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Last year I had the pleasure of working on a project that is right up my alley- in that it involves airships, space and first world war battleships all mashed up into one absurd and imaginative universe. What's not to like?
That project is Clockwork Armada- which is now launching  over on kickstarter

dieselpunk airships in space

"Clockwork Armada is a tabletop miniatures game of space battles set in a fantastical alternate reality.  In this universe, planets are flat, and the laws of physics function on very different principles.  The upward rushing hurricane that makes up outer space is known as the deep sky, and strange alien life hides in the mists.  The battles that you take part in will act out the stories of the kingdoms and cultures that sail their clockwork ships between these worlds."

If you're a fan of steampunk, deiselpunk, Battle fleet Gothic or know someone who might be then you can check it out here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1…

I decided to make a video. People have been encouraging me.
It shows my painting process from start to finish when working on a portrait from imagination. It's not a tutorial exactly but hopefully it'll be of some help or interest to someone out there.



Frankly, it's a bit stupid, but my main goal was to get to grips with making a tutorial video so if I ever want to then I can. Consider this one a dry run- I'll probably make something more useful in the future.
A quick message to my fellow deviants, you may recognise some of the work hosted on the google plus profile of this odious thieving twonk:plus.google.com/u/0/photos/106…

If you or someone you know is the author of any of the works on that site, you may wish to report them to google in order to have the work removed, and possibly send a polite but firm message about the hurt you are experiencing that someone would steal your work to sell on for profit.

I suppose it's slightly flattering.
*sigh*
7. Get away from the computer!

I'm typing this up on a computer. I ought to admit that straight away, you're reading this on a computer too, unless you printed it out, which I know you didn't!

Computers are great, everyone knows that. If it wasn't for the digital age I wouldn't be the artist I am today. I'd probably be doing some menial job I hate because I lacked the knowledge and the drive to follow my self-indulgent dreams. The internet told me how to be an illustrator and Photoshop allowed me to undo my mistakes, posting my work online has allowed me to work for people who value what I do.

Our lives would be considerably worse without computers. Obviously there's the helicopter game, that's good, there's twitter supposedly causing the Arab spring uprising and Google maps helping Al Qaeda militants coordinate attacks and there's lolcats and solitaire and all the other things making everyone's lives immeasurably better.

So I don't want to appear hysterical with this- but if you want to get things done you need to get away from the computer.

At least for the planning stages. Anything you can do just fine without a computer, you should. A good old pencil and sketchbook is perfect for getting down and refining ideas before you ever need to do any digital work.

You've probably heard this before, it's not revolutionary information, but I thought I could say the same thing everyone else has been saying and once you've read it enough it may just sink it.

It's precisely the same reasons that computers make us happy that they also hinder our plans and consequently make us unhappy in the long term. There's just too many possibilities, too many directions we can inadvertently move away from what we started off doing. Because we rely on our computers to do everything from playing music, watching films and chatting with friends it becomes extremely difficult to maintain focus on our work- which is is vital for artist and especially for freelancers.

Facebook is the obvious example of contemporary digital time wasting. It's a site full of tripe with links to more tripe. You can go on there for just a second with the aim of checking to see if someone has replied to a message and find yourself spirited away to some faraway website you don't really care about.

But Facebook is only the most commonly vilified of time-wasting methods. Facebook is designed to distract so it can generate ad revenue, and conveniently enough we humans actively seek distraction! We don't even need social media sites to do that.

Just think of all the things your fancy modern computer can do. How many of them are what you actually want to get done today?

Just be aware that when you've been working on something a while, something meaningful and valuable perhaps- your brain will start seeking distraction, just a little break, and all the shiny icons on your screen will start to look oh so tempting!

Maybe not facebook, or twitter or even tumblr this time- maybe you'll just check the news, that won't take long right? But just think how even clicking the internet browser opens up all the different possibilities to be distracted. Supposing like mine your browser is covered with links to all your favourite pages- which you can see instantly with a single click- but you ignore them all to just quickly glance at BBC news? You spend ten minutes reading articles you'll have forgotten about in a day or two, and then you wonder whether people are talking about this news article on facebook? Or maybe you could load up your instant messenger program and talk to a friend instead? Or maybe since you're having a break and you've lost your focus you may as well play a video game?

