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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

28 February 2013

Sketching Time

I realise now that I was a little over ambitious with the schedule. Some revisions will have to be made. It's almost the end of the week and I still don't have the final design for Prince Ivan, even though I've been working at least 5 hours a day without missing a day yet.

In any case here's what happened today.

I'm not particularly happy with this design yet. There is too much going on and he doesn't look too prince like to me. More like a hardened warrior, which is not what we want here.

Let's draw more stuff!

27 February 2013

Prince Ivan Heads

The character's face is extremely important in a video game. It will make or break your empathy with the character and therefore the sense of immersion. The protagonist will drive the game forward and help create a meaningful experience for the player. More on that here.

In this exercise I wanted to create a protagonist with depth of character. Someone the player can, if not identify, but sympathise with. In the story Prince Ivan has to flee his castle when he is very young and to travel the world before finding the Sun's Sister's castle. I wanted to reflect his troubled youth in a slightly dark way. A bit like Alice in Alice: Madness Returns.

The first version is a simple one. Hardened by his travels, weary look in his eyes. Short hair to aid in combat. I took some time painting the eyes because I wanted to reflect this idea. The idea that eyes reflect your experiences and that great traumatic events can have a great effect on how it looks visually.

The second version has more accent of the warrior part of his character. He looks tough and sharp. Like a warrior. Finally, in the top row, we have a more traditional Russian design. Long, blond hair, a Slavic looking hair band etc.

The next design aims to explore his travels and hardships more. His hair is unkept and there is distrust in his eyes. Perhaps he had to beg for food at times or fight for it.

The next design is an interesting one. I stumbled across this website and was extremely inspired by the Russian prison tattoo symbolism. There isn't a harshest place on this planet than a Russian prison and the little prince has had an extremely harsh childhood. To reflect this I explored a Russian prisoner image. The tear drop on his eye means that he murdered someone. This is not a uniquely Russian symbol. The teardrop tattoo can be found with different meanings all across the globe. I chose it on purpose, to help people identify it more easily. The forced scarification on the forehead tells a whole new story.

The final image is the idea of a travelling vagabond taken to a next level. He has clearly been to some other countries and has seen the world in his travels. Here we see some tribal war paint and various jewelry.

Here is some inspiration and reference I used in creating these portraits.

I hope I made my creative choices clear and with plenty of linking to other sources.


26 February 2013

Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby and the Little Sister of the Sun

Now that you've read the original text let me explain to you why this fairy tale caught my attention more than any other. There are quite a few reasons.

First of all, some of my coursework feedback mentioned that the choice of the fairy tales presented int he documentation was a small one. Let me dispel this notion. Here is the list of some fairy tales I looked at before settling on one. Here is another list. Obviously these two are English sources, but I read them in original at various points of my life. Here is another list in Russian. I was looking for a mix of magic and drama with a potential for a video game action and interesting visuals. Two other tales that made it to the semi finals are Hunter Brothers and Go There, Don't Know Where; Bring Me That, Don't Know What. Both these tales had fantastic visuals. Like the Go There, Don't Know Where had a frog that lived in a tin container full of milk. It became huge and carried the protagonist across a burning river. However they didn't make it because one had a ridiculously long name (even in Russian) and was a very long tale in itself, and the other one was too similar to the Skillful Huntsman, which was already covered in another art book.

Apart from obvious potential for action the Sun's Sister story is also extremely interesting on another level. The fact that is can be connected to Russian mythology is fantastic from research point of view. I shall explain. In Russian mythology the god of the sun is Dazhdbog. He goes around the world on a burning carriage pulled by magical birds of paradise  This fact alone and the fact that this myth is many millenia old and can be seen in different forms all around the world gives the story more depth. Also in Russian mythology Dazhbog does not have any sisters or brothers. However he does have a daughter, Zarya (Dawn), which in this context can be what the tale refers to as the Sun's Sister. In the original tale she is a young girl, which fits this assumption.

Also the plot in which a witch destroys a whole kingdom is claimed to be a common one around the world. However I found no evidence to support this claim. Therefore, as far as I was concerned, this folk tale was unique to Slavic culture.

The story also had potentially interesting locations. The mountain side where the mountain giant lives is described as a huge playground where some giant child didn't put away the toys. The weaver's hut lost in the forest. The castle ruined by the reign of the monstrous witch baby. The Sun's Sister's castle which floats in midair at the end of the world. All these images will allow this project to grow and move forward.

