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”

‘Vaccine Scare’


Vaccine Scare: preventable diseases are taking a heavy toll on Kerala.
Vaccine Scare

I did a recent piece based on an article in BBC Trending, exploring the anti-vaccine movement in Kerala. Preventable diseases, like diphtheria, are on the rise, while much of the vaccine fear is being spread by alternative medicine ‘doctors.’

Custom photoshop brushes used for illustration by Ben Harley.
Custom brushes used (left-to-right): sandy pebbles, watercolour stroke and woodgrain. Click to enlarge.


Thanks for keeping up! Thoughts or questions? Leave a comment.

Illustration Friday 2 – ‘Nose’

'Toucan Run' - contribution to Illustration Friday for the prompt 'Nose.'
Toucan Run

I took part in Illustration Friday again this week – the prompt was ‘nose.’ Who has a bigger nose than a toucan??

And painted this week:

Ink and watercolour - visible for miles around, the hill is near-constantly shrouded in mist.
Cluny Hill

This hill’s visible for miles around, nearly constantly shrouded in mist. I happened to be cycling by yesterday and stopped to whip up a sketch. Later, after the sketch and a rough painting, I made this, trying to keep it as loose as possible. I find Nujabes really helps with that.

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”

Editorials – Cromarty Oil Transfer

High-risk oil transfer operation to be carried out against wishes of local dolphins.
Important environmental sites to be risked for ship-to-ship oil transfers.


A local issue, this time. Staying in Moray, I’m right on the doorstep of so many serene places. A lot of people move here just to neighbour the local dolphins. Unfortunately, permission is being sought to carry out ship-to-ship (STS) oil transfers in the waters nearby. STS transfers are particularly prone to spillage. If the license is granted, roughly 400,000 tonnes of crude oil will be transferred in the Moray Firth each month. Things may get messy.

Editorial Illustrations

What I love about good editorial illustrators is their ability to capture so much of a situation with so little – a single image.

Over the past week, I’ve been testing my own simplification skills and building up a new portfolio. Coming at art from this angle is refreshing after so much landscape painting. The process involves brainstorming a huge number of ideas, then cutting and combining until you’re left with something small, but so dense.

Here are the three illustrations I’ve finished so far:
No. 1 was tailored to this article on the junior Doctor strike:


DocStrike Continue reading “Editorial Illustrations”

Profiling Oldmeldrum

Banner Illustration for a Leopard Magazine article on Old Meldrum.
Old Meldrum 2015 – footer illustration for Leopard magazine.

I had the honour of illustrating an article by writer/photographer Duncan Harley. He’s writing a series exploring Scottish history on the small scale: ‘Our Town.’ It digs into the littler communities of Scotland, unearthing all sorts of stories nearly forgotten.

Continue reading “Profiling Oldmeldrum”