I could go, but I'm just wasting your time as well really. if you've read this far, congratulations! Such focus! You must be over 30 at least.

The long and short of it all is this: use your computer when you need to use it for working, or when you allow yourself dedicated time to relax, but always be aware that because it's so easy to NOT work- your brain will probably manage it.

Because we can't afford a computer and a room for every task, here's a few tips to get the most productivity out of your multi-task distraction-box.

Have web browsers closed whenever possible.
Consider making a new account on that doesn't have access to games or things you don't need.
Unplug/disconnect from the internet so it becomes more effort to use it.
Be aware that not all time is equal- If you play first you'll not have then energy to work later- playing is easier than working.
Get as far as you can with your work using analogue means- trust me, sketch books are the future!
  • Drinking: Water
6. Strive to learn stuff outside your own discipline.

Scientists say that new and original ideas are the product of new pathways forming in the brain, like a join the dots picture of sorts, but with an almost infinite number of pictures hidden within. If you have a lot of dots to draw lines between then you can make a lot more pictures!

That's perhaps a rather simplistic metaphor for cutting-edge cognitive science, but nonetheless it does hold true. If you have a number of different interests and sources of inspiration to draw from, your art will be that much richer and more personal to you. This is really important. There's lots of artwork out there, and much of it is so similar to other things we've seen before that we just skip over it in search of the original stuff.

On top of this, learning principles in one discipline may transfer surprisingly well to another discipline. I've recently started trying to teach myself 3d art. It's quite a steep learning curve, but I've found that a lot of knowledge from my 2d digital work transfers exactly into 3d, which has given me a considerable advantage over those starting without any knowledge of digital art at all. This new knowledge of 3d art benefits my 2d artwork as well. Being able to create 3d models and apply different lighting conditions to them gives me a great source of rudimentary reference for anything I want to draw from difficult angles or in unusual lighting.

Another example might be photography. A good understanding of how light reacts through a lens and how to compose a cinematic shot through a camera can only benefit you when composing a picture with a paintbrush. Even if whatever else it is you choose to do doesn't help your art so directly, it will help if you ever have to draw, paint or write about it!

Having multiple projects or interests in different disciplines also stops you from getting bored doing the same thing all the time. If you're fed up drawing for the day, you can always go snowboarding and practice some flips. (I've got a niggling but baseless certainty that skill in snowboarding benefits skill in drawing. Sadly I've never been snowboarding, so have yet to prove it.)

Basically, the more things' you've tried, the more ways of thinking about things are open to you, and the more informed your artwork will be. It's a no-lose situation right?
  • Drinking: Water
5. Be informed, be organised, be inspired.

I my experience creativity is fed by new experiences and new ideas. So, for us artists it makes sense that if we want to be more creative, we should open our minds to as many potential sources of inspiration as possible, and when something clicks- we should grab it! Here's a few methods that have worked for me:

1 Be informed by the work of other artists.

This one is a no-brainer perhaps. For many of us the reason we chose to become artists is because we were inspired by the work of someone we saw when we were younger, and now with the information overload culture of the digital age it's easier than ever to be swamped with amazing and inspiring artwork. What I would suggest to you is to whenever you see a picture that you feel can teach you something-  you grab a copy of it and put it in a folder on your computer. Once you've got a few images have a look through them and study what it is you admire about them so much. What can you learn from them and apply in your own work?

2. Be informed by your own boring life- make notes.

Yes I wrote boring, but I'm of the opinion that great ideas are not delivered from heaven in  golden envelopes accompanied by fanfares and cherubs- more often than not the best ideas are accompanied by showers or bowel movements.  When you're out and about and some fleeting event or idea makes you smile; record it. It doesn't matter what it is, every trivial little idea can be mixed up with another one and combined to make something else. Ideas are conducive to more ideas and all these little ideas are the fuel we burn to create artwork! I suggest getting a tiny little notepad or sketchbook and a little pen so you never have to be without a means to record stuff.

