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 ______________________________________________________



Applied Games Research – RAGE blogging

•July 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

For around the last two years I’ve been involved in an external (to my work at The Hull School of Art & Design) research project that looks at the potential for Applied Games and in particular, the developmental hub of the RAGEecosystem designed to aid the rapid development of Applied or Serious Games; and so by extention, the process of getting people into, and back into work in the EU (I know, I know, but that conversation can be held elsewhere) as part of Horizon 2020.

The project so far has been very interesting, and subsequently I’ve had the opportunity to work and collaborate with a great number of really, really smart people which is great.

The project is ongoing, and we are just about to enter into the exciting testing phase for a number of the Applied Games prototypes in development (including two Use Case Scenarios produced by the staff of HSAD).

Meanwhile, here’s a link to a blog post I wrote for the RAGE project site: Not So Bored (sic) Games

Games Design Degree – 2016 Showreel – Hull School of Art & Design

•June 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The student showreel from BA Hons Games Design at The Hull School of Art & Design, Hull.

For further information on BA(Hons) Games Design, or wish to speak with a tutor, please contact Hull College for a prospectus or Gareth Sleightholme on 01482 480970 or

Park Street – School of Creative Arts – End of Year Show. Open until 2pm today

•June 11, 2016 • 1 Comment
…and for the next two weeks (see bottom of post for details).

Well, its a big send off for the Park Street Arts School building, with their current students end of year show – “CONTINUUM“.

With a range of great student work on show I was particularly impressed by the excellent representational artwork to be found in the Access Course exhibition…

IMAG2691…both in painting and drawing

IMAG2695…there is plenty of work to interest the casual visitor, art students and professional artist.

IMAG2694Well worth a visit.



Whilst across the building two other peices caught my eye…

This simple linocut image (below)…


…and this design for a Mick Ronson memorial cafe for Queens Gardens (below).


You can find out more info about the content and opening times below:


Note – This summer will see the School of Creative Arts move across the city to their new location as part of the Queens Gardens, High Street and surrounding campus buildings.

Exhibition – End of Year Show at The Hull School of Art & Design – Sat 11th June – 10am until 2pm

•June 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

…and during the coming weeks from 9am until 4pm.

So, there is around two weeks left to see the full HSAD end of year show, with some elements changing, and the Foundation Course Exhibition opening soon too. For the time being you should be able to see some great student work, including:


This 3D reconstruction of the HSAD bulding itself by James Branson and Barry Briggs (Games Design) will soon feature in a Heritage flythrough looking at the history and locations of the Hull School of Art and Design, with student reconstructions of its former locations in the Assembly Rooms (now the New Theatre), adjacent to The Royal Institution (formerly No.2 Albion Street) and the purpose built building at the city end of Anlaby Road.

IMAG2671…or this Graphics/Creative Typography/Branding work of Alex Sach (Graphic Design).

IMAG2667…Illustration work, including 2D, 3D and miving image.


…and speaking of moving image, Short film like “The Bagpipe Maker’s Baby” (Film Making & Creative Media Production).


…or “Gargoyle Days”, a stop motion animation from Cain Parkin.

IMAG2669Work from Fashion design students, as well as Textiles students…

IMAG2675Typography and other Digital Design work…

IMAG2664…even comics and Graphic Novels feature, including this work from Luke Swaine.

IMAG2666 b

There is Fine Art… from the Contemporary Fine Art Practice students…


Which covers both representational work and conceptaul and other non-representational works…


…and of course a wealth of digital 3D work from our Games Design students, inluding this detailed vehicle work below from Jason Pook.


…and Environment for Games work from Phillip Maclennan (below).


…and Dave Smith (below).


So try and get down to see the work if you can… and if you are interested in signing up, we are still interviewing and taking students for this years (2016) September intake.


Sketches/Sketchbooks vs. Presentation Sheets

•April 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment
[Please click on images to enlarge]

Finished Sheets collage

Okay, so its getting close to hand-in deadline time…

And I have a wealth of early development work, I tried taking photos of my sketchbook work but the light wasn’t great and I somehow cast shadows across some of the important elements, it didn’t look great as you can see below… The text/notes can’t be read, and the images are pixelated.


That, and the curve of the pages when the book lay open gave me problems with focus… it all made it look a bit rushed (poorly thought through) too.

So, first I went back and scanned the pages instead, and now I have a bunch of very clear images, no focal problems, no shadows, no fuzzy images.

Scans as taken from Sketchbooks

Though at times some of the important images appear on pages that are half empty (which makes for a waste of space), and some of the pages show work at all different angles, even upside down, and I’m wondering how to pull this stuff together so it looks presentable?

x Scan 11

Pages that have just one large sketch on them (above) aren’t so problematic. Nor are pages that have a number of sketches all facing the right way (below).

x Rabbits Vehicles

They can be used pretty much as created… perhaps just adding a clarifying note, enhancing a border to clean up any ragged page edges or to put a little distance/margin between a drawing and the edge of the image (as you can see here) … These then, can just be uploaded to my blog along with some accompanying reflective notes.

