Been very busy these past few months working away on the artwork for Killtopia.
Pretty overwhelmed by how well things have been going with the project ever since we launched the project back in February. As well as the phenomenal success of the Kickstarter (making over 400% of its original goal) Killtopia has since been picked up by publishers BHP Comics for UK wide distribution.
Issues of Killtopia will be going out to backers and in stores to buy in October.
The following is from an article I wrote as a Kickstarter update sharing some of the concept art and some of my process thoughts from Killtopia.
Killtopia Concept Art Special!
Hey guys, Craig here. I thought I might share with you some of my sketches and concept art beind the character design of our main characters in Killtopia.
I take the view that character design is almost like a form of story telling, where a single image of a character tells the viewer a bit about this characters life, history and personality.
So I often try to use clothing, expression, pose and adornments as little visual shortcuts that hopefully give you little more info about who these characters are and the goals they have.
These are some of my earliest sketches of Shinji, Stiletto and Crash.
At this point I’m just doodling down every mental image I have of the characters, and every idea that comes to mind. I doodle a lot, so there are quite a lot of these. I fill page after page of weird doodles like these every day.
Keeping going with the sketching and doodling until I have a good clear idea I can run with and develop into something more.
More sketching as Shinji starts to take shape.
As I’m sketching I consider Shinji’s story and personality, I try to find ways to show his key characteristics. He’s an obsessive tech wizard, he’s dirt poor, he’s a gamer, he likes baseball and he lives in a nightmarish dystopian future.
Sometimes I’ll create a wee mood board, just to remind myself of the general feeling of this character. So this was my mood board to remind me of how to think of Shinji.
Once I’ve got a good idea of how I want him to look I’ll do a final character turnaround for him. Paying close attention to the script at this point to make sure I don’t miss any details or accidentally create some kind of plot hole.
A similar process for Stiletto here. Finalising sketches, another mood board and then getting down the details.
You can see from the mood board some of the thoughts and influences I had for Stiletto. I wanted to reflect that she was successful, rich, a violent experienced combatant and a famous celebrity.
So I’m thinking somewhere in the venn diagram of future solider/ professional wrester/ reality TV show celebrity.
Some of the sketching and detailing for Crash, our sentient machine pal.
Important thing I was going for here was expression. Crash needed to be able to express himself and show that he had some life and personality.
Like all the best TV/Movie robots, he needs to have some kind of means of expression and personality in order to be able to tell his story.
Crash takes a big of influence from the sentient robots we all know from film and TV, like Wall-E, Johnny-5, Chappie, Robocop, Mr. Data and a thousand anime mechs. These are some colour passes and experiments, making sure that I get these right and set the correct tone for both the character and their story.
With all the reference and info down, I then went on to make the first character promo images that you’ll have seen on the Facebook and campaign page.
If there’s interest I could do a follow up post on the steps taken to draw and create the promo art, or perhaps I could even do a step-by-step on how I make a Killtopia page.
Thanks for reading guys, hope this was interesting. Can’t wait until you get to see the final book. Give me a shout if you’ve got any questions on my process or on art stuff in general.
Discovering the thriving Scottish online art community.
Life as a professional artist/illustrator can often be a solitary one. Weeks at a time sat at your desk or screen working into the wee hours drawing monsters to pay the bills. Eventually stumbling, blinking, into the daylight with only limited social skills, trying to fit in like an alien in disguise blending in with human society. Fortunately for us, there is a thriving online community of artists and illustrators worldwide operating as a mutual support and encouragement network, helping us all to remain sane and motivated in our work.
The online art community can be an especially strong support line for new and beginning artists when they’re first finding their feet. Although, what can be more difficult for the emerging artist is when discovering that community at a more local level, people who have a more regional understanding of the art business, who you might be able to meet with in the real-life physical world and potentially share local job and opportunity information.
So, this list of the 12 Scottish artists & illustrators you should be following is kind of the list I would have liked to have discovered when I myself were just starting out. A collection of Scottish artists who, while all having great and inspiring work, are also deeply involved in the online art community and could serve as a launching point to find your way into a specifically Scottish online art community.
