Digital art basics – Shape and form:

Digital art basics – Breaking it all down, why use shape and form?

So if you have read the first article about getting yourself set up then digital art basics looking at shape and form is where to look next. Firstly it’s important to understand shape. When we think of shape in children’s education, our own childhood or as teachers we immediately consider math’s class (I know I do). However shape is an art fundamental. Each complex form is made up of basic shapes which in turn create the form.

“Draw what you see, not what you think you see”.

Heard that before right? It is a common phrase and many students upon hearing it look at you quizzically, they might even think it’s something deep and philosophical. In reality it is just fact. Take the picture seen below. This can be broken up into various shapes, those shapes are then creating the form of the overall object.

Digital art basics - draw over of a mallard duck broken down into 11 shapes.
Digital art basics – Mallard duck draw over.
Photo by cynthia berridge from FreeImages

When considering your digital art basics, shape and form is always going to be important. When you start to draw your own images, or if you already started; you will find drawing out the shapes first is a really useful way to ensure that you are creating a proportionately accurate piece of work. If you’re not doing this then you’re trying to draw one complex shape. Perfectly… in one go. Reading it likes that makes it seem challenging. Right? Any successful artist will tell you that starting with shape, and working in the detail last is the best practice, working in detail and trying to create those complex shapes too quickly can cause a lot of problems and you will eventually plateau.

Ways to practice shape and form – Digital art basics:

This is a good list of practice techniques used when you want to practice shape and form.

The draw over:

A nice simple technique, you get an image. Import this image into photoshop or even print it out. From there you draw over in a brightly coloured pen or brush. Draw every shape you see and from there you can redraw those shapes and use them to recreate the complex images (You can see this above in our beautiful duck image) .

I have used this as a technique often when teaching features of the human face. We look at the human face every day. You’d think we would be amazing at drawing it right? … Wrong! In fact that is part of the problem. They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe that is why eyes are always draw larger than they should be, as are lips. Noses are often smaller and foreheads don’t ever seem to exist. Why would they? The more you look at something the more your brain distorts it into what it categorises as important. When we consider eyes, these are often larger as the brain knows they are useful in terms of communication. The eyes help us see emotion so this makes sense.

By drawing over the eyes and ascertaining their actual shape. We are then in a position to look at what they really look like, the scale of them and more.

Draw what you see, not what you think you see:

When you have practiced “the draw over” then you are ready to look at the complex image and break it down into shapes. Start this basic. By this I mean break the image into no more than five shapes. When you have five shapes go to ten, then fifteen. As you start to add more shapes you are in essence adding more detail and you will become more and more confident at breaking images down naturally.

Draw from life:

Really important, when we are teaching children basic shapes we are probably going to use household objects. My one and a half year old knows that oranges, footballs and some of his toys are all circle. (He tells me this at length, it’s how I am so certain and in reality they are spheres but they can be classed as circular regardless).

What does my one year old have to do with drawing from life? Well if I ask a student to draw a picture of an clothes iron they will often not do what really young children do every day. Categorise. They will look at the object and become intimidated by the complex shape and forget that a clothes iron is made up of triangles, this is often because they are over thinking it. Yes maybe the dial is circular, maybe this triangle has curved edges. But if I had to categorise it I would say triangle. When a student has a flat image they may not see that. But drawing from life it becomes much easier to see the shape that is there, breaking down those shapes simply means “simplify”.

digital art basics, simple clothes iron with a triange drawn on it.
Digital art basics – Irons are trianges
Photo by Jean Scheijen from FreeImages

If you take all these points into consideration you are well on your way to understanding shape and form. If you are interested in seeing more, let me know in the comments and I can do a video tutorial.

Digital art for kids: An introduction

I am a Dad and one thing I have always enjoyed doing is teaching digital art to my kids. When they learn it’s a satisfying experience and it’s a great way to teach a cool skill that becomes valuable later in life. I will be making this blog series “digital art for kids” and in it I will cover cool ideas and techniques I use to teach graphics and games art to my students. If you want to encourage your kids into using different tools and techniques then this will be the place for you. If you like what you read in this blog then let me know, comments from you help me!

