So, What/Who is ApopheniaInc?

•October 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

0 Sketchbook Gareth Sleightholme hesir

Apophenia Inc is the digital online sketchbook for:

Gareth Sleightholme (AKA hesir) - an Illustrator, Scenographer and Creative Consultant who has generated Concept Art and Production Design for the Visitor Attraction, Exhibition and Leisure industry, Historical and Heritage Illustration & Design Work for Museum and Archaeology Services for two decades; who is currently lecturing in Games Design & Animation.

Contact - mob 07403861838 – or email

0 Gareth Sleightholme - hesir

Apopheniathe cognitive experience of discovering, or becoming aware of, meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data where there was no prior or causal connection – Coined by Klaus Conrad in 1958, as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”.

Sometimes known as Patternicity – The self-convincing perception of patterns or connections where none actually exist. Most psychologists agree that this condition exists in everyone to some degree; it is a bias of the human mind.

I believe it plays a fundamental part in the act of “creativity“. “Inc.” or “inc.”, abbreviation of “incorporated”… Sounds a bit like ink.

I’m currently working on my Masters Degree Study looking in particular at Visualisation of Educational Concepts for Art School Students, and links between Reading, Empathy and Creativity as well as Developing Concept Art for an Empathy/Games based research project called Rabbit Heart.

I’m generating artwork for the follow up issues to my 2012 self-published comic debut – “The Indian Fighter” – (The Cthulhiad Book 1).

I also occasionally produce Posters for Theatre and Music Events as well as freelancing for the Leisure/Visitor Attraction & Heritage markets.

…plus, you can find my observational drawings in and around my home city over at the Hull Urban Sketchers project pages on Facebook.

Please, take look around the blog and let me know what you think.

Oh, and we (Iron-Shod Ape Comics) are at ThoughtBubble again this year… Come by our table, we will look like this:

Thoughtbubble 2013 A




Synthesis of Noncontemporary Influences – That Old Stuff… Is it Relevant? – Part 1

•October 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

PhotoShop Colouring – A practical session.

The following images can be downloaded and opened in Photoshop.

Face Line Art p008


Faces 2 Faces 3 Faces 4

3D Maquettes as part of the design process… Pt 2 – Clay Modelling.

•October 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Another way of visually developing 3D elements or concepts for your projects is via clay maquettes

The process is just another development/sketch tool available to you.

Concepts can be mocked up quickly and which being too precious, much as you might use ink sketches or rapid photoshop concepts.

To save time, develop the maquettes at a workable but small scale at first (the character bust below was only around 80mm high), looking at form rather than becoming preoccupied with finish and detail.

Clay Helmet

By clay we usually mean dry-in-air products such as Super-sculpey, Fimo, and DAS clay. Specifically other products might be used in industry, but these are fast drying and representative of quick sculpt’ maquette materials; allowing concepts to be generated rapidly and without pressure to be fully finished.

There is a wealth of sites and tutorials online to help you get started, including videos.

A quick scan of monster and SF/fantasy movie extras or “Making Of”s will show the use of these traditional sculpting skills in combination with more contemporary digital media.

See this great article over on IO9 – >HERE<

The physicality of the maquette and the ability to handle it and look at it from all angles easily and with focus control (courtesy of the human eye and hands) makes it an incredibly readily accessible concept medium.

This quick sculpt below, developed organically like a pencil sketch gave unpredicted results which keeps the character development process fresh.

Soldiers Face

It can also be quickly adapted by photographing and enhancing in Photoshop.

Check out this great video below from Gnomon

…and this great site – Creature Spot

With all that in mind, the rough clay maquette can be just the start point for a piece of Concept work, you could always work it up in digital 2D once the basic shape is in place.

Engineers Skull HelmAbove – from pareidolia sketch, to clay-sculpted sketch…

Of course now the process can work in reverse, with quick 3D printing opportunities allowing scratch models to be built in 3D software and rapidly brought to the table top to be viewed and reviewed by design teams art directors and and other stakeholders in the creative process (producers, directors etc.)

