Exercise: Your Own Work

Stuff in my Sketchbooks etc


My House line drawing. I like the balance in detail (or lack of it). It’s obviously a quick sketch but I recognise it.


This is kind of the opposite of the first house sketch – it uses more careful toning for the foreground objects but only light sketchy lines for the rest of the landscape. This fits my idea of how we see – the things that we choose to focus upon are in greater detail. I wuite enjoymaking realistic drawings but they take me such a long time to achieve.001_Page_4

It is the concept of this that I enjoy – the way that the HS2 train leaves shadows of the previously green trees in its ‘wake’ (shockwave).


These are sketches exploring the style of Jeremy Clarkson in his speedboat before painting it ata larger scale (about 5ft wide). The sketches managed to capture an abstraction of the sound and motion of the speedboat that I really like.


I struggle to say exactly what I like about this image – it’s a bit surreal but it communicated how I felt that day. The expression of that feeling through image is endlessly interesting to look at – it inspires more deeper thinking when looking at it.


The top left image above where there’s a black silhouette of a pylon and line in front of the coloured countryside is very pleasing. The contrast in colour and starkness between pylon and the rest has an impact and the un-framed nature and un-synchronised way that each of the image parts cut off at the edges is more interesting that something neater.

There’s a separation between pylon and countryside that is achieved that I like.


I find shadows important and sometimes don’t feel an image is complete without one. I’ve also found that shadows can be playful – different to the thin that casts them – without being less effective. Sometimes this is a way to add more effective meaning into the image.

This woman is fantastically interesting because of her odd element – the words in her mouth, the tatoos on her face, the 1000-yard stare. Again there is a mixture of more and less sketchy lines which seems to be a nice thing… space for the viewer to add something when they look?


The big number jumble – particularly the old-fashioned shapes of them – like non-lining figures.


This objective drawing of my shoe. There is a personal memory attached to this as it was possibly the first time I’d managed to find quiet time and space to focus on a still life drawing and achieve this much accuracy. So objectively this isn’t of particular interest in this exercise but I can’t help the attraction I have to it – I want it on my wall. Perhaps it’s just a landmark achievement.


The top melon skin pattern is particularly nice. It is a study of a fragment of the melon skin using fineliner and two green felt pens. I’ve allowed myself not to worry about complete coverage when using the greens and the result is more pleasing than if I had – it’s a second texture level.


The couple at the bottom right are sketched roughly to explore the idea of communicating an unequal relationship. I was pleased how well it came across in just the sketch – they eyes have it! There’s a lot of power in eyeline in imagery and subtle shifts can add a lot.


I particularly like the sunlight on the floor here. In photography there is an effect where you don’t notice shadows on the floor IRL but if you take a photo and look at it on the screen on the camera it becomes blindingly obvious!

In this picture the balance between the shadow and sunlight on the floor strikes a particular balance where one can focus on the whole floor and see it or focus on the sunlight and see that, which is what happens in real rooms quite often. The interesting part is the lightness of the shadow… the sunlight is just un-coloured paper.


Another one for the eyes. It’s effectively the same concept as the ‘unequal realtionship’. The folded arms and straigh-ahead-stare indicate ‘stubborness’ and the right hand delegate is quietly fuming (looking daggers?) at the immovable left hand delegate. I seem to remember when I drew this that it was based on something current.


The top image is a volcano spewing financial symbols. I particularly liked the colours – blended tones on the mountain.


When I was 7, after seeing Star Wars, I spent a lot of time coming up with ways to draw lazer beams emerging from ‘blaster’ guns, as well as rockets at the back end of spaceships. The flame effect – yellow/red teardrops – owes a lot to that. Later, when I learned about colour temperature and light emission in combustion I refined the way that I draw that kind of thing ensuring that the hotter parts of the flame were in the middle.

The real hero for me here is oil paints – vibrant colours and applyable with brushes, knives, spoons, forks, crew drivers… easy to blend. I enjoy the variety of textures left by sculpting the paint on the surface.


Here I like the synergy of the process with the product. To make the candle flames here I used a magnifying glass and the Sun to burn away the paper. I used a page from the back of my OCA folder (previous course; no disrespect intended!) because of the school-like connections… it was about being a boy (not a child, or a girl, a boy) in the 70s and burning things with a magnifying glass for fun. In those days the teachers ignored it as either harmless fun or actual contructive learning. (we had conkers on strings too, and playground apparatus with no soft ground underneath it).

Anyway, the feature I like about this one is the way that the process of using a magnifying glass tied up so neatly with the scribbled biro and the page from an exercise book… the target is like a game. It’s that boy thing.


