Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 a year in review

This has been an immense year for me.

I finished a 52 episode season, headed the background department on 2 pilots, made pitch art for a game, did concept work for a game which was successfully kickstarted, helped illustrate 2 books and began teaching professionally! Oh, and I did some conventions as well! And I coloured a book for a friend of mine! The list goes on, it seems!
Along with some friends and colleagues we went to Annecy Film festival where one of our Nelly and Nora episodes was up for an award. We didn't win, but it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many like minded folk, along with great weather (some of the time!) and brilliant films.
That lit a fire under  me to make a film that's more personal for me, and it's actually started growing into something bigger. I'm determined to get the film part of it done, and a lot of headway has been made there!
Then life continued, I did some illustration for a pastry company in London that kept me busy and on my toes for a while!
Finally, September arrived and with it Trojan Horse Was A Unicorn (THU) in Troia, Portugal. To say it blew my mind was an understatement; I learned so many things and met so many great artists it took me til mid November until I could parse a lot of what I took in. Having THU TV to go back and rewatch talks DEFINITELY helped :D

I've been SO busy, but everything you see above was created after all the day jobs were done- I see an art test for the banner saga, some fanart, a piece for Chris Oatley's Magic Box, as well as the last three months trying to implement some of the tips I got in Troia.

This was also the year I moved in with my partner, and it's been great to have my own office full of posters and artwork that ISN'T my bedroom, even if I end up spending most of my waking day there!

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings,  but mostly I'm looking forward to making things, and learning things. Life is good. Take care, everyone.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Freelancer Tips

So I've been on and off freelancing for the past 9 years, and I thought I'd share some tips and tricks I've picked up along the way. These are geared towards art jobs, but many of them can apply to other types of work!

There's a few other people that I asked for input too, because many sources make for a better guide!

1- Stay on top of your accounts. This includes tracking receipts, invoices and paying your taxes. If any of that makes you twitch uncomfortably, do two things. Firstly, suck it up. You're in business, and that's part of it. Secondly, hire an accountant. They'll make sure that you fill out any forms you need, and you learn *quickly* what you should be keeping track of and how.

2- Respect others' time. Reply to emails promptly. Turn up at meetings on time. Hit your deadlines. There's probably one or more people after you in a production schedule, and lost time snowballs the further down the line.

3- Respect your OWN time. If you work 9-5, work hard. Work well. Then, stop. I'm getting better at this, though recently it's been more a case of logging multiple jobs to morning, afternoon slots at 4 hours each. I've experimented over the past few months doing blazes of 16 hour work days, 6 days a week and then taking a full week off. It's nice, but dangerous. Those hard weeks burn you out quicker the longer you are at it, even with a week off. It's better to be in a solid habit every day, so you're body is trained to turn on and off at the beginning and the end of each day.

4- Train yourself. I've set up a bunch of Pavlovian responses to keep me in the zone. I wear over-ear headphones when I'm working- ONLY when I'm working. I usually get bumped up from a 45 minute focus to a  90 minute window. I try and put on audio from games that I've put MANY hours of grind into, like Skyrim or Dragon Age. They're ambient and unobtrusive, and there's a built in experience of hearing them for many hours. For late nights, If you've seen the Shawshank Redemption a few times, that's a great film to minimise as you work, because Morgan Freeman's voice on a three hour track that ends with 'I HOPE. That's a great little uplift if you can aim to finish at that point. 

5- Stop checking your email. I said earlier that I've got a 90 minute work window, and it's at the end of that I QUICKLY check my email, twitter and facebook, use the bathroom and get a fresh cup of tea. The only exception to this is if I'm doing a morning of quick fixes, I keep my inbox open on my second screen so I don't waste my time doing fixes that'll be cut for one reason or another.

6- Have an office space. If you can, have it in a room that ISN'T your bedroom, and preferably a room you can close the door on and have your own space. I don't have kids or pets, but I've heard that there needs to be a divide to get any sort of productivity out of the day. Trying to go from working all day in a room to sleeping in the same room will mess your body rhythm up

I've had to do this several times in the past, and I've found several ways to break up the feel. 
-Use different lighting when you're in 'bedroom mode'. For me, that means airing the room for a few minutes, switching to just lamps instead of overhead lights, and getting out for a brief walk.
If you've a weirdly large bedroffice, you can keep to different parts of the room.
If you can help it, don't have your computer in eyesight while you're in bed, so you can add more of a mental gap. 
Anything you can do to create two distinct room feels will help get you better sleep.

