Friday, 30 September 2011

365 Doodles - Day 272

Okay, so it's a bit unseasonal to post a Christmas-related picture; I get that. However, as I'm sat here, temperatures are in the 80s, kids are running around in swimsuits and the shops all have tinsel and Father Christmas in their windows so 'unseasonal' seems to be de rigeuer. It feels like I've moved to Australia.

Anyway, this is a piece I did for the city centre Santa's Grotto in Tudor Square, Sheffield in 2007. I was one of several competing artists working to a brief. I didn't get it. Quelle surprise. But fun to draw.

Bobby Chiu - an inspiration

I've been a fan of Bobby Chiu's digital art for a decade and have enjoyed watching the growth of Imaginism Studios, which he set up with several colleagues to both sell his artwork and to teach people to do the same.

I've seen Imaginism grow from a small business into a large company with its on-line Schoolism art courses attracting thousands and the roadshows bringing in the crowds. Bobby and his colleagues are also working in book illustration and film design; most recently you'll have seen many of his creature designs in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

I was lucky enough to meet Bobby a couple of years ago at Comicon in San Diego. I made off with a couple of signed prints and some original doodles. We chatted for ages and I was hugely impressed with how passionate he is about inspiring people to create art. Ever since, I've taken the time to watch and listen to his many podcasts on his YouTube channel - He talks a lot of sense. You'll see him create a digital artwork as you watch. But it's the narration that's important. I always finish one of his podcasts feeling inspired and refreshed. He's one of those people like Rolf Harris, Nancy Kominsky, Tony Hart or Bob Ross who just has the knack of getting you itching to grab a brush, pencil or graphics tablet. Here are a couple of examples:

Do give them a view if you get the time.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

How the cows were done ...

Today I've finished a rather strange little pair of cow portraits.

I can't quite remember where the idea came from but I think it began with this sketch (left) drawn during a viewing of Sean of the Dead. Then I doodled his sister.

I then knocked up a pair of portraits, of the kind parents often have on their sideboards:

But they didn't look right. The thick watercolour paper I used just absorbed all the colour. They needed to be painted on canvas board. So I started again. I also had a couple of cheap frames I'd bought in a charity shop. They were scuffed and brown and nasty but a nice size so I hit on the idea of painting them in a cow pattern. But it all went bad on me ... when I came to varnish them, the acrylic paint I'd used ran horribly.

So, I then tried using sticky-backed vinyl ... and it worked! I found a place that did a cow patterned vinyl and ordered a roll. It arrived this morning so I wrapped the frames and then I finished the paintings, polished the glass and - Voila!

The course of art rarely runs smooth! But I got there in the end. I hope you like them.

365 Doodles - Day 271

Scooby Rood!

Brutal Knitting - the art of Tracy Widdess

Creating art isn't always about oil paints and charcoal. Sometimes it's creating something new and original from something familiar. Tracy Widdess takes that most innocuous and fluffy of substances beloved of grandmothers - wool - and turns it into horror. Her weird, multicoloured balaclavas and hats are extraordinary. See what I mean?

See more of her work on her website here.

My only question is ... where would I wear them?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

365 Doodles - Day 270

So I was watching Dragon's Den on the BBC with a sketchpad on my lap ...

The Stay Inside The Lines Challenge!

The ability to paint or sculpt or draw is mechanical. It’s muscles and tendons, joints and ligaments, all working in coordination with the eyes. Much frustration in art comes from people not being able to get them all working together – particularly in adults who have returned to art after a break of years or even decades. Well, sadly, unless you are wired up in a very unusual way, that’s normal. The old saying about 'never forgetting how to ride a bicycle' is just as true for art ... you’re going to be a bit wobbly if you haven't done it for a while. But practice will make it better. And if you're complete novice, you'll get some cuts and scuffs and scream in frustration occasionally ... but you will get there.

Many art books provide exercises that will help you to hone your hand-eye skills; things like drawing the same-sized circle over and over again. Yawn. Really? Is that really the most entertaining way to retrain our muscles? I’d suggest that a much more fun way is to do some colouring in.

Yes, I did say colouring in.

Remember doing this at school? Or on a rainy holiday? ‘Staying inside the lines’ is a fantastic way to build hand-eye coordination, even as an adult. Print off some line drawings from the internet and get some colouring pencils. Experiment with shading and light and different effects. The more you do it, the more familiar your hands will become with media you use.

All of which leads me to this new challenge. Just below you'll see a picture that I've drawn. Or half-drawn. Here it is (click on the image to get a larger version, then right click and save):

(Alternatively you can click here and get a 1024x768 .jpg of the image).

I want you to do two things for me:

(1) Firstly, I want you to complete the picture. What is the man reacting to? Why isn't his dog reacting - has it seen something else? Where are they? What's in the background? Get that imagination working! Your creative brain is like a muscle too - the more you work it, the stronger it gets. You can draw or paint or stick bits on and make a collage if you like. Do whatever floats your particular boat.