From the same collection this is coffee-ring cake. It’s neat and messy too… messyness drawn neatly… light tones and simple but complicated shapes, like a map. If you took a detail out of this you wouldn’t knkow it was coffee rings – it could just be an interesting shape.


It’s just the shiney bit on the strawberry that I’m looking at here – I know exactly how it’s coloured in photoshop and the colour values of that area but my brain still wants to see it as the 3D shape because of the shine.

I’m both frustrated and amazed that the brain will play this trick… not allowing us to see the flat image unless we force it to.

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Ink. I’m very interested in ink but don’t really know what I want to do with it. This was a great opportunity and I like the effect. The un-controlled shape that results is appealing – I like the surprise and randomness of each light.

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The overall style of this image is interesting – it has a kind of ‘cave man’ feel and that of a ritual dance. I can see a world that might be developed using figures like this.


The right image is the photographic negative of the original drawing on the left. I liked the concept of drawing something in negative intentionally to use the colour inverted version. I feel like there might be a lot of colour texture that could be acheived that might be hard to do otherwise in the final requred colour.

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This is a painted wave (acrylic or oil, I’ve forgotten which). I find the texture interesting – there is more variety here through the on-paper mixing of the paint through the brushwork which all adds to the required effect. I was so suitable to use paint to get this effect.

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Another oil painting. Again – rich and beautiful textures acheived.

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This is just some doodling I did Idly wondering about drawing with white on black. I find it to be an attractive medium looking for a use!


The scan of this hasn’t come out well as the original picture is more smooth-looking. I find this style to be very attractive. Shading the colour in deep and light within each area changed the whole feel of the work and the opportunity to use more exotic colours where the plate rim and fish intersect makes the overall look more fun and attractive.

The real champion here is the colour shading… it makes an un-complicated design more… something… sophisticated, alive…

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the reduction of these characters to swooshes of colour sans neck, sans chin, sans nose… the two-and-a-half age of man. They way that the eyes look again makes everything work.

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It’s only very simplistic but the frame-story (what’s it called?) worked for me here, so the aspect I’m most pleased about is using the framing to help capture the story. Although I aspire to using much more creative shapes and dynamic action this was a good first attempt at something finished… there’s a nice start and end visual with the chef facing one way at the start and walking away at the end.

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This page is actually the origin of Sue and Chef. I like this page because it’s speedy ideas – rough characters. Some I like, some not so much but they have potential – I like that they exist!

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I developed another one of those characters here. I chose this because this absolutely hideous creature is… so nice! I’ve found a good balance of detail here again – not enough to take too long to draw but enough to completely convey the character at this level. The detail is consistent through the image too.

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So… these are characters designed by Lauren Child which I’ve re-drawn. and these…

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…are characters by Quentin Black which I’ve re-drawn.

I chose them because they demonstrate the strength of a character in spite of the artist! Although I’m sure that these two illustrators would find my versions quite far off their styles I am transported, through my own drawings, into the worlds of the original illustrators. I think that this works because of how strong the original character designs are… that even after being filtered through my pen that strength remains.

Piano Man B

This chap is a character from my Assignment 3 re-constructed using an appropriated collaging style. He’s here because I feel like he’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done with collage. Prior to this course collage was a bit of an awkward idea for me – I couldn’t see the point. But as time has gone on it has become more and more relevant as a technique until it’s strengths are inescapable. This is one of very few collages I’ve ever done but it attracts me as something new and interesting in style. As does this…

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…which is actually made with actual paper clippings. It reminds me that what a composition looks like really is up to the artist and is not dictated by the media.


This is not the final work but a rough stage. The conker and rosary beads are half finished Photoshop paintings and the rest is coloured charcoal on paper. I put them together roughly by photographing the picture using my iPhone in poor light. The effect of the poor image quality has added its own character to the image. So I chose this incomplete image because of that character – the added enhancement of poor quality photography… maybe I’ll know where to use it again for added effect.


Watercolour is a medium I struggle with because I’ve used it so little. But here I’ve found a new level with it. It includes a few places where I’ve put the water on the substrate first then added the paint to find a new effect. I particularly like the windows which are pale enough to not draw attention to themselves but textured enough to know they are glass.

Authorial Practice


I’m quite interested in the telling of a story with illustrations. This fits more than one area of Authorial Practice – The Children’s Book and the Fanzine – where the story may not be so linear or event driven, I can imagine it being several perspectives on an idea more than a start-middle-end format. Editorial illustration also fits but there’s the additional constrain of being a ‘reporter’ rather than an ‘author’ – the story is not fiction and can’t be changed to suit the narrative… although it can be given some ‘spin’.

