Thursday, 31 January 2013

The reality check - 10 influential artists, who are better than me!

I pour my heart and soul into the work I do. I spend hours alone, sometimes passing on going out with friends or family to stay in and work instead. So when I see other artist's work, which is (seemingly) effortlessly a million times better than mine, it's easy to be disheartened. 

However I've learned over the years to turn that feeling into motivation. Rather then give up because I will never be as good as them, I am determined to learn from them and to keep drawing until one day I can be up there with the best... I still have some way to go!

So in no particular order, here are my top ten artists that influence me. 
I must state that this is not a list of the best artists of all time, although in my opinion some of them just might be, this is more of a personal list to show you a selection of artists who mean a lot to me and have helped me morph into the illustrator I am today. Hopefully you will find someone on this list who will inspire you too!


Jamie Hewlett
There was no hesitation to putting Jamie Hewlett here. One of the first artists to really hit me hard, and one of the biggest influences for picking up a pencil. It all started when I bought a copy of Deadline in the early 90's. Inside was a young Punk who drove a tank and had a mutant kangaroo for a boyfriend. I was hooked!

Jamie Hewlett was influenced by another great artist who I love, Brendan McCarthy, but for the sake of this list, I'll be missing Brendan out, sorry! However I would advise anyone reading to go and check out his work on Rogan Gosh.

Jamie Hewlett's 'Tank Girl'
English artist Hewlett works close with bands and has done commissions for Pulp, Mindless Self Indulgence and more. He is the co-creator of the animated band Gorillaz alongside Damon Albarn, and created costumes and animation sequences for Monkey: A Journey to the West. However in my eyes his greatest creation will always be Tank Girl.

Work to check out; Tank Girl, Gorillaz, Hewligan's Haircut, Phoo Action



I found Magritte through researching Salvador Dali, and although both are Surrealists, Magritte got deeper into my skin then Dali ever did and so he beats Dali to be on this list.

Rene Francois Ghislain Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. If you are not familiar with Surrealism, it is an philosophical art movement that started in the 1920's, and featured works that challenged the audience's perception of reality. What I liked most about the work of Surrealism, is that it made me think, it is thought provoking and encourages you to question not just the art, but life too.

 Magritte's work does just this. Perhaps his most famous work is "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" - which translates into; 'This is not a pipe.' The painting does seem to contradict this, but of course it is not a pipe, it is a painting of a pipe. 

Work to check out; Young Girl Eating a Bird, The Human Condition, The Eternally Obvious, The Good Omens, The Tiredness of Life


I discovered Chris while reading Paul Stewart's 'The Edge Chronicles', series, which Chris illustrated beautifully. His scratchy, detailed style and the way he depicted the characters with such emotion and style inspired me to do the same with my own art. 

A British illustrator born in South Africa, Chris Riddell is also a political cartoonist for The Observer, and occasionally writes his own books too. Possibly my favourite thing about Chris is the way he draws the human form.

Work to check out; Beyond the Deepwoods, Stormchaser, Beowulf and the Monster, Dakota of the White 



I don't remember exactly how I found Coop, but his work is everywhere in my life, and most likely yours too.

Coop is commercially successful; hotrods, t-shirts and clothing, stickers, skate boards, toys, lighters, posters; the list is endless. 
American born Chris Cooper, aka Coop, skipped art school and went straight to fame. I noticed him mostly after seeing his band posters for the likes of Nirvana, Soundgarden, the Sex Pistols as well as album cover art for the Ramones and so on. Even his pop-art feel pin ups featuring devils, monsters, aliens can't be overlooked. It is bright, bold and a little bit naughty. What is not to love? 
One which is best not to show the kids or your Gran, but definitely one to show everybody else!

Work to check out; Coop's devils, Vans footwear, skateboards, posters,


It was awfully difficult to narrow this list down to just ten people, but Josh Kirby is definitely deserving of a place. I love to read, and Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' novels were a favourite of mine as a child. Kirby seemed to capture the complete essence of the book in a single illustration.

Born Ronald William Kirby on the outskirts of Liverpool, England, he worked mostly in Oils, and his unique style and detailed paintings are mystical, fantastical and instantly recognisable. He died at the age of 72 and the Discworld artwork was taken over by Paul Kidby, who does a great job.

Work to check out; Discworld, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Star Wars



This really was a tough one. I had several comic artists on my list but still wanted more. Ed Benes and Frank Quitely both very nearly made it, but in the end I chose Mr Lee.

Korean born, American raised comic book artist Jim Lee's work speaks for itself. He has worked on X-men, Batman, Superman and more. Chances are if you're a fan of comics, you're a fan of Jim Lee. Jim made it on this list because he has contributed so much to the comic world, not just his fantastic art, but also editing, publishing and he now stands as Co Publisher of DC Entertainment. His work is incredibly detailed, striking, and world famous - rightly so!