3D Printer Pirate - Rikki Gregory

3D printed maquettes based on In-Game Characters, design by Rikki Gregory.

See also, Sculpting in Card 001.

3D Realisation – “Nets or UV Maps”, A quick test/discussion point for Games Students.

•October 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This discussion/activity was presented to Year 1 Games Design Students as part of their Introduction to 3D Realisation module and looks at introducing the complexity of working/modelling in 3D, and the understanding of the relationships between Vertices, Edges, Faces and Polygons (in a 3D modelling context); and leading to discussions about unwrapping objects.

This discussion/activity was presented using what appears to be a simple paper/scissors exercise.

1 - The students were initially asked what they knew about the terms – Vertices, Edges, Faces and Polygons (when used in a 3D modelling context), establishing gaps and prior knowledge.

Further discussion about industry/practice conventions such as the use of  x,y, and z to describe the working planes and coordinates of digital 3D spaces.

2 - The students are then asked to consider the number of Vertices, Edges, Faces and Polygons related to various simple (real world) 3D objects.

An exercise that can be continued by the student beyond the session as part of their reflective practice and blog notes on the session.

3 - Then, a number of shapes where hand drawn* on the white board (or on handouts),


…ranging from simple 3D shapes such as cubes, to shapes made from combinations of cubes in simple and increasingly complex arrangements.

Scan 19

The students are then asked to make a single piece “net” or “UV Map” for the various objects, using pencil/pen and paper,


…finally cutting them out and sticking them together, in order to see how well they were able to plan their UV Maps ahead of time, and looking for mistakes such as missing faces, or faces joined to the wrong edge etc.


It’s an interesting exercise that usually flags up the complexity of “envisioning” or conceptualising 3D shapes and space to students, even for relatively simple objects.

The students are encouraged to “have a go” at several (more than one) of these objects/UV Maps, and to put their results (and reflections) on their reflective and development blogs.

The session then goes on to more complex UV Mapping discussion relating to optimised Topology in 3D Modelling and Texture Unwrapping.

*…the reasons for hand drawing these shapes and then developing them into 3D is that it follows games industry practice and the movement from 2D concepts to 3D realisation.


Drawing & Traditional Rendering 2 – inc “Pareidolia” (Work in Progress).

•October 1, 2014 • 1 Comment
This session was taught as part of Year 1 – Games Design and Animation, Creative Futures – Skill Sets… the second of two sessions looking at the basics (and importance of) of drawing relating to design development for games and animation (and other entertainment media) – The prior session notes can be found here – Drawing & Traditional Rendering – “Back To Basics” (Work in Progress).

Part 1 – Quick Draw App’

Students took part in a 15 minute speed drawing session that caused them to think about what they where drawing as they drew, rather than prior to the act.

10, 15 and 30 second drawing challenges based around fixed items “A Map of Italy“, mutable items such as “A dog“, “Pots and Pans” etc; and then ultimately intangible concepts such as “Breakfast” and “The Farm“.

A useful exercise, not only to build speed, but to address issues related to being overly precious about your drawings (when as an early part of the design process they are ultimately disposable – this is design, not Art! – and so not to be worried and fussed over).

The resulting drawings can be placed on the student’s blogs with annotations explaining the problems and successes had during the session.

It is possible to work on further speed drawings by heading over to Paul’s website and using the app yourselves  –

Quick Draw visual

Part 2 – Failure or “Non-success” (particularly on the first attempt) is part of the process…

As stated one of the issues we have to deal with, as artist/creatives just starting out, is freeing oneself from preconceived notions and baggage that does us no good or hinders our progress/process.

One such piece of baggage is that many of us have been told by people who are not trying to aid our creative process (from a developmental standpoint at least), but instead be supportive, perhaps from a protective and often nurturing perspective, yet regardless of of the facts, that our work is “good”… the bad part is that our ego often listens happily.

