Wednesday, January 03, 2018

playing with Sketchbook

I have had Autodesk Sketchbook on my laptop for a little while now, but the nib on my Active pen broke, and although I could finger paint on the touch-screen or use a stylus, I couldn't really use the program to its best capacity.

Finally, however, I did get a new pen. It took a few weeks longer than expected because I ordered an Active Stylus by mistake. the HP website was not very clear in helping decide what I needed, and the Stylus did not work at all with my computer. It's weird that the one company would sell two seemingly identical devices that use entirely incompatible technologies, and then not differentiate between the two on their website beyond calling one a stylus and one a pen. Even the specs given were virtually identical. 

Anyway, I eventually got it sorted and got back to using my laptop for drawing, and here's what I came up with. Mostly I was playing around, and making things up as I go, but that's how you learn. A cartoon sketch, a drawing using photo reference, and a caricature-ish picture of a man on TV that was on as I was drawing.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Everywhere I go, I've got into the habit of taking photos of my feet. Occasionally I paint them too. Here are my feet, encased in shoes, on a worn patch of concrete in Tasmania, rendered on paper in Gouache. The painting measures 190x140mm.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Illustration Friday says Illustrate a Punk. I did it twice, Here's one with markers,

 And here's one done in Autodesk Sketchbook

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Flying Kangaroo

I thought I would set myself a little challenge. Last week I had an idea  for an animated sculpture that I would like to make one day - a flying kangaroo. 

Regular readers of this irregular blog know that I have a fascination for automata - figurative kinetic sculptures. I have attempted a few myself in the last couple of years, most successfully my diesel-punk fish which picked up the Highly Commended prize at the 2016 Martin Hanson Awards held at the Gladstone Qld Art Gallery. And then it also won the Peoples' Choice prize, which was not just a certificate, but actual cash!

So late last week I spent time at our local Rockhampton zoo, sketching the kangaroos, who were very obliging. I then started to work out how to mechanized a roo. 

After a few sketches I thought I would try a more finished illustration. I did an A4 pencil sketch, which I then inked and photographed.

 I imported the linework into Autodesk Sketchbook, With the lines on the top layer with a multiply setting (which makes all but the darkest parts - the lines - transparent to lower layers), I went about digitally painting it. There are plenty of chances to experiment with different brushes and try different effects, and you can be a bit less precious about each step because there is the wonderful undo function! A modern aeronautical approach to the design.

Then, for variety, I did a da Vinci-Punk version. In a week or two, the Rockhampton Art Gallery is hosting a display of working models of some of Leonardo's greatest inventions. Our gallery is a little small for the whole collection, so the flying machines will be displayed at the airport, enticing visitors to see the rest in town. I loosely traced over the original lines digitally, used my new grunge brushes and imported an original da Vinci drawing for a bit of added texture.

Finally I took my original sketch and coloured it with markers. It was actually a lot quicker than doing it digitally (although I am still learning the program), but, of course, there is no undo in real life!

So now, when it comes time to build the model, I have a choice of doing a sleek composite metal Airbus Industrie kangaroo, or a wooden and fabric da Vinci-punk version. And I daresay there are other design options to explore. How would an Art Nouveau one look? Or Art Deco/streamlined 1930's industrial design version go? Or a completely natural version, with fur and feathers? The sky, I guess, is the limit.

Monday, February 27, 2017

new Blog title

 Regular as clockwork, every 6 or 7 years, or there about, I update my blog header. I hope I'm not too hasty, some people don't cope well with change. But change happens, deal with it, dear reader! Let's see if this one stands the test of time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Steam Punk

Steam Punk. It is an aesthetic that I quite enjoy, with all that brass and Victorian retro-ness. An alternative view of the late Industrial Revolution, with its Meccano Engineering and delicate Art Nouveau design. Pistons, tubing and Steam power, bring it on! 

The one thing that annoys me a bit is the 'cogs on everything' idea. 

I like cogs, they are a brilliant way of transferring, changing and modifying motion, but I don't like cogs that have no purpose. A cog has to DO something, even if that something is a mystery to the on-looker. A cog whose sole purpose is to sit there and look steam punky is a cog with no direction in life. That is a sad state of affairs. If you look inside and old clock (not a digital one) you will find a lot of cogs and gears, some spinning fast, others barely moving, but they all work together for the one goal, to provide an accurate measurement of time; nothing is superfluous, and everything works by clockwork.

