Tuesday 11 December 2018

The dog digs up Earth in the front yard

Hi there!

Welcome to another fabulous blog entry! With your host...Well actually it's just me. Also the title will make sense, just read on.

I have recent artwork to share and I've started a new sketchbook, but what I wanted to start with today is some older published work.

To start with it was pretty big milestone for me. It was the very first time I've had work in a publication. It also felt great that it was supporting a good cause too! It was so exhilarating! I'll start with background though.

So I was approached by the Director of a local design company looking to commission some illustrations for a publication he was putting together. His client was Melbourne City Mission, a local Non-profit welfare agency supporting vulnerable Victorians. This publication has been going for at least 5 years and is targeted as a school resource book though their youth arm, Frontyard Youth Services. It's aim is to educate school aged children about youth homelessness in Victoria and the avenues the organisation can provide in terms of assistance. As part of the booklet, there are several real-world client stories featured - I was to provide visual context to these stories in the form of a before and after image of them accessing support through Frontyard.

It was my first time illustrating an entire 'story'. The first thing I needed to decide was which images presented within were the most catching and visually interesting. I must've read the stories many times to gauge what most stood out. While the stories are real people, the names have been changed and I had no description of the actual writer to go off, so I had to design the narrator/character as well. It was like trying to imagine what someone looks like when you read their emails or hear them on the phone! After that, the rest of my design process was pretty much the same as you've seen in the Whitney post. Here they are!

Click on any of the thumbnails for a larger image

I came up with a great idea to really make the characters stand out, and to give a good emotional sense of what the reader should be feeling at that point. I used colour to convey this. For the 'before' picture I focused on cool hues, (blues and cool greys). Then with the 'after' image it was opposite: Warm hues (purples and yellows). The narrator was then treated with an opposite colour to their environment., for example Ling is wearing a yellow top in a blue-grey office.

I'm not usually big on interior environments, I find it difficult to visualise a room spatially, but this project really called for interiors, so I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try them out. Overall I'm quite happy with the result and think it illustrates the stories quite well.

As per usual I couldn't help but stretch my penchant for pattern design into a couple of the images. The houses for Ling were tied to the sentiment left by the narrator about the importance of having a home over your head. Here are some flat versions

I remember how great it felt after I'd completed the work and delivered it to my client, but by the far the best feeling was having a copy of the publication in my hands and seeing the end result. It was just incredible!

Here are some shots of the final product. Aside from the illustrations any other elements remain copyright of their respective owners.

If you'd like to know more about Frontyard or Melbourne City Mission click the links!

Moving on, the other piece I have for you today is my newest entry in a series I try to do every year: Chinese new year. I've been a bit slack getting the last few years done, but here is 2018, Year of the Dog.

I'd actually started this one way back in January of this year, but could quite figure out how I was going to do the rendering. Even when I got up to doing the background relatively recently, I still spent some time trying to decide between drawing and painting it. There's good things that can be said for both methods, and I don't think I can ever decide on sticking to one method. I keep telling myself I should keep things consistent, but I'm starting to realise that it can also stifle creativity to think that way.

Time for some background. Like I recently stated on my Facebook page, one of the reasons I started doing Chinese New Year is that provides lots of imagery and constraints to draw from (pun intended). Making for a rather often unique outcome. This year is certainly an example of that!

The element for 2018 was Earth and not one I've illustrated as yet. Of of the main things I learnt about this element is that it's the balancing one. What I mean by that is it's both Yin and Yang, hence the balancing pose and precarious rock formation. It also symbolises nurturing and what can be more nurturing than raising a bunch of puppies? The whole breast-feeding thing came to me out of nowhere though. Aside from rock, when I think of Earth I think of underground and dampness, so of course I had to include moss and mushrooms. The eyes were a last minute decision. I usually leave the rendering of them as one of the last things I do in an illustration. I was going to with my standard approach, but I thought to myself: "This creature is god-like Reiko, the eyes should be extra impressive!" and what's more deep and impressive than Shoujo galaxy eyes? There are even some stars in there.

