Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Post Apocalypse Biker

Been reading alot of post apocalypse books in the last while, like the Road, I am legend, Wool etc. So just for fun I have been playing with the genre

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Medieval Mongolian Warrior

In my opinion the mongols were the greatest empire that ever lived. Why? While the later European Empires had more land, they won by technological superiority, so in the Americas, with the Spanish, and later other Europeans, it was Renaissance technology versus late Neolithic/Copper age technology, cannon vs flint essentially. In the later European Empires, especially in Africa & Asia, it was 19th Century technology vs medieval, steel swords vs gatling guns. But with the Mongols they took on people their equal in technology or even more often, their superior, the Chinese, the Islamic Caliphate, even European heavy cavalry, and they still defeated them all. They used their militaristic prowess, and their tactical and strategic brilliance to defeat foes that on paper, should have easily trounced them.

The mongols were not the most heavily armored, in fact if caught by a heavy cavalry charge they would been destroyed, they also could not even sustain alot of fighting with heavy infantry. Instead the mongols relayed on their mobility, and their discipline, their ability to feign retreat, encircle and strike again, showed unmatched discipline which they gained from years of training. Constantly keeping their enemies at arms length till it was time for them to launch the killer blow. This often worked too because their enemies were the superior, whose arrogance led them to charge headlong at them, not understanding who they were fighting against.

They travelled quick too as they did not have a baggage train, this made them have the weakness of relaying on foraging, which the Egyptian Mameluks used to their advantage, using scorched earth tactics to starve them. But this also allowed them to gain the strategic ability to move fast, and often surprise their enemies with how quickly they showed up and the ways they could travel, across a desert for instance. They also had no issue about using sneaky tactics, convincing an enemy to change sides and then when they won, destroy them too or taking the offer of betraying a city, then sacking the city and killing the traitors. The Mongols hated treachery, they of course were practical and used it when if it was offered, but they always punished it after.

Its not all good though, the Mongols have been rightly condemned for essentially putting entire cities to the sword but this was a common tactic of the time, make an example of someone who resisted and others would not. Still in modern eyes this is monstrous and there can really be no justification for things like this in my opinion. Overall though,the Mongols came from nomadic herders in the steppes to creating the greatest empire ever made, against foes their superior, using surprise and tactics and their enemies own arrogance against them. Their military genius was even still studied in WWII by the Germans & Russians for ways to use tanks in warfare and their empire is still a fascination in the modern era when most empires are very unpopular.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Tower House retouch

Recently I have been going over some of my older images and retouching them a bit, like this old image I did in 2015. Its of a tower house, which were a type of late medieval Irish castle, believed to have originated around 1300, or sometime within the 14th century, but most are probably from the 15th to the 17th centuries. They are found quite commonly around Ireland, an estimate on the number originally built ranges from 3,500 by some sources, to 7,000 by others, even today, most of Ireland remaining 3,000 castles are tower houses. By the 17th century, this would have made Ireland the most heavily castelllated part of the British Isles. The tower house signifies changes in Ireland, in one hand it shows a resurgence in Gaelic power in the west and the slow reconquest of Ireland, after years of decline following the coming of the Normans in from the 12th century. On the other side it is a sign of the collapse of centralised power in the form of the English monarchy and a rise in decentralisation. This decentralisation of power was to continue in Ireland from the 14th century to the early 17th century with the final (and the first complete) conquest of Ireland by Queen Elizabeth.

Tower houses can be found elsewhere too, across the water in Scotland and Northumbria and on the continent in France also, some have even suggested at times these areas are the origin of the tower house in Ireland but most now believe the origin lies in a native progression, starting in the Anglo Norman areas and spreading West. It was in the West and South though, that they can be found in most abundance and also in the most evolved and elaborate forms. Tower houses were actually built by various parts of Irish society, while the major lords kept building large enclosure castles or extending them, some also built smaller tower houses, but it was mostly the lesser tenants who were building them,  and it spread further down the chain to even priests and rich merchants building them in the towns. In fact some argue that the proliferation of tower houses was a sign of a new class rising and making itself heard.

