Quite a bit probably as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged.
I’m just over a, thankfully mild, bout of Covid. Omicron finally caught up with me after two years of dodging it. It does seem like this latest variant is getting just about everyone this time. Stay safe and well everyone. Get jabbed, wear a mask.
Work-wise – I’ve been doing some concept art for a sci-fi video game which has been a nice change of pace. Producing lots of variations of spaceships, refining and finessing them. Lots of fun. I also did some illustration work for another video game, this time a fantasy/gothic themed one. Again great to do something a little different. I think I learnt quite a bit working on both of these, and as there’s likely to be much more work from both, plenty of opportunities to level up.
Personal work – I’ve continued working on both my Innsmouth and Weird Field World projects. Adding illustrations and background writing and fiction and fleshing out the worlds. I still have plans to produce a book of the first chapter of Innsmouth. And of course, book two of the Weird Field World – titled (somewhat unsurprisingly as) Weird Field War is in the works.
Raptor 01 – a new enamel pin badge, based on a design from my Deep Space Fleet II poster. You can buy the badge here. There are plans to launch a Kickstarter at some point to produce a whole fleet of enamel spaceship badges.
I’m still out and about as often as I can taking photographs. I’ve had a slightly dodgy achilles for a while now, so I’ve had to take things a little easy. One of my favourite recent photos, taken at the London Wetland Centre.
Iceland – I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for a very long time, and I’m finally going. At the beginning of May I’ll fly out, with my dad, for a two week road trip around Iceland’s ring road. It’s 825 miles through some of the most amazing landscapes, and I am very excited. I’ve got a drone for the trip, so fingers crossed the weather allows me to use it to capture som of this big sweeping vistas. I am very excited. Expect several blog posts about my trip once I’m back.
And that’s you all caught up. Is there anything you want to read about? Any ideas for future posts? Let me know in the comments.
I’m now happily accepting a new round of illustration commissions for 2021/22. 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 let me know what kind of thing you are looking for. While you can ask me to draw absolutely anything, it’s probably best to stick to subjects and themes that you’ve seen me produce already. I’m not saying I’d never draw a portrait of your cats, for instance, but it’s unlikely. Some subjects I love to draw are:
Ships and Lighthouses
What you’ll receive will be a black and white pen drawing, on 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.
I can’t guarantee that every request will be something I’d be happy to draw – but I’ll do my best. If you take a look at previous posts on this blog, or on my Instagram page you can see the kinds of thinks I like to illustrate..
What will this cost?
For an A5 (148 x 210mm) commission I charge £85 + post & packaging.
For an A4 (210 x 297mm) commission I charge £150 + post & packaging.
For an A3 (297 x 420mm) commission I charge £250 + post & packaging.
For an A2 (420 x 594mm) commission I charge £450 + 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 accept payment by PayPal.
When will you get your drawing?
I aim to complete and post all illustrations within one month of receiving payment.
PLEASE NOTE: This post is regarding private, personal commissions. If you want to discuss a commercial proposition – illustrations for a book, game, or anything else that you would be selling, then please get in touch directly.
Green. I seek out green places more and more as I get older. The combination of peace and the sounds of nature seem to give me an incredible sense of well-being. Advocates of ‘Forest bathing’ have a point. At this time of year, particularly, the colours are incredible. Fresh, vibrant, jewel greens. White and yellow of Cow Parsley and Cowslip. The unexpected violet-blue of a glade of Bluebells. But green, always the green. Dappled sunlight and mossy roots and rocks. There’s a path I’ll always take.
I’ve just got back from a week spent up in York with my parents. I miss Yorkshire, and a few days roaming around the countryside in good weather made me realise just how much.
One of those days was spent at the RSPB site at Bempton Cliffs, on Yorkshire’s East coast. 300′ high chalk cliffs alive with seabirds, and cliff-top meadows full of life. It’s an incredible place and I really do recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area.
Apologies for not updating my blog for such a long time. I think once the Weird Field World book was printed, packaged, and mailed out to all the Kickstart backers I was a bit drained. I’d been so focused on the book for so long it was difficult to give anything else my attention really.
With a bit of distance I can start to give a bit more love to the blog and to my Patreon page that’s also been a bit neglected of late.
I thought I could start by letting you know what I have been filling my time with over the last few months.