Other constraints and imagery from my research include the planet Saturn, the number 9 and using purple and red while avoiding use of blue and gold. If you'd like to know more, have a look at these wikis on Dog (Zodiac) and Earth (Wu Xing).

Here are some detail shots.

I decided the background should be a desert as it gave the best raw example of Earth, there are no plants to confuse it with the Wood element and it fit the colour scheme nicely, well that and I was probably channelling the homeland of Earth-benders from the fantastic animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is a very rocky desert landscape. I might have to look into trying my hand at speed-painting sometime.

As a bonus I also cooked up a flag version of the logo design seen on the Dog-mother's robes. Yes that is a dragon encircling Saturn. You even get to learn some Japanese!

The characters (From top down) read:

Ni - 2
Sen - 1000
Jyuu - 10
Hachi - 8


Inu - Dog
Tsuchi - Earth

The last two are the symbols for  the planets which date back to Byzantine times


I'm really happy with how this one came out. I love dogs, so this one was a real joy to work on.

Are you still with me? Oh my this was a big post, this must be the most images I've had in a single entry before. Thanks for reading, there's still plenty more to come. I know I mentioned a new sketchbook, but I might get to that in another post, this one has got long enough.

Thanks for reading.

See you next time!

Sunday 5 August 2018

Do we dream the same?

Uhh, so yeah...it's been close to a year since I've posted. No, it's not what you were thinking,  I haven't disappeared into some sort of inter-dimensional tear where everyone thinks art creates zombie werewolves bent on global domination. I mean, that would be one crazy story, but it's also complete fiction (this time). I do apologise for the long wait between posts, work has been taking more out of me than normal, but I'm hoping that will ease soon.

Instead, allow a post detailing my latest exploits into illustration grace you screen. I think you just might prefer that too.

So, the first piece I have for you today was created for a submission to a publication where the theme was one mere word: Dreams.

An illustration based on one word can be both a challenge and also extremely fun. On one hand it can be hard to come up with a good idea to fit the theme, but on the other it's always a great way to break out of your comfort zone and try something different: I often think of really different things I would never otherwise consider drawing and this piece is certainly no exception. Behold!

I started my design process thinking about things that are only possible in a dream, however I abandoned the idea pretty quickly as I felt that this would only lead to a confusing outcome and the link to the theme would be tenuous. I then decided to take a rather different direction; considering the many common themes people experience in dreams. I decided to see how many of the most commonly experienced dream images I could fit into one illustration.

See how many dream themes you can find in the artwork! Check your answers later in the post.

I always enjoy setting myself requirements for a picture. I often create a list of things that must be included when I'm sketching compositions. I find this a great way to work through the most important imagery and help develop the layout.It's a very methodical way to work, but it's what seems to come naturally to me.

It took me some time to get the composition right. I knew I wanted to strongly feature flight and falling, so I worked around that. I'm sure it's not gone unnoticed that sky features a lot in my artwork. I've always had a fascination with flight and that seems to transfer to my artwork.

Colour-wise I usually start with a main colour and decide on the rest of the colours with ones that compliment the main. I chose purple. I've asked many people. "What colour do you associate with dreams?" Some say black, but most say purple. so it was a nice, easy choice.

With the background, I was inspired by my first idea. I wanted to create a dreamscape, something accessible, but at the same time slightly odd. I settled on floating islands, I think it really helped the overall flight theme. The water is a common theme in sci-fi to give a visual representation of using technology to experience another person's subconscious, (think Ghost in the Shell). It is sometimes even referred to as 'diving'. You'll also notice ruins in the distance. I was inspired by some of the epic environments in the anime Bleach. Honestly, I really wanted to try painting some ruins and thought it would really fit nicely with the floating islands.


So how many dream themes did you spot? Check your findings here.