This can make us shy away from newer, less “safe” processes. It can also lead to us holding onto old work that received praise and not moving forward and making new works.

Through these ingrained behaviours it is very possible to hem oneself into an incredibly comfortable, but incredibly small way of working, well before we have explored all the alternatives.

This is often NOT ONLY because we are comfortable working in this way, but because we fear trying something new as it might fail… and of course, and particularly at school/college/university there might be people watching.

Milton Glaser, the author of Drawing IS Thinking, explains this fear in more detail here:

<p><a href=”″>Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure.</a> from <a href=”″>Berghs&#8217; Exhibition ’11</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Milton Glaser on The Fear of Failure and Personal Development
“Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality (i.e. YOU) resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture (your peers and the Staff in many cases).
The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point [however] One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.
Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you.

…you can find more useful advice, this time from Ira Glass on the same subject >HERE<

One place to explore ideas without fear of judgement, or worrying over being too precious, is your sketchbook.


The link below looks at how you might use your sketchbook/daybook, and what you might put in them.

The Creative Sketchbook or “Day Book”

Part 3 – Pareidolia – Traditional & Digital

One of the exercises/tasks for the creative that requires a constant addressing and readdressing of the fear of failure is the inertia that kicks in when confornted withThe Blank Page, or how to begin the blemishing of the latest white page/canvass/photoshop screen you have had set in front of you.

This has presented many a embryonic creative with issues to the point were the phenomena of “artists block” is often discussed on forums and FB art pages.

The lack of ideas of immediate subjects things to draw/paint/conceptualise from the imagination cannot be allowed to affect the creative process. In a professional capacity, waiting to be inspired, or for the right mood, is not something that will endear you to art directors or studio leads (or their bosses) who are working to a tight deadline.

You’ll need some tips and tricks to sidestep that block.

One, as we have discussed in brief, is to begin to broaden your “Personal Micro-culture”; Start to be come interested.

Don’t NOT look something up. DO record the names of works and artists you admire. DON’T be apathetic in your creative life. NO ONE will give you all, or much at all of what you need, YOU have to reach out (and sometimes leave the house/studio, get a different point of view) and take it for yourself.

See this chart also – Student Survey on Reading Habits (there is a newer version of this in the works with a much higher study group) – which side of the line are you on?

Two is not waiting for inspiration, but taking direct action instead.

doodle sketches 002x

Create something without thinking, and let that be the first step.

Then by examining this experimental work in progress, AS we create it, we may begin to see ways of moving forward that are more controlled.

For the purposes of this session we can describe one such method as “Pareidolia Exercises”.

Pareidolia  – a term that encompasses the Greek words para, suggesting that something is wrongfaultyinstead of, or substituted in error, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape.

Essentially it can be seen as the mistaking of one shape or set of shapes for another. As humans this may have at one time been of evolutionary benefit to recognise patterns in visual phenomena far away, in shadow or out of the corner of ones eye in order to survive, whether pitted against other humans, animals or other threats .

Pareidolia is also discussed in both >THIS< BBC article, or >THIS< Live Science page.

Pareidolia is a type of Apophenia, which is a more generalised term for seeing patterns in random data, a phenomena I believe plays a fundamental part in the act of “creativity”.

Apophenia is the cognitive experience of discovering, or becoming aware of, meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data where there was no prior or causal connection – Coined by Klaus Conrad in 1958, as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”.

Sometimes known as Patternicity – The self-convincing perception of patterns or connections where none actually exist. Most psychologists agree that this condition exists in everyone to some degree; it is a bias of the human mind.

This Patternicity is “hard-wired” in us, and in a contemporary setting where we are confronted with exceptional circumstances such as rapid advancement of technology, human adaptation and evolution of their environment and living in super-tribes. See >THIS< very contemporary example of Patternicity.

The creative employment of this phenomena relies on your ability to “let go” and free yourself of worries about outcomes, at least with the first marks you make.

It also relies on the idea that some of these outcomes may not work, or have to be abandoned.

So what do I mean by “the creative employment of” Pareidolia.

