So, What/Who is ApopheniaInc?

•October 28, 2011 • 4 Comments

0 Sketchbook Gareth Sleightholme hesir Apophenia Inc is the digital online sketchbook and reflective blog for: Gareth Sleightholme (AKA hesir) – an Illustrator, Scenographer and Creative Consultant who has, for two decades, 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, amongst other clients. He remains an educationalist who is currently lecturing in Games Design at BA(Hons) level whilst pursuing post Masters research looking at the links between deep reading, empathy and creativity, as well as working on his own personal projects. – Contact – mob 07403861838 – or email – or alternatively tweet me on @hesir.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 linked to 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 personally believe it plays a fundamental part in the act of ‘creativity’“. “Inc.” or “inc.”, abbreviation of “incorporated”… and sounds a bit like ink.

“My Masters Degree Study looked 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.

Elsewhere, I am generating artwork for follow up issues to my 2012 self-published comics debut – “The Indian Fighter” – (The Cthulhiad Book 1), and three subsequent comics: The White Ship (pub 2013), VanitasSevered Head Cult (pub 2014), and Drakon (part 2 of The White Ship, pub 2015); including a new title (co-plotted by @wildflowerfaery), The Red Corsair.

I have also occasionally produced posters for Theatre and Music Events as well as getting involved in local arts events, having drawn my freelancing for the Leisure/Visitor Attraction & Heritage markets to a close. …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 hoping to be at ThoughtBubble again this year… Come by our table, we will look something like THIS:

x 00 001 Thought Bubble ______________________________________________________



Games Design Mini-Brief – “The Boxer”

•February 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment
Animation/Games Design Mini- Brief – “The Boxer” – Visualisation – Character Design.


Character design covers the full range of possibilities from creature designs through to human-iform beings and even sentient artificial living beings. This exercise allows you to develop a series of designs showing your ability to explore possibilities relating to character design, implied narrative and most importantly the modelling of more organic shapes than found in explorations of architecture or even organic environments and props.

As with all digtal modelling projects, solid traditional drawing will put you at an advantage. This is an opportunity to further explore this skill, in particular as it relates to the foundational knowledge of ANATOMY.

The theme for these designs is: THE BOXER


Images Credits for above, L-R/Top-Bottom: – Brahim AziziMindStyleVictor MartinezGuang YangAndrew “Drew” Leung.


i – Two character designs for a 3D “Boxer” (or a fighting athlete of some kind, – no weapons),

Boxer 1Must be human, or very near human.

Boxer 2 – Has no need to be human (though must still be recognisable as a fighting character with the ability to box).

You must show how the two might interact (or how they size up to each other, try to have some fun with the relative scale).

Requirement i (Bold = mandatory, italics = optional)

  • 2D sketches and thumbnails/screenshots and final 2D paper based or 2D digital concept images/renders (full colour or line work/blocking out) – these should include all abandoned ideas as well as those that lead up to your final 3D design.
  • Physical 3D is also an option, Clay, Fimo, Resin, etc; plus photographs of models (purposefully lit).
  • Final 3D grey-blocking (anatomical) to full 3D renders (Presentation Renders, not left in engine or handed over as raw software files). 
  • …animation/interaction created during the developmental phase, drawn or digital is also optional.

Your final renders MUST be in digital 3D however.

Requirement ii – a rationale of how these Boxers might feature within a wider game concept, fully explored, descriptive, reflective outlines, with rough visuals and any game mechanics discussed.


Of course, any/all unusual and unique interpretive variations based on this theme WILL be applauded if in addition to your response to the basic brief.

  • All preliminary sketches/screenshots/sketch models as well as final imagery and sketchbook work to shown as part of hand in.
  • All colour at developmental stage can be digital, worked over a scan from your sketchbook & posted to your blog, but traditional colour will also be applauded.
  •  … a (cited/sourced) list of influences/artists who you have looked at should be submitted with examples or their work on your blog/document.

Even if your “Boxer” is set in an alternate reality/history or the far flung future, this would be a great chance for you to add more reference photos to your files, so get out, go to galleries, make notes and of course use your camera, find something unique rather than just trawling Google and finding the images you need in two clicks – just like everyone else (it produces work so average it hurts).

What we DO NOT want to see is you slavishly copying something that exists in the real/games world already.

Use your reference, yes. But change, adapt, be inspired by it, don’t just copy it.

Consider things like divergent anatomy and scale… which can even be an issue in “real life”.

…and dare I suggest it, maybe get out there to an actual boxing gym or an event with a pen and sketchbook and do some observational drawing*… :O

*For those amongst you who want to be a Concept Artist, there is no excuse for not doing this.

You have four weeks to develop two digital 3D character designs.

