Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Facing North

I found two images this morning which have been sat on my hard drive so long I'd completely forgotten about them. I guess that ultimately means they were a maybe, maybe not, but I read somewhere you should also post failures so here goes!
The premise is simple. A centurion leads his cohorts out from Hadrian's wall to engage in combat with the fearsome Picts, a race Rome never conquered.
I imagine the Picts also had a reputation for devilry, depicted here as serpent cloud trails summoned up to match the Roman draco. The serpent is a Pictish taunt because Romans believed snakes falling from above spelled disaster. These snakes would of course symbolically fall as rain. In the second image the horse is also unsettled by a large skull carved with a Pictish crescent symbol thought by some to represent death (bottom left.)

As a child I was obsessed by the Roman empire, a fascination lived out through my favourite toy of the time, tiny little grey Airfix  soldiers whose even tinier shields were removable - the very pinnacle of technical sophistication in toy design! The fascination went dormant for years but then came that amazing TV series, Rome, which I eventually bought on DVD last year. I imagine these pictures were created around the same time.
The first image was painted in Photoshop. I liked some things about it but when one thinks of Hadrian's Wall, it is always snaking across the landscape, so I tried another composition, this time in ArtRage, which depicts the wall following a curve.
By the way if any important HBO bods are reading this (yeah right,) please please please make a third series of Rome! Click on images to enlarge.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

FanArt Magazine

A couple of posts ago I published a piece on a small selection of inspirational artists and at the time I half thought there should be a magazine which does this. Well I have since discovered there is, FanArt. Even better, it is being put together by a friend and fellow ArtRage user, Stefano Fiore aka Misterpaint, along with Azzurra Ponti (Azure) and Alessandro Canale (Alexen.) Even better, it is free! Now there may be one slight caveat for some of you - the magazine is currently only in Italian, but for me this is a great thing as I get to practice my more than rusty other mother tongue. Besides, you know what they say about words and pictures and ratios of 1:1000.
The mag is beautifully designed, informative and packed full of great imagery. I urge you to support this excellent enterprise.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Boxy Chessmen

One of my favourite presents last Christmas was a beserker replica from The Lewis Chessmen. There are 11 pieces in the National Museum, Edinburgh and 82 pieces at The British Museum in London. Exquisitely carved from walrus ivory or whale teeth, thought to have been made in 12th Century Norway and discovered on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 amid mysterious circumstances.

Doesn't all that inspire you to design a chess set? It does me, so over the last couple of weeks I've been sketching some first draft line drawings of The Boxy Chessmen. Coincidentally I am also just about to finish Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories, which are all about the amalgamation/clash of Saxon Christianity and Danish Paganism, so the design of my first piece, the pawn, came about as a result of these influences. The helmet shape alludes to the corvid beaks of Odin's messenger ravens Huginn and Muninn which in turn connect with the name we now use for the war fortification, rook. I liked the beak shape so much it became central to my design. Some pieces will inevitably get changed as progress continues but I'm pretty happy with them for a first draft.

Next I'll create high resolution sculptures in ZBrush and eventually they will become the pieces in a realtime 3D chess game. I am also tempted to send the high res sculpts to a 3D printer so that I have an actual physical set. This has been a very fulfilling project so far.
Click on images to enlarge.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

New Virtual Gallery!

Virtual Gallery
This is brilliant. I have always been fascinated by the process of 3D game creation so when version 1 of Unity came along I jumped at the chance to own it. Due to work commitments though, I have only just started easing myself back into learning the beast and thought a walkthrough gallery seemed a simple but effective opportunity to beta test some of Unity 3's new features such as lightmapping and occlusion culling. Next up will be standalone versions for Mac and PC, then an iphone version for the millions of you desperate for mobile versions of my work. I'd best insert a smiley here in case anyone thinks I was genuinely being inappropriately arrogant :). I'm hoping to grow this idea as I learn more about programming in Unity. For example, you might notice a couple of virtual 'sculptures,' which are actually  characters taken from the paintings of genius Hieronymus Bosch. Once I figure out how to give them artificial intelligence they'll be crawling all over the gallery. And what if someone liked an image so much they wanted a print? No problem press this button to order sir... possibly getting ahead of myself a smidge.

New Tab, 'Motion'
So once it was done the question then became where to store my new virtual gallery? Eventually I decided to add a new tab to the website called 'Motion,' a home for interactive, animation and motion graphics experiments. I have also added an old tester scene which explores the possibility of turning my picture book, 'Piggotty Wood' into an interactive app. I'd love to know what you think of either project so please do use my contact page to  - er - contact me. Click on images to enlarge.

Piggotty Wood Tester