As an illustrator, artist and designer I spend a lot of time on my own, researching, sketching and wondering around aimlessly thinking about silly and irrelevant things. It can get lonely and one can do an awful lot of talking to one’s self. Luckily for me I have a bear, and he / she / it keeps me company, and keeps me sane…. kind of.
While it is true that sometimes the bear can be a distraction and a little attention seeking, and can even stop me from working…
it is also true to say that I don’t mind as Little D can also be an inspiration at times
and can sit so still while I sketch a portrait. As a reward for helping Little D often gets a present of a new item of clothing, made by our live-in seemstress and cake baker extraordinaire, Anna-Lena, who has this pattern to work from
which has made all these possible… and more besides!
Luckily Little D loves books too, and is even writing one of his own!
Sometimes Big D comes to visit and these are the best times ever. They love to read and look at picture books together, as well as lots of playing around in the garden and in the house. The hats, gloves and scarves box is one of their favourite places to hide indoors.
But outdoors is their natural domain
So after some baking (bears need to keep their chocolate intake up to stay healthy and brown)
it’s back outdoors for a little beer and a sleep
Most of the time Big D lives in Swedenland with Anna-lena…
and Little D lives here with me…
but they are never really apart….
Now you know a little of what it is like to live with a bear while being an illustator.
Thanks for stopping by. Please like, share, subscribe etc. These bears needs to be seen and heard!
You can see more of my work here: deanharkness.co.uk
Have a great weekend!
It was my birthday late last month and my wonderful partner, Anna-Lena, got me a copy of Shaun Tan’s The Bird King – an artist’s notebook, and it is both beautiful and inspiring to read and look at. I will never grow tired of it. My sister also bought me an actual artist’s notebook and I now have a few more sketches and doodles to share with the world.
The picture below is a face, kind of, until you tilt your head to the left. Now it’s two cyclists about to go round a bend. I know that feeling!
Here’s one from way back when. Nude self portrait. Included for no special reason:
Below is the work in progress cover illustration for book 3.
Who are your favourite illustrators? Do you have a favourite illustrated story? Would love to hear from you as it is a great way of finding new art and artists and inspiration.
What story would you illustrate or like to see illustrated?
One day I hope to make one of my own!
Please check my website for more art and info on methods and pricing: Dean Harkness Artist
If you got this far, thank you, and Happy Holidays!
Inktober came and went, and very enjoyable it was too. Not sure what happened to November, and now we are well into our way with December. But I did keep up with the sketching and doodling, inspired further by the gift from my partner of the wonderful book, The Bird King by Shaun Tan. – A book I’ve had for several weeks now but still have not got to the end of as I am revelling in each and every page.
Here’s some of my recent scribbles:
My beautiful sister.
Hope you liked the doodles. I love making these distorted figure drawings!
Please check my site for more paintings, sculptures, and drawings: Dean Harkness Design
And do please let me know what your favourite illustations and or illustrators are. I’m always open to suggestions and looking for new inspiration.
Inktober has come and gone. I didn’t make a sketch a day but it was still very worth joining in and even I could see improvement in my pen-work by the end of the month.
Here are the final set of images made over the last two weeks of the month:
Please see previous post for sketches from earlier in the month here.
As I’m keen to keep up the work I can’t help thinking that the next month should be called inkvember, or something, not that that sounds quite right…. any suggestions?
Having my first go at #inktober. Haven’t managed one a day but happy that I’ve managed any at all. I started off with an ink drawing / painting of a rook that I photographed in the garden (there are a lot of rooks around here… including the ones nesting in my chimney). Then I had a go at an old apple tree in the garden. Next came a little portrait of my partner, Anna-Lena. Since then I’ve made two portrait sketches, one a double portrait, using images I have found online as source material. Hope you like them, and I hope I keep incentivised and have more to share soon.
Happy Inktober everybody!
You can see more of my work by visiting my website: www.deanharkness.co.uk There you will find lots of sketches, paintings, sculptures and much more. I have the obligatory Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BookCoverDesigns and would very much appreciate if you gave it a look and a like.
Thanks for stopping by. Do please like, comment, subscribe – feedback is what makes it all worth-while.
August came to a good end with the completion of a book cover design and set of 10 illustrations for book two of Jim West’s Magicae series. As always I was still working on things right up until the last day, but there was no rush and no panic and things had run to course extremely well due to setting realistic completion dates at the outset. I so often get requests for cover design work just a few weeks before the work is needed and it’s never a good start to a project. Felt great to have enough time to work on this set of illustrations which included nine black and white drawings and one full colour cover painting. It’s great working with someone who can think like an illustrator and has clear ideas about what is needed; It makes the whole process a joy.
Other than one or two rough pencil sketches at the very beginning the rest of the project was entirely made digitally.
