this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Category: books

Mortal Engines

I was asked earlier this year to work on some illustrations for The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines. The book is a visual guide of the world of Traction Cities, created by the author Philip Reeve, and written by Philip and Jeremy Levett. If you don’t know about Traction Cities, you should definitely check out Philip’s books. They’re a fantastic mix of science fiction, fantasy and steampunk.

The Illustrated World has work from seven different artists (including me, which I have to keep pinching myself to believe), and has been beautifully put together by Jamie Gregory over at Scholastic UK. The book, underneath its dust cover, is a beautiful, vibrant orange, embossed with a lovely motif of gears and cogs.

Philip and Jeremy have written a great A-Z of the book, which gives you a very good idea of the content.

The other artists in the book are: Aedel Fakhrie, Ian McQue, Maxime Plasse, Philip Varbanov, David Wyatt, and Amir Zand. I’ve been a massive fan of Ian and Amir’s work for bloody ages, and the other artists work a revelation! To be in the same book as them all is a huge honour.

You can buy the book here.

 

All my illustrations are drawn with Copic SP Multiliners, Rotring Tikky, and Kuretake No.8 Brush Pen. Initial sketches are done with Palomino Blackwings and a Pentel Graphgear Mechanical Pencil.

You can find prints of my work here

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Quiet, but not idle.

Well, I’ve been a bit quiet lately, sorry. I haven’t been idle though, I’ve been busy working on a couple of illustration projects.

I’ve just completed a tutorial for 3DTotal publishing. They have a new book coming out – Beginner’s Guide to Sketching: Robots, Vehicles & Sci-fi Concepts, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute a walk through of how I’d illustrate a sci-fi habitat in my isometric style. The book isn’t out until February next year, but you can pre-order it here.

The project that’s kept me very busy for the last couple of months has been a real thrill. Jamie Gregory, head of design at Scholastic UK, asked me if I’d be happy to do some illustrations for a new visual guide to the world of Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines books. The book is to be an encyclopaedia of all the incredible things to be found in Philip’s books – the first of which is being turned in to a film by Peter Jackson. Other artists working on the book include Ian McQue and Amir Zand – both artists whose work I absolutely adore.

If you haven’t read any of Philip’s books – you really should have a look.
The description for Mortal Engines –

In a dangerous future, huge motorized cities hunt, attack and fight each other for survival. As London pursues a small town, young apprentice Tom is flung out into the wastelands, where a terrifying cyborg begins to hunt him down. MORTAL ENGINES launched Philip Reeve’s brilliantly-imagined creation, the world of the Traction Era, where mobile cities fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic future.

You can buy Mortal Engines here.

You can pre-order the Illustrated World of Mortal Engines here.

IWOME

The trailer for the film looks pretty bloody brilliant too.

 

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Inspiration Monday

I’m going to start blogging every Monday about what inspires me as an illustrator. It could be about other artists, science, a book I’ve read. Whatever it is that makes me want to pick up a pencil and draw.

Recent book haul

I’m starting today with a very bookish blog post, featuring some titles I’ve got over the last month or so. In no particular order –

One. Lead Poisoning – The Pencil Art of Geof Darrow
Geof Darrow is a comic artist from the US, best known for his work on Hard Boiled and Shaolin Cowboy (see Two). Darrow’s work is incredibly richly detailed, it’s actually hard to describe just how much work he puts in to each image. He’s also an incredible draftsman, with a real knowledge of how things look – whether that’s people, zombies, machinery, creatures, or architecture – Geof’s drawings are always believable – no matter how unbelievable the subject. Lead Poisoning is a fantastic insight in to the world of Geof Darrow, just prepare to be astounded.

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Two. The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet – by Geof Darrow.
The Shaolin Cowboy is a character created by Geof Darrow in 2005. The title character is an unnamed former Shaolin monk on the road with a bounty on his head. This book is almost without any words at all, and instead it’s pretty much one extended fight scene between the – dual chainsaw wielding – Shaolin Cowboy and a horde of zombies. When I say it’s an extended fight scene, I really mean that. There’s a 99 page section of monk vs zombie, with only a single word uttered. It is audacious and unrelenting and it only works because Darrow’s art is so spectacularly detailed and inventive. I’m not sure any other comic artist could have pulled it off. Colour on this book is by the supremely talented Dave Stewart – most famous for his work on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, and lettering is by Peter Doherty – who I’m sure would admit didn’t have the trickiest job on this particular book.

