this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Category: blogging

Inspiration Tuesday

Well, blogging every Monday didn’t last long. Anyway, here’s a Tuesday dose of inspiration.

The Thing

The Thing film poster by Studio Ronin

The art of Christopher Shy and Studio Ronin.
I’m completely new to the work of Shy and Ronin, and I can’t believe it’s escaped me for so long. I must have seen some of their film posters at some point (and I would definitely have loved them), but apart from that I’m completely ignorant.

From the website of Studio Ronin

CARVE YOUR OWN PATH
Created in 1994, Studio Ronin produced its own unique blend of design and concepts. Under the direction of Christopher Shy, Studio Ronin created its own
in-house effects studio, and began working in film building miniatures, producing concept art as well as costume design, and visual design. In 2000 Studio Ronin
began its most ambitious project of producing its own intellectual properties, starting with Silent Leaves.
Publishing only graphic novels, Christopher Shy soon set a certain tone to the work. “No single issues, only complete books, we do them our way, and we run it
like a book company.” Silent Leaves became Studio Ronin’s first book, followed by Man To Leaves, and with Michael Easton, the acclaimed Soul Stealer trilogy.
Other books include Pathfinder, which was made into a film; Ascend with Keith Arem; Good Apoll:; I am Burning Star IV for Coheed and Cambria, (Studio Ronin
completed stage design for the band that following year); Silent Leaves Exceptions To Life; Dead Speed; and City On The Edge of Sleep. In 2010, Christopher Shy
and Studio Ronin completed Deadspace: Salvage.
In 2004 Studio Ronin gave its first large scale gallery exhibition of Christopher Shy’s tempera originals, some over 8 feet tall. The paintings were shown in Chicago
at Echo Gallery, and the exhibition was held over for one year. Christopher Shy’s work is now on permanant display in Chicago at Gallery Provacateur.
In 2006 Studio Ronin began working in advertising. Clients include Nike, Harley, Mitsubishi and others. Its imagery was “fresh, dark, and daring.” Film posters
followed, as well as print ads – all taken in a different approach while continuing to write, create, and publish its own brand of IP. In 2008, Studio Ronin licensing
was born, and Christopher Shy’s images were reproduced under his careful direction on skateboards, snowboards, t-shirts, and jackets. Christopher Shy accepted
an award in Italy for Artistic Excellence in 2010. In 2011, Soul Stealer was named book of the year.
Studio Ronin has carved its own path – creating an image of what an independent art studio can be, and redefined the doors that should be open for the small,
masterless studio. A unique vision to the work of both the entertainment world, and fine art.

Carving your own path should really be the goal of any artist or illustrator, but it’s easy to lose sight of that. Studio Ronin and Christopher Shy are a beacon in that regard. Have a look at their output, then go carve your own path.

Most mainstream film posters follow a very defined route, photo montages of the big stars, not doing anything different out of fear of not getting the marketing ‘right’. Studio Ronin take a completely different route creating beautifully painterly images that evoke the essence of the film. Beautiful work.

 

You can find more of my own work online…
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FAQs

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I get quite a lot of comments on my posts on social media, and often people are asking me the same questions, so I thought I may as well answer a few of them here.

“Where can I find more of your work?”

I post regularly on social media, so find more of my illustrations on –
Instagram
Facebook
Tumblr
Twitter
Artstation

“Do you have a Patreon?”

Yes I do. On my Patreon page I’ll be building more of my Weird Field World of spaceships and alien technology. I’ll regularly post sketches, finishes illustrations, maps and charts, and even some written fiction. Supporting me gives you access to unseen work and gives you the opportunity to buy original art before anyone else, and also the chance to get involved with the world building of my Weird Field universe.

“What pen do you use?”

This is the question I get asked more than any other, and I know other illustrators get it a lot too. The first thing to say is – it isn’t about the pen. Yes you might get a bit of a difference in quality of line from pen to pen, obviously a brush pen gets you a different look to a pigment liner, but the pen doesn’t make you any better at drawing. The only way to get better at drawing – is to draw.

However, if you’re interested in the geekery of pens:

Copic Multiliner – 0.03 to 0.7 nibs
Rotring Tikky – 0.3 to 0.7 nibs
Pentel Pocket Brush
Kuretake No8 Brush Pen
Stabilo Point 88

Blackwing 602 pencil
Tombow Mono100 pencil
Steadtler Tradition HB pencil
Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil
Lamy Scribble mechanical pencil

Platinum Carbon fountain pen
Kuretake Zig Manga dip pen

Uni Posca White pen
Sharpies

Other kit…
Minisun A3 Lightbox

Sumi Ink 60
Winsor & Newton Masking Fluid
Daler Rowney A4 Cartridge paper
Moleskine A5 Sketchbook

“Where did you learn to draw?”

