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 nearly three 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, and has also and taught those skills to others as an educationalist who lectured in Games Design at BA(Hons) level (for over nine years) 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

Keep an eye out for another project too – #RobotVmonster!




Here’s hoping you still like seeing creative stuff from apopheniainc…

•May 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Firstly, thanks for subscribing, commenting and generally dropping by and seeing what we are up to over the years… we really appreciate it, and hope that you still enjoy the posts we get to send your way occasionally.

Now I’m sure you guys are bored silly with all the GDPR* craziness of late, so sorry to hit you with a little more.

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Like any simple free WP built site/blog, the WordPress site itself handles any data you supply through subscriptions and comments etc in the background. If you would like to refresh your memory and read over the new WordPress privacy statement, you can read it HERE.

We just want to reassure you that I/apopheniainc will never knowingly share any of your data with third parties without your express consent beyond that which you volunteer in your public facing comments/subscription process etc.

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*You may or may not be aware that there have been some recent changes to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These changes, which come into effect on the 25th May 2018, affect us all, and are making sure that your data is used and stored correctly. 


The “Jack of Clubs” – for the #Hull52

•March 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

So, back in 2017, I was asked to take part in the Hull52 project, creating an image to be part of a full deck of cards created by local artists (commissioned by Adam Kerr) which was to be sold for charity. The project went on to have its own exhibition, showcased in Princes Quay, with live drawing by some of the artists.

This was the final art as produced for my given card the Jack of Clubs.

Each artist was allocated their card, and I was pretty pleased to get the Jack of Clubs as I was hoping to get a picture card… but still, what to do with it?

I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about it at first, and toyed around with a bunch of ideas,

…I really enjoy the research phase of projects like this, I’m a fan of symbols and symbolic imagery, the sort of thing you see in medieval paintings, alchemical illustration and the Tarot etc, so I did my usual over-reading up on the history and symbolism of the cards and its tarot equivalents… which after making a bunch of notes led me all the way back to the dualist, double headed imagery that we usually see on the picture cards of a typical deck, though I knew (after looking at the various Tarot representations – Princess/Knave etc.) that I wanted to make one half male and one half female.

Perhaps with one more malevolent, and one half more benign, representing the good luck/creative and bad luck/destructive aspects of the tarot interpretations.

That mix of destructive symbolism and creative endeavour put me in mind of imagery such as the tower of Babel, I added to that the imagery of the characters holding a living sapling instead of a wand* or club.

*Wands being the Tarot equivalent of the Clubs suit.

The shields and other elements of the dress of the two characters would also reflect some of the medieval symbolism that was eventually brought into the tarot imagery, such as the white stag (above) and the ants that would eventually parade around the “reverse” aspect’s shield.

Likewise, the imagery of the rose and the salamander on the shield of the “upright” aspect.

With the still quite loose pencils complete (I like to leave a little room for manoeuvre when inking), the next stage was hitting in with the inks. I tend to use a combination of Pentelbrush pen and Uni/PiN 0.3 drawing pens.

The decorative style I ended up adopting (using a mix of drawing pens and brushpen) came out of my love of the work of Sergio Toppi‘s amazing comic book art, which I felt had a link to the surreal sweeping art of the painted tarot cards of Marguerite Frieda Harris, which was also at the back of my mind.

That said, ever start something and then regret it, laughs… I’d spent a lot of time of late trying to simplify my inking style, going for something much more economical in my other work in order to hit a higher page count… this was a step back to a much more baroque approach.

The tower in this aspect (with the princess) needed to look like a positive project, a place to climb, for seekers of light and enlightenment… the floating islands and the miniature shrines there on attempting to convey an otherworldly spiritual journey.

By the time I’d got this far I think I knew it was going to be okay.

..and that was that, now to flip the image and work on the other half.

Here we go again…

The stoic look of the princess is here replaced by the laughing knave, I tried to give him the typical triple panelled feathered cap of a regular playing card jack, adding the tarot symbolism elsewhere, the stag on the shield, the (Wyrmwood-like) comet, and the aforementioned ants…

Plus there was that branch, here being broken, whilst he doesn’t notice…

Finally that reflection of the serene tower of creative and spiritual endeavour, here in turmoir and destruction, the towers falling figures mirrored by the falling leaves of the destroyed sapling, also a shadow of The Tower card from the tarot.

…A ship is caught in the chaos, a journey cut short by bad luck, or misadventure brought about by a lack of care or responsibility.

And there you have it… so that was just a little of what I was thinking whilst I pulled that image together.

If you want to see the original art for this (done at a much larger scale than the card itself) you can find it upstairs in the back bar in The Brain Jar, in Old Town.



