Saturday, 16 July 2016

Illustrations for Exam Board Film Studies Resources - Film Practitioners

January 2016

Some days, it just falls in your lap. I was contracted to write some film study resources for a new exam syllabus, and while in one of the meetings with the lovely Department Head, she happened to mention that because of copyright and licensing, they had trouble getting access to images - film stills and so on - to help illustrate their resources. Without thinking, I said "I can draw you some if you like", doodled her a reasonably detailed pencil sketch of Alfred Hitchcock and suddenly I had a separate contract to provide pencil illustrations of forty film practitioners - directors, animators, editors, sound designers and cinematographers - to adorn the new film study resources.

The process of producing that many illustrations fairly quickly was everything one might expect - a long slog, good fun, a learning experience, immensely frustrating (seriously though, Michael Bay's face is just plain lopsided and there are hardly any decent profile-type photos in existence of David Lynch's ace sound designer Alan Splett)... some didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, some looked pretty good overall. Here are just a few of the ones that are possibly most easily recognised.

(Give up? They're all directors. From the top: Stephen Spielberg, Hayao Miyazaki, Ken Loach, Ridley Scott, Edgar Wright and Sam Raimi. Yes, I know - I promise there were some women as well, but I didn't trust you to know what Lynn Ramsey or Kelly Reichardt or Thelma Schoonmaker looked like. Sorry I didn't believe in you; I'll try harder next time.)

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A Present for Sarah - Return to Oz

Colouring Pencil
December 2015

I'm pleased with this for several reasons:

1. It's a surprise present for a very dear friend of mine and I'm very hopeful that she'll really like it.
2. Out of necessity, it was completed in limited time and with limited resources (I had no time to paint like I'd planned and had to use colouring pencils; I only had access to a basic box of twelve which really restricted what I could do).
3. Again, as is often the case when working with secondary image sources (usually online, which often adds an extra layer of difficulty) rather than painting from life, finding pictures of a decent size and quality from which to work was nearly impossible. I had to create this as a composite of several different images to get the various details right, and the changes in tone between each image caused issues in keeping colour and shade continuity (as did the fact I basically had a choice of eight colours for the whole thing) - it doesn't come across so well in the scan, but the colours in the final piece were quite subtle on her face and looked pleasing.
4. IT'S ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER. I mean it. Go rewatch it if you don't believe me, or just read this.

Illustrations for Exquisite Terror - "Uncle Bob"

September 2015

One last one for Exquisite Terror; this time, the inimitable horror writer "Uncle Bob" Martin. He may be much loved in the horror community, but he sure isn't one for selfies, and finding a reasonable quality picture of him from which I could work proved nearly impossible. We originally went with a different image in which over half his face was black shadow, but it was almost impossible to capture that well in pencil in a way which translated well in scans, so this pose (including its NSFW tshirt slogan) was used instead. It taxed me viciously throughout the process and led to some astounding procrastination, but now it's completed I'm happy enough with it, by and large.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Illustrations for Exquisite Terror - Hannibal in Transit

January 2015

Aaaand we're back to The Silence of the Lambs, which seems to be my go-to illustration topic for Exquisite Terror. Believe me - I'm not complaining. As I may have explained in previous posts, that film means a lot to me, on several levels.

In truth, this drawing isn't great. COMPLAINTS: Lecter's face and most of his body/clothing details are fine, but the police officers aren't too well executed and I really want to bulk out the one on the right - he looks flat and insubstantial. The overall composition feels a little off and I wish I had come up with something a bit moodier for the background.

The restrictions inherent in trying to produce an "original" artwork of a well-known film, translating landscape orientation to portrait and finding enough screenshots of sufficient quality to cobble together the necessary details from which to work... well, first world problems, right? But still a challenge in some cases. Lecter on his own seemed sad, and kind of lacked... power, I suppose. But done sparingly, centrally and staring with wild eyes, flanked by two faceless police officers whose dark outfits made him stand out more - it kind of worked better. It's still not terrific though, and I'm toying with ways it could be improved before the final version goes to print. I hope I can manage it in time, but even if I don't, it's another drawing that taught me a lot about aspects I always either did instinctively without proper attention to detail or just wasn't aware of. Next time, then: even better.

