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Showing posts from 2009

Happy New Year!

I know this blog isn't actually very busy at the moment, but for those who stumble onto it, i'd like to wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2010.

Most years start off with good intentions and 2010 is no exception. I'm going to channel all my energy into ONE project. If a paying illustration job comes along, (he says on his knees in prayer), then all well and good; but I am going to start this project from the ground up, documenting my progress as I go.

I have always avoided paying for domain hosting etc but that is surely a reflection of my lack of committment to a cause. This time I'm going to develop a site with a built in blog, galleries, podcasts, videos evrything to involve and hopefully interest people in the projedt.

I'll probably start with a mission statement, preliminary concept sketches etc. There will be weekly story updates, WIP's, instructional videos. I'm getting things together and hope to launch some time in January:)

Next year...

Has got to be better. Maybe not in what happens but in how I deal with things.

I've had a bit of a dabble in a couple of creative disciplines this year and it has given me a better idea of what I am going to do next year.

I think I need to work on ideas as a whole package, not just creating a sculpture or an image in isolation, but creating whole concepts. I need to work on a narrative which captures the imagination, something which the public will buy into.

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

The Gauntlet...

...has been thrown down. And I feel compelled to pick it up.

A college moderator came to the ceramics class today, puffed up with her own self-importance. In the manner of the head of a government quango she extolled the virtues of the course over which she presides. She cut a figure not disimilar to Dolores Umbridge in physique and disposition. Sickly sweet unnervingly familiar.

"Oh yes she said your work is wonderful way in advance of this level two class. But not quite up to the standard of a level three, (almost equivalent to an A level!)".

There were palpable intakes of breath from fellow students around me. This comment came not long after my ceramics tutor of 18 years experience was humbling me with arguments in favour of exhibiting and getting commissions for my work.

Anyone who knows me would realise that I am my own worse critic and feel humble to the point of embarrassment when my work is praised. But this was like receiving a stiletto to the heart.

I am done with ap…

Final Xmas Card Images

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Here are the final images sent off to the printers. The second one being for the inside.


Xmas card 2009

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I have been busy lately with this and that. Can't say that I have settled on my career direction for next year yet. I really need to sort out some studio space, possibly I need to rent somewhere. I'm tinkering at the moment with a number of things, but nothing to the quality I hope to produce.

In the meantime I have been working on this years Chirstmas card. A bit of cropping and text adjustment maybe necessary.


Sculpture Adjustment

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I haven't had much time to devote to this but I'm going to have to start taking my sculpture a bit more seriously. I need to be more methodical in my approach using reference photo's and actually do some sketching before getting to the actual sculpting bits.

I have raised the figures and have roughed out the hands. I will define the sculpt quite a bit more and fire it. I'll just put this one down to experience and do a better job on the next.


Back to work

I hope everyone had a great Samhain.

My Blog has been a bit quiet this week. It's been half term so I have been doing the family thing. Normal service will resume next week.

Illustrationwise I'm hoping the Art Editors at Macmilan's are going to accept the ammended images I submitted to them. Things have the habit of dragging on when it comes to the world of publishing.

I have been emmersing myself in the world of ceramics. Normally between jobs I would spend my time working to improve my skills in digital 3D. I thought it was about time I devoted all my time to producing something tangible. I hope to show you something I've been working on, in the next couple of days.

Global

'Global' in the context of Illustration is a word I do not like. I just got the comments back from the editor on the Camel brief. In one of the first illustrations he wanted the sand to be more yellow and the sky lighter. There are several other changes required but I thought having to make the alterations to a few illo's wouldn't be so bad. But that innocuous word 'global' means I have to apply the changes to EVERY illustration, all 40 of them. And they want the camels eye to be yellow! I didn't come across any camels with yellow eyes in my extensive research. But somehow I must think of a way to give them what they want.

...is the customer always right?

Shifting Sands

I thought the title was apt in the light of my recent work:¬)

I always get the feeling of arriving at a crossroads when I finish a commission. And this time is no exception. Last time round I spent a lot of time learning CGI techniques. To me it's like climbing a slippery slope. Just when you think you have got up to a certain standard, another piece of software or technique comes along to send you sliding down again. So I've decided to allot the time available to making real stuff. I'm talking tables, mantle clocks, sculptural forms which serve a purpose other than just aesthetics.

