this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Tag: copic

Sketchbook Spaceships

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or following me elsewhere on social media), you’ll know I love to draw spaceships. I always have enjoyed drawing everything to do with space, ever since I was a little kid, but in the last couple of years I’ve begun to build a little fleet of ships to inhabit my Asteroid Belt Blues universe.

I’ve managed to fill a few sketchbook pages with ships in the last few days, and I dare say there will be a lot more to come in the next days, weeks, and months.

Pretty much all of them are drawn with Copic Sp Multiliners in a Moleskine sketchbook. Colour, as always, is added with Copic Ciao Markers.

If you like them you can buy them as postcards or posters over at my store.

You can find prints of my work here

And you can find more of my work online…

Buy Me a Coffee at

Recent Commissions


I’m now happily accepting a new round of illustration commissions. If you’ve ever wanted to own some original art – and like my work – now’s your chance.


If you would like to buy an original drawing, email me at rob [at] thisnorthernboy [dot] co [dot] uk , and you can request one of the following:

An isometric building
A robot
An Astronaut
A Spaceship
An imagined place
Something else entirely

What you’ll receive will be a black and white pen drawing, on an A4 or A5 sheet of good quality, 220gsm cartridge paper. If you would prefer a colour illustration – let me know and we can have a chat.

You can also request for the illustration to be landscape or portrait in orientation.

Any other requests – type of landscape, style of robot etc. can be made, but there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to take this into account. I know this sounds a little strict, but I only want to accept commissions that I’ll enjoy drawing right now, and in return you get a lovely surprise when you open your finished illustration.

What will this cost?

For an A5 (148 x 210mm) commission I charge £50 + post & packaging.
For an A4 (210 x 297mm) commission I charge £80 + post & packaging.

When you email me to request a commission, if you can include the address you’d like it shipped to, I’ll work out the cost of postage and let you know. If you’re happy with the overall cost I can accept payment by PayPal.

When will you get your drawing?

I’ll aim to complete and post all illustrations within three weeks of receiving payment.

August blogfest – day 15

Halfway, almost. Blogging every day is actually tougher than I thought. Thinking up a new subject to blog about every day, tricky.

Today there’s a look at three quick little illustrations I’ve done in one of the lovely orange Field Notes notebooks I received recently. I rarely draw on coloured paper, so it’s a nice change, and also it’s cool to use a similar coloured marker to add a bit of subtle shading. A white Posca marker is great to add a few highlights or stars.

Is there anything you’d like me to blog about? Something about my work, processes, inspiration? Let me know in the comments. And thanks for sticking with me, 16 days to go.


One-man flyer


Little droid


Orange freighter


Field Notes special edition notebook

His Art Materials

I get asked a lot about what art materials I use for my drawings and illustrations. So here’s a blog post showing exactly what I have laying around on my desk right now. If you aren’t familiar with the kind of stuff I draw, have a browse though the blog, or have a look at my work on Instagram or Facebook.

But first…

A good pencil won’t make you any better at drawing than that rubbish one you have in your pocket from a recent trip to Ikea. An expensive brush won’t instantly turn you in to the worlds best watercolourist. That watercolour pad you splashed out on, you know the one – hand made, 100% cotton, acid-free, cold pressed – isn’t going to make your drawings and paintings any better than if you were drawing on a Post-It note – unless you practice, unless you draw and draw and draw. New art materials are great, but they aren’t a short cut to being great at art, because there isn’t a short cut to being great at art. You just have to draw. Draw the stuff you love, draw the things you find difficult, set yourself some challenges, but most importantly just bloody well draw.

Now to the inky, graphitey stuff…


Pencils (from top to bottom)

Staedtler Tradition, from 3H to 3B

Staedtler Mars Lumograph, 3H and 3B

Palomino Blackwing 602, not sure of the hardness – maybe a B?

Faber-Castell 9000, HB and 2B


Technical Pens

Copic Multiliner SP, 0.03 to 0.7 thickness nibs (my favourite technical pens)

Rotring Tikky Graphic, 0.3 to 0.7

Staedtler Pigment Liner, 0.05 to 0.8


Brush Pens

Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen

Sakura Pigma Brush

Pentel Pocket Brush (my favourite brush pen)

Kuretake No 8 Brush Pen


Calligraphy / Nib Pens

Rotring Art Pen

Kuretake Nib Holder and Kuretake G Pen nib


Coloured Pens

Copic Ciao Markers (lots of them, particularly orange ones)


Miscellaneous Pens

Edding Gold Paint Marker

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner

Sharpie Twin Tip Marker

Sakura Gelly Roll Glaze Pen (opaque white)