(2) I want you to colour the picture in. Use paints, pencils, felt tips, biros, body fluids. Nick stuff from the kids' bedroom. Steal crayons from Pizza Hut or Harvester. Do it on the computer if you're comfortable with art programs like Photoshop. Use different techniques: shading, cross-hatching, stippling, pointilism. Make it monochrome or multi-coloured. Do whatever you want!

What I should get back is a whole bunch of completely different colour illustrations. As always, I'll draw an original doodle on a postcard - the subject dictated by you - for everyone who enters.

Colouring in has been proven to improve hand-eye coordination, help with colour recognition, enable self-expression, build motor skills like grip and control, as an aid to focus ... even as therapy. It's a powerful way to create something new and different while exercising your artistic muscles. Here's a drawing by my four year old grandson coloured in by me using just three pencils: red, brown and yellow. It lifts the whole thing doesn't it?

So get to it! If you have an problems dowloading the image, email me before Midnight Saturday 1st October and I'll send one out.

Deadline for entries is Midnight Friday 7th October so you have over a week! That's mainly because I'm in Cornwall for most of next week visiting family and interviewing artists for a project I'm working on. You can enter as many times as you like (but you'll only get one doodle!). There's no age limit either - you can be an infant in swaddling clothes or a nonagenarian in a straitjacket.

I can't wait to see what you produce. Have fun!

And stay inside the lines!

Dinosaurs on Westminster Bridge?

A very cute little song and video by Jay Foreman and Bec Hill. Wonderful use of simple paper engineering.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Seb West's 'Rockpools at Porthmeor'

I interviewed St Ives artist Seb West a month ago at his studio. Lovely chap. Here's a video explaining how he builds one of his relief landscape paintings.

Check out his website and gallery here.

365 Doodles - Day 269

A fully formed piece of new artwork today - a new picture in my ongoing cosplayers series. This one is for all of the Lord of the Rings/ Dungeons and Dragons fans and those who play Halo or Warhammer type space marine games. As with my previous cosplayers pictures, these chaps were based on real guys I've seen at conventions, most notably San Diego Comicon. There are plenty more to draw yet!

It's an entirely digital artwork drawn with a mouse (see previous post for technique) and took me about six hours in total from sketch to finished piece. I hope you like it. I may put the four cosplayer pictures I've completed so far together as a single composite print (see below) if there's enough interest.

Aelita Andre painting - A joy to watch

Amazing video of Aelita Andre painting.

In 2009, the director of the Brunswick Street Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, decided to display some abstract paintings by an artist called Aelita Andre because he genuinely liked them. He then found out that they were painted by the two-year-old daughter of photographer Nikka Kalashnikova and artist Michael Andre. ‘I was shocked, and, to be honest, a little embarrassed,’ said Mark Jamieson. ‘It’s difficult to judge abstract art. There is a formal approach and then there is a free-form approach that comes off a more intuitive base. And if you're thinking about the latter, perhaps a two-year-old can do it as well as a 30-year-old.’Art critic Robert Nelson, who was not given any background information, described Aelita’s work as ‘credible abstractions, maybe playing on Asian screens with their reds’. On learning the artist was a pre-school toddler, he said he was not surprised and that ‘credible’ art could be found at any primary school. Which goes to prove a point I often make; that we’re all born artists and are capable of making aesthetic decisions.

People still buy Aelita’s art to this day; she recently exhibited (aged 4) in New York where her paintings sold for between $4,400 and $10,000 a piece.

If art pleases someone then it’s as valid to that viewer as any other art. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done by a kindergarten child or a pensioner.

Monday, 26 September 2011

365 Doodles - Day 268

Some very loose doodles of people seen on the train platform at my local station. As usual, click on the picture to see a larger version.

And here's a sneaky peek at the new digital piece I'm working on ... all will be revealed shortly.

How the geek was done ...

In recent years I've had a play with digital art as well as painting. Being the hairy old dinosaur that I am, any meagre art training I ever had was pre-computer so I didn't grow up with Photoshop and Illustrator or any other art package and am therefore fairly ignorant of them. More importantly, they are so big and complex that I never seem to find the time to sit down and learn how to use them. I can do a bit here and there but I'm a long, long way from reaching any level of industry standard of competence.

The digital art I do tends to be quite clunky and old-fashioned but I kind of like that. I like that the lines aren't smoothed out or tidied. It looks more 'drawn'. In fact, despite owning a graphics tablet which I do use for some things, I've reverted to drawing with a mouse as it gives a natural, wobbly line that mirrors how I draw with a pen or pencil. I also use an older piece of software - Paintshop Pro 7. It's pretty much obsolete (the current version on sale is X4 and the company is owned by Corel) but it has very few bells and whistles, isn't at all complicated and does everything I need it to do. Most software seems to me to be 10% function and 90% distraction so the lack of fancypants gimmicks keeps me focused.

