I think there are moments in life when you know – just know – what it is you’re meant to do as a career. For years and years I struggled with this, always searching, always looking for something new. I tried a creative writing course because I love reading, and it was famously said “that all great writers are great readers”. But apparently I’m not much of a writer, or that is to say I didn’t have the patience for it. I learned to snowboard and thought perhaps I’d become a snowboard instructor, but that was just a flight of fancy. I love, absolutely and unconditionally adore American Football. When the season is in full tilt i’m glued to the TV. I’ve read the books, watched the films, I even play for a team in Yorkshire called The Doncaster Mustangs. If I lived in the states I’m positive I’d be doing something within the sport (not playing though, I’m a distinctly average athlete). I worked, and still do on a part-time basis, in the service industry and almost embraced it fully, as I had always liked – not loved, nor enjoyed – just liked the job and I was good at it to boot.
Seven years ago I watched a segment on TV where authors Neil Strauss and Tim Ferriss had a one on one discussion about their respective careers in writing. Ferriss asked Strauss what he thought was the key component to finding a career that you love. Strauss responded with this “There’s two things. Firstly, whatever you were doing when you were 11 or 12 that a parent or school teacher didn’t make you do is your passion. For me I when I was 11 I wrote a whole book. Sent it to publishers and nobody, not a single agent wrote back, no one responded so I got used to rejection. Secondly, what would you do if you didn’t get paid for it?”
I remember with the most intense ferocity that when Strauss finished the sentence about what you did as an 11 year old, I whispered to myself, “Drawing”. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I could tell you where I was sat, what the weather was like, what shift at work I was doing, and especially what I did the day after; buy a sketch pad and pencils, and start drawing.
Anyway, above is a illustration of a place in Nova Scotia called Peggy’s Cove. Enjoy.
There are days where everything seems to go right. The work flows, you feel good, and the piece you makes excites you. This is not one of those days. This piece was really tough to do and took a long time to complete. It’s another of those illustrations that I’m not sure how I feel about. I think mostly because the composition seems a bit off, there’s a lot of information being bombarded at you, and there are too many colors. Next piece that goes up is going to be a simple one… I hope…
I’m not sure why, but this one took ages to get right. Above is the final version, and funnily enough it was also the first idea I had. However, as is often typical when planning pieces, I go through a series of roughs first in order to find something that is perhaps more well thought out or clever. I tried a version where the tower is on fire in an attempt at irony, but it didn’t sit well compositionally (I’m not even sure if that’s a word). I tried adding an FBI undercover van and entitling the piece “Who Watches the Watchtowers?”, but I wasn’t sure without the title whether people would get it. I tried adding a pile of used fire extinguishers – nope, then a caveman trying to make fire – also nope. I almost settled on someone carving Easter Island heads (they’re called Moai, so wikipedia tells me) from the rocks, but I thought people would try to read into the connection between the fire watchtower and the heads (there isn’t one by the way), so I scrapped the idea. I eventually settle on my first rough because it fit the series of illustrations I’d done previously. The best ideas I have usually come fully formed, but every now and again I really have to try and try, and it can be incredibly frustrating, and I just have to settle on a piece because if I don’t it’ll never get finished and I’ll never draw anything ever again… ever. A tad melodramatic perhaps. Anyway, I settled on this idea and I’m not sure what I think of it yet. I hope you enjoy it.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been sticking to a certain style recently. I’ve found that in the past the work that I post on social media and on here is “all over the shop”, for lack of a better term. If you came to my website I think you would be hard pressed to say what my area of expertise is… maybe expertise is the wrong word, perhaps “aesthetic” is better? These last few posts have been an attempt at creating a unified and recognisable brand for my online presence. Not all of my work will include the Handyman that’s been making an appearance so far, but I will at least attempt to keep the style the same. I think with all my previous work I’ve been experimenting and testing what works and what doesn’t – some are hits and some are misses, that’s just how it’s been. I think I’m finally working towards something now that is uniquely mine, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how refined the work is. I don’t doubt that you’ve seen very similar work elsewhere – Ty Carter, Szymon Biernacki, Scott Wills, and Brian Edward Miller are all hugely influential, and I feel like I borrow little bits from all of them. I’m committed to staying on course for the time being, building up a body of work, and seeing how far I can push these pieces. Anyway, I hope you’ve had a great day, and thanks for reading!
