Happy New Year Everyone

Events

So ends 2012, we’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs, and I hope they overall it’s been a good year for you.

It’s been pretty good over here I’m happy to say, and now it’s time to do a few new year tasks like backing up all my images again (oh how they’re growing!), get my accounts up to date, look forward at what my plans are for 2013 and what business targets are achievable, and also look back at 2012. See where I went wrong, see where I went right.

I’ve had some great fun this last year, some pretty interesting commissions, like the shotgun box packaging marketed towards female hunters, or the lovely and colourful mango lassi recipe which was amazingly fun to design, I’ve done some portraits for an assortment of people, designed a wicked search engine for Waxamomo and created some fab steampunk cats.

If I had to choose, and I don’t have to but I’m going to anyway, I think one of my favourite commissions this year was the one I got from Protect Your Bubble, partly because it was quirky and fun and but also partly because it was my first commission for a really big company, they’ve been on the telly and everything!Protect Your Bubble image

So here’s the link to my illustrations on their website, now I’m going to go do a happy dance and sing Auld Lang Syne.

Happy New Year Everyone!!

http://ukblog.protectyourbubble.com/news/page/2/

Knight Time Creations Steampunk Cat

Fantastic Customer Feedback

Feedback

I love doing what I do, I’d be mad not to. It’d be a waste of time if my illustrations didn’t make my customers happy though. I love getting good feedback, the “testimonials” page is all about some of the great comments I’ve had from customers over the years. It never ceases to thrill me, the satisfaction of a job well done.

One of my recent clients, the very charming Mark Keating from a company called Shadowcat Systems, has been writing about me on his blog on the company web page. His latest entry actually showcased an illustration that I sent over to him as a freebie Christmas present. I was really touched that he’d made a big thing out of it! Aww.

I think I should definitely put the link to that page up here, partly so I can go “Hurrah!” but also because it’s nice to share links with good people.

http://shadow.cat/news/archive/2012/december/cat-xmas/

Knight Time Creations Steampunk Cat

Steampunk Cat

Hints & Tips For Budding Fashion Illustrators

Advice and Tips

If you’ve got your mind set on becoming a fashion illustrator then you’re going to need a lot of confidence and perseverance because you’re not alone. Fashion illustration is a very, very popular area of illustration with people drawing pretty costumes on everything from exercise books to expensive velum paper. Your work will need to have an edge, it’ll need to stand out as a cut above the rest.

A good way to get started of course, like with any aspect of illustration, is to build up a portfolio of work. In this case, fashion illustration work. Have a look at the latest fashion collections of some of the big designers, Vogue is a good place to check – they seem to know what’s what. http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/autumn-winter-2012

There’s plenty of great photos of fashion for you to base your work on. Choose a stylish outfit and get to drawing. Now, you’re going to need the right kind of equipment obviously, you don’t want your work to stand out for all the wrong reasons, so invest in some good quality pens and pencils, (http://www.cultpens.com/index.html) paper and colours – acrylics, watercolour, pen and ink – that sort of thing. Sketch the figure of the model first, the basic area of space that he or she fills, where there arms and legs are. Make sure the proportions are correct before you add any clothing at all.

Typically, fashion illustration models are very skinny with small heads, long elongated arms, legs and body and oversized feet. This is because, rightly or wrongly, fashion is usually designed with a very skinny person in mind, and for the illustrations they also want to focus on the footwear (hence the oversized feet).

Once you’ve got the body drafted out, you can start adding the clothes on. Don’t forget the creases and folds in the fabric, that’s important for creating a realistic look. Ideally you’re going to want to be able to tell just by looking at the image what the clothing is made of, is it thick and rough, velvety soft or gossamer thin?

After the clothes are outlined you then need to colour and shade the artwork. The body is usually very plain, either black and white, left as pencil, loosely sketched in fineliner or kept to neutral skin tones. The focus with these pieces is always on the clothes, models are never supposed to be the centre of attention. (Maybe someone needs to tell them that sometime…?)

Eventually if you keep at it, you’ll have a decent portfolio of work in front of you. If you’re really aiming for the best of the best, then say you’ve made ten pieces for your portfolio right? Well, once you finish the tenth one, go back and redo the first one. Put them into a nice portfolio case, here, let me Google that for you: Artist Portfolio Cases In Ascending Order Of Price

I’ve put the search in order of price, low to high. Obviously you don’t want to spend too much money, but be careful of buying something that looks like you still go to high school.

I’ll go into detail about porfolios another day, it’s a big topic. Bottom line is, make it look nice. Once that’s done, do a little research potential employers. Have a look for fashion houses in big cities, model agencies, art galleries and budding fashion designers. The internet is packed with people looking for creative talent, you need to use your imagination, where are people going to need fashion illustrations? If you’ve looked and you’re struggling, try pitching to agencies instead. With any luck you’ll get picked up by one of them and they’ll do all the leg work for you. The Writer’s and Artist’s guide book comes out every year and is full of the contact details of publishers and agencies. You can get the latest copy from here at Amazon if you like the sound of it: The Writer’s And Artist’s Yearbook 2013

Why not post your portfolio online too, places like Deviant Art and Red Bubble are free. Or if you’re a person of independent means, you might fancy buying some space on Directory Of Illustration which gives you a twenty image portfolio for the jaw droppingly astonishing price of $2,695. Is it just me, or is that really expensive? I suppose they are well known and they produce a catalogue of portfolios which important movers and shakers will check in when they’re looking for new talent, but for nearly three thousand dollars, they’re a bit of an investment on your part.

Anyway, that’s the best I can do for you for now. I hope it’s not been a total waste of time, every little helps right? Drop me a line if I can assist further.

