Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Sunday Head****

Thanks to our friends at the ever-reliable Mighty Optical Illusions for this week's head-scratcher.

This is Horizons, a work by Neil Dawson, photographed in a large private art park in New Zealand. Here it is from another angle.

Hang on... the bits that were at the left are now at the right but how come the bits that were at the back aren't now at the front?

Surely this is just drawn on the photos? No, it's definitely a sculpture. Here it is from a third angle.

Now the shaded bits are much bigger but the unshaded bit looks just like it did in photo 1!

Ah... it's that word "sculpture" that's throwing you, isn't it? Sculpture automatically makes you think in 3 dimensions, especially something like this with the creases and shading implying the shape folds back on itself.

Actually, it's as flat as a pancake. It's just steel tubing and mesh, stuck on top of a hill. The clue is in the trees.

Thanks to Matt Brubeck finding an aerial shot of the park and posting it on The Grip blog. I've added some clues as to roughly where the photos must have been taken. Once you can orientate yourself around that, you can start to make sense of what you're seeing.

These are very clever photos of a fascinating sculpture. In fact I think the photos would work better than seeing the real thing!

PS: Sorry I'm rubbish at identifying trees!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Octopus On Artylizer

This week I've set up an account with Artylizer, the micro-blogging network for anyone who works with art, design or fashion.

The site uses a Twitter-style system for short messages (up to 333 characters), with the bonus that you can add graphics to them. This makes it perfect for creating a mini-portolio where clients can see a lot of your work at a glance.

Also you get the usual social networking facilities of making friends, subscribing to other people's feeds and discovering lots of great new artists.

There's no mistaking who that yellow & pink belongs to!

I'm currently in the process of archiving all my best old work on there so I hope you'll check there often to find out even more about what I do.

If you're a creative person too, why not set up a free profile of your own, show your talents to the world and let's hook up!

My Artylizer page.

Artylizer on Facebook.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Sunday Head****

A freaky little thing for you to play with today. A simple animation of some dots that make up a sphere.

The question is, which way is the sphere rotating? Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Think you've worked it out? Look at it again. Are you SURE it isn't spinning the other way? Keep trying and you'll see it change direction right in front of your eyes.

It's not the animation doing that. It's just a simple loop of some dots, which always travels in the same direction. Whatever you can see in those dots is all in your head.


As seen on Mighty Optical Illusions.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Spring Fair 2010 - Part 2: Beef Up Your Walls

The thing I like to do most when I visit Spring and Autumn Fairs is to just wander up and down the aisles and take in an overview of what the season's design trends are. Last autumn was brightened up by huge colourful flowers. The flavour for this season is...


It seemed like every other art stall was overflowing with paintings of cows.

Spotty cows...

Brown Cow? by Jennifer Brereton at Collier and Dobson, prints from £105

...hairy cows...

I Spy by Thuline at Alpha 1 Marketing, £99

...cheeky cows...

Friesian Orange by James Bartholomew at The Mill House Gallery, prints from £95

...moody cows.

The Black Angus by Angela Davidson, prints from £50

If cows aren't your pick of the farmyard, there were plenty of other tasty animals to choose from.

Cocktail by Mary Ann Rogers at Alpha 1 Marketing, £66

Grazing Sheep by Timmy Mallett - yes, THAT Timmy Mallett - at Buckingham Fine Art Publishers

Foxes were also popular...

The Fox by Gary Benfield at Buckingham Fine Art Publishers, giclée print £153

...hares even more so.

Brown Hare by Nigel Artingstall, £395

On The Run by Kate Osborne at Artreo, giclée print £82.25

But mostly it was cows.

Cliffs and Cows by Michael Embden at Artreo, giclée print from £70

All images are for illustrative purposes only and link to the site of origin. All copyrights respected.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy "Oh Well It's Only Exploitation By The Card Companies" Day

If you're not feeling too loved-up today, you have my sympathy. I'm not, either. Please accept this Anti-Valentine's token from the hottest blog of the year, Sleep Talkin' Man.

If you're not familiar with the blog, Adam Lennard the Sleep Talkin' Man is a mild mannered advertising accounts manager by day, a potty-mouthed, vegetarian-hating, badger-loving surrealist in his sleep. Now every night his wife Karen records his ramblings and posts them up the next morning.