I started on a figurative study today. As I stated before, I am only any good at something my heart is into. The sculpting felt natural to me and I hope it will reflect this. I'll post some WIP images soon.

Oh My Gourd It's A Ring Holder

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Well it could be I guess. As I don't have a potters wheel. I'm basically rolling out the shapes on a board. This ended up kinda gourd shaped. Because these 'block pots' are solid initially, when you slice through them to form a lid you can guarantee the lid will fit the base.

It's the surface finish of the form which should bring it to life. We have been shown how to use liquid slips, (watered down clay) to add colour to the clay's surface. And how to use Sgraffito, (scratching through the slip to reveal the clay beneath). But I am looking forward to trying different glazes,. oxides etc.


First Pot WIP

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I guess it looks a bit naff so far in the raw clay, but believe it or not this is the beginnings of an incense burner. The coiled section is the lid and will double up as the snuffer. It's a variation on a simple pot we were shown how to create in the first of my ceramics classes. You basically create a form in solid clay, slice through with a cheese wire to form a lid, then after it has become leather hard, hollow out the inside.

It is still very wet, but once dried I intend to fire it with some kind of metalic glaze for the lid and a matt blue for the base.

Or:

This is just one of the required exercises on the course. I don't see myself making a habit of producing a lot of pot like objects:¬)

Tomorrow I'll be starting a sculpture which is more within my comfort zone:¬)

The Last Of The Camel Illustrations

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These were two of the last images I produced for the brief. I opted to use aluminium foil for the pool in the bottom picture instead of using CGI and just used a couple of filters in Photoshop. The gravel/soil I ordered for the ploughed field had to be sent from France in the end. It arrived on the day the illustrations were required; which would have been ok had the colour and texture been suitable. Unfortunately neither were. I had to rely on pure CGI in the end. It was all a bit of a rush, but I hope I got away with it.


I've spoken to my Agent about the possibility of writing and illustrating more Rudyard Kipling books. It obviously depends on how these are received. I have been attending a ceramics course for the past couple of weeks. It is only 2 hours a week but it's full on in terms of learning techniques. I also joined to see if I could make new friends. Unfortunately the class is made up entirely of women most of whom I don't think I relate to, but a couple seem to …

Facelift

I decided to give my Blog a bit of a change. I'm afraid I get quite bored with things being the same for too long. But maybe that's a good thing.

I'm Free

For the first time in three months I am free to do what I want. Just in time for the cold weather to set in:¬(

Where did the summer go? That's the problem with having a contract that runs from July through to September.

Choices, choices, choices

What to do next? I think I'll clear the decks and get all that sand out of the crevices, (it really does get everywhere).

I am thinking of several options including ceramics. I'll talk about the ceramics course I'm taking in my next post - it does offer some inspiration.

34 Down...

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...7 to go!





These 7 are the trickiest. I have found it hard trying to produce over 40 illustrations in a relatively short time, given my style of work. I hope I have managed to keep the standard up. I still need to produce a CGi backdrop; and I can't finish a couple of the images without the order of Warhammer gravel I need for one of the stage sets. I hope it arrives in time.
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Well I'm really having to put the hours in now and I really have an unbelievable amount to do. The next few days will be really critical as to whether I can meet the deadline.













1st Off The Press

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Here is the first of the illustrations to roll off the production line. Because of the difficult shooting order the camel had to have its hump surgically removed for this image. It was a bit of a pain matching the sandy foreground to the CGI background, (in terms of camera angle and shading). But hopefully now susequent illo's will be easier. The bottom left hand corner is reserved for text.


Just deserts

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Well I've modelled, posed and photographed all the props, and characters, (except for the menagerie inthe final illustration of the book). Next job is to get the backdrops sorted out. The previous version of the desert, I recently posted, had a few issues with the hills and textures. I had to go back to square one and remake the scene in 3D. Here it is:


The Djinn Of All Deserts

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Here is a quick test shot of the desert 'Genie.' He is a bit rough round the edges at the mo but I will clean him up in Photoshop. I just need to photograph him in a couple of other poses and then I'll be finished with this stage of the procedure:¬)


Production line

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I'm trying to get all the models finished and photographed by the end of this week. I still have the dog and the genie to go so it's a big ask.

