Forest Studies

In the interest of Improvement™ I’ve been warming up with little forest studies on the mornings that I’m working digitally. For one thing I was getting bored and frustrated with quick sketching human figures, and for another Wyrdhope has a lot of forest backgrounds, and I wanted to expand my mental library of woodland to make drawing them more interesting.

All of these were done in about 20-25 minutes, using my own vast library of Blurry And Poorly Lit Photographs of English Forests as reference. Some were done manually choosing colours, more were done by colour picking from the photograph. This process both gave me a bigger palette to work from in the future when painting forests, and also allowed me to focus on the act of painting, rather than agonising over getting the correct colours first.

What I’m looking for in each one is the quickest way to transfer what I see and feel from the photograph into a painting. I have a tendency, as pretty much anyone would agree, to overthink things. And painting forests is a nightmare for this – I look and can’t see the proverbial wood for the linguistical trees. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with thoughts like ‘There are how many leaves in this photo?’ and ‘I didn’t know that many shades of green and greenish brown even existed’. Doing these studies has forced me to loosen up and look for ways to speed up the process. Most of which has been getting to grips with the many brushes I have installed in photoshop that I avoid using because I have my favourites, dammit, and I like my comfort zone. But using a mix of pre-made leaf and tree brushes, alongside my faourite Kyle T Webster chunky chalk and soft watercolour, has really turned out some results I’m quite happy with.

The top four in this post are my earlier studies, the lower four more recent – the one I chose to feature is one I painted yesterday, and I think shows how much just these few minutes a day have helped me improve. Doing these has made me excited for the time when I get to paint forests again in Wyrdhope (for the unaware, the most recent pages have all been set inside, which is a nightmare and I hate it, even though it’s forcing me to get better at drawing interiors.)

So the forest warmups will continue, at least until I get bored and frustrated and switch to something else!


Happy Pride Month, Nerds!

What do you get if you combine my love for D&D with my love for Pride Month? More gay as hell D&D inspired designs, that’s what! Here are the three designs I created to celebrate all my LGBTQ+ nerds out there, who like dice and also rainbows.

The first two were just having fun drawing dice and playing with pretty rainbow colours. During the process I learned that the D12 is the hardest dice to draw for some reason, and that it takes a long-ass time to put numbers on every visible side of 27 dice. It’s good shape drawing practice though, and these designs turned out super cute, in my opinion.The last design that I made was one that leaned more into D&D flavour, because as it turns out, drawing weaponry is hella fun, and I want to draw more of it. It’s already inspired me to start working on some more D&D themed stuff, so that’ll be fun. This last one I also made available in a huge array of pride flag colour schemes, which took way too long. Partly because after doing three I realised the sword was wonky and had to redo that and then re-do the colours; partly because I made them for both light and dark backgrounds; and partly because, well, there’s a lot of pride flags. And I haven’t even made all of them! Regardless, it was still super fun and you can definitely expect more of this kind of stuff in the future. (Also if you want to commission something D&D themed hit me up ~~)

As always, all of these designs, along with loads of other cool art, are available on my Redbubble store, or you can click the images to go straight to the page for the specific design. Happy Pride, everyone!

ART GALLERY TRIP PART ONE – Abstract Photography, Improvised Forks & How Not to Navigate the London Tube System

Heads up friends, this is going to be a wordy post, so if you’re mainly here for the pictures you can go ahead and skip this one.

Last week, thanks to the generosity of Pop My Mind, I was able to take two, count ‘em, two, trips to London to do some gallery binging. Using the experience portion of the bursary from my Invention Award, I managed to take in both Tate museums, an exhibition at the Barbican Centre, the Victoria Miro Mayfair gallery, the Whitechapel gallery and squeeze in a brief wander around the V&A.

But Sam, that’s far too much to do in just two days what were you thinking? I hear at least one person crying. And the answer is – art. I wanted to see all of the art and goddammit I pretty much did. Before we get in to it, this, as you can tell by the title, is part one of two. Today’s post will be about my Tuesday trip, and next week you can look forward to my Friday adventures. Both tales may or may not be mildly humorous and infinitely fascinating. I make no promises.