What you will need:

Digital art is great fun, but you do need tools to do this and these can be expensive. However as I said before I know how tight money can be when you are a parent. I will introduce you to some of the more cost effective approaches you can use to get your family started learning digital art.

The hardware

A graphics tablet is a must when learning those digital art skills. The model I often refer students to is the Wacom A5 tablets. These models change every year very much like a mobile phone. These can be picked up for around £40.00 to £50.00 and they have a great lifecycle, my first tablet I bought for £400.00 and it lasted me eight years before eventually I had to replace it. There are lots of other brands out there but personally I can only advocate for Wacom as its the only one I have a large amount of experience with.

The software

Next you need to think about what software you can use. Adobe Photoshop is a commonly used industry practice software but it costs. If you don’t mind paying £9.98 a month you can get the photography package and download photoshop.

But what if you don’t have £9.98 to spend? Good news is there are loads of software’s you can use for free. If your kids learn they will also be able to use photoshop due to similarities. The software I am going to suggest is Krita. Krita is completely free but is similar to Photoshop. This is a good way to get your kids started without having to spend a monthly subscription fee.

Digital art for kids: Krita logo
This is the krita logo

Getting started teaching digital art for kids:

Now you have a graphics tablet and your software is installed these are some based activities and tips to get your kids started. More complex information will come up but first there are some key things you need to know.

  • Drawing with a graphics tablet is very different to drawing on paper. It will take time and practice for your child to get used to using it. Encourage them because they might find it frustrating to begin with.
  • Encourage them to explore the package. You can’t really break digital drawing software. Exploring what they can do before they start on an art piece is really useful. Get them to write down the things they discover as this will help them to retain this information.
  • Finally don’t be afraid to learn alongside your son or daughter. Children enjoy having someone to problem solve and learn with. This way you’re involved in the fun and frustrations too!

Now we have cleared that up, lets talk about some things you should do to get the ball rolling. The best way to get kids started when learning digital art is to remove expectation. Start by encouraging them to select the brush tool on a blank canvas. From there let them draw something they like. Depending on the age of your child they might have different interests. Drawing animals, cartoon characters or imagination based creatures is a great place to start.

What does letting a student draw aimlessly do?

It allows them to focus on one skill that is hardest to develop which is hand eye coordination. When they practice this combined with mark making they will find future tutorials easier to follow as they will be able to effectively copy shape, form and structure.

If you liked this and want more tutorials on next steps to teach digital art to your children then comment below and let me know! I look forward to seeing you all in future posts.

Anime drawing ideas: What you need to know!

When considering anime drawing ideas it is important to understand that idea generation as a concept is something universal. Whether you are considering character design, environment design, product design or Anime it doesn’t matter as once you can use a method you feel comfortable with it becomes a skill you keep. Idea generation is more often than not a similar process. In this article I will be giving you the tools to design your own anime and start coming up with ideas.

Anime is something I personally have always been passionate about. My favourites being Sword art online, attack on titan, seven deadly sins, fairy tail and most importantly Sinbad. I like these, not just because of the awesome artwork, but the way in which each anime delivered great ideas to its audience. By learning idea generation you can take the first steps from just redrawing your favourite anime to creating something different

Key starting points:

It is important before you keep reading to understand a few things. Firstly don’t get distracted drawing the exact anime style you want, the more you learn your style will become evident in your work. Instead start by looking at fundamental rules in manga/anime design: anatomy, proportion, colouring and expression. Beginner artists become overly focused on the final render. Instead focus on design and work to create Anime drawing ideas that stand out and that demonstrate good fundamentals

Secondly, it is important to remember that practice makes progress. Putting in the effort to practice the skills set out in this article will help your designs and ideas improve. Now I have explained some key starting points lets get started

Anime drawing idea generation: Clustering

One method I love to use when drawing anything is clustering. Clustering works as a form of word association. It is a great way to come up with a range of ideas in a short space of time. It works in the following way. You choose a word to place in the center of a page, (you might put Anime drawing ideas). From there draw a line and write the first word that comes into your head, for me it might be swords. Then when I think of swords I think medieval England, then Knights, then the moon, then space, then alien. This might go on for some time, remember when you do it no word is to silly or abstract and it doesn’t have to make sense. Once you have done this you can look at your collection of words and begin to make an idea.

