Friday, 26 March 2010

Trouser Pump

Find out more over at the Bantering Boys blog.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Spot the Difference

I just finished this little job for Oxford University Press, the English Language Teaching Department. They've been good clients of mine since I first started out. I quite enjoy drawing domestic everyday scenes, but the jobs are often quite tough where they ask for many different elements in the same picture.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Orchestral Cutout

I recently found an orchestra cut out that I did in 1992 for a now defunct part work publisher. I was thinking of dusting it off, tidying it up, and popping it on Fantasy Cutouts so that, even though I say it myself, a great fun educational piece of work sees the light of day again.

Wheely Very Difficult

One of the interesting things about being a freelancer is that you are sort of up for anything. I can't say I've ever been asked to join a team of mercenaries to overthrow a foreign government, but I sometimes get jobs that are quite different to my usual style of work. Take Wheeliebugs. An old friend of mine contacted me after years of not seeing her to ask if I fancied designing some new "skins" for a line of toddlers push along toys (I'm not going explain any more, you can look at the picture!) I said "yes" because paid work's a little slow at the moment and they looked simple. ... which they are, but made the big mistake of saying I could do them in 3-D. I know Newtek Lightwave 3D pretty well, but I still struggle with UV mapping. (The process of taking a flat artwork and wrapping it around a 3-D object).

It's fine on my paper model kits because it's built into the process, you have to flatten everything out anyway when making the cut out pattern. Also, the paper kit has to me constructed of simple shapes to make it possible for the user to put together. Although the bean-shaped seat on the wheeliebug looks like a simple shape for the purposes of UV-mapping it's a foul group of compound curves that totally resist accurate wrapping of a 2-D image. Like trying to wrap an orange in a sheet of paper you are going get folds and creases and parts of the image disappearing.  All of his is made worse by having a number of straight lines that need to seamlessly cross the awkward curved areas.

So, the point of this post? It boils down to what I charged. I decided, for the first time ever, to charge per day mainly because the job was open ended. There was no definite end point in the design process because my client hadn't settled on a final number of designs. Of course I can't charge for the hours wasted faffing around with the UV mapping because that's a part of the technical expertise she could reasonably expect me to have already. When you take your car to the garage for a new tire you don't expect to be charged for the mechanic to learn how to change the tire. Or do you? I think yes, in the higher price you pay for a service. All jobs at a professional level require some bespoke design that even the professional has not had experience of and will need to learn on the job. Knowing how to gain the required new knowledge is what being professional is, then the pay off is having further jobs where that new learning from the previous job becomes experience.

You are probably wondering why professionalism could possibly be associated with those simple wheelybugs pictured above, you must be thinking, "What's he going on about? I could easily do that". If you are a 3-D design professional, yes, you probably could.

Wheelybugs are brilliant and you can buy them along with lots of other marvellous wooden toys from Little Fish Toys

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Good old Enid

I'm just illustrating the covers on a few Enid Blyton books. They're some of her less well known titles, but great non-the less. I've been skim reading them for this job and I'm amazed at how good she was at articulating children's experiences, fears and desires. She often touches on really interesting areas such as class and how different "types" of families bring up their children. At the same time she isn't judgemental preferring to see these adult concerns as problems the children can sweep aside in favour of children themselves organising and co-operating in their play together. Anyway, here are a couple of roughs.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010



It seems a shame to do work that never sees the light of day. This is a sketch I was asked to do for a publisher who was looking to have a series of books illustrated. I quite often get asked to draw specific samples for free, which I am willing to do if the project interests me and will eventually be reasonably paid. I've had the odd one of these rejected recently, which is fair enough, perhaps my style didn't suit. What's annoying is that the publisher couldn't be bothered to tell me that they had decided not to use me, not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of the drawing, let alone thank me for the unpaid use of my time. This arrogant rudeness and carelessness of the creative people of which their entire industry is founded is sadly common.

Paper patterns

I thought I'd just post this page from the Rust Locoblade as an example of what I love about cardstock models. I have a smallish collection of unmade cardstock models I've picked up over the years, a collection that will remain unmade. The reason that they'll stay 2-D is not just that I'm short of time to build them, but instead that I love the graphic appearance of flattened out parts with all their tabs and numbering. I think they are works of art in themselves, sometimes worthy of framing and hanging on the wall.

My model parts are laid out with some lazy abandon, too much space between them, particularly considering we should all be saving paper for the sake of the planet. The act of laying out parts in as efficient a paper saving way as possible is actually the most time consuming and difficult part of the development process. Like a really tough puzzle with pieces that may fit together in the final 3D model, but don't add up on a sheet of A4.  Hence my liberal use of white space. Have a look at for some examples from the masters of tight pattern arrangement.

Howitza Logo

I just finished this logo for the Howitza trike. The model itself is not far off, I'm just working on the instructions. It's interesting working on this logo. I guess it took about and hour and half and didn't turn out how I imagined it would. I'm not crazy about it's obvious done before appearance along with the rather poor plasticy 3D lettering. It's a first attempt that will have to do for now at least. The problem is that I just don't have time to spend any more than a couple of hours on this kind of thing. Is it important? Will it attract people to buy the model, or even repel them?