Here's how I work. Firstly, I'll sketch out the image and then scan it at 600dpi. This gives me a nice big image to play with. The example I'll use here is my cosplayers print Wonderwomen and Sith Lords. Next step is to drop in the background colour by adding a layer, masking areas off and using the fill tool.

Next, I mask off different areas and fill with flat blocks of colour to create the overall look of the piece before adding outlines in black. This is done by a combination of drawing in freehand and masking off small areas and filling with black.

I then begin shading by masking off areas and using the lightness/tone tool to drop the area by around 30% for darker and up %30 for lighter. I also try out changes to the composition; in the case of this image I first added a cloak to Darth Maul (which didn't work) and changed the leg positions of Wonderwoman (which did). The joy of digital work is the ease with which changes like this can be made. There's no excuse for wonky eyes any more.

I know it's clunky and old-fashioned. I know that if I learned the industry satndard software I could probably complete a piece in half the time. But do I want to? The answer, for the time being anyway, is a resounding no. I enjoy taking my time and I like the finished results I get. Far too much digital art, it seems to me, looks the same. The individuality of the artist has been swallowed by the software 'improving' it.

But that's probably just me. Colganosaurus Rex. Grrr.

Oh and before I settled on Darth Maul as my representative from the Star Wars canon, I had intended to use a bloke called Derek dressed as Han Solo. I think I made the right choice.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

How the Hal was done

Just a quick blogpost about the recent 'Hal' painting that I did. The commission was from the godmother of a one year old lad who is the child of a marine biologist and a science correspondent. After some discussions, we decided that it would be nice to set it under water. I then suggested I make a coral reef from the letters of the lad's name. Here are some of the preliminary sketches:

I figured I'd go for an organgey-pink colour for the coral (I think that some people actually call the colour 'coral') so I needed to choose a blue-green for the sea that would work with it. I then 'got rid of the white' using a mix of cerulean blue, viridian, white and an occasional warm streak of yellow ochre. I decided that I'd have the light source for this piece falling from above and to the left.

The ground was blocked in using white, crimson, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre and burnt umber. Then the coral was added using the same colours but with heavy emphasis on reds and yellows. Next stage was to block in the fish with white acrylic and Posca pens.

I then started to add seaweed with greens made from the existing palette of colours. Now it was just a matter of adding some extra layers of transparent colour (inks and watercolour) to increase the depth of colour and, finally, painting in the finer details. For this I used Posca pens, acrylics and a light airbrush of white across the top edge to simulate light falling on the surface above. And here's the finished pic:

365 Doodles - Day 267

Some more doodles for the participants in the Alien Art Challenge. The requests were for: 'An apeman', 'A cryptic film title', 'A digger (for a young kiddie)', 'Something relating to Ray Harryhausen', 'An angry Tigger', 'A cartoon of a much-loved pet dog (and caption)', and 'Frankencow'.

They will be in the first post tomorrow people. And thanks again for joining in the challenge!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

365 Doodles - Day 266

Four more doodles being sent out as prizes in the Alien Art Challenge. My briefs were: 'A cow in love', 'An alien with stalky eyes', 'A newt juggling chainsaws' and the challenging 'Tower of stoats'! I hope I've nailed them!

365 Doodles - Day 265

Another landmark in my attempt to provide a new piece of artwork every day for a year. Today I'm posting my 265th doodle ... which means that there are now just 100 to go. As of tomorrow, we're in double figures and the slow countdown to New Year's Eve begins.

To mark this landmark, here's the first batch of doodles that will shortly be posted out to people who took part in the Alien Art Challenge. Remember - this is what they asked for: 'A cat on a bike'; 'Something with a dinosaur'; 'Dead Astaire'; and 'Funky Fairy'. Will be doing more tomorrow!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

365 Doodles - Day 264

Colin Bullock - Employee of the Month.

The chances of anything coming from the kitchen ...

The final wave of Alien Art Challenge entries are now in and what a great bunch they are. We start with our youngest contributor ... two year old Olivia Faye Maddison. I suspect I'll be doodling Peppa Pig or something similar for this participant! I know that Mum Julie helped a bit too as Olivia was 'pushing cocktail sticks into her hands more often than the apple'.

Next up we have this joint entry from @cheekeechappee and @aha-Tigger. Lovely use of bacon.

Then we have this splendid fellow from Claire Chambers ...

And this great piece from Ronnie Hackston ...

And last, but definitely not least, this came in from Kate Mayfield. It's mysteriously called 'Martin and his spaceship'. Maybe that was meant to be Martian? I hope not. Martin is much funnier!

Huge thanks to everyone who took part. I am once again humbled and amazed at the levels of creativity and imagination out there among my fellow humans. As promised, every entrant will receive a hand-drawn original doodle on a postcard. I'll be contacting you all in the next day or so to see if you have any requests.