1. The teacher

The teacher himself is a major authority figure from our youth that can appear in our nightmares. The trigonometry textbook represents one of the most common themes I think everyone has experienced, forgetting to do school homework.

2. Revolver 

The teacher is chasing the dreamer with a gun, another common theme is a feeling of constantly running from an assailant that seems intent on doing us harm.

3. Food

Who doesn't like food? It's certainly the stuff of my dreams! Also it's a bit like the Portal cake.

 4. Spiders

Arachnids and other insects are very common. It's probably why they feature so strongly in horror movies. Pure nightmare fuel.

5. Fez & Gumboots

The clothing of the dreamer is that feeling of being under-dressed for a situation hence the mismatch of a fez (I'm a Doctor Who fan, so of course it needed to be a fez) with gumboots. Of course there's also that dream where you end up being in your underwear in a public space. Talk about embarrassment!

6. Quantum mechanics in ancient Rome exam

The only thing worse than forgetting to do your homework is feeling completely unprepared for a school/university exam. Especially when it happens to be on the most convoluted subject ever conceived: Quantum mechanics in ancient Rome.

7. The lover

We often daydream about romance and sex in our waking hours, so why should our dreams be any different? I'm not overly public about my sexuality, but I can always enjoy exploring it in this medium of illustration can't I?

 8. Snake arm cuff

Snakes and other serpents are also the stuff of nightmares.

9. Wasp sheet

Much like spiders (4). I find them particularly creepy myself. I haven't been stung in a very long time, so I'm mildly terrified of them.I chose paisley as it's a common pattern used on bed sheets.

10. The dreamer & Spitfire tattoo

A feeling of freedom is often experienced as free flight. It's that idea of the sky being without boundaries, as there are no walls, it seems open-ended. Hence the plane tattoo. Conversely, a feeling of falling can mean the exact opposite. Plunging into an endless abyss. I'm sure many of us have had those waking dreams where we feel like we've just landed on the bed after experiencing free-fall in our dreams.

11. The white rabbit

The white rabbit from Louis Carroll's Alice is a symbol of lateness. Most people really hate being late or having that feeling of being rushed (I know I do).  Almost everything we do in our lives is tied to the passage of time, so it makes sense that we would dream about it.

Did you find many? I hope you enjoyed this little game. I'll try to do more stuff like this in the future.

Since this work was going to be published, I created a short description.that was going to sit on the facing page. This was written back in October.

Dreams are such fascinating things, full of both wondrous and terrifying imagery. While their content can be as variable as there are stars in the sky, there are some common themes which seem to be universal to the human experience. Can anyone say they have never dreamed of falling or being chased by an unknown assailant? Or what about failing an exam or being inappropriately dressed in public?

 Well that's it for this post. You shouldn't have to wait too long for the next one. If you follow my Facebook  page you'll see I had some work published in a booklet developed for a youth homelessness organisation here in Melbourne. I have yet to complete a post about it, so look forward to it.

Keep drawing!

Saturday 24 June 2017

Desert lemons and a little red dot.

Hi Hi,

I don't know about you, but I think it's round about time I showed you some new work. Sound good? Let's get started!

My new work for today is a recent piece done once again for the lovely people at Happy. My subject this time around was Long Island band The Lemon Twigs. Once again, the scope being a landscape illustration to accompany a interview. These guys are full-on retro (both through music and style), so it was quite a unique one to work on.

Like with previous works, I'd never heard of the group, so like with the last two illustrations I've done, I gathered up their Youtube clips and left them on repeat, particularly while researching and sketching. I find listening to songs many times allows you to notice things that might not be picked up the first time through as well as discovering what really stands out in the imagery, (visually from the music videos and described in the lyrics). These make it onto a list (I like making lists) of things that I decide must be worked into the image. Then it's a matter of taking the elements and arranging them in a strong composition. It's a rather methodical way to work and probably the reason why I really struggle with whimsy and spontaneity when I'm working in my sketchbook. In short, I overthink things sometimes. Here's the image!

