So, What/Who is ApopheniaInc?

•October 28, 2011 • 3 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 ______________________________________________________



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 • 1 Comment

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 • Leave a 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

The 19*** point* pseudo-Student/Amateur or Untrained Designer’s Process

•February 10, 2016 • 1 Comment
Originally for fun/comedy effect/reinforcement or teaching… perhaps to contrast with a more traditional design process explored here…

The “checklist” below (a list of very common oversights or conflicting personal/professional values or attitudinal judgements often observable in design work that does not succeed) can perhaps be used to identify areas that might be at the root of your project work that has been identified (by you or others) as not fully appropriate, not truly ready for submission or that has failed in some regard, but you are not sure why.

If you were to add a tick when one of these elements rings true (perhaps even slightly) and then look to the bottom of the post where solutions or constructive alternatives can be found.

1 – Ignoring /dismissing /not annotating The Brief ☐.

2 – (A), paranoia/incredulity about imagined work-load (this ethereal amount should always be much smaller than the work-load the staff were imagining) . (B), Subsequent discussion of course validity/legal ramifications/human rights breaches. or (C) saying something like…

“Oh god, another brief?!! We only had one two/three/six weeks ago!!!” 

3 – Cognitive Dissonance regarding the value of at least a century of accepted design process  / dismissal of tutor’s guidance towards following a design process / or skipping the design process as you don’t have time .

4 – Two months/weeks of “tossing it off/avoidance/procrastination” and not giving any of the above a second thought . Being over confident in your timeframe and so not “breaking the back” of the project early enough , or just really underestimating the amount of time you need to fulfil parts of the brief and so leaving it all too late .

5 – Forgetting the deadline, until having overheard someone talking about it in the corridor , not having planned your project schedule in a simple sketch Gantt Chart in your daybook/sketchbook , not making any notes during the brief delivery and so not remembering that there was a project expected at all .

6 – Poor research… Uninformed conjecture, un-cited hearsay & perhaps a quick look at pages 1,2 & 3 of Google with a hasty one-word search parameter ☐. Grabbing (only) images from Google without making any notes as to who the work belongs to or what it was for rather than going to the site the work was on . No robust discernment in place regarding how you curate images or information from the internet . No visual notation or video/photographic reference made/taken by yourself .

7 – Jump to straight a “final*~*” piece/knee jerk response . Pursue your initial idea regardless of how obvious that it isn’t working, because going back to the start of the process will take too long/be boring . Go out to get head together and come up with ideas (ideally at a party or nightclub) .

8 – Half-assed (or less) engagement in “final** piece”, doing it because it is a task that was set by a tutor/manager, rather than a result of a process you are enjoying / talking a lot more about your great project than actually developing it . Not talking about your project with your peers at because you have no real interest/investment in it .

9 – Give up due to “Software Issues” . or because giving up now would be better/more acceptable than having to try with no magical guarantee of success .

10 – Losing things☐ work, hard-drives, pets etc or changing emails , so thereby missing communications.

11 – Last minute blog post/s , with indecipherable, un-proofread content .

12 – A handful of poorly constructed, glibly written or colloquial expression laden descriptions of how, with what, and in which order , alongside a reluctance in discussing own work at a critical level; i.e. No discussion of why .

13 – A list of excuses dressed up as a post-project evaluation .

14 – Hand-in “all” the above burned to an unnamed disk  containing unnamed folders , handwritten upon (despite label-makers being around since the 90’s)☐ own name and imaginary project title (i.e. not the one on the course website) . Make sure some files are un-openable . Use any old scrap of paper as cover insert (preferably torn, with two different coloured pens for title, submission details etc.; preferably changing colour half-way through a word). Or using someone else’s art work, printed at 72dpi due to it being “borrowed” from the internet ☐.

15 – Become “ill” (or have proxy become ill) on day of presentations ☐ and do not inform staff in advance of session start. Repeat this more than once ☐.

16 – Then enter final stage by showing utter disbelief at tutor’s/boss’s/line-manager’s/colleague’s time taken to assess or feedback on their “work” , revert to position in 2(B) .

17 –Skip written feedback and jump straight to the “score/mark” .

Aghast/stroppy/unprofessional/inappropriate response to, partially read ☐, detailed feedback.

18 – Petulance/avoidance/disengagement due to misinterpretation of feedback as a personal attack …potentially further exhibition of the Dunning-Kruger effect .

*This will of course take more effort than the conventional Design Process.