Considering the words listed above. Characters for this anime are then designed based on the idea, “Knights are abducted into space”. Flashforward 200 years our main character would be a Knight in space with cool laser weapons fighting giant alien monsters. Using clustering we have come up with a cool idea to get us started.

Anime drawing idea generation: Life

Drawing from life is important, it is what gives anime such interesting and different ideas. Create a Pinterest – whilst there consider the things you enjoy. I look at birds, fish and abandoned places. This encourages thought and ideas when I come up with an idea.

Anime drawing idea reference images on pinterest
A selection of images used as a reference point for idea generation.

Looking at the image above you can see the wide range of reference image boards created for drawing ideas. Do the same, create boards and get collecting. This will help you to design awesome characters.

Anime drawing ideas: Still stuck?

This final part if the two ideas didn’t work is here to give you some jumping off points. Drawing anything from your imagination can be a daunting task. When considering what to draw there are some of the do’s and do not’s.

The do’s:

  1. Draw complete characters. This means hands, feet, body, head and expression. This will help you practice proportion and anatomy.
  2. Be adventurous. Don’t be afraid to try something no one else has done.
  3. Switch between character and environment regularly. You will learn tips and tricks from one to the other.
  4. Reflect. Ensure you reflect on everything you create, drawing ideas don’t improve if you don’t decide what went well and how the design can be better.
  5. Watch tutorials.

The don’t’s

  1. Avoid like for like fan art (a straight up copy). You don’t learn from this. Some awesome fan art is found online. The best however is created in an artists original style.
  2. Avoid practicing one thing too much. An example from me would be eyes. I was obsessed with drawing eyes, so much so that it affected how well I could draw everything else in a negative way.
  3. Contradicting of the first point, practice what you are bad at, if you find that when drawing you are great at everything excluding say hands, then take some time out to practice hands (Basically don’t focus on the things you are already good at).

If you found this article on Anime drawing ideas helpful, or maybe you want to know more. Drop a comment or send me an email your feedback helps me to deliver more insightful content!

Livestream: When and what I do when I work on one

Fish like creature I created in a livestream.

Recently I have got back into my livestream. My current platforms are Youtube and Twitch and I stream digital art. I wanted to show off some of the projects I am working on, whilst talking a bit about when and why I do it. The details of the livestream at the bottom of this post. This is more to talk about what I do and why I choose to do it.

Livestream benefits for creative work:

When I draw I find that having a livestream helps to keep me on track and engaged on the project. When working to an audience with a specific timeframe in mind it helps to keep myself. Or if you are reading this to help yourself our then you. The creator in a position where you are engaging with the target audience for your work. I find that active flow of feedback from people watching, helps a lot when working. In all will help you produce better work with the audience in mind.

Working like this is really beneficial for lots of reasons. I work to two hour blocks, in this time I can create simple designs that I can later build on. At the same time there is the idea that by doing so you are giving yourself that time. When you work on projects by yourself and without a designated time it is easier to give up or get distracted (especially if you are like me and you have three children). If I didn’t livestream they would naturally take that time. This is not a bad thing. However at the same time it is important that you can work on your craft in order to get better. Blocking in this time becomes a nice way to save that time for your own development. which in turn’ will put you in a much better mood for thiers.

So why do I do it?

This is simple, it’s fun. Well not just fun but also a great way to get valuable feedback from peers. Look, I get for some people it’s about making a livelihood, getting viewers and having lots of followers. For me it’s all about having fun and enjoying the process of designing characters, creatures and environments. I do this whilst sharing that with whoever will listen .

In my livestream at the moment. This still being early days I get a maximum of maybe 10 concurrent viewers. Maybe 30 views in my two hour schedule. Really I don’t think this is bad. In fact it’s enough people to provide me with feedback. If a design is bad then I find out about it fairly quick. I see it as a collaborative approach to concept art as I get live feedback whilst I work.

My current projects:

Currently I have completed two livestreams. Below are the wonderful creatures I created in this time.

This character is a basic idea for a game and in all would be quite interesting to see in a classic adventure game for livestream.
This character is a basic idea for a game and in all would be quite interesting to see in a classic adventure game.

