The art of Iain Macarthur

I came across the illustration work of Iain Macarthur a couple of weeks ago via the french magazine Be Street, and felt compelled to hunt down and post some of his work. I rarely buy magazines based on the cover design, but this was certainly an exception when I saw Iain’s cover for the current Be Street, which is the topmost image above. Beautiful.

I grabbed a handful of Iain’s work to feature here, but don’t be fooled as he has a very diverse selection of drawings and designs on all of his various portfolio accounts. I really enjoy his intricate drawing ability, creating textured and detailed work full of interest and wonder. You can stare at any one of these drawings and continue to see new little things in there.

I recommend checking out more from this UK artist via his blog, his Behance, and his Carbonmade. And while you’re at it, swing by Be Street to check out this awesome magazine.

Official Classic vectors

The guys over at Official Classic in Budapest have been pumping out some amazing vector works for the past while, all of which are available for purchase and download. I only grabbed a few of their robot images, but don’t be fooled has they have an ever expanding library of top notch stuff, including vehicles, weapons, geometric shapes, gamepads, buildings . . . the list goes on. But I really do enjoy those wacky robots.

Swing over to Official Classic to check out their full excellent library.

Brass Tack Apparel

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed me mention Brass Tack Apparel a few times. Brass Tack is a conceptual clothing line created by Joshua Smith, the mighty Hydro74. I’ve been a fan of Josh’s work for a long time, and it was really exciting to see him update his Twitter with new designs as he built this project from the ground up.

Not only are the designs beautiful, but there is a solid idea behind what he is doing. It’s best said in his own words:

“Brass Tack is a Orlando based concept from the mastermind Hydro74. The idea is to promote the art and iconic production of symbolic relevance with intellectual idealism founded on a secret society level. The Brass Tack clothing line is dedicated to lush quality, simply stated themes, unique imagery that centers around graphical interpretations of the lost art of underground secret social systems that hide their ideology in plain sight. The core concept in the end is never to establish, but in the end, it has always been there or lived in some form or another.”

I’ve been rocking my Masonic shirt for a month now, excellent quality. It’s Spring and if you are looking for a spot to get some wicked new t-shirts, I highly recommend checking out The Brass Tack.

“My Desk is 8-bit” by Alex Varanese

Alex Varanese is at it again, this time with a motion piece entitled “My Desk is 8-bit”. This work carries Alex’s signature color palette and grittiness, injects some super fun NES visuals and audio and wrapped in a stop-motion style. Crazy idea inspired by the likes of … Michel Gondry and R-Type? Haha, love it!

Be sure to swing by Alex’s website to check his work, his Twitter to say hello and check the process article he wrote for Signalnoise.

Signalnoise Tutorial: Rainbow Shards

As some of you know, I spoke at FITC Toronto last month where I included a small and simple Photoshop tutorial on how I achieved the rainbow shard effect seen in many of my poster designs over the last few years. What I showed to the crowd was a stripped down version so I could demonstrate easily and quickly how the effect was created in about 4 minutes. We can’t have only those who attended have all the fun, so here is the web version of the tutorial in the exact way I presented it at the conference.

But before we begin, please PLEASE try experimenting with various steps along the way. I understand tutorials are meant to be a map from point A to point B where you can create the exact results shown, but screw that. Try your own stuff, add images, change the shapes, switch up the colors. Anyone can read and follow instructions, it’s the exploration and playing that makes it your own and can lead down other creative paths. I endorse learning, not replicating.

Bear that in mind, and lets get to it.

Step 1: In Adobe Illustrator, create some basic shapes using a few varying degrees of greys. Try to get a good range so they don’t look so monotone. If you are looking to get things lining up later on, be sure to hold down the Shift key while making these so all lines are perfectly horizontal, vertical or 45º.

Experiment tip! After you’ve run through this tutorial once, try creating some other shapes to play with later on. It’s super fun, trust me.

Step 2: I originally used Flash in order to create these random little groups, but you really don’t have to. Take the shapes you created in Step 1 and make a few groups with a variety of size and dispersal. Take a bit of time here to play with the shapes and get the groups looking as random and interesting as possible. If you are adjusting lengths, be sure to hold down the Shift key to maintain that 45º angle so things line up properly.

Experiment tip! Seriously, don’t cut corners here because it will hurt you later. The more interesting the groups are here will improve depth later. Try using different shapes and arrangements to see what results they might yield. Think of these groups as your tools, the better they are the better they will work for you.

Step 3: Copy and paste 2 of the groups you just created into Photoshop onto a black canvas, then drop the opacity of these layers down to 50% each. Expand the size of the shapes a bit so they bleed off. You can set the dimensions of the canvas to whatever you like, I just chose this format because my it was for my Keynote presentation.

Step 4: Copy and paste 2 more groups of shapes into Photoshop on top of the previous ones from Step 3. Again, expand the groups so they bleed off the edges of the canvas.

Step 5: Set the Blending Mode of those 2 new layers of shapes to Overlay. You should now be able to see some interesting things happening as the shapes react to those underneath.

Experiment tip! Try adding as many layers as you wish to this step. Also try adjusting the scale and opacity of the shapes to see what happens.

Step 6: Now it’s time to add color. Create a new layer, select a full spectrum linear gradient and apply it across the canvas. I then selected the shapes below in order to apply a layer mask to the color layer. Looks pretty gross, huh?

Experiment tip! Try using different colors, radial gradients or using the airbrush tool to create custom color fills.