7- Sleep well. If you get a decent 8 hours kip, or whatever your body actually needs, it'll show. You'll have better focus,  make better decisions and feel better.

8- Too much coffee? Drink water. This sounds weird, but it works. I am a voracious tea drinker, and a coffee lover, even if it doesn't love me. I had to cut down to one coffee a day, and a friend recommended drinking more water.  It's made such a difference, so it's getting included. In winter, I usually go for hot honey and lemon, or MiWaDi, or just tea :)

9- Eat well. I try and eat good meals, as it's most practical to make your own when you work from home. I do go out to lunch at least once a week, so I can do a bit of sketching as well as get some fresh air during the day!

10- You will get hired to do what people KNOW you can do. If you have a web presence full of doodles, don't expect a job as a concept artist. When studios hire they are looking for people to solve a specific problem. You need to show them that you can solve their 

For me, I specialise in colour keys and lighting. This has got me work in tabletop games, TV, magazines and comics, but only because I had put something online that exemplified their requirements. 

If you want to colour comics, colour comics. If you want to storyboard, ACTUALLY STORYBOARD. As a freelancer, the ball is in your court. Schedule time to work on those projects. If you keep an eye on your cashflow, you can upskill at your own pace and branch out. 

11- Go places! Expos like CTN Expo, Comic Conventions, film festivals or the absolutely amazing Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn will open doors for you in almost every sense of the word. You'll meet new people, learn new things and maybe get some job leads. I spent a considerable amount travelling to events last year, but I'm still trying to put into practice all of the great things I learned. 

12- Spoonful of Sugar- Research maketh the project, and I find it can be useful to build it into your downtime. I like to watch relevant films to projects I'm working on to build my vocabulary, or if relevant go on a little trip to take in the sights and sounds of the setting. I tend to end up studying random stuff like how a tree has cracked, or the spread of rocks heading away from a river- not necessarily related to what's needed for the project, but it adds to the visual library. 
That's the kind of thing that'll resurface when you're doing thumbnails.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I've been a fan of Quantum Leap since I was a kid, and I wanted to do a bit of fanart for ye. Tons of little Easter eggs...well, four, for those who know the show :D

See if you can spot them :D


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sell out? SO TSU ME

Come along and join. Interesting thing about this over facebook and twitter is it embraces the ads thing, and gives the majority of it to the content creators. 
This sits a lot better with me than people ripping stuff off reddit and making money off other people's work.

I'm gonna try posting there as my port of call for a while. It could be great. It could be terrible. Definitely worth a shot. Click the link above and you can join from there!

Cheers guys,


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ratchet 2015

So every year I do a Ratchet and Clank picture, to track how I'm getting on and design some stuff for the crazy and wonderful universe that Insomniac have built.

I wanted to make sure Clank made it in this year, as he's usually absent!
Also, I wanted to work up the background so I could use it for my Environmental Modelling class as a texturing demo.

Anyway, a lot of fun!


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Underwater Arch

Worknig back into an old piece. I actually liked the old one, but wanted to take Rover out of it for reasons. Also using the dual brush in PS a lot on this, interesting thing to play around with!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tiny Island, but less tiny

So I posted this on facebook and twitter, and was asked (by Pete McNally and Ben Hennessy, both excellent artists!) to post it bigger. FB auto-shrinks stuff to ridiculous proportions. Anyway, here's a bigger version!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Backgrounds Reel

Here's my new backgrounds reel containing work from projects I worked on, edited together with some lovely music from the FLCL soundtrack :D

Feel free to have a watch, maybe share it round if you can!



Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Wild Rover

In case ye didn't know, my pet project while Nelly and Nora's been in production is Rover Was Here. Here's some highlights over the past while;

A bit more character

So we're coming to the end of production on Nelly and Nora, and it's been fun. And challenging. Also, an awful lot like colouring comics, which I wouldn't have said going in. Emma (Hogan, art director)'s real passion lies in shape and pattern, whilst I'm a pure colour man all the way! This really allowed us to play off each other's strengths- meaning I got to do a lot of colour keying for each episode, with every conceivable weather type! We have some wild west influenced palettes, some very Japan-inspired palettes as well as exploring the almost contradictory nature of Irish weather!

With all those environments during the day, it seems like I had an itch to scratch with characters in the evenings- here's some I made for fun. Of course, we have a quick annual Ratchet and Clank fan piece :D