I was always the kid that drew, from as far back as I remember I was always drawing. When I was a little kid I used to sit in an armchair at home with a bit of wood across the arms, like a desk. I’d sit there and draw spaceships and monsters and dinosaurs and dragons for hours. Throughout all my school years, despite studying art, I don’t really recall being taught anything at all. Even at college (studying for a graphic design degree) I don’t think I got much in the way of tutoring. After college I barely drew at all for twenty years, since then all my progress has been through practice, and being inspired by all the great artists doing great work out there. One thing that has definitely helped since I started drawing again, has been daily drawing projects. For a whole year I drew a robot every day, and I’ve also taken part in the Inktober initiative for the last few years. Committing to drawing every day, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes, is a fantastic way to improve.

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Where aren’t there ideas? If you read books or comics, if you watch TV or film, if you look out of your window at home or school or work – there are ideas everywhere. You just have to look and let everything soak in. I get inspired by all kinds of things – looking at industrial buildings from the window of my train commute, the weird old oak trees in the park near my house. Films and books are a big influence – I’ve always been a sci-fi nerd so in my work you can see bits of Ralph McQuarrie, Jim Burns, Carlos Ezquerra, Cam KennedyJean Giraud and Enki Bilal.

“Why don’t you do a book?”

I’m working on a book. Slowly. It’ll be written and illustrated by me. Currently it’s about 75% written, but I’ve barely started thinking about the illustrations yet. So, nothing will be out for a while. There will definitely be a book at some point. And it will be about trolls. I have worked on illustrations for a couple of other books –  Build! A Knight’s Castle, and The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines (of which you can read more about here).

You can also find my work in Beginners Guide to Sketching: Robots, Vehicles and Sci-Fi ConceptsSketching From The Imagination: Sci-Fi, and Issue 2 of the brilliant Graphite Magazine.

“Where can I buy your work?”

You can buy prints of my work here. My good friend Jon Elliman runs Ellipress and has an amazing eye for detail and makes sure my prints look great.

If you would like to own some original artwork drop me a message on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and let me know what you are interested in. There’s a little more information here.

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Updates…

It’s been a while since I blogged – work and holidays have both combined to keep me from doing so.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been working on getting some artwork ready to sell online as prints – should be ready to go in April – which is very exciting. I’ll be launching with five or six different illustrations, most of which will be available to buy at a couple of different sizes. When everything is confirmed I’ll post here about it.

I’ve also completed a couple of commissions and worked on some concept art for a couple of clients – I can’t share any of that just yet though.

For now, here are some of the sketches I’ve done over the past couple of months.

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Any ideas?

So far on my blog I’ve mostly posted images of my work – in progress and finished – some stuff about my process and bits and pieces about what materials I use.

What have you enjoyed reading? What would you like to see more of? Are there things you’d like to know about me, my work, my methods, or my inspiration?

Let me know in the comments!

 

Isometricness III

It’s been a couple of weeks since the end of Inktober and, despite my computer’s hard drive failing, I’ve finally got all the images scanned and cleaned up.

The month was rewarding for me in terms of my drawing, I definitely think I improved from week to week. It was also great in terms of marketing me as an illustrator. Over the course of the month my Instagram followers increased from a little under ten thousand, to over twenty thousand – I haven’t been able to work out quite how that happened. Every one of the isometric drawings sold, and I got another 15 illustration commissions on the back of that.

My next blog post will be about social media, so I’ll discuss a little more then about Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Here are all 31 of my isometric Inktober drawings. Do you have a favourite?

1_clean

Day 1.

 

 

31

Day 31. All done.

Thanks very much to everyone who liked, commented, shared and retweeted my posts throughout October – and a special thanks everybody that bought one of my inktober illustrations.

August blogfest – day 31

It’s finally over! At the beginning of August I wrote that I might be making a rod for my own back by committing to one blog post a day for the month. I was right. I really enjoy writing my blogs, but I tend to write and post them when I feel I have something to share or something to say. Finding the time, and a subject every day was a real struggle. Far too many of the posts have been written hurriedly at eleven o’clock at night. I definitely think I write better with a little more time – both to do the actual writing, and to think about the subject.

How was it for you? Did you enjoy reading a new post everyday? Were the subjects interesting? Was the content too image heavy? Too wordy? In the future are there particular subjects you might like to read about? I’d be very interested to know your thoughts, so please add a comment if you have time.

In terms of stats, blogging every day didn’t have much affect. I had just over 1400 visitors in August, compared to 1100 in July. A little up on my average of 930 each month so far this year. Likes, comments and new subscribers were about the same as previous months too. I think previous posts, where I’ve written in a little more depth about a topic, or had the time to put together lots of images, have definitely had better responses and have been shared more widely on social media. Which I think suggests that it’s all about quality rather than quantity.

Next month I’ll revert to posting three of four times, and I’ll try to make sure they are a little more detailed and considered.

Thanks for reading, if you are still reading and haven’t nodded off by now, and please do add a comment when you get a chance.

Goodbye August. Hello September.

