Day to day I get to find out about new people and illustrate their quirks and hobbies, my latest commission was no exception - this pair are such characters! The super-trendy couple from Shoreditch consist of Babs and Bobby. Babs describes herself as a "geeky fashionista" who loves her oversized pink specs, her partner Bobby is a self confessed "bearded extravert".
In this special, extended blog post I take you through everything I did to create this bespoke portrait, from start to finish!
As with all of my commissions, I requested the brief from the couple via email. Their reply included an attachment of a photos (this couple sent through six: three of Babs, two of Bobby and one of the pair of them together, but this can vary from client to client). Also included in their reply was a brief description of their personalities and what sort of clothes they like to wear. (Briefs can often include any hobbies, objects, or any jobs each person may have too.)
I then took a good look at the photos and descriptions and started to create small, rough sketches of the couple's facial expressions, body language and accessories. It's at this point, I concentrated on their fashion sense and experimented with the composition and position of their bodies in relation to one another.
As they're a fun-loving, "larger-than-life" couple, I chose to pose them in a way that spread Bobby across a good portion if the canvas to exaggerate his bold and playful personality. He loves Babs to bits and this is easy to see from the brief I received "he's dead romantic, and always showers me with little, but meaningful, gifts - I can't count the amount of playlists he's made me... he's a real goof-ball". This dictated the expression on Bobby's face: I chose to have his eyes shut with a cheeky, goofy grin. I placed Babs in the centre of the composition (after all she is, as Bobby says, "the centre of my universe!"). Her arms are raised with shoulders shrugged in a way that suggests she isn't surprised by Bobby's playful behaviour in the slightest, and the smile on her face portrays she quite likes it.
When happy with the sketches, I made one final preparatory, line sketch that consisted of all of the things I think worked well in the preliminary rough sketches. I then scanned this into Illustrator and began working it up into layers of line and colour.
I chose subtle colours for Babs' clothes and accessories to highlight her calmer character. Bobby, I dressed in earthy tones, because although he's an extravert, he likes the relaxed look: "being raised on a farm, I just can't part with my tweed patches and chunky-knit jumpers".
I coloured the complete composition using complimentary tones from the same palette, rather than mixing colours belonging to contrasting palettes, like neons and pastels, which, believe me, can look really odd! With pink being the couple's favourite colour, I chose to colour the background of the portrait in a subtle pink, which also compliments Babs' top.
After colour was applied, I focused on the shadows. For this, I needed to think about where the light source would be coming from. Many directions of light would confuse the shadows, and as the charm of Tiny Grey prints come from their simplicity, I chose to have the light shining directly from above the couple. Shadows would then fall beneath areas where the light couldn't reach, such as under Babs' collar, under Bobby's cap, and on the underside of both Babs and Bobby's limbs. Including shadows adds more interest to the composition and helps bring more life to the characters' forms.
I then emailed the composition (called the proof) to the couple where they had the opportunity to feedback anything they would prefer to be changed. In this instance the couple loved their portrait and approved it for print immediately. The print was then dispatched a week later.
"OMG, thank you! We've opened our portrait and couldn't love it more. We'll be in touch at Christmas as my sister has now seen it and wants a Tiny Grey too!"
If you're looking for a unique portrait of you and your family, or as a gift for a loved one, please pop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org detailing the following things:
I can then create a bespoke quote for you. Alternatively, you can fill out my handy form via the button below.
For those of you who aren't familiar with my work, you may not know that I started out creating designs for ceramics (mugs and coasters to be precise).
Well, this week I've had some incredible news. My mug designs are now soon to be stocked in a real life art gallery: The National Gallery of Ireland for that matter!
Not too shabby!
Illustrating ten Tiny characters in one composition is no easy task: space is the real issue. Firstly, Tinies look much better when they are displayed on a grand scale (the colour really pops). Secondly, the thick black outlines that are synonymous with Tiny Grey illustrations, along with the (sometimes) detailed possessions of each character, can look a little crowded if there are too many elements on the page.
