Improve Faster – Draw From Life

Despite living in the UK where the sun is barely functional, one of my favorite things is to get out to explore a new place, find something interesting about it then break out my sketchbook and start drawing.

I’ve done a lot of art exercises since I began drawing in 2011, but those I’ve seen the most return from have revolved around drawing from life. It can be useful to learn from other people’s art, but at the end of the day, if you take too much from other artists, you risk making your art more style than substance. An artist’s style is a window into what they take as important enough to capture and emphasise in their subject. If you don’t study the world around you, but simply imitate other people’s art, it’s like you’re copying a copy. Each copy mutates away from the truth of the subject.

Life drawing sessions are one of the best ways to build your drawing skills. The human body is incredibly intricate as a subject. Models are often changed around every session and will take on a variety of poses, so you’re constantly observing the subject from a new angle. For this reason, life drawing is one of the best ways to build your observation skills – it’ll equip you to capture any subject efficiently. Continue reading “Improve Faster – Draw From Life”

Plunging Into Retail – Selling Art Through SDX

Setting up my art in SDX.

Last October I was looking through the Creative Scotland website for work opportunities and I came across the Scottish Design Exchange (SDX). SDX is a not-for-profit shop set up to help artists and designers get into retail – they provide exposure to the masses through a busy shopping centre. I found them at the perfect time, as they were looking to take in a new batch of makers right then.

There’s a real affection for this shop, as it’s completely packed with work from such a variety of creatives, and people know that they’re buying straight from the makers themselves.

Having had limited experience of selling art through galleries and shops, it felt like a big step up to get a hold of my own wall space in the shopping centre. I quickly made a budget for myself and got to work producing plenty of prints, cards and framed paintings.



When I got my hands on the first sales reports I found my prints were very popular, so the first couple months left me feeling very optimistic. One piece of advice from the staff was particularly helpful in the run up to Christmas: make your work available at various price ranges, so if somebody likes it they can buy something whether they’re looking to spend £3 or £200. For me, this means selling work as cards, open edition prints, limited edition prints and framed original paintings. Other creatives sell everything from custom clothing to badges and stickers.

In the months after Christmas, the shop’s been much less busy (which is another lesson to keep in mind in retail) but I’ve found the staff more than make up for this. Most of them sell their own art/designs through the shop and have been generous with their experience. They also occupy a uniquely valuable position in that they’re working from the centre of so many talented creatives. If they can’t help with something, they usually know a local who can.

Working with the SDX team has been fun and rewarding. If you’re checking out the Edinburgh art scene I’d recommend paying the shop a visit. I’m excited to see what else comes from our partnership in 2018.

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Challenge Yourself: The 40-Minute Illustrations

#23 Scale of Life

Art is a way of exploring your inner and outer life. At its best, making art helps people uncover and come to terms with problems in the way they’re approaching the world. Creating is, therefore, a deeply personal act, and this complicates the work of any professional creatives. How can I be expected to make good art consistently, regardless of other motivating (or demotivating) factors in my life?

We can’t always make artwork that’s up to our standards as artists, but this isn’t necessary when you’re working to meet the needs of others. One way to better meet their needs regardless of where you are personally is to develop a consistent style, or approach to making. With consistency, we make a sacrifice: we subdue our desire to experiment to any great degree (outside of personal work); but we balance our output, so there’s much less which is below our standards.

One of the best ways to develop your own style is to challenge yourself to make a huge bulk of work – go through your creative process so many times that you perfect it. Continue reading “Challenge Yourself: The 40-Minute Illustrations”

Negotiate More Fruitfully As a Freelancer

Two years ago, a friend sparked my interest in negotiation, talking about a course he’d taken while studying law. I’d never thought about negotiation as a subject to study. Growing up in the UK, I had the idea that negotiation was just for haggling and hostage situations. I was wrong.

As social creatures, we’re constantly negotiating – with our partners, our friends and in business. Another way to say that is that we’re always trading with the people around us. People vary in their skillfulness here, and negotiation is a skill. It’s not easy to get what you want from others without risking damage to the relationship. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned about negotiation: Continue reading “Negotiate More Fruitfully As a Freelancer”

How I Use Custom Brushes to Create Rich Textures in Photoshop


Logo3-Portrait-GIF-300pxI love simplicity in my work. I make it my goal to show what I need to as cleanly and precisely as I can.

That being said, I feel something’s lost when you get too abstract. A lot of simple ‘vector’ style artwork looks lifeless to me. Functional, stylish, but lifeless. I try to get away from this. Working in Photoshop, I like to use very simple shapes to map out an illustration before adding grit with some homemade brushes. Let’s take a look at that process. Continue reading “How I Use Custom Brushes to Create Rich Textures in Photoshop”

How I use Pinterest to Generate Inspiration

Like most artists, my creative drive can fluctuate wildly. We all want to be productive, but not at the expense of doing good work. Inspiration tells us we’re onto something, but does inspiration have to be something we wait for?

I’ve recently found Pinterest to be a great tool for making artwork. It allows me to see the work of so many inspiring artists and to group it all together in one space – I make inspirational moodboards.

My landscape painting inspiration.
My landscape painting board.

Continue reading “How I use Pinterest to Generate Inspiration”

The 4 Steps I Took to Build My First Website

These days, every respectable business venture has its own website. Social media is an important tool, but the giants are always shifting. You need a stable base. This article offers guidance on making a completely customisable website with WordPress (free software). 

  1. Learning HTML & CSS

There are plenty of options available for someone who wants a quick and easy website without having to learn to code. These sites often offer some customisation options, but if you invest the time in building your own website, your options are endless. Continue reading “The 4 Steps I Took to Build My First Website”