Tiger, Tiger

Hello?  *tap, tap* Is this thing on?

Ah, yes – there you are!  You’re looking good today – got a healthy glow, so you do! Me?  Pfft, I’m fine – just rejoining the rat-race after two weeks off and… Well… I’d love to say that it’s a nice feeling being back at work, but in all honesty I’d rather be back at home with my pencils, paper and pens and a hot mug o’ coffee.

I got up to various things during the two week break, but importantly to this blog, I managed to start and am nearly finished a new piece of art.  I bet you’re excited, huh?  I can tell by your face.  Before I get into that however, I’m going to have a little rant and regale you with a tale about an experience I’ve had when trying to purchase my first set of Copic Ciao marker pens…

After deciding on Friday the 28th that I was going to make my first purchase of a few of them, I had a mooch around the interwebs and decided to buy ten of them from ‘copic-shop.co.uk’.  With a URL like that, it was surely going to be the best place for me to get them, right?

WRONG. 

The experience of purchasing the pens from the site was simple enough, but from that point onwards things took a very sharp dip, as although the order confirmation I received via email said that my pens had been picked and dispatched, the tracking number and link to the Royal Mail tracking service website brought up the message ‘The system is currently unable to confirm the status of your item.  Please try again later’.

Hmm.

‘It’s ok’, I thought.  ‘Perhaps it’s just a Royal Mail blunder’.  They do tend to blunder with great and magnificent frequency, so the tracking error didn’t necessarily mean that my pens had been lost somewhere in the system or hadn’t been posted.  Right?

In this age of Amazon Prime and ‘I wants my goodies and I wants ’em naaaow’ next-day delivery times, it’s easy to find your patience dwindling when things haven’t arrived within two or three days, but when it came to it being a full seven days since I ordered the pens and they still hadn’t arrived on the Friday, my alarm bells started ringing.  It prompted me to do the first thing that most people would do in my situation; I contacted the shop via email.

I got a fairly fast response more or less telling me to wait a few more days.

I waited until the postie had been on the tenth day (and, surprise surprise, no pens dropped through my mailbox) and after getting no response to a further two emails to them, I resorted to picking up the phone and speaking to the shop.   I explained the situation but the chap at the other end of the phone said that he couldn’t do much because the manager wasn’t in.

Yeah.  Great.  

He then went on to more or less tell me to wait another 2 weeks as the pens could have been delayed.  This was unacceptable, but it was clear that he was going to be about as much use as a wet fart in a hurricane.

Rather thankfully, I paid for the pens via PayPal so have started a dispute/claim process with them so will hopefully be able to get my money back at some point.

The morale of this story is DON’T BUY ANYTHING FROM COPIC-SHOP.CO.UK.  Seriously, don’t give them your business.  Go somewhere else to buy your pens.  If, by any chance, any of you have a recommendation on a good (and cheap) place to buy Copic pens in the UK, I’d be delighted if you’d leave a comment.

Easy, Tiger

Now that I’ve got that grumble out of the way, let’s get back onto the art.  As I said, I’m just about finished a new piece and I’ve decided this time do do something a little different this time.

Unlike my previous pointillism efforts, which have been mostly solid blocks of dotty goodness, I’ve decided to add big, bold blocks of black to this latest one and I think it’s worked out rather well.  My subject this time (as you many have guessed) is a tiger, which is a fair bit more detailed and larger than anything I’ve attempted so far, which also means that it’s taking a fair bit longer to complete.

I’ve also decided to take some progress photos to document my work this time as I’m going along, so here’s how it started…

cof

…A simple sketch, yes?  Well, no – not quite.  Apologies with regards to the horrible image compression, but you can just about make it out.  Note the grid in the background.  I tend to use a grid to copy the main shapes from a photo reference, then get jiggy with a dash of artistic license.

cof

Using the brush tip on my black Copic Ciao pen, I then did the tiger’s facial markings in thick, chunky slabs of black.  Sexy.

cof

…And continued to keep doing this, adding more detail with technical pens.  Gratuitous fur.

cof

…And let the dots begin!  I usually start out laying out the colours in large dots using the chunky nibs of my Sharpie markers first, then bolster the colours with multiple layers of tiny dots from my Stabilo Point 88 pens, which appears to be a winning combination.  It does however take a heckuva long time to do.