3. Be informed by your own boring life- Observe

You can do this almost any time, anywhere, all you have to do is look at something and ask yourself "why does it look like that?" Why did the designer make it that way? if I was going to draw my own version what would I do differently. Or why is the light reacting that way on it's surface, what am I actually seeing? Internal questions like this encourage you to actually understand something in detail so that when you come to create you have an internal knowledge base to fall back on rather than needing to simply copy something like a camera.

4. Inform your artwork: gather some reference

Similar to point no.1: Have a folder on your computer where you save every potential reference picture that may prove useful later. Have sub-folders within that folder to organise all the different reference photos you'll end up with, one for animals, one for landscapes, people etc...

I should point out here of course that common sense applies when using other people's photos. Don't ever directly copy someone else's photo and try to pass it off as your own original piece, but don't be scared to study different photos to inform your own work. Credit those who offer their photos for artists to use and ask only for accreditation in return, it's not such a big deal.
  • Drinking: Earl Gray (still)
4. Don't let "better artists" depress you

A common occurrence for any creative (especially when we first start out) is the feeling of profound and debilitating inadequacy when comparing our work to other "superior" artists. Don't think this ever stops, it becomes less common as you advance your skills and increase in confidence but ultimately, it never really goes away. Someone always has some edge that you don't.

Consequently we as artists and creatives have to find a way to deal with it.

Now some people, very few people, a tiny minority of people- are born with near superhuman abilities in some particular discipline and consequently can make the rest of us feel like we shouldn't even bother. These people are freaks. Ignore them. They probably struggle with relationships or have terrible allergies or something to compensate*.

With that aside, for the rest of us humble humans the pursuit of skill is a matter simply of sustained and quality practice. And I'm sorry to say that because it's so incredibly boring isn't it? We've all heard it before and we didn't like the sound of it then. That inane old adage is almost true "practice makes perfect". Of course it never quite does make perfect, where would the fun in that be?

Ask yourself this question: If you could instantly learn everything there was to know about your discipline, skip all the years of slow improvement to become the very best creative you had the potential to be, knowing that you were at the top and had nowhere left to go, would you?

I wouldn't. Personally, looking back at my sketchbooks from just a year ago it gives me great pleasure to see how much I've improved and how much I've learnt in just that time. The idea that every year I continue I stand to improve even more fills me with great excitement. More importantly, it gives meaning to my life and my decision to be artist, despite the challenges, deadlines and somewhat limiting financial prospects.

Take pleasure in your own small achievements, be inspired by others, not intimidated. If there is one thing in life that you care enough about to persevere with it, to keep climbing and to keep trying no matter how far behind the people above you are, then rest assured that you can only improve and that therefore if you keep going long enough you will one day be as good as those you admire.

There will always be people better than you, the trick is to shorten that list.


*So do the rest of us I suppose. But they'll be worse!
  • Drinking: Earl Gray (still)
3. Warm up first

Do you ever forget how to use a tool properly or is that just me? I'm not kidding you know. If you've been working in one medium for a long time and you find yourself one day deciding to use another, you may realise too late that you've become a little rusty with it. If you happen to have dived into an important piece and realise part way into that it's rubbish because you're using the brush like a spanner (so to speak) then you may become disheartened and go off in a sulk to do something else. Worse yet, you can then become scared of using that medium again since your most recent failure is the thing you most strongly remember.

This happened to me recently with oil paints. I hadn't done any oil painting for a year or so until several days ago when I mangled a canvas by treating the paint like it was digital. This could all have been avoided with some relaxing warm up doodles or paintings where I refreshed my understanding of the strengths and limitations of oil painting.

Whatever it is that you do, its best to do a little warm up session before you attempt your magnum opus. This doesn't just apply to knowledge of media, it also applies to knowledge of stuff like anatomy and lighting. If you're in the business of figure drawing, then why not draw a few rough gesture drawings first? On top of the fact that you can refresh your knowledge this way, it also helps you get into the right mood for the important stuff. Just be careful that you don't spend too long warming up and expend all your creative energy before you get down to the important stuff.

