Monday, May 26, 2014

Evolving Robots

I find myself using the phrase 'when things settle down and get back to normal' an awful lot lately. I noticed myself saying it an awful lot last year too. I'm still waiting.

If you're wondering where I've been the past while, most of my 'free time' is spent doing things for  and I find myself struggling to even keep up with even that.

I've finally found myself in that place where most artists probably found themselves at long ago- a question of speed. I've long looked for the quickest ways  to get colours on the page and then clean up later, or clean line and colour like a comic. The former always infuriated me, as my colours were too loose for my taste, and getting a lineless look from lines required significantly more time to polish.

I want to keep the quality in Rover high, so it means something has gotta give. I'm putting more effort into thumbnails and studies, and to date that ALWAYS improves the end result. I'm forcing myself to be bolder in my colour choices, deliberately playing on contrasting hues and tones more than I would have. Having the cintiqs definitely makes this easier, as there's a definite removal of a mental block when it comes to painting.

Rover's design is shifting in small ways from week to week, and I'm totally cool with that; it's one of the main reasons he was made as a robot in the first place. Soon I'm going to start asking for help collaborating on some animated and 3d Rover bits, so if you want in drop me an email and we can sort something out.

Right, sleepy time!  Catch ye later!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Coolorus and a Sketchdump!

I have a distant memory of colour selection not being a problem in photoshop. It was before I tried Color Picker; as I hopped on that bandwagon to solve that problem. It might just have been me being slower at digital painting and needing time to look at the colour palette to figure out where I was going.

Possibly, this led to a Van Halen-esque approach of using 'that mad colour wheel nobody uses' in Photoshop as I've been told. Personally, I want to see all the hues in a wheel, and the values in the bar. Saturation can be controlled between the two; and it makes for quick selection. 

I like darting between colours, with hues defined as a course rather than an absolute value. 'More towards red' would come into my head a lot quicker than 'CHARTREUSE!'...if ever. 

So the faster I got, and the more I knew what I wanted the more colour selection in PS seemed to really bog me down. I'd played with painter, and coveted its colour wheel with envious eyes (and slowly began to draw my plans). The sliders were tiny and fiddly, so they weren't much help. Only much later did I properly get the hang of HSB sliders, but still it felt cold and detached. 

At some point I broke, and joined the great plug-in hunt. Color Picker was excellent in CS3, but I've found later versions to be buggy as hell. Kuler never felt right, too much clicking, and felt like the digital equivalent of getting caught in sellotape; sure it does a thing, but right now it's just messing me up and slowing me down. 
Last night I got Coolorus, and so far it seems to do the job perfectly. Variable displays of colour wheels, with the complimentary/split complimentary etc add ons in there for the interested, and missing that feeling of wrestling with the UI that color picker had. No bugs so far, but I'm keeping my eyes peeled.

Between personal commitments today I've been knocking out little tests. I've been looking at artists like Pascal Campion and wanting to capture that speed and fun and this really feels like a step in the right direction.  Definitely bringing the fun in! More painting/studies, more life drawing and working zoomed out  are on the menu too. 

Oh that reminds me, I have a tiger from last week to put up! Ref'd from a photo I took (so it's totes legit XP) I'd noticed in my sketchbook that I tend to draw things at the same relative scale to my field of vision and deliberately  avoided that in this. I love doing studies like this because it really pokes you in the weak parts, and helps you round out a bit more. 

The dinosaur was from yesterday, and the black and white thing was really getting me in a funk. A quick crop later, and I add it to my pile of doodles :) 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Robot still Here

Hey everyone, I had to skip my stream on Monday because I was a big pile of sickness so today I wanted to make up for it with a six hour stream-a-thon. I'd done this colour key earlier in the week, and while I switched the characters around I wanted to stay quite close to my initial doodle. 

It was a lot of fun, and even if the stream wasn't broadcasting for the first three hours (d'oh!) I still did the full six. Anyways, hope you like it!  

Even better, if you *do* like what I've been doing, could you mention it to people? In real life!? Clicky-likey-share is more than welcome, but word of mouth is invaluable. Please and thank you! The book's called 'RobotWasHere' for those that don't know!  Catch you all next week!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Spice Of Life

Some of my favourite bits when it comes to a project like this is the warmups, palette tests and design process. 

This was done as a quick doodle just to speed things up and work straight from the lasso tool and nothing more. Quick, but sloppy. I'm definitely gonna come back to the approach in a later painting though!

I was having a really off-week on the stream, and after doing some colour tests based on a doodle in my sketchbook, I decided to play more with the creatures that would inhabit that scene. Turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

This was to set the scene for a short comic sequence that's in the book, and was partially me pulling away from my usual compositions. FINALLY got some rain out that I'm happy with, and can control it easily. Really happy with it for even that alone! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sharing the Caring

I read this earlier, and it hammered home something I really believe strongly in. World building, and really caring about the story of your story.

Nothing in the world is*just there*, something has happened or somebody has taken an action to get even the smallest prop where it is. Putting the thought into the little things; like how a character's kitchen is set up or what kind of decorations they have around the place if at all.

Like anything, but particularly with art; thought shows. I love painting things that allow me to be iterative and evolve designs, or at the very least dabble around in a sketchbook first. There can be loads of little things that different people pick up on either consciously or subconsciously that can really make a picture sing.

...I'd love to talk more about this, but I've gotta catch a bus to be home for tonight's stream. I'll have my sketchbook on hand, so hopefully I'll get to work out something cool to paint for y'all.

Oh, by the way, if you missed any of the old streams you can flick through them at your own pace at  or catch the new one tonight at 8.30

All the best,


Friday, January 24, 2014

Colourist appreciation Day

Today is Colorist Appreciation Day, and I feel a little weird writing about it as it's my own area of comics.

