Source: Dean, A Painting With Thread.
I am very lucky to have such a talented partner. She often surprises me with things like this.
I will have to find ways to repay the compliment.
Thank you, my love!
Hello dear art lover!
I am a self employed, full time artist and have been for some years now. I struggle to make a living and most months I am one rent cheque away from eviction. I live very frugally and put as much as I can of what I earn back into new projects and materials.
I have never asked for money in any way online before, but I now see many people using this method successfully to enable them to continue working as a creative / content creator. As someone who works and lives alone I don’t really have much of a support network to speak of (don’t get out much, you see?) I’m really hoping that seeking patrons is the way to go.
As little as £1 or $1 a month for regular updates of work-in-progress pictures and sculptures could go towards keeping me with a roof over my head and food in my belly. Not to mention materials and supplies etc., which have become insanely expensive these days.
For larger monthly donations and one-off contributions I am offering original artworks, mostly illustrations, but also paintings and small sculptures. Simply send me a picture to work from and I will make an original piece of art. It can be a picture of anything at all.
I have also set up a ‘Goal’ on Patreon. The Goal is to make the garage in the garden into a studio so that I can work more easily all year round and create many more pieces of art and hopefully more sophisticated works of art too.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope it persuades you to become a patron, and if it does I will be eternally grateful.
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!
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 finished a cover illustration and design for the third book in a trilogy. This final book is called The Time Garden. I made it using my digital tablet which I am still learning how to use effectively, and this is how it turned out.
I particularly like the bear, but then again who doesn’t like bears?
I often find that I have several commissions on the go at any one time for book cover designs and illustrations, but things have been a bit quiet of late so I have been keeping busy with other things, which has been fun too. I don’t often get to make things for my own pleasure so it has been nice to have the opportunity to do so once again.
One of the first things I made was an oil painting of a friend’s dog. The dog is called Gandalf. It is only a small painting – about 7 x 8 inches – and I had not used oils in a very long time. As much as I can see all the faults in the picture I was still happy with the result and it got me painting again. I have always loved to paint animals as they are so free and beautiful. Here is the finished result.
One thing I really enjoy about art and the making of it is the idea that leads to it. Sometime the idea is more important to me than the finished item. And sometimes I have had an idea for years and years before realising exactly how I need to execute it. One idea I’ve had for a while but which I only thought to draw very recently was the one below.
A ring of truth. Now, wouldn’t one of those be handy?
I’ve also begun work on a logo for my book cover design and illustration business. The only names for the business that came to mind were either Dharkness Designs or Dean Harkness Designs. In designing the logo I seemed to settle on the second of those names. The letters DHD lent themselves nicely to a design representing a book cover, and this is what I have made so far.
The H represents the spine of a book, and the corners represent crop marks. I’m quite happy with it and it felt like it had a fairly organic genesis. I need to convert it into a digital image suitable for printing and resizing etc., but have been having issues with the pen tool in Photoshop. It’s a tricksy little bugger, but brilliant when it works. I’ll sort it out soon.
It’s always a good feeling to actually draw something one has thought about for a very long time. I sometimes find that the reason I haven’t drawn, or painted, or sculpted these ideas is because of the amount of work I think may be involved, and yet in nearly every case they do not take as long as I think they will, and they don’t exactly feel like work anyway. I think I can be like that about a lot of things – always worrying about what will be involved in doing the thing I want to do rather than looking forward to the thing itself. I really must learn to get over that, or I may never do anything ever again!
I’ve noticed recently a lot of the time when I share something online that many people think it is just something I have found on the Net and am sharing just for the fun of it rather than realising it is my own work. I have always been very resistant to watermarking things partly because it doesn’t look so great, but also because it’s a bit of a pain to have to do it. Something else I need to get over.
If you would like to see more of my Book Cover Designs and Illustrations plus lots more then please do visit my site: http://deanharkness.co.uk/ and feel free to leave a comment or contact me for more information.
What do you do for you own pleasure when not pursuing your dream or working for ‘the man’?
For the month of July (2014) I am running a special offer for my illustration and book cover design services at the discounted rate of 25% off my normal fee. Any commissions taken on in that time will not necessarily have to be completed within that period but simply agreed upon and a quote and time scale arranged.
I do hope you or someone you know will take advantage of this offer, so do please help in spreading the word if you can – your support would be very appreciated.
E-book cover layout designs will be £37.50 instead of £50
Paperback layout designs will be £41.25 instead of £55
Hardback layout designs will be £48.75 instead of £65
Illustrations vary but I can give a quote based on what is needed and then make the reduction before you decide whether or not to commission me for your project.
Please take a look at my website for examples of my work. I try to show a varied selection of styles and genres, and am always happy to try new things.