The other areas are not unappealing – I can imagine creating a design for a skateboard (my daughter actually wants one so that’s an interesting inspiration, to make one for her specifically) which would be a suitable Fashion Accessory. Where my work has occasionally crossed into the ‘Art’ arena, such as the ‘SHUNT’ work, I could fulfil a Artist’s Print remit creating a single-frame story such as that one.

Those bold numbers that I picked out could serve (as they did in the first Assignment) as a decorative element for notepaper or a wall decoration for a child’s bedroom.

I’m going with….

Fanzine / Artists Book

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I’ve chosen these two images – primarily the traveller woman and the rich colours of oil paint as a secondary input, perhaps to use for background textures or additional dimensions of the piece.

Now I need a topic… a passion to follow or an idea to explore.

  • Detective work: “Watching the detectives” was an insightful 1977 hit for Elvis Costello observing the Western obsession with watching TV Detective dramas… normally riddled with violence and nasty villains. We wonder why we subject ourselves to these grimy episodes.
  • Talking of songs as inspiration… “You can call me Al” by Paul Simon (1986)… which I’ve already mentioned…

The three verses deal with [Paul Simon’s] experiences in [South Africa] – the perspective of a naive foreigner having the truth revealed to him and how it put other things in context. I can see this as one illustration or a series of illustrations (like a page from a graphic novel perhaps) per verse.

An excerpt from some prior ramblings of mine which were in direct response to tutor feedback… thinking about ideas in image form.

(Interestingly this is Editorial Illustration with different research! The song lyrics are immutable but open to visual interpretation in a way that a news story is less open to visual interpretation (in order to represent the actual news location) but no-one’s written the words yet)

  • Plenty of other songs that I could use…
    • She’s Leaving Home – Lennon/McCartney
    • Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears
    • Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty
    • Fuck You – Lily Allen
    • Drive – The Cars
    • She’s Always a Woman – Billy Joel
    • You an call me Al – Paul Simon

    OK… so this is just half my favourite playlist on Spotify… but it makes me a ‘fan’.. for a Fanzine!

After suitable re-listening to the music I’m going with either…

  • Gerry Raferty’s Baker Street as the inspiration for a series of images depicting the life of a worker in London who thought, like Dick Whittington, that the streets were paved with gold – but that’s an illusion and life is hard, cold, lonely and monotonous; he drinks away his earnings and wishes away his time.
  • “Drive” by The Cars as the inspiration for a series of images of a vulnerable girl who is surrounded by situations that might go horribly wrong. This song leaves a margin for interpretation as we don’t ever know what is wrong from the song – it is often interpreted as an ex girlfriend who is going of the rails, perhaps ‘partying without restraint’, but the lyrics are subtle and don’t explicitly pin it down.

I’m going to start to explore each of these and see which one grabs me more.

The Plan

Why choose when I can do both!

After extensive listening to these two pieces of music I’ve found a solution: Drive resolves Baker Street. Both characters are lonely and in need and the end of the cycle is that they meet each other and there is the sudden potential for a happy ending… perhaps he will drive her home tonight (if he’s sober of course… or at least share a taxi… oh… maybe they meet sharing a taxi!). Anyone ever see ‘Love Soup’?

Potential frames or pages:

Gerry Raferty – Baker Street

  1. Thinner intro to Baker Street… busy city-scape… people rushing and working
  2. The completely famous sax solo: golden sunset and appearance of our main character. “Winding your way down on Baker Street; Light in your head and dead on your feet; Another crazy day; You’ll drink the night away and forget about everything”.
    The scene is a London Street, Maybe near Baker Street station – I think Baker Street itself runs N-S, so no sun visible but the station is on a road running E-W with a tower block (Euston Tower) in the background. Extracting the roughness of the drawing to show tiredness, city-worn; wide street vista helping to make the man lost in this crazy day city
  3. “This city desert makes you feel so cold / Its got so many people but its got no soul / And it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong / When you thought it held everything”
    Alternate view of [lets call him Gerry] on the same street – lots of people around… perhaps show the streets paved with gold but it’s an illusion / mirage. Image of the younger self?
  4. Chorus “You used to think that it was so easy / You used to say that it was so easy / But you’re tryin, you’re tryin now /Another year and then you’d be happy / Just one more year and then you’d be happy / But you’re cryin’, you’re cryin’ now”
    Tagging onto the idea of the younger self in the previous frame… how Gerry’s confidence has left him.
    Thinking about how I’m going to make him Carina’s [From The Cars, so Carina] knight in shining armour he needs to be a worthy rescuer so I need to be careful not to divest him of all good qualities… just worn down.
  5. “Way down the street there’s a light in his place”
    Image of the pub and Gerry heading for it
  6. “You open the door, he’s got that look on his face / And he asks you where you’ve been, you tell him who you’ve seen / And you talk about anything”
    Inside is a barkeep and there’s a warmer, friendler moment – companionship, just one dring, warm and cosy pub.
  7. “He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land / He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands / And then he’ll settle down, it’s a quiet little town
    And forget about everything”
    Somehow during this exchange we see the other guy as a younger version of Gerry…
  8. “But you know he’ll always keep moving / You know he’s never gonna stop moving
    ‘Cause he’s rollin / He’s the rolling stone 
    Gerry who feels it’s all futile and that the younger man doesn’t realise yet what his future holds… just more of the same.
  9. “And when you wake up it’s a new morning / The sun is shining, it’s a new morning / And you’re going, you’re going home”
    So it is dawn by the time Gerry emerges from the pub and goes to find a taxi home. Perhaps foreshadow the meeting about to happen (at the end of the ‘B’-side).