This list is obviously going to be a little biased towards artists whom I’m more familiar with personally or know in real life, and this shouldn’t be considered in any way a comprehensive list of Scottish artists. So, please don’t feel slighted I’ve I haven’t mentioned you (got to leave some big names for the sequel list after all).
Judge Dredd Tom Foster
Scottish 2000AD artist Tom Foster is still in the early years of what will be a good long comics career. But, already the quality and style of his work combined with his expert draughtsmanship is equal to some of the bigger name 2000AD legendary artists.
After winning the Thought Bubble portfolio competition in 2013, Tom went on to become a regular artist at 2000AD He has since provided his impeccable artwork to some of the titles most iconic characters, including Judge Dredd, Sinister Dexter and Bill Savage.
2000AD Tom Foster
Tom is also a regular contributor to digital art magazine Imagine FX, providing inspiring and informative tutorials on comics creation and character anatomy.
Putting his background in stand up comedy to use, Tom gives us a disturbing insight into the life of a comic artist in the 2000AD video From The Drawing Board: Tom Foster.
Paul is a Bafta award-winning artist and illustrator in the Scottish video game industry, with an impressive number of game titles and accolades to his name. Paul’s work on The Thirty-Nine Steps for The Story Mechanics saw him recognised among the prestigious Develop’s 30 under 30 for 2012, and he’s had his work featured in Spectrum, Concept Art World and Kokatu.
Despite this impressive list of achievements, Paul is still a super down to earth and approachable guy. Regularly passing on his knowledge and experience through Imagine FX tutorial features and live industry demos.
Pledge of the Fallen Paul Canavan
Currently, Paul works as art director at Glasgow’s Axis Studios, the team responsible for the CG trailers of some of the industries biggest games. He still somehow manages to fit in the time for the creation of impressive and inspiring personal work and private commissions.
Like me, Kevin is a professional artist and illustrator based in Glasgow, unlike me, he has an enviable list of big name clients to his credit. They include Disney, Marvel Studios, BT Sport and ABC Studios. The immediate stand out feature of Kevin’s work is his amazingly life-like and stylised digital portraits of pop culture icons, famous personalities and celebrities. Much like his art idol Norman Rockwell, Kevin takes his work to levels beyond simple photographic replication, imbuing his subjects with character and personality.
Denial Kevin McGivern
Kevin’s print stalls are a regular sight at most of the Scottish conventions and events, where he sells big sized prints and collections of post cards of his artwork inspired by his love for pop-culture.
Kevin is a big part of the local online art community, often offering up advice and tutorials to upcoming artists. Keep an eye out for his upcoming announcement on physical art community events in Glasgow and Edinburgh soon.
Claire might be known to some of you as the event organiser of the popular Inverness Drink & Draw bi-monthly art community social meet & creative night. The event has become an arts hub of Inverness and has strengthened the Highlands art community in the time since Claire began running the event.
Surprisingly Claire has only recently launched her career as a professional freelance artist. After being a grant and loan from The Prince’s Trust earlier this year which she used to set up her own home studio. Already Claire has the beginnings of an impressive looking folio of work, and as I hear, she has many exciting new projects and pieces in the works.
The Stoor Worm Claire Maclean
Keep up to date with the progress on Claire’s burgeoning art career by following her on Instagram and Facebook, or check out her work on her folio site here.
You can find out more about the Inverness Drink & Draw events on the event Facebook page.
Tree Claire Maclean
Comichaus Gary Erskine
Gary Erskine is perhaps one of the more well-known names on this list, as a seasoned comic book art professional of over twenty years Gary has worked with most of the big industry publishers. Throughout his career, Gary has worked with Marvel, DC, IDW and Dark Horse and on big name licensed comics titles like Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Captain America and Judge Dredd. On top of all that, Gary has worked outside the world of comics and has contributed his design and illustration work to film and video game with Axis, Sony and EA Games.
Gary is a regular at all the Scottish comic conventions. A humble and approachable guy that belies his intimidating list of accomplishments and credentials. He’s always willing to chat comics and give out advice and wisdom to new comers on breaking into the world of comics.
