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 ______________________________________________________




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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Who Do You Know? – Mini Brief – Character Design

•February 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment
The purpose of the following session is to highlight the value of knowledge beyond their core subject area to their creative process. This session also reinforces the importance of none Art oriented skills and cognitive processing.

Creative Futures Skill Sets

Learning Outcomes: 

  • LO1 – Communicate effectively using appropriate processes and/or techniques.
  • LO2 – Explore, develop and apply a range of processes, media, materials, practices and/or techniques.
  • LO3 – Reflect on outcome of their work.

Session opener:

Todays session is the first of a series of sessions that are to look at the concept of Design Thinking. This may involve some elements that will feel as if you are stepping away from your core specialism to consider other areas of knowledge and study. This first session explores the value (to you as designers) in this expansion of your study.

What can you tell me about the image below?

Ship Beakers 002…image sourced from > News Article

Discussion with group… group led, hypotheses discussed and countered, group consensus arrived at…

Try to discuss more than the physicality of the scene.

So what IS happening here?

Actual reasons/situation discussed, bringing up questions – historical, economic, social, geographic etc. – which continued with discussion of the images and links below.

Hard, dangerous work…

Shipbreaking in LondonThe Queen, heeled over on the shore of the Thames.

…for a little more on this subject and the history try >HERE<

Why do I need to know this stuff anyway?

Well, how else would I have come across images like this, or this?

…or more in line with your interests perhaps.

Blackbird Interactive - Ship BreakersImage property of Blackbird Interactive… (see link below)

So what are looking at here (above)? – It clearly looks like some of the earlier imagery, but is it real?

What is it for?



Bonus example – Boneyard – & Concept Art

In a related discussion…

What can you tell me about the phrase Cyber-punk?

…author and critic David Brin:

“…a closer look [at cyberpunk authors] reveals that they nearly always portray future societies in which governments have become wimpy and pathetic …Popular science fiction tales by Gibson, Williams, Cadigan and others do depict Orwellian accumulations of power in the next century, but nearly always clutched in the secretive hands of a wealthy or corporate elite.[19]”

What do I mean by Orwellian?

Further group discussion… (see link above for a defining quote)

Okay so why am I asking all these questions?

Why Designers Can’t Think – Michael Bierut

…In a single day, a designer can talk about real estate with one client, cancer cures with another, and forklift trucks with a third. Imagine how tedious it must be for a dentist who has nothing to do all day but worry about teeth.

The men and women who invented graphic design in America were largely self-taught; they didn’t have the opportunity to go to fully developed specialised design schools, because none existed. Yet somehow these people managed to prosper without four years of Typography, Visual Problem Solving, and Advanced Aesthetics. What they lacked in formal training they made up for with insatiable curiosity not only about art and design, but culture, science, politics, and history.

also, Tim Minchin’s Nine Life Lessons, (“learning as much as you can about as much as you can”) start at 11.11 –

Further the group discussion …the influence of specific and/or “rare” knowledge on the makers of popular culture and entertainment media… The larger the pool of knowledge outside your core subject area the more unique your combinations of influences might be… and so the more individual your final ideas/concepts.

The more individual or variations of and the more diverse the types of colour, shape, form of Lego brick we have on our play table, the more unique variations of models we can potentially make.

Ten people with only three Lego bricks each are going to make very similar choices on the way they combine them.

Every bit of knowledge, cultural experience, new taste, that you acquire is another piece of lego to extend the range, shape and colour of the things that you can potentially make.

Initial Survey Results on Reading and Cultural Activity amongst Art School Students – G Sleighthome 2013

0 0 Survey Graphic FINAL FINAL xSo how to remedy this?

Well we can start to reassess our design process, our intrinsic values regarding what is important or useful as a designer/creative… Do we know much about how creativity works… Well/ there are lots of ideas.

A visual look at theories and potential pathways toward dissecting the creative process looking at the links between Creativity, Evolutionary Empathy and Deep Reading. – G Sleightholme

One Last Visualjpg

By all means take a look at the infographics above; but needless to say there are probably some simpler explanations or at least more appropriate points of discussion (than the one I was looking at for my Masters projects above) that we could explore right now in the session…

One such re-assignment of value might be to revisit our previous discussion on William Gibson and the Building a personal Micro-culture


Maria Popova on Combinatorial Creativity

…in the meantime let’s test some of that inherent, pre-existing knowledge. And see if we might have some gaps that might help us in the reassignment of some of those values.


Firstly… Who are we looking at here? Alexander…? Alexander who? Of where?

Open discussion to the class and then move into the Activity.

