Saturday, 27 April 2019

New project announcement: Dr Sam's Birds of the World!

So, over the last few months I have been working on a brand new project! Inspired by the positive reception of my bird artwork, I decided to put them in a form that means even more people can enjoy my beautiful feathered friends!

And so... *drum roll*

I am delighted to announce the first of my new colouring book series, Dr Sam's Birds of the World!

Dr Sam's Birds of the World Colouring Book

This volume contains 20 of my bird illustrations, now in beautiful black and white with impressively detailed hand-drawn backgrounds, for you to colour however you see fit...

Dr Sam's Birds of the World Colouring Book: Bald Eagle
The majestic bald eagle!

These 20 bird species are all native to North America, and future volumes will cover the other continents...

Dr Sam's Birds of the World Colouring Book- Painted Buntings
A pair of painted buntings!

This volume will be released on 9th May 2019, available from Amazon worldwide. Watch this space as I will update with links to purchase the book directly once it's published, as well as a full downloadable preview of one of the birds.

Dr Sam's Birds of the World Colouring Book: Blue Jay
A blue jay

I'm really excited about this, and I hope you'll also be looking forward to some birds to colour very soon!

Friday, 12 April 2019

My Art Journey (Part 2)

Welcome to Part Two of my Art Journey! I strongly recommend reading Part one first, so you can see how I got here!

Last time I was enjoying myself in fanart and dabbling in digital media, but then my life was about to change...

Phase 4: Trying my own- Zodiac Hunters!

So, as I alluded in my last post, there was a game I played that inspired me so thoroughly I decided to make my own original character. That game was Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube, and I was so impressed with its immaculate writing, worldwide spanning plot and scope that it was enough to make me go 'right, I can have a go at an original idea too!'.

I decided to draw my original character first, before I had any idea about name, or who they were, or anything. So I did.

My first original character, Nick!

Once I knew what he looked like, I went in for the other details. I named him Nick, and he was a sorceror (I was quite into the anime Sorcerorous Stabber Orphen at the time- I told you that tidbit would come into play again!).

I drew him a few more times, then gave him a companion named Seth, a treasure hunter, and then another called Midnight, who was a thief.

My first drawing of the three of them together!

...and a much improved version later as I refined my designs!

A few more refinements and changes and these became the main characters of my first original story idea, the Zodiac Hunters. I also designed my majestic 'Zodiac Beasts' who were an integral part of that story.

My Zodiac Beasts! Unfortunately this image has been repeatedly stolen, hence the rather obtuse watermark.

In between this, though, I continued with various fanart, drifting away from anime and sticking more to games such as Final Fantasy VIII, Skies of Arcadia, Prince of Persia and Tales of the Abyss. This continued well after I started university and medical school, and it was there that the game Fire Emblem's beautiful art style caught my eye. I loved the semi-realistic faces and intricate fantasy costumes (that weren't overblown to surrealism like in Final Fantasy), and I delved into that. Being in medical school also helped my anatomy and proportions, as I was learning it at the same time.

Some Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn fanart, featuring my favourite character Sothe (with the white scarf) and Tibarn (the guy with the eagle wings!)

And it was from here that I jumped right into my next phase...

Phase 5: A New Era of Azaria

Unfortunately, try as I might, Zodiac Hunters never got much off the ground. It was far too ambitious, complex and beyond my current skill-level as a writer, as I discovered once I joined a writer's group called Authonomy.

I became good friends with Lisa Wiedmeier, author of the Timeless series, and for fun drew a lot of her characters as it was a chance to get away from the manga-style and try something more realistic. This proved extremely challenging however (and it still is!). My early attempts were quite horrifying, smack in the middle of the uncanny valley! Luckily Lisa was very patient and not too brutal, and in fact helped me decide to give up on Zodiac and try a new story.

Callon, one of Lisa's characters from her Timeless series, drawn with permission of the author

I thence came up with the concept for The Binding, and accordingly designed my characters too. This time I knew my characters' names and roles beforehand, and soon enough I had a visual idea of what they would look like, too:

Eliza Bryant, heroine of my novel 'The Binding'

Initially I stuck to my usual anime style, until I discovered a wonderful deviantart tutorial called 'Manga to Realistic'...

Phase 6: From Manga to Realistic

This tutorial was life-changing, as it finally gave me a basis to transition to a more realistic art style. Sadly the author appears to have deleted it, so I won't repost the original as I don't have their permission, but you can view it here. This was a series of tutorials that went over the differences between manga-style art and realism, and set out how to draw facial features separately.

I had been looking for a tutorial like this for ages, and I was delighted to get practising ASAP. My Azaria characters were the beneficiaries, and in months I made good progress. I even dabbled in some fanart as well, marvelling at the difference in quality. I had always been stuck at this transition for so very long, and it was amazing to see that I finally had the tools to knock down the wall I'd been staring at for years!