I should warn you his site is VERY rude. Please don't visit if you're offended by very strong (albeit hilarious) language.

I'm doing some typography for a mystery project the couple are planning, so here's one of his typically romantic outbursts illustrated for your Valentine's Day pleasure. Click on this image to see the rest of the quote (I've cleaned it up a bit!)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The World Comes To Vancouver

The 2010 Winter Olympics has kicked off today in Vancouver, Canada. Here's a playlist of some of the best trailers and commercials from various countries. (Total running time approx. 10.5 minutes.)

The Canadians themselves are going heavily for the patriotic approach. As a bilingual country I've also included the compare-and-contrast English and French versions of the official launch video. The Americans like to champion the human achievement angle whereas China (being the last Olympic country) revels in the beauty and spectacle of it all. The British and Germans are going for a more artistic approach. (Apparently the British trailer is also being used on Russian TV.) For Australia, of course, it's the middle of summer. There's a beautiful animation from the Olympic movement itself as well as the official opening titles from Olympic Broadcasting Services Vancover.

Oh and little kids + ice = adorably funny.

Also, the Olympics wouldn't be the Olympics without a cute mascot or 4, with these guys inspired by native Canadian legends.

These are the last Olympics before London 2012 so I wonder what we'll be coming up with? I'm off to scribble down my ideas for Percy the Trafalgar Square Pigeon!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Spring Fair 2010 - Part 1: New Goodies From You Know Who

It seems like only yesterday I was reporting from Autumn Fair 2009, but yesterday I was back at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre to see its big sister, Spring Fair International 2010.

For the first week every February, Spring Fair takes up all 20 halls of the NEC to become the UK's most important showcase for the greetings, gift and homeware industries. Exhibitors and buyers from all round the world congregate to do millions of pounds' worth of trade and show off the very best in contemporary design.

Due to its size, it's impossible to go round and see everything in one day, so I just stick to my main areas of interest, which are greetings, art and contemporary gifts. Okay, maybe a few toys...

Over the next few days I'm going to share my pick of the best new products with you. Without a doubt, I've ticked off far more names on my exhibitors' list to follow up than I've ever done before.

For today, though, the blog's about something that I know will get many hearts a-fluttering. The excitement started as soon as I stepped into the piazza, got handed my show guide and saw this bee-you-tiful sight on the back cover...

Wow! Stuff are a Wolverhampton-based company that specialise in scientific toys, gadgets and puzzles themed around great British institutions such as The Science Museum, Mensa, Top Gear and Wallace and Gromit. To tie in with Matt Smith taking over the lead role, they now have a licence for Doctor Who merchandise, which is so new it isn't even mentioned on their website yet!

The new range was debuted at The Toy Fair at Olympia, London, in January, and is expected to hit the shops in October.

The Doctorwhotoys website printed their own excellent description of the range. Of these, I saw:

  • Desktop Patrol Dalek: With inbuilt sensors to stop it bumping into things or falling off the edge of the table. A bit of a throwback to the classic Rolykins Dalek from the 1960s that my brother used to torment me with when I was a kid, to the point where our Mum made him get rid of it. Years later they were selling for hundreds of pounds. Serves him right. Sorry, I digress.
  • Adipose Stress Toy: Self-explanatory, a squishy Adipose doll.
  • Sonic Screwdriver: An accurate replica of the new one that Matt will be using but I'm afraid I wasn't able to get a close enough look to confirm whether it's the gadget version or the rumoured pen.
  • Following Cyberman: A Cyberman's head whose eyes have the effect of following you round the room.
  • TARDIS Emergency Fund: A small TARDIS on a keyring, that you can keep some folded up money in.
  • Also, not on the Doctorwhotoys list, I saw a Spinning TARDIS, which seems to be some sort of magnetic repulsion toy that makes the model TARDIS spin above its base.

I should point out that I only saw them in their boxes, they weren't out on full display or being demonstrated. So I can't totally vouch for the details and there may have been other products there that didn't catch my eye as readily.

No photographs have been issued of these items, but I can tell you they look extremely classy indeed. They nearly all have an unpainted chrome finish and seem very durable.

This will also be the first time we'll get to see the new series' logo being used in packaging and, on this range, it comes across as very sophisticated. The box is in a simple blue, black and white colour scheme with the logo running across the top and a section cut away so you can see the product. There's no picture of Matt on the front.