“Monsters in the City” – part 001

•January 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment


Okay… so I guess this side project came about whilst considering options for a more single image oriented project. One that might be tied to something local, perhaps my urban sketching of the city, its architecture, but then maybe incorporated a more fantastical element, as I did with “Room Head”, with the giant figure striding through that curious urban landscape…

So where to start… Well why not the sketchbook and some thumbnails…


As I drew these images down I’d begun to realise I was bringing some baggage with me in terms of influences… So I started to make a list which you can see at the top right of the left hand page… These included the obvious Guy Davis and Shaun Tan and perhaps the less obvious but to me… there nonetheless, Paul Madonna, Robh Rupper, Edward Hopper, Moebius (Jean Giraud), Lebbeus Woods, Butch Belair & Tracy Savage (some of which didn’t become apparent until much further along in the project).

Here you can see the creatures in their spore like nascent form clinging to the lines and posts of telegraph poles, or dominating the sky line in the adolescent form, tentacles waving, and moving along the backstreets, past windows, floundering in dried out swimming pools, wandering through the nearby countryside, and even emerging from the water of a marina (below). Until eventually they grow so large they cannot move and take root like trees dominating the city’s skyline, eventually opening their anemone-esque head and releasing spores of their own… all this ignored somehow by the residents of the cities and towns they have invaded.


Some sketches just dealt with the creatures… not set against the architecture of a city or a town, these came to me as more lonely affairs… More Wyeth than Hopper (laughs)…





Then because my impatience got the better of me I thought about using one of my existing architectural pieces and simply adding a creature to it… Looking through the work I already had (of Hull and elsewhere), I realised that the selection process might be slightly different than simply drawing a building in and of itself as part of a duet with a creature design, the building might have to play a reduced role rather than the central one, which called for a different type of building perhaps. Maybe something more mundane/everyday, rather than grand or characterful…

Which led me to choose my image of St. Patricks Church, Spring Street, Hull (Top of Page, 
here covered in scaffolding), as it appeared mostly brick in my image (its grand door way out of shot in my image).


I then just drew a sketch of a creature… trying to consider how the limbs and weight of the creature might look against the roof and brickwork.


…roughing some basic lines in for the building, meaning when it came to overlaying the creature (below) there was much less adjustment necessary (than if I hadn’t considered it at all).

xx-monster-spring-street-church-hull-x-bclick to enlarge

And then overlaying the drawing using the Multiply Blending Mode in Photoshop’s Layers dialogue box… adding another Multiply’d Layer, and Flatting out some basic colour, then using Dodge & Burn to shade and Hue/Saturation to adjust the eye colour. The seagulls floating about the creature’s head are simply repeats of the three from the top left of the original image.

After that it was back to planning wholly original pieces, so it was back to thumbnails…


You can see here the creatures again moving behind buildings, trapped in courtyards, attaching themselves to towers in that final phase and then towering above the buildings below like giant mushrooms.


I had by this point in time decided that these may well make a great subject for a range of images that might well pull together to become an exhibition. One that mixed drawings, design sketches and finished paintings… And with this in mind I started some further developed drawings and more colour tests of various sizes… Still just using “imaginary” settings or combinations of elements of actual architecture from around the city.


If you are wondering about those numbers up in the top right of the drawing… follow the line down into the drawing… See the “x”, that’s marking the intersection of the upper and right “thirds” of the composition… and so that’s where I’ve place the head of the creature.

But before diving into that large image I thought it best to practice or experiment with the way forward in colour…

These first colour works are done in watercolour, inking over the dried paint…



…and then scanning those and playing with them further using Photoshop.


All the while thinking about the possible “real world” settings for the images.

More sketches…  this one sans creature from our kitchen window…


This one, a scrappy oversized thumbnail, with a creature based on the house opposite…


And here a more finished, measured drawing in my sketchbook… (again using the house opposite)


All the while, away from the drawing board more of those one-off monster images (this one clearly influenced by The Curse of The Black Pearl that we were watching that evening).


Then back to colour and smaller more finished tests…



Before a return to my full size drawing… finishing up the far left of the composition…

This (below) now measures about 700mm x 150mm… and as you can see I pushed the size of the creature to be cropped by the top of the image, which seems to help the composition… the head still remains on the upper right cross of the “thirds” based composition.


…and colour tests for that as well, here totally digital, with the hope to using this colour test as the basis for a traditional watercolour version.


This image above will be the first major test… I went out and found a frame size I liked, and measured the drawing out accordingly… I think I’d like to try a few in this format, both horizontal and vertical.

