Saturday, 5 May 2012


Having a personal blog is one thing, maintaining it and having confidence in what I want to write about is the real challenge, one which I hope to overcome.

I write another blog for SONSI (Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators).  Since the inception of the group over two years ago I have been writing posts about all of our events.  This is sometimes a challenge and I almost always have to think of a larger theme to apply to what has happened in the hope of creating something enjoyable to read.  While contemplating another theme for the most recent event I was inspired to write here too.  The event was a lovely but unremarkable and common SONSI walk in a conservation area after a rather lengthy but delicious (brunch) AGM.  Chronicling this would be dull and I've been putting it off as I just couldn't think of a way to make this interesting.  That was until I had my attention drawn to the moon; whilst reading from a website I read that it happens to be a "supermoon" this weekend, which means that the moon is the largest and brightest full moon for over one hundred years.  Not needing any more encouragement, full of curiosity, excitement and recklessness abandon in anticipation of discovery I ran out in to the middle of my street and not needing the usual search I saw the moon matching the sun for brightness just over my neighbours chimney.  It is spectacular, I even saw those tell-tale, retina destroying colours around the old orb after a while.  Following this though was a rather empty feeling, there was no one to look at to see how impressed they were too.  I walked rather more ordinarily back in to the house.  Having someone there in the middle of the street with me to share the magical sight would have been wonderful but on the flip side I do have a theme for my post.
For my other post I can now turn an unremarkable stroll in to a gratifying and memorable experience with my peers.  For this post I can say that I have truly been made aware that it is in sharing an experience, whether it is everyday or, like tonight, once in a lifetime that gives me the most happiness.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Oh my goodness, a rant!

Art has been the tool of those who want to make a statement, arguably since it's inception.    I'm flicking through one of my art history text books for examples; statements could be just a mark on a cave wall, proving the existence of its maker, it could be showing the piety and devotion of its owner or it could be sending a strong revolutionary message.  Whatever the message may be art can be a great catalyst for thought and change.

Today there is no lack of art making a point.  It may be less obvious and you might feel that you are being made fun of sometimes, but it is certainly still making a great impression.

That is until it comes to one of the largest issues of our time, the environment. 

Issues about the environment have become very stigmatized.  There are many reasons for this, not least are the "environmentalists" who have perhaps done their cause more damage than they have helped it.  In efforts to shout their concerns to the world I feel that they have made themselves seem over emotional, irrational and out of touch with the the modern world and it's other issues.  This seems to have created a perceived divide between those who call themselves environmentalists the rest of the world, who don't care.  I have to confess that I did feel that this was true for a short time, but the more research I did and the more I learnt and listened, I began to realize that this isn't true, though only a few are romantic idealists, most people do care. 

Creating any art, marketing or literature on this subject is very tricky, I know because I've tried.  But most of it seems to focus on the idea that people either only care about the environment or that they do not care at all and therefore need to be given a reason to care about it, such as "for future generations" or further consumption of natural resources "conservation".  There is also a lot of overzealous imagery; I was truly disappointed to see posters at a zoo with the words such as "MURDER" written in huge red letters over the face of an orangutan.  I find that a lot of this marketing is making its viewers feel guilty, it's as though the makers are saying "why don't you care more!?" Is it taking a superior attitude to its viewer?  As though the viewer is being made to feel that they are stupid for not being involved more, or having the same opinion. 

I started researching this when I was illustrating my thesis, and I'm still working on it two years later.  My ambition is to find out how to create imagery that will help rather than cajole and intimidate.  This could be for issues beyond the environment.  I don't have a solution yet but all I do know is that the audience needs to be viewed as intelligent and capable of independent thought.  Removing bias, opinion, and idealism from imagery is a good way to do this.  Presenting some visual information that will lead to questions and thought is much more progressive than telling people that they are evil for driving a car and eating meat.

Though I have much more to say this rant is over, but I'm sure that there will be more on this subject!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Reflections and Cats

In the broadest context this blog is intended to be a way of communicating about and therefore explicating my own art and perhaps the art of others.  However, to do this I've realised that it isn't just about what I'm putting on to the paper but why and what motivated me to do it in the first place.

I have never really put much emphasis on the new year.  It is a date and a start of something that has no direct bearing on my life (except the odd party and a day off work).  I have long felt that I should enjoy life every day and make improvements when needed, rather than wait for the motivation to change everything on one predetermined day.  On this terribly cold day, sat inside in one of my favourite places, sipping on my favourite drink I decided that I would try instead to look back on 2011 just to see how life and the world has changed.  There were many things to be written and reflected upon, in terms of art though 2011 has been a year of metamorphosis.  At the beginning of the year I was in the midst of a complete separation from art, I had forsaken it; the reasons for which are best left to the past.  I waited and waited until I absolutely needed to put something on paper.  In doing this I was finally able to reunite myself with art, now I am sketching and illustrating almost everyday, my relationship with this part of myself is better than ever.

The point of this is to say that there are times that a complete break from something, even something as inherent as creativity, is healthy, progressive and ultimately creative in itself.

So here are two of my most recent sketches, the first (on the wrong paper with the wrong pencil) is of a tiger displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum, and the other is of an animal that has become dear to me, the Clouded Leopard.  Happy new year!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Breaking the ice with the Endeavour

This illustration has somehow become the paradigm of my portfolio.  Whenever someone is kind enough to give me feedback they always mention "The Ship".  I feel uncomfortable being defined by something like this but it is probably true.

Thomas Cook and his crew "discovered" Australia and New Zealand in this ship, essentially altering history in one small, unremarkable, floating wooden container.  The ship wasn't even made for the voyage, the Earl of Pembroke was a merchant collier (cargo ship) before it was bought by the Royal Navy and renamed the HM Bark Endeavour.  Nor was the voyage intended for discovery, it was officially intended to track something called the transit of Venus, a celestial event that was used to measure the size of the universe by taking measurements with triangulationThis is of course not unimpressive but potentially finding another continent was fairly low on the to-do-listDuring the voyage it was home to 94 crew members, pigs, chickens, two greyhounds and a goat.  It was shipwrecked, repaired, venerated, and was the first image of western civilization creeping over the horizon for many people.

As an illustrator as opposed to a fine artist, my aim is to convey information in a simple and mindful way. With all of the information above, much more research, hundreds of photos and about 200 hours of dedication this illustration came to be.  I wanted to show the tiny, intimate cabins of the captain, first lieutenant, and Joseph Banks in addition to the hull and part of the main areas of the ship inhabited by the crew.  The intricacy and pure purpose of the ship is still so beautiful.

I hope that in the future I can recreate this amalgamation of interest, history, personal insight, illustration and pure information.  In retrospect being defined by this isn't quite so bad, I shall try to maintain it.