Whatever it is you mean to achieve today, do a few scribbles first!
  • Drinking: Earl Gray (still)
Sometimes in our quest to further our artistic ambitions we may find ourselves succumbing (god forbid) to laziness. Sometimes we may find ourselves succumbing to laziness to such a degree that we get nothing done. Therefore it stands to reason that if we want to become the best artists we can be then we need to keep laziness at bay!

So, having your best interests at heart as I do, I've listed here a number of things you can do to keep going that little bit longer. After all, finishing before you should only disappoints people.

1. Sit up straight.
This one is hard but important. If you slouch about like a wilting lettuce leaf and get too comfortable you may find yourself getting drowsy and lethargic. This makes it only too tempting to take a break or to "switch off" and not concentrate on what you're doing. The solution is simple in theory but hard to maintain for those of us with all the poise and posture of a sandbag.

2. Don't drink caffeine, or too much of it anyway.
Caffeine is all very well when you need a little pep up in the morning, so long as you don't let it get out of hand! If you get to the stage where every time you feel you need to concentrate then you require a strong cuppa, I fear you may have a bad habit. It's a common enough habit among creatives and other people who spend most of their time in chairs to have 18 coffees a day, but it's a bad habit all the same. Reliance upon caffeine means that all the time you aren't riding that caffeine high you're probably feeling knackered and craving caffeine instead. Humans already need to stop feeling good when we're hungry, thirsty or in the thrall of other niggling bodily demands, so why add another thing you need to the list?

3. No booze/drugs before/during working.
I'm worried that this one might be a little too obvious. Continuing in the same vein as the last tip, anything that makes you tired, lazy, stupid or constantly in need of the toilet is probably not in your best interests. This of course is all "in an ideal world". While I'm here giving lifestyle advice I may as well say eat healthy, exercise regularly, cease staying up all night watching stupid videos on YouTube and all that other stuff I myself should probably be doing.

4. Be aware of the temperature and lighting in your workspace.
You know when you were at school in one of those lessons where it was too warm and the room was lit by a few dull orangey fluorescent tube lights and you couldn't help but feel incredibly sleepy and not at all interested in William bloody Shakespeare? Well you don't want your work environment to be like that for obvious reasons.

5. Find your hidden glass of water
Yes I know that I said that having too much water was a bad thing in the last last post, but in moderation it's a good thing. Also a little sip of some cold clear water will do wonders for helping you feel a bit more awake.
  • Drinking: Earl Gray (still)
Lately I've been trying to think of ways that I can improve how I work as an artist. There's a lot of specific tips and techniques out there for all sorts of different disciplines and media and with the internet to help it's never too hard to find out how to do some specific technique or learn a new skill, but of late I've been more interested in ways to improve at being an artist in a more general sense

You know, ways to get better at actually making yourself sit there all day continually pumping out brilliance like some sort of tireless art robot? My main interest in this stems from the fact that I spend an embarrassing amount of time scratching myself and wondering where all the time went.

So, I've decided to create a series of extremely wise wisdom for any artist or creative looking to improve at being an artist in a more general way. I shall add new tips over time as they occur to me.

1. Put your glass of water where you can't see it.

No really. You may be surprised at just how suggestible you are, but if you're anything like me (I've been told I'm suggestible, so I must be.) you may feel the need to compulsively sip any refreshment or beverage within visual range simply because it's there. Also, if you're anything like me you'll always have a glass of water on hand to sip incessantly.

Being adequately hydrated is of course highly important for optimal brain functionality, but constantly needing a wazz will only ruin your concentration and increase the chances that you'll wander away from your work and completely forget about it. It essentially comes down to limiting distractions but it's not quite as obvious as "turn off your email" and "close facebook" though it always helps to do those things too.

Tip No.2 coming soon over on my blog: www.spikedmcgrath.com/blog/
  • Drinking: Earl Gray
Goood evening people on the internet!

I'm writing this entry to inform anyone interested that I've just finished redesigning my website: www.spikedmcgrath.com/ and would like to invite everyone passing by to come and have a look! If it was a real place there'd be champagne and canapés, but it isn't so there isn't. Don't let that put you off, this way you don't have to get up.

