Archive for June, 2010


June 30, 2010

coast, originally uploaded by P Brown.

This is the second piece I completed this afternoon. Really pleased with the vibrancy in this one too.



June 30, 2010

lilies, originally uploaded by P Brown.

Still making new paintings in the other studio and loving how its beginning to feed me new ideas about colour and comp for my illustration work. Finished this one this afternoon. I was able to work outside too, its so sunny and hot here.

A couple of new abstract pieces

June 28, 2010

When I am not illustrating I also paint. Painting gives me the freedom to stretch and express myself and be adventurous in mark-making. Plus, I find it joyful and fun. If you are interested, you can see my latest paintings at flickr. I hope you like them!

we played out there all summer... acrylic and ink on canvas

A new set of paintings have emerged from the attic!

June 24, 2010

I have been painting most of the week and have produced a sequence of paintings based on my experiences in California. You can view them here at Flickr.

Bespoke ipad skins – I am now taking YOUR orders and briefs!

June 18, 2010

I have started accepting orders for CUSTOM, BESPOKE ipad skin designs! Choose one of my existing illustrations from my portfolio, or let’s discuss a brief for your own design and usage. Email me at, tweet me or find me on Facebook!

Becoming a professional image-maker. Part One: College or not?

June 4, 2010

I am an educator at heart. I love to share stuff and I get a bit high on the exchange that occurs between student and tutor. A genuine learning experience is where both parties learn something new as the tutor shares their specialist knowledge and the student responds enthusiastically and gives feedback to the tutor.

For five years I was involved with education and during that time I taught adults life drawing, graphic design and tried to give them ways to see art and design with fresh eyes. I was responsible for the design and running of a diploma in graphic design, which meant that I had to decide what would be useful material to cover on the syllabus; giving students relevant and useful information and skills. I saw these students as potential professionals and as the course progressed, I treated the classroom as a professional design studio and the students as people who were serious about a career in a creative field.

Following a four year period running this course, I left full time education and opened my own graphic design business. This became illustration and from my initial sketchbooks came a body of work that professionals thought good enough to pay me for. I went back to some part time lecturing on a degree in Illustration and during that time  reflected on my own professional experience as an illustrator in relation to what colleges were saying they could offer potential students  interested in the field of commercial visual art.

The more I got to know the students I worked with the more I wondered about the question of being “qualified” and whether colleges really had anything to offer aspiring illustrators and designers.  I was aware of a fast growing online culture of young illustrators and designers who were making their mark with fresh, raw and exciting work that came out of largely self-taught effort. The ease with which one can get hold of industrial strength image editing software makes it possible for anyone with a bit of ambition to quickly start honing design skills. They can develop their natural talents through Photoshop or Flash. The labels of “illustrator” or “designer” were becoming less concrete as a whole new generation of creators were uploading new work by the bucketload. Online tutorials in Flash, Photoshop, HTML, Dreamweaver were everywhere. I used them myself when I first went into teaching!  It is because of my responsibility to teach students Photoshop that I can now call myself an entirely self-taught, intuitive expert in the programme!

This was a few years ago now and things have only gotten more exciting! Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and Myspace make connecting with talent and knowledge easy and quick.    The proliferation of online training enterprises, creative and technical forums and specialist magazines mean that people can design their own learning experiences; picking and choosing what they want to learn and how fast they want to learn it. And all of this – for the most part – without teachers and classrooms and college fees……

So the question is this: Do I need college to become a professional image-maker?

Below are some thoughts you may find interesting.

But before I go any further, let me say that my answer is a resounding NO.  Today, you don’t need a degree, a certificate, a pass or merit, to become a highly respected and talented commercial artist. You don’t need any of these things. You need GREAT ORIGINAL WORK and the ABILITY TO BE A PROFESSIONAL.

But for each of us, the way to get there will be different, so college may be the right choice for some.  Let’s see what college can offer:

A stimulating, group environment, where you learn to work with others and share ideas. Where you can have fun and take risks with projects.

