Pirate Portrait – Emma and Ben

A really fun (if slightly infuriating) commission – to create an artwork featuring two wonderfully deranged pirates in full (and I mean full) costume. Seriously, I think they’ve got at least two guns and three blades each, not to mention all the straps, strings, parrots, hats, buttons, compasses, buckles and so on… Based on a photograph and taking style hints from a Deadpool poster, this is made with india ink and watercolours on bristol board. Also there’s a hint of metallic sparkle where appropriate.

Festive printable penguin for colouring

Happy Xmas, gentlepeeps, and I wish you all a fantastic new year! In lieu of a card, here’s a pdf of a festive penguin to print and colour in, if such things float your personal boat. I had so much fun inking it. Any request for other colour-able beasties for me to draw?

Inked penguin

Festive (Sc)Owl

In case there are any more Humbugs out there, here’s a high-resolution scan of my festive ScOwl picture (based on a burrowing owl) which you may print out for festooning places with humbuggery as the season demands.

(If clicking the image just takes you to the overlay you can ‘view full size’, or try opening the link in a new tab)

BBC R&D project at the Commonwealth Games – video overlay

BBC R&D have a cool project called IP Studio, which is looking to ditch the direct wiring of live sound and video equipment, and allow programmes to be produced using all the flexibility the internet has to offer. The technology was showcased using a super-high-definition broadcast of coverage from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, via a sound desk and presenter in London.

This short video of interviews with IP Studio team members was produced by Alia Sheikh, and shows in their own words why they think that this is an important and exciting project.

I was tasked with enhancing the impact and clarity of key points. Once I received a cut of the interviews, I had a few days to transcribe the contents, plan and produce animated overlays. I created a distillation of the interviewees’ words, then manipulating the layout and timing with which they appeared to echo the speakers visually. With the addition of a few basic animated diagrams, the overlay was added to an Ultra High Definition version of the interviews, and become one of the first pieces to be broadcast at this resolution.

It was fantastic project to work on – self-contained, with very tight deadlines, but incorporating elements of technical communications, layout and animation design. I was delighted to get great feedback from the folks at the BBC involved.

Watch the video over on the BBC R&D blog here.

Credits Sequence – Message from Mumbai

For this year’s film challenge, our entry depicts the last contact between two sisters, about to be separated for 30 years as a rogue exoplanet diverts one’s home planet’s orbital trajectory.  Say that five times fast.

In a film challenge, I usually have 20 seconds to cram the credits into, tacked on the end of our 3-5 minute film.  With actors, a team of about 10 and lots people to thank, it’s tricky to fit everything in and make it readable.  I had to drop dramatic impact and the loneliness of space for a dense but elegant arrangement, but I’m pretty pleased with the result. If I’d had more time, I would animate the planets along their orbital paths, and give each ‘page’ solo time on screen, as well as using a better blur which moves across the screen, rather than streaming everything upwards.

Film challenge – Message from Mumbai

Tortoisebutler’s entry into this year’s Sci-Fi London 48 hour film-making challenge.

The given mandatory criteria:
Title – Message from Mumbai
Prop – A handful of ball bearings is passed from one character’s hand to another
Line of dialogue – “These things come full circle. Why do you think it’s called a revolution?”

We shot up in Manchester this year, camping out on an empty floor of a converted cotton mill – oodles of space, not much in the way of power sockets or chairs, but it was a fantastic weekend and great to work with the team again.

The film stepped away from our usual time travel and action staples, working instead with a single location, a ‘talking heads’ focus, and working to build a world and a mood. I’m too close to it to assess it clearly, but although watching it felt slow and un-dramatic, I think that the feelings of love, loss and hope we were looking for came across, without resorting to manufactured conflict or blame. The actresses did a beautiful job of conveying brittle, forced cheerfulness over a crushing inevitability.

I helped out on the writing for the first time, including creating more ‘Science Bits’ at the start to help it make sense, although it was too late to tweak the rest to match, alas… I learned a lot, and it’s conquered a lot of my long-seated ‘I can’t come up with stories’ blind spot.  The experience also made me more aware of how much a story turns into a graphic novel in my head, so next time I’d like to add storyboards, if I can!

I also aided Ms Costume and did the credits sequence, which I love so much I’m going to do a separate post on them.

Oh, and one of our actresses turned out to be an operatically trained singer, so I wrote some lyrics to match our composer’s original score (in about two minutes flat). Alas we only had time to record three lines (hold on ’till the credits to hear it!) but there’s talk of turning it into a proper song!

One day, one day…

PS. Hammocks are absolutely fantastic, I’m absolutely taking one next time!

Pen-and-inking

Working on improving my use of dip-pen and ink. Very much enjoying the expressiveness of my new favourite nib, and india ink is a dream to use…

Kitchen and Bathroom hand-painted tiles

Hand-painted for a kitchen (floral), and three bathrooms (black, blue, and trees-with-bright-backgrounds).

I created these with Pébéo Porcelaine 150 paints, and Marabu Porcelain Painter fine-line pens. They’re baked after drying to become ‘dishwasher safe’, but we have some concerns around durability, so we may add tile sealant or other protective coatings before using them in anger.

The paint is translucent and shows every brushstroke, dries quickly and subsequent layers lift earlier ones, so it’s really tricky to get consistent results with – I especially had trouble with areas of saturated colour, be they solid or gradients. Textures were much easier to achieve. The pen also was tricky to work with – the ink dries onto the special (and fantastic!) nib within seconds of you getting distracted by something, so I had to keep the lid in my free hand so that I wouldn’t forget to cap the pen. When (and I don’t mean ‘if’) the tip gets clogged, I found the best way to clear it was to soak it in warm water until most of the pigment floats away, then flush it through with clean water. I’d then blow through it to get the water out as much as possible (it mucks up the ink), and use a pin and magnifying glass to remove any stubborn pigment from the weird little flanges that channel ink down to the tip of the soft plastic nib.

A very interesting and tricky medium, but I think after this many paintings I’ve got enough of a handle on things to be able to achieve what I set out to when setting paint to tile.

Hand-painted tiles – En Suite

I’m working on four sets of tiles to adorn the bathrooms and kitchen of a new build house in the Highlands. The en-suite bathroom is to have a black-and-white nautical theme, so I’ve been working with various tile-decorating media to create individual drawings of a wide range of sea-related things.

Not sure what’s my favourite so far, but I’m really pleased with the textural clouds – exploiting the inevitable streaks left when I brush rather than glob on the paint. Probably at least the same number left to go!