Here's a raw shot of the camel but this time sculpted lying down. And before you ask, I was sitting upright:¬)



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My son, (picured below), received his A level results on Thursday. He achieved BBB which was not quite good enough for his first choice University: Cardiff. He only just missed getting AAA by 4, 6, & 9 marks. He was offered a place at his insurance choice but his heart was set on Cardiff. I think he intends to resit a couple of exams to get his grades up and reapply. He is also talking about travelling in france next year.

My work has been substantially delayed by all this carrying on. I really need to get all my models finished and photographed by the end of the month or I'm going to be in real trouble.


Forgive me - A Scenery Shot

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I've lived near Godrevy Lighthouse for over nine years yet have never been to Godrevy Point. The Island and associated lighthouse inspired Virginia Wolf's novel 'To The Lighthouse.' The views are breathtaking. The string of beaches starting with Gwithian opposite Godrevy form a bay which is listed in the top ten bays of the world.

Tomorrow my son's A level results are released. He doesn't think he has done enough to get into his first choice University and his second choice isn't really a choice he wants to make. So I hope he is being overly pessimistic as he would be pretty distaught if he falls short.

On the work front I am making reasonable progress. I hope I can make a breakthrough by the weeks end.

Just Shut Up And Get On With It!

That's what I intend to do. I have finished modelling and posing all the shots of the camel standing up, with and without hump. I have also completed all the shots of the 'desert man.' I'm now re-modelling the camel in its lying down position. I'll be happier once all the camel photographs are done but that still leaves a lot of modelling to go. I have yet to start work on the dog or the genie of the deserts. I will probably photograph the Ox and Horse next.

Once all the characters are modelled and photographed they must be composed against the backgrounds, (once finished), and everything must be colour corrected, (so the characters look ok against the foreground and backgrounds).

Back to work:¬)

Back In The Saddle

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I had rather a cathartic week 'up country' in my 'home town. Since moving down to Cornwall some 9 years ago I have felt less and less affinity to the place where I was born. My relatives live there which is the only reason for my visits. I have brought my mother back to stay for a week with us but I have so much on my plate with my commission that site seeing could be drastically reduced this year.

The workload for 'How The Camel Got Its Hump' is looking really mental. I have so much to do it's unreal. I am at the panic stage at the moment where I can't see all the necessary elements possibly coming together.

I have had to create the landscape myself in the end. Here's the latest work in progress:


Putting The Cart Before The Camel

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Here is a quick test shot of the Camel pulling a cart. I actually got to use my wood carving knife, at last, to fashion the arms of the camels cart. I used Balsa wood and some other harder stuff I found in my odds and ends cupboard to knock the cart up. I used real leather for the strap which was cut from a furniture shop's leather sample swatch:¬)

You may have noticed something missing. The wheels I ordered off Ebay turned out to be half the size I thought they'd be. So I have a new pair on order.

I have made the unprecedented decision to buy a CGI desert scene off the net. I haven't got the time to build one myself and as it was quite cheap I thought it was worth it. I'll post some images next time.

I'm off up country for a week from tomorrow so I hope to see you then.


If The Hut Fits

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As I mentioned I had real trouble finding reference for the type of houses people live in in the desert. The 'How The Camel Got Its Hump' story is supposed to be set 'when the world is new' so the 'houses' should be little more than mud huts.

To create my hut I used a piece of round polystyrene packaging and wrapped a piece of card around it. I sized the card with PVA and then coated it with plaster. Finally I painted it with acrylics. The roof was a right pain. I made a cardboard cone and covered it in the 'straw' from a beach mat. At first I thought I could use sections of the mat but it fell apart when I tried to cut it up. In the end it was a job of epic proportions glue gunning individual strands onto the cone. It stands about 16 inches high.

I didn't really give the task enough thought, so I am going to have to make adjustments to the pitch of the roof in Photoshop for each illustration which features the hut.