Having said that, I'm not one to shy away from a challenge; when a lovely chap, from across the border in Scotland, contacted me to commission a special extended family portrait of ten for him, I jumped at the task.
Having played around with positioning of the individual characters, I decided on a rough composition and then tested various colour palettes in pencil before scanning the pencil sketch into my computer to work on the digital piece.
After adding colour, I added shadows to the characters' forms and also beneath each of them to help give a very slight hint of a three-dimensional form. The shadows on the ground help place each Tiny within a 'situation', in this case the situation (or location) is ambiguous as it is in many of my artworks - this is due to the absence of a background landscape. You may have noticed this isn't always the case in my work and some portraits do have detailed backdrops. However, what makes this kind of portrait unique is that it encourages the viewer to interpret their own location, and to play around with it: imagining from day to day different scenarios. (I find this helps give the artwork a 'fresh' and contemporary look.)
Here's the final piece...
I hope you enjoyed finding out more about how I plan my Tiny Grey compositions. If you're a budding illustrator and would like me to share more of my processes with you, let me know here and I'll make a note for future blogs and vlogs.
If you're looking for a Tiny Grey portrait of your own, simply complete this speedy form with your details and I'll be in touch very shortly with a price for you.
All the best,
You may think my Tiny Grey illustrations are limited to creating prints for the home. Well, although I ABSOLUTELY love creating wonderful family portraits (and won't be stopping), on a weekly basis, a good portion of my time is spent as the Head of Design at a digital creative agency, where I help transform brands' visual identities, through design and illustration, to help set them apart from their competitors.
Over the years, as Head of Design, and Chief Illustrator at Tiny Grey, I've created thousands of bespoke logos, business cards, letterheads, icons, digital graphics, and even super-sized office wall art for British institutions such as the NHS, global law firms, and sole traders selling anything from buttons to beer!
So, if you, or someone you know, has a business that they would like to transform with Tiny Grey illustrations, then please get in touch - I'd love to help.
All the best,
From time to time I get asked how I illustrate my prints. Well, I create them in a number of different ways, but in this short video below, I demonstrate my sketching and inking steps on an analogue illustration.
*Apologies the pencil section of the video is a bit faint (this is intentional as leaning hard on the paper can make it tricky to rub out the pencil markings once the ink has been added). I've upped the contrast of these bits to make it a little easier for you to see (but you may still have to squint). Hopefully the sneaky shots of my dogs will make up for it...
After this process I scan my illustrations into my computer and work them up digitally with line and colour. This takes a while so I'll perhaps create another video for these processes at a later date.
Until the next time!
When wedding bells ring, I always get excited!
April's traditionally a busy time for me as the wedding season approaches and people are looking for a unique gift to give the happy couple on their special day. However, it makes a nice change when I get asked to illustrate something a little different.
A few weeks ago I was commissioned to create a portrait depicting married life; more specifically one that paid tribute to a couple's journey from meeting at Glastonbury Festival, to their lovely new home in the countryside, where bluebells grow just outside.
There was one snag though... depicting an entire music festival would detract from the family and make the overall appearance cluttered. I had to find a way of introducing a subtle nod to the festival without it overpowering the peaceful setting of their new home.
Here's the initial sketch and final coloured up artwork (including a Glastonbury tent in the background, entry wristbands and of course... muddy wellies):
I love a good doodle on the parcel!
Being a self-confessed adventurer, I've wanted to visit Japan for what feels like a lifetime. Mainly because of Harajuku (a district of Japan that has the quirkiest fashion I've ever seen). I guess it's fair to say I was a tiny bit infatuated with Gwen Stefani's music videos while studying at Art College and remember pleading with my tutor that my year-long final project idea should be based on her Harajuku girl backing dancers. My proposal was utterly rejected.