It has been found in some surveys in certain areas, that 1 tower house in 5 has a Bawn wall in Ireland, a Bawn is the external wall you see attached to the castle shown here. The bawn here is based on a combination of evidence, including; Barryscourt, Dunlough, Kilcrea castles, among others. The actual design of the tower house itself though is nearly entirely based on Kilcrea tower house, in Cork, my favourite tower house and one which I have visited a few times and read extensively on. The only changes to the overall design of Kilcrea was the inclusion of a second chimney for the kitchen room inside, and the machicolation (the spikes you see that come down off the top floor, which had gaps in the floor to drop objects on attackers, based off Blarneys), I added these elements so the castle would be more representative of Tower houses as a whole. Also the crenellation (the regular gaps in the walls at the roof & bawn, which provided cover for archers) in the castle are a style specific to late medieval Ireland, the bawn crenellation are based off Blarney castle.

Notice as well how white the tower house is? This is probably how most tower houses would have looked, as they were coated with a substance called Harling, a mixture of limewash and crushed pebbles. Because of this, commentators at the time often mention the white gleaming castles of the Irish, as you can imagine these would have been visible for miles around and been quite a symbol of power and prestige. You may also see the little figure on the dark side wall of the tower house, these were Sheela-na-gigs, a type of sculpture common in Ireland at the time, this one is based off the one in Ballynacarriga castle. Tower houses are believed to have been surrounded by mixed farming, some cereal with animal husbandry too as shown in the illustration. Often they are found associated with churches and friaries, some were even built attached to churches, and some probably werent too far from some sort of clustered settlement. The natural landscape around the castle is actually inspired by the Lee valley basin around Kilcrea castle.Note as well the dry moat, not all tower houses had moats, but some did, like Kilcrea, so I included it here.

Notice also the slight batter (where the wall comes outwards at the bottom to defend against a battering ram), also in the bawn towers.  As you can see though, the real bling in the tower house is the top of it, this is where most showing off happened with turrets, crenellations, chimneys, gabled/pitched roofs and machicolations, as shown here. Another place they showed off was the ashlar(fine finished masonry) windows, the top floor in Kilcrea was believed to be the hall with the floor directly below the lords chambers, hence why they have the nicest windows, especially the hall floor. Also notice the variety of windows, some were narrow slits just for archers to fire from inside, others have the addition of a cross slit, which could be used by crossbows too and then there were others with either triangular or circular holes, these were for later fire arms, some windows even had all three. All these windows, except for the decorative ones on the top floors, would have been splayed inwards allowing maximum cover for archers in the event of an attack.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018


I have been having alot of fun recently developing worlds, here is another one I have been working on. Inspired by the stories of Cabeza De Vaca and Francisco de Orellana. It tells the other story of the Conquistadors, while alot were in involved in bloody conquest, many ended up getting lost or stranded and wondering the Americas. Some even joining the side of the natives against their fellow Europeans, others spent their lives battling for the rights of the natives. Others still became great explorers in their own right, being the first non Americans to set eyes on the wonders of the new world. And encountering other peoples who up till then had no experience of each other. This is probably about as close as we will ever come to meeting aliens, both for Europeans and Americans, we were both complete aliens to each other, and as about as strange to each other as if we had just landed from space ships

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Rus Viking & Medieval Characters

The Varangian Baddies

The daughter of the hero of the story, both of whom live out in the wilds of russia as Trappers
A sword prop for another character Im developing for the Viking world

The villain of the Serf medieval world, the main noble

Head merchant, the world is essentially the merchants vs the nobles, the merchants working to undermine the nobles power, with espionage

The hero of the medieval world, the serf

One of the beggars helping the merchants

Sword prop for one of the medieval characters Im working on

Some of the characters I have been developing for the Viking & Medieval worlds

Monday, 14 May 2018

Rus Viking Streets

Here is a more developed image from the town in the Rus Viking world Im playing around creating. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Coast Study

Having alot of fun doing these sort of quick daily paint studies, great way of sharpening your painting skills

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Serf- more medieval sketches

Some more sketches of the medieval world Im making for fun, they just show some possible location ideas to develop further. 