As well as book covers, there are also pages showing examples of my other illustrations, sculptures, and designs that I hope give a broader sense of the various ways in which I work.
You can contact or connect with me using the links below:
Please help spread the word. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
This post is from my old blogging site, Posterous, which no longer exists.
One of the most valuable things I ever learnt about design, and more specifically letter form, or typography, was to look at letters as though they are alive, to imagine them as some kind of animal. Once you do that you can see what the body language of that animal is saying. In it’s natural condition an individual letter should look balanced and at rest, evenly weighted and in its own space. This developed over millennia and we give it no thought at all when reading. In fact we can give it no thought at all for that very reason: Everything looks set, and in it’s natural position. There is nothing to distract the eye, and the reading can be automatic.
Basically every letter in the alphabet has unique characteristics that have become embedded into our subconscious. A designer is simply someone who has become aware of what makes a letter look like a letter, which in turn gives one the ability to distort those characteristics without loosing sight of the readability factor.
Letter form evolved certain characteristics due to the tools used to make them. Flat sticks, brushes, and chisels make thin lines at certain angles and thick lines at others. Also, because of human anatomy, some parts of a letter are more upright and some are more angled because most scribes were right handed and wrote left to right.
Below is a good example. All we need to look at is the capital letter ‘A’.
In the top version, compared to a standard letter ‘A’, it looks as though it is standing on tip-toe, or has its shoulders hunched, or is tense and uptight. In the bottom version the ‘A’ is balanced and at rest. Relaxed.
Just reversing a letter can show how many subtle elements are involved in its construction:
See? [The 2nd one is the correct one. The less you think about it the easier it is to see.]
And don’t even get me started on kerning and leading! You could drive a bus through some of it, or not get a tram ticket between the rest!
Once all the letters are sorted and each letter and word looks like a contained and happy unit there comes the element of placing. Placing is everything, as is scale and proportion. You are unlikely to get it right by accident or by instinct. In other words: use a professional 😉
I have often found that after studying something for years it will be a single simple comment that someone makes that teaches me more in a few seconds than a decade’s worth of thinking about it. I had the same experience with writing poetry Has that ever happened to you?
Thanks to all who commented before. Below are the comments and responses:
A little over six months ago I blogged about buying my first real digital tablet. You can see that post here. I was \ probably \ unsurprisingly impressed with what could be done with it, particularly in Photoshop, or other painting and illustrating and photo editing software. I got good results almost instantly, which was not a small surprise to me – one never knows what a new medium is going to feel like. Even though I went for a budget tablet, which I still think was a good idea and which I will stick with using for some time yet, I soon saw that my computer was struggling to do some things and completely incapable of doing others. Needless to say I simply don’t use those features and I work with what I have and that is totally fine so long as I know and remember the parameters I can work in.
Now I am used to working with the tablet daily, and work has both improved and speeded up, I am now really keen to use the full features of the painting abilities included in the recent versions of Photoshop CS. I’ve had a glimpse and it is so impressive how some of the brushes can mimic the effects of paint or ink etc. Instead of just putting down layer upon layer, as is done with most digital brushes, some have been set to do things like blend and smudge and fade etc. while one is actually painting with them. The effect is that the paint that has already been laid down gets moved about and blended if gone over again, just like paint would. Like I say I’ve only glimpsed these settings because of the limitations of my computer, which brings me to the point of this post:
I have been saving for a very long time and I now have just about enough to buy a new PC. My one is beyond defunct and can’t even get the standard Microsoft updates, so it is actually operating on a system about 8 years old with zero system updates! At some point I will put a new version of windows on it and use it as a back-up / stand-by machine. I’m not getting anything super fancy but fancy enough that it shouldn’t need upgrading for a couple of years or so. I decided to get a Dell again as I have used them before and have always had good service and good products. Also I need the whole package: New monitor, mouse and keyboard, so that’s another good reason to shop in this way. A new and much wider monitor will make painting so much more efficient as I will be able to push palettes and source images off to the side, rather than having them on top of what I am working on, or on layers that are constantly ‘shown’ and ‘hidden’ again. My current machine is so glitchy that it is difficult not to think that it is going to be just like having a computer for the first time again. Just think, USB’s that actually work! And not having to re-install everything every time a peripheral gets used.
One day I will also get a Wacom tablet, which has double the sensitivity and functionality of the Monoprice tablet I currently have, and at that point it will be Time To Bite The Digital Bullet III
There is only one very minor down side to getting a new PC: I am going to have to re-teach the dictionaries all those words we use every day but which always have a little red squiggly line under them when typed on a Windows PC. I have no idea why it is that the boffins who develop these things can’t bare to include every day words.
Thanks to a friend who posted a link to a great little post by Angry Dog Art about the KUM Automatic Long Lead / Pencil Sharpener I was reminded of clutch pencils, which by coincidence I had recently searched for online but not by that name as I didn’t know that that is what they are called.