I started off thinking that I may make all nine of the black and white illustrations by using just one brush type in Photoshop and try to best replicate a pencil, and then use cross hatching and other techniques for filling in large areas of dark and for all detail shading. This was partly to ensure that there would be continuity between book one and book two. – I had made all nine illustrations for book one using pencil and paper.
With the first one or two illustrations I could already see that I was slipping from my decision to stick solely to trying to mimic pencil. While it can be done it kind of defeats the point of working digitally. However I did not want to completely abandon the initial restriction I had placed on myself, and what soon developed was a mixture of techniques whereby I used a relatively strict pencil-like brush for the characters in the foreground, and for background work I used much larger, painterly type brushes and used them very sparingly. Then I played with settings so that the two styles did not seem at odds with each other.
For the majority of the time, generally speaking, I work from source images often taken by and featuring myself and anyone else I can rope into it, or failing that a search online. Thanks to my wonderful partner, Anna-Lena, this is made so much easier when we are together as we both enjoy photography and the acting about and dressing up that is always required. Once I have the photos I need I can, if necessary, adjust them in Photoshop to suit the required age and gender of the character being portrayed.
The first two images below are the only ones made with nothing but a pencil-like Photoshop brush.
Mada, and Maya with a pile of strings.
Alex leaping across a wide river.
Alex using a crystal to fend off a pack of wolves in a night-time forest scene.
Diades and Demetrius gathering flames into the golden band of power.
Man wearing a Minotaur’s mask and charging out of a labyrinth.
Archimedes working through the night.
Nyliaj and Alyal in the a night-time forest being chased by wolves.
The Guardian, Rawna, comforting a wounded guardian in the arena.
This is the completed cover illustration and layout design for the paperback version of the book.
I am very pleased to say that I will be working with Jim on book three of the Magicae Series next and expect to start on a new set of illustrations and a cover design any day now.
I hope you enjoyed the images and the bit of background info about the process.
Thanks for stopping by!
You can see more of my cover designs, illustrations and other artwork at my website here.
I recently had a bit of a departure from illustration and design work. Many years ago my good friend, Jamie Sargeant, a sculptor of some renown, gave me a few pointers when it comes to carving letters in stone. I picked up only the most basic of techniques and never explored them fully, but gleeaned just enough to feel that some 20 years later it just might be worth giving it another go all-be-it in the simplest of styles.
It all started when I decided to have a closer look at a rock that was tucked away in a dark and overgrown corner of the garden at the base of a large hazel tree between two sheds. I lifted it out (without doing my back in!) to find that it is in fact what looks like a large random lump of concrete that had gone black on top with time and the dripping of sap etc.
The first thing I did, after it had sat in a new spot for a few days, was to begin carving out a bowl like shape in the top to collect water. I had no intentions to do much else at this stage.
My partner, Anna-Lena, was staying at the time and always inspires me to do more creatively-speaking.
Once I got into the rhythm of carving the bowl I knew I wanted to do more, so spent a couple of days trying to think of what could be added. Initially I was not thinking of adding anything that had too many letters as I knew they could be tricky and time consuming. I even thought I might only add a couple of letters, or a symbol of something. However, the line ‘God is in the rain’ entered my head early on and nothing came to replace it, and once I’d started to draw the letters out it didn’t seem as long as I first thought is was when it comes to the number of letters involved.
The quote fitted all too well, and needed very little adjustment in its placing and spacing, which was a very pleasant surprise. Not that it would withstand close scrutiny.
The placing of the quote and the use of capital letters for both God and Rain happened very organically and without thought. I’d created the bowl shape using a claw chisel but was feeling ready to give the lettering a go. The first couple of letters I carved didn’t go as well as they might have as I had forgotten to rest my left wrist on the rock with each strike of the chisel, so the carving was a bit shaky to say the least. Luckily Anna-Lena pointed out to me that I didn’t need to carve it in order of the letters going from left to right, but instead I could pick the easier letters to carve first. This was a very good move
I also got a new handle for the larger of the two mallets I have, and a new cleet to go in the end of the smaller of the two – a beautiful little lead lettering mallet. I’d be lost without these as far as this kind of work goes so it is very much worth keeping them in good condition and it made all the difference.
Keeping a sharp edge on my chisels was one of the trickiest parts and not a skill I ever learned properly. However, I managed, but some new sharpening stones wouldn’t go a miss.
Between carving the letters I did little bits on the bowl too and began to widen it out to the edge at this point.
Below is a picture of how I worked. The whole process took a couple of weeks. I only carved a letter or two a day and each one took 30 minutes to an hour to do. The bowl took quite some time – possibly about the same amount of time as all the letters combined.
But I did get some help during that time.
Once all the letters were carved I decided to remove the marks left by the claw chisel in the bowl part of the new birdath rock using a flat chisel. This went surprisingly well too. In the picture below you can see the area that is still left to be smoothed in the base of the bowl.
I really love how the cut letters stand out from the stained surface of the concrete.
