Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Caricature of Jason Seiler

Bobby Chiu is doing a live interview with caricature artist Jason Seiler at 11:59 pm EST tomorrow (4 Dec, 4:59 am GMT) on his UStream channel. As usual with his interviews, a contest is held in conjunction with the show. This time people are asked to do a caricature of Jason Seiler and the winner will have the courtesy returned by getting their caricature done by Seiler himself.
I've been curious about doing some caricature drawing so this came at a good time.

Much as I tried, I couldn't bring myself distort the features as much as some caricature artists do. It made me wonder if the measure of how good of a caricature artist you are is how much you can distort someone's features, yet still making it look unmistakably like them.

More info about the contest and the streaming on Bobby's Chiustream blog...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Life drawing in charcoal

Charcoal is very much a hit and miss medium for me at the moment. Most of the time I find it difficult to control but every now and then something shapes up more than usual.
My first breakthrough was probably when I stopped using the charcoal as a pencil and started using the side of the stick. This brought about an intuitive shift of mind from thinking in terms of lines to focusing more on masses, and that's pretty much the whole idea behind this drawing.

It's amazing to see what masters like Henry Yan can achieve with the same primitive medium. His figure drawing book is on my ever-growing Amazon wish list.

It's been almost exactly a year since my first blog post on life drawing at The Shop in Cambridge, which is still where I go for life drawing. I'm glad to see that there seems to have been some improvement since then.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Leeds Thought Bubble 2009 wrap

This was my first time attending Leeds Thought Bubble festival with fellow Manga Shakespeare artist Faye Yong. I had heard good things about the show by people who'd caught it last year so there were certainly expectations but the show managed to be everything I'd hoped for and more!

The convention part of the show was a Saturday-only event and was held in the Savilles hall. Most of the day was spent at the SelfMadeHero table. 1st gen Manga Shakespeare artists Sonia Leong and Emma Vieceli took time from their own tables and popped by to do short signings for their titles (Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet/Much Ado respectively)around mid-day.

Doug from SelfMadeHero hooked us up with giant pads and markers so Faye and I went about sketching out crossovers of our characters from Twelfth Night and Merchant of Venice.

Despite getting only about 4 hours of sleep the night before the Saturday evening party in the next-door casino was something that couldn't be missed. Apart from great people and a bar that was open until the early hours of the morning, they also arranged for comicker DJs and a burlesque drawing session.
Sadly I lost my camera at the casino so the few pictures that were taken seem lost forever. :( The only records I have left now are in my sketchbook.

The Sunday program consisted of workshops and talks. We went to one where Frank Quitely talked about his art and influences which was every interesting. I wasn't very familiar with his work before this but when he showed us a few sample pages with mind-bogging paneling it reminded me of how flexible the comic medium can be. The guy deserves serious respect... :)
Did a sketch of the man in the talk and as he was being interviewed by some students.

And that was the end of Thought Bubble. Many thanks to the wonderful organisers who made the event such a great show to be at! It will be the place to be this time next year so make an effort and GO! :D

Thursday, 19 November 2009

"Waking moment"

Some time ago the lovely Karen Lusted asked me to be a part of an artbook anthology that she was putting together. The artbook, Secret Colours, was not only going to showcase artwork from UK artists but also show steps in the image-making process.
I asked people on the Sweatdrop forums and on Deviant Art to come up with keywords or catch-phrases of what I should draw and later set up a poll for the final decision. The winning concept was "Waking moment".

I started out with doing a few rough thumbnails to explore the composition. After that I did a rough pencil in light blue over which a tighter pencil drawing was done as the final line art. The blue lines were easily removed in Photoshop, as described here.

The digital painting was done in Photoshop. Here's a small GIF animation showing different steps in the painting process.

Secret Colours can be ordered directly from Karen Lusted at There's some more information about the book, including preview photos in her DeviantArt journal.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Caricaturing likeness

Fashion designer Jasper Conran stood out to me while watching a program on Sweden's equivalent to BBC's iPlayer (available until 9th Dec, 2009). I thought he had such a caricature-friendly face.

It seems that capturing likenesses is easier if you push the caricature aspect.
It's quite liberating. Instead of meticulously trying to reproduce what you see in the exact relationships that you see it, focus on getting the prominent features down first (the chin and the nose in particular in this case) and working everything around that. It could bring it closer to home.
Caricature could be described as picking out and magnifying flaws, but I wouldn't necessarily think of prominent features as flaws. It's wonderful how different people are, let's celebrate that diversity!

Oh, here's another one of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Alexander Rybak (whose song I was rooting for from the moment I heard it, by the way - he has great energy!).

