Random Musings III

It’s taken 24 days of 2019 to write my first blog post, but only because I have been busy finishing off the jobs that started just before Christmas. It was the usual - some DVD work and some book covers, one of which was huge fun (dinosaurs and samurai swords - give me that brief any day of the week) and more on what will be my biggest, most exciting commission of my ten-year career. I still can’t talk about it, but I’m hoping they announce soon (the product itself won’t be out until late Autumn). A dream come true.

So on to what to blog about. How about an aimless ramble? No? Well.. maybe just a collection of various musings of a random nature…

Make stuff for yourself (and try to earn from it)

First thing that has been on my mind in these first fresh weeks of the year is that I need to give my personal work some more fiscal viability. I am a huge proponent of personal work as an illustrator - I am always shouting from the rooftops that it is an essential use of your time as a pro (or burgeoning pro) and it has always opened more doors for me than anything else. And it’s come to my immediate attention that I need to do even more of it, between experimenting with art or making music as Our Wanderer or anything else I might find interesting. I need to do more of it to keep myself sane. Time being creative for myself as opposed to following a brief (while I enjoy that challenge) is of upmost importance for my head. But, I have to earn a crust and at the moment I will always sacrifice time on my own stuff for pro jobs. I know this is a ‘poor-me’ scenario - I realise I am lucky to have the pro jobs. But what if I could make the personal work more viable by earning a little from it? So, I have the print shop.

Me and my print shop have always had a difficult relationship. For one, it’s giclee rather than screen print, and the latter is by far the favourite of collectors. For another, I found the printing & shipping aspect hard to manage - but I’ve solved that by going with a great new Irish fulfilment company called Print Beast. And, so far, I’m not sure I’ve made art that is appealing enough to sell more than a couple of copies. It’s important to me to make the prints for myself, expressively, and not cow-tow to trends or second guess potential customers. But I need to find a balance. So my idea is this - I’m going to make a load of personal work to sell as prints, try to make it appealing to people (ie not all vintage sci-fi) while still enjoying, and expressing myself. Some of it might be crap, one or two might be cool but I am going to make sure I enjoy making all of it. Like this blog, it’ll be my little corner of the internet to do whatever the f*** I want. Bliss.

So with that in mind, I thought I might start doing mock gig posters. A little bit like I did for Whelans all those years ago. That job was so much fun - no brief, make anything I want, combine typography and art.. Perfect, really. Here’s the first one, and wouldn’t you know - it’s vintage sci-fi. I promise it won’t all be.

Making time to make crap

Leading on from this, I’ve also decided to spend way more time making crap. By that I mean, make stuff free of worrying about other people seeing it - full experimentation. Sitting at the drawing desk with whatever materials are close by and just seeing what happens. I tend to go through periods of this and then let it lapse. But it’s so important. The amazing Jeffrey Alan Love wrote a great Twitter thread about it here.

I am not one of those artists with amazing-looking sketchbooks. Mine are awful. And I think they’re awful because I try to make them good, and then get annoyed when they aren’t. So I am determined to abandon any notions of making something great and just make.. crap. Very constructive, enjoyable crap though.

Being honest. I’m quite bored of how I draw. Certainly with characters. I’d like to play around and see if I can some up with something new.

Speaking of constructive mistakes, I found this article about the Uruguayan artist Guido Iafigliola (aka Glitchdo) , courtesy of WeTransfer, really interesting and am delighted to have discovered his work. Really, really inspiring.

New/Old Pastures

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted my work & career to evolve a little this year. One path that’s opening up is actually one I’ve been dipping my toe in since I started freelancing - story development for films. Being able to dream up stories, and make art, is a good combination for this. Over the years I’ve been in and around it, became friends with people who produce/direct for real and had one or two of my ideas touted as possibilities. But now things are actually moving up a gear - I’ve learned about whats needed (from screenplay-construction to pitch decks) and I’m ambling my way into those new waters, especially, hopefully, with Voidonauts. Watch this space (but bear in mind these things move glacially-slow).


I think that’s about it. Maybe one last mention of music and films currently floating my boat:

Music - I am obsessed with Go Go Penguin. A piano, a double bass and a drum kit make this? Holy moly.

Film - Last night I watched Don’t Breath. I liked it - great tension, great character arcs (it plays with your sympathies). It struck me that Stephen Lang would have made a great Old Man Logan.

Books - Currently reading Dune Messiah. Dune is one of my favourite books but shamefully I had never read the sequels - righting that wrong now. Next up, Children of Dune and then on to Ursula le Guin - Left Hand of Darkness & The Dispossessed (another two I should have read years ago but never did).

Using the Blog more, and Social Media Less

I have issues with social media, from an illustrator perspective, which you can read about in this article I wrote for the AOI a couple of weeks ago. It's a necessary evil to me, rather than something I relish. But it is necessary, as in this day and age it's my shop window. So, I'm not going to go deleting all my accounts. Yet. 

One thing I am going to do is use this blog more.

As it's mine-all-mine, I'll post whatever it is I feel like posting and I might be able to offer some insight into what it's like as a pro commercial artist & author. So, to that end, here are my first random musings...

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I came across this great quote from the amazing writer Warren Ellis (in fact it was his blog, Morning, Computer, that inspired me to make posts like this myself) and it is this:

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I really think this hits the nail on the head. There was an interesting debate on Twitter about it with fellow illustrator & story-maker Nashatobi (check out his Patreon) who felt that we should take the audience into account, and try to create a story to appeal to people, rather than just ourselves. But I disagree. If you try and create things you think other people will like, you'll fall short. You have to create things you are passionate about yourself. That passion will shine through, and has a much better chance of attracting people than second guessing their tastes. It's a 'build it and they will come' scenario. So - make what you love, the rest will follow. I think anyway. Two sides to every coin. 

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I'm reading Dune again. It's my third time reading it (I love it - true genius) but, shamefully, I've never read the sequels. But I will after this. I did this image of Paul at the beginning of the year, and I'd love to do illustrations for the whole book - so I'm reading it this time with that in mind. But I give myself so many personal projects, I wonder if I'll ever get around to it. 

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I am at the moment in one of those periods where I have almost too much on. But, while I often think I'd love a clear schedule and room to breath, in fact I tend to make better work under pressure. I always do this to myself - take on tons of work - and I think I do it on purpose, because while it might be stressful, my subconscious knows it will bring the best out in me. So I am my own worst enemy and best mentor all in one. Here's what I'm working on:

Three new DVD covers for Arrow (these ones are all involving stills instead of illustrations)

Lots of book covers. One for Harper Collins, one for Penguin, one for Scholastic, one for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and now booked in two for Simon & Schuster. 

A screen print of an imaginary cover for Stanislaw Lem - The Futurological Congress. I've been at this for months, only able to snatch time on it. Which is frustrating, as of all my projects, this is the one I want to do most. It's for a commissioner I've wanted to work for for years, and a subject I love. Need to make some proper time for it this week. 

A poster for Taxi Driver for a gallery in LA, and a poster for Belleville Rendezvous (as my alter-ego Ignatius Fitzpatrick) for the same gallery. 

Content for my Endling Patreon 

Oh and being a parent, husband etc.

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Film recommendation - A Prayer Before Dawn. Amazing, harrowing (not for the feint of heart) true story about a heroin addict in the worst Bangkok prison who finds redemption in Muay Thai.

Music Recommendation - What ever you're into - music is subjective. 

Podcast recommendation - Everyone should listen to The Blindboy Boatclub Podcast 

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That's it for now, more random musing to come in time...