Here we roll out a timeline of earths history… and got the students to select pre-made cutouts of events and people from history and place them on the time line in collaboration with their colleagues/peers.


Who Do You Know? – Character Design Brief.

Thinking about Character Design 101 – 4th July 2017 taster session.

•July 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment


What is Design for Entertainment Media?

Firstly what do we cover in terms of Design?

Broadly the Design of Sets/Environments, Props (inc any portable device, weapon or object) & Vehicles (essentially drivable props), and finally Characters.

Entertainment Media?

Well, all and any forms of (predominantly) visual media that provides “Entertainment” for an audience, whether that audience is a single individual or a large group:

Which in a broad sense covers: Books, Comics, Animation, Television, Film, Theatre, Opera (and other musical theatre), Ballet, Outdoor Performance, Events, Attractions, Interactive (and passive) Digital Entertainment including Games, and any hybrids of the various individual elements above, many of which fall under the broader category of storytelling and performance which have been part of our cultural heritage in some form or other for as long as we have been able to speak and draw.

Looking more specifically at this specialism,

What are Characters? How can we define that?

Well the definition we use on the Games Design course we run at HSAD states:.

For the purposes of these sessions we’ll define it as anything that moves under its own volition, speaks, or gives the distinct impression of harbouring its own inherent “life” or “agenda”.

This would include all human(-iform) characters… People, of all shapes, sizes, ethnicity and aliens, ghosts, gods, demons; animals and creatures of all types (speaking or non-speaking); robots, androids and mecha; A.I.’s (disembodied or with a computer interface), possessed inanimates or vehicles (Herbie*, Stephen King’s Christine* and the ship, Moya, in Farscape* are all characters), and any plants with intelligently mobile tendrils/tentacles/roots etc.

*Just look them up already…

Why in Entertainment Media, Characters can be as Important as Logos.

It is worth noting that the Character is one of the key commodities (and by that I mean “saleable” items) from amongst the concept artist and designers repertoire.

Characters (along with Story) are the driving force behind the design and successful uptake by an audience for Games, Animation, Film, TV and even web and Print based media; and many successful characters are taken beyond the media for which they were created. Some appearing in other media (games characters with their own comics), toy and clothing lines, appearing on everything from pencil cases to lunchboxes.

Identifying Logos without the text and vice versa.  Logo 1, Logo 2, Logo 3.

…is something that a Graphic Designer strives for, a brand should be immediately recognisable.

So, as we have seen above, we can recognise logos simply from a recognisable shape…

What about Character Silhouettes? How many of the characters below can you identify?

This of course has become one of the key elements of the process of Character Design, even for complex characters such as those found in AAA Games and animation and film too.

i.e. Creating a recognisable, or simply appropriate Silhouette.

But there can be more to it than just a recognisable shape…

The development of Pixar’s Merida (Pixar’s first female protagonist) from “Brave”, it is possible to see both physical and psychological influences on her overall character design, here they discuss her hair reflecting her free character and spirit, while we see an animator acting out her frustration whilst creating pivotal scenes – getting into the head of the character (something we try to do whether the character is like us or not).

So what else can we look too?

Defining Characteristics – Powers, Abilities, Flaws and Weaknesses.

Lets take a character everyone knows: what about Superman?

What are his powers and abilities? What are his flaws and weaknesses? How does these flaws affect our ability to tell stories?


So where to start?

Sketches? Thumbnails?

Well, of course, yes… but before putting pencil to paper there are some fundamental things we should consider.

Beached_Rockets_006___sketches_by_hesirThese images even though a simple rough sketch, shows relative scale between two characters, as well as alternative outfits.

CONCEPTUALISATION – Thinking about our characters before we start making images.

As character designers you will become in varying degrees, Actors, Costume Designers, Choreographers, and in some cases (I’m thinking of creature and robot design in particular) Mad Scientists…



Hero or Villain?

Establishing some broad strokes of basic characterisation like those just listed is a great start…

So… Are they a traditional hero/heroine? Maybe a Dastardly Villain, or are they something in between… a complex (sometimes conflicted) Anti-hero perhaps? Are they Grim? Jovial? Aloof? No nonsense and business-like?

We are talking personal, internalised traits here… you could do worse than look at pages 161 – 280 (I’ve bookmarked it in the studio copy) of David Perry on Games Design… in which he discusses, in a vast amount of detail (right down to Myers Briggs trait and personality types), how to, and at what depth (depending on the role of the character within your entertainment media project) you should or can flesh out your characters.

Moving to the outside…

Role or Job.

Well, what does your character do? What is their job? Soldier? Explorer? Detective? Magician? Sentinel? Criminal? Does their role bring with it a uniform or specialist attire? What is there function in the game or animation? Protagonist? Sidekick? NPC, or are they just plain, good old cannon fodder or background bodies?