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Moon drops

Lullatone is an electronica/indie musical couple who describe their music as 'pajama-pop'. Quoted from the Spotify artist bio:
...Seymour moved to Nagoya with her about a year later, where they moved into a tiny apartment. It was there that he was inspired to start writing what he called "tiny songs." Seymour, who didn't sleep much at that time, would stay up late composing and recording lullabies for Tomida, making use of whatever he could get his hands on: xylophones, keyboards, music boxes, /.../ and, as Seymour put it, "a lot of daydreams."

Their songs make me think raindrops, sunshine and unicorns. If you're in the mood for that, check them out on Spotify where most of their albums are available. :)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

London Expo 16 over!

And so the 16th London MCM Expo is over with yet another record breaking attendance number. This was also the first proper event where people could pick up our new Manga Shakespeare titles Twelfth Night and Merchant of Venice. :D
It was fantastic to be able to share a signing session with fellow Manga Shakespeare artists Faye Yong and Emma Vieceli in the afternoon. Huge thanks to everyone who came and got some books!! When I was told that Twelfth Night had sold out before the end of Saturday I was convinced someone was pulling my leg for sure.

This was also the launch event of Fehed Said's anthology Talking to Strangers, in which I illustrated the short story 'Box'. Since then I've heard rumours that it has caused various degrees of unease, to the point of nightmares so I imagine that Mr Said must be satisfied.

Saturday is always the busiest day and this time the air conditioning system seemed to have reached the limit of its capacity. It was very hot in the convention hall but that didn't seem to get people's spirits down... much. 

I spent most Sunday exploring the convention and the Comics Village was definitely the place to be. Not that the rest of expo wasn't exciting but nothing beats being able to meet creators and check out their work. My favourite purchases this day were probably an original watercolour drawing from Sarah McIntyre and an amazing drawing of Rock Lee on cardboard by Will Kirkby which is now decorating my wall.

Sunday ended with a surprise offer to help out with the judging of the cosplay competition which was great fun. There were some fantastic costumes in there!

It's been a crazy weekend! Highlights? The art and the people! :)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Girl sketch

Hot off the drawing board. I'm doing some little girl sketches at the moment in preparation for the next big project I'll be working on. :)

The girl's hands made me think of this other sketch I did a few days ago for one of Bobby Chiu's live streaming sessions. The theme was "big and graceful". Maybe it's a preview of what the future might hold for that little girl after too many close encounters with Crispy Creme doughnuts...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Talking to Strangers - Out soon!

A girl trapped in a box, a boy chained to a rock and a friendship between a child and a flower. These are just a few of the themes that storyteller Fehed Said explores in this collection.
Joining Fehed Said, the acclaimed writer behind SLG's Clarence Principle, and Sonia Leong, the award winning artist behind SMH's Romeo & Juliet is a sterling lineup of the UK's best new talent. Featuring artwork from Nana Li, Wing Yun Man, Chloe Citrine and Faye Yong.

Talking to Strangers is an anthology of short stories all written by the talented Fehed Said. I've been very lucky to be part of this anthology and he was also kind enough to ask me to do the artwork for the cover.
The book has been a long time in the making, with a great deal of time and effort put in by both Fehed and girlfriend Faye so it's great to see it finally revealed!

The short that I illustrated is called 'Box'. Not recommended for people with claustrophobia! ;)

Talking To Strangers is due for release on 24th October 2009 at the London MCM Expo and available to buy online from the Sweatdrop Studios website.
The full press release along with more preview pages can be viewed HERE.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Old man sketch

I decided to have a little wrestle with charcoal. It's a medium I first encountered in life drawing class, but usually for the most rudimentary line drawings and not at all for exploring the range of value that charcoal offers. Handled well, I've seen people do fantastically rendered drawings with it, but that's always the core of the problem eh? Handled well...

For me, using charcoal feels like being a toddler, grabbing that pencil with my fist and trying to control the unpredictable lines it makes. It's a very flexible medium, but it's not a pencil. Considering the 20-some years I've been handling a pencil, maybe patience is the key.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Norwich workshop at The Forum

This is a bit late notice, but I will run a workshop in conjunction with an East Meets East event in Norwich tonight. Pop by if you're in the neighbourhood! :)
Location: The Forum, Norwich, Norfolk
Time: 5.30 pm -  9.30 pm

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Chiustream Caveman

Bobby Chiu over at Imaginism studios is doing a series of live painting sessions while filling up a sketchbook of his work that will be published. Meanwhile he invites people all over the world to paint along with him. A theme is chosen and the stop clock is set to one hour. At the end of the hour Bobby picks one of the paintings and does his own version of it.
Today the theme was 'caveman' so I decided to do a little art nerd caveman. The time given was 1 hour, but I started late so it probably ended up being 45 minutes.

It's quite amazing how the internet has transformed how we can interact with each other. Bobby Chiu is an amazingly inspiring and giving artist so if you haven't checked him out, DO!!

Where to find him:
Imaginism Studios
Imaginism Blog
Podcasts on Youtube
Chiustreaming on Ustream

Saturday, 19 September 2009

HGO Life drawing: Day 3

In the third day of the first week we covered the basics of head construction. I had never seen this particular way of head construction before so it was very useful. It's a lot easier handle the head if you break it down into regions and surfaces. I often fall into the trap of focusing on details before the structure is understood. The construction lines help by simplifying the structure so that you can locate the broad shapes before narrowing down on details like eyes and lips. I feel that this way it's less likely that you will end up with wonky and uneven features.

Here's a video of a head drawing where I try to follow the construction steps we learnt. I'm afraid that the lighting is quite bad however, so it's hard to see the lines.

HGO Life drawing: Day 1
HGO Life drawing: Day 2

Friday, 18 September 2009

HGO Life drawing: Day 2

It's been a bit of a break since my last post on the life drawing course I did at the University of Gotland this summer. The first 4 days of the course were probably some of the most intense ones. On day 2 we did some focusing on arms and legs. The big take-away thing for me this day was probably the way the shoulder can be visualised as being a flat plate connected to the collar bones. The plate can be seen as the end of the cylinder which forms the arm and helps in describing the direction of the arm.

HGO Life drawing: Day 1

Snake bite

These are part of some of illustrations I did as a test for The Naked Scientist podcast. The article was on whether or not snakes are susceptible to their own venom. Apparently, to some degree, they are! :)

(Click for GIF animation)

Snakes are rather expressionless so I had to figure out how to draw them. I wanted flexibility in expression so I took a lot of inspiration from Disney's Kaa (The Jungle Book) and Sir Hiss (Robin Hood). A cool thing about snakes is that that you can pretty much shape their body any way you want for desired effect. In the example above the whole joke is based on the flexibilty of the snake body.

Since we're on the topic of Disney, while I was in Visby this summer I discovered a copy of The Illusion of Life at the local library. It's truly a treasure trove on the origins of the Walt Disney Studios, the invention of Disney animation and information on what makes their drawings so special. It's so easy to take Disney animation for granted and sometimes I even sense that they're thought of as the big bully when it comes to animated features, but looking back, the way they pioneered animation is simply astounding. Gradually I've come to realise that there's a lot that can be learnt from animation for any kind of artist, especially when it comes to expression, form and gesture.
A great source on gesture in particular is Walt Stanchfields Drawn to Life books. They're two thick books consisting of notes which were distributed by Stanchfield to the animators at Disney over the course of many years. There is so much insight about drawing, mentality and creativity on these pages that it's taking me ages to get through even the first volume.
The Naked Scientist - link
Illusion of Life - Amazon
Drawn to Life - Amazon: Vol. 1, Vol. 2

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Copy of Emily Sargent

A pencil copy of John Singer Sargent's painting of his sister, Emily Sargent from cc. 1877. I used a 2B and a 6B pencil for most of the drawing and a 9B for laying down the big dark areas.

The original painting can be found at the Art Renewal Centre .

Thursday, 20 August 2009

12th Night preview pages

I've just realised that there are now some preview pages for Twelfth Night on the SelfMadeHero website. Please check it out! :)

The official release date is the 21st of September but it is already possible to pre-order Twelfth Night on Amazon.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Stockholm Skeppsbrokajen

While in Sweden I took the chance to pop up to LuleƄ, the town that I grew up in, this last weekend. It's been about 3 years since I last saw my friends up there so it was great to catch up. Two unexpected encounters with old classmates and a summer storm (love the summer storms up north!) were some of the highlights of the trip.

On the way back for my last few weeks in Visby I had a few hours to spare in Stockholm so I took a walk from the train station down the main shopping street Drottningatan, past the house of parliament and through Old Town down to the water (a very popular tourist streak). These sketches were drawn on the pier at the edge of Old Town where you can get a ferry that takes you on a sightseeing tour along the shores of Stockholm. (Why do I feel like I'm writing a tourism advert?)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Visby Medieval Week

Around this time every year, the town of Visby gets invaded by all manners of people dressed in medieval clothing. Some are natives but many come from all over the country as well as from abroad. It's a sign that the annual Medieval festival is about to start!
We're in the middle of medieval week right now and I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't enjoying every moment of it. Unfortunately I haven't been able to see as much as I would've liked to but it's pretty much impossible to escape the medieval people.
The other night I was walking home along the old city wall which passes the medieval market. A big group of medieval people were playing flutes and drums around a campfire - all this under a gorgeous full moon. I felt whisked away to another world.
A colleague at work told me she moved back to Visby after spending some years on the mainland (Visby is on the island of Gotland) because there's just something magical about this town. I can believe it.

These are some sketches from a performance of the Swiss musical group Koenix. They play "loud and impulsive medieval music on bagpipes and drums", perfect for the theme of the festival. I really enjoyed their performance and it was fun to try and to capture their movements.

The first sketches were done with Stablio coloured pencils and the last ones with an Akayashi Sai watercolour bush pen in burnt umber. I only bought one of these brush pens to try it out. It feels great but I've only used it as an ink brush. It would be fun to try it with water as well.

P.S. If you ever want to visit Visby during Medieval week (or most other times during the summer for that matter), be sure to book accommodation early! This event is extremely popular and finding housing can be difficult.

Visby Medieval Week - link
Koenix - link
Akayashi Sai watercolour brush pens - Jetpens

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Bee head

A sketch where I tried to make use of some of the things we've done in life drawing class.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Visby - Summer evening sketch

This is the view I see from the back of a computing lab at HGO at this very moment. It's a beautiful, warm summer evening and it would seem that a family is having a garden party. What an idyllic picture of Swedish summer at it's best!

Monday, 20 July 2009

HGO Life drawing: Day 1

I've finally scanned in some life drawing sketches from the first week of class at the University of Gotland (HGO). We're already 6 weeks in now but somehow I feel that those first intense days were some of the most rewarding ones. That week we were burning through paper at a furious rate. It was exhausting but fun as well. Pernilla would go around looking at people's work one at the time and angle her advise to each person's level.
There was a lot to go through in those first 3 ½ days since we had get along on our own for the subsequent 3 weeks . I was a bit disappointed when I realised how little actual model & teaching time we had in the course. Pernilla commutes to Gotland for a few days once every few weeks. In between we have a model for one afternoon each week and a weekly assignment to send to Pernilla.
In a way it probably could have been expected since HGO is not an art school. Many of the people attending the class are either current Game Development of Industrial Design students at HGO and they get models through another local art school. Still, I would have loved to have a few intense days like those first ones every week. I think the effects would be quite noticeable.

I've compiled som drawings from the first day. Comparing with more recent drawings, these seem more lively and spontaneous... but also a lot messier. It might be because we were focusing on movement and gesture at the very beginning. A lot of people were pretty much beginners at life drawing so it was important to establish some proceedure. In later weeks we started looking more at form and we got a (*cough* stiffer *cough*) male model, so the drawings lost some of the spark in my opinion.

Some notes from the first day:
  • Start by getting the overall rythm/direction of the body. S-curves or C-curves (if bent over) are often great for this.
  • Use curved lines to get the movement and the gesture, but avoid symmetry. Let the lines flow into each other through the body while pushing from one extreme to the other.
  • The direction/angle of the shoulders is not necessarily the same as the torso. The shoulders can move somewhat independently.
  • The nipples, on the other hand, are good markers for determining the angle of the ribcage.
  • The S-curved is used all the time to describe organic shapes, get used to it!
  • The "body bean" is a good shorthand for describing stretch, compression and twist.
  • Use the neck/head line as a marker when drawing the head from the back. It indicates the tilt and direction of the head which can often be hard to see from the back.

As a final note, this type of life drawing is most famously taught by Glenn Vilppu who has a great video series to complement his Vilppu Drawing Manual. It's a form of life drawing that lends itself well to animeation, and comics for that matter, since you learn to construct the body without a model.

University of Gotland (HGO) - link
Life Drawing at HGO - link
Pernilla Persson - link
Glenn Vlippu - link

Friday, 26 June 2009

The King is Dead

I got into pop music way too late to have caught the Michael Jackson wave but he was a legend and touched so many lives. The world's reaction is a testament to his greatness.

For the first time I spent some time watching his videos on Youtube. I was watching a song called Beat It when it struck me how expressive and full of gesture his dancing style is.
We may exaggerate people's gestures to create more lively and expressive poses (which they often do in animation), but in Jackson 's case he is that exaggeration. His dancing is constantly pushing the limits... bending, stretching, twisting and turning.

I did a Google image search for "Michael Jackson gesture", and found Alex Woo, who has worked as a story artist on Wall-E. He taught a life drawing class back in 2008 where he used Jackson as an example for gesture drawing and camera awareness (link). He makes the point that Jackson is a master at positioning himself as to create the most striking and readable silhouette against the camera, and that artists shouldn't be afraid of manipulating poses to clarify the action.

Beat It on Youtube - (link)
Alex Woo - link
Michael Jackson gives some insight into gesture drawing - link

Sunday, 21 June 2009

First post from Visby

There's quite a lot I want to talk about. Meeting with the wonderful Yosh and Soya of the Swedish manga collective Yokaj Studio for one, my courses in life drawing and concept art at Gotland University are others, but in the midst of settling in, starting a part time job and keeping up with coursework my time management has proved insufficient so for now I'll update with tonight's view of Visby.

I spent the day working at the university since their computers can handle a lot more than my little laptop. The university is right by the sea and as I started heading back the sun was just setting. Couldn't recall when I saw a sunset last, so I sat down on the wharf, watched the sun go down and sketched a family with two kids sitting on the pebble beach below me. It was very relaxing... just wish the sun hadn't sunk so fast. :)

It's very beautiful here. I feel like there's a new and wonderful scenery to discover every other day. Visby is a great vacation spot especially around early/mid June, before the bulk of the tourists invade. I hear there's quite some night life to be had here as well, although I've yet to experience that. :)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Summer on Gotland

At the moment of writing I'm in Stockholm, sitting in the home of an old acquaintance of the family which is where I've been sleeping for the last two nights. Stockholm is just a intermediate stop. Tomorrow I'm off to Visby and the University of Gotland, where I'll be taking a 10-week course in Life drawing with Pernilla Persson. At the same time, I'll also be doing the long-distance course Concept Art II, led by Leo Sandberg. Looking forward to both!

I didn't use to think that Sweden had much to offer in terms of education for entertainment art, but you never know what a little digging can yield. The great thing about Swedish education is that it's free, and I don't think you need to be a Swedish citizen to benefit from it. Compared to the complicated UK UCAS system, it was so easy for me to register for these courses - a few clicks for the mouse and that was it. Although, that might be because I do in fact have Swedish social security number.

University of Gotland (HGO) - link
Life Drawing at HGO - link
Concept Art II at HGO - link
Pernilla Persson - link
Leo Sandberg - link

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Removing blue lines

The big reason behind using blue lines, apart from helping you see on the paper is that it can be easily removed in Photoshop. The same goes for red and green (RGB), but I just happen to like blue better. The blue pencil that I've fallen in love with is Uni-ball's 0.5 mm soft blue mechanical pencil. Sadly they're not sold in the UK as far as I know, but they're available online from stores like JetPens.

  1. Start out by scanning your drawing in colour. I believe that most scanners scan in RGB mode by default. What this means is that the colour in your drawing is split into three channels, Red, Green and Blue.
  2. In this case my pencils are blue so what I do is select the Blue channel. All the blue then disappears from the visible image, but it's still there. If your underdrawing was red, you'd click the red channel instead, and similarily for green.
  3. In order to get rid of the colour permanently I go to Image>Mode>Grayscale.
  4. Finally I adjust the Levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels, or Ctrl+L) to enhance the contrast of the lines. What I've found to work best is to move the rightmost lever a little bit to the left (this gets rid of the greyness of the paper) and the middle lever a bit to the right(which darkens the lines).
JetPens - Shop

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Using blue lines

There was a time when I used to think that if you couldn't nail your drawing in the first try, somehow that meant that you were a lesser artist. In recent months after listening to tons of podcasts and learning about different artists working processes I realised that more often that not, most people tend to have some kind of a rough stage.
Illustrators like James Jean can go through several series of roughs, each one gradually tidying up the concept until the final drawing is the end result. It's easy to gloss over the effort behind a well executed and well-planned illustration.

This is some work James Jean did for AND1 Shoes.

The way I draw is pretty sketchy, mostly because I'm not sure exactly what I want so I use all of those sketchy lines as little tendrils to explore possibilities. If things get too messy though, it gets difficult to tidy up and pull out details so I feel limited.
I've praised the usefulness of colour leads in a previous post, but at that point I didn't realised how important this method would become to me. Just about all of the pages in Twelfth Night were drawn by first laying down a rough in blue lines before going in and drawing the details with a normal mechanical pencil.
I believe that what James Jean does is to scan in his roughs, print it out lightly in colour and do the next stage on top of that, which is essentially the same thing.

This is a page of pencils from Twelfth Night which shows my blue lines.

Tomorrow: Removing blue lines

James Jean artwork courtesy of
James Jean - Website
Twelfth Night - SelfMadeHero