I ordered one of the KUM sharpeners to begin with, and then searched online for ‘clutch pencils’, and not propelling pencils, claw pencils, or grabby thing pencils. Not surprisingly there are lots to choose from. I searched for one that I thought looked reasonably well made but also reasonably priced. One can spend a fortune, of course, but to my pleasant surprise I found a make of clutch pencil called KOH. On seeing an image of one I had a vague sense of having seen one before. It comes with a specially designed sharpener in one end that I would not have remembered seeing before without seeing it again. I don’t think I actually had one of these pencils as a child (and it would have been wasted on my if I had) but other kids had them, and maybe even one of my brothers did too. The design has not changed in over 30 years, at least!
This is the pencil:
and here is a picture of the built in sharpener
Clever stuff, huh? And all for the modest price of about £2.95
I’ve had a fine time over the past week or two using the new pencil to work on a bunch of illustrations for a children’s book I am currently doing for a friend (the person who shared the post about the sharpener, no less!) You can see Abi’s author site here: http://abiburlingham.com/
I also treated myself to a very chunky clutch pencil that I found in a local shop. It was less than a fiver and feels nice in the hand. I’ve sanded it and oiled it (it has a wooden body) but I haven’t actually drawn with it yet. This is what it looks like:
And here is a picture of the KUM sharpener:
It gives an extra long lead to pencils when sharpened, and has two small bladed for sharpening leads in clutch pencils too.
I shall invest in some more leads for the pencils soon. There’s a nice variety for the chunky one, including charcoal sticks and sepia sticks etc. Hopefully I can get some softer leads for the standard sized clutch pencil too.
If you made it this far then thanks for reading!
It is so weird how memory works (or doesn’t). What was the last thing you remembered that you had forgotten you had forgotten? 😉
I thought I would have finished this by now, but there is still a ways to go. But I am very happy with how things have developed. Rather than simply increasing the size and amount of detail in this new version of the figure I was hoping to actually push the design further and discover something new in the shapes and forms. And I did! Hallelujah!
I covered the stages of the sculpting process up to now in my last post. This is where it had got to by then.
While I was happy with the increased detail of the whole piece, and especially the feet, I did feel that I had mostly just made it bigger. Something was missing, which in artistic terms usually means the complete opposite and that something needs taking away. I continued to work on areas that I knew needed refining: The arms, hands, head, face, and hair. The neck… Oh, the neck! Had such problems with that for some reason; No wonder her head kept detaching itself (see previous post). Shoulders, back, waist, bum, thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes. I know it just sounds like a list of body parts, but truly, these become things in their own right when sculpting them. The hair was proving tricky too, especially around the neck area. —
As is often the way the next step I needed to take to push things further came to me while I was half asleep one night: The shins had to go! It was the shape the knees and feet made that interested me, and I realised that I could more or less connect the two and remove the shins almost entirely.
One of the main reasons for wanting to make this piece again, besides the fact that the original was only ever meant as a maquette, was that I was keen to make the feet far more realistic while at the same time also being quite distorted. It took a lot of cutting away but eventually, and with a wonderful sense of satisfaction, I cut away enough clay that one side of a foot finally connected with the other side, and they became an actual pair of feet rather than only looking okay from one side or the other, but not really from all round. They were now completely separate except for where the balls of the big toes touch… just.
I got some help at this stage with removing the stick that had been inside the body and head to work as a support. Luckily it came out without any problems. Phew!
This is what sculpting in my make-shift studio can sometimes look like.
Isn’t clay gorgeous!
Finally started to define the hair.
Hands still need defining.
Faces are always tricky at this scale, and at this angle. Ideally I need to raise the sculpture to above eye level in order to be able to work on it comfortably, but it can get a bit unstable so more often than not I just kneel on the floor so that the table is at shoulder-ish height.
There’s still quite a bit to do, but it’s all just finishing off detail now, and there are no more major changes to be made.
One rather huge thing that does have to be done, and I may already have left it too late, is that in any place where the clay is more than one inch thick I need to cut out a ‘window’, scoop out some clay, and re-attach the ‘window’ that was removed. Scary, but it has to be done if I am to have any hope of getting the finished piece fired in a kiln. Clay can explode if any thicker than an inch, so not only would it be a loss of work, but it could also potentially damage anything else in the kiln. I’m still trying to find a kiln in the local area, and making contact with people to see if they may be able to include a piece or two of mine some time in the not too distant future. Fingers crossed!
And thanks to you, whoever you are, for stopping by and reading.
Do please leave a comment, and or subscribe. I really enjoy hearing back from anyone who’s taken the time to read a post of mine.
Have an awesome September everybody!