Desert dwelling Man

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Right here's the man, again modelled within a couple of days. This is against the backdrop of pandemonium which is breaking out within immediate family circle. I won't go into details, (as I've decided to keep this blog 'on message' apart from the odd moan I'll have from time to time:¬)). But as most of you will know, trying to illustrate or craft something when things are going off around you, Is not so flippin easy. Despite being an unwilling participant in in any drama, my life is turning into one of those Soap Opera's which I avoid watching like the plague. The irony isn't lost on me:¬) Desert Hut next. I can find hardly any reference material for desert huts, so I'm really winging it on this one.



'orsing About

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This is the next of the characters to roll off the production line. I started yesterday evening so it turned around quite quick. I have added details such as a bridle for it, (not shown) but the whole thing still needs a bit more smoothing. Its head more or less evolved on its own.

I never used to like horses but have developed some respect for their physical presence since creating this and my only other previous effort. I didn't use reference as I felt there is enough leeway in accuracy with more 'cartoony' style horse.



The Ox

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Here's a quick snap of the Ox which features in the story. Next up is the desert dwelling man. The roughs had quite a few comments on them and the outfit of the man in the story is worrying me a bit. I'll get on with it now and send an image to the Art Director for approval. I wouldn't want to crack on with all the photographs if the model isn't right.


Countdown

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I have just heard back from my Agent and the approvals for the 'Camel story' roughs are imminent, (with some ammendments). They want to bring forward the deadline, but frankly I would be pushed for time with the original proposal. This is when the pressure comes to bear and to be honest it does unsettle me a bit. But I've been here before many times and hopefully the seemingly impossible will prove possible.

Here are three versions of the proposed cover. I did them in a bit of a rush overnight so I hope they are ok for the Art Director.

21 Guns - Green Day (official music video) [HQ]

This is my favourite video right now.

First Humph!

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This is a quick test shot of the camel model I've been working on. It's about 14 inches high. It still needs a bit of smoothing, tweaking and I need to add eyelashes, (possibly from a doll if I can kidnap one of my wife's old ones:¬)).

Like people, models can turn out to be photogenic or not so photogenic. I think Humph is not too bad judging by this test shot.

I feel a period of creative energy coming on so I hope to start revealing several ideas in the coming weeks.

Camel or high water...

..I will finish the models for my brief: 'How The Camel Got Its Hump.' I decided to make the main model twice as big as normal. I'll post an image tomorrow.

Saw the Latest Harry Potter film. Got to say I was a bit disappointed. Not really enough action for me. The film went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

I'm looking forward to joining the two adult education classes in September. I made a couple of good friends the last time I went to college. Unfortunately they went back to Wales and London. It's hard work cultivating friendships and is pretty sad when they leave you. Living where I do and being freelance, opportunities for making friends don't come along so often.

Plans are afoot

Although I live within the shadow of an impending illustration project I am really conscious of my lack of progress, creatively. I haven't even scratched the surface of what I want to do. I make half-hearted efforts at the kind of work I'm not really that interested in. It seems to me that anyone can make a good attempt at most things. But unless you are really inspired, moved, or feel 'qualified' to undertake a creative endeavour, it can never meet your expectations. Or in my case the results do meet my expectations in how inept they can turn out.

Don't get me wrong this assessment isn't a negative diatribe borne out of self pity, it is merely a pragmatic reflection of the state of my 'Quest.' So I have decided to regain some focus and learn some technical skills by enrolling on a couple of courses. I have little knowledge of ceramic firing or glazing so I have signed up to a 30 week ceramics course. For some time I have had a number of sketches I'v…

Mazey Day 2009

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This year's festival was absolutely heaving with people. I have been going there for 8 years now and I have never seen so many people.

As usual the highlight for me was the Samba band.I'll try to post a video soon.




Obsessed?

I guess I might have come across as a bit obsessive recently regarding my son. It was pretty intense. His mood swings and general stress levels were mind boggling. Hopefully things will work out ok.

I really do have a load of work to do now. I have only just started to do the research necessary for this brief. I'm already flippin' fed up with camels. What is it with their legs? How the hell do they bend like that? Two knee's in each leg!