 

cof

…And this was the most recent photo I took of the piece, resplendent with the pens I’ve been using.  It’s almost finished.  I decided to make the whiskers black in the end, and by my reckoning it’s ended up turning to look almost a bit like an Andy Warhol rendering of a Tiger, which is totally unintentional.

That’s all you’re going to get to see for now – I’m building up a portfolio of my pointillism pieces and will dump the completed piece(s) on Etsy when the time has come to do such things – and of course there will be links to them in my currently-unused Shop link above.

 

 

Back to the art

If you’ve been following my posts, you might have noticed that the billowing sails of my newly-launched artistic venture have had the wind knocked out of them recently with the horrible business of having to deal with Maurice, our beautiful, sweet puss-cat who we had to get put to sleep.  On Saturday, I decided to climb back into the saddle (so to speak) and managed to complete a new piece.

My latest subject is still equine-based, albeit one with a slight fantasy slant as I’ve decided to do a Unicorn; the fabled and mythical horned beast which farts rainbows and can bring people and other creatures back to life with a drip of one of it’s teardrops.  The appealing thing about doing a unicorn is that it would allow me a chance to really have a lot of fun with colours.  Here’s a low-res sneak peek at the semi-finished article…

cof

 

As you can see, I’m bravely forging onward with the pointillism work, which seems to be working out rather well and I’m really pleased to say that I can see a big improvement with my technique in this piece when compared to my last one.  I could have went down the route of just using a single pen for each of the blocks of different colours, but no – I’ve decided to use a technique where I’m using 2-3 pens (Sharpie & Copic Markers and Stabilo Point 88’s in this piece) to embolden each of the colours and blend them into one and other.  It’s working pretty good, methinks!

The one thing about doing work like this is that it takes absolutely ages to do, with this piece taking the best part of ten hours from beginning to end.  It’s still early days for me with this technique though, so I’m no doubt going to be refining it and getting a bit more brave with the things that I’m doing in future pieces.  Knowing me, this most likely means that it will probably start taking even longer to complete them as they’ll start to become more elaborate.

Zen Drawing

The best part, for me, is that I actually find this whole pointillism way of doing art incredibly relaxing.  Applying the colours dot by dot to the paper with good quality pens puts me in a very ‘Zen’ state of mind, which actually really helps as it keeps my mind off other things in life that can otherwise be fairly stressful.  In fact, when I start a piece and begin to do the pointillism it always surprises me at how addictive it is and how quickly the hours vanish as I’m doing it, to the point where I’ve completely lost track of time a few times.

If (and it’s a very big ‘if’) I was somehow manage to get to a point where people are interested in buying prints and originals of my stuff and/or I manage to start doing commissions, it would mean the world to me. To be able to quit the 9-5 rat race and sit at home doing art, drinking coffee and listening to music sounds like my idea of heaven, so I need to buck up my ideas and carry on creating stuff.

What’s next?

Well… That’s a very good question.  I think I’m going to create several more of these pointillism pieces with an animal theme before moving onto something else.  I think I’ll stick with the pointillism, but who knows?  It’s the beginning of what feels like an exciting journey at the moment.

 

Who is ClockworkSatan?

If you’ve been reading my blog and am wondering who the heck I am, then I suppose I’d better shed a light on some things.

Just in case there’s any doubt, I should make it clear right from the get-go that I’m not a mythological über-demon that’s powered by a ticking, spinning array of cogs, dials and springs. Rather disappointingly, I’m just a mere human.

I came up with the the name/handle ‘ClockworkSatan’ a few years ago while i was an avid gamer and it’s stuck to me ever since then like a particularly potent pong. It grew and evolved and since you’ll now have noticed it emblazoned at the top of this page in a frightfully funky logo, I guess you could say that I’m trying to make it into an actual thing. I have of course had thoughts and worries about people finding the ‘Satan’ part of it offensive and have toyed with the idea of coming up with a ‘fluffier’ name, but y’know what – why the heck should I? If an individual is daft enough to think that the name implies that I’m a devil-worshipping, child-eating member of the church of Satan, that’s their problem and not mine – life’s too short for me to let mine be constrained and subdued by people who are judgemental, superstitious and narrow-minded.