It’s mainly been nature photography. I got a new camera back in October, which I blogged a little about here, and in March, I bought myself a new zoom lens for it. I’d grown increasingly frustrated by seeing animals and birds, but not being able to get a half decent photograph of them, so a zoom seemed a necessary addition. I went for the Fuji 70-300mm zoom, rather than the 100-400mm version, mainly because of the difference of almost £1k in price. I’ve been incredibly happy with it so far. What I didn’t really expect was that it would really change how I experienced the outdoors. Previously, if I was out for a walk I wouldn’t give a huge amount of attention to those things I couldn’t photograph – little birds skulking in bushes, or distant buzzards and kites circling. The new lens brought all those things close enough for me to identify and to get some decent photos, which made me massively more interested in them. Since getting the new lens in March, I’ve counted seeing 68 species of bird, and 13 of those were brand new to me. Even though I was walking in the same places mostly, and at the same times of day, I was noticing much, much more.
Besides taking photographs, I have managed to find time to get a few new products up on my online shop. If you enjoyed the Weird Field World book there are some matching stickers and prints available.
In March and April I worked with the UK fragrance company Thomas Clipper, on the packaging for their new men’s scent – Atlantic. This was a really enjoyable project to be part of. Here are a few images from the final packaging.
I’m going to make an effort to blog more regularly for the rest of the year. As always, if there’s something you’d like me to write about – let me know in the comments.
My first book, Weird Field World, is now available to buy here. If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’ll know that I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the book, and now all of the backers’ rewards have been mailed, the book is available to the general public.
The Weird Field World is a project I’ve been working on for around three years. It started off as a couple of little doodles on scrap paper, as I wondered what a spaceship might look like if it had an entirely novel form of propulsion. I figured it might look a little weird, and that name kind of stuck.
I built the project and produced content for it over on Patreon. The income from my supporters there allowing me some time to develop ideas, to write, and to draw lots of spaceships. What I’ve ended up with is a book full of spaceship illustrations, character drawings, written fiction, maps, diagrams, and a lot of world-building. I’m very proud of it, and the feedback so far has been fantastic.
If you’d like a copy, click here to buy one from my shop.
I’ve started a new project over on Twitter. It’s a story, with some illustrations, about a curious Massachusetts harbour town. It’s very obviously, but very, very loosely influenced by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve wanted to write something vaguely occultish for a very long time, and I think I have finally found an interesting way to do it. If you’re a 2000AD reader (of a certain age) you might remember Luke Kirby and Summer Magic, or if you’re a fan of folk horror you might well know the 1973 British film The Wicker Man. Those two things, as much as Lovecraft, are my influences for Innsmouth I really hope you’ll join me.
Below is the story so far, as it appeared on Twitter. It’s not a continuous narrative, it drops illustrations and other bits of information in-between the story.
The Innsmouth Lights, protecting the New England town of Innsmouth since 1642. Guaranteeing safe passage for vessels all year round, except on those peculiar days when the membrane between this world and others becomes thin and stretched.
Just seven nights remain until the Winter Solstice. Time for the people of Innsmouth to nominate their candidates for King and Queen of the Oceans.
Innsmouth Lightship No 01. Betty Tilley pilots the 01. Keeping the shoals safe for shipping at low tides. She painted the ship in dazzle camouflage last winter, helps avoid unwanted attentions from the depths. If you know what I mean.
The bell on the Black Reef rings loud tonight. The wind is up, and the heavens are hungry.
Dawn brings news of a wreck. Masts prick the shoals like needles in a cushion. Of the crew there is no sign.
The Bishop knocks on every door West of the Rock in Innsmouth tonight, tallying the nominations. East of the Rock, the Cleric does the same. They’ll meet at midnight to tally the numbers. Tomorrow the King and the Queen of the Ocean will be announced to the town.
The Bishop and the Cleric add up the votes. Tomorrow the two young townsfolk and their families will be notified.
West of the Rock live the fisherfolk. To the East, the whalers.
The Pelagic. Innsmouth’s only Tugboat. Piloted by Robert Coppin, whose mother was a fishwife and whose father was a whaler. He’s always felt like he was between people and places.
John Chapman, a whaler’s son, and Jennifer Cochrane, a scallop dredger’s daughter, will be this year’s King and Queen of the sea. Tonight the town, East and West, prepare a feast for their families. Halibut and octopus will be the heart of the festive meal.
Whale irons. Two flued. English. One flued. Toggle. Explosive. Lance. Spade.