But how do I compile the others (see below)? The ones that appear with sketches from another project, or upside down on the same page as another sketch, or with pointless large spaces full of nothing?

Scan 6

Well, one of the contemporary studio practitioner’s real friends is Photoshop, it allows me to cut up and rotate, enlarge and enhance images that I originally did just for myself. Rearranging the images and preparing them, ultimately, to be seen by someone other than myself.

And this is the key point of all this…

As with any design image, there has to be some understanding of who the image/sheet has been made for.

Is it just to clarify something for yourself? Or is it to explain a key aspect of an idea to someone else? Are these concepts to be handed to a 3D modeller? Are they to sell and idea to a potential financier/producer/art director? Those latter possibilities increase as we consider that Games Design is a highly collaborative medium that has people with differing specialities working within it, and that ultimately this is why we are here; to prepare us for working with others.

As a creative student it is good for you to begin to prepare for these eventuality by:

A, making sure every design drawing or 3D design artefact has a clear purpose or idea to be communicated, i.e if showcasing a single concept… and in terms of clarity perhaps going from this…


…to this.

betty-the-pig-xxwip Des Sheet Example

Or if taking some early design thoughts and doodles, and going from this…

Three Little Pigs as a Survival Horror Game in Space

…to this.


or B, that you have developed the skills to allow you to collate and refine a number of images into one cohesive design/concept sheet to communicate your idea or even your design process… Achieving this…

How do I show off my sketches to best effect

By taking a little time to do this…

Presentation images collated

Which due to the clean up and collation process might well take an extra 10/30 minutes to pull together… but can really be worth it in terms of clarifying your concept or explanation.

For those of you with any graphic design sensibilities you could go as far as developing an overarching style for your design sheets, or a new brand style for families of design sheets for each new project…

It takes very little time to set up, and the benefits aren’t just aesthetic…

Anything that lends clarity and clear purpose to the work you hand in as part of your creative course (whatever it is) will allow your assessors to decipher your purpose (and intent) that much easier, no doubt in part satisfying some of the learning outcomes looked for during the marking process.


(SMEAT) - Process for Students x

Overexposed photographic images covered in shadows aren’t the only images that are difficult to read.

For example… Here I have a scan of a pencil drawing from my sketchbook…

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 16.42.08

The image is very faint (plus the file is turned 90 degrees to how it should be because of how I scanned it).

So I first use the Image Rotation tool in the Image tab above to rotate the file…

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 16.51.52

I then do a little bit of tidying… going as far as moving the figures into position in the environment using the Lasso tool and the Eraser…

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 16.45.31

Then, using the Curves tool for expedience I boost the levels… which adds depth to the pencil marks, but as in the example above (due to the off-white paper stock) also deepens the tone of the paper, often saturating the colour.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 16.45.51

But that’s easily managed and toned down using the Hue/Saturation tools.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 16.45.59

At that point you can Crop that image down…

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 16.46.41

…and if you think it’s needed, maybe sharpen the image a little more. Here I’m using the Contrast tools.

This once disjointed page of lightweight rough pencils can now be shown as a collated composition that is readable as an image in its own right or ready to be included in a design sheet.

(SMEAT) - Process for Students 2

NOTE: Photoshop has a number of ways to achieve a range of outcomes including those above.

With the above processes, these are just how I’m comfortable working. You might prefer to use the Levels tools rather than the Curves and Contrast tools; remember, the processes above are just ONE way of achieving your goals.

Lets just see some clear and purposeful development work.

Multiple & Diverse Characters – two Games Design exercises.

•March 9, 2016 • 2 Comments

You should read the two briefs outlined below and choose either Project A or Project B.

N.B. If you finish your first choice to a satisfactory level, please feel free to attempt the other.

Project A – Character Diversity

You are to consider the elements involved in character design for games (and entertainment media) that allow for visually and culturally diverse characters.

FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS EXERCISE WE WILL BE LOOKING AT HUMANIFORM CHARACTERS ONLY (Theriocephaly is fine, if only so long as the body of your character remains mostly human).

You should evidence research and thinking related to character design in games that has been both positively and negatively received. You should consider stereotypes versus archetypes and issues related to contemporary representation, based on cultural identity, health and purely aesthetic considerations. You should also look at why particular styles of characters are used within particular games, and the various types of character design/styles available to the Games Designer

Part 1Anatomy & Design – Using no detail, but construction lines only* (or if in 3D basic sculpt’s), develop a range examples of one character as explored across a range of “types” or identities.

You should develop your character to at least explore body types (endomorphic, mesomorphic and ectomorphic), gender, age (from child to adult), cultural diversity and even character style (cartoon, ¾ top down, 3D AAA, 8-bit, side-scrolling sprites etc).

