Thursday, 29 November 2012

Let me design your coffee

I love coffee and I love art. One allows me to do the other, which allows me to buy the other, and so on. It's a love circle. Or love tennis. Whichever analogy works for you.

So naturally, when I came across this Threadless contest (my second in as many weeks), I had to enter. This time, I have more than two weeks to gather a bunch of friends, family and kindly strangers who will click the link, sign up to Threadless (very quickly) and rate my design FIVE! A little comment would be lovely, too.

The winning artwork will be emblazoned on the bags of the official Threadless blend at Bow Truss Coffee in Chicago. Given the relatively recent turn of the season and the appeal of coffee in cold weather, I went with an autumnal motif, with cute characters. I think it suits the product well, but I need your help to make it happen.

Please click HERE and do the necessary! Here's my design:

Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas portrait season!

It's almost that time of year which we all either look forward to or dread. Either way, it's going to happen so you'd better make peace with it.

One way of keeping the Christmas season fun and fresh is to commission me to create a portrait of either yourself or a loved one (or someone you can't stand, though why you'd do that I couldn't say)! From now until the 21st of December, I'm offering my arty portraity-type services to individuals and groups, so get your orders or requests in ASAP before I'm fully booked!

This could be a marker sketch (which will be sent to you by mail) or a digital illustration (emailed to you in high-resolution). Prices on request.

I'm also offering my marker portrait services to Christmas parties in Manchester! If your office is holding a shindig in the Manchester area, why not contact me about being the resident portrait artist for the evening? Similarly, if you manage a Manchester venue and want to offer additional value to your list of Christmas party highlights, contact me to see what we can work out! It'll be a unique addition to the usual tomfoolery and should be a great laugh to boot!

Here are a few I've drawn in the not-too-distant past:

Saturday, 24 November 2012


Spent the morning making Dude, my new design. A few more angles and I think I'll submit him to one of those toy design sites.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


And a cry for help, to boot! Aren't I just a horrible person?

Short version:

I entered the Threadless Spider-Man t-shirt design contest and although I made the deadline, I somehow have less than half of the allotted time to collect votes (it's one of those contests you win by being popular and something of an internet promotion whore). 

So here's the deal: See the picture below? That's mine! It could be on a mass-produced, officially Marvel-sanctioned t-shirt, but only if YOU click the link and rate my design 5 (or $!!! as it is also known). It requires you to sign up for Threadless, which I have been assured is very quick and painless and I imagine will not mean that your email address is somehow obtained by a swarm of killer bees which will fill your face with their beeness.

Then the next bit, please tell your friends to do the same. I'd love to see my work on an actual Marvel shirt (also, the prize money would be very useful in terms of keeping me alive) but I'm at a massive time disadvantage and there are only 2 and a half days left to vote. Your help really could change things for me, at least in the short term.

No pressure, like.

LINK FOR VOTING (and make it a 5, you scoundrels...):

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Tarzan got out of hand

The downside to working almost exclusively digitally is that sometimes my mouse's batteries die and I have to wait a while as they recharge, stopping my workflow for a couple of hours. (Yeah, I could charge them overnight but if something went wrong and the plug exploded and my flat burned down as I slept in it... well, where would we all be then? Eh?) 

Today, as I was waiting for said event to conclude and Crocodile Dundee was on TV, I started sketching Tarzan based on the fact that one of the characters in the film said the name. I only had a cheap biro and copy paper to hand, but that's sometimes a lot more conducive to quality work (less pressure to get it right, I suppose).

Added some quick colours in Photoshop, ate a pizza and voila! Tarzan!

Friday, 16 November 2012

What kept me going in 2012

I blogged last year about some of my favourite artists. This was mostly a list of who has informed my work, helped define me in terms of influence and flat out fearlessness and passion. It's time I did a sequel to that post.

This time, I'm going to give you some insight into who/what has kept me hungry this year for what is essentially a very scary existence, making a living through art.

Jamie Smart

The bloke is a legend in my mind. An inspirational thinker and hard worker who genuinely cares about comics, not just working in comics. (Yes, I'm not really drawing comics anymore, but the Ultra-Bionic Wonder Sheep submission I sent to The Dandy and now The Phoenix is probably due to the enthusiasm Mr Smart radiates. My first exposure to Jamie was when I bought Bear #2 from Forbidden Planet New York in... must have been 2003, I guess. I was squatting at a friend's tiny apartment and remember being in stitches at the humour and dying to delve further into what appeared to be counter-culture comics (as a frame of reference, at this stage I was sketching Daredevil in the vain hope I could get a job at Marvel). That's what I like about Jamie; his work is subversive but somehow entirely charming so you never feel seedy after reading it. Good job too, as he's currently helping to subvert the minds of Britain's youth with his various strips in The Dandy and Bunny vs Monkey in The Phoenix.

