Merry Drift-mas: 2016

Aieee, the image-making technique we do not speak of… Photography! Anyway, here’s some photos of this blog’s writer-gremlin doing some great big art at das supercool, independently-owned indie record store the Drift Record Shop in Totnes and having tons of fun in the process…

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016

I was painting (with real-life acrylic paint) the Christmas window at Drift. (I’d even go so far as to borrow my partner’s screen-printing ink hand-tray. Shh!)

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016

Working at this size after spending countless hours noodling over smallish bits of paper with varying sizes of ink marks was fantastically liberating. Look at the little twinkle in my bloodshot eye…

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016Cool records to be seen in the background, artist thankfully not in shot…

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016The idea behind this was to clobber people in the eye with the massive, bold design as they walked up Totnes high street. I drew the outlines with a chunky liquid chalk marker to get them looking crisp before proceeding to block in with good old-fashioned paint and a brush.

Click the Christmas robin to be taken to Drift's classy-as-ya-like Instagram feed!

The finished thing! The idea is that the robin is using his beak as a stylus. y’see… Yep, it’s rude, we’re trying to provoke some kind of reaction here…

Many thanks to team Drift for the photos! You can peruse their wares by visiting their website, here.

Subterranean Iron-Pick Blues

Little limited-palette digi-painting I did quickly after I’d just finished a long photo-shopping session. This is a Dwarf (yes, one of those Tolkein-esque fantasy things) from the indie game phenomenon that is Dwarf Fortress.

Digi painting of a Dwarf worker from Dwarf Fortress

He’s a worker of some kind and is just brooding away in the darkness at the bottom of the pump stack of his underground home, thinking about how he’ll only ever see sunlight again if he’s really lucky, and how he’ll be spending the rest of his life eating subterranean mushrooms…

I’d been curious about Dwarf Fortress for a long time after seeing it crop up again and again on the internet. It’s the game that inspired that Minecraft game you know, and it’s been called one of the most complex games ever made.
So when I had some free time after finishing the inking of the Evil Star graphic novel, I settled down with some tutorials and had a go. In ‘DF’ you’re in charge of a colony of dwarves who have to set up a sustainable home or gradually die. There are lots of ways for your little guys to die; be it thirst, hunger, madness, disease, infection, violence, violence by friends who have gone mad, wildlife, bandits, suffocating, trading disagreements, drowning, or more madness. The list goes on. And on.

I’ll leave Tim Denee to explain more about it, with the brilliant comics that really got me curious: Bronzemurder, Oilfurnace and Akrulatol.
There’s also a good intro here from a fellow called ‘Zweistein’. If you’re keen on finding out more, there’s ‘The Song of Onionbog’, the multi-media Fortress story ‘Bravemule’ and the ‘Glazedcoasts’ playthrough.

If you fancy playing the game yourself, get a New Player bundle pack – for Windows or Mac – and turn on the Ironhand graphics, ‘Soundsense’ sound pack and use ‘DwarfTherapist’ to actually control the little fellows.
Mostly though you’ll be needing some tutorials, which you can find here, here and here, and be prepared to spend some time on the Dwarf Fortress Wiki.

Real Things

I usually do a painting for my pal Jo for her birthday, here’s this year’s one:

World War One Nurse Painting

It might look like a colour rough to some of you, but each painting I do is an experiment of some kind or other. Spending so much time only dealing in black and white on paper drawing comics, it’s good to muck about with gloopy paint and colour for a change. I’ve learned to have some kind of concept of colour scheme, but not try to get into detail of form too much – the process of layering up paint for fun is an extended happy accident that you just have to go with. Too much or too little paint on the palette while you’re mixing can shift entire colour schemes, and blending on the canvas can get out of hand and knock out the composition, so you just have to acquiesce to chasing around a slowly-moving, colourful mess. What japes!

Great War Nurse Painting

Above is a scan of it. You can see the blues in this one. (Admittedly I’ve Auto-Levels’d it a little bit in Photoshop, but they are there.) One of the points of the exercise is to create a physical object, so it’s quite cool that the little painting looks entirely different in every scan, photo and snap. It would look completely different to these images if you saw it in the real world, and on top of that the light around at the time would flavour it even more.

WW1 Nurse Painting

This is probably my favourite digital image of it, a snap from Jo’s camera phone – the yellow light coming from a normal household lightbulb has actually pulled the colour scheme into a more orangey one. How about that? Plus you can see the brush textures a bit better.

(And yes, I’ve just put what’s basically the same image up three times. Ahem. We illustrators are bad for that. If it’s not the colour scheme of the piece we’re going on about, it’s the profiles for print on a computer, colour for print and RGB versus CMYK profiles, and then there’s the colour settings on the monitor too! It’s best just to leave us to our inscrutable alchemy.)

The painting’s supposed to be a nurse from the First World War, looking at over No Man’s Land at dawn. Joe does living history events on Edwardian times and ‘The Great War’, you see.

My own family history’s linked with those four horrible years, my paternal Great-Grandfather Ernest Robert O’Connor was a soldier who served throughout the entire war and managed to survive. He was in the Grenadier Guards and the Irish regiments The Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers. He even got a Military Cross medal. Apparently he was at the First Day of the Somme. In the morning there were about 450 men, and by the end of the day there were roughly 45 of them left.