A little bit of history

In terms of who I am, I suppose I could start at the beginning.

At some point in the latter half of the 1970’s, I was born in Simpson’s Memorial Hospital and grew up in a council estate on the west side of Edinburgh. When my hands grew dexterous enough to hold a crayon or a pencil, I became fascinated with the simple joy of applying wax/ink/graphite to paper and the creativity it lent me made my neurons pop and fizz more than anything else.

In my early years of education, I was painfully shy and found a good deal of solace in scribbling and doodling – and more often than not I found preference in retreating into the worlds of spaceships, dragons and my doodles over socialising with other kids my age. I have no doubt whatsoever that had I been born post-2000, my parents would have been told that I was ‘on the spectrum’ to a degree and that I would have possibly been made to go to ‘special’ classes or something. Rather thankfully however, the 70’s and 80’s were kinder to weird kids unless they were well into the ‘batshit’ end of the spectrum, so I was left to grow into my oddness.

I didn’t remain painfully shy forever, though. By the time I was in secondary school I had started to come out of my shell and began to show some sociable traits, making a few friends and trying to figure out which path in life I was going to meander down. I initially did that whole ‘I-must-own-a-pair-of-those-cool-trainers-and-jeans-that-the-cool-kids-are-wearing’ thing for a while as I attempted to appear ‘cooler’ than I actually was, but I suppose I knew deep down that it was nothing more that forced peer-pressure. Once I’d given up on that pursuit, I quickly realised which side of the slice my bread was buttered and hung outside the art and music rooms with my small group of friends, nerds and social rejects, where we messed about, swapped video games and talked about music, movies and nonsense. Those were happy times.

Back to the pertinent subject of art, it’s with an ironic twist that I deliver the fact that I spectacularly failed my higher art examination. I suspect that my head was in the clouds while the rules for the exam were given to the class and instead of doing the thing that I was meant to do for the exam – which was, if I recall, a still life painting – I did something completely different which didn’t even involve paint. I could say that I wish I’d done the right thing and passed the exam for doing something utterly boring such as a painting of some flowers in a vase, but a part of me is pleased that I rebelled and failed because of it. That’s a character building moment right there.

On the flip side of what I just said though, had I actually paid attention and followed the instructions and passed my higher art, it might have opened doors for me had I wanted to pursue a career in which I could have used my creativity to make a living, but no – I bombed out of high school with decent results in the other creative subjects (music and English) and not much else, and headed out into the terrifying world (at the time) of paid employment.

Being a young, unskilled upstart meant that employers weren’t exactly queuing up to offer me a job, but I eventually got a sales job in a now-defunct electrical retailer. Art was still my first love, and in quiet times in the job I could usually be found scribbling doodles on scraps of paper with a biro, usually illiciting comments from my colleagues that I was in the wrong line of work.

Skipping forward a few years (and thereby skipping what I now consider the ‘dark ages’ of my life), I am so very lucky to say that I eventually landed on my feet when I got a proper IT job within a college in Edinburgh which I stuck in at and was able to move to another IT job in the University of Edinburgh, where I work now. Not too shabby for a kid who left school with practically nothing under his belt, eh?

Home on the ranch

Almost exactly seven years ago, I met my wife-to-be Jo and was plunged into the weird and wonderful life of horses, veganism and awesomeness. I now own half of a horse, am getting riding lessons and live outside of Edinburgh on the edge of the countryside. Jo means the world to me and is the first person in my life who has been actively encouraging me to do something with my artistic ambitions – so an awful lot of what I’m doing right now is entirely down to her.

Big boy Einar

Another big inspiration is my big boy Einar, a beautiful Highland Pony who is without doubt the centre of our universe. He’s the most gentle, friendly creature you’re ever likely to meet, and has become the subject of a few of my scribblings. The big lad has also unfortunately been blighted with various health problems and in three weeks is about to go into Edinburgh’s Dick Vet equine hospital for potential surgery on his back legs, so we’re obviously rather worried at this point in time. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that in due course!