There is art in everything, and different people find comfort in different areas and in different skill sets.
 Myself, I find lighting and colour significantly easier than any other part of comics production. That's not to say that it's easy. Even within the scope of my so called 'comfort zone' there's a crippling amount of both freedom and restriction. I've a tendency to over-render the vast majority of my work, and I look at the work of my colourists out there at the moment with bold 'simple' choices that elevate a story beyond its pure inks. Done right, colour can save an iffy page but mishandled it can ruin a beautiful work of art. There are technical requirements for print and house styles to bear in mind, and more pressing than all other concerns is the deadline. I have deliberately taken on one book at a time for most of my career because while I CAN churn out pages, I don't want to. I like to take time and re-play with my palette choices, and find my tweaks almost always look better than the first stab. Colour holds and textures take extra time too, and they're something I find quite appealing and like to indulge in whenever appropriate. Which slows me down. I've done fast books before, and I always wish I had more time or a better first impression of how the page should look.
This is why, when I see a great eye mixed with breakneck speed I have nothing but admiration for many of the colourists out there.

If I have one wish for colourist appreciation day, it's for writers to remember to mention the time of day/year in their scenes, for pencillers to think more about lighting and how a page will look coloured rather than just In Black and white, and for inkers to close lines whenever possible because it makes our lives a little bit easier. Colourists often get the short end of the deadline stick and still bear the weight of making beautiful art for a living. It's all a team effort, so if you can make their lives a little easier, they can make your pages pop in all the best ways.

All the best,


and here's some excellent colourists you should really check out if you haven't already:
Jordie Bellaire
Dave Stewart
Dean White
Len O'Grady
Ruth Redmond
Lee Loughridge
Charlie Kirchoff
Laura Martin

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Hey everyone, just a quick update with the picture from the last two streams. More to follow as they come :D

Monday, January 6, 2014

Burning Candles

Anyone who's worked freelance will probably recognise the moment when you decide to work late.

Your body calls quits, your brain calls quits, or your bladder stages a coup d-etat. The bladder wins all wars eventually, so succumb to your coffee fuelled master. The rest of them however, ask us to quit in less cutthroat a manner. 

You can power through, knowing it will cost you the next day or you can quit now and get up incredibly early and finish the work then. The latter is a dangerous one to the uninitiated, as it puts a short and solid cap on your deadline and will be a much harder mark to hit. However, working whilst tired makes for sloppy decision making. And once you're beyond the ability to move a stylus around a page, EVERYTHING is decision making. Is that the right line? Is this the right brush? Does that need a texture? How's my composition. Every brushstroke is a question. 

If it ISN'T you're not being economical, and you're wasting time. 

I got to that point pretty quickly in tonight's stream, and I vote to stand up and walk away for now. I'm cool with that- my deadline's by the end of the week, and I hit the time I promised myself to stream each week.

I did make sure to get down the important stuff so I know where I'm headed- the lines (although there are some sharkwhale designs I might dive back into) and when I could feel myself starting to drop I just zoomed out and painted over the whole thing a rough jist of what I want the whole thing to look like. 

I'm happy to stop here- it's enough to tell future-me where things are meant to be headed.

This is a marathon, not a sprint ;)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Older and wiser, or just more patient

I used to get really frustrated, wanting many things out of a painting but not knowing a specific technique to get everything I wanted out of it. 
Working in black and white never converted well into colour.
Working straight in colour was visually vibrant but usually fell prey to weaker drawing skills.
Lining things first either ended up coloured with the lasso tool, which is useful was definitely less fun when it came to rendering materials. 

Looking back, it didn't seem like I was getting *better*, just that I was doing *different things*

There were one, maybe two occasions where everything seemed to come together. In every single one of those instances, I'd painted the picture twice. Once til I got tired of it and went away, and a second time with a fresh idea,different spin or a new set of techniques. 

Inspiration's not dependable, and I've been racking my brain for the longest time to try and figure out how to tame this beast and put out consistent, good work. 


Warming up, thumbnailing, research, reference, prep studies. If you can, DO. They ALWAYS directly improve the picture, even if they're easy to ignore 'I know what snow looks like' 


You want to draw everything out? Go right ahead. You want to throw down big shapes in greys to get your values? Knock yourself out. There is no cheating, there is nobody holding your hand. Ten hours into a painting and a hand looks iffy? cut it out and redraw! It's NEVER TOO LATE, and you can build that into your workflow. It's just how neat you keep your layers that'll set you apart. 
You prefer the line tool in GIMP? Switch it up! I've a real tendency to stick to just PS, but every time I go outside my comfort zone I find something awesome in SAI, GIMP, Illustrator, Flash or Painter. Well worth exploring. They're all just tools, and all are applicable and could save you hours down the line. There is a good/fast balance to be struck. If you find yourself becoming a one-trick-pony it's time to kick down those walls because that way lies stagnation, ain't nobody got time for that! 


It's like a roast chicken- if you can, let it breathe. You can see mistakes, have ideas for a last minute glaze that might *MAKE* the picture. THEN, when you've seen it with fresh eyes, show the world your awesome artings!


I've done 10 hour paintings, and ditched the last 8 hours of the painting because I thought the rougher version was better. Overkilling a painting is often an eyesore to look at, especially when you see the amazing things that get done in the 30 minute spitpaints over on Facebook. 

I'd strongly recommend them for anyone who wants to up their speed. But what I'm looking for from myself now is GOOD_FINISHED_ART on a consistent basis, and that takes longer than 30 minutes. 

I'll do another post on the big project that I'm working on during my weekly streams- would be interested to hear any feedback ye have. 

In the name of shameless plugging, they're every Monday at 8.30 at

and here's some of the work I've been doing in them. Feel free to drop by or spread the word ;)