I always have two or three projects on the back burner that I dip in and out of between paid assignments. Fifty faces is one of them. Essentially the idea here is just to have fun - no concepts, no point to get across or text to interpret, just fifty different faces. This is the pencil stage, ringing the changes with each one and avoiding repetition as far as possible. Then working them up, A4 size, in different ways - acrylic, pen and ink etc. Working quickly to avoid getting bogged down or bored.
One from a small series of new images for Scientific American Mind magazine for a feature on pregnancy and the physical effects on the brain. Not just of women but men too. The idea here is to show the working relationship between the pregnancy itself and the mind with the red wedges implying disruption.
Working as an illustrator one of the key parts of the job, if not THE key part of the job, involves drawing in some form or another. Whether that involves simple layout designs, detailed character drawings or loose concept sketches.
Generally speaking the drawing/rough stage is considered preparatory work which leads to a final image. Time was when at the end of a job I'd routinely clear the desk and trash all the bits and pieces of clutter that had preceded the artwork and then move on to the next thing. I've found in recent years though that I've started to keep more and more of this 'process' material and stored it in folders or sleeves. Occasionally I might review this stuff and although much of it feels crude and unformed there is sometimes an indefinable quality which is lost when it has been redrawn, re-worked and refined.
Recently I thought be might be fun to create a new image using some of this raw material so put together a selection of completely unrelated sketches.
Apart from a little re-jigging this is the finished version, in Photoshop, with each of the elements on it's own layer. Wherever possible I've avoided cleaning things up or doing any re-working as that would somehow defeat the object of the exercise. Having said that I have removed some outlines to help unify the whole thing. Click here see the finished piece.
This is the start of sifting through recent sketches. As I usually work on tracing paper I've got loads of little scraps, some done in pencil, inks or brush pen.
Here's most of the finished selection prior to scanning into the computer for compositing and colouring.
Sometimes it's good to move away from familiar working patterns - to take a sideways step and see what happens. So for this image I had something loosely figurative in mind but rather than focus on anything too representational I just let the lines flow and be suggestive. Similarly I wanted to knock the colour right back, to be calm rather than anything too lively.
Here's how the pencil sketch developed. It was only when I got to the fourth version that I could see how the 'legs' area might work with the rest. At that point I moved I moved into artwork mode and painted in the accompanying background shapes being careful to echo the feel and flow of the lines.
A series of web page headers for Alpha Natural Resources. Each image representing a different aspect of the company; the miners, safety, the environment, performance and the role of coal.
A number of concept drawings were submitted from which the finished illustrations were chosen, as below. Stylistically a simple graphic foreground image was requested with background details rounding out the theme. I was asked to use a colour palette that was sympathetic with the corporate green used by Alpha.
Below are a couple of unused ideas; homepage focussing on the company business, joining together over safety issues and mining safety equipment.
Just completed this opener and a couple of spots for NYU Physician magazine. Essentially an overview of recent medical news. They liked earlier medical pieces of mine and wanted something in a similar vein (no pun intended!).
References in the copy to breast cancer, genetics, epilepsy, dirty clouds and research were all included in the illustration. Here's the finished piece dropped into the dummy layout.
Below is a closer look at a section of the finished art together with my initial pencil sketch.
Here is one of the two spots for the same issue of NYU Physician. The news item was about breast cancer. An 'elegant' treatment of the subject was requested together with a pastel coloured palette. I have a tendency to veer towards strong vibrant colours and it was felt that would not be an appropriate treatment for this piece.
The pattern on the dress is made up of X chromosomes showing the tips (telomeres) which can decay causing DNA issues as seen in cancers. The DNA is referenced in the earring.
This was an interesting piece. Prog magazine contacted me to illustrate the debut album review for noted band Headspace. Their new album 'I Am Anonymous' is strong on concepts, specifically;
"It is about you and your relationship with humanity, ultimately the battles fought within the mind from child to man. Through Kubler Ross’ model of impending death, with reference to war, the turmoil leads us to peace and acceptance, only then to swing straight back around to chaos.” !
I was given a free hand on the image, the only stipulation being that the band needed to be included somewhere. They had strong album art of a girl walking towards a war zone and my approach was to try and keep to the same aesthetic which suited the way I like to work.
I focused on the theme of war and the development of child to man - life breaking through in a war-torn environment. The band were included within a cracked picture frame. Although the sketch was liked there was some concern that it may appear too medical so I added a gas mask which re-inforced the war theme whilst also suggesting survival.
For the majority of commissioned works clients are usually after something similar to what they have seen before. Whether that be a particular style or technique or perhaps a certain approach that can be applied to their current project. A rough is usually provided as a guide to content and layout and that, together with the artists portfolio, provides a pretty clear idea to what the end result will be. This is something we understand as illustrators and indeed something we have been taught from day one, to develop a recognisable signature style.
However from the artists perspective too formulaic an approach can spell creative death over the longer term if not careful. Tastes in illustration are also subject to change and what was popular one year may not be so the next so it is important to keep moving forward. Personal work therefore is essential for extending boundaries and exploring new terrain. One way or another the results feed back into professional work, often in the most unexpected ways, and this helps to keep things fresh and interesting.
All the examples on this page are images I make when not working on commissioned pieces. Even though I try to avoid formulas as much as possible things I do like to create small series or groups. I've recently started making large prints of some of these which I'm selling via my Shop and perhaps at selected print fairs next year.