Does their appearance and costume reflect their internal character? Are they a heroic knight resplendent in shining armour, or a black-cloaked sorcerer complete with dark rings around their blazing red eyes? Or does their appearance disguise their true nature? Does those cute teddy bear like features and big doe eyes in fact belong to a creature that harbours a ravenous appetite for human flesh?

Is their costume reflective of an actual period of history, or of an existing profession or social type?

Could it help to hit the books and do a little research?

Well, it wouldn’t hurt…


Does your character speak? If so, what kind of voice do they have? Rasping and harsh? Beautiful and clear? Whispering and indistinct?

Can you hear a particular actor or celebrity voicing them? Finding a voice for your character like this might actually help with other elements of there appearance…

How would your character begin to appear if you imagined them voiced by Iggy Pop? Kylie? Morgan Freeman? Bjork? David Beckham? Okay… maybe not.

Choreography / Movement / Physical Appearance and Body Shape.

Beyond, both simple and complex, appearances, how do they move? Are they Balletic and Graceful? Moving with deadly efficiency? Clumsy? Oafish? Heroically posturing? Skulking and slinking? Think about the differences in movement between say, the lumbering Big Daddy in Bioshock, or some of the characters in say Prince Of Persia or Assassins Creed (people can and do move like that – For example, see stunt man Damian Walters HERE).

Okay, with costume and choreography in mind, now might well be a good time to consider that great signature move you’ve been waiting to bestow on a character, are those two-foot spikes on your hero’s shoulder armour going to help him/her forward roll out of danger? And is that batman-like flowing cloak  (start video from 1.57) really going to help with a special double somersault attack whilst swinging a mace?

Just a thought…

Subtlety and a sense of the Unique in Character Design.

The influence of our own lives on characters we invent can be huge.

We tend to hang out with people who dress the same, listen to the same music and like the same movies. – this doesn’t help us design a great range of characters however. It tends to make design characters that are exactly like us, or perhaps even the polar opposite when designing the villain.

Maybe if we have travelled a little, tried new things, hung out in new places and been a little more open to meeting new people from a range of places we might have more to go on.

What things, people or places have you seen that your peers may not have experienced, could any of that be used to help design your character?

And what about Creatures?

So what about creature design? Well one really important thing you might want to consider is to try to avoid using creature designs from your favourite existing games as a starting point for your own… that way lies derivative design.

Sure, download some of those images… but try sticking them in your sketchbooks and maybe taking some time to analyse what that designer has done, what creatures/forms has he/she hybridised and to what purpose? What was their original source material? What effect where they going for? Most importantly did it work? Then think about how you can apply some of your findings to your own design process.

Example: From the Horror/Zombie-esque Game – The Last of Us.

The Infected from Last of Us. Vs.  Cordyceps and Ants.

Just as I’ve said before about life drawing being important for your ability to draw the human figure, and observed drawing of objects and architecture for inanimates.

Observed drawing of animals from life is going to help you with your creature design… not just their appearance, but how they move, how their weight shifts during that movement.

Visit a zoo, get down to The Deep

--- Fish

…and take your sketchbooks!

Even the odd sketch of (and so time spent observing) your domestic animals and pets can begin to inform you about the way creatures move, hold themselves, how their weight is distributed, and so helping you develop believable forms and creature shapes of your own…


No matter how fantastical they might be in essence…

--- POSTER - The White Ship - Page 42 - Manticore Poster

Sometimes a little hybridising of creatures and technology works too… what’s not to like about Robot Space-Monkeys for instance…?

Monkey 001

So at times it’s probably worth paying some attention to how technology fits together… pivots, sockets, flanges, radiators, valves, telescopic tubing, wires, terminals, vents, grilles, joints, fixings and hinges… all can be observed in the real world and then applied in the conceptual ones…

That of course goes for people too…


There’s no telling what strange shaped, visaged, be-quiffed, garbed and choreographed human entities you might stumble across. All can be fodder for your imagination, and reshaped and their unique details re-purposed for your character designs.


This is where we get to the skills necessary for the job… well, underpinning it all is traditional Art & Design skills (something asked for in Industry when looking for Game Artist jobs).

0 0 Sketch 001

Screen shot 2011-11-10 at 12.31.54In Part Four we will look at some tips and tricks for drawing faces and figures.

