New website

Pink 70s phone

I painted this bright pink/red 1970s style phone in ArtRage 4 which has an excellent new painting mode called ‘workbench’. Workbench puts all the tools you need into a strip at the top of the screen. I took the idea for this piece from my sketch book, traced the outline and have been painting it up using the ink and oil brush.

I love last centuries old landline phones, each design speaks volumes about it’s time. This is a ‘futuristic’ 1970’s style phone. So expect more in the coming weeks.

This is to be the last post at after some years I’ve decided to shift my blog and create a portfolio illustration site at…

I’ve owned this URL for a while and decided it was time to push forward make a better promotional platform and outlet for my illustration work.

It uses a custom self hosted setup of WordPress which means I can more easily update the main web site and manage the blog in a familiar environment. Which should mean more time for image making. It also means that the website and blog are configured for viewing on phones, tablets and laptops without lots of extra shenanigans and publicising new work is a breeze.


Catcher In The Rye for the Forbidden Planet competition

Catcher In The Rye cover illustration for the Forbidden planet competition.

Forbidden Planet have now put up all the entries and I love the diversity of the work presented. There really is some very different and interesting approaches to the challenge.

So for those who’ve missed the discussion Forbidden Planet has been running a competition in the last couple of months to showcase what London illustrators can create in terms of book covers after some less than complimentary comments in Melanie McDonagh article in the Independent earlier this year.

The discussion about modern illustration went something like this.

Starting with the original article by Melanie McDonagh back in January.

Personally I just think some individuals are living in a bubble, don’t look beyond there own network of connections and frankly a lot of very lazy journalism is churned out. Sadly this is one such example.

Sarah McIntyre then responded.

She had some very salient points, especially for me, the idea that good illustration is not about drawing accurate portrayals it’s about visually encompassing the idea of a text in a way that makes it enticing to a potential reader.

Finally Forbidden Planet weighed into the debate and set a competition to show the diversity and ability of London’s illustrators.

Perhaps we as readers and artists need to challenge publishers the world over to commission more illustration from the amazing pool of talent instead of using stock photography as the default. Just a thought.

That essential studio space

Sketches to inspire me to find that perfect studio space…

Steaming rocket launch

This one I started to work into a proper Photoshop painted image as I just love the bulky steaminess of it.

Unlike many of my fellow illustrators I find it almost impossible to work at home and not just because I’ve no space.

Bricks, water and sky

Making drawings and paintings with a mixture of digital and traditional methods means I need somewhere I can sprawl and leave it set up.

Stacked spires and brick

These are just a few of the recent roughs I’ve been sketching up – mostly in cafes, on the bus or anywhere other than in the house.


They are a joy but I find the distractions of home too much so here’s to finding an affordable work space for my art.

Emily Barker and Jo at Guildhall June 2011

Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo sketched at Guildhall as part of the City of London Festival  last week, more brilliant Australians.

Sketching people is great and but it was quite a challenge as they swayed and played so it took a lot longer than other public sketchyness does.


Technological entanglement hand swipe

Not exclusively created for Illustration Friday this recent work seemed appropriate to this weeks theme. People and technology are entangled, how far are we willing to go. A swipe payment system integrated into ones arm certainly has a certain yuk factor!

Starting life as a pen and ink drawing in my sketch book I lifted it into Corel Painter and worked up this full colour rendering. Painter 11 has a more responsive feel and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the tools.

My project for my MA has become about exploring the issues of technology and biology.  Everyday scene’s with ever more encroaching technology. Surely living in London with all it’s creepy camera’s and surveillance machinery has had an effect.

It works as a topic for illustrations!

Digital Painting Research

Ivan Sutherlands Sketchpad in action, the first computer based drawing system.

Ivan Sutherlands Sketchpad in action, the first computer based drawing system.

I finally completed my research paper on digital painting last month and it was a revelation.

I now have a much clearer idea of what I need to do to meet my goals. Not for the faint hearted I have to learn to paint using traditional methods – either in a digital or physical environment, or both – sharpen my drawing skills and find time to produce work for my MA as well as keep working to pay the bills!

The day after handing my paper in I went to see Ray Caesar’s work in the flesh at the Art London exhibition in Chelsea and had another revelation. Digital (giclée) printing seems to have advanced quite dramatically and some of the work had a textured lacquer that made the work look more painterly.

Regardless seeing these prints was impressive and cemented the real art of his work. The detail and compositions were superb and are pretty jaw dropping in person.

Interestingly Caesar’s work was, for me, among the most cutting edge work on show. His choice of content and technique are challenging and made much of the traditional painted work on display look tired. No matter how much talent is poured into traditional style oil paintings they seemed to lack the vibrancy and inventiveness of Caesar.

There were some other interesting piece’s at the exhibition and next time I vow to allow more time to get round the whole show.

Sutherlands vision of a computer based drawing system is realised by the likes of Wacoms Cintiq drawing screen.

Sutherland's vision of a computer based drawing system is realised by the likes of Wacom's Cintiq drawing screen.

Also as part of my research paper I brought Don Seegmillers ‘Advanced Painter Techniques‘. Seegmiller is very popular with the concept art crowd and this book has extremely practical advice on using Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop to make images. His techniques are strongly rooted in traditional painting being built up in a similar way and he uses the language of traditional oil and acrylic painting throughout the book.

One of the other key concepts that I encountered from traditional UK painter Will Rochfort was the idea that it’s completely acceptable to abandon images that aren’t working. I’ve been working on a couple of pieces that seemed like a good idea in sketch form but whose composition hasn’t worked as painted pieces. The question is do you trash the working files or archive them? A traditional painter might reuse the canvas but in digital this is not necessary.

Hockney was considering destroying the original files of his recent digital work – this would certainly affect the value of the first runs of his digital prints and raises all sorts of interesting questions.

I’ve also joined Wikipedia so I can edit the ‘digital painting‘ entry which is missing much of what my research revealed about the subject.

Lastly in the words of my mate Phoebe (and Camberwell Arts MA graduate) talking about the research paper ‘you can see why they make you do it’. Yes absolutely it has been key to pushing my practice forward.

I found it incredibly challenging not being an academic writer, I still don’t know if it made it over the line, maybe no news is good news!

Cyberman final and comments


Seems like I’ve been working on this forever but finally it’s finished.

The concept is Matthew Savage’s vision of the Cyberman as presented in his tutorial for ImagineFX magazine. The video tute did seem to miss out some details and ended before the image was finalised but it was enough to get a decent result from.

I now feel like I have much better control of Photoshop as a means of digital painting and some new ideas on how to intergrate found and photographed textures.

I especially like the techniques Matt presented for distressing the metal and quickly adding points of details with the screws, grooves and scratches.

Although I’d prefer to be working on my own images I felt I had reached an impasse as far as the methods for creating the type of images I wanted to produce.

This seemed like a good way to break the impasse and I feel much more confident digital image making. I now have a better grasp of the language of digital art and can’t wait to get started on my next project!

Cyberman finished art