Cartoon Einar

Paint the world green

Another thing I can credit to meeting my lovely Jo is my turn towards veganism. It pains me to say that for the first 35 years of my life I ate meat. In fact, I ate a lot of meat – more than I can even bear to think about. I rarely, if ever, questioned the origin of the food that was on my plate and meat was just one of those things that was tasty and convenient and could be bought in supermarkets, nicely sanitised and freshly wrapped in plastic with no hint of the dark and bloody nature of its origin.

Meeting Jo changed all of that as she had been a fully-fledged vegan for most of her life at the time that we met. Although she never forced veganism upon me at any point or preached her views to me (well, not to a in-my-face degree), there’s no way that my conscience would have sat comfortably with me tucking into meaty things at dinnertime next to her after I moved in to live with her, so I quickly turned vegetarian for a short while before deciding to take the big jump into full-on veganism. I was in completely uncharted territory at that point and had a few worries that it was something that I was going to really struggle with, but I shouldn’t have worried at all. I found the switch to veganism remarkably simple and found the challenge rather interesting and exciting. I did have a couple of instances of falling off the wagon to begin with (fish & chips was my last hurdle) but once I got the hang of it, I began to really thrive in it.

There were only a few things that I could say that I truly missed; eggs probably the most followed by fish, but after reading countless articles on the myriad benefits of veganism not only from a health perspective, but also in terms of the horrific animal cruelty and the damage the meat and fishing industries are doing to the environment, it didn’t take me long to commit to it 100%. The most difficult part of it was initially dealing with the comments and machismo bullshit my male colleagues in work attempted to taunt me with, thinking that eating a bacon sandwich noisily in front of me was going to upset me. It didn’t. It just made me believe that I was making the correct decision.

If you’ve got to this point and are worrying that I’m going to constantly harp on about veganism, I should making it clear at this point that I don’t intend on turning this into a ‘vegan blog’. I’m sure there are plenty of those already and it’s a subject that some people still have trouble with dealing with, but there may be points where I mention it or post pictures of vegan dishes that I’ve made. I’ve been fully vegan for five years and it’s an integral part of my life now, so it’s only fair that I get to talk about it while I’m not rambling about my art and nerdy things, yes?

Anyway, that’s probably enough about the history of moi for now. There’s a blank sheet of paper that’s ready for me to scribble on, so I’d better get on with things!

Tools of the trade

There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of “you need the right tool for the job”, which was no doubt coined by a hard grafting craftsman in the dark ages who had a penchant for wearing togas and sandles.

I’ve been procrastinating about this recently as I’ve been having thoughts of updating the tools and materials that I’m using to create my art, which typically means that I’ve been throwing myself into the acts of reading a lot of blog posts and reviews of different types of fineliners, brush pens and markers. Although I’ve amassed a collection of half-decent pens (Faber-Castell ‘PITT’ brush pens, Stabilo Point 88’s and Sharpie markers mainly), I reckoned that in order to properly do the things I wanted to do, I was going to have to spend some cash and get the right gear.

TheArtMaterials

One thing became clear when I was reading the reviews that I was working my way through; there was an almost unanimous agreement in just about every single one of them, with only a few exceptions: Copic markers were apparently a cut above the rest. It was an easy decision to make in that case – those were definitely the pens that I wanted to get.

…But then I saw how much they cost.

There’s no point in denying it – I had a bit of a crisis while I was looking at sets of 72 Copic ‘Ciao’ markers.

With the cost of these sets averaging at around £200 – I was wondering how I could possibly justify spending that much on them, trying to find some angle which would cause the scales of judgement in my brain to tip towards into the ‘yeah, ok’ side of things rather than the ‘f**k no’ one.

The simple answer is that I couldn’t in all good conscience justify that cost but after looking at the alternatives, I made a pact with myself; if I was serious and committed to doing my art properly in the view of it becoming something that people were going to buy, I was going to have to get the Copics. It almost felt as if I had no choice.

To be fair, their seemingly exorbitant cost does have some justification in itself; they’re refillable for starters, come in a dizzying array of colours and it’s apparently a simple job to replace the nibs on them. Going from the ‘how to’ videos I’d been watching, it was also possible to blend the alcohol-based inks in them together, creating all sorts of interesting colouring and shading opportunities. Most importantly however, I noticed that it was possible to purchase them in smaller, bite-sized sets as well as buy them individually, which in a round-about way suddenly made acquiring them a far less painful proposition than I originally thought.