Once we have done a fair amount of thinking, reading, researching and a little more thinking about our characters, then we need to start experimenting with images…

So the Character Design Process process might go a little like this:

Your early design development could include: rapid pen/brush pen thumbnails, silhouettes, pencil thumbnails, head shots, variant costume designs, multi-angle views of the figure, marker sketches, watercolour and pen and ink renders, digital renders inc. Photoshop sketches and full colour artwork, and perhaps if appropriate 3D digital models and fimo/clay maquettes“.

All of these techniques and processes allow for a range of possibilities and information communication opportunities when developing characters visually?

What do the professionals do?

Well the standard design development process applies obviously – >SEE HERE< – but on top of that some of these techniques professional concept artists use can be explored.

  • Quick Thumbnails, including The Lasso Tool or Pen Scribble Pareidolia techniques – DEMO
  • More elaborate sketches.
  • Strong Silhouettes – inc “the lost-line method” – in which white space left (when creating quick marker doodles or brush sketches) on the paper can be interpreted as additional details. – DEMO

One sure fire way to make your character design stick in the head of your audience is to (as we mentioned earlier) give them a bold and recognisable silhouette. Animation designers have known this for a long time. A bold silhouette means your character is recognisable at a distance, in fog, rain, with sheet draped over them… and from every angle.

Check out the fantastic book by Scott Robinson and his then students, The Skillful Huntsman for some excellent examples of this developments of silhouettes and lost line sketches in practice.

Silhouettes are also a really “un-precious” way to begin development drawings, churning out a huge amount of possible shapes quickly.

This also might involve 2D digital skills (that build upon your traditional skills), Photoshop for example.

  • Model Sheets – Sheets that show a range of poses, attributes and expressions of characters to aid animators or model builders further down the production line.

eg. – Gossamer the Mad Scientists Henchmen/Monster/Familiar designed by Chuck Jones

  • Front, Back and Side (with arm removed) Presentation Sheets – Sometimes called “Rotations”

These then can be shipped out to 3D specialists (which also might be you – many concept artists are now asked to have 3D skills, particularly digital).

This might involve clay maquettes… – Show Examples – Shifflet Brothers.

Or, move into the digital 3D realm… and this might involve more sculpting, just digital in this instance – Sculptris DEMO.

All the while considering how these might be rigged and finally animated – Remember what we said about knowing how our characters move?

Okay so lets take a step back… we saw how much of that early phase was built upon drawing. That freaks every on out. Especially if they have avoided drawing for six years and then get onto a games design course and say “I want to be a concept artist for games”, and my response is “Great, show me how good your sketchbooks are”.

This happens a lot, and it means that the person in question won’t get to the level that I can teach them to, in just the three years they are with me. Especially as I’m having to go back over basics they should have covered in their Art or Design GCSEs (which they may or may not have taken), or consolidated on their BTec.

In particular, and in no preferred order… Perspective Drawing, use of Light and Shade and Contour to generate Form, and Human Proportion.

If you want to be an Artist for Games or any other form of Entertainment Media, start drawing now. It will put you way ahead of many other students who make the decision late.

PART FOUR – SOME TIPS & TRICKS and Sculpting in digital 3D.

Physical Drawing: Computers will not save you – Contemporary Digital Sculpting in 3D software s an extension of drawing…

Drawing Organic 3D shapes – Contour Lines, Slicing the Melon – student hands on

Drawing Faces – Proportion – DEMO – student hands on

Drawing Figures – DEMO – student hands on

Differing Body Shapes – DEMO

Pareidolia (with a big brush) – DEMO – student hands on

…again in Photoshop – DEMO

(Z-Brush) Sculptris – DEMO – student hands on

Still looking for a Degree Course? Enjoy drawing? Designing characters & environments?

•May 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

…enjoy creating Fantastical Creatures? Rocketships? Robots? Enjoy Telling Stories?

All of these and more are things we encourage as part of the BA (Hons) in Games Design.

Games Design at the Hull School of Art & Design is a visual communication based course, and we look to drawing/concept art as well as digital 3D skills as our main areas of study.

Students who have an interest in, and some level of skill in drawing and designing are particularly welcome on our course (particularly genre related imagery – i.e. Medieval, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror / Character Design, Environment Design, Vehicle Design, designing Props and Objects etc).

Our course allows access to a range of skills development that point towards a career in the creation of visual materials for the Entertainment Industries – Games, Film, TV, Animation, VFX and even Museums, Heritage and Visitor Attraction Design.

It is often a misunderstanding that Games Design is a purely technical computer science led discipline, but as our course deals with the visual development of concepts, environments, characters and props & objects and vehicles that all weave into a wider narrative, one of the primary skills for us to build on is an interest in telling stories through the visualisation of spaces, objects and characters.

This often means having traditional skills in drawing, painting and traditional 3D which underpins later studies in digital 3D.