Three. The Collector by Sergio Toppi.
I’m pretty new to Sergio Toppi, not really looking at any of his work until I was already in my forties. I would have loved his books as a teenager, but there’s no way I would have appreciated his art to the same degree. Sergio Toppi was a Milanese artist born in 1932, he began his career as an editorial and advertising illustrator, but really made his name as a comic artist beginning in the mid 60s.
The Collector is series of tales about a mysterious collector of artefacts from around the world. Set against the backdrop of 19th Century colonialism, the book’s locations include the American West, East Africa, Romania, New Zealand… Toppi creates every place and character with a masterly array of linework, textures, and patterns. His style is almost dizzying, a kind of controlled chaos – all structured with fantastic fundamental drawing skills. The thing about Toppi that continually blows me away though is his composition. He creates images from images. Negative space giving his illustrations light and freedom, which compliments his intricate pen work perfectly. Like Mike Mignola, Sergio Toppi is a master at using dark and light, super high contrast making his images even more dynamic. I don’t think he has an equal when it comes to composing or framing an image. The Collector is entirely illustrated in black and white, and it looks magnificent.

Four. Sharaz-De, Tales from the Arabian Nights – by Sergio Toppi.
Sergio Toppi’s take on the Arabian Nights. Whereas The Collector is entirely black and white, Sharaz-De is punctuated by beautiful colour sections. Toppi’s colours add another mysterious, magical layer to his linework with a palette of blues and greens or pinks and oranges. No where does the colour subsume the ink though. Toppi’s drawings still sing out from every page, his composition and inventive panelling brilliantly evident.

Five. I Wonder What I’m Thinking About – by Moose Allain.
Moose Allain is a twitter phenomenon. He’s also an incredibly prolific artist, cartoonist, writer, poet, and all around charming human. With a background in architecture Moose now creates wonderful worlds of cartoon figures and beasts, buildings and cities, all wrapped up in a sense of playfulness and wonder. His book – I Wonder What I’m Thinking About is a gorgeously produced (via Unbound) collection of his writing and art. The content varies from cartoons to watercolours, from poems to prose, from wordplay to jokes. It’s really quite a hard book to describe, so I just suggest you check out Moose on Twitter and then pick yourself up a copy.
Of all the books featured in this blog post, it’s Moose’s that most makes me want to pick up a pen or pencil and create something. There’s a love of life and a joy that shines through all of Moose’s work, and it’s infectious.

See you next Monday with another post of artistic inspiration.

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The Inspirational Art of Jared Muralt

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A growing Muralt collection.

Jared is primarily self-taught, and he developed his precision and skill through the careful study of books as diverse as those pertaining to anatomy, art history and comics. Muralt is co-founder of BlackYard studio, a Swiss illustration and graphic design studio.

That’s the simple text about the artist Jared Muralt that is printed on the belly bands of his two new sketchbooks, it barely tells you a thing about how astonishingly good an illustrator Jared is.

I first saw his work on Instagram, beautifully drawn images of angler fish, assortments of characters in period costume, floating ocean liners, and squadrons of WWII bombers. That precision, mentioned in the text above, really is one of Jared’s traits, but it comes with huge amounts of charm, and character, and interest. There’s nothing cold about the precise way he draws at all.

It would be easy, as an aspiring illustrator, to be daunted when you see the work of someone as accomplished as Jared, and to simply say – “I’ll never be as good as that”and throw your pencils away, but Jared’s sketchbooks, and his Instagram feed, really are testament to the value of practice. He draws a lot. He draws from life, out in the countryside sketching the mountains and meadows of Switzerland, he draws character studies fastidiously, practising the details from every angle. Rather than be daunted and overwhelmed, you should be inspired and enriched by his work. Stimulated to grab a sketchbook and draw.

If you draw or illustrate for a living, or just as a hobby, you really should buy one of Jared’s books. The sketchbooks are amazing, and Hellship is a wonderful graphic novel. The End of Bon Voyage is for me the real star, a magical, poignant, wordless story with the most beautiful drawings you can imagine.

In Jared’s new sketchbooks there’s one image in particular that grabbed me, this drawing of a man, curiously and noirishly lit. He looks like one of the characters from Fritz Lang’s ‘M’. Fantastically unsettling.

that-guy

Jared can be found on Instagram and on Twitter, and if you’d like to buy (you’d be mad not to) one of his books the BlackYard shop is here.

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August blogfest – day 8

In the post today I received  a copy of Jeffrey Alan Love‘s Notes from the Shadowed City.

What a book. If you don’t know Jeffrey’s work have a look at his website – he creates incredibly bold, silhouette images of beautifully textured ink, occasionally there’s a dash of red, but for the most part they are black and white.

The book is the travelogue of a young man in search of magical swords. 70 pages of gorgeous illustrations and hand-written text make this an absolute visual feast.