As an aside, I also added some bits to make it more interesting, provide more insight into Slavic folklore and adapt the story to appeal to contemporary audiences. I added Ivan's quest for the magic sword. He would have to go into the deepest part of the forest where Baba Yaga lives in her hut on chicken legs. He will appease her and she will give him this sword, with which he would be able to kill the witch baby and avenge his kingdom. The Baba Yaga character in Slavic fairy tales represents luck. This is an independent conclusion based on various sources and this article about the importance of luck in medieval society. The article is in Russian but I'm sure Google Translate will do it justice. So, Baba Yaga represents luck. She can be good to you or you can end up as her dinner. This duality is important in fairy tales and creates tension and suspense. In ancient Russian society leaders were chosen on how lucky the people thought they were. The unlucky rulers were banished, because everyone knew that bad luck is contagious and transcends onto the ruler's people. To appease one's luck was a common tradition in Slavic culture. Many superstitions appeared, like throwing salt over your left shoulder or choosing another pass if a black cat crossed it.

From aesthetic point of view, we have a wide variety of settings and characters to explore, which is perfect if I want to create an appealing and interesting final outcome. This is also excellent for my personal development as I will be forced to work with a wide variety of paintings depicting different subjects.

Finally, as far as I know this story was never adapted for screen and was never illustrated properly. There is this book, but that is just plagiarism as far as I'm concerned.

And this is why I chose this story and no other.

Coursework Feedback

Concept Development

The log demonstrates a wealth of practice based research which is driven by creative aspirations and tutorial studies, this links very well to your project methodology in the later stages of the project and provides a basis for critical reflection and identification of skills gaps – good work.

Nice. Thank you!

There are a good range of silhouettes and developmental sketches based upon exploring pipeline and early ideas – however, your visual reference material is lacking overall – the consideration of drawing inspiration from out with normal sources or imagination would enhance your visual library and the conceptual breadth of your work.

More visual reference. Gotcha!

Very few sources cited, reliance on web based digital art key sources, would like to see cross referencing and expansion beyond pure digital art practice to inform ideas, concepts and technical development.

For this point it looks like I need to find more traditional art practices and incorporate them in my work. Like the Socialist art movement I mentioned in a different post.

Your project is structured well around tests which are driven by different briefs and challenges but are linked back to project through development of practice or exploration of theory through practice.

I will just assume that that "but" was supposed to be an "and" and take it as a compliment.

There is nice evaluation of this work and the process is solid overall, however, development of concepts led by skills gaps, whereas gaps in theory are inferred, but never stated or do not seem to inform/lead practice overall.

Also known as "add more art theory in your work". Simple enough.

Your discussion and analysis of media is required further depth through the development of your analytical language – the creation of a critical framework to help structure this analysis may help to add depth to your media analysis and any case studies you hope to carry out.

Use more fancy language, create critical framework to be able to write about research more in depth, using that fancy language.

The interview adds to the development of your project direction well, however, it would be useful to make more direct written statements on how this informs/inspires project development to help to connect your research to practice.

Re-read the interview and write a little more about it.


There is a great deal of unrelated material posted on the blog. The notes on travelling and its link to inspiration are interesting, however, direct links to the project and its development are lacking. As the blog continues into semester two, please try to focus on the project and its development to enhance the transparency of your submission.

Perhaps it was a mistake to label those posts as pre-production. Spiritual and inner growth of an individual is clearly personal development and not pre-production to a project.

The selected story for the project is interesting and the art bible demonstrates a good grasp of character and world, however, it is more of a story bible with some reference to art. The addition of exploration of colour palette, quality of line and other visual style related aspects of the project would help to drive the project forward.

Re-do the art bible to deal with more artistic things. Simple enough!

The concept is well understood and linked to similar styles well within your blog, however, further illustration or visual exploration through character/environment mood boards, sketches/silhouettes and other aspects identified to be related to the pipeline earlier in the blog would add depth to the development of the project.

Do more stuff. In particular mood boards, I haven't done many of those.

The submission could benefit from further links and justification of creative decisions, linking to theory and academic practice.  For example, the exploration of possible stories is limited and the selection of story is not justified or underpinned. 

For every bit of work or post on this blog, write why I did what I did and how it affected me. Also go back and edit the story post with why this story is awesome and others are not as much.

Overall, you present a range of appealing art and development in your skills base, however the link between all of the different aspects of your project require further illustration within your documentation.