And it looks great in a typical English Summer!
I repositioned the new birdbath to a spot a few feet away from a small apple tree in which I have hung several bird feeders that get plenty of use and need constant topping up. It took a few days but eventually I saw a wee birdy having a drink from it. Haven’t caught a picture yet but I’m sure I will soon.
View from the kitchen window, but it’s a good 20 paces away.
The birdbath has been in its new spot for a couple of weeks now and in one sense is finished, but I’m inclined to think that I may do more to it yet, just in tidying up some of the letters and continuing to smooth out the bowl section.
This project was a real joy and a good reminder that it is always worth having a go at something one may have never tried before, or not tried for many years. It’s all about enjoying the process more than worrying about the results.
I am also encouraged to have another go as this concrete lump was so uneven and un-consistant in its texture throughout that a smoother and more even material might be fun to try next. I may use some cement I have to make a surface to carve into. This might prove easier than trying to get a piece of stone from somewhere. It’s not cheap and not easy to transport when one doesn’t drive.
Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by.
Have you had a go at something new recently, or had another go at something you’ve not done for a long time? I’d love to hear about it! Please let me know with a comment below.
I have been working on a series of books lately that required full colour illustrations for the covers, and several black and white illustrations for the internal pages. It has been an interesting process that has been part of my transitioning from traditional media to digital techniques, though not entirely and not permanently.
The first book, which was the first of four in the series, had a digitally painted cover illustration, and nine pencil illustrations inside. The second novel in the series also had a digitally painted cover illustration, but this time the internal illustrations have been made using a digital tablet and pen. These illustrations have turned out to be more detailed and defined, and while it is a quicker way of working they have taken just as long as the pencil illustrations as I have paid even more attention to detail and have re-worked them more thoroughly. Pencil sketches were used in the early stages, though not on all of them.
I always work from photographs whenever possible and it has been far easier and quicker to trace and adjust them using the tablet. Printing images and adjusting them to the correct size for tracing is a lengthy process and requires a lot of fiddling about. It also leaves far less room for error and adjustment.
The only tricky part, and something which I am still learning, is choosing which Photoshop brushes to use with the tablet. The choice is infinite. I decided very early to have a go at making the digital illustrations as much like pencil drawings as possible, partly so that there would be continuity throughout the set of books, and partly because it is a nice effect however it is achieved. I tried sticking to one brush and one size and even to the same opacity and hardness/softness of edge. This worked for the most part and some of the illustrations were made in this way completely. But I did find, eventually, that I could use other brush settings for the backgrounds without it looking out of place. This took some trial and error, and the early attempts looked too much like a combination of techniques that didn’t really match. But I got there in the end and the results are quite effective. Thank goodness!
One of the major things I learnt, and something that is probably obvious to anyone familiar with working digitally, is that 16 bit illustrations are far more subtle than 8 bit. I couldn’t quite see the difference early on, but now I realise that it is quite dramatic, and I won’t be working in 8 bit ever again. I guess if you had a PC capable of it then working in 32 bit would be even more noticeably refined in appearance, though I can’t imagine how much such a machine would cost at present. Maybe in time I will be able to progess to such a device.
Here is a pencil illustration from book one
And here is one of the digital illustrations from book two
The books are by Jim West. Book one, Libellus de Numeros is already available, and the special edition of book two, Circulus de Potentia will be out soon.
Thanks for stopping by!
Was fortunate enough to be able to attend The London Book Fair this April for three days, courtesy of Jim West – author of the Magicae Series, a set of four books about maths, magic, knowledge and empowerment all wrapped in a fantasy story for mid-graders. You can read more about it here.
As someone who lives in a remote part of the country, and as someone who is self employed and works from home London is always a shock to the system.
I went from this:
I arrived in London and made my way to the Air BNB flat we would all stay in. I was a little ahead of Jim and TJ Maggio – the narrator of the audio book, who had flown in from America.
The Lobby sign
This shows only a fraction of the whole venue:
We gave out hundreds of book marks, flyers and leaflets, and had a lot of conversations with people intrigued by Jim’s book. Hopefully it will be released by a major publisher soon.
The underground system in London is always an experience. It sometimes looks like this:
But mostly looks like this:
The fair was fun but hard work due to lack of sleep and being fully engaged with everyone we spoke to, and being on our feet all day. But we did manage to see some sites too and have a walk by the Thames etc.
By the end I was ready for home, but sad to part company with Jim and TJ. Meeting them was without doubt the highlight of the event for me.
The day after getting home I ached all over… then developed a nasty cough and sore throat… and then a stinking cold. It’s been just over a week since I returned and I feel lousy. – All bunged up and bleary eyed. But it will soon pass, I hope, and I can crack on with the next book cover design and illustrations to accompany the second book in the series.
Were you there by any chance? What did you think? Would love hear about your experience of it.