It’s quiet across the town today. Last night’s feast and revelry has left people delicate and moody. On the Black Reef, Degorius Priest unloads timber from his clinker-built skiff. He’ll spend half a day there, between tides, building for the solstice ceremony.
Artefact: Granite cephalopod pendant. Probably 17th Century. Found in the footings of the wharf during rebuilding work in 1837.
The Low Ebb.Moses Fletcher inherited the Low Ebb from his father twenty years ago. Since then he’s made a living (barely) fishing for cod, ling, and herring off the Far Banks.
The solstice sun creeps over the horizon, weakly illuminating the rooftops of Innsmouth, through a veil of fog.
As noon approaches, all the townsfolk make their way to the harbour wall. They are dressed in their Sunday best, the whalers all wearing their harpoon brooches, the fishers all wearing a pin of the sealamb. They stand in silence looking out toward the shoals.
The King and the Queen of the Ocean walk towards the dock, flanked by their parents. As they reach the harbour a piper plays a mournful tune.
The Queen is wearing a white knitted dress adorned with pearls. On her head sits a gilded shark’s jaw crown. The King wears an oiled leather tunic, inlaid with rings of iron. On his head, a nautilus shell trimmed with jet.
John and Jennifer kiss their parents goodbye. John’s mother sobs and cries out, her husband holds her tightly. The King and Queen descend the steps of the dock to the waiting rowing boat. The boat is decorated in white shells and pearls, and at the stern a gaff and a harpoon are crossed.
Degorius Priest pushes the boat away from the dock with an oar, and slowly begins to row. The crowds of townsfolk chant softly as the King and Queen make their way to the Black Reef.
Don’t you hear the old sea growlinDon’t you hear the wind a howlin Don’t you hear the captain pawlinDon’t you hear the pilot bawlin Only one more day hungryOnly one more day an empty net The King and Queen we give to theeOur two souls a gift for the sea Let’s not hear the old god callinLet’s not see the waves a thundrin The King and Queen we give to thee
The boat reaches the reef as the chanting stops. Degorius helps the children on to the rocks and seats them in the stout wooden thrones he’d built two days earlier. John and Jennifer are quiet and calm. The air and sea as still as oil.
Degorius rows back to shore alone, reaching the harbour just as the town’s clock began to strike noon. He looked back out to the reef some three hundred yards away, the King and Queen little more than dots to his ageing eyes.
The townsfolk hold their breath as the bell chimes – ten, eleven, twelve. For a second it seems as if time stops, and then…
The sea behind the reef erupts. A great beast surfaces. It’s outline blurred by sea spray and a thrashing of tentacles. Eyes surround a gaping, many-toothed, jaw. Membranous wings shudder and snap. There’s no distinction between head and body, just a leathery mass.
The creature searches the reef, its eyes swelling and twisting, never blinking. The King and Queen, paralysed with fear, soaked by the sea, have its attention now. It leans, or possibly the world tilts, until its shadow falls across them.
The townsfolk know what comes next, and almost all of them avert their eyes, wanting to shut out the horror for another half-year. There’s a wrenching sound that echoes in rock and bone alike, the creature pauses, its mouth becomes a maw – endless and black.
And then, another noise, a man-made sound. A harpoon launches from the end of the whalers quay. Huge, much larger than those that take down the sperm and fin whales, it arcs across the sky. The creature is oblivious, giving no thought to a threat from mere mammals.
The iron spear, its tip multi-barbed and laden with explosives, strikes the creature in the centre of its middlemost eye. A shriek shreds the air as the creature hurls itself backwards – just as the harpoon detonates. The blast rends the beast in to pieces.
Gelatinous flesh, brittle bone, and fragmented teeth erupt in to the air. Silence falls across Innsmouth, before a deep, pulsating, thrum drowns out the sound of the creature falling back beneath the waves. The sound builds. Louder than the most terrifying thunder.
Cracks appear in the fabric of the town. Tiles fall from roofs, the spire on the church cracks and falls to the ground. The whalers’ wharf falls gracelessly in to the sea. As the people of Innsmouth prepare to take cover, another sound gains their attention.
A keening, high pitched whine. It emanates from the Black Reef. Where the creature was, now there was an absence, not simply of the beast, but of anything. And the absence grew larger. An impossible, expanding, sphere of nothingness. People fainted at its wrongness.