1 – In terms of starting points for imagery and characters we are looking at >THIS<

2 –  In terms of visualisation for Games and Animation, we are looking at idea development tricks like >THIS<

3 – An although it is a common skill/technique to employ amongst concept artists in Games and other entertainment media, the use of it goes back many years – See >HERE<

4 – And its not limited to traditional media. Here’s a Pareidolia Exercise being employed in Photoshop.

and another… >HERE<

Part 4 – Paraedolia to generate Concept Art sketches


The links below all show concept art sketches developed very rapidly (and to be fair that’s the point, building your workflows speed).

1 – Aircraft Carrier Shanty Town

2 – Japanese Characters

…and finally, with a little more control – This Dystopian Future Cityscape

Part 5 – The Lost Line Method 

Another manifestation of this phenomena is our ability to fill in gaps, or see gaps in brush marks as identifiable elements.

Lost Line Technique

The two examples by Mike Yamada >HERE< in the lower left of the right hand page – taken from the excellent book THE SKILLFUL HUNTSMAN - are good examples of spaces between marks that are readable as actual elements of the costume (despite in truth, there being nothing there).

You can see it again >HERE< in the work of Laura Jennings (droemar on DevArt).

>HERE< Mike (above) shows how his work is developed from silhouette, to more detailed images through the adding of white marks.

Part 6 – Thumbnails

Another area where you have to be un-precious in your work are creative thumbnails.

x Stuff 016

These are small sketches that allow you explore a wide range of possible compositions or approaches, before finally committing to more complex and time consuming visuals. EACH IS ALWAYS SHOULD EXHIBIT INTENTION AND PURPOSEFULNESS, and yet many will remain unresolved or undeveloped (hence the unpreciousness).

x Stuff 015

They tend to be quick in execution, they tend also to be great evidence of your thinking actually happening on the paper… or as Milton Glaser might have it:

Ian McQue, a concept artist who has worked in games design as well as a number of other areas, shows in his thumbnails how he explores similar imagery or concepts from thumbnail to thumbnail but with subtle changes in composition and lighting, position of primary actors.

You can find thumbnails interspaced amongst his more finished work published to the internet >HERE<

Mark Molnar is a concept artist/illustrator specialising in visual development and pre-production design for entertainment media. >HERE< he looks at developing thumbnails as part of the character design process.

For NEXT WEEK, have some pareidolia exercises on your blogs/in your sketch books…

Oh and we’ll also be looking at how to create things like this…

and this…

and a little bit of this…

Adding a little colour –

Books on Drawing –




Trinity Games Tech Project, back in Holy Trinity Church

•September 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It’s great to hear good feedback on student projects.

Today I received a call from a guy who had spoken with the BA(Hons) Games Design students as they show cased their Paragon’s Past and Oculus Rift – Heritage project at Hull’s History Centre as part of the Archives That Inspire exhibition.

He praised the students knowledge and ability to explain their process and working methods, even how they handled gaps in the available research, and felt compelled to call to say as much, whilst voicing a possibility of another venue that might be able to showcase the work.

Great praise indeed, and well done to the students for engendering that kind of response.

Couldn’t be happier.

Another way praise and success can be registered is by being asked to come back, and that’s just what has happened with the Trinity Project.

Trinity 001

Currently back on display before the Chancel, the project was created by last years graduate students as part of their Year 2 Interactive Environments project.

Trinity Church x02

All part of Holy Trinity‘s Heritage Open days celebrations, which will include special services as well as music and other events.

Trinity Church x01

You can find the Trinity Project reconstruction video fly-through below… or go see it in the space itself, well worth the trip out (and whilst out and about, you can go see the Paragon’s Past project too, of course!).


New Exhibition of HSAD Games Design Student Work

•September 2, 2014 • 1 Comment

For just over a week, students from the HSAD Games Design BA (Hons) have been exhibiting work at Hull’s History Centre, along with students from the BA (Hons) Fashion as part of the city’s commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War.


