Tuesday, 30 May 2017

It's alive !

So, in case you're wondering where I've been, I did finally manage to kill my beloved xp machine. Happily, that didn't impact my business too much as I have a tablet but since that didn't want to talk to Blogger, not even a little bit, I've been locked out. This means we have quite a bit to catch up on but let's start with this years most fun news.

Murder exhibition crow display

 After a mistake filming the drawing of one of my crows, I wound up with a matched pair following take 2. This got me thinking and I decided to see what a whole flock would look like. One Kickstarter later, 20 crows had pre sold and the game was on.

Limited edition Murder crow with certificate

The lovely chaps at Dillons of Whitby offered me the use of their beautiful breakfast room for a pop up show earlier this month. Supplied with wine and canapes we entertained a happy room of people also curious to see what a murder of the same crow looked like. Three crows from the exhibition were chosen for limited edition prints and sketchbooks.

Limited edition prints and sketchbooks
Those crows sponsored by the purchase of printed rewards are to be auctioned for Whitby Wildife Sanctuary. There are a very limited number of originals and printed specials still available to buy - you can bag one on my UK website or in my Etsy shop. When all the pieces sold have been shipped out, I'm building a virtual version of the exhibition on my website, more on that to follow.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Back In Black

Well, hello :) It's been a while - lots going on behind the scenes here so we have some catching up to do. How are you doing ? Good I hope.

Probably the biggest single thing that's changed is my UK website, I started over with Wix and have been able to add lots more features so the site is now a proper studio tour.

 From the beginning I wanted to make more of a connection between you the viewer seeing the artwork and me making it so that's one of my front paws right there on the home page :)

Stephen now has his own corner of the website - as his file continues to grow with contributions from other talented creatives and fans, I wanted somewhere to share and showcase new elements as they are added. If you'd like to play along, go see.

I've built up a complete collection of my crow drawings and added a new line in printed loveliness. Pocket mirrors, notebooks and prints are now available to buy here. I have more designs and products coming over the next few months.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Black box

 I've discovered a new toy :) Or rather, a new technique. If you read my last post you'll remember that I photographed something in a black mirror before drawing it. The results were fantastic so I've pretty much spent all my free time since stuffing things into the felt lined box I created to go with it and snapping away.

 There is a bit of an art to it - to photograph a reflection, you have to adjust your focus to cover the distance from your lens to the mirror - and back again. Then of course there's the issue of lighting the object without shining light on the mirror or towards the camera.

 The results are worth it though - I started with a deer skull and took two photographs of its reflection using different lighting. That completely transformed it as you can see from the resulting drawings here - they don't look like the same object in both at all.

I then drew the images out on Fabriano Artistico paper using charcoal pencil for the details and pure carbon stick to get that gorgeous velvety black background. You can buy the drawings framed and ready to go over in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

In the bag

Following on from my last post, I did finally finish my illustration for Sean Walters story 'An Invited Guest'. It's now available to buy printed with the tale in my Etsy shop

This was an interesting piece to work on - featuring a non traditional representation of death as a dark figure, his features hidden beneath a sack. I wanted the image to have an overall recognisably human shape but with a touch of otherness so I built a foam skull, working from a deer skull I had. I added suitably pointed teeth and covered it with the sack.

 To create a dark image, I photographed the piece in a black mirror so only the highlights would show. A lamp picked out the fine details such as the wispy beard I had given him.

 The drawing itself was done in charcoal and carbon on watercolour paper. I got through a lot of carbon on that background :) The finer details were picked out with a knife blade.

Now framed, I'm quite pleased with the overall effect - I've also gone on to do a lot more photography using that mirror. More on that in my next post. The image itself reveals more the longer you look at it. I exhibited it at this years Dark Arts show as part of the Bram Stoker International Film Festival.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A non traditional death

Proof that social media can be fun came along the other day when I bumped into the splendid Sean Walter online who was looking for a 'non-traditional death'. Once I'd been persuaded to put the egg whisk and balloons safely away again, I established that what he actually wanted was an illustration to go with a new short story he was working on. 

Sean himself
Now as this is a new project I have nothing to show yet besides an interesting google search history but I'm so excited to be working with Sean that I thought you should meet him too :) You can follow Seans work as it develops through his Patreon page or grab a copy of his current collection on Amazon.