Character ShapesSimple un-detailed character shapes…

Part 2 – You can use industry conventions such as character sheets and rotations, and even comparison sheets to show how diverse your designs are whilst standing beside each other…

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 16.17.55…fan art by G Sleightholme – All characters © their respective creators and publishers.

Check out pages 74/75 and 110 of The Art of The Last of Us.

* This project may well be an opportunity to take a look at some of the methods and conventions of character design and perhaps extend your understanding of human anatomy –  – you may even want to add life drawing to your experience of drawing and arts school practice.

For this reason you should where possible try to avoid simple grotesques as this will undermine any anatomical lessons you have taken on during your research phase.

Project B – Creating Multiple Character Variation.

In order to design a range of characters to populate your games worlds as well as to add to the choices the player might wish to make, you will have to develop strategies for character customisation that allow minimal design to provide maximum output. 

Wikipedia’s entry on Lego mini-figs – “…many are unnamed and are designed simply to fit within a certain theme (such as police officers, astronauts and pirates)…They are highly customisable, and parts from different figures can be mixed and matched, resulting in a large number of combinations.”

1 – You are to develop a simple (again humaniform) game character shape for a side-scroller or ¾ top down game and then, 2 – create between 20-25 individual elements for the customisation of this character, this could include hair, facial features, clothes, shoes and other accessories.

Interchangable Character Design Sketch 2

You are then to show some of the combinations available to you on a design sheet.

…or via some other way of showing these combinations (see below – cheers for the link Hanna).

Your characters should be designed to inhabit one of the following game worlds or levels:

i – The Office

ii – The Hospital

iii – The Freedom Fighters

iv – The Construction Site

v – “The Street”

vi – The Market

vii – The Flight Deck

viii – The Club

As with Project A, you should try to avoid grotesques as this might undermine the interchangeability/customisation of your characters.

Try to show the same process as you have been asked for in previous projects…

1 – Research (written and visual with notes and citations for the visual ref); 2 – thumbnails and early ideation; 3 – design development with reflection; 4 – Some refining of your designs; 5 – finished/collated images ready for presentation.






“Roof Space” (Games Design, Film & Animation Production Design) Mini-Brief:

•February 10, 2016 • 1 Comment

The following project is to help you explore and consolidate many of the various skill sets, techniques and processes that you looked at in Semester 1.

You should try to utilise the full design process, from research through to final image/s.

The Brief:

Games (Environment Design) – You are (i) To develop a pre-visualization (PreViz) for a scene/environment in a digital/traditional animation or game based around the concept “Roof Space”, without showing the person/character/creature who owns/inhabits it.  As always this is to be an exercise in Character Design without the character being in shot (“in absentia” if you will).

Context: In a Game or Animation/Film, this could be a great place to set up some character interaction (or development or important dialogue), it could be an environment to hide within, a base of operations for your player/character or another regular NPC, a place to explore to look for pick-ups, useful objects/weapons for your inventory, or it could be this levels full extent as part of a point a click puzzle game for example.

The stipulation that it is a roof space, i.e. above the living/office/other interior spaces of a building, and that your design re-imagines this space for a new activity/purpose than expected.

Of course there can be various manifestations of this all too familiar type of place

A three-person temporary encampment in an abandoned, broken-down Medieval turret; A post-apocalypse (zombies-water-levels rising) survivor’s camp on the top of a New York tenement, An Unexpected Roof Garden, a well chosen assassin’s eyrie, a graffiti-covered teen hangout, etc… All of which could have game play implications.

Try to keep the size of this roof space down, try to keep it smaller than that size of the games studio. This way you can concentrate on populating the space without it becoming exhausting.

If you wish to show the surrounding areas, layering your finished image into a photograph using photoshop is acceptable (credit sources where possible), this might be particularly of benefit if you are working in 3D.

If you wish to develop a second visual with figures in shot – please feel free, but one image, as stated, must be supplied sans characters), plus (ii) a rationale of how a “Roof Top” space could be used in a game concept, fully explored, descriptive outlines, with rough visuals and gameplay/mechanics discussed.

A Reiteration of Project Requirements:

  • Research*, developmental sketches/screenshots** and final image/render (full colour*** or line work/blocking out), grey-blocking to full 3D render, or physical model set.
  • …or, if concept or asset design is your goal, 3D modelling or Set Design is not wholly necessary in this project for your portfolio remit;


*…a list of influences/artists who you have looked at should be submitted with examples or their work on your blog; along with any of your own photography and observational drawing.

**Preliminary sketches/screenshots/sketch models as well as final imagery and sketchbook work to shown as part of hand in.

***Any colour should be digital, worked over a scan of the sketchbook & posted to your blog.

You may also wish to take a look at.

Thinking about level design and developing these with quick mock ups

Rockets & Rooftops – Marek Denko