 I mean, a top hat with goggles is pretty cool, but a hat with goggles and gears, that's just a bit weird. Unless those gears and cogs add to the functionality of the hat, even if it's in a fairly obscure way, they really shouldn't be there. Ah, but it's decoration you say. Well, why not use a stylised bronze Art Nouveau Ostrich feather? Save the cogs on your hat for opening a flap on the top to deploy a hidden harpoon gun or some scientific apparatus! Cogs are functional. They are made to do something, let them do it!

Anyway, when I think of steampunk, I picture a bloke with a pink Mohican having a steaming cup of English Breakfast Tea, probably with a scone... 

Illustration produced using Autodesk Sketchbook.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Fish on a Stick - Industrial Edition

How to make a Fish   

Way back in 2006 I worked for a signage company that had a lot of very cool toys, big CNC routers, a laser cutter, a vinyl plotter or two and several engraving machines. So much potential for creative work! So much mundane stuff actually produced... 

So I sometimes indulged my creativity with the odd lunchtime project. One of these was Fish on a Stick, which had a laser cut acrylic skeleton, a foam head, various plastic components and felt scales. He was a cartoony fish puppet and was a bit of fun to play with.

Fast forward 10 years. Since 2007 I have been doing youth work, and dabbling in creativity whenever the opportunity arose. In January 2016 I discovered  the Laser Cutting company in the town where I now live. I looked through my old files and found I still had the program for laser cutting the fish. I decided it was time for an update! I cleaned up the Corel file and sent it off to be cut.

 I dusted off my markers and did a sketch of a slightly more aggressive fish, something a bit more hard-edged and industrial.

I was going for a used, worn look, with a bit of a transition between steam and dieselpunk, somewhere in there.

 The laser cut plywood components. The original fish was made in plastics, but I wanted to use materials that were easier to work on at home.

Early assembly, showing the construction of the head.

 The head was shaped with expanding foam, the PVC piping was there to create the spaces for the eye holes. I replaced the PVC with brass plumbing fixtures, complete with glass marbles for eyes and LED's that could be flashed off and on.

Each bulkhead section of the fish's body was hinged to provide a fully articulated body.

 The various fins were created with brass strips and pieces of fabric from an old tent, soaked in superglue.

 The head section in the process of being painted. The foam was sealed with epoxy resin first, and then painted with acrylics,

 I wasn't happy with the bumps in the surface, so they were filled and sanded back, leading to the patchy colouring, which looked pretty cool, but I ended up painting over that and adding a black paint wash and gold rub 'n' buff to create a metal effect.
 The scales were created from aluminium slats from an old Venetian blind, which were cut, drilled, and lightly cooked with a small blow torch before being wired together and attached to the wooden skeleton.

The tail fins and the scales in place.

For display, I made a base which included vintage dials modified in Photoshop to display important readouts for Espieglerie Overflow and Aetheric Potentiality. I also prepared a dial for Bombacity Quotient but didn't use it.

The base became a sort of workhouse and a tiny worker is seen heading home after a long day working. So, is this a fish, or some sort of alternative reality airship? Possibly..

The mouth and flashing eyes can be operated by pulling a lever (a modified corkscrew) in the base.

I also made a pole which the fish sits on that you can walk around with. This lets you interact with people, with the fish in puppet mode. The tail swishes with a flick of the wrist and you can open the mouth and flash the eyes at will.

Check out the video too!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Don't Forget to Floss!

 The dreaded Tyrannosaurus-Rex has very tiny arms, not much good for anything really. But they are just right for flossing. And with wonderful teeth and a warm, welcoming smile to maintain, the T-rex finds that flossing is an important part of his daily routine.

Here are two versions of  my 'Don't Forget to Floss' design, the first one being a layered illustration on card and wood, the second one, an animated toy automaton made of wood. I hope to add a video soon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Somewhere in the middle is reality

Sometimes, everywhere you look is dark. Everything you touch is hard and sharp. Everything you see is decay and ruin. The storm clouds gather around. Thorns grab at your feet, a cold wind whips about your face.
And there be dragons...

 Of course, there are other days where all is sunshine and butterflies! 

