Ye Old Nelson

Manchester is one of those cities where the old battles with the new. There’s a constant feeling of nostalgia jostling against the need for modernity. A short stroll around the city might reveal a glistening development thrusting towards the clouds, right next to 150 years of forgotten history.

I like many people would love to see these older structures converted into something usable. Enriching the city whilst moving it forward. As locals lament about the town planning, you can’t help but wonder what other complications and red tape surround the seemingly obvious and more beautiful answer to the problem.

A year ago I was walking towards Manchester from Salford (it’s neighbour and just over the river Irwell) when I came upon this derelict pub, Ye Old Nelson. It had all the charm of an industrial ruin, with exposed beams jutting out the brickwork and greenery sprouting through the damaged roof. I had a bit of time so got the old sketchbook out and drew what I thought was just another dilapidated building. Then a few months later, my friend sent me a message asking if I’d drawn the Nelson, as it had just been demolished! What a shame, although it must’ve been badly damaged. But still, it’s sad to see a building with so many stories erased from the city forever.

Manchester is moving so fast, but I hope it doesn’t get too greedy and erase its soul in the process.

Ye Old Nelson pub in Salford

A day filming with The Gadget Show

Several weeks ago I went down to Birmingham to try out the brand spanking new Dell Canvas, a sort of Wacom Cintiq if you will. But it’s all smooth and shiny and brand new, so it was great fun to just play with! Here are the guys tweeting about it ahead of tomorrow’s showing:

The Gadget Show tweet
Obligatory cheesy photo

If you fancy a laugh, watch me pretend to be a presenter tomorrow (Friday 12th May) at 7pm on Channel 5. Or if you miss it and you’re a SUPER FAN, go catch up on Channel 5’s website.

For anyone who finds my little space on the web after the show, say hi via the contact page and let me know what you thought! Cheers!

Misty eyed for the Liffey

Here’s an old sketchbook entry from when I lived in Dublin. I realise I was probably at my most creative there! Drawing all the time…must be all that Guinness I put away 🙂 It was a great time though, and I do miss those funny looking buses.

Sketch of the Liffey
Sketch of the Liffey

Life drawing archive

As I’m gradually sorting through the sketchbooks and bits for the new site here, I’m discovering an interesting by product: the ups and downs of the past decade of my life drawing.

You have those days when you attend a class and you feel it’s been a good’n, but when all those classes are condensed into one digital folder of snaps, you can see the gradual improvement over time. It’s pretty motivating stuff!

So here’s a few ones I’ve found that show variations in style and direction. More to come you lucky things…

Series of life drawing from 2006

Life drawing 2013


Charity Pet Portraits

I was going through a few old sketchbooks last night and there’s some interesting stuff worth posting or revisiting. You forget how many ideas you churn out in a decade or so of doodling.

For now though, I’ll post this from 2014 when I drew pet portraits for charity. All ink and watercolour. Surprisingly how many people sent me photos saying ‘if you can draw the one where he’s happy and smiling’ when the picture was of just a dark hairy blob! It’s funny looking in on someone’s life and how they turn their pet into family member (my Mum refers to her dog as my brother sometimes…)

Charity pet pics
My mum’s fluff ball, Harry is top left. Other favourite requests include classic dog poses and activities with the owner (top right!)

Stretford sunset

Storyboards – how cute can you go

I’m working on some development for children’s TV right now but found this whilst looking through old files. It was a storyboard project with a very classical Western animation feel to both the characters and approach to action. All in a beautiful wintery setting, so it’s in keeping with the weather right now!

Storyboards for a classically styled music video
Classically styled music video boards with overly curious animals

Happy new year!

Trying out a new toy…’Pencil’ by 53, the makers of a sketchbook like app for the iPad. The app they made (called ‘Paper’) is good for loose scribbles but has no layers or brush size adjustment, so it’s a little old school for some people’s tastes. The Pencil works well with ProCreate too, a brilliant illustration app. They’re cheap enough to buy both if you’re lucky enough to own an iPad.

Here’s what a hangover looks like:

Champagne bottle drawn on an iPad
The remnants of the night before. Drawn on an iPad using (get this) Paper and Pencil, the app and tablet stylus by 53…confusing!

Making Secret Santa gifts

Whilst I was away in Dubai, I went to a Christmas party with about 20 other ex-pats (and my friends Luke and Claire). It was pretty cool to be eating turkey, yorkshire puddings and gravy whilst sitting outside in the warm evening weather! The whole event was great fun and the people were all top drawer…very friendly chaps!

There was a little secret santa event (or whatever you call it in your country) and so I helped Luke out by painting a watercolour picture of his friend’s pride and joy, his old jeep. Now I love doing things like this. If you like to draw, paint or create in anyway, you’ll know what I mean when I say these presents are fun and really well received. It’s such a brilliant way to make someone happy and you get enjoyment out of it too…win win!

It wasn’t too difficult to draw this jeep as it had some distinguishing features (like the face on the side) plus I could make it recognisable with the colour scheme and slightly exaggerated shapes. I’m not a fan of those overly cartooned vehicle drawings but for me this was a ‘draw anything and they’ll love it’ project, so it’s no expectation and no pressure.

Pen sketch of the jeep
I sketched it out in pencil first, then inked over with a waterproof technical pen

We put it in a nice frame and the guy loved it. He sent Luke a photo when he got home showing it in pride of place!

Finished watercolour of the jeep
I carry a little watercolour set with me when I travel, so I just quickly added some colour. We cut it to fit the frame and DONE! It took about an hour in total to create.

If you are stuck for a gift for someone, I’d really recommend trying a drawing or painting of a subject they like (you can even do something abstract based on a favourite photo, using the colours or shapes as a starting point). It doesn’t matter where your ability is at, it’s the thought out process everyone loves and I think we could all do with buying a bit less ‘stuff’ that people end up putting in a cupboard never to use.

Happy holidays!

Dubai city living

I’m currently visiting my friends Luke and Claire in Dubai (have a look at Luke’s ace sunglasses company, so doing a bit of sketch journaling whilst I’m here.

I’ve never been to Dubai or the UAE before, but it’s a pretty interesting place. Past the fact that there’s this futuristic city in the middle of a desert, the whole culture is full of contrasts. The most interesting being the mix of a strict Muslim social bedrock right next to the liberal expat lifestyle.

Dubai high rise living

This is the view from one of the many high rises that have popped up in the past 10 years. Smudges of green in a sandy coloured landscape, with tiny spots of human colour. Going camping in Oman for a few days too, looking forward to that one!