Adam Reed

It's no secret that one of my life ambitions is to create an animated sitcom. Adam Reed has created several. Sealab 2021 and Archer being firm favourites. In a world where comedy animation is still generally looking to Mat Groening and Seth McFarlane's properties as the gold standard, Reed's shows come from an entirely different angle. For one thing, they don't use the tired 'suburban dysfunctional families' as their setting. But the humour... god, the humour. Off-kilter, acerbic and snappy. On top of that, Reed employs a variety of art styles (Sealab used old animation from the old show Sealab 2020 and played with it to great effect), all of which have more effect than the ever-so-slightly amended McFarlane work.

Billy Connolly

Huh? Yeah, you might think this has no relevance to a freelance artist, but I'm inspired by Billy Connolly's attitude and his life story. On a personal level, I think he's hilarious and have done since I first saw An Audience with Billy Connolly (which I must watch at least once a year even now) from 1985. When I realised that everything I've seen of his work since then has been made after he turned forty, it gave me a lot of faith in my ability to make it over the age of thirty (I know he had success before that show, but nevertheless). Sometimes, you see your peers outperforming you by a long way and at a stupidly young age and it makes you cry a little bit, but it really doesn't matter. Anyway, watching Connolly's documentaries, I love how much enthusiasm and humour with which he approaches everything. Even if it's just for the cameras, I'd rather see that than the typical moans and complaints that surround us on a daily basis.

There are many others, including my friends and family who have never once said that going freelance was a silly idea or too risky; the artistic community in Manchester which I'm proud to finally feel a part of; the vast majority of my Twitter feed who can be inspirational, hysterically funny, supportive and intelligent all at once; the various creators of the ridiculous amount of entertainment I consume (including, I must admit with a little bit of shame, the people behind How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, which are familiar friends after a long day at the monitor/desk)... the list goes on. But the above examples are people who, this year at some point, have made me redouble my efforts and actively turn a corner into a more productive and successful place.

In lieu of a Thanksgiving in this country, this blog post is my tip of the cap to the good things and good people of 2012 (and past years, too).

Saturday, 10 November 2012

You should be Danson

Holler. Yo yo yo. Guten tag. Salutations.

There are a lot of things happening behind the scenes at the moment, so I should probably start updating more often with my warm-up sketches and stuff so the blog doesn't die. There's nothing more depressing than a dead blog (other than a hell of a lot of stuff).

Today's warm-up is a quick portrait of 80s Ted Danson. You might call it random, but Cheers is being shown from the beginning every morning right now and I'm loving it, so there you go.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Best week of my life!

This is not a particularly productive blog post, but I rarely make a song and dance about how excited I am.

On Friday 26th October, I participated in a live drawing session in Manchester's Soup Kitchen to benefit Movember. It was about raising awareness rather than money, and to direct people to Gallery Of Mo, a website where you can get a moustachioed portrait of yourself in return for a donation to help fight pancreatic cancer. What a good deal.

For myself, it was a bit of a departure! As I'm sure you have noticed, most of my work is digital in nature and here I was (along with a bunch of insanely talented artists such as Chris Howker, Craig Knowles, Emma Reynolds, Eight Bit, Pete Obsolete and Oliver Lancaster Smith) drawing marker portraits of people right in front of them!

Frankly, it was more than a little nerve-wracking, but totally worthwhile and great fun. I even got to draw Olympic taekwondo bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad and grime/rap artist Blizzard. Plus, free bar (always good for a starving but beer-loving illustrator).

How to follow that?

Well, how about a trip to That London to deliver my Polyphonic Spree posters for their Halloween gig?

The show was incredible, with a reduced-in-number but still energetic and optimism-charged Spree belting out two sets, one Rocky Horror, one Polyphonic Spree (and The Who). Ticker tape cannons, huge cobwebs, glitter rockets, Light To Follow (one of my all-time favourite songs)... immense. What might have pushed it over the edge was that I had an Access All Areas pass, which meant I had a beer with the band in the green room and later, following a (very) rapid period of reportage sketches, I met Tim DeLaughter and Buffi Jacobs from the band and handed them their sketchy likenesses as (possibly backhanded owing to the quality of my linework) thank yous.

There were a few posters remaining from the gig, which I'll be putting up for sale either here or maybe on a bigcartel site just as soon as I can figure out postage costs and get some poster tubes big enough.

In the meantime, you can pick up the live recording from the gig here: if you want. Yep, I can add Spree CD cover art to my CV, too!

Here endeth the self-indulgence.