But what do these two states have in common? It is true that some days are better than others. There is a lot of suffering in the world and some people do have terrible lives while others seem to have it all.

But generally, the extremes are the stuff of fairytales (or nightmares), a fantasy.

The truth is, somewhere in the middle, is reality.

Monday, March 14, 2016

from my sketchbook - a Dragon

A dragon from my sketch book. Playing with my Copic markers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Peg Whale - Craft activity

     A little while ago I was asked to come up with some craft activities for a school holiday program for a bunch of pre-teens. I never tried Pinterest before, but I heard that it was a good place to look for such things. 

And it was! One thing I saw there was a photo of a fish made around a wooden clothing peg that seemed ideal.

 I played around with some scissors, paper, and a wooden peg and came up with a Whale design that was simple enough for the kids to make (with a little help for the younger ones).

I have attached a pdf file of the shapes to cut out.

Print out the file on thin card.

Get out the colouring media of your choice - crayons, water colour, automotive spray paint, whatever... and design up your whale's skin. You can get creative with patterns or just go for a solid colour. My example was just quickly done with crayon, nothing special.

Carefully cut out the two shapes. With me so far?

Find a wooden peg. A fresh new one would be ideal! You could possibly use a plastic peg of this design, but you would need to research alternative adhesives. Better stick with wood if you can!

 Using wood glue (I recommend PVA...) attach the peg to the piece with the lower jaw and the tail fins. Note where the peg lines up with the tail fins.

Fold on the dotted lines to create the lower jaw line of the Whale. I didn't do it on this sample, but you can colour both sides of this piece. Some kids draw teeth and a tongue for added effect. 

 The next part is probably the trickiest bit. Note the pencil lines in the photo. Put a small amount of glue along this line to glue the two halves of the head together. Don't put any glue in the centre area, keep it to the edges.

 Also, place a small amount of glue on the sides of the peg where the head attaches. I suggest you pour an adequate amount of glue onto a plastic plate and then apply what you need exactly where you need it using a thin strip of card. 

Note how the back end of the head fits on the peg and that the front of the head lines up with the lower jaw.

And there it is, a whale, with an opening mouth! I quickly drew some eyes on my whale with a marker, but its much more fun to get some of those googly plastic eyes you get in craft stores and glue them on. See the picture at the top for examples by children at the holiday programme. This is a craft activity that appeals to boys as much as it does to girls, which is a good thing.

Included on the pdf is a tiny Jonah which can be coloured in (on both sides!) and then his arms and legs can be folded into a kneeling in prayer position. He is glued into position on the lower jaw and is revealed when the mouth is opened.

If you don't want to be so biblical, you can replace him with a tiny Pinnochio or a rolled up tongue or a fish or maybe some krill. Let me know how you get on with that!

Here is the pdf!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Ned Kelly. Australian icon. Innovator. Misunderstood genius.

Ned Kelly. Australian icon. Innovator. Misunderstood genius. More than a bushranger. Not just another bearded hipster on a fixie...

Inventor of the bicycle helmet, by which means he sought to protect the rider from the perils of Magpie Attack! 

People speak of drop bears and sharks and hundreds of other deadly, bitey and sting-y things in Australia, but what brings true terror to Australians every spring is the magpie, swooping from above with murderous intent, especially to those who dare to ride bikes.
Not many people know that Ned Kelly was a keen early cyclist, and instead of cowering indoors in September, he decided to do something about it.

 He invented the bicycle helmet. 

Admittedly his early prototype was very heavy (remember this was before the invention of polystyrene) and lacked a little in peripheral vision, but he had on-going plans to develop his ideas.

Unfortunately where he got in to trouble was with his early method of crowd funding. Approaching financial institutions and the public with guns blazing, and promising not to shoot his backers as a reward, was met with a level of misunderstanding by the police of the day.

When Kelly faced the full weight of the law, the judge redefined 'stretch goals' and his enterprise came to an early end.

Such is life...

Here are some photos of my first real attempt at automata - figurative kinetic sculpture. Ned rides his bike as he is continually swooped by a magpie.  Check out the video too!

Magpie has paper wings and a body made of Kneed-it epoxy putty
Ned is made from pine mostly, with aluminium armour (from old drink cans) and aluminium wire for arms, easy to bend in shape! This photo shows him without his jacket and chest armour.