The character above was inspired by an insect. The idea in the livestream was to create characters that might belong in a video game. How would these work and how to differentiate these from one another.

Fish like creature I created in a livestream.
Fish like creature I created in a livestream.

This creature above is a creature I designed after looking at pictures of a sturgeon, the idea of a prehistoric looking armored fish came across as pretty cool and it was well received throughout the livestream.

Each of these designs were completed within around one hour and forty minutes. My personal plan is to start getting these to a level where I am able to produce two or even three of these sorts of designs within the two hour space. I would love feedback and for more people to join so this is where I share the details.

I stream every Thursday evening from 21:00 – 23:00 UTC+1


EGX Birmingham 2018

EGX Birmingham 2018 was  a seriously cool event, from the careers section to get Rezzed I absolutely loved the experience. Something I would definitely participate in again if only to meet all the people. So this blog post is going to talk about the day, what was useful and the few things I would have loved to of done if only I had the time.


Two men playing games at EGX 2018

Get Rezzed:

This was by far my favorite part of the event, I know when you look into an event like EGX you go with the hopes of trying some of the big titles. We had kingdom hearts three, Spyro, Assassins Creed Oddesy and more. But for me, waiting for a good 30 to 60 minutes for a chance to play these games doesn’t really appeal. I like to get into it and see some games I wouldn’t normally have played.

I attended EGX  to meet people, to see what others are doing and why what they are doing is so great. It really didn’t disappoint. Get Rezzed was a great showcase for indie games, there was so much going on and honestly that was amazing to see. The biggest title and by far most intriguing for me personally was Thea the Shattering (Thanks again guys for not being too angry that I accidentally shut down your gameplay video whilst I was trialing the game). I have always been a huge fan of Thea the Awakening which was the first game in the series. So to be able to play an alpha version of the game was seriously fun. This card based survival game set in a fantasy world where you work as a team of various people is something so original I love it. This game is made by a small team of people and they work exceptionally hard. Definitely have a look!


I have a career I love, I am an educator. I can’t get enough of teaching students how to create and design video games, animation and apply VFX. This doesn’t stop me interrogating the poor professionals at the Creative Assembly and Sumo Digital in order to get a feel for what it takes. So what did I learn from them?

Well a helpful 3D artist named Jas (Thanks again Jas) took the time to review my whole website. Every last image. What was lovely is that I found out not just where I need to improve. But what I was doing well. I like getting feedback from professionals. By getting mentors whether it is a one time feedback session or an ongoing relationship. You can learn so much!

So guys the best bit of all the advice  – Proko. I now love this artist. His anatomy tutorials are phenomenal and you should definitely check him out. This was recommended to me as anatomy is an area I really need to improve on and so far the improvements have slowly been happening (Keep an eye out for this in future blogs). So to anyone interested in working in the games industry. Make the most of these events; the games are great but the supportive people in the careers fair will bend over backward to offer you advice and guidance. Use it!

What I missed:

There was so much going on, I really do wish I had taken more time to view the Nintendo section of the event. I would have loved to have played the new Pokémon game.. I saw others playing it and it genuinely looked like really good fun. Something I would buy a Switch for.

As well as this, to play Assassins creed would have been really awesome. I have never really been much of a fan of the series. Even so the change they have made is really something I could sink my teeth into. I would like to next time get an earlier pass to get to these bigger games and trial them before it gets too busy.

Overall the event was fantastic, this has just been a brief overview but I hope it accurately shared what I loved about the event. In all I wanted to showcase for myself and for others the highlights I came across as I went round. Try it yourself next year. Well worth it.

Abura Akago

I wanted to write about this piece as I felt it’s one of my more original ideas when looking at mythology creatures. This creature is from Japanese folklore and it’s referred too as the Abura-Akago.

How the legend goes:

In Japanese folklore a greedy merchant was caught stealing oil from villagers lamps. He would make his prophet by selling this oil back to the villagers at a higher price and it eventually led to many of these people being considerably worse off in the long run. So disgusted with this act the ancestors cursed the merchant to wonder the world as a spirit. A little fat creature that drank the oil from peoples lamps to survive. My rendition of the story is probably not very accurate and my drawing is maybe not what you would expect from the story I just told.

