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 ______________________________________________________



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

•November 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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


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


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

This was the result.


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


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


Still, this model is less than 500 polygons.

Environment Design For Games – Early considerations & Ideation

•October 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment
This session was originally delivered as part of the Creative Futures – Skillsets programme to both Yr 1 Animation and Games Design students.
The Session currently follows on from a session looking at the wider role of production design and the Production Designer (and related or comparable roles, Art Director etc) in the development of Entertainment Media projects. With a focus here on Games Design.

To recap:

In the last session, we set a Mini-Brief, i.e. : “Adaptation/Production Design Pitch”

“You are to consider a new idea for a game*.

This game is to be based on an existing concept from another media (a story, a novel, or an original performance event, an opera, stage play, song or music album concept, a historic event or a myth, a radio-play, a film, live action or animated, or other media product, any of which will be considered in consultation with your tutors/staff.) but NOT an existing computer game, this existing media does not have to slavishly be represented, but instead perhaps simply help provide a narrative structure in the form of basic plot and character types for your concept. You may also need to consider a second theme, with which to augment your narrative structure.

In the wide world of entertainment media the development or re-imagining of existing ideas has been a staple of the production houses method of developing new properties.

Hamlet + Animated Anthropomorphism (the animal kingdom) = The Lion King

Hamlet + Gritty Urban Setting (the hierarchy of Biker Gangs) = Sons of Anarchy

Journey To The West (eastern mythology) + Post Apocalyptic Future = Enslaved

The Tempest = Classic Fifties SciFi = The Forbidden Planet

Sherlock Holmes + Dr Watson + Contemporary Urban Medical Setting = House

and of course…

Westworld* – out of control SF robot cowboys + Dinosaurs = Jurassic Park*

(*both by the same author) 

“Adaptation Project” Part 2, Looking at ENVIRONMENTS for GAMES:

Stylistic Considerations

<p><a href=”″>Rolando for iPhone – Teaser trailer</a> from <a href=””>Simon Oliver</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

We know there are different styles of games as far as the players view is concerned; isometric landscapes and city/streetscapes; travelling aerial views ; room by room point and click, 2D level games or rolling character games (i.e. those designed for i-phone style interfaces like LocoRoco or Rolando – above); fully immersive 3D environments, BioShock, Halo or Enslaved (below);

…or hybrids like the Gabriel Knight series that mix 2D, FMV (Full Motion Video) and 3D.


<p><a href=”″>SUPER HYPERCUBE</a> from <a href=””>POLYTRON</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Even experimental games environments like the then cutting edge Virtual 3D (and seemingly completely abstract) games like Super Hypercube (see video above) have considered the look and design of the environment, that you the gamer moves through.

Phil Fish, co-creator of the game, on being asked “Should the screen look that grainy?”.

“Yeah, there is a grain to it. Also some vignetting around the edges. We went for a look that is – hyper modern but retro – Which the game really is, given that it (the game) uses both Digital 3D and anaglyphic stereoscopy.


ITS SAFE TO SAY THAT: No matter the style of game; someone has considered the overall visual feel of the product, usually taking as his or her starting point the over-arching concept of the game, rather than just leaving it to the medium of choice to wholly dictate the finished style.


Okay… So what to consider? What within the overall concept of your game or animation  is going to impact upon and influence your design decision-making when it comes to the development of your environments (and later design elements, Props and characters etc)?

 Well, I suppose understanding how your Chosen Media for the final product may affect your product,

Side-Scrolling Platformers for example aren’t all created using 2D tools any more.

That… and perhaps beyond this, coming to understand the distinct differences between medium and genre.

See this image from Scott McCloud on that difference.

So then, what Genre?… Is your game a Horror? Fantasy? Humourous? Sci-fi, Film Noir, Urban game?

But even these delineations are not the end…

 If you are choosing Horror…is it the classic gothic horror of Frankenstein? Or the contemporary, industrial/warehouse aesthetic we see in horror-movies like Saw and Hostel?

Cultural?Could it be that your story is set in the Far East? Japan? The Japan of today or a far flung tomorrow, or the feudal Japan of armoured Samurai and black suited Ninjas?

Is it set in a fantasy world of your own imagining? If so, what were the characteristics of the civilisations that have shaped that world? Could those traits be reflected in their architecture just as we have seen in the various civilisations of our own world?

