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!

Your end of year kick-up-the-arse inspiration

I challenge anyone to find a video that inspires an animator, film maker or storyteller better than these precious few minutes of Ralph Bakshi.

Some people love him, some not so much, but you can’t fault his plain simple approach to getting something done and the ‘what’s stopping you’ mentality. I’m guilty of this too! I think it’s the fear you have deep down of something not living up to your expectations.

Ralph Bakshi back in the day
Ralph Bakshi back in the day, getting it done with no regard for fire safety

With the internet showing you the best of the best, highlights of the creative world if you will, it’s easy to feel like everyone else is better than you, and…well what’s the point of making something if no one will notice? But then that’s the side effect of wanting affirmation and fame…whereas most people do actually enjoy telling a story, they just forget it in the whirlwind of ‘inspiration’.

This video works for me because it speaks to the core creative being that is the 7 year old version of myself, watching films and just wanting to entertain and have fun doing it. Making up your own worlds, where pretty much anything can happen! Recent shows like Adventure Time SuperJail show that even ‘mainstream’ animation can still attract a huge audience.

Everyone wants a commission for a series or a feature contract…but maybe we’d be better just getting stuck in and focusing on the hard yet cheaper stuff (like character and story development) and just….well getting it done!

New site – the skinny

Finally I’m back!

I took the site down to refresh it earlier this year, but life got in the way and there’s always these growing ambitions about what your website should look like when you start digging. I had a think about what I wanted from it and decided just to get something simple up for now and customise as I need to. My ‘online presence’ has changed in the past few years, so this new site will reflect that.

So what will the new site be about? What kind of content can you expect to see? Here’s the skinny (as much as I love this phrase, cream makes most things taste better…but let’s not get onto that).

  • A place for my show/demo reel from my day job.
  • Somewhere to share the best bits of my sketchbook.
  • An online journal for tracking the making of films or progress of projects.
  • Anything else I find interesting around my career and work life balance.

The main thing is I’m a bit older now, and with a bit of perspective, I’ve not got the narrower purpose my website had 10 years ago (to get me a job!) although keeping my profile ticking over doesn’t hurt.

Sketching by Southampton docks
Sketchbooks help me remember things vividly and it’s kind of like meditation too! Even if you’re not a career artist or ‘creative’, everyone should have a go. Just try not to expect too much and have fun making lines!

If anyone reading this is looking for advice or feedback on their career in animation, just drop me a line and I’ll do my best to help. Although I don’t work for a big Hollywood studio, I’ve had some great guidance during my career so far, some of which will be useful for those starting out or changing paths.