When I created this however I wanted to see what I could make different. Adaptations in the animal kingdom  allow creatures to drink their food (instead of consuming it via eating). I decided to cross between a spider monkey in body but with the head of a humming bird. This allowed the project to meet the set criteria.

This creature would be nocturnal. It has developed feline style eyes as this is often used to see effectively in the dark and will allow it to focus at night. This creature prowls in the shadows on dark nights. It waits to drain the oil from a perch at a distance when no one is present.

Technical aspects:

To build the base the best way to do this was to work using shapes. Using shapes allows for blocking and the creation of an overall anatomically sound creature.

The colour scheme I picked of reds and oranges was purely coincidental at the time. I liked the warm colours and felt these would work best with a creature found around oil lamps. The colours allow the creature to seem warm. I added green in the bamboo to work as part of a Colour wheel’s complimentary colours.




The Coralmancer







The image above is one I have done of the Coralmancers. These were an idea I had, the thought process behind these characters were that they lived under the ocean to flee from a faction occupying the mainland called the  geomantic order. This rebel faction were outcast for experimenting with both water and earth magics. They fled to the ocean using water magic to extract air from the water. They are still hunted by the geomantic order and therefore summoned coral golems, these golems although work with the Coralmancers gained sentience from their masters due to their two entity system of animal and plant.

This was a really fun one to draw and you can see a live stream of it on my Youtube channel. I haven’t linked this as I have decided that I will create a separate page for the channel. The  exciting fact for me was it was the first time in a which I have tackled a character in a complicated pose with full colour, I have had to really think about how to give the image depth through use of values and anatomical proportion for this character which I feel I did fairly well.

I would love to turn this into a comic so if you thought this was interesting then feel free to drop me a message and maybe I can give it a go.

My obsession with drawings ideas and thier origins

So where do I get my drawings ideas? why am I always drawing animals? What’s the obsession and why am I always trying to convert these animals into some kind of crazy creature? These are some of the questions I get when I started to teach concept art to teenagers. They don’t often ask questions but when they do I always seem to get these three big ones.

Why I do it and how it started:

I grew up watching a lot of nature documentaries and I loved to draw using my own drawings ideas as a way to relax. What I always struggled with when I first started out was combining the two.

When I started my art GCSE I found myself being asked to draw “natural forms and structures” although I now see the relevance in this to practice line-work and using various media. I didn’t when I was starting out and so I neglected my artwork becoming frustrated with the fact I had to draw yet another stick but this one was in ink where the one I drew before was in pencil. This focus on objects I didn’t find interesting prevented me from doing an A level in art and I actually didn’t pick up a pencil (or in this case a graphics tablet) again until I started university.


I remember the first project we did we were encouraged drawing ideas to be unique and different in university, this was for games design. Designing my own creations for a game! I was ecstatic. I had no idea what I wanted to draw and I remember discussing it with lecturers at the time. They asked me what I was interested in and I said nature, wildlife and documentaries. So I was told to research and design and just enjoy drawing with a focus on this area. I came up with a flat, awful drawing but what I found was that everyone loved it. Not for the artistic skill (At this point there was none) but instead for its design!

I have been taking this on more and more, not just in my freelance work but when I teach, because I slowly realised at university and now in my career that fantasy, not just in video games but legends, folklore and myths far back in history comes from the natural world and its a great place to design what I call a mental gallery.

The idea behind it:

I can explain this theory best with my favourite example I use for my students. We all know the legend of the Cyclops. The cyclops were big, one eyed men with tusks. They were giant with a huge lidless eye in the centre of their skulls. Its hard to understand where the idea came from. I can’t imagine it being conjured from thin air virtually nothing is!

However if we consider the fact that the ancient Greeks probably didn’t know what the anatomy of an elephant was as an example and that travellers and merchants coming across an elephant corpse would see a large pile of huge bones and a skull with a huge circle area in the centre (The area where the trunk protrudes). The travelling merchants could invent wonderful stories about giant one eyed human without ever having to see one. The world was therefore gifted with the legend of the Cyclops. This is the same process artists use to come up with drawings ideas.

