Character sketches

I’ve been working on more detailed character studies for my graphic novel, in between refining the narrative and the storyboards. I feel like it is increasingly taking shape, but simultaneously have had the realisation that there is more work to do now as my ambition grows for it; I want the people and the world around them to feel believable.

Nothing like a challenge eh?!

After Gillray, 1789

Faber-Castell pens

Can’t take credit for the lovely colour palette.  Whilst the original caricature is all about making fun of the French, this is not a political comment as a) I was interested in the costume, b) I like them a lot and c) I’m testing out these new bad boys!

Mmmmm pens – super Christmas present

Family portrait

The reason I’ve been a little quiet of late online, amongst other things, is that I’ve been working on a lovely new commission.

I was asked to produce a family portrait for a ‘landmark birthday’ (hey, it’s not my place to divulge!) and as the conversation continued, we discussed their love of Laos textiles, a recent discovery for the family on their travels.

After some research the geometric design of many textile examples lent itself to the framing and linking of little portraits, showing the other family members.  Working through the roughs you can see it took me a few iterations to fix on the simplest idea, of one larger overall frame for the main portrait:

40th birthday - roughs01

40th birthday - roughs02


Working from family photos, I started with the portraits in brown coloured pencil:

Progress before colour
Prior to applying colour
Rough colour overlay on final drawing
Digital colour













After some tests I abandoned my original intention of using inked patterns – in a different piece it would have been great, but the way things had transpired I felt it would overwhelm the delicate pencil portraits. I reckon I made the right choice. See what you think!

Family portrait - coloured pencil
Family portrait – coloured pencil




It’s all I have to bring today

This is a recently completed private commission – a lovely piece to have been asked to do, and to have worked on.  The poem seems immediately quite simple and light, but of course speaks volumes.  As it followed on from ‘Silver’ I was in more of a calligraphy-based mindset, but I had to try and come up with something that had a timeless quality, and retained the lightness; and I thought a more modern, illustrative interpretation.  I decided the poem text should be overlaid, but this was after some wrangling over a purely text-based piece, or some kind of hybrid.  I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted to get to, but as ever the challenge is articulating that…

Sketchbook concept rough
Sketchbook concept rough
Sketchbook coloured pencil rough
Sketchbook coloured pencil rough

The client wanted an ‘English’ landscape, something like a South Downs view – essentially the landscape is mythical but based in reality, and hopefully feels expansive.  As I progressed through the coloured pencil drawing I started adding text about halfway through as seen below, attempting to layout the poem lines in a tracing paper overlay to gain some sense of where words might ‘hit’ the landscape elements and details, which was probably the most challenging aspect as any kind of significant rubbing-out wasn’t really an option.  I needed to revisit the strength of the text a few times, firstly making sure that it didn’t get lost and secondly that the colours of the letters were essentially stronger and darker versions of those underneath.  There was a LOT of pencil sharpening going on.

Halfway, text in the planning
Halfway, text in the planning

As the personal context for the poem was a spring event, I incorporated March flowers and plants into the foreground. I must cite a wonderful reference by Keith Jones, Seasonal Wild Flowers, for this information.   The Caslon Old Face alphabet was sourced from one of my great Aunt’s books, co-authored by none other than the inimitable Quentin Crisp:

© Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, 1976. No breach intended.
© Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, 1976. No breach intended.

This is the finished piece, with details – excuse the slightly rough-around-the-edges photos!

Finished piece - coloured pencil
Finished piece – coloured pencil