I’m glad I pre-ordered as it meant my copy came with an original illustration and a signed numbered print. I really can’t recommend this enough. Stunning.

August blogfest – day 6

Every week, usually at about 7.30pm on a Thursday, I Skype my friend – and fellow designer – Jon Elliman, and we record a podcast.

North v South, a podcast about but not about design, has now reached episode 24, and I bloody love doing the show with Jon. You can read a little about how and why we started the podcast here.

Episode 24 was probably my favourite yet. We had a book of the month – In Praise of Shadows by Jun Ichiro Tanizaki – that Jon and I both really enjoyed reading, and I think that comes through in our discussion. As always we end the show with a pie review – Jon and I both eating pies live on air, discussing their respective merits and scoring them out of ten, usually washed down with a beer. This week one of our listeners, Stuart Weston, sent me a pie to review. I say sent, actually his wife Kate hand delivered it! That’s the standard of listener we want more of!

If you’d like to listen to the show, it’s on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Every week (since episode 9) Jon and I take it in turns to design a new image for the new episode. Here are a few recent ones.

This week…

A little update. This week I’ve been working on tattoo commissions, fitting in a little freelance graphic design work on an island in the middle of the Thames, and drooling over the latest goodness from Aaron James Draplin and Field Notes Brand.

The tattoo design is for a guy in California who’d like a cutaway drawing of a lighthouse, featuring his young daughter looking out to sea from the top. Lots of fun drawing this.

If you don’t already know the work of Aaron James Draplin and the DDC go check out his website, and have a look on YouTube for some of Aaron’s videos. He’s a great designer who is absolutely bursting with enthusiasm and down-to-earth wisdom. His new book, Pretty Much Everything, is a joy to read, stuffed full of great content covering Aaron’s career to date. The cover is a beautiful textured, embossed design showcasing some of the many logos that have come out of the DDC over the years.

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I’ve been a fan of Field Notes for a long time, but I’ve only just subscribed to their quarterly editions. It’s a great way to make sure you get hold of the lovely limited editions notebooks they produce. When you subscribe you get a great little bonus with your first delivery – a couple of packs of their classic notebooks, a pencil, pen… Lovely.

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What’s been going on…

I’ve been reasonably quiet on the blog recently, and I’m determined to post more regularly for the rest of the year.

As a bit of a catch-up post, here are some pictures – illustrations and photographs – from the last couple of months.

2015: By the numbers.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for your continued support on this blog, and across Twitter and Instagram, over the last twelve months. Every like and comment is very much appreciated.

2015 was a pretty big year for me. After drawing more and more often for the last few years, I finally made the decision to try and start earning some money from illustration. I didn’t expect to get a book published full of my illustrations – and to be featured in another, or to have produced so many private commissions. While illustration only managed to contribute a fraction of my income for the year, it was a much better start than I could have hoped for.

My challenge for 2016 is to build on that success and hopefully get another book published – this time one that only has my name on the cover.

 

2015 by the numbers

On the blog…

39 blog posts written

40,533 page views

10,126 visitors

621 likes

154 comments (99% of them nice!)

Most popular blog post – Imagined Places – 568 views, 13 likes, 7 comments.

 

On Instagram…

361 posts

103,744 likes

Almost 7,000 followers

My most liked image – Tentacled Island – 1,132 likes

 

My favourite images on the blog for the year…

 

Build! A Knight’s Castle.

Earlier this year I worked on the illustrations for a children’s activity book, published by Ivy Press, all about castles. It was a huge amount of fun, and allowed me to work on a real variety of subjects – skulls, castles, knights, medieval soldiers, siege engines…

A huge thank you to all the staff at Ivy Press that worked on this with me, and of course to the author – Annalie Seaman, and to Charlie Simpson who created an amazing paper craft castle. I’m really pleased with how the book turned out!

The official description…

Think like an archaeologist with this fun paper-craft title! Readers are given information about how archaeologists uncover remains, and use secondary sources. They are then given visual and textual clues about the site of a medieval castle, which was the location of a sieged battle. The final part of the book contains the press-out pieces to recreate a paper model of the castle and the historic battle, complete with siege engines and defending and attacking forces. The reader must use their new-found knowledge of how the castle was laid out, and what siege engines looked like to figure out how to piece the paper scene together.

Build! A Knight’s Castle is available in bookshops and Amazon now.

Here are a few of my illustrations from the book, all drawn by hand.

Cover.

Cover.

Battle.

Battle.

Heraldry.

Heraldry.

Portcullis.

Portcullis.

Siege Tower.

Siege Tower.

Trebuchet.

Trebuchet.

Skull.

Skull.