Anyway, back to the sketchbook and more potential monster shape sketches…


Then most recently heading out into the street to find places of interest…


…and draw the background architecture of the city from life…



Of course just adding existing sketches together isn’t always going to work as the combo above shows… so I’ll have to thumbnail each one out again a few times I’m sure… but I’m convinced this is going to be a fun project, and as I’ve been throwing these up on social media as I made them, I’ve been getting some positive feedback too, which is even more encouraging…

And not only that… I think I’m pretty sure of what I can do after this project (definitely an exhibition in my head now) has run its course too.




Other Work In Progress… Jan 2017

•January 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment


So, I’d got to that point where many artists get to at some point, wondering if a change of style was in order.

I worry sometimes that my figures are a little too stiff, and that edging toward a more caricatured cartoony style might loosen the drawings up a little. So I dove into the sketchbook to try some more flamboyant figure styles…


All skinny legs and top heavy bulk… These guys (above) up to no good in alley way, police vehicles dropping out of the city sky in the background…

Or this dude, a DJ carrying his vinyl boxes back from a gig…



Not sure who this guy is or why he’s running, bit again with those skinny legs…

Then finally this sketch…


Four brave space warriors (including the robot)… Perhaps the stars of their own TV series, “Super Space 5”, which means I’d need a fifth, enter Sykes, the Space dog.


…and his well loved tentacled space monster pal.

I decided it was worth throwing some quick digital colour at this one, so into Photoshop and three Blue and Marroon suits and a new flame based superpower later, I was done…


Oh… and I even outlined a possible villain for this lot…


But yeah… The image at the top of this post is an extension of the sketch below:


I’d been thinking about a graffiti artist, chilling after finishing a mural of the devil, whilst the devil came to life, watching the artist on their mobile… The Mural would remain flat the devils are still 2D on the wall, but the juxtaposition of the kid and the devils hand would make it look like the mural had come to life. Scanning this sketch then adding extended background space to include a view over the wall at the city beyond all done in PS.

It currently remains a work in progress…



Oh and there was this also…

Drawn very quickly one morning, based on a dream…


Fan Art… Sketchbook Stuff and beyond.

•January 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve said it before, but I’m not a big Fan Art sorta person… That said, here’s some more that spilled out onto the page from late last year.

1940’s/early 5o’s Superteam…


There’s a good chance you know all these guys… but hey, Lobster Johnson, The Rocketeer, Namor, a young Hellboy, and an ageing Indy… I’m a fan of this period for adventure stories… I’m currently working on one of my own set in the ’30’s. It might not show too obviously here, but I had wondered about a female Rocketeer (maybe Jenny Blake?).

Anyway… I’d been messing about with other stuff too…



I’m a big Batman and Martian Manhunter fan… but these were just doodles for fun in my sketchbook…

Elsewhere, I also got interviewed back in 2016 for Dirty Rotten Comics… I guess that feeds into this “fan/creative” concept a little too… I talk a little about Lovecraft and some of the other influences on my comics writing… The interview above was post on Dec 5th.

Then more recently Sarah and I binged Del Toro‘s great 26 part, Trollhunter series, a mixture of Monster House, the Goonies and I suppose the more recent Super 8 (JJ Abrams), whilst watching it I doodled a page in my sketchbook and threw it up on Twitter…


Which to my surprise got a whole bunch of RTs and likes… including a bunch of the talented people who designed and worked on the show, and included these two as well…


I was pretty happy with that to be fair…

But still, out of all of this fan art gubbins…

It was the Hellboy and Indy image that I thought I could take a little further…


The first drawing on the left, as you can see, includes an older Hellboy… I revised that and added a couple of other contemporaries…


I beefed up the sketch using the Levels tool in PS, and then started adding colour on a separate layer using the Multiply layer blending mode. I thought I’d include Cap, but then realised he’d probably be on ice at this point… but it struck me that Hellboy might be a fan so he made it in anyway…


Maybe I’ll do a fully finished version of this at some point… but I get a little weird about this stuff… copyright, copyright, copyright… apologies to everyone concerned etc. I might even finish THIS someday.



Inktober 2016

•January 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A little late but I collated my Inktober sketches and doodles… I didn’t use Jake’s list, I was kinda in the middle of pulling together Ake’s Trial (a Viking Comic, click the link for a review) for Thought Bubble so some drawings were done just under the wire around 11.30pm, but still managed to get at least one drawing out each day… I’m definitely doing it again next year…



These were all posted to twitter during the event last October…

72 Nights (Part 1) – a sketchbook & possible comics/book project (WIP).

•January 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment


I like drawing monsters and creatures…


If you didn’t know that, then this and another following post will probably put any doubts to bed… laughs.


This particular project came about whilst trying to “warm up” after the usual hiatus following the rush to get things ready and printed for Thought Bubble.

