Category Archives: Art and illustration

Fun Times with Illustrator

I hate Adobe Illustrator. There, it’s officially out there!

Viridian Mountains
Early Illustrator work. Actually self-initiated (thanks Colour Collective for that kick up the bum)!

Well I did, although my hatred of it is slowly dying down due to some brilliant tutorials I’ve found through my Skillshare trial (in particular, Australian photographer and writer Helen Bradbury is a fantastic tutor). Let’s say that I still dislike it somewhat.

In order to get further in my illustration career however I’ll have to struggle through the animosity. It’s an almost vital piece of software in the industry, and not learning it would be worse than the hours I’d have to put into getting familiar with it. I’m not great at self-initiating tasks I don’t like, so I’ve found that forcing myself to finish Skillshare projects has been quite successful in upping the Illustrator practice. I think my completionist attitude has something to do with it – I’ve clocked up 50 hours in Shadow of Mordor for pete’s sake (not including DLC!).

See some finished projects below:

Three Little Pigs cover - Illustrator Portrait - illustratorTukturjuit - Illustrator
I’ve managed to finish a few vector illustrations this way, and dare I say it – I almost enjoyed it! This time next month I’ll be declaring my love for Illustrator no doubt.

If you have the same trouble with an annoying piece of software, it can’t hurt to try a mock project from start to finish. If that still doesn’t work then you can always ditch it and look for a more user-friendly programme – Inkscape, I’m eyeing you up…

Teaming up with SKIN DEEP Behind the Mask

I came across a posting on Charity Job by relatively new charity, SKIN DEEP Behind the Mask (SDBM), recently. They were looking for all manner of creatives, from illustrators to fashion designers. What caught my eye was their need for illustrators for their educational children’s books. The combination of book illustration and skin ailments was just too attractive for me to pass up (we pharmacists/ex-pharmacists are an odd bunch).

Since then I’ve been volunteering my illustrative services for SDBM. So far I have drawn up character designs for Amy, an elephant with epidermolysis bullosa simplex, and Adam, a snake with ichthyosis. The former is a condition where the skin blisters extremely easily, and the latter results in thick, scaly skin.

Amy the Elephant - body sketches - Skin Awareness

Adam the Snake 2 - colour ideas

Adam the Snake sketches - Skin Awareness

Adam and the Snakeboard - Skin Awareness
AAAAAAGH!! Why did I decide to draw so many scales??

Needless to say, it’s been an interesting experience trying to draw these conditions. I had to get them right, yet still create a character that children would like looking at. I always like a challenge though!

SDBM are still looking for volunteers for a large variety of roles, including:

  • creative artists
  • performance artists
  • musicians
  • fine artists
  • fund writers
  • creative writers
  • bloggers
  • illustrators
  • graphic
  • designers
  • product designers
  • web designers
  • fashion designers
  • garment technologists
  • fashion engineers
  • dermatological researchers
  • videographers

If you can give some of your time, please fill in their form here.

Meanwhile, I’m going back to drawing blisters and scales. And snakes on a skateboard (not a Samuel L. Jackson film this time).

The return of Colour Collective for 2016

Colour Collective has made a most welcome comeback for 2016!

It’s a weekly Twitter-based art challenge where contributors must make use of a particular colour in their work. The colour is posted every Saturday at 09.00 GMT, with the artwork deadline at 19.30 the following Friday.

Colour collective - rose quartz (2)
My Colour Collective contribution for Rose Quartz, the first colour pick of 2016.

Colour Collective is the brainchild of the brilliantly talented children’s illustrator, Penny Lee-Neville. It has become wildly popular on Twitter since it appeared early 2015, attracting new talent and seasoned professionals alike. I’ve found that having a deadline for it every week has stretched my imagination and led to some great portfolio pieces. The best part of it is the sense of camaraderie between contributors no matter their background. There is always a huge amount of great feedback and support, and with no pressure and complete freedom it’s also lot of fun!

Anyone can join in – just check the colour at @Clr_Collective and post your amazing artwork with the hashtag #colour_collective. No more excuses – get creative in 2016!

Something missing…?

I’ve moved from my previous profession of pharmacy to illustration, but I remain a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society . I still like to peruse the pages of the Pharmaceutical Journal (or PJ as we all call it) when it drops through the letterbox. RPS members now also get a monthly edition of Clinical Pharmacist.

I was slightly bemused when I saw the cover of the current issue of Clinical Pharmacist:

Clinical Pharmacist cover illustration missing


Was this a conscious minimalist design, or a deadline rush job? If the latter, I’d be happy to supply Pharmaceutical Journal Publications with an appropriate cover illustration…

Update 15/2/16 – It appears to be a design choice, as the cover of the following issue was just as bare. They used a different shade of blue though. It doesn’t take much to excite pharmacists!

Squirrel War – what is it good for

Gentlebucks - squirrel war blog pic

I’ve just added a new strip to my Squirrel War webcomic, which is finally viewable online after I finished my website in the last week.  To celebrate this online debut I thought I’d talk a bit about the inspiration for the comic.

When I was a teenager my mum relayed news to me of a great tragedy: something had dug up all of the baby pak choi in our garden. Quel désastre!! What ensued was a Basil Fawlty-esque attempt to be rid of the vegetable patch vandal, which was obviously a squirrel either looking for food or just trying to stash it. I have no idea where my mum found some of the crazy suggestions she tried out as she could barely turn on the computer back then – and still can’t – but the day I saw her come in from the garden holding a pepper grinder I knew I had to document this battle of attrition (being waged by the squirrel on my mum).

And so Squirrel War was born! The very first strip was drawn (by hand) in 2012 and the evolution of the style is quite apparent, especially as I moved into digital from strip 4 onwards. Most of the strips that are currently up (up to 16 now) are based on real life occurrences; I’ll leave it up to you to decide which. If you can’t tell which are clearly made up however then I would start to worry.

Please continue to experience my bizarre humour, and thanks for reading! If you have a squirrel-related story suggestion for a comic strip, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll credit you if I use it.