“Selfies” (and beyond) – a Traditional to digital skills exercise/Mini-brief.

•March 29, 2017 • 1 Comment

“Selfies” (and beyond) – a Traditional to digital skills exercise.

If you want to know what is required of you when looking at specific roles within industry, taking a peek at current job adverts is not a bad place to start…

This goes for developing your portfolio as a would be Character Designer for the Games Industry… see below.

  1. Examples of head and clothing sculpts in your portfolio
  2. Strong 2D skills
  3. Example(s) of character hair in your portfolio
  4. An excellent understanding of human anatomy, shape and form
  5. Experience with 2D digital or traditional art
  6. Demonstrate exceptional digital sculpting skills and understanding of both human and creature anatomy; garment and clothing drapery and garment construction detailing; and clothing accessories, as they relate explicitly to specific real-world references and individual concepts, mood boards and directed styling cues.
  7. A comprehensive modelling and texturing portfolio showing 3D character art to a very high standard, with specific ability in the representation of realistic human anatomy and garments/drapery.
  8. Exceptional sculpting ability in ZBrush and deep knowledge of related Marvellous Designer workflow for digital clothing production.
  9. A keen understanding of the human body and facial anatomy; form, structure and silhouette in respect of economical and appropriate modelling for game target assets and polycounts.
  10. An inherent appreciation and understanding of fashion and street style, and era-specific culture as they relate to costuming and dress.

These are just some of the requirements from companies like Airship, Rockstar and Jagex and others as posted in current Job Ads for junior 3D Artists/Character Artists.

Following on from that is some software specific additions:

  • A strong working knowledge of ZBrush is essential
  • Exceptional sculpting ability in ZBrush and deep knowledge of related Marvellous Designer workflow for digital clothing production.

In the absence of ZBrush it is possible to take a look at some related “making” principles via the related “gateway’ software Sculptris (free to download, and available on all machines in our studio).

Be aware the following project has an interim deadline prior to the Easter break but will be on-going until the May hand-in for both the above modules.

This brief will look at three areas of interest.

  1. Celebrity Character Portraits
  2. Self Portraits
  3. Peer Portraits

With the self-portrait section taking priority. And Peer portraits being purely elective.

i.e 1 & 2 Mandatory, 3 Elective.

You are to develop at least 3 traditional material portraits within each category above, each in a different material, pens, pencil, charcoal, paint etc (this does not include preliminary studies and sketches).

You are not to work from photographs with the exception of the Celebrity Portraits (though sketching from moving film is also a useful exercise). Mirrors and or live web cam feeds are acceptable.

A serious Self-Portrait study can take anywhere between 15/20mins and an hour+. Your work should reflect this. Scrappy sketches will only be accepted as preliminary studies.

For the celebrity portrait, you are to choose one of the following actors:

  1. Steve Buscemi
  2. Tilda Swinton
  3. Wai Ching Ho
  4. Samuel L. Jackson
  5. Gabriel Byrne
  6. Marianne Jean-Baptiste
  7. Richard O’Brien
  8. Judy Dench
  9. Benedict Wong
  10. Ian McNeice

The end result of this exercise should be several pages of sketches and Nine traditional portrait images, in a variety of media (look to your learning outcomes).

Try to use this project as a means to an end, ie developing your drawing skills. Serious study of anatomy, the structure of the face, and the bones and musculature that underpins this structure will be important. This should (as seen above, see job specs) be something that appears in your ongoing Games Design Portfolio Your reflective notes should discuss this.

As part of the process of learning and skill set development, you should explore the work of Games artists you admire and look into their process, approach and even influences.


You are to develop at least 2 digital 3D portraits based upon the portraits you have worked up above.

You may use ZBrush or Sculptris.

You are not to work from photographs with the exception of the Celebrity Portraits (though sketching/working from moving film is also a useful exercise).

Regarding “Selfies” – Below are some examples of the type of work possible.

The two selfies below were done this time last year.


No pencils or preliminary drawing even in paint, just straight in to blocking out and mark making with oils…


Below is the process from blank canvas to blocked out features, paying close attention to vast variations in skin tone and and light, whilst attempting to use this to “sculpt” the face, working on the “faceted” angles of the head.


The colours below have dulled from their original vibrancy.


Below is a brushpen a marker selfie, again working from a mirror, not photographs…


And a watercolour, brushpen and copic marker study done in the same sitting…



For comparison here’s an older pen and ink selfie… choosing a mid range brown paper allowed me to bring in some highlights using a white gel pen.

…and utilising a new skill set (I used Sculptris for the first time on March the 1st this year, 2017), this digital 3D selfie below, starting from scratch and using the webcam on the mac as a stand-in mirror.


“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…