The above illustration is actually only the top half of a larger image. As far as composition goes I think this is an improvement on the original (see below). The reason for this is the reduced colour palette and the shape of the canvas. A limited colour palette tends to bring a piece together more harmoniously; there’s fewer colours to clash against each other and the use of values is more noticeable, thus you can be more subtle with their use.
As for the canvas shape/size, the key difference from the original is that the focal point for the viewer is much more clear – your eye is drawn to the window cleaner; he is in that right third (a compositional mainstay), and he stands out very clearly.
The image below is the original. While it’s not an awful picture, I do think there is a bit too much going on. It’s also not clear where the eye should be led, and I think it’s fair to say that the window cleaner stands out a lot less in this version despite the colours remaining the same. Suffice to say it would’ve taken probably less than half the time to complete this had I just painted the top half – you live and learn. I could be totally wrong of course, so feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. As always, enjoy!
Another study today. This one was a little more complex than the last one, because there’s more going on with the buildings. I injected a conceptual aspect to the piece with the torn paper, as it made things a little more interesting and leads the eye. I used the mixer brush in Photoshop to give the clouds a soft look which turned out quite nice. These pieces are fun to do and don’t require a lot of messing around since they’re a study of a real place, the only challenge really is how to incorporate a conceptual idea into it.
By the way, i’m going to be making some minor changes to the website in the coming weeks which will include a “shop” section where you will be able to grab prints of my work. You can still get prints for the time being by going through the “Contact” page and messaging me.
This one took about three hours. It’s not super complex and it’s actually more of a study than a conceptual piece, but just doing a study of photo reference felt a little boring, so I added the painter/decorator to make it a little more interesting. When drawing from reference I often forget that i’m allowed to use artistic licence and make things my own, which is the case with the mountains. I originally just copied the reference, but the realistic jagged shapes didn’t sit right, hence the change to smooth curves which fit more with the foreground shapes. I particularly like the rocks in the foreground – no, not in a weird rock-fetish kind of way, you pervert! Can’t a guy just have a healthy appreciation for some rocks?! Jesus… anyway, enjoy!
Quick character study here. I’m playing around with line-work a little more than I usually would as a way to test things out, and it means I don’t have to be so careful with edge control for colour. I quite like this for what it is; a simple character scene. Not everything has to be ridiculously time consuming and intricate. Is there a story here? Always, but whether it’ll get expanded upon or redesigned is another question. I’m going to try and pump out some more of these character scenes just so I have plenty of fodder for publishers and agents. Enjoy!
Astroknight is an idea I’ve been meaning to expand on for a while, and the course I’ve been taking on schoolism.com has given me the kick up the arse I needed. The original idea was hatched when I went back to college to do an art and design qualification – only the finished pieces were nothing more than a half-baked attempt at a storyboard (and a pretty awful one at that). I also couldn’t draw very well then either.
Astroknight is set in the far future and is the story of an asteroid miner who crash-lands on a planet that has had it’s information mysteriously wiped from all known charts. The miner (who will become known as Astroknight later) must scour the planet in order to fix his ship and get home. As he looks for parts to make repairs he discovers why the planet has had it’s information wiped, which sets in motion events that will rock the very foundations of the galaxy!
I’d like to think this would appeal to older kids, perhaps in the same vain as the Asterix or Tintin series’ (minus the racist stuff in Tintin of course). I could even see myself animating it. Either way, i’ll be posting more Astroknight stuff in going forward. Enjoy!