Lamy Scribble Mechanical Pencil


Bits and Pieces

Swann Morton Scalpel Blades, 10A

Swann Morton Scalpel

Steel Rule, 300mm and 500mm

Faber-Castell Eraser

Faber-Castell Sharpener

Cheap brush for clearing loose graphite or eraser bits

Toothbrush (an old one) for splattering paint or masking fluid


Bottled Things

Higgins Black Magic Waterproof Ink

Kuretake Sumi Ink

Winsor & Newton Masking Fluid



Goldline A3 Layout Pad (the big yellow one)

Daler Rowney A4 Tracing Pad (the grey one)

Daler Rowney A4 Smooth Heavy Weight Cartridge Pad (the pink one)

Daler Rowney A4 Bristol Board (the green one)

Daler Rowney A4 Fine Grain Heavy Weight Cartridge Pad (the brown one)


As I said before, nothing on this blog post will make you draw any better, that’s up to you. Now, stop reading, and draw!


You can find prints of my work here

I also have a Patreon page

And you can find more of my work online…

Buy Me a Coffee at

Inktober update

If you’ve been following my blog, or my Instagram or Twitter feeds, you’ll know I’m participating in this year’s Inktober. For an explanation of what Inktober is, have a quick read of this blog post.

18 days in to the project and I’m part frustrated – that I haven’t made more progress using the brush pen, it still feels damn tricky to get the line quality right – and partly delighted to be producing illustrations every day that I’m (more or less) happy with.

Time, as always, is a big factor. I’m back working in London Monday to Friday now, and getting home at eight in the evening doesn’t leave lots of time to think or draw. I try to get out of the office at lunch time and do some sketching, getting some ideas together for things I might draw that evening or the coming days. This can really help, if I don’t get to my desk until after nine pm once I’ve eaten, having an idea ready to go is a weight off my shoulders.

I am still drawing each illustration with my Pentel Pocket Brush, although I am sneaking in a little detailed line work here and there with Staedtler or Copic pigment liners.

Today’s drawing is still yet to be done. I’ve one idea half finished, that I’m really not too sure about, and a bunch of doodles and notes scribbled over my desk that might become something.

Here are the first 18 drawings for this year. I’ll post another update for Inktober in a couple of weeks when it’s finished.


I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, and even now at 42 years old, I haven’t quite given up hope, so when Jeremy Marshall commissioned an illustration and said “… is there any chance of an astronaut featuring?” I jumped at the chance.

The astronaut.

The astronaut.



Illustration Timelapse

I filmed a few time-lapse videos while I was drawing a recent commission. It’s of a stilted city, similar to a couple I’ve drawn before. I’d already sketched it out in pencil before I started filming, but I’ll try and do the whole process from start to finish at some point.

The first shows me putting in some initial lines with a fine pen. This is how I usually start inking any of my drawings. It’s basically outlining all the main elements at this point.

Illustration timelapse 1/4 from thisnorthernboy on Vimeo.

The second shows how I add a nice thick line to foreground elements, to areas I want to highlight, and in this case a key line around the whole illustration.

Illustration timelapse 2/4 from thisnorthernboy on Vimeo.

In video three I add detail, texture and any odd little bits of grit and noodling I feel it needs. All with a very fine 0.03 pen.

Illustration timelapse 3/4 from thisnorthernboy on Vimeo.

Lastly I add in some clouds and birds in the distance. I love drawing clouds. I actually added a couple more bits of detail after this – drawing in some barnacles and seaweed on the submerged bits of the drawing.

Illustration timelapse 4/4 from thisnorthernboy on Vimeo.

Here’s the final image…

Final illustration

Final illustration

This was drawn on Daler Rowney, Fine Grain, 200gsm cartridge paper. I used Copic Multiliners in thicknesses of 0.03, 0.05, 0.25, and 0.5.

Return of the Robots

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or following me on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram, you’ll know that between August 2013 and August 2014, I drew a robot a day for a whole year. It was quite daunting committing to a daily project of that length, but it was something I felt I had to do to get me in to the routine of drawing every day – a skill or habit that I’d need if I wanted to become an illustrator for a living. I think it achieved its purpose – I now get pretty restless if I don’t draw at all for a day, and I’m currently work on my first book illustration project.

I haven’t really drawn robots since I finished the Droid a Day adventure though, and to be honest, I’ve missed them.

Today I’ve given myself the day off from paying work to rustle up another droid, and I’m pretty pleased with the way he came out.

Droid V.366.0

Droid V.366.0

Initial sketch.

Initial sketch.

Final inks.

Final inks.

Fragment of Laputa

A floating island, or a fragment of one. Not unlike the Kingdom of Laputa described by Jonathon Swift in Gulliver’s Travels.

Fragment of Laputa.

Fragment of Laputa.



Lonely tree.

Lonely tree.

Drawn with Copic Multiliners on cartridge paper.

Floating islands are a continued theme with my drawings, more here and here.