I imagine these will be aimed squarely at the dads and elder children (that's not to say there aren't plenty of women who'd have fun with them, of course!) If you're lucky you may find an official Wow! Stuff product demonstrator and/or promotional video in your local stockist this autumn.

I'll update you with any information that appears on the Wow! Stuff website. You may also like to read the Drwhofigures verdict on this and the other new Series 5 merchandise promoted at the Olympia Toy Fair.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Dusting Off The Archives

I've got artwork floating around on various sites around cyberspace, so this is a good place to pull them all together, either linking to them or reposting them for your benefit.

You'll notice I've added a DeviantShare widget, which you can see scrolling away on the left of the page. This has samples from the college work I've posted on my DeviantArt portfolio. Click on the widget's link and you'll be able to see the rest. It's a great showcase of the different styles I can create and I've added quite detailed descriptions of my working methods. You can also buy many of the images printed onto canvas, mugs, mousemats and other products.

I also have some personal projects archived on my cobwebby old MySpace page, so I'm bringing the best of them across here. A group of them are T-shirt designs, which I'll keep for their own post. Here are the "bits and bobs", personal projects and one-offs.


Photo restoration - personal project

Adobe PhotoShop & Nova Art Explosion clip art, 2003

I was lent this postcard by my auntie in 2003, who had been quoted a small fortune to get it restored professionally.

It shows an allotment by a local pub called The Waterglade and is dated 1911. The woman and the man on the right are my mum's parents, and the baby is another one of my many aunties.

Tatty, torn, faded and stained by old Sellotape, the only way to rescue it was to hack it to pieces using PhotoShop (I think I was running version 5 at the time) and recreate it in the spirit of the original. The sky, path and bush on the left hand side were taken from clip art and blended in.

The postcard was a black and white photo hand-coloured in a limited palette. Therefore I had to reduce the image to greyscale, brighten it up and colour it all in again. The colours had to be a flat wash of one shade, matching the original palette as closely as possible.

Minor creases were easily ironed out using the Clone tool and the text was recreated over the original.

The final piece was printed on good quality photo paper, framed and hung with love on my auntie's wall. :)


Illustration - online art project

PhotoShop & Bryce, 2008

In April 2008, a guy named Adam Box launched The Count High Project, with the aim of making a film. It was to consist of illustrations of numbers, running sequentially from 1 up to however many submissions he could collect in exactly 12 months.

Anyone was welcome to have a go. All you had to do was Email Adam and he would send you your number (issued in strict first-come-first-served order). You could then illustrate it any way you wanted - drawing, painting, modelling, photography or just scribbling it on a piece of paper. Talent wasn't the important thing, he just wanted to see the variety of ideas and people (from professional designers to schoolkids) his wacky project would attract.

The target was 100,000 but I don't believe he received anywhere near that. Indeed the website disappeared before the 12 month deadline expired. I still like my contribution though, so here it is.

I was assigned 415 which, when I researched it, turned out to be a very boring number! The most interesting thing I could find out was it's the telephone area code for San Francisco. So somehow that led to this earthquake-inspired illustration.

I created the ground and sky in the Bryce 3D landscape generating software. I'm not an experienced user though and I couldn't find my manual. I'd forgotten how to import a greyscale image and turn it into a landscape, so instead I did the 415-shaped holes in PhotoShop. Adding graduated browns and a grain effect gave a convincing 3D appearance.


Personal bit of daftness

PhotoShop, 2007

Finally for now, something I did in one of my silly moods! I'm a bit obsessed with Hungarian Pulis and I found this amazing photo on Wikipedia. I thought people might like a bit of help working out what it was!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Sunday Head****

Today, the stunning landscape photography of Matthew Albanese.

Hang on... this IS the Sunday Head**** isn't it?

Go over to Matthew's Behance page to discover exactly what it is you're looking at here. Very clever stuff.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Sorry Product Of Being In A Silly Mood When It Rains

Grey and grey and grey and grey
Grey and grey and grey
I can sing a rainbow
But I'm colourblind
What a waste of time.

I guess that's what happens when I design pants for too long. Talking of which, they're all up in the non-Christmas shops now, each in at least 2 colours, along with the less funny but extremely pretty* stackable mugs.

*I'm not really colourblind. Just in a silly mood.