Cars – Drive

Listening to this song on repeat (which is a great pleasure!) I’m finding that it’s not as narrative – it’s more poetic so the events in the song don’t create a sequence in as clear a way as Baker Street so I need a slightly different approach – some kind of visual poem where the time line is not clear.

The key to this song needs to be “what is THE problem… what is wrong”.

My first go at this fell apart because it ended up like Bridget Jones but without the girlfirends – she just became a pathetic singleton who needed Mr Darcey in order to be complete. Even Pride and Prejudice did not portray Elizabeth Bennet as a woman who would not be complete without a man.

My second thought was about loss and death – loss of a child perhaps. This all got too deep – it’s a very sad song but I didn’t want to make the disparity between Carina and Gerry so great that they would be an unequal match.

Loss of a parent perhaps… this is more interesting because we haven’t touched on Gerry’s parents – maybe he’s lost them too… and maybe that’s why he came to London. So this means Carina is grieving for her recently deceased mother and/or father and has no-one to talk to. This puts her perceived ‘irrational’ condition into a more natural context – she’s not insane (as the award-winning music video implies) but she can’t grieve because she has no-one left to share her grief with.

  • “Who’s gonna tell you when / It’s too late”
    Acceptance of death – when will it sink in? so she’s blocking out the truth, denying the existence of the tombstone, keeping that out of sight. Are there ashes on the mantle that still need to be scattered or interred?
  • “Who’s gonna tell you things / Aren’t so great”
    Give you permission to cry? She’s holding back the tears because no where in her life is there an appropriate space to let go.
    (Could also be someone who doesn’t help but points out that you’re a mess all the same!)
  • “Chorus: You can’t go on / Thinking nothing’s wrong / Who’s gonna drive you home tonight”
    When can you let go and allow yourself to grieve. When someone else is driving you don’t have to be in control – you can let go and be carried to your next destination.
  • “Who’s gonna pick you up / When you fall”
    Who is going to help.
  • “Who’s gonna hang it up / When you call”
    [See ‘plug your ears’ below]
  • “Who’s gonna pay attention / To your dreams”
    Set new goals… move forward?
  • “Who’s gonna plug their ears / When you scream”
    Just read an interpretation that suggests these four lines (pick – hang – pay – plug) are alternately asking who will help and who will not help… this makes sense if the quandry is about “who can I rely upon and who can I not”. This makes more sense and introduces an idea about being ‘frozen’ – unable to ask for help in case of rejection.
  • “Chorus: You can’t go on / Thinking nothing’s wrong / Who’s gonna drive you home tonight”
    You can’t go on like this… choose someone to help
  • “Who’s gonna hold you down / When you lose
    Someone to ground you when you can’t think… or is this an unhelpful act… rubbing it in when you have bad luck.
  • “Who’s gonna come around / When you break”
    Take the load of your shoulders and make dinner for you.

To make this work I need a series of actions for her to go through so that I can illustrate her doing something while filling in these details along with her actions. The final action is for Gerry and Carina to both hail the same cab at 5am, which they share and it is a new beginning for both of them(Ahhhh! A happy ending for a change).


What is the audience for my work… just me perhaps?

Well there’s a bit of it about…

Draw me a Song on Behance

69 Love Songs on howfuckingromantic.wordpress.com



Here’s the start of a character for Gerry based on my original approach. The tattoos on the face are interesting to me as I think of them as a visual expression of ‘experiences’ – a bit like we think of when we say ‘worry lines’ or ‘laughter lines’. To some degree it seems to be true that a persons face will show their life in its expressions and shape. The tattoo is an extension of this.