Ernest Robert O'Connor

Here he is. It turns out I had a scan of an old period photograph that my family got hold of on my computer.

Did I mention he was a drummer boy in the Boer War too..? I have absolutely no idea of the horrors this man would have seen, or the daily terror he would have lived in. He then went off to fight in the Second World War with his son – my grandfather John – and the two of them survived that too. Just to provide for their families and their descendants so they could sit around on their arses doing things like drawing comics instead of getting a proper job.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Bankable Art for Banks

I asked my big brother what he wanted for his birthday this year and he said, “Oh some sort of bullshit art to go in my living room or dining room.” Hmm! After sitting drinking in the Bristol Ramada hotel bar at plenty of Bristol Comic Conventions seeing canvases on the walls like that and catching the odd ‘dribbler or splasher’ fine artist plying their trade in disbelieving television programmes, I liked to think that I was at least slightly familiar with the form. “Like bullshit corporate art?” I ventured. I asked what kind of colour scheme he was after. “Something like yellow, orange, red and blue,” he ventured in return. “Okay!” I said, realising that I was already getting over excited about what I was about to gleefully blurt, “I could get a canvas and actually chuck paint at it. That’d be fun, I reckon.”

So a trip or two out for supplies later (I reasoned that paint didn’t last as long when you were flinging buckets of it about with gay abandon), I got to work.
I put a few coats of gesso on a couple of canvases I’d gotten that’d make up the two by three foot(!) size bruv was after when they were put together, painted in a background with brushes, put on a few… ‘Abstract’ marks and shapes, and looking at what I’d done, immediately came to the conclusion that I’d completely messed it up and the aim of proving anybody could do hotel-grade abstract art had just crashed and burnt thanks to my own stoopidity.

The next day, I decided that the paintings couldn’t really get any worse, so it was time to start flinging paint at it, to let off a bit of art angst, if nothing else.

BS Corp Art

As soon as the watery paint flew out of the plastic pot in my hand, suddenly it looked like the project might work after all…

BS Corp Art

After the first lot had tried, it was time for the next splurge…

BS Corp Art

So I layered up all these splatters one by one with plenty of drying time inbetween, trying out different mixes of paint and pots to chuck it out of.

BS Corp Art

Being outside in the rare sunshine helped, but I was actually having fun. Fun! Artists don’t normally have fun…

BS Corp Art

As much as you can with a completely chaotic way of working, I was finally tweaking the odd bit of the canvases…

BS Corp Art

…Until I was fairly sure it was finished.

BS Corp Art

So the canvases could be hung together, or broken up and go in different rooms. Together or on their own, they had no right way up, no top, bottom or sides!

Bruv seemed to like it, and that was the main thing.

It was a laugh. It wasn’t some sort of art movement. Do my teeth grind if I hear about people being paid thousands of pounds for this kind of thing? Absolutely. What I do envy is the fact that they’re probably having tons o’ fun doing it compared to figurative artists.

I definitely won’t be adverse to lobbing some pigment about with a good underarm swing in my proper illustration work in the future though…

Holiday Haul

2006 is dead. We killed it. Long live 2006! Happy New Year, you lot.

Here’s some scans and photies of some artistic (eh?) presents I gave my friends for Chrishmash;

Throb Daddy

That’s a promo image for the greatest fictional 80’s Hair Metal band who never actually existed, ‘Throb Daddy’. Sample song title: ‘Get Your Rock Out’. I’d like to say thanks to the people who did the band ‘Dokken”’s artwork for most of the inspiration behind this. That and trying to crowbar as many cliches into one image as possible… Oh, and for holiday fun, try and spot the badly-concealed knob joke in this image…

Fight!

That’s a painting of a cat and a horse having a fight. Dressed as each other and wielding themed weapons… Eheh.

Art Nouveau

Mucha-me-do.

I don’t know either. That is a big stick though.

Bamf!

It’s No-Figure-Reference ahoy in yet another ‘Nightcrawler’ painting. I don’t actually like the X-Men or anything.

I like giving away unique little messes like this, it’s better than just throwing DVDs at people. And It gets me away from using pen and ink all the time…

Splurge

Three paintings I’ve splurged out in great messy daubs recently, all of them birthday presents for various peeps:

Mister Love Pants NightcrawlerFor a girl with a ‘Nightcrawler’ out of the X-Men fixation. Well, I might have cured her of it, the amount of blue-bloke filth I’ve drawn for her…

Manuel

This is, in actual fact, Manny from the PC game Grim Fandango!

Lincoln Invents the Laser - 1864

For a dude who’s getting played on BBC Radio 1, y’know.

(I’ve put the full painting title in the ‘Alt text’ setting for that image, in the hopes it’ll throw off some history student on Google some time in the future…)

‘Move-Find’

A little Art Attack:

Enjoyed daubing this out a lot, also started thinking I really should paint a whole lot more. Even if they are little medium exercises like this. Slopping paint about is fun, garshdarnit.
Realised half-way through it’s actually nothing but a repetition of an older motif. What can I say, I’m currently more obsessed than usual with the work of Akihiko Yoshida