Roller Grrrls Gary Erskine
Currently, Gary is working on his own self-published comics title Roller Grrrls, with Anna Malady, a girl punk action story in the world of Roller Derby.
Ian Mcque is an Edinburgh based illustrator and painter, known around the world for his unique style and dark, post-apocalyptic sci-fi illustration. Infused with depth of world and character, every piece tells its own story. The scrappy construction aesthetic gives the impression that the City of Edinburgh has a personality which influencing the style. Or I get that feeling at least, maybe others who’ve been to Edinburgh will agree.
Mechs cover Ian Mcque
Ian has over twenty years experience in the games industry. He previously held the position of lead concept artist and art director at Rockstar North, the game developer behind the Grand Theft Auto series. And, is now freelance professional concept artist for the film industry.
Follow Ian Mcque to witness his prodigious output of new artwork on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and check out his Big Cartel store where you can buy his excellent prints and sketchbooks.
Revenant Alisdair Wood
An Edinburgh based designer and illustrator, and sometimes comic book artist. Alisdair Wood has been with Rockstar North since its early days. And, he has created illustration and design work for a number of titles in the Grand Theft Auto series. Going way back to Grand Theft Auto 2.
If like me, you’re a big horror fan, you’ll love the dark stylings of Alisdair’s personal and comic book work. The indie comics publisher Madius Comics title Horrere has a featured a few of his illustrated horror tales. The dark, sombre Victorian aesthetic will make fans of Poe, Lovecraft and M.R. James feel right at home.
Check out Alisdair’s personal folio site for more of his cool horror themed and horror movie inspired works.
Alisdair recently held a very successful Kickstarter for his Cult of Woodoo enamel David Bowie character badges. Tiny portraits of The Thin White Duke in Alisdair’s distinctive style.
Neil Slorance is a name some of you will likely already recognise. A Glasgow based artist and illustrator, well known for his work on Titan Comics Doctor Who series and for his political satire work in The National. The reach and popularity of his work on social media have led to Neil making appearances on Scottish television. Where he is invited to deliver his, always entertaining, political observations.
The appeal of Neil’s work lies not in his draughtsmanship or any of his particular technical skills and abilities. But, rather in something which cannot be taught. Neil has a natural talent for being able to infuse his affable personality into his work and is really able to communicate who he is as a person through his art. Some time spent looking at Neil’s work leaves you with the feeling that you know him personally. This is particularly evident in his self-published indy titles Modern Slorance and Dungeon Fun.
Recently, Neil had a successful exhibition of his work at the CCA art gallery in Glasgow. See more about his work on his personal site.
Follow Neil for updates on his work, his political observations and adventures his with bread and tortoises. On Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Check out his Etsy store where you can buy his prints and copies of his self-published books.
Willie Rennie Neil Slorance
Wolfenstein Gordon Neill
Gordon is perhaps not as experienced as some of the other artists on this list, but, what he does have is an infectious enthusiasm for digital art and the online art community. An enthusiasm which is inspiring to beginners and pros alike.
Gordon and his fellow artist Colin Searle organised Digital Artcast. A regular YouTube show featuring discussions and interviews on art and the entertainment business. Digital Artcast has so far had some huge names on the show, names like concept environment artist Titus Lunter and lead Bioware concept artist Matt Rhodes.
SciFi Corridor Gordon Neill
Gordon has recently completed his art education and is looking to rise in the concept and digital art world. Already he’s complete an internship at Glasgow’s Axis Studios.
Rowena is a digital artist and children’s book artist based in Edinburgh. The Kilted Coo and Ruan the Little Red Squirrel are some illustrated children’s books of hers that you can find in stores around the country.
A big part of the Scottish online art community. Rowena regularly updates her social feeds with digital art tutorials and art advice. And, she is always available to chat and discuss the art business. Imagine FX and Tuts+ have also featured some of her instructional tutorials.
Michael Doig is an experienced and award winning games industry concept artist turned comic book artist. Before comics Michael Doig became a Bafta nominated games artist and winner of Dare To Be Digital 2009. Over the years he created concept art and game assets for Tag Games, Proper Games and Sega.