Consider the afterlife obsessive Egyptians with their Mega-Mausoleum building, the warring, expansionist Europeans of the middle ages with their castles and military hierarchies, the British Victorians with their faith in building, engineering, prefabricated iron structures and steam power.

You can help make your fictional environments that much more believable or authentic by trying to understand (by which I mean creating, designing, drawing and writing for yourself) a little more about what has shaped them, whether you are looking at the fictional cultural and fictional historical influences on the architecture of your imaginary cities, or the fictional geological upheavals and fictional weather conditions that could have shaped your fantasy world’s natural landscapes amongst which your cultures may have decided to live.

Has war impacted in the look of both of the above? What clues could there be to the events that have taken place there, of the people that have passed through there. What is the function of the building you are designing? What kind of neighbourhood is it? Uptown? Ghetto? What kinds of people inhabit it?

Is it an residential building? A barbershop?

Trust me. It is far easier to design something specific like a barber-shop than a “generic” building. So taking a little bit of time to think about seemingly irrelevant details like the uses of the various buildings in your street scene, or the economic history of your (ultimately fictional) city block, it may well save you time later on. So, you have your overall concept and now you are looking at designing a scene… try starting with a basic aerial plan of the scene. Just a rough thumbnail to identify the layout and what elements you may have to design.

If it is an interior you are looking at, what kind of person uses the room you are visualising? What fingerprints to their personality have they left there?

Environment design, particularly those environments that have been shaped by people/characters, is just an extension of character design, albeit Character Design, In Absentia.

Who has been here? What have they left behind? What about this environment would have been different if an alternative personality had helped shape it, what unique traits can be seen in the residue of these personalities.

Sherlock Holmes Living Room.


During your design phase you will produce a number of drawings/visuals (some of which may be using 3D tools)

It is tempting to always just straight to the final medium. But you miss out on a lot of the opportunity to fully explore your ideas this way. Often resulting in a less than appropriate response that is based upon your commitment to completion of a complex digital rendering process, more than your belief in your works appropriateness in terms of a solid solution to the problem at hand.

Don’t worry about producing work that is not the finished artefact.

Abandoned design works and images are a natural part of the process of creation.

And think about what media is the most appropriate for the task in hand.

“Drawing with an old fashioned pencil is still very, very hard to beat for the sheer simplicity and speed with which you can record ideas and share them with others.”

– Scott Robertson, The Skillful Huntsman

“All good design starts with an idea and then is conveyed to your audience with strong drawing and then rendering skills.

Over and over I have observed with my my students that strong drawing skills go hand in hand with strong design skills. Good drawings support better looking designs.”

If you are not confident at drawing. DO NOT avoid it. PRACTICE!


…It is worth considering before your start each piece, “What is the purpose of this visual?

What, and to who, are your trying to COMMUNICATE, through this piece of work. And also… just how long do you have to communicate this idea? So what tools will you use…

Are you trying to get a feel for the atmosphere of a scene? Or are you trying to show detail or layout of an area to aid in the building of that setting for the 3D model-makers?

These two ideas can occasionally be seen together in the same visual, but for the most part you will find them separated.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 13.54.39

Images taken from The Art of Final Fantasy IX

The images above both show designs for the same game, yet they have very different properties and qualities due to their function within the design process. The images on the left with their aerial view, clean lines, clearly showing each object and prop and its place within the scene is what we might call a “design”. While the image on the right, with its preoccupation with mood, atmosphere and the character’s/player’s POV (point of view) is a “visualisation”.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 13.54.43



If you are struggling for inspiration, get up and get outside (or simply take a closer look at the building you are already in). USE YOUR DAY-BOOKS, make notes on how the light glints off that modern structure, get a thumbnail sketch showing the shrubs and small trees growing out of that abandoned building; the un-boarded, broken windows in that run-down street; graffiti; air-con units; unique window details; the exposed industrial materials on that warehouse. Look at the way those roof planes interlock showing how the buildings have slowly piled up on each other.

Though currently existing in a contemporary setting, elements of these type of details can be used regardless of whether your environment is a modern urban setting, a futuristic cityscape or a Tolkien-esqe fantasy world.