I wanted to simply create a project that could be picked up or put down depending how busy I was, and that would get my imagination ticking over and my drawing arm moving…

I recently been putting together a simple mini-project brief for students that looked at both creating a project that allowed them to wear their enthusiasms on their sleeves (lets face it, it is those enthusiasms that often get us into the creative game in the first place) as well as looking at the type of side project that can bear fruit in the long term, whilst providing sketchbook/downtime creativity in the short term or between other projects… Projects which can take on a life of their own, like Jake Parker’s “Pop Culture Robots” and of course his Inktober project, which has borne much fruit and from many creatives since its inception, and similar projects from others, among them the excellent “Spaceships” and “Isometricness” illustrations of Rob Turpin (thisnorthernboy) – Check out his blog if you’ve not seen it.

The brief simply stated the following (paraphrased):

1 – Choose something you would like to draw a lot of. Any subject…

2 – Draw a lot of it, lets set a target of 100 drawings, but lets go for at least 20 over the Yule break.

3 – Think about how these might be brought together as a final project (a book? a set of mugs?) , don’t do it, don’t even mock it up… just think about it and write those thoughts down (if you want to sketch out your idea, fine).

So for me what to draw? Pirates? Giants? Mythological Creatures? Well I like all those… but, it turned out that something weird cropped up during a conversation with Sarah that would make me sit down and look through a list of potential inspirational descriptions.

Somehow the conversation had gotten around to discussing the pseudepigraphical account of Solomon reigning in an assortment of demons via an angel given magical ring, to help build the Temple (I can’t quite remember how we got onto this – so it goes).

So, back at my desk I’m now leafing through the internet to look up more about this and other related legends/accounts and texts, just for my own pleasure at this point. When I came across an illustrated list of Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon, a text that appears to list and describe the particular provinces or specialisms of the demons mentioned above.

The illustrations are at once intriguing and annoying… and without much provocation I decide to have a go myself.

Straight in with ink, into my nearest sketchbook… then some pencilled variations as I started to see it turning into something…













As I drew them out I started to think about how the project might pan out… How could I link them all together?

Perhaps I could add a figure, a sorcerer… a summoner, who raises these fell spirits?


And with that started thinking about the various possible narratives that could get our protagonist in front of these creatures/entities…

I love that sequence in The Exorcist where Merrin sees the statue of the Demon in the desert… So I started to consider a travelogue style book…


Where our protagonist seeks out a book or a scroll to bring back to his home, and raise the spirits.

Probably in his basement or some such sepulchre-esque venue.


But when I started to put my ideas down on paper, the male protagonist above transformed into a woman,



…and the setting shifted from now to the 20’s/3o’s…


With the opening sequence in a loose comic book form, very little dialogue…

I began making thumbnails of how this might pan out…


Then working up some of the ideas for the panels…




I had also wondered about some sinister types hanging about… Fedora’d henchmen hiding in the shadows…


With that partially resolved it was back to the creature designs, which after all would be the main draw of the project (for me anyway)…
















Then I thought it might be fun, whilst working up these illustrations to try and take a look what the book might look like… just a quick mock up using the sketches I had…


I set this first page below between New York and Germany… and decided to set the final scene of the intro in Lisbon (via Eastern Europe and the Middle East), as I’d recently been there, and had some observational drawings that I thought might fit the feel of the book (weirdly I watched The Ninth Gate again around this time only to find scenes set in Lisbon…).







I then made an interactive PDF from the art I’d pulled together… and created a video which I uploaded to my Youtube account, ready to throw on social media (I had posted most of the sketches to Twitter and FB as I went along). The finished Video is below.

And that was that… not quite a hundred.

Maybe closer to 40 designs, at least to thumbnail level.

But it’s in the ball park and who knows, maybe there are other texts with other descriptions I can add to the 72.

And I’ve still no idea beyond “warming up” as to what I could do with it at this point.

But for now there are other irons in the fire…

Maybe I’ll get back to it later this year…


Quick 3D concept through to 3D model exercise (with Paul Starkey)

•November 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Okay… Here we have a series of concept designs for a range of medieval or fantasy carts. The type of thing that would be useful as props for an open world environment as well as a practical vehicle design. These could variously be use in states of disrepair, loaded or unloaded or being loaded with items set about it.


From those early designs I chose this four-wheeled “war wagon” that might have been used for carrying troops or arms…


This design was then refined further after discussion with Paul Starkey who wanted a more streamlined, two-wheeled affair.

This was the result.


Next up a quick (15mins) sketch block out from Paul Starkey. Used to show students how to model “a cart”.


Which was followed by an additional build by Paul Starkey based on the concept art above that showed further refining, adjustments and additional detail…


Still, this model is less than 500 polygons.