Already I like the way this is working out with outlines that are not ‘neat’ – in the same way that people are not ‘neat’ – they are complicated and this expresses that idea.

I’m also quite excited about how the oil paint is going to look in contrast to this. I’m now imagining that the scenery might be in oil colour making the characters stand out and there are possibilities with them being ‘out of place’. Another analogy is that ‘oil painting’ might be a ‘perfect representation’ of something… so the landscape may be fake – mis0represented as more perfect than it is. Getting in the ‘streets paved with gold’ idea is part of this, with Gerry thinking in the past that it ‘was so easy’.


Here’s Carina. She is a strong character in public… perhaps she’s an oil painting when she’s at work/out at the club… or just covers up. The vulnerability of grief is one she


It says here:Fanzine audience… anyone who watched Beb Geldof’s Live Aid


A fanfold (‘fan’ fold!) printed format would give a specific advantage to this particular project… each ‘song’ could be printed on one side with the story progressing tapestry-like from one end to the other.


This is a rough story-board of Gerry’s which revealed that there was too much detail in the back story. Showing all of Gerry’s childhood stages produces more story that there is in the song, which is the point. So instead of spelling it out I need to hint at things.

Interestingly ‘Drive’ provides much more scope for atmosphere and environmental ‘information’ and I wondered if I could use the context in ‘Drive’ to explain some of the left-hanging elements in Gerry’s story. For example, a specific tattoo design could be explicitly explained in Carina’s story after the same tattoo was left unexplained in Gerry’s.


I looked at some building sin Baker Street (or nearby) that could be used as background… Madam Taussaud’s has an iconic roof.

Research – Graphic Novels

I bought two ‘image firsts’ as research into the traditional approach to graphic story-telling: “Copperhead” and “Birthright”. These led me initially to look at the artists and I fond that even now in the days of digital design the work is divided between ‘artwork’ and ‘colorist’. I’m not surprised that the story is written separately. The words also seem to be added after the artwork by a ‘letterer’ – not sure yet if that’s before the colourist! Probably is.

The artist for Copperhead is Scott Godlewski http://scottgodlewski.com/ and I was fortunate to find some of the original Copperhead artwork for sale on his website, including one page from the edition that I’d bought before it was coloured and lettered.

Comparing the original black inke artwork and the final coloured version it’s possible to be impressed with the contribution of both to the final work. The original artwork really stands by itself creating contrast, perspective, shading and composition overall. The colour adds a whole layer of atmosphere on top – texture, shadows and glare as well as just colour. The end result appears as if both ink and colour were imagined together at the outset as they work together to create the final effect.

Jay Faerber writes a little about the brief of the letterer – this is  a whole separate design job within the production – placement of the speech bubbles and boxed text, the use of the font and emphasis. In this case the brief included the idea of this being a “western not a sci-fi book” (it’s off-world, futuristic, elements of steampunk and some of the feel of Star Wars in a few places). He talks about how the balance for a letterer is to make the “lettering distinct without them being distracting”. When I look back consciously at the book I’m surprised at how small the lettering is – how little space it actually occupies. Perhaps in my mind the words grew because the story is being told by graphics too.

I now have to go back a think about how each of the three visual artists used the words of the story in order to complete their part… the letterer relies on the ink to have frames laid out in the right places so that the words could fit in (in a story-telling way). I don’t suppose the artist has to explain his choices it to the letterer, he just has to be good and get it right.

What does this all mean to me?

From this research I’m making a connection between the process of an Illustrator/Graphic Designer and the team that put together this graphic story. Comics have a tradition and history behind them from which this division of labour grew… the story/words, composition, colour, lettering.Within other designs and illustrations I can see these being both separate and co-dependant  considerations for a single illustrator.

Not to suggest that all illustrations should take after the style of a graphic novel but seeing the artwork without the colour gives you an appreciation for what is under the auspices of that part of the design – the weight of black on the page, the choice to leave space for colour (or not), the various ways of introducing texture and shading. One important one I’ve seen here is the way that colour can be added without changing the underlaying arrangement of weighting and space that was described by the ink. The colours on a spread are often a selection of tints of just two hues.

It’s also common to see objects, even hair and clothing, changing colour from one spread to another in order to facilitate the colour design on a particular spread. Far from being a problem this, again, serves to support the overall atmosphere being communicated.

I think I’ve worried before that I “must think about colour” and I start to add it (like I have for this project) before I’ve got any kind of composition worked out. Perhaps I can just focus more on the composition and consider the colour later for some kinds of work, especially this one which is highly similar to a graphic novel.

What I should do in the composition is to think about where I’m going to leave space for the colour to do its work, and where I’m going to use black to create weight and texture.



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