Yes, you will eventually look at taking those designs into the digital realm, but the observation skills and narrative development that you have honed through drawing will help you in this.

Study Routes within the course are offered on an individual basis with some students gravitating towards Digital 3D Development (3D Modelling, MAterials and Texture Creation, Games Engine Implementation and Interactivity), and others towards Concept Art/Design Development (Traditional and Digital Concept Art & Design Development), with others combining the two.

The following link will take you to another wordpress page that contains the following info’:

  1. An Overview of the three years of study Games Design BA (Hons) degree,HSAD.
  2. A guide to portfolio expectations for interviews.
  3. Mini Brief to help with portfolio building should you require it.
  4. The Games Design Showreel 2016 and links to the 2015 Showreel and Heritage Project Showreel
  5. Further Useful Links.
If you have any further questions about the course please do not hesitate to contact me at the following email address.

Further, should you have fellow students or teachers that are interested in accessing additional information about the Games Design BA (Hons) at the Hull School of Art & Design, or any of HSAD‘s other creative degree courses please pass on my details and ask them to contact me or the Hull School of Art & Design directly.

tel – 01482 329943


This follow up to our initial contact is simply to restate that if you are still deciding which Art & Design HE course to attend, the HSAD programs are still accepting applications.
You can apply via this UCAS link until July after which it is still possible to apply through Clearing with HSAD taking students as late at October.


The “Jack of Clubs” – for the #Hull52

•March 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

So I was asked as part of the Hull52 project to produce one of the cards for the set.

I was allocated the Jack of Clubs. Which is cool, I was happy to get a picture card… but 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,

…and did my usual research schtick, reading up on the history and symbolism of the cards and its tarot equivalents… which 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 half dark and one half light, 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, add to that the imagery of the characters holding a living sapling instead of a wand or club.

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, the next stage was hitting in with the inks.

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.

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 order to hit a higher page count… this was a step back to a 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… with just a little of what I was thinking whilst I pulled that image together.

Finally, after sending the work off to Adam and the gang at Hull52, it was great to have Domanic Li take the line work and add his own thing to THIS making it one of our first collab’s. Check out his stuff, Top work.


“Is that a Tank in Your Knapsack…?” – a Games Design exercise looking at Props, Objects and Inventories.

•March 29, 2017 • 2 Comments

“Is that a Tank in Your Knapsack…?” – a Games Design exercise looking at Props, Objects and Inventories. – Creative Futures

Not every element of gameplay needs to follow real-world logic or physics, but occasionally identifying an old game play property and “upping” this real-world logic might just bring with it other game play opportunities and possibilities.

With that in mind…

You are to develop and visualise an item to be carried, pulled, owned by a player character in a game of your own invention (this can be a game that you have developed in an earlier session or one you are working on in your own time, or a wholly new concept).

This item should be the physical embodiment of your characters “inventory”; possibly a knapsack, a rucksack, a toolbox, Mary Poppin’s bag (or any magic bag), a magic hat, a utility belt, futuristic scanner/printer wit cloud storage, saddle bags etc, when seen in the game, and you should still be able to make the connection between this design when “in” or managing your inventory.

You are expected to develop your concept for a particular style (to be identified by you) of game play and inventory management, this can be discussed in your reflective practice and on your design sheets.

Do a little research… look at what people have discussed, and discussed, and are still discussing

i.e. – The game is to be an RPG, and the inventory management system is an grid/object volume based system that upon filling requires a one in/one out choice from the player.

The prop/object you develop should be explored in both traditional materials; pens, pencil, charcoal, paint etc (include preliminary studies and sketches) and finally worked up using digital media, Photoshop, digital 3D etc.

Don’t choose your final item straight away, explore several approaches and designs to start with and select your final design from these. Don’t limit your project by missing out an entire part of the process.

The end result of this exercise should be several pages of sketches and design sheets. Plus a Final design sheet showing the object and the Inventory HUD/GUI.

Try to use this project as a means to an end, ie developing your drawing, 3D graphic design skills. This should again 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.



This project is due in 5 weeks as part of your final hand-in.

“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.

Delivered as part of the Hull School of Art & Design Games Design programme, further to the Character design project set previously, in order to instil some of the traditional underpinning skills required by particular creative practices both historically and in contemporary industry .

Part 1 – Creative Futures / Part 2 Intro to 3D Realisation/Part 3 TBA

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.

Part 1 – Creative Futures

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.

Part 2 – Intro to 3D Realisation

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).




Part 3 will be delivered upon completion of the first and second phases.

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), this digital 3D selfie below, starting from scratch and using the webcam on the mac as a stand-in mirror.