In animation these environments can be used to enhance the narrative, with key locations almost becoming “characters” in themselves.

Of course games design has its own unique characteristics to consider. Especially in fully immersive 3D games, where low polygon counts of game assets are crucial, as is “iteration” (or the use of repeated objects or assets in order to improve a games performance). But at the concept stage discussed above it is probably not worth completely “cramping your style”, allowing yourself a freer hand. You can always “value engineer” you concepts in the later design development stages.

Try working up your own mini-briefs that test your ability to rapidly develop ideas.


“Adaptation Project” Part 2,  OBJECTS, PROPS, VEHICLES & WEAPONS etc.

What sort of objects or props could there be in your environment… Could it be something your player character needs (a weapon, a vehicle) or just something that adds to the feels of the design? Boxes and crates? Furniture?


If you want a guide to 3D games design/entertainment media concept art in one great book, you can’t do much better than the “The Art Of Final Fantasy IX” from Brady Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7440-0050-5. It has some great layouts covering characters (inc’ character comparison sheets), props, objects, weapons, flying machines, creatures and a whole stack of environments, as both designs and mood visuals that works almost as a “how to…” reference book. Another great book for this kind of work (though not a great film) is “The Art Of Judge Dredd The Movie” from Boxtree Publishing, 1995. ISBN 0-7522-0666-4. You should be able to pick this up second hand for very little, it is full of great concept art covering everything from furniture through to costume designs and interior and exterior sets. It also has some good examples of storyboarding.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 13.54.52

Finally, don’t forget to pick up one of the various periodicals occasionally, even if it is just to flick through in Tesco’s without actually buying it… “Edge” magazine has some excellent in depth articles, and January’s edition of “360 Gamer” mag’ had that great little article on Mini Ninjas, which flagged up a lot of points we are discussing in these sessions (I’ll make sure there is a copy of the article scanned and saved somewhere in your dept, in fact it might be worth making an arch lever file that you can add inspirational visual and written resource to yourselves).

Some thoughts on Note Taking and Planning.

•October 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment
The following set of notes and images have been pulled together as a work in progress looking at potential hacks for students regarding developing better note-taking and assignment planning skills.
I will add further info and visuals as more hacks and example visuals are developed. 


There are a number of thoughts and research strands to look at when first starting out consideration of the value of student note-taking in academic sessions.

Research has shown that attempting to write everything that is said in a lecture is often counter-productive, as the whole activity becomes exercise in dictation with the note-taker becoming a passive conduit for the information discussed from the mouth of the lecturer to the notes on the paper or alternatively the electronic device (iPad, laptop etc.), rather than aiding in the practical uptake of information.

Notes don’t even need to be neat or beautifully organised (just legible).

What they need to be is useful.

I’ve included some of my own note-taking below.


Notes taken in a PGCE session with a doodle expressing an extension of the lecture (synthesising and developing lecture content) looking at management hierarchies, culpability and blame culture.

Notes Taken on Curriculum Meeting 001 col

Differentiating complex notes with a little colour for clarity.

As far as examples of research into this particular field of “study skills”, its worth taking a look at Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer’s work, found here in Scientific American – Hand written (edited notes) over electronic (verbatim) dictation and here in its original form in Psychological Science.

While New Scientist goes a step further in its damning of elements of this digital revolution in study practice (whilst elsewhere praising it).

Studies appear to show that the development of edited notes whilst listening to a presentation or lecture are more beneficial to the learner, as it is just this editing process that appears to allow the learner to recall the information faster and more readily interconnected and ready for application at a later date, than having just taken the information down verbatim.

PGCE notes 2

Notes taken during a PGCE lecture using interlocking jigsaw pieces, cranes and canyons as visual metaphors for division, building and entrapment.

Recent research has also pointed to the value of visualisation as part of note taking, the use of visual metaphors to shortcut or “short hand” the capture of information, an activity that sees the listener having to adapt and edit the information further, adopting sybolic reference, visual language and visual metaphors.

See for example, see this article found at the online design magazine Core77 by Craighton Berman, and his subsequent “how to” article.

So, it may be worth considering the use of visual imagery in your note taking as well.


Notes taken whilst watching a documentary on drawing and architecture.

Further, this blog post by Curtis Chandler on Middleweb, looks at similar principles and ideas but for younger students.