This month, I purchased my first small set of them, which consists of five grey-scale pens and a 0.05mm Multiliner. After a short play with them, I was pleased to find that the Copic Ciao’s are every bit as good as everyone says they are. It’ll definitely take some practise to get a hang of the colour blending thing, but I’ve seen some artists do astounding things with these pens, so I’m looking forward to playing with them some more.

Until I build up that set of Copic pens however, I’m going to stick with my Faber-Castell PITT pens, Sharpie’s and Stabilo 88’s which will serve me nicely – and now that I’m (mostly) finished setting this little site of mine up, I guess I’ll get back to the scribbling…

But before I go, I should also mention the snazzy storage bag I got for my set of pens, it’s a ‘Sensebag’, which has the space for 72 markers, that can be seen at the top of the picture in this post. Rather surprisingly, I’ve nearly filled it up already with my current collection of pens so I’ll no doubt need to purchase another one at my collection of those Copic ones increases. If you’re reading this and pondering over a good way to store your own markers, ponder no more.

Let’s do this!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my artistic ‘talents’ and how I feel that I’ve failed completely and utterly in capitalising on them.  I’ve had countless intentions and false starts when it comes down to doing something purposeful with them, but these intentions have always fizzled out when other things – let’s use a catch-all such as ‘life’ – ended up getting in the way.

I’m not going to make any apologies for saying that my ultimate intention of creating art is to be able to use it to generate some income.  My interests in creating art in the past were driven by my love of comics and ‘pin-up’ art and I did, for a long time, have aspirations to become a tattoo designer – but those aspirations waned as tattoos became more mainstream and for a long time I stopped doing any art at all as my inspiration and motivation evaporated.

This changed a lot recently as I began to feel the spark of inspiration pulling me back towards my pencils and pens.  This is going to sound cruel and judgemental, but one source of this inspiration was actually looking at the types of things that some people were managing to flog on Etsy for actual cold and hard cash.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that it’s important to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that some people are always going to hate some things that I like and vice versa, but I couldn’t help but coarsely sum up that a great deal of the stuff I was seeing on Etsy was utterly shite.

Not to blow my own trumpet, but I felt that I could definitely do better.

Another great form of inspiration I’ve found came in the form of animals.  Well, when I say ‘animals’, I really mean horses.  Yes, when I met my lovely fiancée Jo I was thrown headlong into the then-strange and seemingly terrifying world of equines and all of the oddness that comes with them and have become irreversibly ‘horsey’ as a result.  There will no doubt be a blog post here at some point in the near future lamenting/exclaiming about my life’s horsey endeavours, but in the interest of keeping on the subject of this post, I should explain that I find horses to be very inspirational beings.

No form other than the human form itself has made me feel inspired to pick up a pencil and scribble than that of the form of a horse.  They’re elegant, powerful and intelligent creatures – and the shapes that they create when still and in motion inspire wonder, excitement and a whole gamut of emotions in me, which are of course incredibly inspirational and useful things when it comes to creativity, so I’ve been experimenting with the shapes and forms of horses lately with varying results.

I should note at this point that I’m not planning on flinging all of my metaphorical eggs into one large and equally metaphorical basket with gay abandon; I’m still finding myself  having thoughts of doing art that has horror, fantasy and science-fiction themes, which would be playing historically to my strengths, but for the time being I’m having a good ponder over the demographics that I want my art to appeal to, and to find one particular niche to plunder before spreading out to things that I personally find more interesting.

So what exactly are my plans, then?  Well, at the moment I’m experimenting with pointillism and colour rather than simply drawing in monochrome like I used to do so often, with the picture on this first of my blog posts on here being a work-in-progress photo of a pointillism experiment that I did last week.

Pointillism progress

No peeks at the finished article for now, though.  I want to build up a small portfolio before having a grand premiere of what I’ve been plugging away at, and I’m hoping that this paid subscription to WordPress is enough motivation in itself for me to keep up with my art and eventually succeed in achieving my dream.

Adios for the noo!