Off the radar
Hi all, apologies for the lack of blog posts in the last few months. I’ve become a little disillusioned with social media lately and that’s meant I haven’t been posting content as frequently. I’m not sure if that’ll change too much, algorithms and the like are taking a bit of the joy out of it. When you post something and it gets half the engagement a similar post was getting a couple of years ago, despite having more than twice the number of followers, it’s a bit discouraging.
Anyway, here’s what I have been up to since summer.
Patreon. I’ve continued to work on my Patreon project – Weird Field World. There’s a bit of info about it here. I’m really enjoying fleshing out the world, adding background, history, little stories and characters. The engagement with my supporters there is great, and it’s very energising to have people to discuss the project with. You can support me here.
Inktober. I failed to finish Inktober this year. I think I just ran out of steam and enthusiasm for the project after a couple of weeks. My plan was to draw a series of little building based, loosely, on the play Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas. I started off OK, but there wasn’t, perhaps, quite enough to go on for a whole month of building drawings. I think I managed 14 or 15 in the end. I was reasonably happy with most of them, and I might add one or two more at some point. A bunch of the illustrations are available to buy, so I’ll add a separate post soon.
Illustration work. This year has been a disappointment compared to last year. Working on a couple of books, plus work in a couple of magazines, some t-shirt designs and a little concept art work meant that 2018 was by far my best year for paid illustration work. 2019 by comparison has been awful. I’ve had a steady flow of private commissions this year, but no major commercial work at all. I’ve worked on concept art for a couple of clients, but both of those projects fizzled out due to publishing or financial issues. It has made me realise that I need to be much more proactive in seeking work, so in the last few weeks I’ve been getting organised. The year has ended brighter, a few little commercial projects have come in over the last two weeks, and I’ve had enquiries about a couple more.
Digital Illustration. A year or so ago I bought myself an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, hoping to dive in to the world of digital illustration. One of the main reasons for doing so was to be able to produce super clean linework that would reproduce well in print. I have found working digitally a huge, and difficult, leap. The simple act of drawing on something other than paper, even with a matt screen protector on the iPad, has taken a huge amount of time to get used to – and there were many times when I thought it simply wasn’t going to be possible for me. The turning point was a suggestion from Rob McCallum on Twitter that I simply give up working on paper for a while, and only sketch on the iPad. It might seem like an obvious solution, but to draw digitally, and not get the results you want, for even a day was quite a task for me. Gradually, over the course of a couple of weeks things began to feel more natural. I got used to the feel of the stylus on glass, to the way digital lines worked, how to tweak brush settings to suit my way of drawing. Now, although I still have huge amounts to learn, I really do feel comfortable working on the iPad. I even enjoy it. Part of that is down to just how good the iPad and Pencil are, and how great a piece of software Procreate is. Together they are really quite formidable. Adobe and Wacom should be worried, particularly with the lacklustre release of Photoshop for iPad.
Parklife. I’ve continued to get out for walks as often as I can, if not as often as I’d like, in Bushy Park. Getting out in to the fresh air, and out in the open is hugely important for me, particularly if I’ve been stuck at my desk for a few days. I still get a thrill from seeing the variety of wildlife in the park – Red and Fallow deer, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and a huge number of other different bird species. I can’t recommend getting out in to the countryside enough. Make the effort if you can, you won’t regret it.
Reading. I’ve struggled to find moments to read this year. Not commuting in to London at all has been one factor – the only good thing about a three hour commute each day is that it gives you three guilt-free hours to read each day. Apart from that I just don’t seem to have been in the right frame of mind. Perhaps it’s a feeling of guilt – spending time reading when ideally I’d be working – even if I haven’t had the work to do this year. I’ve tried to put things right in the last month or so. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Gareth Powell’s sequel to Embers of War – Fleet of Knives. And Ann Leckie’s Provenance, set in the Imperial Radch universe she introduced us to in Ancillary Justice, was a great read. Currently I’m reading Wilding by the appropriately named Isabella Tree. It’s the story of how she and her (affluent) family set about rewilding large parts of their 1400 acre estate in Sussex.
That’s it for now. I’ll do my best to post more often. Do let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about.
You can find prints of my work here
I really enjoyed this update. It’s refreshing to hear and relate to your artist struggles.
I too am trying to get more and more paid illustration work and it’s a challenge. And when I do get those jobs, they don’t usually pay as well as my freelance graphic design jobs.
What is your day job out of curiosity? Also what is your plan for getting more illustration work?
On Tue, Nov 26, 2019 at 7:27 AM this northern boy wrote:
> thisnorthernboy posted: “Hi all, apologies for the lack of blog posts in > the last few months. I’ve become a little disillusioned with social media > lately and that’s meant I haven’t been posting content as frequently. I’m > not sure if that’ll change too much, algorithms and the lik” >
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. For me it’s very interesting seeing the trials and tribulations of an illustrator’s life.
After several years of not doing any art at all I came back to drawing this year and Inktober finally gave me the confidence to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator.
Reading that even so talented and skilled people like you struggle over getting used to new media (iPad) somehow helps 😅
By the way: I ordered a copy of “A Beginner’s Guide to Sketching” last week and really enjoyed your tutorial!
So, thank you for the inspiration you are giving and keep on your great work!
I just wanted to say that I hear you on the algorithm thing. I’m pretty sure that if I post every day or two, substantively, and routinely browse the Reader for new things to Like and blogs to Follow, I’ll get back to the number of followers I had on the blog I shut down (one of them)…however, having a job and a life kind of interferes with that. 😉 I’m really not sure to what level it’s worth having a presence here anymore, especially when the system seems to be designed to addict authors. I do wonder though, if the downtick you’ve noted in jobs is related to a downtick in visibility?
I believe I started using WP close to the time at which I got my first job and was going back to community college. By now I’ve completed my Master’s, and, well…I have other things to do, particularly as my job requires work (reading) outside of actual paid time.
It is useful to have the option of posting images, which is one of the upshots of using WP (over a notebook)…the other one is that cloud storage is less vulnerable to local catastrophe. There’s also, though, the issue of privacy, and intellectual property (though the latter is difficult to manage in a global context [to put it lightly]).
For me, right now, I’ve taken to hand-writing a journal. The biggest downside is that I run out of paper. 🙂 And the things require storage. There also isn’t even the illusion of sharing those thoughts with anyone else; but having trained as a writer, I know that this is likely a positive thing in the long run. There are things I wouldn’t say here that I can say there, that is. There’s also the tactile thing of writing by hand, which I otherwise have stopped doing. I’m combating it by playing with interesting pens and inks. 🙂
Anyhow, good luck in your future projects! I do check here every so often, even if I don’t post…