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Just another study

One of the studies I have been doing recently, keeping them between 30- 50 mins

Sunday, 25 March 2018

From 2D to 3D

Just to give a behind the scenes of my process, one thing that often isnt mentioned by illustrators is perspective, while its not as snazzy as other parts of the process, it creates a strong foundation for everything to be built apon and unified with. Its also one of those processes which takes years and years to master, and seems to be something you can never know enough about. 

Accurate map of Khufus pyramid redrawn and tilted for use as reference
 I spent years doing all my perspective by hand, first traditionally and then digitally by hand, I used to use alot of the old school techniques for calculating aspects in space, so for instance every space was calculated by breaking it down to squares and multiplying those squares in space. This could be very complicated like the tower house or just more about accurate spacing like the Pyramid.

In the pyramid I took the accurate map of Khufus pyramid in Ghiza and broke it down to squares, I think each square represented a 100m or breakdown of this, ie like half a square is 50m (its been a while since I did this so cant remember 100%) and then multiplied that back in space. It wasnt 100% accurate but it was in the ball park.

Bases of mastabas and accurate drawing of pyramids in perspective

Final drawing
Final painting

Doing it by hand was long, tedious and prone to human error. In reconstruction work you need to be as accurate as you can be, as there is alot of guesswork after a certain point, so this way of working has its limits, unless you wanted to do the much longer accurate architectural solutions but in commission work one has to bear in mind the budget and time restraints, no one wants an accurate architectural drawing as your final output.

Some of the interior perspective calculations of the interior, floor space widths and lengths were based on accurate maps of floors in Kilcrea castle. You can also see the figures from ground floor to upper floors accurate to each other and even the nightmare of a spiral staircase drawn by hand.

Final interior painting

But there is another way of working, and thats 3D. This is much more accurate, and its also faster, so saves time for both me and the client. What I do use an accurate map of the town like in Clonmel, as a base and then build my model on top. One of the criticisms of reconstruction illustration is its lack of accuracy but with 3D the layout is exact as one can be in layout and stays within budget and time limits.

Goubets 1690 map was used as a base as my clients believed this was the most accurate early street map and would have been more or less the same in the Cromwell siege 50 years earlier, except the addition of ravelins (the external V shaped things in front of the walls & gates)

Down survey map, we used this as the main source for the walls and gates besides what is extent at the site now
3D model of Clonmel over the map, you can see the shape of the plots and the streets are made in 3D and are based on Goubets map, the types of housing and buildings was decided after reading other historical sources.

Then I use this model as a base to paint over. Here is final painting of Clonmel
Plus, perhaps the most important part of it is that 3D allows one to spend your creative energy and time on the other aspects of an image, like the actual painting, the fun art part of a reconstruction. But drawing perspective by hand is an extremely important skill, one often neglected by younger artists these days, who jump straight to 3D or just a program to do their perspective.

Understanding perspective in an indepth way allows you to warp and change your perspective according to your narrative or expressive needs, and also is faster when doing quick sketches in both traditional and digital drawing/painting. 3D may be more accurate but its also takes longer to produce, which is fine for longer images and reconstruction paintings but a real weakness when you need to bang out a sketch in 5 mins or even 45 mins to an hour, as precious time is waisted in 3D. Both have their place of course and neither should be neglected in modern illustration in my opinion.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Photoshop sketches

Been playing with painting in Photoshop over the last while, great brushes out there to play with, here are some quick sketches that I did

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Clonmel Town- During the Cromwellian Siege

Clonmel town

A few months back I was hired by Tipperary county Council and Tipperary County museum to do an illustration of Clonmel at the time of the Cromwellian attack. The final image above shows what the town looked like just before Cromwells cannon open fire on the walls. As you can see it still had its medieval character, this was true of towns all over the British Isles. In England and Ireland at the time of Cromwell they still hadn't found the need to update the walls to bastion walls common on the European mainland. This is the advantage Cromwell brought to bear in his sieges here and there, he used modern cannon tactics against medieval walls. In the middle ages the higher the wall, the better, this was to stop siege towers, ladders etc from getting over. But in the coming of the canon the opposite was true, taller meant a larger target to hit and also thinner, so less likely to survive a barrage of cannon for long. Bastion walls were instead lower and with extremely thick earthern ramparts to take some of the shock of a canon ball hitting the stone facing.

