this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Tag: pen and ink

Inktober 2018

It’s that time of year again where illustrators, artists, and other pen-and-ink wielding entities take part in Jake Parker‘s Inktober initiative.

Last year I only got as far as day eight. A combination of work, and my Inktober drawings being just too detailed and time-consuming meant that I couldn’t complete the project. I will come back to last year’s at some point though. I think Asteroid Belt Blues deserves an ending.

This year I’ve chosen British Folklore as my theme, and each day I’m drawing a creature or a character from some of the wonderfully weird tales we have on the British Isles. Many of the tales I’m drawing I’ve sourced from a couple of great books by Katherine Briggs – British Folk Tales and Legends, and The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. I started with the Lambton Worm, and today (day 18) I drew a Witch-Hare!

Below are all 16 illustrations from the first 17 days. Obviously doing a folklore theme there was no way I was doing anything on the 13th! Each illustration is drawn on A6 (105x148mm) cartridge paper, using Copic SP Multiliners and a Kuretake No.8 Brush Pen. Initial sketches are done with Palomino Blackwings and a Pentel Graphgear Mechanical Pencil.

 

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The All Father

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I was recently asked to draw Odin, the Norse god, for a commission. After a few tweets back and forth, between myself and the buyer, it was decided that a head shot of Odin, featuring his raven familiars – Huginn and Muninn – would work best.

I decided I’d try and make this illustration a little more graphic in composition, so right from the beginning I wanted to try and incorporate some Norse carving.

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I’m really pleased with how the final illustration came out. I think the details, shadows and textures work really well. Tim, the chap who commissioned the illustration, was pretty pleased too – which is great, and always a relief.

Drawn, as usual, on A5 Daler Rowney Smooth – Heavyweight cartridge paper, using Copic SP Multiliners and a Rotring Tikky.

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An Ent of Fangorn Forest

Ent-Final

I’ve just started re-reading Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings again – partly just because it’s brilliant and I always enjoy it, but also because myself and Jon Elliman are making a feature of it on our weekly (mostly) podcast – North v South.

The moment I started thinking about reading the book again, I had the urge to start drawing some of the creatures from it. I started with one of my favourite Tolkien creations – an Ent.

Described in the books as…

A large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen foot high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it was clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that was its hide, was difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, were not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. The large feet had seven toes each. The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends. But at the moment the hobbits noted little but the eyes. These deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating.

They are lots of fun to draw. Trying to convey all that texture and age is a really nice challenge.

 

 

Which Tolkien creature should I draw next?

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The Village

I’ve started a little side project, something to work on here and there between commissions, commercial work, and freelancing as a designer. It’s nice to have something on the go that I can draw with zero time pressure, or worrying about whether or not the client is going to like it.

So I’ve started an isometric drawing of a fantasy / medieval village. I haven’t really done any isometric stuff since I was at school, but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed seeing in other artists work. At college I discovered the work of Takenobu Igarashi, and not long afterwards I first saw the work of eBoy, entirely different artists but both working in that geometric, axonometric, 3D space. I’ve been a fan ever since.

The village is currently one sheet of A2 cartridge paper that I’m filling with little fantasy buildings, all aligned on a 30º plane. I’m going to fill the whole sheet and then after that, I might do some standalone illustrations.

It’s lots of fun so far, but I’d forgotten how complicated it can get drawing in an isometric view.

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The village and associated sketches and thumbnails on my desk.

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.

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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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Cloudtop

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High up in the clouds, buoyed by anti-grav generators, floats the shanty town of Cloudtop. Scratching a living from processing rare elements from the atmosphere, or providing weather data, a community of brave souls lives at 55,000ft. Engineered through black market gene therapies to be able to survive in the super thin atmosphere of the stratosphere.

Drawn with a Carbon Platinum fountain pen, and Copic Ciao Markers, in a Moleskine sketchbook.

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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

August blogfest – day 26

“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.” Alexander McCall Smith.

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Mapping an imaginary place.

I drew this map for the episode artwork of the North v South podcast I make with Jon Elliman. Every week we have a topic, last night’s recording featured us discussing maps. We love a map. Doesn’t everyone?

August blogfest – day 23

Books and pens

Books and pens

I’ve become a bit of a pen nerd recently. Well, I say recently, over the last couple of years. Tiger Pens, Cult Pens, and Amazon have been seeing way too much business from me. But, pens are the way I make my living, so it’s only fair that I indulge myself a little right?

My latest purchase – a recommendation I saw on Twitter from Will Freeborn, Ian McQue and Mack Chater – is a Carbon Platinum fountain pen. It’s nothing fancy, just a lightweight, standard fountain pen. The nib is great for sketching though, not too flexible, and the Platinum ink is a proper black. As Mack mentioned on Twitter, it does make a lovely noise on paper. That noise, that feel of a pen nib on the texture of paper is probably the reason I’ve got nowhere with digital art – it just doesn’t sound or feel the same.

Carbon

Carbon Platinum fountain pen

I’ve only used the Carbon Platinum fleetingly so far, but it does seem very good indeed. A pen I use all the time, and have done for a couple of years is the Copic Multiliner SP. I’ve got a whole range of nib thicknesses from 0.03mm to 0.7mm. It’s that range of line weights that allows me to add depth to my, otherwise very flat, illustrations.

Line weight

Line weights of Copic Multiliners

More pens tomorrow. As I said, I’m a bit of a pen nerd.

August blogfest – day 22

Today I’ve been working on some sketches for an article I’m writing about my methods/process for a new illustration magazine called Graphite. It’s a really nice little sci-fi brief, and having to write about how I approach it has meant I’m probably thinking about the way I’m working more closely. One of the elements of the illustration I’ve been thinking about in particular today is the composition, scribbling down little thumbnails, trying to work out an interesting layout. If I think about composition, I generally think about two artists  – Sergio Toppi and Mike Mignola. I’m going to come back to Mike in a later blog post, so here’s a little sample of some of Sergio Toppi’s amazing work.

Toppi’s composition is always striking, using dramatic contrasts of black and white, finding balance in seemingly impossible asymmetric layouts. I’m not sure there’s ever been a more masterful exponent of the art of composition and blimey, he could certainly draw.