this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Tag: drawing a day

A Crisis of Confidence

I’m 239 days into my project to draw one robot every day for a year. Naively, I thought that by now I’d have transformed into a capable illustrator. The truth is a long way from that.

I’m really no better than when I started. Looking back at my last week or so’s drawings – there’s nothing I couldn’t have done eight months ago. In fact I’m not even sure I’m doing much that I couldn’t have done 20 years ago. It’s pretty tough realising that I’m such a long way from where I want to be, but… I think I just expected way too much.

I started the Droid A Day project to make sure I drew every day, and to try to become a better artist, or illustrator. For the previous 20 years I’d barely drawn anything, I don’t know why not, somehow I’d just stopped drawing. I’d gone from a kid who drew all the time, to a bloke who never picked up a pencil. If people had asked me during those 20 years what my hobbies were, I’d still have said drawing. It was like a blind spot. Now I’m here, trying to become an illustrator, hoping at some point to be good enough to be doing this for a living – and those 20 years weigh so heavily on my shoulders. 20 years of missed opportunity. 7,300 days of missed practice.

I think that 7,300 number is important. It’s a big number, and it’s an awful lot of drawing missed. It puts in perspective the 239 days I am into this project. I’m kidding myself if I think that doing a robot drawing every day for a few months is going to turn me into an illustrator. It’s definitely better than doing nothing, but it’s not the panacea I thought, and hoped, it might be.

What I need, I think, is more structure to my drawing. I think I need, in effect, to educate myself – to teach myself to draw. The difficulty will be in critiquing my own work, deciding where I need to change or improve, deciding when I’m deserving of a gold star, and when I need a detention.

There are a lot of resources out there for someone who wants to improve their drawing skills – YouTube videos, Tumblr feeds, art technique books, anatomy references… So I just need to make a start, decide what needs fixing first.

Perhaps there are bad habits I need to unlearn, maybe I don’t look closely enough, maybe I’m too impatient when I draw…

The Droid a Day project will continue. I’m not prepared to throw that away, so there’ll definitely be 126 more robots, but I’m going to have to supplement that with some other drawing. Exercises, life drawing, sketching, perspective work…

I made a mistake of thinking that because I was good at drawing as a kid, that I’d get really good again if I put a bit of effort in. Actually, I need to put a huge amount of effort in (and not just for 365 days) to make up for those lost 20 years.

I want to be an illustrator. Starting from now.

Size Matters

Bigger is better. Or so they say. Particularly in Texas I believe.

When it comes to my work, I’ve never been into ‘big’. My work tends to be small, tightly controlled, detailed – rather than expressive and sprawling. I’ve recently begun working much smaller though, as way of getting more ideas down on paper – rather than worrying too much about the finished product. Some of these little doodles will stay just that, but a few of them may become something else at a later date. Redrawn at a larger scale, details added, lines refined – all the while trying to keep the essence of what it was I liked about the doodle in the first place.

All the following drawings were done in pen, so no pencil or rubbing out, and were begun with almost no thought in mind as to what the aim was. In terms of scale, the largest of these little doodles is about 25mm high.

Mechs, probes, flyers…

Mechs, probes, flyers…

Flyers, skiffs, speeders…

Flyers, skiffs, speeders…

Low altitude flyers

Low altitude flyers

Multi-legged mechs

Multi-legged mechs

Some kind of hovering probe

Some kind of hovering probe

Three-legged mech and pilot

Three-legged mech and pilot

Heavy transport flyer

Heavy transport flyer

Stubby little speeder

Stubby little speeder

One-man flyer

One-man flyer

These were all drawn using a 0.1 or 0.2 Staedtler Pigment Liner, on bristol board.

It’s good fun drawing at this scale. There’s no room for obsessing over details, you just have to get in there and create some forms and hint at structure. They have bags of character at this scale too – the challenge will be to capture that if I work these up into full-scale illustrations.

Ghost in the Shell

The title of this post will mean next to nothing for almost everyone, unless you happen to be a fan of Japanese Manga/Anime.

As part of my Droid a Day project I’ve asked people to suggest a droid or robot from film or TV, my latest illustration – number 201 – is one of those.

This is Tachikoma…

Tachikoma - Ghost in the Shell

Tachikoma – Ghost in the Shell

He is a character from the Japanese series Ghost in the Shell, and was suggested by Michelle Aguilar – she’s quite a fan apparently.

He was fun, but hard work, to draw, and now I feel I need to watch some of the show.

If you have a droid you’d like to see me draw, feel free to comment.

Black stripes

I don’t know why, but these big, black stripes have found their way into my work recently…

Fly Fishing…

I’ve found myself doodling fishy things again. This time, it’s not just fish illustrations, but flying fishing boats too. Definitely inspired by the work of Ian McQue, I’m utterly obsessed by the thought of these floating ships – where do they live, who skippers them, what do they catch…?

There will definitely be more to come.

I had to include the latest fish illustration here too, one of my favourites so far.

These are a few of my favourite things (robots)…

I’m now 145 days into my project to draw one robot every day for a year. It’s much more of a commitment than I ever anticipated. I’m pretty happy, generally, with my progress. Still a little inconsistent as I mentioned in my last blog post, but there’s definitely some improvement.

Here are some of my favourites so far…


Thanks for looking and for all the support here, on Instagram, Facebook and on Tumblr.

Only one game in town…

Well, it’s still droids. Working in London is leaving me with precious little time to draw, and as I committed to drawing a droid every day for a year – that’s the one thing I will squeeze in.

I’ve been asking on twitter and Instagram for suggestions for film, TV or book droids or robots to draw.

Here are three of my favourites so far…

Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet

Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet

R2-D2, surely everyone's favourite

R2-D2, surely everyone’s favourite

K-9, Doctor Who's faithful companion

K-9, Doctor Who’s faithful companion

40 days of droids…

Day 40 of my droid a day project. Here’s a selection of my progress so far, along with some of today’s sketches.

Just over half of the droids so far…

Just over half of the droids so far…

Some of today's sketches - hands and feet.

Some of today’s sketches – hands and feet.

A ‘Droid a Day

I’ve just started a new project, A ‘Droid a Day, on Tumblr. I love robots, so it seemed to make sense to set myself a little challenge of drawing and posting a robot every day. They don’t take too long, and they’re fun, so it should be something I can keep up.

The first couple of drawings are already up, and I’ve included a few more sketches below.