The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Like so many people at the moment, I feel like I’ve cycled through the entire gamut of human emotion while witnessing recent events around the world. There is a lot to process right now.
Although there continues to be issues relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken centre stage. Perhaps rightly so, as the issues it raises have been around a lot longer.
Because I think it’s important to be vocal about this issue, I want to share how recent events have impacted my own activism and personal ethics.
My wife and I have been going for evening walks over the past couple of weeks.
We spend a lot of time outdoors already but evening walks are a bit of a new thing and something we’re really enjoying; places are generally less busy, the light is different (that golden ‘magic hour’ much loved by photographers), and you can hear the owls and other nocturnal critters getting more active.
I’ve really enjoyed taking photos of weird shaped trees.
It got stuck in my head. I really wanted to draw it and realised I’d been thinking about this bloody tree off and on for the past few days before I finally sat down and sketched it out this morning.
You’ll notice if you look at the original photo, I haven’t drawn in the pine tree right behind. It’s quite dense with foliage and is competing with the focal point of my study – the texture of the bark in the subject tree.
I did want to add in a tonal background element, so some loose texturing with a Copic marker did the trick.
I often see people perhaps just starting out sketching feel the need to put everything into a scene, sometimes to the detriment of the overall composition. Remember, it’s fine to modify a scene to bring out the elements you want to be the focal points.
This isn’t perfect. Just a sketch. I’m already spotting a few areas where I feel the pull to add lines or thicken a shape but I’m trying to be less precious about things like that and, much like my evening walks themselves, just enjoy the process.
One of my favourite podcasts has been going for ten years. I’ve been a listener since the first episode and have got to know the hosts a little, having done some artwork for a ‘Live in Leeds’ show many moons ago.
To celebrate their 10th anniversary, I worked with Chad & Chris in creating some artwork and other fine wares: a limited-edition screenprinted poster, plus tshirt and tote bag designs, which are all available for purchase here.
As the pre-order window is about to close and these will soon be sent off to print (by the super handsome and talented Prints of Thieves), I’ve been getting the artwork print-ready and thought it might be nice to share some of that process.
The artwork was done as a digital painting initially. It takes a little bit of work to convert the mess of a Photoshop file – with all it’s layers, and masks, and effects – into something that’s ready for screenprinting.
Here’s a little animation of the poster artwork now it’s been colour separated, showing how it will be printed in four layers of magical ink:
And as an added bonus, here’s the presentation of ideas which I sent the guys for their input, along with the original sketches from my trusty FIELD NOTES notebook.
I’ll update again with some images of the final products. Until then, stay safe and watch the stars…
Some record artwork I put together for a friend of mine’s musical project.
While catching up over a quick video chat, we discussed the direction: bold, limited colour palette, and a vintage horror movie poster kind of vibe.
I already had a bunch of textures from a piece of work that never went anywhere, so that formed a good starting point. I trawled some vintage image resources and found a weird 70’s Japanese watch advert which I liked.
Then it was a case of doing the digital equivalent of blowing things up and warping them on a photocopier. I remember doing this process manually in college, enlarging tiny images, making them really high contrast, and blowing them up again and again. It’s quite addictive.
I think it’s actually quite hard to achieve organic looking results digitally – there isn’t just one filter that does it all – so I’ve been using a variety of techniques in Photoshop in order to develop a process I’m happy with.
I dropped a few other bits in. The eyes are from an old Wolfman poster. I tried to be spontaneous and not overthink things when collaging the cut-out pieces. Same with adding a splash of colour. I think it turned out quite nice.
The vinyl image is just a mock-up, the record is digital. If you like 60’s tinged garage punk, then give it a listen:
It’s funny, because I think every single previous iteration of the Army of Cats site has had a blog so it’s not really anything new. I’ve always had a space to write, to document process, or to share other folks’ work or just ideas I like.
Even before I created artwork for a living, I had a LiveJournal which I updated for years. It was really quite formative and allowed me to make an arse of myself trying out different artistic voices as well as making random online friends. Thankfully, in a rare moment of wisdom, long ago, when my lj days came to a natural end I deleted the account – after saving all my years of juvenile ramblings in a secret PDF file…
After that came a Blogger page, then a short-lived run with a thing called Posterous, before finally settling on good old WordPress, a platform I’ve really grown to like and – a rarity these days – actually trust.
For the past few years I’ve been content to use the various social media platforms to post day-to-day content and, while my ‘engagement’ isn’t bad, I’m just finding it more and more draining. Twitter in particular feels like a place you have to wade into rather than a nice, open space of creativity and discourse.
I’m tired of the adverts, tired of feeling like I’m battling algorithms, tired of constantly having to re-select ‘show latest posts’, and tired of spaces that essentially just aren’t mine.
“Maybe I’m weird, but it just feels good. It feels good to reclaim my turf. It feels good to have a spot to think out loud in public where people aren’t spitting and shitting all over the place.”
Perhaps you feel similarly?
I’ve actually found myself really enjoying visiting other people’s blogs again. There’s a cosiness and an informality to people’s own spaces, particularly when they’re documenting some slightly weird, niche interest.
Model-maker’s blogs, record collector’s blogs, or blogs where someone is just scanning in old punk zines and flyers. I love stuff like that! It’s a reminder that the web as a platform was built by individuals, not just massive corporations (I remember when the Google search page had a ‘Blog’ button, showing you results only from blogs…).
So, here we are, a quieter, clearer space for me to document work and ideas.
I will, of course, still be posting in the usual places but I’ll be putting the real effort in here and linking back to it when I can.