I went to the Falmouth Illustration Students Graduation Show on Saturday here in Cornwall. I go every year to gain inspiration and top up my enthusiasm. Also to analyze trends in terms of style, or the area of the illustration industry the work is predominately aimed at. There seemed to be a creeping away from Children's Illustration towards Editorial or Advertising in recent shows.

There did seem to be an overall lower standard of pure drawing ability. But there were a few stand out good illustrator's. This is the website of my perso…

Last Bit Of CGI

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This how far my attempts to create realistic CGI skin got. Now I must abandon the project for a couple of months while I concentrate on the children's book commission. Now it's camels, oxon and deserts all the way from now on.

When I contemplated not being able to work on my own projects, due to the demands of this paid work, the one thing that popped into my head was a regret of not being able to sculpt wood, rather than the CGI. So I'll have to try to squeeze some extra-curricular activity of this sort into any available time.


Normality

Phew! at last my son's exams are over. He seems to be much happier. Results aren't due out until August

I have got 40+ illustration roughs to do in a very short time now. I will really need to crack on with them and start work on the main character in clay. I will post the first prototypes ASAP.

One of the things I have learned this week is that most homeopathic medicines don't seem to work. It took a prescription of sleeping pills, (a class 3 drug), to actually get my son to sleep over the past week or so. All the money spent on Valerian etc was a complete waste.

The only exception to this is possibly Bach Flower remedies like 'Rescue Remedy' which seem to have a positive effect. It is interesting to me that one of the women who run a local 'spiritual shop' is prescribed drugs to alleviate depression. So surely all the crystals she sells to her clientele for such conditions can't do what she claims they can.

All Change

I've decided to revamp my blog. Bits are in mid-change so please bear with me.

Long Time No Post

Well things have been a bit fraught chez moi recently. My eldest son's A levels conclude next week. He has 3 exams still to do. It has been a major battle getting him to revise at the expense of wasting time on the internet. He has been really stressed so I took him to the doctors the other week to see if he could be given something to help him sleep on the nights before his exams.

The tablets the doc prescribed seemed a bit heavy duty so we tried to persist with the homeopathic ones he has been taking. Unfortunately due to his exam nerves he was still awake at 2.30 am, and when I checked again it was 5 am and he still hadn't slept at all. In desperation we gave him half a sleeping pill in the hope he would get at least 5 hours sleep yet not be too drowsy for the exam. Things just about turned out ok on the day.

It's looking dodgy whether or not he will get the required grades because he is not really putting enough effort into revision. He secured a job at Specsavers this …

Come In Your Time Is Up

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I have just received the go ahead for the book illustrations. This means my personal projects will have to go on hold. I had just started to get back into some real sculpture as well as working on the digital project. Here's another outfit:

I quite like designing clothes but maybe I've left it a bit late to be a fashion designer:¬)

Not sure which one I prefer out of the four.

Status report

My book commission finally kicks off at the beginning of July when I am expecting the layouts for the illustrations. The story is 'How The Camel Got Its Hump' by Rudyard Kipling. The whole thing is set in the desert, so I am thinking of building an actual stage set rather than creating it digitally.

The twice postponed deadline means my whole summer could be eclipsed by this job. 40-50 illustrations means a lot of work with my style so it will be nose to the grindstone time.

My eldest son has been getting fraught with stress as he approaches the last of his A level exams. He has been pretty unpleasant at times. I made a conscious decision not to bring him up in the oppressive and strict manner that my father applied to me. Maybe the 'hippy' parenting model I adopted was maybe not the best idea. Trying to be both a friend and father is maybe mutually exclusive.

Getting back to the subject of work, the gaps between jobs does feel like a kind of no-mans-land. I wand…

Tweaks

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Now I have some time I have decided to animate this character I have decided to stop experimenting with skin subsurface scattering because of the render times. I am going with tied back hair so I only have to animate some loose strands at the front. I have also tweaked the outfit a bit:



I have a spare bit of webspace somewhere out there, so I will set up a webpage with a brief intro to my character's story and some art work.

Tick, tick, tick

Still waiting for the illustration brief from Macmillan. I've been working on digital 3D stuff in the meantime. My eldest son's exams are coming up so he is really tetchy at the moment. I'll post some more WIP's soon.