I re-did a drawing of Squall, the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII. The difference is quite staggering!

And a redraw of my Azaria characters, Eliza and Ryan

At last I was heading in the direction I wanted to. My art was becoming more realistic, my own characters were coming out closer to how I saw them in my head...

And then...

Phase 7: Year of the Dragon Age

On the recommendation of a close friend I picked up the game Dragon Age: Origins, as she felt the themes and setting were up my alley. Admittedly I was reluctant, but when I saw the game for £2.50 for my Playstation 3 I thought 'why not'. It turned out to be a great investment, as I fell in love with the franchise and its characters!

I was very late to this particular party (the game came out in 2009 and I played it for the first time in 2016) but I didn't mind. The characters and setting were intriguing, the setup unusual (this was the first Western RPG I'd ever played), and of course it inspired my art. It had been a long time since I'd drawn fanart, having focused on my Azaria characters for the most part, but this brought me back.

And so I had to draw my Grey Warden, which is a self-made player character with a specific background:

My Grey Warden, Elissa Hannah Cousland

It wasn't long until I picked up the other two sequels and this became my new obsession. Given that Dragon Age was a much more realistic-in-design game (compared to the JRPGs before it), it helped me further progress.

My Grey Warden and Leliana, a companion character

That same friend also started getting massively into Overwatch, and while I personally am not interested in multiplayer only games, I did and still do admire the character designs. Once again this helped push me towards a more realistic style, as did the discovery of some Youtube critique channels and looking at more tutorials that I'd not thought to search for.

This is my reality...Symmetra from Overwatch!

Alas, despite the heaps of progress I'd made, I hit another wall. That final step to complete realism just seemed to elude me, no matter how much I practised or referenced or looked at various tutorials. This became extremely frustrating, especially when I'd improved so much in a short space of time. My love affair with Dragon Age also seemed to dry up overnight, as I lost the passion for it I once had, and my inspiration started to wane.

Seeing as I was getting no-where, I thought to myself, perhaps a break was due. After finishing my RCGP exam (final GP training exam) in 2016, I now had the time to draw more than ever, but I was perhaps overdoing it.

So I looked back to when I started, to the nature art that had captivated me as a child. And I realised, for some time I had been harbouring a desire to draw birds. Every time I saw majestic photographs, or saw them on holiday, it had stirred a desire to draw, one that I hadn't even realised.

Thus this was the ideal time to take a break from my fanart and characters, and try something new...

Phase 9: Era of the Bird

This was one of the best decisions I made. It took a whole new part of my brain to draw birds rather than people, and suddenly the inspiration was back. It has got to the point where if I see a species I have not seen before and it captivates me with its beauty, I will drop whatever I am doing to draw it. I have never had this feeling with art before, and I absolutely adore this new drive to create!


With a near-infinite species list to choose from, I could draw any bird of any colour, size, shape and more, and learn to improve my skills at drawing from reference. It has also helped me draw much faster and more regularly, which are only beneficial. It has helped me with colour and values, with lighting and shading, how to create softer feather textures, and much more.

And so this is where I am today! I am still practising at people in the background, slowly but surely, but for the moment I thoroughly enjoy my birds and they will continue to be my mainstay for the time being.

I also have an exclusive bird-art only instagram account, so if you'd like to follow please find me @maddoctorartist

Whew, what a journey! From my humble school art, to anime, then games and now back to the natural beauty of birds!  Who knows what the next 22 years will hold for my art journey? I'm excited to find out!

What was your art journey like, if you too are an artist? I'd love to know!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

My Art Journey (Part 1)

I've been drawing for a fair amount of time, around 22+ years, and it's something I continue to enjoy immensely to this day. I actually gave up Art as a formal subject at age 14 (mostly because I had to study sciences for my future career in medicine, but also because if I had to draw another goddamn still-life I was going to break my pencils in half!), but that didn't stop me pursuing it in my own time.

My drawings have come a long way since I first started, and it's interesting to see the various phases I've had. So, given that I'm in a very different place where I began, I've decided to look back on my art journey and see how I've arrived here.

Phase 1: Where it Began

The very first drawings I ever did were...Sonic the Hedgehog! I got a SEGA Mega Drive age 5 with Sonic 1 bundled in, and while I used to burst into tears when I couldn't get past Marble Zone (the second level), something about the plucky blue hedgehog drew me to him. Literally haha!

A very early drawing of Dr Robotnik (I was probably between 6-8 years old)
A very early drawing of Dr Robotnik (I was probably between 6-8 years old)

I even made a Sonic board game, drawing the individual panels, which I'm still rather impressed with.

Behold the days when doctors could accept useful office stationary from the pharmaceutical companies!
Behold the days when doctors could accept useful office stationary from the pharmaceutical companies!