I've included a section with lots of scans from my sketchbooks in, almost all of which I've never uploaded here on devinatART or anywhere else for that matter, so if you want to have  look click here: www.spikedmcgrath.com/sketchbo… Also, there's other stuff on my blog: www.spikedmcgrath.com/blog/ that may or may not interest you, but you never know until you look right?

Cheers,

Tom
  • Drinking: Earl Gray
Now I'm not a fan of minecraft, as my minecraft obsessed brother would tell you, but I have to admit I was suitably impressed and slightly flattered when :iconrivvion: sent me a link to this version of my Airship Battle picture that he's made in minecraft. Check it out for yourselves: rivvion.deviantart.com/art/min…

Ten views for seven hours work seems rather galling to me so I thought I'd do Rivvion a Favour and post this here so anyone passing through who was interested could take a look.

So go on, look damn you! rivvion.deviantart.com/art/min…
To anyone who added me to their watch list after getting my daily deviation yesterday; Thanks very much! :D
thank you also for all the faves and comments.. and the llama badge.

Sorry I can't reply and thank you all individually but it would take me all day, and that interferes with my plans for dinner time.
I shall try to keep up the decent artwork

Thanks again! :D:D

Big thanks also to :iconastralseed: and :iconatramina: for the suggestion and feature. Much obliged!
To anyone who may be interested, I’ve finally updated the tutorials section of my site with a new tutorial entitled “Photoshop shortcuts for digital artists”

Essentially, its a collection of all the shortcuts that I use the most while painting and reckon would be useful for digital artists. Calling it a tutorial may be overdoing it a bit, it’s basically a list. Regardless, it should be of use to anyone wanting to use Photoshop more efficiently.

If you fancy checking it out you can find it here: www.spikedmcgrath.com/shortcut…

No real boobies involved. so sorry


Hello and attention all people passing this way. I cordially invite you to visit my newly completed and utterly fantastic new website!

www.spikedmcgrath.com/index.ht…

The product of many months work, this site encompasses all aspects of stuff you'd expect on an artist's website, such as: art. Of course there's a couple of other things on there too. I now have my own Blog for all my creative endevours which I'll be updating regularly with new & exciting stuff! I'm really rather pleased with it, so do check it out if you have the time or inclination. Thanks :D
  • Listening to: Muse
  • Eating: Noodles
To anyone with the vaguest interest:
I've started a little blog over on Stories Of Atlas to explain how I go about making the illustrations for the stories.

It'll slowly get updated as the artwork progresses until it forms an almost complete tutorial like ...thing. Anyway if you have a love of steampunk based fantasy stories or just want to know how I go about the astonishing process of making my art, then go over and have a look!

www.storiesofatlas.com/

Go on, you know you want to!
  • Listening to: Michael Jackson
Is there anyone else from the UK in or recently has been in in university, that thinks tuition fees are way too high compared to what you actually get?

It's April and I'm a third of a way through Uni already. I only started in September! how time flies. Seems like only yesterday I was near pissing myself at the terrifying concept of new places and new people. Anyway, It gives me time to focus on the important stuff now that that pesky "education" is out of the way for a bit.

Still, I'm pretty pleased that I can get back to painting dragons and getting pages for my webcomic done.
If you fancy checking it out its thebox.smackjeeves.com/archive… there.
  • Listening to: Movits!
I really shouldn't be on Deviantart at this time in the morning, but I am. I shall remedy this shortly. in the meantime I feel the need to write something in here since Iv'e just doubled the size of my gallery. So I shall write an apology to all those who've chosen to watch me for the sudden flood of messages that are just about me adding crap. Most of the new work is from my final college unit; a book of illustrations of ridiculous fantasy vehicles. But seriously Ive been updating this bloody site for about 2 hours now. So im goin bo-bos now.

Oh and sorry for the inevitable message about this message.
  • Listening to: The killers
Right, So I finally decided to update my gallery. Iv'e added most of the good digital stuff I've done in the last 2 years... now to leave it a few more years then add some more.