Access to tutors who have experience and skills within your chosen field.

Access to learning materials both online and off to complement and enrich your learning.

Access to professional-level computer equipment and software to equip yourself with up-to-date skills.

A structured learning package with planned assessment and feedback to help you chart your progress and help you stay motivated.

Yes, all these things sound great. A college environment like the one described above would be perfect for a lot of people. All those points sound great don’t they? But there is a caveat to that. A hitch. The college curriculum that provides all these things to its students is a RARE THING. Bear this in mind if you are debating whether a college course in design or illustration will help you. If you are the kind of person who would thrive in a college environment, then by all means, go for it. Just DO YOUR RESEARCH and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In my experience, if you are looking at a college that claims to run courses to any professional level, you should ask the following as standard:

How many lecturers are on the teaching team? What is the student:tutor ratio?

How many of the staff have their own professional practices or are allowed enough time to develop their own creative work?

How many computer workstations are available to students at any time?

How long are the studios open for students each day?

What links does the course have with relevant industry?

Are the skills taught on the course current with industry?

Is there a business component to the course syllabus?

How often will I have access to personal tutorials and advice from a mentor?

If the answer to any of these questions is in the negative, then you need to re-evaluate whether you are going to give your money to these people. Alot of colleges offer the world in a brochure, but give you nothing in reality. I know. I worked in a college as  lecturer in “degree level” illustration. The course had so little equipment available for use that I honestly could not have come close to producing a professional job for one of my clients. There was no space. There was only one person in charge of the whole course.  It was very difficult to teach groups of students anything other than visualising on paper  because there were not enough workstations and copies of the relevant software.  The college was receiving money for each of these students and some of them were paying hundreds of pounds out of their own pocket. Motivation was low.

So there is a horror story. But there are also many good colleges, who will charge you for being there but will deliver on your investment. My advice? RESEARCH. Go to colleges, make visits, talk to the students about their experiences, ask the staff questions, look around at the space and the equipment. College may be for you. If it is, it could be a wonderful, productive and exciting place that helps you on the way to your dreams. On the other hand, if it is hiding its true face in a brochure, it is a huge money sink and a waste of your valuable time.

If you go the college route and it works out for you as a result of careful research, choice and then hard application, what will you have?

A certificate, yes. But more than that. You will have proof that you stood your course and excelled in a programme of learning that involved turning up regularly for work with others. If the college has good industry contacts, then your qualification will be respected as a symbol of achievement and learning by the professionals aware of the syllabus. They may be interviewing you for work in the future.

You will have shown potential employers that you are serious about your career and have enough belief in your talents to invest a considerable amount of money towards developing them.

If your course was a good one, you will have substantial skills that are a great foundation for beginning the new learning curve of working in industry (more on that in another article).

So, going to college can be the right choice for some. It can yield great fruit if your choice of college was an informed one. Be serious, do your research. Don’t be conned by a second-rate institution whose main priority is bums-on-seats-for -cash.

But what if college is not for you? It could well be that you simply can’t afford it and don’t want a huge loan debt. It could be that you don’t want to or can’t leave your area.      You may feel you are self-motivated and talented enough to develop your career without college. GREAT.  IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE. There are so many avenues and a great deal of freedom in embarking on your own learning and development as a creative professional. The next part of this article will be a look at what is available to you in your quest to become a professional artist, designer or illustrator.   EAVB_SKVCPUHUCA

screenshot of iPad zombie painting.

June 3, 2010

Thought I would post the final screenshot of the zombie since the video doesn’t do the colours justice. This was a fun thing to play with today. By the way, if you have an iPad you can take screenshots by pressing the power and the home buttons down together. The display is really second to none.