It's a little bit predictable to feature both lemons and a twiggy tree, but I just couldn't help it. My heaviest inspiration comes from the clip 'As long as we're together' I felt it really captured the glammy retro feel better than their other clips, which was exactly what I was going for. The colour scheme was perfect too. Soft pastel colours give that 'old school,' (do people still say that?) feel.

My first sketch just had both brothers standing next to each other, but I found despite the greater difficulty, I really wanted to draw Michael in a more animated pose. He's always jumping all over the place in the videos and it also makes for a more interesting composition.

Costume-wise I was originally going to go with something really full on, but decided on shirts. As always, I wanted to engage my penchant for pattern design and I thought it might be overkill to have costumes and detailed patterns in the one image.Even having complex 70's drop-repeat patterns on both their shirts made the eyes jump all over the picture, so I simplified Michael's patterning to just spots. It keep focus on Brian's shirt and leads into the rest of the image.

For the background, being a quick turn-around I needed something quick and easy, but also something I could practice painting with. I'm still relatively new to background painting, so it's one of my major goals this year to really get a handle on it. It'll really open up many more possibilities for things I want to create in the future. Desert was great for this: It's relatively flat and uncomplicated, but still has lots of hue and texture changes. The tree was also quite fun to do. I was going to paint it from scratch, but since I wanted it to stand out a little more I kept outlining in there.

Screen-caps from Happy's website where the article was featured when it was published in April. It was even featured on the homepage for about a week, which is pretty awesome.

Read the full article here.

Thanks to Happy and Tom Cameron for the opportunity.

In other news, I've made a sale! Down goes the auction hammer, BANG "SOLD!" - Though it wasn't an actual auction of my work, who can't help but imagine such a scene?

Back in May I had a piece of my work featured in a group exhibition held by Illustrators Australia, (or IA for short) in Collingwood Gallery, here in Victoria on a lovely Autumn day.  It ran from May 5th to May 30th and was called 'paper to pixel.' It was certainly a good turnout of illustration talent; 68 amazing pieces of art were on display, each one more different than the last. Check out photos from the opening night of the event on IA's facebook page here. The exhibition was even featured in the weather segment on channel 10 (a major television network here in Australia). It felt pretty cool to have my artwork featured on TV, even though it's not like it was dominant in any way.

Many artworks had already been sold by the end of opening night, which was great. Little telltale red spots stuck next to the works indicated a sale. Unfortunately, my work was not among them.

That was until early June when I received a congratulatory email from IA saying that my print had been sold! I was super ecstatic. I was having lunch in the meal room at my day job casually checking my emails when I saw it. I did a little dance in my seat and probably looked really weird to all my colleagues surrounding me. The money didn't feel that important, it was the recognition that did it for me. Imagining that someone looked at my artwork among all others in that gallery and said "I want to buy this" and spent their money on it. Thank you, whoever you are! Something that I created from nothing was worth something to another. It. Was. Fantastic.

The work itself was going to be a new piece I was working on specifically for the exhibition, but I challenged myself a little too much, given the limited time I have in my life for illustration. It's based on a project for a client that fell through, for which I'd already done some designs and sketches for. I really don't like discarding things I've put time into, so it was a perfect candidate for the exhibition.Time however, did not allow it's completion, so instead I had to quickly chose one of my recent works.

Remember this one? See the full blog entry about it here.

I'm a proud member of IA, see my portfolio page here.

Well that's it for another blog entry, I've been doing some sketching lately which I should be uploading at some point in the not-too-distant future, stay tuned for that. I'm not sure if I'll make a new blog entry, but it will definitely get a mention on social media. I'll also upload it into my sketchbook section on here.

Other plans for the future are a couple of designs I thought would make some great t-shirt. So I've thinking of vectoring them up and submitting to Threadless. I've got some other stuff to finish first however, so not sure when I'll get to that.

Thanks for feasting your eyes.