Seans current short story collection.
Our first collaboration will be available online and if I get copies printed fast enough, will be coming with me to this years Dark Arts exhibition in October. Exciting stuff ! Naturally, we've already got bigger plans and I hope to be bringing you more news of what we've been up to very shortly. No balloons...

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Monsters everywhere !

Total chaos here this week as I launched a new Kickstarter campaign for the monsters. I'm going to be showing them at Dark Arts again this year here in Whitby and after thinking how interested people were in their individual stories, decided to make something of it. In this case, more monsters and, if we do well enough, a book about them.

We wanted to the project to reflect what it's like to live with these things so made our own short video black and white movie style, complete with wibbly stop motion. You can see that here.

We also used the time to create an entire folder for our favourite monster, Stephen, including a map of the asylum where he lurks, newspaper cuttings and patient files.

We've also tried to explain what it's like dealing with these things day in, day out ( hence Rich in full monster wrangling outfit). We love what we do but it can be hard work, they come and go when they please and make working with children and animals look like a breeze. So, if you have a minute to do something fun, pop over to our page and if you can, support us - either by pledging or sharing on social media. It all helps :)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Camera review Canon SX700HS

New toy !

As you may be able to tell, I am rather excited about the latest bit of kit to turn up in the form of Canons SX700HS. As an artist I spend a lot of time with my cameras - whether I'm out shooting locations, setting up studio macros or photographing pieces of work so I can put them up for sale.

Since many of you will probably do at least one of the above and may be looking to upgrade, I thought I'd share some of the results. Photography for me is a means to an end so I'm still figuring out what many of the buttons actually do. That said, if you want instructions on how to use it they do a remarkably idiot friendly manual (I actually read it this time) so I'll stick to the end results.

 The good

One of the main reasons for wanting to improve on my previous point 'n' shoot  was its flat refusal to believe anything existed in cloudy conditions or after about half past two in the afternoon. The SX700HS claimed to give impressive results even in very low light so I started with that. 

The photo above is the great and terrible Catmonkey (found washed up on Scarborough beach), shot on a black card background with a halogen desklamp providing suitably dramatic lighting. Given that he's only a couple of centimeters high it's picked out the detail very well and I was very pleased with the monolithic look....

 After that triumph, I decided to push things further and tried out this delicate bird skull, using only a single tealight for illumination. The image is pleasingly crisp and I was able to choose between the natural colour of the scene or, using the cameras own clever white balance, get a good 'daylight' shot if I wanted. Personally, the candle flame did it for me so I left it as was.

The bad

 Possibly the biggest issue people seem to be having with the new superzooms in general ( not just the Canon) is lens flare. We went round to our favourite haunt, Saltwick Bay, to catch the sunrise and while my elderly Panasonic Lumix had no trouble at all with the sun appearing from behind a band of cloud, the SX700HS had a pink fit. Literally. The reason for this is the number of things that one lens is meant to do. With 30 x optical zoom and good macro it's a great all-in-one for most conditions, but the range of focal lengths means there's no way to avoid this problem.

To be fair, it doesn't do it all the time - in fact there have been a few things like the ice crystals on grasses above, where my old camera would have had extra sparkly bits all over the shop so it's worth playing with and can actually be used to give some very interesting effects once you know its limits.
The ugly

Then, there's this thing....

It's actually a wood ear fungus on an overturned log which I'm sharing because a) if I had to look at it, so does everyone else and b) because it means I can point out one last fun thing. On certain settings, you can control both the aperture and the shutter speed using the handy dial on the back of the camera. So, the only real ugly was the one I ended up getting a remarkably detailed shot of in gloomy woodland conditions.

It also proved remarkably handy when taking a quick snap of the flower below for identification. The flower being bright white, some fiddling about was needed so I didn't lose all detail in the centre as the sun was fairly strong and reflecting off the petals.

 So all in all, a good buy. Practical for someone like me who needs a camera that can go anywhere without a team of sherpas to fetch all the extras and with the exception of the lens flare which you can't really avoid with this type,  it's vastly exceeded my expectations. Nor was it terrifyingly expensive so I'm not afraid to use it. 

Of course, this does now mean I have a few hundred additional photos to choose from for drawing- I may be some time...