EDIT*
My Agent just phoned me to say the book commission has been delayed by another month. The manuscript has been sent back to the author for a rewrite. Looks like I will need to find some additional income.

SSS

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SSS is sub-surface scattering, And I hate it! In 3D circles It is the name given to the effect of light as it enters our skin and reflects back through the layers. It is a pain to set up, and each little tweek has to be rendered for at least 15 minutes just to see the results of the adjustment. I tried the effect on the model in the previous post. It has taken hours to try to get right. I think it gives a more natural look to the skin.I just need to work out how to gloss the lips



Hair Apparent

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At last I seem to be getting to grips with the 3D hair. Unlike my previous efforts this hair is not Photoshopped. This gives me more options within the 3D software. The Macmillan commissionm has been delayed by a couple of weeks, so Im taking the opportunity to develop this project a bit.






Amazing Talent

I've been back in contact with a friend Tracey from my old Art College. Her talent was obvious there but her work has developed even further since. She specializes in painting acrylics of nature subjects in close up. She has an amazing skill for homing in on the detail and cutting through the extraneous.

Here's a link to her site:

www.TraceyJayneThomas.co.uk

Bad Hair day

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I've got the character, got the story,(well some of it), now all I need to do is master the software! This has been one of the reasons for not posting recently. I've been trying to get my head around a 3D application and so far the hair has proved unmanageable. I am working on it and hope to be able to post an improved version soon.


Latest WIP

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Here is the first sculpture which I intend to fire and possibly sell. It is about 6 inches high and made from white stoneware clay. I have taken the sculpture as far as poss without reference. So now I will find a similar pose and finish detailing it.The pictures are a bit rubbish as they were taken in low light without a tripod.




Where I'm At

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I was supposed to meet up with an old friend from college today but as is often the case the working hours of a freelance illustrator and that of a full time worker don't mesh. I haven't seen him for two years such is the brisk passage of time. Maybe it will have to wait for another couple of years. This is one of the problems with being an illustrator. We seemed to exist in another realm.

With the end of the financial year looming I have been trying to buy equipment and software to offset my profits. I have just purchased a new 3D program and at last some wood carving tools.

Illustration is my career again! as I was contacted by my Agent at last today concerning the job which was mentioned to me last month. At first the fee looked a bit low, but it turned out that there are less illustrations required. It is based on one of the Rudyard Kippling stories. Ironically I went into a school a few years back and worked with a class on the story 'How The Giraffe Got It's Long…

This is version II

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The organizing committee for the statue fundraising seem a little, well disorganized. Their performance today in arranging a benefit was a bit disconcerting. I suppose the ball is in their court now.



Fingers Crossed

I put well over 10 hours of work into my new mining sculpture today and I recon it's near enough finished. One week to do sculpt a figure and a diorama was pushing it. I think all these years of sculpting figures for my illustrations against the clock has taught me to work quite fast. This latest version has not dried out completely so it's not ideal, but being only seven days old it's in better shape than I could have hoped for.

Tomorrow I am going to take the model to be displayed in the mining town of St Just. There's going to be a fundraising event and people will get the opportunity to vote for their favourite model. I need to photograph the new version so that it can form part of another display in a hotel in Penzance. Votes will be cast here too.

Preoccupied

Trying to sort out my son has taken most of my time of late. He needs to lift his grades to get his university place. I'm glad to say he seems to be a lot more committed right now. I just hope he can keep it going.

I got an email from the organizing committee for the miners sculpture today. They wanted a copy of the poster of my submitted design. The actual model, unsuprisingly, is a little worse for wear due to the rushed drying process.

I have though decided to do another design in addition to the one I have already produced. It is based on my original idea which I deviated from after talking to the head of the organizing committee. In future I will always go with my gut instinct.

The general public will vote on their favoured sculpture on Friday, so I intend to get it finished by then. Frankly this is a big ask, but I have built up the model in a holllow form to hopefully avoid the issue of cracking. I'll keep you posted:¬)

WIP: Seated Female Figure

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I sculpted this figure as an exercise without reference. I will look for a photograph of a similar pose and define some details. It is made from Beau Touche - wax based clay which I don't really like working with. So when I finish this I am going to start sculpting with real clay which I will fire, and hopefully I will start selling some items!