So with this wonderful story I began to investigate in my own work Myths, Legends and Folklore. After reading about them I tried to come up with a series of designs based on what we see in the areas they originate. This is why I draw animals, by knowing how they work anatomically, how they hunt, stand, sleep and move. We can better design fantasy creatures when we work on commissions. This blog post on my drawings ideas has been more of a story than a lesson. I felt it was important to explain why I draw, what I draw and when I produce work what do I aim to achieve. Everyone starts somewhere and It’s important to know that, whatever the level you begin at is.

A study a day keeps artsic block away.

assorted animals

Recently I watched an interesting video around the concept of “Just draw” this is from Feng Zhu’s design cinema, for those of you that haven’t watched any FZD I advise watching some of his tutorials on Youtube, it’s well worth your time and honestly the man knows what he is talking about. He has will always be a huge driving factor in what made me take my artwork seriously. The reason why I am mentioning him is simple, he has perfected a way to tackle artist block.

So back to my original point about “Just Draw”, I had completely forgotten that when I loved drawing as a kid it was me drawing various exciting objects and animals that I found in my wildlife books, in the garden or walking about town.

Having an idea:

Now when I design something I have a rough idea of what I want and I draw. For a while now I have felt my designs end up feeling lifeless and flat. This is probably due to all these experiences I did have are so long in my memory it has stagnated and now I am left with a minimal library of mental resources to attempt to construct massive and grand ideas .

Yet more proof of anti artist block.
More bird studies, focus being on the shoebill and cormorant.

So how am I addressing that? I am growing my visual library! I recently started an account on Pinterest and it is probably the best thing I have done in a while as it is allowing me to collect hundreds of reference images and it even recommends similar images.

Now when I want to “Just Draw” I go to my reference images. Click a section (Recently it’s been birds) and I pick an image and I draw. The results have been fantastic. From Tuesday this week to Friday today I have drawn 22 new images! 22! I haven’t even struggled picking ideas as they are all there in front of me and I don’t worry for hours about investing my time as the studies are quick and excellent practice.

What to draw:

So how does that relate to keeping artistic block away? Well I like drawing similar things, creatures from myth and legend. The hardest aspect of this is how can I create something original? I created a Cerberus with two heads based on a Hyena, that was original to me. But I realised it is quite common to see hyena, I could go even further by studying and drawing more different mammals.

I can look at bones from extinct mammals, birds and reptiles and bring these together to create something that no one would even expect. So far I need to put this part of keeping artistic block away into practice. But I will say this I have noticed that ideas don’t come by looking at reference images alone, the practical element of line work, drawing new architecture, flora and fauna release a torrent of ideas that your brain would have loved to do but in the end decided it didn’t have the resources.

I suppose the point of this blog post for me is, “Just Draw” feed your creativity with images you have never seen. Help your brain to help you.

How to tackle artist block, just draw
Various bird studies, birds of prey, toucans, ducks and small birds. Proof of artist block not holding back anyone.

Eagle rock on a red planet

Red planet with jutting rocks.
Environmental artwork

This post will be talking a bit about how I work through my environmental design process and how I designed the image above. This was created in around two hours, that is including the thumb nail process and adding values before the final splash of colour. This monochromatic scene I would usually use to demonstrate concepts of an environment I wanted to make 3D and import into a game.

Six quick line sketches depicting various environments.

The images above here are the initial Thumbnails, I used no more than ten minutes to quickly sketch these. The initial design is really just a guideline to ensure that your perspective and compositional rules are good. A golden rule I have found is that if a Thumbnail looks wrong correct it there. It is easier to sort the foundations that the finished product. I ended up using two to take further. I found the slanted horizon an interesting concept.

This shows the process of how the enviornment was created.

This image shows the overall process, you can see how the thumbnail of to was enlarged, this was then given values. The values are important as its important no two grounds share the same values, this flattens the image. By this I mean the foreground will have a darker base value, a highlight and a shadow. The midground with have two base colours and a highlight and shadow. Finally the background will have its own set of three values. I find working in values gives you the right feel overall.

Finally as this was a quick concept I used an overlay layer, reds, yellows, purple and orange to finalise this dusty, hazy red planet. In all a really enjoyable two hour piece to create!