Updates every other Sunday with new artwork and content from the working life of a freelance illustrator.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Last Guardian mini-review

Trico fanart, The Last Guardian
Trico, digital gouache painting

Shadow of the Colossus and Ico were games that have been recommended to me relentlessly over the past six or seven years. I own both of them and have given them both a try (repeatedly, for SotC) but, while I can appreciate the artwork, scale, originality and artistry, they've always thrown me with awkward controls and lack of guidance.

Regardless, I've been waiting a long time for The Last Guardian.

If you know anything about me you'll know that big fantasy beasties with child companions are absolutely my jam, so I knew I was going to love this game from the very first teaser trailer so, so many years ago.

Between myself and Ian we decided to invest in the special edition version, so we've got a really sweet statue of a sleepy Trico, an art book, stickers and the digital soundtrack. The art book is incredibly sparse for something that's been in production for so long. It's a lot of scribbles and pre-rendered modelling, with very little character/creature design. Maybe they're holding out for an in-depth book.

The game itself is thankfully a little more forgiving with the controls than previous Team Ico games. The trademark lack of guidance is there, but with more intuitive controls and clever level designs I was very rarely left without a clue as to where to go next. If anything, it was a refreshing break from the hand-holding that's plagued modern games and made me such a lazy gamer.

I sat down with The Last Guardian for two sittings and sped through it. The relationship between Trico and the boy gripped me, as I knew it would, and stirred me to the point of tears on several occasions. The sections that rely on the bond you've made with Trico are particularly moving, like throwing yourself off a crumbling platform and hoping that it'll catch you. The game never tells you to do this. But when Trico lunges forward and snatches you from tumbling into the abyss...damn, the feelings are so real.

This is the Team Ico game that fits the hype I've been hearing about all these years. Though I'm not sure it's enough to persuade me to revisit their classics. Not until I've stormed through Horizon Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild, at least.
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Friday, 17 March 2017

Pokemon terrariums & blogging 2.0

First off, I've been thinking of ways to spice up this blog. 

At the moment my format is rounding up the work I've been doing over last fortnight every Sunday, and I don't know how interesting that is considering that most of my readers find the blog from following my social media. I'd really like to do something different and use this blog as a space to experiment and try out some new things. 

I'm still generating ideas at the moment, but I'm thinking of alternating my posts between 'round-ups' and then, the next fortnight, something a bit different. Some things rolling around my brain are: 

- Step-by-step processes/tutorials of how I work 

- Game/movie/TV show reviews 

- 'Top 5' lists (everyone loves lists right?) 

- Different art/writing challenges 

I'm also thinking of doing Bonus posts giving out reference photos, moodboards, etc. 

If there's anything you'd like to see me post about then please, seriously, let me know. Similarly, if there's anything you want to see less of I'm open to feedback. 



So, yeh, I went back to the terrariums!

Mini-Pokemon themed terrariums are something I've been thinking about ever since I made those Pokemon variants, and I really enjoy the whole process. I won't be able to make these as often as I'd like, but I certainly intend on working through the first 150. The same for the variants. I haven't forgotten them!

I've also been hard at work on development for the comic, but as it's becoming more finalized I'll be cutting down on how much of it I post. Some things are best left in suspense.

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Character design for the light pollution comic

I may not have had the time to post last weekend but don't think I haven't been hard at work!

Progress is rolling along with the light pollution comic. I'm taking a steady pace and making sure that I've fine tuned the story, design and style before I really push ahead with it. I've got quite a distinct image of what I want in my head, so the more energy I spend trying to get to that point the better, right? 

Here's a collection of character development art from the past week ~

Watercolour and pencil doodles of style and colour combinations.

Developing the look of my protagonist with ink and pencil, and a brother character that has since been dropped. I might re-purpose the design for a background character, I loved drawing that fluffy cloud of hair!

Developing a spirit-fox character. I was looking at a lot of Beth Cavener's sculptures for inspiration, aiming for a wind-carved, sleek sort of look. This is a mix of pencil, ink, marker pen and watercolour overlays. 

More finalised designs for the protagonist. Top middle are mixed markers, with the other being a combination of ink, marker and watercolour overlay. I'm not sure about the combinations of yellow, white and overlay, but I think I'm going to lose the yellow hood in favor of the bottom middle design. Still some work to do here. 

I'm really happy with how the overlays have turned out. And actually how well the galaxy painting as a whole went. As I was painting I felt like it wasn't working and started to question the whole idea of overlaying the watercolour galaxies over characters and clothes. But I was so happy with how it dried. See! Don't give up hope!

So where am I going from here?

  • The protagonist needs a little bit more tweaking regarding her block colours. 

  • The fox needs a little more designing. The idea is that in moonlight/darkness it takes on star-spattered galaxy colours, but under man-made light it becomes sketchy, withered and generally pretty scary. 

  • Get down the secondary characters - a hare, various birds, deer, a badger, fish, frogs, and a few human characters including a young couple and mother with children. 

  • Location development! I need to design the protagonist's home, maybe map up her journey so that it makes real sense in my head, and a couple of other locations.

  • A test panel, so I know exactly the style I'm going for and how long the entire process takes so I can schedule everything in properly. 

  • And then I'll be ready to storyboard and steam ahead~ 

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think of the designs. Are there any that jump out at you that I might have overlooked or dismissed?