“Paragon’s Past is a client related heritage project undertaken by the second year Games design students of Hull School of Art and Design. Charged with the task of creating an interactive environment centred on Hull’s Paragon Station and the surrounding area during the early stages/the lead up to WW1.

Paragon Interior

“Our goal for Paragon’s Past has been to create an accurate and “immersive” environment which is a recreation of Paragon Station and the surrounding area in the year of 1914. We achieved this by creating a 3D simulated environment using the programs such as; 3DS Max (3D Studio Max) used for producing 3D models, Photoshop for “texturing” and UDK (Unreal
Development Kit) as a game engine for building the environment. Our aim was to immerse the audience in the environment which we created to be as historically accurate as possible whilst incorporating the interactivity and immersion so important to contemporary media.

Oculus Rift Test

We are also experimenting with the Oculus Rift which is a virtual reality headset which will place the user into the actual scene, and this functionality will be available to be experienced by the public in the up coming exhibitions and showcases. This headset also has the ability to remove the need for a monitor or TV and reduce the amount of space required for the display.

All together

We also have several other ideas on how we can display the final product, a fly through which will be playing along side the headset on a large flatscreen.

The fly through can have different variations that can be shown at different times for different audiences, for example an educational fly through in which supplementary text is added throughout the fly through giving a more informational experience on the history of the area to the viewer.

This would all be supported by booths with historical information and visuals of our design process; as well as other supporting material online.”

Hull School of Art & Design BA (Hons) Games Design students:

Adam Brown; Alex Shevchenko; Barrie Briggs; Christopher Greaves;
Craig Overton; Ethan Douglas; James Cook; Jamie Fitzgerald; Mark
Shaw; Matt Lane; Nathan Ritchie; Reece Harrison; Ryan Glover;
Sam Grannon; Scott Beach and Tim Lumb.

All of the above project work falls in line with our current Research areas, with student as producer or co-researchers, in particular we are looking at:

Engaging digital media students in deeper research through social and industrial heritage interpretation.

We have observed a perceptible cultural shift away from library research and deeper reading from print-based media, particularly with students on courses serving technology oriented industries (web, games, graphics and 3D design etc) who can rely heavily on search engine results.

With the aim of engaging students in a full range of deep and more speculative research methods, our team has looked to the use of live heritage oriented projects at level 5 as a means of extending and enriching research skills, resulting in historical reconstructions of local city spaces and connected historical environments.

The students were encouraged to use more traditional investigative processes (on which most information technology is modelled) as source for their interpretations, in combination with Games development technology.

Working within Hull’s library and museums service, undertaking field trips and observational recording, the students gained a deeper understanding of how an holistic approach to research and development activity can be applied across their studio practice.

- G. Sleightholme – HSAD Arts Faculty Research Journal, Spring 2014

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 14.43.05

Our projects to date have included:

(Hull Museum’s Connect/Create exhibition, Ferens Art Gallery)

  • Iron Age sword The journey of an from a Celtic Forge, via a Victorian antiquities collector’s study, to the “stacks” behind the East Riding museum

(Hull Museum’s Connect/Create exhibition, Ferens Art Gallery)

  • Roman oil lamp The journey of a from the potter’s wheel to the ship that brought it to Britain

(Precious Cargo, Westminster, London – selected as part of the national exhibition, and the Cultural Olympiad)

All of which can be found covered in more detail HERE:

  • Holy Trinity Church – A virtual model of as it might have looked during its expansion in the medieval period (shown inside Trinity as a digital altar piece during their celebrated beer festival)
  • Hull’s Paragon Station, interpretation – summer 1914. In response to the national commemoration of the outbreak of WWI, and City of Culture engagement currently highlighted in the city.

“The outward facing nature of the work (online and ‘pop up’ exhibitions at the sites) have brought additional value to the experience, allowing students to witnessing first-hand how audiences engage and respond. Their reflections have led them to propose future developments, such as the use of ‘Oculus Rift’ virtual experience software to allow the pubic to fully immerse themselves in a heritage oriented digital environment.