Not sure what this means. Note to self: ask about it.

Overall, the submission demonstrates potential in steady skills development, a range of approaches to art production and development of an interesting concept.  The project could benefit from developing clearer links between practice and theory and by analysing media and influences in further depth, drawing conclusions to connect to practice and vice versa.

Post about more theory. Post more inspirational things like "Alice: Madness Returns" and write about why it inspires me.

The range of art assets that are produced are appealing, however, direction is lacking within the work and this could be further motivated by linking evaluations from each work to tasks to move the project forward.

Solid art direction is a must before continuing any further. Create tasks based on each bit of research I do.

To conclude, this feedback provided the much needed nudge in the right direction for me and illustrated the need to draw conclusions and make connections in the research I am doing. Also it highlighted the importance of evaluating my decisions and linking them back to what it is I found out before I made the decisions in the first place.


Prince Ivan Thumbnails

This week I should have the main character, Prince Ivan, finished and dusted. I am aiming for a medieval Slavic look. The character is a young prince and a warrior, and the design should reflect that. As cliche as it sounds, Ivan has to look troubled by his past and deathly tired. The story is about facing your destiny and avenging your family and kingdom.

In these thumbnails I am playing around with various settings and ideas. He could be a classic medieval warrior prince, but what if this fantasy setting could be powered by strange magics and elements of other genres can be present in the designs?

As the development goes on, we shall find out.

Before continuing any further it is important to plug the gaping gap of enormous proportions in my artistic knowledge of how to pain faces. Faces are pretty important for any character. So let's do some studies!

25 February 2013

Some Life Drawing

This should start happening a lot more often. There are in no particular order.

Until next time!

22 February 2013

Painting a Russian Fairy Tale

As a mini project today I decided to paint a Russian fairy tale. Total time it took is about 10 hours over the course of 3 or 4 days. The reason it's going so slowly is because I've been away for two months and haven't painted or drawn a single thing. It will set me back a week or so to get back to my usual standard.

Anyway, let's go. Here is my process.

1. Sketch
2. Block in the Values
3. Block in the Colours
4. Detail and Paint

So here is the sketch.

For some reason I skipped the blocking in of values sketch and went straight into the colours.

It was important to remember that the sky is a light source in its own right and will leave blueish highlights on top of objects in shade. Also the shadows that drop from an orange and warm light source will be blue and cold. The aerial perspective also had to be taken into account, for the further away something gets the lighter and more monochromatic it becomes. Easily done with a large soft edged brush set to 20% opacity.

Time to start detailing!

It still lacks this little "something". The sky is also stands out like a sore thumb and these pines look nothing like real pines do. It's interesting to see how we think something looks like and what it actually looks like in real life.

I added a layer completely filled with orange and set to Colour Dodge (20% opacity) to unite the colours together without losing the local colour, I spent quite a lot of time on the pines and replaced the sky. Small details like birds and little highlights were also added.

Thus, we have the final result!

This is far from perfect. The perspective is all messed up on the castle. The cliffs looks more like standing rocks, even though I used reference and the colouds almost blend in with the mountains in their value. The clouds should be a lot lighter.

Let's look at some notes I made.

Another point a friend of mine raised are the clouds that seem to be exactly the same in value to the castle/city and therefore flattening out the image and breaking the composition. A look at the black and white version will prove it's true. And final point from me. In hindsight, that viaduct type thing on the left doesn't quite fit into a Russian fairy tale, more something we'd see in Victorian times.

To expand a little bit on the point about perspective. Here is what it should look like. Redlined by LaCan from

His redline actually makes a lot of sense and illustrates what I tried to say perfectly. Anything above the horizon line and we will see its underside. Anything below the horizon line and we will see its top side. Simples!

Now to what actually works quite well in the picture. Personally, I think the lighting adds a lot to the image. The golden hour type setting when half the image is all cools and the other one is radiant warms. The little details like the specifically shaped shield or the asymmetrical towers chaotically popping here and there, add a lot of authenticity to the image. The bogatyr in the corner is my favourite bit of the painting. The values are excellently painted and the windmill principle comes into play very nicely.

Next week I'll start doing more sketches that are to do with the story I am doing thought. It's time to start this project properly!

21 February 2013

Good news everyone!

I am officially back in business!

Any problems I might've had in the last few weeks are sorted out and nothing's stopping me from diving headfirst into the project. What is left to do now is simply create, create create.