For those who know me, it is one of Jim Lee's Batman illustrations that I have tattooed onto my shoulder.

Work to check out; Batman: Hush, Deathblow: Sinners and Saints, Gen 13, Superman, Justice League



Have you ever seen one of those illustrations, that at first glance looks like a photograph? That's Sorayama's game. 

Famous for his realistic pin-ups, Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama paints with such fine detail it is mind blowing. If like me, you love robots, then his beautiful feminine robotic women complete with chrome finish, with take your breath away. Aerosmith's 'Just Push Play' album features one of his best. Who is ready to be impressed?

Work to check out; Sony, George Lucas, Playboy, Disney

Website; (Contains artistic nudity)


I'm sure everybody reading this has read one of Roald Dahl's books, and I'm equally as sure that if you did, you enjoyed looking at the accompanying illustrations.

Sir Quentin Saxby Blake is an English illustrator, best known for his fun and quirky illustrations in the Roald Dahl books. He has contributed to over 300 books, 35 of which he has written himself! I could list numerous children's book illustrators, but Mr Blake makes it here because his work takes me back to my childhood, reading under the quilt with a torch late into the night. 
Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, George's marvellous medicine, The Twits and all the others will be with me forever, and that's partly thanks to the pictures drawn by Quentin Blake.

Work to check out;Books by Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Dr Seuss


Hans Rudolf Giger is a Swiss Surrealist painter, sculptor and set designer. He works mostly in airbrush, and creates the most bizarre, dreamlike (or should that be nightmarish?) concoctions that would make even Chris Cooper blush. 

Another one with an adult only warning I'm afraid, but he just couldn't be left off the list. Rather than attempt to describe his strange, yet fantastic work, it is best if you just go and take a look for yourself, making sure your boss is not looking over your shoulder while you do!
 Giger has admitted he suffers from 'night terrors' and his work can be attributed to the influences of the sleep disorder.

Work to check out; Alien (1979) Giger Bar, Necronomicon



While temporarily working in a call centre when I was sixteen, my boss handed me his copy of Barry Ween: Boy Genius to read. I never did get to thank him properly for the massive effect this had on me, for this was one of THE BEST comics I have ever read, and still re-read to this day.

Judd Winick was born in New York and was originally famous for being on a reality TV show called 'The Real World.' I didn't see this, but his artwork is fun, captivating and features lot's of apes / monkeys so it's a winner in my book! 

Perhaps what really sells Judd's work is his fantastic writing, I wouldn't recommend you give Barry Ween to your children though, I did warn you. Judd has moved to the big league and now writes and creates artwork for a plethora of DC comics, including Batwing and Catwoman.

Work to check out; The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Barry Ween: Boy Genius, Pedro and Me, Frumpy the Clown


That's it! These are just people who have somewhat helped me to do what I do today, but I am constantly discovering artists new and old. If you think I've made a huge mistake and overlooked someone incredible, please make a point of telling me. Thanks!

Coming soon... more project 365...

Friday, 25 January 2013

My weapons of choice (the tools of an illustrator)

I have a few people asking how I draw and what tools I use, so here is some insider information on my weapons of choice. It's not the same for all artists, but this is how I work.

First things first...


Strong, sweet coffee to help me concentrate. Energy drinks work just as well, but are pretty bad for your health / teeth so I'm trying to avoid them.

Drawing takes a lot of concentration so I need to snack and drink regularly, I recently switched to a vegan diet so I'm replacing my sweets for much healthier nibbles!

There is one vital tool in this job that I cannot live without. 


Running on OS X 10.8.2, the capabilities of the Macbook Pro, in my opinion far outshine any PC or laptop out there. It's fast, powerful and never lets me down. 

If the Macbook is the foundations to my house, then the software I use are the bricks and mortar.


I recently upgraded to CS6, although previous versions are just as effective. 

My main contenders are Photoshop and Illustrator.  I use whichever one fit's the client's job best - or whichever the client requests. Here's some samples of my work in each, and you can see the difference in the programs and what they do.


Mostly used to manipulate and edit photos, this raster based program gives me the chance to create more natural, painterly illustrations. Very similar (but not identical) to drawing traditionally with paper and pencils / paint / etc


It took me some time to master Illustrator and the pen tool, but once I did the world of illustration came to life.

Illustrator is a vector editor, which means you use mathematical equations to create your art in shapes. The huge plus to this is that illustrations created in Illustrator can be blow up in size without pixelating like images created in Photoshop. For me, it's great for clean, striking images where shapes and form rule.

