Friday, 24 October 2014

Living in the past… present, and future

Despite being generally forward thinking and a fan of works that depict futures, I do find I spent a lot of time looking back, in the comfort of nostalgia. 

There’s often a weird mentality out there which seems to dictate that you should be enjoying the very latest bands and albums, films, TV shows or books. Yet all of these things were made to last through the ages. Take films or music as leading examples; some innovated and made their mark; became timeless and still as relevant and exciting today as they were at their time of release. Some may be slightly more dated, but in a good way that evokes the feeling of the particular time it was released, yet manage to stand the test of time and still work today. In other words, age shouldn’t matter. And that applies to creative people too. If you’re inspired or still in awe of something from yesterday, that’s absolutely fine – whatever works for you. 

It’s important to not to forget the places or people that over time, all helped shape what you’re doing today. I was lucky enough to have some great art tutors at college, many of whom helped push me in directions I may not have normally taken. But more often than not, I think about Mr Crooke – my art teacher from school. During those formative years, his art lessons were the thing I looked forward to the most, every week. As a typical 15 year-old, I was bursting with ideas and enthusiasm which needed his expert eye to refine and critique. I learned a lot from him. Over twenty years later, I still think of so those classes with a certain fondness. And he’s still at my old school, teaching a new generation of budding artists. I did try and contact him by email recently, just to say a belatedly acknowledge my appreciation of what I gained from his tuition.

Creative people – artists, writers, musicians etc – are the ultimate recyclers. We spend years absorbing all these influences and inspirations from all times and places, and we repurpose it in the guise of our own contemporary works. Our creations are made up of the past and present, and will go on into tomorrow.

In short, looking back is just as healthy as looking forward.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Novacon is coming / listen to your feedback

As an artist, it’s always difficult to choose pieces of your own work.

I have recently produced a limited-run publication, Escape. Copies of which have been popping through letterboxes around the country, but it will also be available from me in person at next month’s Novacon.

When producing a small booklet of your own material, it really is a hard task to select what works to include. I decided to focus on my science fiction artwork for Escape, as it is primarily what I do, and also what I have done most of my best work in. But it also requires some variety, so I had to choose some non-SF pieces to go in too. Eventually with the help of my wife and feedback from friends, the shortlist was made.

One particular piece of art – and I’m not going to tell you which – was one that I had never felt was particularly good; mainly because it was essentially a quick sketch; more of a rough concept for a piece rather than a finished thing. Yet this rough affair has become the final piece of art, simply because of the comments I regularly receive on it, which never cease to pleasantly surprise me. 

Which basically reminds me that we are not always the judges of our own work. Feedback is invaluable. Your audience are your best critics.

From having little confidence in this particular piece, I’ve now featured it in Escape, and it will be on show at Novacon.

This year’s Novacon art display will feature mostly new and recent artwork, as well as a some older works which haven’t been displayed anywhere before.

In addition to artwork, I’m hoping that the art room will also have some of my music floating through the airwaves, and copies of Traces and possibly Future Worlds Redux will also be on sale. 

Once again, I really look forward to talking all things SF with fellow fans, artists, writers etc. Come and say hello!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cover art insight: Lethal Seasons

Alice Sabo's brief for Lethal Seasons was clear from the outset – a tornado set against the Blue Ridge Mountains and a landscape devastated by storms and an overgrown, neglected infrastructure.

This was Alice's first foray into science fiction, but in a post apocalyptic setting, so it was important to get the right atmosphere and feel – you should be able to look at a cover and know what you're in for.

Having looked at the landscape, I thought of a perspective scene, following a road covered in fallen trees, with the tornado looming in the distance. Here are my preliminary sketches:

To inject an additional element of horror into the cover, I vignetted the image with splattered blood and virus cells. With the cover art worked up, the next stage was looking at the typography and how to really integrate the title into the cover. While I tried out various conventional approaches as well as graphical treatments of the text containing virus elements.

And the end result:

...available now in print and ebook from Amazon, iTunes, Kindle, Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc.