Friday, 17 April 2015

Developing the Mesoltihic- A Character

Stage 1: Silhouettes, some based off Mesolithic Cave painting silhouette figures. Stage2:  Picking 14 of these making them larger, developing them a little more 

Stage 3: Taking 5 of the 14 and developing these further to more realised forms

Just showing some of my process involved in making a character, in this case a Mesolithic hunter. I  started with what is quite common in character design, silhouettes, except for kicks, I decided to use Mesolithic Cave paintings from Spain to make it more interesting. They have a variety of great cave paintings from the period, but unlike previous periods where the artwork was quite detailed, in the Mesolithic, they are more like silhouetted figures. Great fun for character design though, as these hint at possible costumes and wild hair that they could have had. Now its possible these were just bad drawing mistakes on the part of the artists, but in this case since its concept design, I decided to go with the interpretation that they are based off real figures.

Probably the most fun was this wild hair hinted, some splayed in all sorts of directions, puting modern hairstyles to shame in their creative mess. This is especially cool since there is no finds which show what kind of hair they had at the time. Now to interpret the silhouettes I have to think how that hair would work in real life, now I know they didnt have gel nor mouse but maybe they used other things, like tying it in leather strings & wraps or even bent twigs. Also they had no combs back then, nor did they probably ever wash their hair, so they would have been thick matted dirty greasy messes on their heads, but on the flipside, probably easier to shape, like dreadlocks except made of matting. And while flint tools are sharp, they arent as precise as metal scissors so their haircuts would have been rough and ready.

I always try to think like this when doing artwork, what would have been possible, what has been found, but also imagine how the clothing/hair/jewelry would have been put together and what it would feel like to move in, and bear these in mind as I design the character,

Another thing I had to keep in mind was the idea that this guy was a hunter, so he couldnt be too mad decorative nor too noisy if he didnt want to startle his prey. The Spanish cave paintings had some really wild looking clothing though, that would be quite noisy but that may be because they hunted in packs in Spain as great herds of animals survived there like in Palaeolithic and noise may have helped in herding their prey. But in the case of Northern Europe there was no great herds anymore to hunt, so they mostly hunted aquatic animals, fish, seals etc. With the occasional hunting large prey in the woods, but this could take a long time to get one and also often ended in failure, so it was the aquatic life that was their more day to day food.

They also would have used snares and trapping to catch smaller animals. Bearing this in mind, I was allowed to be a bit creative in the cloth designs, because noise wouldnt have been as much an issue with fish, seals and trapping, and one can remove clothing/items before approaching a snare. Also one has to bear in mind that sometimes in prehistory by wearing certain animals, they thought they gained some of that animals attributes, so for spiritual reasons they may have hunted wearing them. Finally, they could have been travelling for quite a bit before they finally found prey, so they would have bring quite a bit with them, in case it took them a few days, not like they are moving house, but enough to sleep rough for a day or two. The bags and the like they would probably lay down then once they were near their prey. Of course it also depends in which part of the hunt you are showing them, on the search, or already found them and about to hunt, so the designs reflect these two ideas

Right thats enough of my jibber jabber. I hope you all gained some insight into the thinking that goes into the designing one of these. In the next phase, Im going to take 2 or 3 of these guys and roughly paint them, and then take one on to the final full painting and rendering. I plan to post once more with the conceptual work before I go onto the final. Till then!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Playing around with Corel Painter

After 10 attempts at painting different models from photos with Corel Painter, I'm finally getting something ok-ish from it, great program once you get the hang of it!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Reginalds Tower Sketches

Bone Flute, Hiberno Norse Waterford, 1150

Pricket Candlestick, Hiberno Norse Waterford, 1150

A few weeks ago I had a few hours to sketch in Reginalds tower in Waterford city. One of the best things about the city is its three museums with their great collections and Reginalds tower is one of them, well worth the €3 admission. If you're there to sketch though you have to seek permission from the OPW, and be only really one or two people as well as sign a waiver. But they are very good about it and nice, well worth asking their permissions department.

The above sketches are, the first is a a bone flute from Viking Waterford, or at that stage, Hiberno Norse Waterford, from 1150, its apparently from the bone of a swan or goose. The other is also from around the same time, its a Pricket Candlestick from 1070-1150, it said on the information plaque "its ensconced in a joint in masonry or in a wooden post"

Friday, 10 April 2015

Mesolithic Wanderer- Concept Art Character

I have been toying with the idea of doing concept art for games for some time, while I have played around with it on occasion this is my first serious attempt. Often when I do lots and lots..... and lots of research for archaeological illustration, I have to go with the safe route, sometimes I can be a little adventurous in my interpretations, but I can't go too far. But with concept art I can explore all those other ideas, that have to be left aside as being perhaps too out there as I build a portfolio. Where the image is more inspired by the evidence, rather than restrained by it. Plus all that research (I often end up doing more research than time on an image) just makes me itching to go out and play visually with the information, its great fun! :)

As I said the image is inspired by the evidence though, but also from working with archaeologists and talking with them (sorry if I cant remember which idea came from whom!). Rather than my usual as well of mostly basing imagery off Irish evidence, this image is a combination of Irish and European evidence from the Mesolithic. So for instance the tattoos are based off painted Mesolithic pebbles in southern France and northern Spain, the bow and arrows on Scandinavian evidence, while the back container is from Irish fish traps etc. (No reason they couldn't have used the same technology to make containers as well as fish traps!). It was nice to try and go for the bit more wilder version of the evidence, if you look at Otzi and the items and clothing they found on him, it was way out there, more than one could imagine it being, so the more imaginative interpretations may actually be closer to the truth than we think (or could just wishful thinking on my part too ;) ).

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A week of West Cork

The flatlands north of Claragh Mountain

Cairn at the top of Claragh mountain, outside Millstreet
Kilmartin Lower Ogham stones on the way home

Beautiful blue from the Goats path in Sheeps Head

Kilcrohane and Mizen head from Sheeps head

Sheeps Head loop

Sheeps Head lighthouse

Sheeps head showing off

Altar Wedge Tomb

The back of Dunlough castle

Seals basking in the sun on the way to Garinish Island

One of the spectacular views on Garinish Island

Nothing but spectacular on Garinish Island

Italian Temple on Garinish Island

Italian Castilla Garinish Island

Lady Bantry Lookout

Im just back from spending a week in west Cork exploring with long time artist friend Richard Smythe and his wife Jurgita.We spent a day climbing Claragh mountain and looking out over the fertile flatlands of North Cork, another strolling in the sunshine on the barren but beautiful Sheeps head, exploring archaeology on Mizen head and finished off with a relaxing day of sunshine and tremendous views in Garinish Island and Glengarriff woods.  Was a great week out, even with a multitude of seasons and weather, still had a great time, lots of laughs and more good memories than you could count!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Uragh & Gleninchaquin Park

Healy Pass

Waterfall at Gleninchaquin Park, looks like an angry monster head

Gleninchaquin Park

Cummeenadillure Loch 

Streams in the mountains above

The spectacularly situated Uragh Stone Circle

Uragh Stone Circle with friends
Just back from a week holiday with friends of mine who came over from Sussex, England, Landscape painter & Illustrator Richard Smythe and his wife Jurgita. The photos are from one of the days where we teamed up with Sceitse and braved the bad weather to do a loop at the base of Beara peninsula, stopping in the Northern part of the Beara, at the astounding scenic stone circle of Uragh and the beautiful Gleninchaquin Park. What a day!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Medieval Moated Site

An illustration of a Moated site based on Irish archaeological evidence. Moated sites were essentially Medieval fortified farms on the frontier between what was to become known in Irish as Galltacht & Gaeltacht, the area of Ireland that was culturally Anglo-Norman English/French/Flemish (Gallltacht) and the area that was culturally Gaelic (Gaeltacht). Originally moated sites were an introduction of the Anglo-Norman colony in Ireland during the 13th-14th centuries, with two possible reasons for their origin that I know of- 1: A second wave of colonisation from Britain and Europe, 2: since Anglo Norman colony in South & South East Ireland at the time was being used to supply food for English Armies in their wars in Scotland and France, the need for surplus grain could have pushed the existing Anglo Normans in Ireland into new lands to meet this demand. Moated sites can mostly be found in a line stretching from Wexford in the east across Kilkenny and South Tipperary to Kinsale/Bandon in Cork in the west. By the early 14th it looks like they were adopted by the Native Irish, as far afield as Roscommon, showing that the border wasn't just a place of hostility but also an area of interplaying and exchanging ideas. Because of this, the image could be either, an Anglo Norman or a Gaelic Moated site.

Another Anglo Norman introduction, later adopted by the native Irish were cruck buildings (like the reddish pink building in the image), brought to Ireland in the early 13th and adapted by the Gaelic Irish by the late 13th, early 14th centuries. These were buildings which had as their main structural component 2 halves of one tree used as a sort of A Frame, there were often 3 or 4 of these the length of the building. These were the main structural component with the rest of the building, like the walls, used just for weatherproofing. Of the other two buildings, one is a Timber Framed post & Truss barn and the other is a stave built outhouse. Normally Moated sites have been found to have one or two buildings, the layout of the 2 main buildings is based on Ballinvinny, but occasionally there is evidence of 3 like in Rigsdale. The 2 timber box framed buildings also show some of the range of the colours that medieval buildings had, besides the more Victorian fashion of Black & White. The red being a mix of blood and lime and the other raw sienna and lime. All the houses also show roofing that could have been used at the time, with the red house having wooden shingles (mentioned as being part of Ballyconnor moated site for instance), the barn thatch and the stave built or cleft timber house has a sod roof.

The plan of the moated site is a general one, loosely based on Mylerspark as well as others. Some Moated Sites have been found to be split in two,  like Coolamurray and Attflin, with one half believed to have been for habitation and the other to perhaps guard cattle from cattle raids, probably at night. Some are said to have had gate houses with drawbridges, the one shown is mostly based on evidence from Coolamurray in Wexford, but both Cloonfree and Stalleen probably had the same. Notice the leat that runs from the river? It was used to feed the moat, a common feature in moated sites, which besides defence the moats also probably had domestic uses like cleaning clothes or providing water to the household. Another defence besides the moat was the wooden palisade and bank as shown and some may have had towers in the corners or a defended area like the area in the top corner of the moated site in the image. As you could guess they wouldn't hold off a sustained attack from an army but they would have been a good defence against minor raids, which would probably have been the more normal low key warfare of the borders.

Finally shown here outside of the moated site are three circular houses called Creats. These were houses that essentially were built of wattle all the way from floor to apex of the roof, creating an inverted basket shape (think Clochán/Beehive hut but of wattle instead of stone). These are thought to have been the possible housing of the invisible people of the middle ages, the very lowest class of Irish society, the Betagh (similar to Cottiers in England), essentially the serf class, which the medieval world was built on the back of. While the Anglo Norman colony saw the introduction of a new upper class and alot of the peasants or free landowners (though some areas retained some Native Irish of this class) of Welsh, English, Flemish and French extraction, the serfs would have been Native Irish. As they were in the Gaelic society too, these people just changed masters, but some of the dispossessed Irish from other classes, like peasants, become Betagh in the new Anglo Norman colony too after they lost their land to the newcomers.


1. Housing in Later Medieval Gaelic Ireland- Kieran O'Conor
2. The archaeology of Medieval Ireland- T. B. Barry- Routledge Press
3. Medieval Ireland- Tadhg O'Keeffe- Tempus Publishing
4. Rural settlement and cultural identity in Gaelic Ireland-1000-1500 by Tadhg O'Keeffe
5. Rural Settlement in Medieval Ireland- In the light of recent archaeological excavations- Edited by Christiaan Corlett & Michael Potterton
6. Britain in the Middle Ages- Francis Pryor
7. Medieval Life- Archaeology and the Life Course- Roberta Gilchrist
8. Moated Sites- Muiris O'Sullivan and Liam Downey- Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Winter, 2006)
10. The Moated Site at Cloonfree, Co. Roscommon- Tom Finan and Kieran O'Conor
11. Ostrea Edulis Excavated on a Medieval Site in Co. Cork
12. In Search of the Barricade and Ditch of Ballyconnor, Co. Wexford
13. Socio-economic aspects of Irish Medieval Settlements
14. The illustrated Archaeology of Ireland
15. Home on the Grange (Big stone gates)- Stalleen townland, Donore, Co. Meath,- Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 23, No. 4 Winter, 2009
16. Peasant houses in Midland England-
17. Traditional Timber Framing - A Brief Introduction-
18. The Medieval Peasant House- J.G. Hurst
19. The Medieval peasant Building in Scotland: the beginning and end of crucks- Piers Dixon
20. Newtown Hall- The Cruck Buildings of North West England

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Walking with Archaeology

Open Cist tomb at Coumaraglin Mountain

Stone Circle nearby, great views north

Megalithic Standing stone at the side of the road

A prehistoric roundhouse up in the mountains

View of Dungarvan Bay from Crohaun Cairn

The view north from Crohaun Cairn

Spent today wondering around the South Western Comeraghs (Tho I think the south west are Monavullagh mountains) with Archaeologist friend Aurélien Burlot. Great day, absolutely amazing weather in a lovely scenic part of Ireland with loads of smaller archaeological sites hugging the slopes of the Seefin & Farbreaga mountains. Been a good while since I trekked across fields and bogs looking for those red dots in the map, always a rewarding adventure. I finished it off with a quick trek to the top of Crohaun mountain to see the view in good weather, it didnt disappoint 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dún Ailinne Sketch

Sketch of the Rose phase of Dún Ailinne or Knockaulin in Co. Kildare. An Iron Age royal site in Ireland and ceremonial site of the kings of Leinster. This is just a basic rough preliminary idea sketch of the site, I have much more research to do, along with site visits and sketches before I get anywhere near a final idea that I will draw up and paint. But after doing some preliminary reading this was the first idea to pop in my head, after more digging Im sure that will change. Im hoping to get around to do this as a finished piece this year in 2015, will depend on the time spare I have and other technical factors, we will see, so it begins anyway!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Anglo Norman Rural Settlement

An illustration of what a later medieval Anglo Norman rural settlement could have looked like, based on archaeological evidence in Ireland & Britain. Many excavations of rural sites in Ireland seem to be of 2 houses together, one longer and one shorter e.g. Caherguillamore, Boyerstown and Ballitore. The evidence points to various forms of construction techniques, some are thought to have been cob walled like the smaller of the two buildings here, shown with a straw thatch roof. The longer of the two building's is what is called a longhouse, built on a sill beams ontop of a stone foundation which helped keep the damp out of the wood. Its built in a vernacular style called Box frame timber construction and has heather thatch as its roof with a louvre, which was usually positioned directly above the hearth to let fire escape. The longhouses in Ireland seem to have been split into 2 rooms, a living area in one half and a byre in the other to house animals,  while in England there was generally the addition of a third room which was a corridor or entrance area.

Notice that the houses arent black & white which is what people normally expect to see with medieval houses, but apparently this was actually a 19th century convention, ie in Britain called Victorian. While the reality was that most commonly houses had earthy colours like ochres but also sienna's & umber's. Other types of colour were got with the addition of coal, dust, ash, blood, and stone dust to limewashes. Some of these sites had a cobbled surface around the houses like Caherguillamore, co. Limerick. Around the house is what they called the croft, which was a small area that had the house and its adjoining garden and orchard that some peasants holdings had, this was supposedly enough to make each croft self sufficient in food. The croft shown here is mostly and loosely based off evidence found in Cookstown, Co. Meath, where it had garden areas, one dug in a grid like pattern, the other lacking a discernable pattern, with an area that was possibly an orchard, like shown here.

The landscape around the site is inspired by Wexford, from visiting it a few times recently, its quite a flat landscape, and was also one of the areas with large Anglo Norman colonisation. The landscape they were surrounded by is the well known open field system, there is evidence the native Irish were already doing it in parts of the country but the Normans accelerated and extended the system. The open field system is where they had a 3 field rotation, two used for crops and one left go fallow for a year to recover, which they left animals pasture on, their manure fertilising the land. The 4 team plough in this illustration is shown with 4 bullocks and the plough itself is based on the Massareene plough found in Ireland, with the yoke and yoke system based on an illustration in the 14th century Luttrell Psalter in England.  The background stream has three artificial ponds and a leat cut into it, based on evidence found in Killegland, Co. Meath. Possibly used for fishing, as shown here.

At this stage in Ireland there was a variety of animals on farms here from cats and dogs, to horses, cows, geese, sheep and pigs. They also grew a variety of plants in their gardens like: leeks, onions, peas, leafy beets, colewort leaves, parsley, garlic and hyssop. This was also a very gender and age divided society with certain tasks partaken by women, others by men, children and old people. So for instance shown here are some of the tasks the different ages and sexes were meant to do ie the old people are working in the garden and the children are fishing at the pond.


1. Rural settlement and cultural identity in Gaelic Ireland-1000-1500 by Tadhg O'Keeffe
2. Medieval Ireland- Tadhg O'Keeffe- Tempus Publishing
3. Housing in Later Medieval Gaelic Ireland- Kieran O'Conor
4. The archaeology of Medieval Ireland- T. B. Barry- Routledge Press
5. Socio-economic aspects of Irish Medieval Settlements- Terry Barry
6. A New History of Ireland 2- Land & People- R.E. Glasscock
7. Rural Settlement in Medieval Ireland- In the light of recent archaeological excavations- Edited by Christiaan Corlett & Michael Potterton
8. Britain in the Middle Ages- Francis Pryor
9. Medieval Life- Archaeology and the Life Course- Roberta Gilchrist
10. Fieldscapes—Anglo-Norman Footprints- Muiris O'Sullivan and Liam Downey-Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Winter, 2007)
11. Home on the Grange- Mandy Stephens-Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Winter, 2009)
12. Medieval Landscape- The discovery of a medieval farmstead in Landscape, Co. Wexford- James Hession - Seanda issue 6- 2011
13. Medieval Settlement at Boyerstown- Kevin Martin- Seanda
14. Open-Field Farming in Medieval Europe: A Study of Village By-laws- Warren O. Ault- Routledge Press
15. Peasant houses in Midland England-
16. Traditional Timber Framing - A Brief Introduction-
17. The Medieval Peasant House- J.G. Hurst

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Sketches from Kilkenny

Kilkieran High Cross, South Kilkenny County

Sketch of a Mesolithic Hunter done during the Drink & Draw
Im a bit behind on things, but here are two sketches I did during the Kilkenny Sceitse a few weeks ago. In case you dont know, Sceitse is an open group of sketch adventurers, and we meet once or month or more to go sketch exploring somewhere in Ireland.

The first sketch is of Kilkieran High Cross, which was one of the many great sites we visited in southern county Kilkenny and the second is a sketch done while at the Drink & Draw in Kilkenny with our sister group Drink & Draw Kilkenny who teamed up with us and Cork Drink & Draw for the weekend. One of the best Sceitses I have been to for sure

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Sketching at Kilkenny

Kilmogue Neolithic Portal Tomb- 5k to 6k years old

Kilkieran Early Medieval High Cross- from around 1100 years ago

Ahenny High Cross, I ramped up the contrast so one can really see the designwork

The Neolithic Passage tomb at Knockroe- around 5k years old

The Late Medieval Kilkenny Castle

The view of Kilkenny from up on St. Canices Round Tower

Inside St Canices, a later Medieval Catheral in Kilkenny- built in the 12th century
Over the weekend myself and other sketchers from Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Laois & Sligo wondered around county Kilkenny and then in the city exploring its medieval heritage. Lovely part of Ireland, out in the county it has great prehistoric and early medieval monuments while at the city there is an incredible amount of medieval heritage there!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ancora Imparo- Im still learning

Kilmartin Upper Stone Circle, Cork- Gouache on HP paper self toned using ink, coffee and gesso
For the last week or so, over in the Islander blog, we have been doing a theme on our background and skills- self trained or educated in a college etc. So ill copy and paste my post on that blog here.

As for my background, oddly enough for a mad traditional artist I actually did Digital Design in my degree (on a side note, thats where I met fellow original Islander Richard Smythe), only in my Illustration masters did I start to drift more towards solely using traditional illustration work, though of course I did traditional in my degree too, just less so. Both are handy, as I have a innate knowledge of digital creative software because of the Degree, which is useful in this digital age, especially these days where Im starting to drift more and more towards digital in my work. And with the masters obviously illustration, self motivated and independence skills I learned still are very useful today.

I often hear though people talk about self trained vs college trained and I think the argument is largely irrelevant. Whether you get your knowledge from reading books and practising or listening to tutors and practicing, all of us have to continuously learn in our lives and probably will never stop. Even those who went to college still had to spend long hours self training in things not taught in college and after we finished college too we still had & have to (and probably forever more). So really for me there is no division and you should always be self teaching as well as picking up as much as you can from whichever sources work for you.

Which brings me to the title phrase of this post, a friend of mine, some of ye know her as 'Alexis', mentioned over the weekend the above 'Ancora Imparo' meaning- "Im still learning", referencing mans life long quest of learning, supposedly attributed to the 87 year old Michelangelo.

Alas, a quick google search sadly says its been misattributed to him, so destroying that great image of the aged master uttering these words (though on reflection, knowing some of Michelangelos life story, its seem improbable that he would never utter such humble words, being an arrogant so and so), but apparently it was a commonly phrase in Renaissance Italy, so it sums up that age in a way, as it does these current days too in my opinion and seems fitting to this months theme.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Little Forest Study

Just a little quick forest study sketch I did today. A6 in size, done using brush, dip pens, fineliners, a white pen and a stanley knife