So without further ado:


Folks, I am a planner. We know this. And the plan was to take in three galleries in each trip, with timings carefully planned out to take into account opening times, previous visits, tube travel times and precisely how long it would take me to lace up my boots. You know. A capital-P Plan. Tuesday’s plan was meant to go like this:

Get up exceptionally early, leave exceptionally early, arrive at the station thirty minutes before my train and a full ten minutes before my ticket would so much as let me onto the platform, then finally get to London. After which I would hit up the Tate Modern & The Shape of Light exhibition in the morning, the Whitechapel gallery mid-afternoon, a quick stop to eat and then end the day with Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins at the Barbican Centre. And everything was going great! I was ahead of schedule, I’d gotten in some drawing on the train, the day was bright and sunny and today was going to be awesome!

Then I ended up on the wrong side of London because somewhere along the lines I’d gotten Ealing Broadway and Blackfriars mixed up – don’t ask me how because I honestly do not know. Cut to another half hour of travelling, midday rapidly approaching and me not even in a gallery yet. Cue the self-deprecating tweets and grumpy texting to the boyfriend.

Eventually I make it to the right station, anxiously cross a bridge, clutching my phone like it’s going to spontaneously fly out of my hand and into the Thames and sweating like an art student in a maths exam. But I did it! I’m here! Tate Modern here I come.

Since by this point my day is now pretty far behind my schedule, I decide to cut out the Whitechapel gallery for today and just explore the Tate and the Barbican. So, I haul my sweaty self upstairs to the Shape of Light exhibition. This exhibition was the one I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. 100 years of photography and abstract art? Sign me the hell up.

The exhibition takes up 12 galleries, leading you on a tour through the history of abstract photography and ways it links to other art forms. Abstract art is one of those Marmite things, though, isn’t it? You either like it or you don’t. I freaking love it. I think I spent close on two hours just in that exhibition, staring at rayograms and smears of black and white light and generally having a grand old time being excited about art by myself.

Photography in the exhibition was kind of allowed, but only for personal use, so I won’t share any of my snapshots here. That and my snapshots aren’t very good, they were mainly note-taking of works and artists to look up late. I did do some sketching of pieces that really jumped at me, though, so I’ll include those here:

The Shape of Light is a wonderful exhibition, and if you’re interested in photography or abstraction I highly recommend it. And if, like me, you’re under 25, sign yourself up for a free Tate membership and get your tickets for a fiver. It’s the sensible thing to do.

Paid exhibition complete! Time for lunch and oh…oh no. Despite my careful planning, I have no fork with which to eat my pasta. But I am nothing if not resourceful, and I have a lot of hairgrips in my bag. Problem solved.

Full of pasta, I head back into the Tate to wander around the free exhibition halls. I’ve been to the Modern before, so much of what’s there I’d already seen, and honestly I just wanted to find the Dali’s and other surrealist works and stare at them for ages, so that’s what I ended up doing. And here we take a small digression because while I was trying to have A Moment with Autumnal Cannibalism, I encountered Strange-Yet-Excitable-American-Man. SYEAM, turned to me, motioning at one of the other large paintings on the wall and excitedly told me how this was the real size for a painting, that this was how big we should be working.

Being British, I nod and hum politely and go back to Dali. SYEAM joins me next to the Dali, peering closely at it, then turns to me and asks me about the photography policy. This despite me looking nothing like a Tate employee. But I told him, since I knew, and he proceeded to fail to turn the flash off on his phone and take a close up of the painting. He asks me why flash is not allowed and I awkwardly mutter something about bright light damaging pigments. SYEAM and I part ways at this point and I am left feeling uncomfortable and confused with the Dali.

Once I’m done with the surrealists, and because I realise the Barbican exhibition isn’t open as late as I thought, I head back to the tube. The only interesting point between the station and the Tate is that you pass the Church of Scientology and, like, I didn’t even know we had one of those and now I don’t know what to do with the knowledge.