Clonmel shown here has still got most of its medieval aspects intact, we did quite a bit of research into the town, surviving maps as well as what is extent to construct the town. The Down survey map of 1657 was the basis for the walls and even the drawbridge shown between the bridge and the town walls, this was aided by sections of the town wall which survive and excavations in areas which they don't. While the street and plot layout were based on the more accurate 1690 map of Clonmel by J. Goubet.  I actually underlayed the latter map combined with a more accurate map of the walls as a base to get the exact proportions of the town and its walls at the start of the illustration. What was inbetween these features was based on research of what was probably there in the town, including stone buildings and tower houses near the various gates. The market cross is where you can see the gathering of the people in the centre, this along with the abbey, and the church off in the distance at top still survive in Clonmel town, albeit with modifications or in the case of the market cross, off the road now.

The Siege of Clonmel took place April 1650. Clonmel is actually one of  battles which Cromwell lost most  of his troops in a single day in Ireland. Cromwell came to Clonmel looking to rush the siege with an assault, as he had trouble at home he needed to get back to. He battered at the walls for a few days and forced a breach. But little did he know, that the town was defended by a group of hardened northerners, lead by  Hugh Dubh ("Black Hugh") O'Neill , who had spent the last decade or so fighting in the confederate wars in Ireland and before that, many were veterans of many campaigns in mainland Europe in Spains armies.

They had prepared a trap for the English troops, as the English reached the breach they faced no opposition. They came in confidently in a large group, but soon became bottled in between makeshift channeling fortifications, one on each side of them. As the first troops came to the end they were met with a large barricade.  The first shouted "halt", the people in the back believing that the halt was meant for the defenders running away, pushed on to get in on the action. This created a huge press of men, the defenders picked this moment and opened fire from their fortifications, from the windows around and even had some cannon hidden in the houses surrounding it. It was a slaughter, men pressing in while others desperately tried to get out the firing, eventually the infantry retreated in disarray. At this Cromwell sent his best, his cavalry, veterans of many battles in Britain, they dismounted and moved towards the breach, again full of confidence. They too found themselves traped and sitting ducks and after heavy casualties were forced to retreat. In total it was something in the region of 2,500 English died that day.

That night the northerners with their ammunition nearly spent, knew it was to time to join the rest of the Confederate army in Waterford. O'Neill told the mayor of the town to entreat with Cromwell but not to tell him they had gone. The northerners withdrew that night and the day after the Mayor went to surrender the town in terms. These terms were that the town would not be pillaged or the townsfolk punished. Cromwell not willing to lose more of his troops and needing more than ever to return home, agreed to the terms. Once they were signed he was told that O'Neill had retreated the night before, which of course threw Cromwell into a rage but to his credit, after he calmed down, he honored the agreement he had signed.

O'Neill was to live another day and fight on the Confederate wars, while Cromwell left the remaining war in the hands of his son in a law,Henry Ireton and returned to England. Clonmel was one of his bitterest victories but the war was drawing to a close as the Royalists started to capitulate and the Irish catholics were left on their own to fight the remainder of the war. More about the siege and Clonmel in general can be found at the Tipperary county museum, here on facebook at Tipperarycountymuseum

But also here:


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Serf- a medieval world

I have also been building a medieval world while working on the Viking one, this time based in the later middle ages and around serfdom. The above show a selection of some of the quick B&W sketches I do to explore some of the locations and their spaces before I decide on what to bring forward

Sunday, 11 February 2018

More Rus Viking Exploration Sketches

Overview sketches of the Viking market and its central slave block
Exploring rhythms and spaces of the market
Playing with options for the Shipyard
Exploring the various rhythms and spaces of the streets of the town

The jetty part of the town explorations
Some options for the design of the main fortress within the town

A selection of some explorative B&W sketches of the Rus Viking world Im developing.