Indesign & Dreamweaver

I mainly use Indesign to create book covers, posters and templates when putting the illustrations to print. Dreamweaver is a web design software for making HTML websites and mobile apps. Although my knowledge of this program is limited, I know enough to make websites such as this one with relative ease.


There was once a time where I floated on a sea of paper in a raft made from pencils. Not so much anymore. 

I use a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet connected to my computer to draw straight into the program I'm using. After some time practicing and getting used to looking at a screen instead of your hand, it saves time and money. (after the initial outlay of the tablet) If you are wondering what the elastic band is for round the pen, it is to stop it rolling off my desk, which it likes to do.

I still do draw by hand for certain projects where the result just can't be duplicated digitally. For example when drawing for comics, the digital result just isn't as good as an old fashioned pen and paper. In these cases, I use a mechanical pencil, good quality paper, and a copic multiliner set to create images like the one below. I then often scan the artwork into my computer and colour it digitally in the above programs.

They are the essentials, my tools I can't live without. But there are are a couple more things that I cannot leave off this list, as they are just too important when I'm doing what I do.


My mac comes equipped with a very effective calendar and note taking system, I even have a few apps for this sort of thing. However time and time again, I have proved to myself that the best way to meet deadlines and keep records is a good, old fashioned PHYSICAL diary. There is nothing for me, that can replace a biro and notebook when it comes to keeping notes on my work. It's messy, full of scribbles and I would be lost without it. 


Ok, so not necessarily rock and roll all of the time, but definitely lots of music. Itunes, headphones and a killer playlist keep me focused and prevent me getting distracted.

 What music I hear you ask? I'm happy if it has guitars or was made in the 80s.

So that's pretty much it. I'm not a morning person so prefer to work late into the night, and they say you're supposed to take regular breaks away from the computer but I love my work so often the time flies by without me noticing.

Project 365

Project 365 is still going strong, here are my illustrations of the day for today and yesterday!

Today - 25th Jan 2013...

And yesterdays, 24th Jan 2013...

Thanks for looking! Be sure to leave a comment if you see something you like!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Princesses and dino babies!

Whew! I've been unbelievably busy - many projects this week are coming to a close, and wrapping them up at the end always seems to take one extra big push of hard work! It is all worth it... so here's what I have been up to...

18th Jan 2013

Who doesn't love cute little dino babies? 


19th Jan 2013... 

I'm a huge fan of eating healthy, so I love it when I get projects I can connect with.
 Whizmeal is an online meal planning and ordering website for parents. You can see their facebook page right here. 

20th Jan 2013... 

This was a very quick sample to work out some styling for a client. 

21st Jan 2013...

Yet another sample for this day, I like plotting in some rough shading the give the sketch a bit more depth, but he won't be so blue when he's finished!

22nd Jan 2013...

Just a sneaky peek of the illustration for this day! Can you guess what's going on here?

And here's a work in progress shot - about halfway through the illustration.

Today is the 23rd, and here is today's illustration!

On the 9th of January I posted the very same image but in rough sketch form, now here he is in his full colour glory - it's Timmy!

If you are wondering what the dates are for, I am attempting a PROJECT 365. This means for all 365 days of the year 2013, I am creating and posting an illustration! Check back through my previous blog posts to see how I've been doing so far!

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave any comments!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Meddy Teddy and more!

It's been a few days since I last posted, but I haven't forgotten my Project 365! I've been really busy finishing up work for clients and took a much needed night off to relax and enjoy myself.

14th, Jan, 2013 - I completed the last of the Meddy Teddy illustrations - it's been a long journey but one that I've enjoyed.

"The Adventures of Meddy Teddy is a children's book series about a meditating teddy bear named, Meddy Teddy. In Meddy's world, animals teach the philosophies and principles that support a healthy lifestyle including eating well, meditation and yoga."

If you'd like to find out more about Meddy Teddy then you can visit their website at

Here are some of my original character sketches, I sketch digitally using a Bamboo tablet, into Photoshop. It saves paper and is much more productive in terms of time and energy. 

And here is what the final pictures looked like, you can see the characters changed slightly as I refined their look!

15th January 2013 - a quick character sketch for a client. Although I can't reveal much yet, I'm excited to say this project looks set to be a winner! Watch this space!

This is definitely not my usual day to day work, but on the 16th of Jan 2013 I spent the whole day drawing zombies for a cool clothing company. I spent the time talking closely with the big boss who  had some great ideas, and we saw those ideas start to take form on paper!  

And finally here is today's - it's another cutie enjoying one of Lana Purcell's green smoothies. 

That's your lot! Do feel free to tell me what you think, or what you have all been up to this week!