Feet hurting because I made a poor, yet stylish, choice in boots, I make it to the Barbican and stand there red-faced and sweaty while nicely-dressed people wander around looking busy, making me wonder if I’m even in the right place. I finally cool off, buy my tickets – as with the Tate, being under 25 has its perks in yet another cheap exhibition ticket – and head in. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Another Kind of Life. I knew several of the photographers had explored queer life, which I was very into, but other than that I was going in kind of blind.

This one had a strict No Photo’s Allowed policy, so I don’t have anything to show you here, but believe me when I say it was an excellent exhibition. The explorations of, as the show says, life on the margins, were intriguing, powerful and in places unsettling. As someone who knows pretty much nothing about photography, I was suitably impressed. Sometimes it’s good to stand in a cool gallery and stare at photographs of people who had lives impossibly different from your own, and end up seeing things that connect them to you.

I didn’t spend as long there as I did in the Shape of Light exhibition, in equal parts because my poor-yet-fashionable footwear choices were giving me grief again, and because they closed at six, which it very nearly was. The unfortunate downside to this was that it was now rush-hour at the tube station nearest to the Barbican Centre, and I am 10000% not about that sweaty, angry, post-work, summer-afternoon people crush. So I dragged my screaming feet the twenty minutes it took to get to the next stop over and…somehow went the long way round? I think I change twice, went through the station I’d decided not to get in at because the crush was so bad, until I eventually made it to Liverpool Street and the train home.

And this brings us to the end of Part One of this long, rambling, vaguely amusing retelling of The Time I Went To London. Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion.

When I Sleep, My Mind Grows Wings

Another piece from last year that I can share now – for a project that fell through, sadly, but a fun one to do nonetheless. This was actually the first piece I used the technique of dropping coloured ink into water to create the blended, dreamy effect – which I then used to create the wings on the Phoenix piece I made this year.

I also filmed the process of painting this, which you can find here!

Serenity In The City

Something from last year I can share now! For an art proposal, looking at themes of staying calm and centered while living in the busy and often overwhelming world. For various reasons I ended up only having about half a week to get this one finished, but I’m still super happy with how it turned out! Creating an effect in my usually minimal ink style to represent crowds and a bustling city was a challenge – one I think I succeeded at, and which gave me a chance to explore a bit more rough, expressive brushwork than I usually get to do.

On The Inside

We get told so often that beauty is on the inside, and then the world does it’s best to remind us that it’s on the outside.

It’s enough to tear you apart.

This piece was created as a response on Pop My Mind

The prompt on PMM for this piece was ‘Beautiful’. What beauty means, what purpose it has, what it looks like. This piece grew out of thoughts about external and internal appearance, and the emotional impact of beauty on the sense of self. At times it feels impossible to live in a world that tells us beauty is on the inside, while at the same time forcing specific ideas of beauty on us.

I ended up playing with a lot of differnt symbolism in this, which is maybe a little heavy handed, but what can I say – I love me some good good symbolism. I’ll leave you the viewers to decide what means what, because there’s no fun in abstraction if I tell you what it all means.

WYRDHOPE – Chapter Two Begins!

It’s been almost five months now since my webcomic, Wyrdhope, started, and I’ve been enjoying every second of working on it. Well, that’s a lie, I don’t enjoy every second, but at least like, every third second. Yeah, that’s probably right. Anyway, this post is the exciting announcement that Chapter Two of Wyrdhope will be starting up on APRIL 10TH, and also a sneaky early peek at the cover. These are the bonuses you get by following this blog. Mark your calenders, people APRIL 10TH, for the next part of the story that is Marti Gryffin’s boundless curiosity and lack of social skills.

In the new chapter there’s going to be magic! Weirdness! Jokes that I think are funny that maybe three other people also find funny! I’m excited, are you excited? You should be excited, it’s going to be great.

All else aside, working on this comic has already had me seeing improvement in my ability to draw comics, and I’m so hyped to see how much more I can improve as the story continues. So check in on APRIL 10TH to follow along, and between now and then you’ve absolutely got time to read (or re-read, refresh your memory and such) all of Chapter One.