Illustrating For Children’s Books – A Quick How To Guide

Advice and Tips
Captain Clean

A cartoon teeth cleaning superhero.

Many people think that children don’t know much, or that a lot escapes their notice.  You’d be surprised though; children have eery powers sometimes when it comes to noticing things. This is very true when it comes to illustrations in children’s books. Artwork that captures their attention will really excite them and they’ll return to the book again and again. Parents will tell other parents that their little angel can’t get enough of, such and such, and then more mums and dads will be out buying that book. The story of course, is quite important, kids like to know the words and they love repeating things, but chances are when they’re quite young they won’t be able to read. All they can do is look at the pictures, and if the pictures are no good, it really doesn’t matter what the story is about.

Firstly, if you’re going to do the illustrations for a children’s book, you need to think about the target age range. How old are the kids that this book is aimed at going to be? If they’re about one years old or less I’d recommend big friendly pictures, fairly simple style with large heads because at that age, faces are very important to them. Plus, a few animals won’t go amiss either. Children at that age also love to interact with their books, not really something an illustrator is responsible for, but books with fold out flaps always go down well.

If the children are a little older, between one and three or so, then they can appreciate much more complex illustrations. They like little hidden things to look at in and around the main illustration, rabbits poking their heads out of holes, a sleepy moon peeking from behind a cloud, an assortment of mice. They’ll spot them soon enough and then they’ll be looking out for them, plus the parent can add extra elements to the story by getting their little ones to count how many mice there are, or find the rabbits.

By the time you’re illustrating for the eight to twelve crowd, the images will be smaller. When it was for the little kids the images were full page and double page spreads; now they’ll be mainly embedded in the text, or occasionally a full page spread at the start of a chapter. The images now need to be detailed but concise, depicting a key event in the story. They’re also unlikely to be in colour at this point, so black line drawings are the order of the day. The characters are more likely to be human children around the same age of the target audience; the illustrations, whilst black and white and somewhat detailed, can still vary in style between realistic (e.g. William Brown) or friendly cartoon (e.g. Tracy Beaker) or somewhere in between (e.g. Harry Potter).

It is possible to study children’s illustration as a course all of its own, and there’s even a distance learning course available from the London College of Art, so you can do it in your own home at your own time. I myself haven’t taken this course, so I couldn’t tell you if it’s any good or not and as it costs over £300, I’m not planning on giving it a whirl any time soon. However, if it’s something you’re interested in and you haven’t the time to give up work and go to college, it might be a good plan. Here’s their site: http://www.londonartcollege.co.uk/c4childrens/C4-childrens-illustration-course2.htm

There are plenty of books you can read on the subject of illustration in general, and children’s illustration in particular. I had a read of “Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication” by Martin Salisbury but to be honest I didn’t get into it. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes you get a book about art that’s really useful and interesting, and other times it just feels like a photo album of work that other people have done. This felt like the latter. Plus a lot of the other children’s illustration advice books tend to have been published ten, sometimes twenty years ago, and they’re so out of date.

If you’ve written and illustrated a children’s book yourself then you’ll be looking to get it published, I guess the same is also true if you’re solely a writer or an illustrator. Everyone wants to see their children’s book work hit the shelves don’t they? There’s a book called “The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook”. A new one is published every year, it’s chock full of publishers set out in order of who they are, what they publish etc. It’s really useful, you can find who does children’s books in there and then get in touch with them. Although, if it says “no unsolicited emails or letters” that means you’re going to need to phone them first and see if you can get the green light to send them your work.

Overall my advice would be, do your research online for advice and ideas of what books are useful to read, use your local library to get access to those books so you can check them out first and see if they are actually useful before deciding whether or not to buy them. After that, if you write and illustrate then start approaching publishers with your work, if you just illustrate then start browsing the internet some more for writers looking for an illustrator. They’re out there, just like you. Just make sure they’re not going to take you for a ride ok?

Being a writer or illustrator means one thing above everything else, be prepared to be rejected over, and over, and over again. Don’t let it get you down though, if you believe in your work then sooner or later someone else will too. After all, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories were rejected dozens of times.

Krakatoa Foam Taste Test

Recent Commissions

In 2011 I was hired by a little Scottish sweetshop in Fife called Ally Bally Bees to being new life to some antiquated packaging and this year they hired me again to design the images for the advertising of their newest flavour, cola. This was for a Scottish childhood favourite from several decades ago called Creamola Foam. It was popular between the 1950’s and was discontinued in the 90’s, apparently with a certain amount of customer protest; they certainly missed it and wanted it back. I imagine it was rather like the Scottish equivalent of the American Twinkie shortage.

Retro sweetshops were inundated with requests to figure out the recipe and bring back their favourite fizz. What is this thing though? I hear you cry. Well I wondered the same thing, particularly since I was designing the packaging for it, so I waited until everything was done and dusted and they started rolling out the brand new “Krakatoa Foam” and I got myself some, partly for the benefit of my portfolio of work, but partly because I really wanted to try this unheard of Scottish delicacy.

How it works is, you can buy it in a wee can or in a packet, its form is coloured crystals that resemble sugar. You get a big spoonful, put it in a glass, top up with water and give it a stir. It froths and foams and becomes a sweet tasting coloured drink. I think in its day it was like an early form of Soda Stream. It’s not bad either, although I don’t have the same childhood associations with it which I’m certain will add something to the experience.

Scottish people were quick to start buying the new stuff and eager to find out if it was how they remembered it from their youth. Some people even made videos about it! I’ve had a look at them, reactions tend to be mixed. Young people aren’t sure if they like the foam, older people tend to be quite keen for it (again, probably something to do with childhood memories for them).

Here’s one video that’s two thirds positive towards Creamola foam…