Kawaii illustration, (Kawaii meaning 'cute' in Japanese) infiltrates everything in this place. The Kawaii Monster Café is an absolute must see - the waiters could've walked straight off Gwen's HollaBack Girl music video!
Kyoto was... different. In Tokyo the city is totally flooded with sharply dressed professionals, but in Kyoto, I don't know, people seemed more laid back, less 'in a rush' and more… traditional looking.
The shrines and temples are a must see for those who are interested in honing their landscape illustration techniques, and the bamboo forest is infinitely cool.
Now I'm not a sushi fan, but there are ways and means of finding... donuts.
Naoshima, the 'art island': This place has some of the most amazing sculptures nestled away in the landscape! I guess we visited about 2 indoor galleries and a whole heap of outdoor sculptures including a massive yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama (check her work out it will blow your mind).
We slept on a traditional futon… my back did not like this.
Zoe wanted to visit Hiroshima , she's a bit of a history buff and was super keen to see the site of the first atomic bomb… the museum is harrowing but so essential for us to remember those who were lost.
Towards the end of the trip we headed back to Tokyo. If I can recommend just one place to inspire you as an illustrator, it would have to be Studio Ghibli... it's a smorgasbord of ideas and character - a huge hit for me! I'm such a fan of their animated film The Flying Island. If you want to visit the studio be sure to buy tickets before you fly out!
If you want details on where we stayed and what we did in more detail, ping me an email and take a look at my visual travel video at the top of my post!
This s#@! is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S! ;D
It’s not often I create artworks for personal purposes, hell knows I have enough things already adorning my walls. But a few months ago I was asked to be Godmother to my one year old Niece. So, with the Christmas rush behind me and a little extra studio time, I thought it would be a nice idea for her christening gift to create a large-scaled canvas. After all, she'll be inundated with jewellery and books - I can keep that trip to Thomas Sabo and Waterstones on the back-burner until her birthday.
So first things first, I needed some ideas! I made a list of things I knew were important to her, and although she doesn’t quite have the vocabulary to articulate what she enjoys most, a chat with her parents and a peek at her toys did give me an insight.
I’ve been told that she’s starting to love animals; has a mild obsession with In The Night Garden; and has been clutching a Peppa Pig book for the last 5 or so weeks. (I’m beginning to think my sister-in-law birthed the book at the same time.) With these nuggets of information I thought to myself that an animal-themed, family adventure scene would be nice.
Now, I have to confess, as the brief was a little open-ended (and I too love animals), I wanted the artwork to raise awareness and teach my Niece about the importance of animal welfare as well as being a piece of art she can enjoy for years to come.
I did visual research on some endangered animals and began creating some rough sketches to see which would work with my theme.
When I had my animal choices locked down, I started sketching out a composition with my Niece being the focal point at the centre. The colours came next with a predominantly green palette to match her room and echo the natural surroundings.
Below I’ve picked out some important details:
When the canvas was opened I received this lovely message from my sister-in-law:
To get a bespoke print of your own, get in touch with me using the button below.
All the best,
Dear friends of Tiny Grey,
A few months ago I stopped selling my mug designs on my website so I could concentrate on illustrating more artwork. Well, with the help of my agents, retail giants House of Fraser requested them to sell on their own website. YAY!
Since then, I’ve had some wonderful news. My mug designs are now selling in selected House of Fraser (actual, physical) stores across the UK. AND… the lovely people over at Fenwick’s department stores will also be adding them to their product lines too!
Needless to say I had a small, yet expressive, celebratory dance around my studio when I heard the news...
More importantly though, I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to each and every one of you who have encouraged me along the way. Your ongoing support and kindness over the months (and some of you years) has been my motivation to take Tiny Grey from a small peanut-of-an-idea to what it is today: a full functioning illustration studio.
I hope I’m doing you all proud and will keep reaching that little bit further and making art that will brighten your homes.
Here's to more magic!