Illustrations for Exquisite Terror - 19 Cadogan Place and 23 Yeoman's Row

January 2015

Another pair of pieces for the excellent Exquisite Terror. This time, Naila requested pencil illustrations of two London properties that were hitherto unknown to me - 19 Cadogan Place and 23 Yeoman's Row.

19 Cadogan Place is located between Knightsbridge and Belgravia, just a few houses down from the former residence of noted politician/philanthropist/slave emancipator William Wilberforce. Online property listings (in this case, Zoopla) gush that no.19 is "an exceptional Penthouse apartment with a most impressive 690 sq/ft roof garden, overlooking the extensive gardens of Cadogan Place" and mention that it was last on the market in October 2014 with a guide price of £4,750,000. 23 Yeoman's Row, meanwhile, is also in southwest London and is described as "a quaint three storey cottage on a quiet little cul-de-sac off the busy Brompton Road, just a short walk from Sloane Square". Property magnates would be pleased to note that it is certainly cheaper than the previous property, with an estimated value of just £4,680,000. So that's good news for everyone, at least...

But I digress. So what is it that connects these properties? What possibly makes them of interest to a periodical that concerns itself primarily with academic analyses and scholarly articles related to horror literature and cinema?

Each served as home for a period of time (and in the case of Cadogan Place, as site of death as well) to screenwriter and director Michael Reeves. In his short life, he worked with horror greats like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, and notably directed and co-wrote The Witchfinder General before his death in 1969, aged just 25. As accompaniment for a piece in Exquisite Terror issue 5, Naila sent me images of each property and asked that I set about translating them into pencilwork.
I have no doubt that there are some people who very much enjoy drawing buildings, but I feared I was not one of them. The accuracy involved in creating straight lines and realistic angles and detailing the flat expanse of substance that makes up walls or windows... it just seemed like the opposite of what I have been trying to do in making my drawing and painting better, which is to create impressions of what is seen, not what is exactly there. It seemed sort of mathematical to me at first, rather than "artistic"; to someone who favours portraits over landscapes and often just skims in backgrounds without much interest, buildings seemed a lot more trouble than they were worth, frankly.

But of course I was wrong about this, and I'm glad I was. As ever, when you look at something properly and with care, you realise it isn't a box made of dull straight lines, but a shape composed entirely of light and shade. The brickwork, something I'd been dreading, turned out to be one of the most fun sections to do, and while it may have taken a while to get the proportions set, the fact I was drawing more straight planes than are found in the average human face transcended a chore and actually became fun. So there! Taught me a thing or two (as ever)...

Monday, 8 September 2014

A present for James

Colouring pencil
September 2014

A birthday present for a very dear friend, which took a lot longer than it should have because, try as I might, I could NOT get to grips with Vincent Price's head shape, a fact that is both stupid and humbling. This picture actually began life in pastel pencil but very quickly became incredibly frustrating and had to be thrown out and started again. I can see the appeal of pastel pencil in some circumstances I suppose, but honestly, it's so much nicer to have the fine detail and control of a regular colouring pencil, especially on a small scale.

Once it was done, I cropped it to fit in a landscape frame (about 16x10 inches) which helped balance the slightly squiffy composition. Not much else to say about it - I didn't quite capture Christopher Lee correctly and that is a shame, but hopefully Vincent will make up for it in the eyes of the recipient.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Brand logo - SonaMap

August 2014

I was asked to design a logo for an App in development at quite short notice; this was what was ultimately chosen as the final design. It was a surprisingly quick and painless process, because the brief was clear and gave me good sense of what kind of thing they wanted without being too prescriptive.

I wanted to include the symbol as part of the word to give it the potential to be used as a favicon, especially for smartphones where the screen would be smaller. From there it was just a matter of configuring the representation of the radar screen - circles or crosshairs, how many lines, positioning of the 'hits' and so forth. I don't have tons of experience with logo design to date (this is maybe the third or fourth one I've done properly) but I do really enjoy the challenge of condensing the information somebody wants to get across into just symbol, font and colour. That's an art form in itself.