The students have developed an awareness of the transferable skills they are learning, which can prepare them for a wealth of possible future paths.”

 – G. Sleightholme (Lecturer in Games & Animation, HSAD)

Staff and students from the Hull School of Art & Design‘s New Media Dept, have been involved in experimental Games Technology exhibits like this for quite some time, showcasing their original heritage fly-through at an early HumberMUD event (an event organised in partnership with HSAD, and whose steering group was made up of several HSAD staff at one point).

HumberMUD were a technology and creative arts discussion forum, and the precursor to focus groups and organisations such as Hull Digital (now known for their recent C4DI incubator project) and PlatformExpos and their recent development of a new focus (along side the Humber LEP) on digital creativity as a major area ripe for exploitation in the wider region.

The staff and students continue to try and engage the public through research of this type, and look to build upon current partnerships to bring their work to a wider audience still.

If you or your client has any questions about this type of project we would be happy to help, or if you would be interested in students helping you create a virtual heritage environment for your museum or visitor experience contact us via the Hull School of Art reception.

Tram on Anlaby Street

The visitor times for the extended exhibition at the History Centre, Hull can be found on the History Center website.


The opening night on the 4th September was excellent. A great number of members of the public and special guests turned up to see the work presented by the students;

 Fashion & Games Students - Archives That Inspire

…with a excellent speech from Martin Taylor the City Archivist (and one of the managers of the History Centre) that captured the spirit of the original creative briefs perfectly.

“In the year we commemorate the outbreak of the First World War we’re delighted to be showcasing the work of students of Hull School of Art and Design

Both groups of students undertook research here at the History Centre and it’s great to see that research bearing such amazing fruit…

Oculus Rift in Action 001

…On 28 June 1914 a lady in a hat very like some of those on display here, and her husband in an even more extravagant hat were assassinated in Sarajevo. A little over a month later hundreds of young men in Hull volunteered to fight and die, probably with no very clear idea as to why other than a deep sense of patriotism. They left the city from a Paragon Station much as it looks in the 3D simulated environment you can see tonight. As a nation we have spent a lot of time recently remembering them.

 It might seem a bit of a leap from Sarajevo in 1914 to Hull in 2014. But the five years conflict which was sparked by the deaths of Sophie and Franz Ferdinand changed the world utterly and set in train other momentous events which have left us where we are today. The past continues to shape us all.”

Graham Towse, Principle of Hull College was also one of the exhibition guests to try his hand at the Oculus Rift, virtual reality headset on show at the opening (this will be on show again during the three day heritage open days later in the month).

Graham Towse using the Oculus Rift

Overall the entire exhibition seemed very well received, with the work by all the students from both Fashion and Games Design being praised for their work and their involvement with setting up the exhibition.

Interested in Games Design – Why not enquire about our BA (Hons) in Games Design, we take students for the current academic year up to the beginning of October!

Like MineCraft? Interested in Hull’s history? Check out this HullCraft.


Hull, City of Culture 2017.

New Book Cover Mock-ups – The Lance

•July 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment


New comic book stuff I’m working on, posted over at the Iron-Shod Ape blog…

Originally posted on Iron-Shod Ape Comics:

So I’ve done the basic design for the outer sleeve of the book. The artwork is not finalised, nor the copy as the interior art is not finalised yet either (but it feels like I’m getting there…)

These are just mock ups of what you might be seeing at Thought Bubble this year.

IMAG9442The Front Cover – as it might look.

IMAG9443…you can see a little more of the art on this one.

IMAG9444…the back cover (just mock art and placement of copy and logos at the moment).

IMAG9445…and the spine.


Although the arts not finished… (as you can see above I’m still working away on it), I’m already pulling the print files together, ordering the pages, trying to figure out if the surprise reveals happen on the correct pages and the double page spreads aren’t becoming double side spreads etc.

IMAG9446Well, there is still a ton of work to…

View original 5 more words


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