Wednesday 29 October 2014

Faster Than Light

Soon after completing the recent 2054 themed BBC Focus cover and feature illustrations I was chuffed to do it all over again for the following issue. This time the theme was How To Travel Faster Than Light so I worked up a cover featuring a wormhole-traversing pilot and a second outside view of the spacecraft zipping through the light tunnel. Great fun to illustrate and animate for the iPad edition. See further detail on the site here and other work for BBC Focus here.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

The Life Of Maria Callas

I'm back in the blog-seat after spending the last couple of weeks zipping around Scandinavia. Will post some pics here soon but have been peppering Instagram with shots en route. So this week I'm playing catch up and have a whole bunch o' posts to work through.

First up is a long-delayed animation I finished roughly a year ago to create a condensed life story for the legendary diva Maria Callas. It was commissioned to coincide with the launch of an album collection of remastered arias called Pure for Warner Classics, the release of which was pushed back until recently, and having sat on it for a while I'm very happy to see it out in the Youtube world.

The process proved to be similar to that of the Claude Debussy animation. I was tasked with researching Maria's life to create a succinct narrative that touched on all the career highlights and provided an arc for her dramatic personal story. After some invaluable help from the classical experts at Warner I had a script and began crafting the style boards based on the striking packaging image of Callas that would form the centrepiece of the animation. A rough animatic was created from archive photographs to approve content and timing with the chosen aria O mio babbino caro. My brushpen then went into overdrive creating portraits to be collaged into scenes created in Photoshop before animating these 2d elements in the 3d space of After Effects. The colour scheme was reduced to a minimal red-tinted monochrome, also based on the album cover, to keep a consistent tone and atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed making the animation and hope you enjoy also, you can see more on the main site here.

Friday 3 October 2014

Blog Tour

I was recently asked to hitch my digital wagon to the Blog Tour, a growing trail of creatives set loose on four career illuminating questions before inviting others to join the convoy. An old BA Hons buddy from Portsmouth Uni nominated me, Caroline Pedlernow a super-talented artist based in Cornwall, along with Tom Hubmann. Previous to Caroline were John Kilburn and Amber Hsu amongst others. Anyway, here goes...

What are you working on right now?
I've had a really busy period over the last three months working on an eclectic mix of different projects involving both illustration and animation. I'll run through a few recent jobs that represent an average cross-section of a working week as the stuff that I'm actually working on right now I can't post yet.

I'm currently creating an animated iPad version of my second cover illustration for BBC Focus Magazine, for which I've created a lot of science/tech editorial work recently. I also have a monthly column, called Into the Future, that I illustrate for the magazine where I get to play out a lot of my childhood sc-fi obsessions. Here's a recent example about deep space communications...
I'm usually juggling 2 or 3 different editorial commissions a week, some with 24 hour turnarounds such as this recent illustration for Wall Street Journal on the Ebola virus.
I've had ongoing rebrand work for the last few years illustrating book covers for the UK's largest music examining body, ABRSM. Here's a recent cover for the Guitar Scales & Arpeggios.
Earlier in the Summer I worked on my second brand illustration to promote Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park around London which included animation work for moving billboards. It's certainly a massive buzz seeing the work on a massive Ok...
I like to have personal work on the go alongside the commercial as often as possible. A recent project, Post-Invasion Cards, involved transforming found vintage postcards into UFO crash-site scenes. I've since turned them back into postcards to be made available as a pack of four soon...
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to straddle lots of different genres and styles while keeping a recognisable quality to the work that is identifiably mine. This can be my unapologetic use of vivid, and probably ridiculous, colour or my approach to photo collage or drawing style. I like to be versatile for the personal creative freedom it offers and the obvious commercial reasons of being able to tackle varied work. I've developed a brush pen drawing style over the last few years that is quite different to the Photoshop orientated work I create. I really love working with both of these digital and analogue methods and I'm constantly trying to bring the two together in more harmonious ways. More successful examples of this marriage of styles can be seen in my Claude Debussy: Life In Miniature animation...

...or a series of portraits for a book of rock and roll poetry A Circus Mind such as this Ken Kesey illustration.
Ultimately I like to be as stylistically simple (usually drawn) or hyper-detailed (Photoshop) as I feel the work requires, be it personal or commercial.

How does my illustration process work?

For commissioned work I'll read the brief or article before doing a little internet picture research around the subject for added, and often unexpected, inspiration. Some clients provide specific imagery to work around which can be really useful, in terms of clarity of brief, but can be creatively limiting. Either way, hopefully I'll have a good mental image of how the illustration should look and run with it. I often doodle a crude layout then build up an illustration-in-progress in Photoshop before sending a semi-developed image over to the client that's closer to a final rather than a bunch of sketches. It saves everybody time if it's green-lit as it's practically there. I'll happily return to the drawing board though if the client needs more ideas, every job finds it's own way. Below is an example of a smooth running job for ASAE in the States from client sketch, to approved semi-developed rough to fully detailed final.
For personal work the process is more organic than the commercial route and ideas can sit evolving in my brain for some time until I feel the need to get around to them. When I do, however, I approach them with a similar urgency and need to exorcise them quickly. Strike while the pen/mouse is hot as nobody says.

Why do I illustrate what I illustrate?

I'm driven by the joy I get from image-making mostly and exploring the varied ways I can communicate visual ideas. I feel fortunate that I can make a living doing something I've always loved to do so I'm going to keep doing it as long as I'm allowed, damn it! My personal work explores themes I'm interested in, obviously, but I don't feel there's overriding subject matter I need to explore obsessively besides the process itself. My childhood imagination was heavily influenced by imagery from films, art and books and the desire to translate the results to paper somehow and that's never really changed I'm glad to say.
That's me done for. Over to the fantastic drawer/painter Kenn Goodall and the wonderful world of Wellington Drawe!