Last week it was Pitch week for us. I was still fairly busy so instead of preparing a detailed academic presentation I threw together a quick "sales" pitch instead. Lots of picture, excitement and so on.

Unfortunately it was received a lukewarm response from the lecturers. The main points I picked up from the feedback is that they want to see more of my work and they want to see more depth to my research, i.e. what does it mean, how it affects my project and what I think about all this; and finally, they want more research.

Let's break these down.

1. More work: This will happen. Unfortunately I was not able to concentrate on things as much as I usually do due to some personal problems.
2. More depth: I tend to agree with this critique. I tend to gather massive volumes of data and not really do anything with it. This will have to change and perhaps will be reflected in more analysis and evaluation in the blog. Next presentation I aim to make perfect.

The results for my Pre-Production and Concept Development are back as well. I got a C in Pre-Production and B in Concept Development.

I agree with the C. To be honest, I neglected the pre-production part for way too long due to the fact that I wasn't able to pinpoint what exactly they want from me. Since I'm doing pre-production to a video game, how does one do pre-production to pre-production? Perhaps I should have researched that further. I also agree with the B. A long time at the start of the year was spent in chaos, and all this academic research stuff tends to confuse and daze me anyway.

Having reflected on the past week in uni I am glad to announce that starting next week I will be back in Dundee, working my little butt off for the rest of the year. I did some time scales and came up with the following.

Total Weeks Available: 11

Total Deliverables: 18

Week Breakdown

  • Wk1: Prince Ivan and his Weapon Sets
  • Wk2: Sun's Sister, Baba Yaga and the Witch
  • Wk3: Forest/Mountain giants and the Weavers
  • Wk4: Castle before/after and the artifacts
  • Wk5: Mountains, Forest, Weavers' Hut
  • Wk6: Sun Castle, Case Study: Alice Madness Returns
  • Wk7: Dissertation
  • Wk8: Dissertation
  • Wk9: Dissertation
  • Wk10: Dissertation
  • Wk11: Injury Time

Furthermore it includes 1 hour of research and 1 hour of personal development per day.

Optimistically we assume that my working schedule is 8 hours per day apart from Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will have only 4 hours and Sunday is my day off.

It will be very important to take care of myself in the next few months, as the volume of work is pretty huge and and I work during the night on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Sometimes even more often.

There is also day by day breakdown but that's too long to post it here. It basically consists of gathering reference for painting, sketching and thumbnailing, final sketch and final painting. One painting can be done in 1.5 days. The rest is up for research and personal development.

Let's get this motherfucker!

PS: I also need to submit an exposition form and resubmit ethics form; all those things I completely forgot about.

15 February 2013

Case Study: Tank Girl

So a few days I got a book, the Hole of Tank Girl. I'm quite chuffed to get my hands on it because, trust me, it is a beautiful collection of every single Tank Girl comic ever written, as well as sketches and designs from the film. As you might've guessed it, the book itself is HUGE and weighs a tonne. This is how I always imagined ancient tomes of Lore to look like.

Right from the beginning (a quarter of a century ago, at an art college in a medium sized seaside town on the south coast of England, to quote the book) Tank Girl was a huge hit. The quirky, gun slinging, kangaroo shagging, smoking, drinking tomboy in a tank won everyone over and soon caught the attention of Hollywood. That idea crashed spectacularly, but that is irrelevant.

The reason I chose to write about Tank Girl is because of the stylistic and aesthetic choices the artist made to make it such a unique character. Jamie Hewlet mentions that he was extremely inspired by the Monkees and their "vertically-challenged, tambourine bashing" front man. There are elements of punk and grunge present in character design and the overwhelming sensory apocalypse that is every single panel. This points to some serious amount of visual research and extreme fine knowledge of the genre.

If you never read any tank girl, go and do it right now. This comic is just on the right level of crazy, off the wall, sensory weirdness and awesomeness to make you want more. Definitely on the top of the list for me along with Judge Dredd and Hellboy.


4 February 2013

Some Setbacks

Hi everybody,

Due to some serious personal problems the work on the project and this blog had to be halted. I apologise for the lack of posting and promise greater and bigger things in the very near future.

Keep an eye out for the continuation of my e-mail interview of the fantasy illustrator Jon Hodgson, philosophical discussion of art and design, review of various techniques, a look at adaptation in Alice Madness Returns, and more.