Painting using Brushes on the ipad

June 3, 2010

Today I have been getting to know the Brushes app on the ipad. You can see the results of my “play” day here:

fast prep sketching using Brushes HD ipad app

June 3, 2010

I have been playing around with a couple of wonderful ipad apps. One is Brushes for ipad and the other is the excellent Sketchbook Pro. Both allow you to make sketches and paintings on the fly, wherever you are using the ipad. Its turning out to be really useful! Below is a short video of a prep sketch I made this morning for an illustration I am working on called “Tiger By The Tail”. I will post the final piece later.  EAVB_SKVCPUHUCA

I have been working using the ipad sketch done in Brushes as a loose guide and have now gotten around to establishing the basic shoaes in Photoshop for the final illustration. I am very happy with the way that the tiger seems to be shaping up….I always feel that the simpler I can be with the basic shapes, the more powerful and satisfying my final characters tend to be. I don’t do well trying to be too complex!

Well,  I have come to the stage where I can chuck the sketch layer away and start building up the image based on the shapes I have put together in Photoshop. This is a fun part as the illustration begins to take on a life of its own as the shading and deeper colours start to mix together on the canvas….

The tiger is now really starting to take shape. I am really pleased that he is developing his own character from something as simple as a quick Brushes doodle.

Here’s the completed image. I am really happy with it. I played around with adding some type but that just diluted the visual impact and sense of the moment. The flat blue sky and the picket fence add to the humour of the piece and I think this would make a great greeting card. Perhaps with the message inside of “good luck with your new project”, or  “here’s to your new business”……..!

I used a photograph of some grass I took while away on a short break. I thought it would make a great texture here.

Overall, I am chuffed because this image started out as a quick doodle in Brushes for ipad (see above), which for me means that the ipad can have a functional, useful role in my work as well as play!

The centre of operations!

June 2, 2010

Well, this is it. Headquarters for illustration and other things besides. Today is a beautiful day here on the isle of Anglesey so I thought it in order to take a few pics and let you see where I work on images and people (more on that in a bit!)

The studio was built from scratch by my brother in law last July. It took him 6 weeks to do. It is fully insulated and made of panel board and clad in pine. You can live it. Indeed, we use it as an occasional spare room for visitors. it still smells of new wood nearly a year after its opening!

This is the area today right outside the studio. The picnic table was a present this month for my 42nd birthday. The grey object you see is the prized outdoor hot tub. We bought it a few years ago thinking we would not be moving from our previous place…….how wrong we were! We had to get a crane to lift it out and carry it to the new place!

Beyond the screening you see, there is an acre field where we are going to house a couple of pigs and where our chickens roam….

This is my illustration workspace in the right front corner of the studio. I run 2 monitors off a Powermac G5. The extended desktop is now essential for me due to the busy interfaces of Photoshop and Painter. Plus, I can keep spotify open and access it easily! The bookshelf is full of illustration and art books which I use for inspiration. I often take a break by leafing through one or two at random. The chair you see there is an excellent lumbar/core chair from that is superb for maintaining a decent neutral curve in your lower back while working at the screen for long periods.

This is taken from the front door. On the left you can see the workspace, and behind this a larger area which is used for the training and movement therapy components of my other business – I run a sports and remedial massage business.  The studio is perfect for clients who want to train for fitness as well as for rehabilitation from injury. Its a bit different to illustration, but I love the contrasts between the two roles: on the one hand, I very rarely meet clients who I illustrate for. On the other, massage and bodywork gives me the opportunity to work closely and dynamically with different people all the time. I love it!

Here is the massage and bodywork treatment area. I trained at the London School of Sports and Remedial Massage in order to start up this business a few years ago. Clients seem to love the wooden studio environment, which does not feel clinical and cold at all.

If you are reading this and live in the area of North Wales, then feel free to call to arrange a visit and find out more about what we do here. You can read more about Phil Brown Massage at the website.

And finally, here’s Frank, our rooster! I am very proud of him. He is great to take photos of and his feathers look like they are covered in shiny varnish! He looks after his 10 ladies very well!