Its also worth considering the efforts of organisation such as RCA Animate who have added a “sketchnote” style visualisation to lectures that where originally oral delivery only.

All of the above also ties into research on the differences between reading text from a book and reading from the screen, and the related discussions on information uptake.

Discussions which look at the topography of the written word in print versus on screen and how this allows for student’s recall to tap into properties of written text (such as the idea that books have an expanded geography by comparison to that of the screen).

Further still, knowing that something is on the right or left page of a book, or that a specific piece of information resides about “half the way through” a chapter or book, may well help order and structure a more efficient recall of information.

All of which appears, more obviously perhaps, to be supported by the historical precedent that goes all the way back to the beginning of the printed word, i.e. that of illumination and illustration being added to text to expand on the content of text.

[Or that in actual fact text is, without any doubt, simply images that originally represented concepts and ideas and have overtime evolved to become shorthand images or marks that we now see as divorced from illustration altogether.]

It’s worth noting (no pun intended) that this visual method can often be misconstrued at a glance by observed and disengaged doodling, so make sure if you find this useful, you discuss it with your lecturer (particularly in the classroom or the studio environment, lecture halls rarely pose this issue) – see this anecdote for details.


Seans Workload

A simple plan for a Critical and Theoretical Studies assignment that shows amounts required through volume.

By extension this method of note-taking can be expanded to help with planning assignments and written or practical project work.

For example, lists can sometimes be deceptive, the written lines that follow (below) belie the effort involved the given tasks in their use of space within the said list.

Task 1 – Researched Essay, 2500 words.

Task 2 – A short paragraph on the links between stereotyping and attitudes in the media and video games violence, 250 words.

The first task appearing short at just four words, the second racking up a word count of eighteen, four and a half times the length of the former, whilst the task in actuality fact is one tenth of the word count.

Perhaps this is part of the issue with those students who struggle with dense lists of information.

We can see a further example of this with the pure text list below versus the visually “thickened” list, with image based “variable volumes” denoting the various tasks and their complexity or expected effort.

Lists versus Spidergram

Variable Volume based visual planning versus a straight forward list.

With the example above and below I went as far as to draft a more finished visual aid to help with the grasping of the various elements of the course requirements.


Visual Assignment Plan

The addition of check boxes allows for a sense of achievement as project elements are completed, as well as the advantage of a readily “readable” account of the volumes of work required.

Essays and their chapter/section requirements can be denoted in this way also.

essay-planVolume based assignment plan.

Giving the planner a quick visual cue for the amount of work perhaps expected for each section of the work and so an opportunity to concentrate efforts to some of the denser areas of the project rather than leaving writing heavy section until its too late.

The same can be done for practical projects.

scan-112Volume based project plan.

Where above, (A) might suggest a written proposal, (B) through to (G) will be reflective practice notes, and (H) a written evaluation written using hindsight and notes gleaned from your reflective practice, while parts (0) through to (5) suggest the effort/work loads expected from the practical sections of the project work at the various stages of production.

An elaborated version of this idea can be found below explaining the expected workloads/effort/evidence expected from students layered over the traditional design process.

The amount of work expected for a projectVisual/volume based plan to show expected and often received workloads.

Concepts can be organised on paper in this way also, using a mixture of short notes, headings and areas for further research, plus visual metaphors and symbolic representations, a plan can be formulated in a way that allows a holistic overview of the entire idea in one glance.

Just to be clear, you don’t have to have great drawing skills for this mixture of visual and written notes to be viable – But… if you are at art school, well perhaps its another reason to hit the sketchbooks and the life class.

the-moral-and-ethical-line-of-no-consequence-games-designA predominantly visual mind map looking at the ethics of designing video games that contain the ability to enact violent acts.

Again… This is all something that in previous centuries, painters, architectural sculptors and symbolist illustrators dealing with major themes and subjects in limited spaces knew and employed on a regular basis.

Hopefully these ideas may be of some use in your tackling of both note-taking in lectures and other sessions as well as your planning of projects and assignments, or even just establishing a concept.

scan-115Sketch notes attempting to figure out correlations and differences between narrative media such as literature and interactive games.

Don’t just copy those lectures verbatim…

Listen, synthesise, edit and then record your understanding.


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.