**…it should look like your first grudging thought.

***CBA with the last one, this will do surely? (see its supposed to be funny)

*~* …the thought that “final design” inherently suggests “previous/earlier/prior/initial/developmental designs” should not enter your head.

Final Scores

If you scored 40+ on the tickbox list you may need to question whether this is the right career/course for you.

If you scored -5, it’s early days yet, and you can at least begin to tackle some of these issues in your next project.

Somewhere in between… Well, I guess we can discuss this in a lengthy tutorial session in the hopes of determining whether this is to do with external or intrinsic issues/attitudes.

The idea of “Quality” in these non-professional scenarios of instances/behaviours, such as those sketched out above, rarely relates to any idea of “Technical Competence” within an image, model or element of a product, nor is it reflective of any comparative quality with finished professional work (which is of course a sliding scale based on experience and so NOT being judged here), but instead the quality/care/attention to detail of the evidence provided, this relates much more to the “Professionalism/Engagement”, of the individual and the “Presentation” and subsequently the “Communication of Ideas” of the work, i.e. the care taken with the work, its packaging and its submission.

Some Constructive Notes or “things you might want to try instead”.

(This section will be expanded to include counter issue notes on how to avoid or the value of avoiding these mistakes/attitudinal judgements).

Hare of the Dog – …those rabbit like rockers

•January 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

On a number of occasions I post images on my twitter account from my sketchbooks with the simple note “I have no idea”…

These drawings certainly started out that way… But they kept coming…

Now an idea is creeping in to my brain that there might be something here worth exploring…

So, this is “Hare of the Dog …One! …Two! …Three! …Four!”

xx Rabbits Covers Concept

Touring through the cities of the outer rim…

x Rabbits Touring the City…playing to some rough crowds,

x Rabbits on Stage 003

x Rabbits on Stage 002

x Rabbits on Stage 001

…and hanging out in rough dives.

x Rabbits relaxing

x Rabbit Vehicle Concepts 00

…spilling out of limos and tour buses.

x Rabbits Vehicles

x Rabbits City Scape

…then heading out to the next gig.

x Rabbit Space Craft

x Rabbits at Rest

…”it’s a long way to the top, when you wanna” etc, etc, etc,

x Rabbit Ref Drawings

Rabbit & Hare reference sketches

Maybe something will come of all this nonsense… maybe not.

Star Wars – an awakening of enthusiasm…

•January 6, 2016 • 1 Comment

I’m not going to say much more than “it was the movie I’d been hoping to see since Jedi”.


So much so that I went home and broke out the sketch book and drew a bunch of characters with lightsabres fighting the forces of the empire…

(Just to be clear, there are no spoilers here, most of these characters don’t even feature in the movie, or the others, just me getting of on designing characters that COULD exist in that universe…)

x Scan 11x Scan 15x Scan 9


x Scan 12x Scan 2

…and then some weird stuff I can’t really explain.

x Untitled-2x Untitled-1x Scan

It was cool…

I want to go see it again… My fave scene? Snoke… the scale of that. Loved It. Reminded me of some of the scale ideas I’d played with with my last Star Wars fan art outing.


Making Comics – Tragic Tales of Horrere & The King’s Leap

•October 5, 2015 • 1 Comment

Okay… So that’s the second #comics project completed (all artwork completed and sent that is) ready for Thought Bubble…

YAWYE (SMEAT) - Horrere - Postcard 004

You can find out more about this and the other stories for this great indie horror anthology over at the official pages:

Web:  & Twitter:

YAWYE (SMEAT) - Horrere - Postcard 002

It’s been great working alongside everyone, and I’m looking forward to working on issue two if they’ll have me…

YAWYE (SMEAT) - Horrere - Postcard 003

And though I seemed to drag my feet a little there I’m pretty pleased with some of the outcomes.

YAWYE (SMEAT) - Horrere - Postcard 001

Prior to that short for “Horrere” (a co-production between Madius Comics and Horrere Comics), I was working on “The King’s Leap” with Rob Jones of Madius Comics

Kings Leap - Postcard 002

A tale of Vikings and Monsters…

Kings Leap - Postcard 003

Both Projects are debuting at Thought Bubble this year, but you may well get some previews at Nottingham Comic Con at he Madius Comics table… So go up and say hello!

Now it’s onto project 3… “The Lance“, part 2 of “The White Ship“, which is at a very rough thumbnail stage as you read this…

The Lance - thumbnails - 001

And which I’m really hoping to complete at least as an “indie ashcan” style book to have on my table at #TBF15 in November.

The Lance - Thumbnails - 002

Who knows… maybe I’ll even achieve that… laughs.

See you in the funny pages…


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