With his frequent collaborator, India Swift, the duo created a series of visually impressive short comics. Which you can view on Michael’s Artstation and Taptastic. The team are looking to debut their latest new title, The Girl and the Glim, at the upcoming 2017 Thought Bubble Leeds Comic Art Festival.
Sirens Michael Doig
The team of Doig and Swift regularly stream their work process. On an almost daily basis, you can watch the team’s comics work take shape. Keep an eye out on their Twitch and YouTube for updates.
Liam is a multi-award winning artist and lead graphic design director for Ubisoft. He’s the man responsible for the impressive visual style of games like Far Cry 4.
Recently Liam took up photography and, it seems, he’s a complete natural at it. His first photography project Tokyo Nights (TO:KY:OO) gathered over a million views world wide and a host of media attention. His photography work has a distinctive, immediately recognisable, cyberpunk-neon style, each image inspiring its own Bladerunner-esque tale. Liam’s first foray into photography saw him listed as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2017.
Liam gives regular talks and presentations around the world on his work and experiences. And, he frequently engages with his social media followers imparting valuable art advice and tips.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully, you’ll have discovered at least one new artist here. One whose work and art community involvement in Scotland will inspire and motivate. Please feel free to share and pass on this article if it has been helpful or informative to you.
Like I said earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the talent in the Scottish art community. I maybe could keep on with this list until #120. But, if it seems I’ve grossly overlooked anyone, please get in touch or add your artist in the comments below.
Finally, if you are not already, remember to follow me on my social media feeds for updates on new artwork and more engrossing & informative articles like this one.
Looking to work with an illustrator on your project? Here’s a guide to the whole process, so you can know what to expect.
I must have worked on hundreds of illustration projects, from start to finish, by now. So, it’s sometimes easy for me to forget that not everyone is familiar with how an illustrator works and what the whole process of an illustration project involves. In order to shed light on that, this will be my guide to the illustration process, or at least it will be an explanation of how a typical project goes for me and the stages it goes through, from initial contact to end product.
I should note that most illustrators and artists have their own ways of doing things, so the process may differ slightly from person to person. But, a far as I’m aware most professional digital illustrators go through a job via fairly similar stages to those I go through.
Drawing in Adobe Photoshop
Usually, the first contact I’ll have with a client is when they get in touch with me via email. A lot of clients who come to me know a bit about me already, as I’ll have been recommended by another. Occasionally someone will get in touch who has only just found my details after searching for a local illustrator on Google, in situations like that the early email exchanges are an important stage for developing a client-artist trust.
When it comes to regular clients, we tend to just skip a lot of the early stages, as working with someone a few times you start to get a good idea of their likes and dislikes, and what kind of artwork they are usually in need of.
In the case of a completely new client, after making introductions, I’ll be looking to find out as much as I can about the project, what kind of final outcomes will be needed and the time frame it will be required. This info will allow me to tell you if this is something I think I’ll be suited to (If you want someone to draw Manga, or do a portrait of your baby, I’m probably not your man), how much time I’d need to complete the work, if I’ll be free to do so and if I will be able to meet the requested deadline.
NHS Work in progress image
If all is good to go, then it’s usually my preference to organise a face-to-face meeting with the client. Obviously, I can’t do this in every case, if we’re in different countries, for example, a chat session or Skype call will probably do. But, if we’re not too distant then I don’t mind travelling a short journey in order to meet in person. It’s a great way of further building trust, and the more I get to know someone and get a feel for them, the more I’ll understand what the client to like or look for in an illustration (Plus, it’s always good to get out the house and meet new people).
At this point, we’ll begin to discuss costs and a payment schedule. If it’s a short project, I’m normally happy with being paid once I’ve done the work, but in instances where I’ll be working on something for a few weeks, or, longer it’s better for me to arrange a small percentage of the payment up front. If only to prevent me from living in poverty while working on a long project.