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A mixed media kind of week

Owing to a particularly belligerent creative block last week, this post comes to you a few days late. However, that means that I've got more work to share!

I managed to squeeze out a speedpaint, although it's more of a speedsketch..

Sketchbook, colour pencil and graphite

Working in clay and three-dimensional form as a desperate move to get my brain co-operating with me turned out to be a good move. I think I overwhelmed myself with my to-do list and so my muse turned stubborn and refused to get on-board.

Air dry clay. From left to right: Crow, hedgehog, axolotl & fox

I'm not in any hurry to paint this little critters, so don't expect to see them any time soon. Though I do have about two thirds of a pack of air dry clay to get through that I've haphazardly sealed until I get some bright ideas. Don't want that to go to waste..

It actually worked incredibly well for lifting the art block, and so I managed to get round to some thumbnails for a commission I'm working on..

Dragon in the woods thumbnail sketches

And a piece of concept art for the unnamed graphic novel about light pollution that I'm working on..

Mixed media illustration on A4 Bristol board

I still have to work out the designs a bit more and get a fluid style going, but it was super satisfying to get some kind of expression of this idea out in colour and with a bit of polish.

Things are looking up!
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Saturday, 4 February 2017

Graphic Novel Design, Speedpainting & Shop Update!

Unfortunately I don't have much polish to show off this week.

I've been busy on design work for a graphic novel/comic sort of idea that's been stewing around for ages. It'll gradually bleed into the blog and my website as I progress, but I've never tried a big personal project like this before outside of university so bear with me as I work out all the teething pains.

Child figure drawing practice
I started out with some figure drawing practice to get me into child proportions. I knew from the start my protagonist was going to be a little girl around 8-10 years old but I tried to keep everything diverse and broad. Thanks Flickr!

Wood cabin early design sheet
Then I progressed to some cabin doodles. Architecture and buildings have never been my strong point, and this project isn't exactly brimming with them. I'm stepping out of so many comfort zones at the moment I thought I'd take this particular one at baby steps.

I went over a couple of drafts, and I still have a couple of bits that don't sit well with me and that will need some reimagining. It's so nice to tell stories again, even if it's just to myself at the moment. 

Next steps? Lots and lots of design work. I'm aiming to make up a first draft storyboard in half term. I day job at a college so I'll have a whole week to devote to it...more or less. 

In other news, I added some giclee prints to my Etsy shop. They include the limited edition 'Divide' print, as well as the last of the first run of terrarium prints. 

New giclee prints available in my Etsy shop

And here's my weekly speedpaint!

Digital speedpainting of a fox in a valley with aurora

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Meet the Artist

I noticed the #meettheartist hashtag rolling around Twitter (remarkable, really, considering how little I use Twitter at the moment) and thought I'd give it a shot.

Self-portraits are something I've always struggled with. I think I read and watch and play so much character-driven stuff, and create so many characters for narrative projects, that I sometimes lose track of who I am. I used to find that concerning, but now I figure that it's a by product of the character creating process. I'm alright with that if it means I can make characters with all the depth and humanity that I'd otherwise be putting into myself.

Colour pencil & digital, 'Meet the Artist' infographic

I could have gone into so much detail with the specifics of animals, books, plants and documentaries that I like, but I wanted to keep it as brief of an overview as possible.

And, just to mention, I don't hate chimpanzees. Not really. I'm more scared of them than anything. Their near-humanness is terrifying. Saying that, I don't have a problem with gorillas or orangutans. It's just chimps... Urgh...
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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Painting Giveaway & Speedpainting

I knew I wanted to do a giveaway sometime soon, and suitably enough I managed to hit over 100 followers across all my social media platforms towards the end of last year. That's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (my Tumblr is gathering dust, it's mostly an inspiration engine now).

With Chinese New Year coming up that came across as a pretty suitable theme. If not only because we're celebrating the Rooster this year, and I'm a big fan of poultry (there aren't many animals that I'm not a huge fan of. Chimps. That's about it..)

Digital sketches of girl with rooster
Digital sketches of girl with rooster

Here's the original concept sketch for the piece. I had this vision of a scruffy little country girl in bright coloured boots and dungarees trying to wrap her arms sloppily around this huge rooster. Green boots was the original design but it came off a little bit too garish.

5x7inch watercolour painting of girl with rooster
5x7inch watercolour painting of girl with rooster

And here's the final piece!
I'm quite impressed with myself how close it keeps to the original sketch.

I'm giving it away with free UK postage (there's a £6 donation for international postage since it's considerably more expensive than domestic shipping if you want it signed, tracked and delivered safely).

All you have to do is follow me on Facebook and share this post, or follow me on Instagram and comment on this post. Simple stuff!

Oh, and I did a little digital speed paint with a limited palette to stretch some old muscles. It was a fun little exercise which I want to try and do at least once a week.

Digital painting of rural church in mountain landscape
Digital painting of rural church in mountain landscape

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About Me

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Hi! I'm Claire Spiller, a freelance illustrator, vis-dev artist & storyteller based in Bristol, UK. I love animals, wild places, plants, handmade things, and creating characters and stories. My work often blends nature and fantasy, science and mythology. I also do bits of sculpting and needle felt occasionally as a hobby, and sell prints, original art and bits of arty goodness in my Etsy store!
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