As I grew older and art became a more formal subject at school, I started to enjoy it even more. I was especially interested in nature art, such as flowers and animals. It also helped that I had an extremely talented art teacher who was very encouraging of my ability. I can still remember when, not long after I had started my new school year, she caught me in the corridor and casually told me I was in the school's art club- which was quite prestigious as only kids with promising potential were allowed to join it! It made me feel very proud, and I enjoyed attending every Monday morning before lessons.

Sadly she passed away from tetanus about two years after I was in the art club, which was devastating. Her replacement wasn't nearly as enthusiastic, but I continued on, remaining a part of the school art club and making interesting fun projects such as ink paintings:

An ink pattern based on a peacock feather
An ink pattern based on a peacock feather

However, nature wasn't always a possible drawing subject, and I got very, very tired of constantly being told to draw still-lifes (which was eventually what made me drop Art quicker than a boiling metal pan handle). Plus, since I wasn't actually being taught useful things like how to identify a light source, measuring from a reference, shading etc (which I all had to teach myself years later, and am still learning!), I didn't find these types of drawing exercise useful.

The joys of...fruit and veg...yaaaay...
The joys of...fruit and veg...yaaaay...

On the days we were allowed more artistic freedom, however, I dove straight for animals. These were much more interesting and dynamic than plain old fruit and kettles, and I loved sketching them. Elephants and tigers were my most favoured, as well as dolphins and foxes.

Hear me roar!
Hear me roar!

Dolphins were my favourite animal at the time and this showed!
Dolphins were my favourite animal at the time and this showed!

It's supposed to be a fox, I promise you!
It's supposed to be a fox, I promise you!

And so, as I left to start secondary school age 14, I left my humble beginnings for the next phase of my art journey...

Phase 2: 'It's Anime not Pokemon!'

During the ages of 12-14 I drifted away from drawing in my leisure time, sticking to only drawing in school for projects rather than my own amusement. It was only when I moved to secondary school that I got back into it, as at that time I also started to get into Japanese animation, or 'anime' as it's more commonly known.

The anime Tekkaman Blade (or as I knew it, Teknoman) aired on Fox Kids in the UK, and I got really into it. Thus my thirst for drawing came back, and I started drawing the characters from the show. Yes, like so many artists out there, anime was also one of my first forays!

(insert image of my Teknoman art- sadly I don't seem to have kept any!)

Once Teknoman ended I fell further into the anime whirlpool, starting to watch things such as Evangelion, Love Hina and many more. I also got into Japanese RPG games, namely the Final Fantasy series, with Final Fantasy IX being my first (and still favourite) of the franchise.

I became known for drawing at school, but of course as Pokemon was far more popular I got colloquially known as the 'Pokemon drawer'. Prompting the always-to-fall-on-deaf-ears protest that makes the name of this phase!

Presenting Asuka from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion...along with a sticker one of my friends added as I often put these pictures on my locker!
Presenting Asuka from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion...along with a sticker one of my friends added as I often put these pictures on my locker!

Orphen from the anime Sorcerous Stabber Orphen...I was rather obsessed with his character design, which you will see comes into play later down the line...
Orphen from the anime Sorcerous Stabber Orphen...I was rather obsessed with his character design, which you will see comes into play later down the line...

Thus drawing became a firmly establishing pastime, and so it was only inevitable that...

Phase 3: Deviantart and the Fanart Frenzy!

So, deviantart (at the time at least, in the early 2000s) was the biggest website to view and post art, mostly fanart of games, anime, books and everything else in between. I badly wanted to join...alas let me tell you a tale...

My history with deviantart is a little weird. In 2003, for some reason anyone who used AOL as their primary ISP (internet service provider) was blocked to make accounts on the site. I think it had something to do with troll accounts or something, and the code of the website just didn't allow for specific blocking of the troublemakers.

Of course, guess who had AOL. This was massively disappointing, as I adored the art there and wanted a place to save my favourites and post my own work.

Lo, as luck would have it, an online friend who had BT internet kindly created an account on my behalf, and it's been mine ever since. This was also when I managed to find a graphics tablet from John Lewis, and thus I ventured into digital art for the first time (see my post on Essential Tools of my Art to learn more).

Most of my early deviantart work was fanart, again from various anime as I was growing quite a taste for it, along with my favourite video games (funny how the two often coincide, isn't it?). My software of choice was Paint Shop Pro initially, but eventually I graduated to Adobe Photoshop, which has been my mainstay until very recently (I still use it to colour, but I now use FireAlpaca for lines first).

Arima and Yukino from the anime KareKano, my first ever digital piece!
Arima and Yukino from the anime KareKano, my first ever digital piece!

Looks familiar? The digital version of the Asuka pencil drawing from earlier!
Looks familiar? The digital version of the pencil drawing from earlier!

However, one day, everything changed, and that was when I played a game that opened the door to me creating my own characters, and taking the next step on my journey...

To be continued in Part 2!