Final thing before I get started is to get as much written down about the project as can, it’s good to have a brief of sorts on paper. I’ll also ask for any, and as much, supporting material as possible. For example, reference pictures and photos of any people or characters I’ll need to include in the artwork, or if we’re working from a written text I’ll ask for a manuscript or at least a detailed description of settings, character and themes. It will depend on the details of the project, sometimes the need for supporting materials is more or less necessary, for some work I won’t need any at all.
Bust 2: Wasteland Ronin
For the purposes of this guide, I’ll use the work I did for the Card Shark Comic book Bust 2: Wasteland Ronin. It’s a project I began work on in late 2015, so the book is completed, printed and out there to buy in the shops, so it’s a good job to use to give an example of an illustration project from the earliest sketches to the book sitting on the shelves of Forbidden Planet. Plus, I don’t think Dave will mind me using his book.
Bust 2 Thumbnails
The Thumbnailing Stage
Getting to work, I’ll normally begin by doing loads of sketching, getting down all my mental images of what the final product will look like down on paper (or digital paper, at least). With a fairly rough idea of the direction I want to take things in, I’ll try to immerse myself in as much of the relevant influences as I can. I’ll draw out a few variants of the best ideas, small thumbnail versions, quick rough drawings of how the final piece will look. The quality of the work at this point will essentially be of napkin doodle quality and not something that will be an indication of the quality of the quality of the end product.
Bust 2 Mock-up Sketch
I’ll present the thumbnails and explain my ideas to the client at this point, and I’ll make my suggestions of which direction I think we should go in. We’ll discuss and the client will make the choice of which thumbnail we take forward.
The last stage before I get to work on the final piece is when I’ll create a mock-up. A small version of what the end artwork will look like. I’ll try to get across as much detail as I can at this stage to give the best impression I can of what I plan to do, and see if myself or the client can spot any problems or issues before getting starting on the final work.
Bust 2 Character Sketches
Creating the Finished Illustration
With the mock-up approved, I will away to my home studio workspace to work away on the final illustration piece. I’ll begin by getting as much relevant reference material as I can, which can sometimes include building 3D-Models, or even dressing up and posing for reference photographs (which can be a lot of fun). Depending on how long the project time-scale is, the client might not hear from me for a little, not until I’ve reached the half-way point of the work.
Bust 2 Reference materials.
At this point, I’ll show the client a work in progress shot of the artwork as it looks now. Usually, it’ll be around half way to seventy-five percent complete at this point, enough to give a good indication of how it’s going to look in the end, so it’s a good point to get some last minute client direction and feedback.
I’ll go back to work and finish up the illustration. Once it’s done, I’ll send a jpeg preview of the artwork to the client for approval. Ideally, the client will be pleased with the finished artwork right away, but I’m always willing to give a round of changes, additions or alterations as the client demands (within reason).
Artwork complete and approved, the only thing left is to deliver the final files to the client. When the project requires a printed outcome, I will send over full-size high-res PDFs optimised for print. These files sizes can often be quite large (too large to email at least), so I’ll host the files in a zip folder on Dropbox and send the download link to the client. The client themselves deals with the actual printing of the artwork, I always recommend getting prints from a professional print store to get the best end product out of the artwork.
When the project outcome is for web or screen presentation only, I’ll send over high-res jpegs optimised for the screen, and I’ll usually throw in the printable files too, just in case.
Final Printed Copy
And that’s pretty much it. If we didn’t already work it out in the early stages, we may have some discussion over the usage rights to the artwork. The standard deal is that the client, having paid for the artwork now owns the rights to it, I would ask for the client’s permission to be able to show the artwork in my folio or use it for promotional purposes. If the work involves an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), this will already have been worked out, and I wouldn’t use the artwork for folio, or promotional use until the agreement had expired.
Ideally, we’ll at this point have both a happy client and a happy illustrator. The client with the artwork they have to meet their needs, and me for having been paid.
I like to keep in touch with most of my clients once a job is finished, keep updated on their business and keep them updated on what I’m up to. Hopefully, the first time client becomes a regular client, and we build a good working relationship.
Thanks for reading. I hope this guide has been useful in some way, feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions on any of the points I’ve covered here, or if you just want to chat about art stuff.