Still it grew. Those still standing ran for their lives. A primal need in their very flesh to be wherever the absence wasn’t. And still it grew. The sphere expanded quicker now, reaching the town and its people. It swept over the harbour and enveloped the seafront.
The church, the Chapel, the pubs, the boat makers were all subsumed. The membrane of the aberration sped across Innsmouth, accelerating out from where the creature died. Now a sphere over a thousand yards across. All of Innsmouth was consumed.
Still it grew. The wrongness expanded out, miles to sea, embracing the four lighthouses that spread in an arc from the harbour. The village of Bedfordthorpe, Threkeld Farm, and the dairy at the Needles were all vanished in to nothing.
Then, miles in diameter, the sphere paused. It shimmered in the grey light of the solstice sun, its surface slipping from a petrol dappled rainbow, to a nacreous white. Everything stopped.
The very air paused. Birds stopped still in the air. Waves paused as if made of glass. A fish, caught mid-leap, hung above the sea. Time did not pass.
An eternity could have elapsed, or less than a heartbeat. The sphere vanished, simply ceasing to be. The only evidence of its disappearing the howling of the wind as air rushed in to fill the space it occupied.
Of Innsmouth, no sign remained. A perfect arc of Massachusetts coastline had been eaten by the event, and the sea crashed in to replace the land. Waves heaved back and forth against the virgin shore before settling in to a new arrangement for map-makers to ponder.
The sea forgets quickly and showed no sign of the phenomenon that had robbed New England of a part of it. The air calmed. Birds flew. Fish swam. Waves lapped gently.
Innsmouth was gone.
Time did, or did not pass. The sun and moon raced across the sky, or hung motionless against an unmoving gale.
Eventually, Innsmouth awoke, an island, in a strange and unfamiliar sea.
So ends Chapter One of the telling of Innsmouth. A town once of Massachusetts, now an island in an unfamiliar ocean. A town cleft in two by The Rock. A town of fishers and of whalers. A town beholden to a beast.
I’ve recently bought a new camera, a Fuji X-T4. It’s a more serious beast than my old Olympus Pen EP3. Having a better camera means I have to try and improve my photography skills, and not just rely on the auto settings. The auto settings do a reasonable job in most cases, but by using them on the Olympus, I wasn’t learning anything. Now I have the X-T4 I’m trying to at least shoot on aperture priority mode if not full manual. It’s fun. Not just the photography, but the learning a new skill. Wish I’d started it earlier in lockdown now.
I’m also making more of an effort to get out and about to go for walks and to take photos. It’s great having 1200 acres of royal park on my doorstep, but I kind of know it like the back of my hand now, so it’s well past time to explore new places.
Last Friday I visited Ockham Common, and today I went for a walk around Wisley Common. They are actually part of the same area and habitat, but divided by the A3 road from London to Portsmouth. It’s quite strange to be in the middle of a beautiful open heath or ancient woodland, and yet be only half a mile from one of Britain’s busiest roads. You can just about forget about the road noise once you get walking.
Today’s treats were: hundreds of incredible toadstools and fungi, including the fairytale-like Fly Agaric, which I’d never seen before, and a Scots Pine full of Crossbills, which was another first. Add that to the dozens of Siskins and Redpolls I saw last week at Ockham and it’s been a great time for me to tick things off. I can’t wait to visit both commons again over the different seasons. Maybe in summer I’ll be lucky enough to see the UK’s rarest reptile – the Sand Lizard, or one of its strangest birds – the Nightjar.
I’ve been working on the Weird Field World project for about two and a half years. For the first year and a bit it was nothing more than a collection of sketches and doodles, and then I decided to write a bit of background and I got hooked. Just over a year ago I launched my Patreon page to feature solely my Weird Field World stuff, and just yesterday I launched the Kickstarter to produce a book of the project.
It’s a hardback book, full colour, with a mixture of illustrations, sketches, and background prose and fiction. Part art book, part future history.
My funding goal was £2500 initially, with the hope that I’d get up to six or seven thousand. That would mean putting my book in the hands of around 150 people.
I passed my initial funding target in 36 minutes, £5000 in an hour and forty minutes, and right now just over 20 hours since launch, the funding stands at over 11 and a half thousand pounds. I’m absolutely astounded by the reception it’s got – so a huge thank you to anyone and everyone that’s backed or shared the project.
If you’re interested, head over to the campaign page, there are a few different pledge options to choose from.
I’ll post another update here in a couple of weeks and let you know how the fundraising is going.