August blogfest – day 30

I’ve just finished an illustration for an article for Graphite magazine, it’s for an article on my process. Less a ‘how to’ more of a ‘how I do it’ kind of thing. Having to document my methods really makes me think about how I work, and if I can improve things.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Use photoshop to tweak, adjust and mock up layouts from my own sketches. Sometimes I can spend a day making minor adjustments to layouts, sizes of elements etc, using photoshop to adjust my notebook sketches and create rough mock ups of the illustration could save me time.
  2. Get a lightbox. With a mock up of the illustration printed out, I could use a lightbox to take this straight to a final drawing stage. Usually I sketch, scan, print out, trace, transfer… Using a lightbox could really save me time.
  3. Get the drawing right. It’s much easier to ink if you’re drawing is correct, and very difficult to cope with or correct if it’s not.
  4. Tangents. Tangents – where two or more lines, corners, or elements intersect or touch in a way that distracts or confuse – really need to be avoided. Even though I know this rule I often find it hard to avoid. Or maybe I’m just being lazy with the drawing. I should take more time to make sure I get rid of these by redrawing or adjusting the layout.
  5. Life drawing. I really need to take a life drawing course, there’s simply no way of avoiding the fact that I’m terrible at drawing people – and it’s just down to lack of practice.
  6. Continue to develop a visual style and language. Most of my illustrations are recognisably mine, people can tell a spaceship I’ve drawn from one drawn by someone else pretty easily. It’s no good just standing still with a style though, I need to continue to push myself to develop.
  7. Build a visual dictionary. I need to build up a bank of knowledge about stuff that crops up in my illustrations. Pinterest is a great help for this but I tend to be a little lazy with it. I should create a few boards on subjects such as aeronautical engineering, space machinery, submersibles, robotics… The more stuff I have in that visual dictionary the better.

 

August blogfest – day 29

Busy today, lots of inking, paint-splattering, scanning, photoshopping. No time to put together a blog post of any note.

I’ll just leave a picture by one of my favourite artists here…

Hellboy_Penanggal

Hellboy, Mike Mignola.

August blogfest – day 28

Everything I know about art (or did at the age of 15)

When I was a kid my mum enrolled on an Open University Course in the History of Art. One of the books that appeared on the bookshelves as a result was E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art. For a good eight or nine years, pretty much everything I knew about art came out of that book. My current copy is the third I’ve owned, and it’s still pretty indispensable.

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The Story of Art, first published in 1950 (and updated regularly since) is a fantastic introduction to the world of art, from prehistoric cave paintings to modern art, Gombrich discusses the development or art, painting, sculpture, and architecture. It really is an invaluable resource – even in the age of the internet, and if you want to learn something about art, particularly in a broad sense, it’s hard to beat.

For me the Story of Art was a real introduction to renaissance art – BerniniTitian, Bellini, Bosch, Van Eyck, Dürer, Holbein… The first time I saw many of the works of these artists was in the book, and it wasn’t until decades later I saw some of them in real life.

Years later when I was studying Art A Level, my teacher would read sections of The Story of Art to us, I think this was the history of art element of the A Level in its entirety. The thing was the teacher wasn’t really very good at pronunciation – so when she was reading sections on classical art, it was kind of hilarious. Heracles, became Herrackles, Hermes became Herms, Praxiteles became Pracsittles… Some things are just beyond the scope of Gombrich’s influence it seems.

 

August blogfest – day 27

A few days ago I blogged about a couple of the pens on my desk at the moment (out of many dozen) and I promised another post on the same topic.

I’ve been using a couple of brush pens quite a bit recently, swapping between the two and comparing them. The first is the Pentel Pocket Brush, a cartridge based brush pen, with synthetic bristles. It’s quite a short pen, almost like an old fashioned fountain pen with a fat body. This does make it pretty comfortable to hold, and it’s a pen that feels good in your hand. The other pen I’ve been using is a Kuretake Fude Brush Pen No 8. Again this is a cartridge based pen with nylon bristles. It’s a slightly shorter brush than the Pentel, which makes it seem a little firmer to me and easier to control. The Kuretake has a much longer body than its rival, perhaps symbolic of Kuretake’s history of producing traditional Japanese Sumi brushes. For me the Kuretake is slightly better balanced, but it’s so close between the two pens it’s really whichever suits you.

In terms of ink there’s little to choose. Both pens have a good, deep, opaque black which covers really well. The Kuretake might be a hint warmer in colour, the Pentel drying to a slightly blue-black.

For me the one area where the Kuretake really wins is ink flow. It’s really easy to draw a fine and steady line of continuous ink with the No 8, whereas, for me, the Pocket Brush just tends to dry up or drag a little. If you like your brush strokes to have more character then you might actually prefer the Pentel for that reason.

Pens

Kuretake No 8 – top, Pentel Pocket Brush – bottom.

The other pen I’ve slightly fallen in love with recently, and it couldn’t be more different, is the Uni Posca PC-1MR white marker. Working predominantly in black ink on white paper, finding a decent white pen has proved really tricky. Recommendations have been found wanting on many occasions. White hybrid gel pens, Sakura Glaze pens – all a bit rubbish. What you need in a white pen, over pretty much everything else, is opacity. That’s what the Posca gives you in spades. I love it.

Posca