needed. Throughout this brief I have developed new methods of working to incorporate my cross hatching style that I will build upon in the final months of my degree.

Below are some of the concept ideas that formed the basis of my final cover.