Step 7: Set the Blending Mode of the color layer to Overlay, and set the opacity to around 35%. This coloring doesn’t look too interesting but there is a method of applying color I discovered quite by accident, which is by way of layering colors over top of one another …

Step 8: Duplicate the color layer 3 times so you have 4 layers of color. This will improve the saturation of your colors without over-blowing or pixelating the shapes. You might have to adjust the opacities of your color layers individually of they are reacting too harshly with one another. I included my layers palette in this image to show you how I have things set up so far.

Here is the clean version of Step 8.

Step 9: Now we are going to add some subtle highlights and shading to the shapes in order to create a bit more dimension. Create a new layer and set the Blending Mode to Overlay. Select the gradient tool with a setting of white to transparent, and apply a radial gradient to the upper-right corner. Do the same steps and apply a black radial gradient to the lower-left corner. You can adjust the opacity of this overlay if the highlight or shadow are too harsh.

Experiment tip! Try using this method of highlight and shadow in different areas to either bring elements forward or knock parts back. It can add quite a bit of dimension to your work.

And there you go, nothing to it.

This is a fairly simple tutorial, but I hope you can understand the possibility of experimentation particularly in the early steps. It’s nothing to just follow instructions to yield to same outcome, the real power comes from playing with elements along the way to see what results might come about.

So have fun, and feel free to post your creations in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Signalnoise Studio Update: Spring 2010

It’s finally starting to feel like spring around Halifax. The weather is warmer, the ducks are back at the park, and the leaves are starting to make appearances. This is the best time of year to be in Halifax, if you live here you know what I’m talking about. This time of year normally brings Spring Cleaning with it, and it’s no different with the Studio. I’ll be working on a few changes, here we go.

The past 8 months or so have been great in terms of Signalnoise Studio getting lots of new work for great clients. I officially registered the company back in February and started jumping through all the hoops necessary in order to get things properly set up. A lot of paperwork, but I had some great people to help me out along the way who gave wonderful advice. I’m still learning the ropes, but it’s going well.

But, here’s the thing. With so much client work on the go it effectively took up all of my daytime hours as well as a lot of my own time, which is usually spent working on posters, writing for the blog, surfing for cool art, sketching ideas, writing emails . . . you know, the fun things that made my Signalnoise brand what it is. I understand deadlines reign supreme, but I found myself less enthused because I didn’t have that personal creative time needed to keep me excited and make me laugh. Speaking at FITC Toronto and having the Signalnoise art show was a wonderful break in the midst of all this because it gave me some time to represent Signalnoise on my own terms and meet lots of wonderful people as a result.

So, things are going to change around here. On June 1st I will officially be moving over to working at the Signalnoise Studio full time. It’s daunting and a bit scary (which I’m told all entrepreneurs feel), but I think at this point it’s time to crank things up to 11 and see what this new landscape might yield. For the duration of my career I’ve only worked at other agencies, so this is all new to a punk like me. Guess we’ll see how it goes.

The one thing I never wanted to do was hang the Open sign in the front window, sit at my desk with a smile on my face and wait for business to come knocking. That whole scenario scares the livin’ hell out of me, to be honest. So I’ve been working on a new department of the Signalnoise brand over the past little while which will take me in a bit of a new direction. I touched on this topic during my last Broadcast and I’m busy aligning all the things necessary to get the ball rolling. This isn’t a client-based project or collaboration, this is 100% Signalnoise. I can’t offer many more details just yet, but the coming weeks will bring many updates as I document what is going on in all kinds of fun ways. Keep watch on my Twitter for little tidbits as well.

Another change is one for you guys. Having been caught up in freelance work, my blog writing, email replying and broadcast schedule went out the window and that really upset me. I always wanted Signalnoise to be a kind of hub for meeting and talking to other people who enjoy art and design to whatever capacity, so to have that put on the backburner really sucked. That being said, I’m working on a more solid schedule of updates for the blog with new content and inspiration stuff, as well as implementing a solid bi-weekly Signalnoise Broadcast schedule to keep a more solid connection with everyone. This might even be upgraded to a weekly Broadcast when I get rolling, but we’ll see.

That’s the scoop, gang. A few big personal changes coming over the next few weeks but I’m looking forward to all of it. As always, thanks very much to everyone for swinging by the blog and broadcasts to say hello. Community, man, that’s what it’s all about. Now it’s time to turn up the heat.

’2 Hours of Power’ recorded versions

If you were unable to tune into the “2 Hours of Power” live broadcasts yesterday, here are the recorded versions of both Signalnoise Broadcast 7 and the GSG Live Cast.

The 2 Hours of Power kicked off with Signalnoise Broadcast 7 where I discussed some process items, Photoshop techniques, video games, industry stuff and other topics. Then my pal Nick Campbell, the Greyscalegorilla took over with the GSG Live Cast where he discussed some personal processes, inspirational advice, industry stuff and many more helpful topics.

Doing these broadcasts and touching base with the online creative community is always a good time, but it was even better being part of a small line-up of live content. Feels like my group of online friends got a bit bigger yesterday. As always, mad thanks to Nick for rockin’ the Power.

Signalnoise Broadcast 7 and GSG Live

I’m stoked to announce that this week Signalnoise Broadcast 7 will be happening alongside my good pal and gorilla Nick Campbell with his GSG Live broadcast, a team-up we are calling the 2 Hours of Power! These 2 broadcasts will be happening tomorrow, May 19th starting with Signalnoise Broadcast 7 at 1pm CST and immediately followed by GSG Live at 2pm CST.

I’ve been tuning into Nick’s broadcasts for quite some time, always packed with useful and informed advice on technology, industry stuff, processes and a whole lot more. His ‘casts are essential watching for aspiring creatives and veteran nerds alike. Awesome stuff.

When the time comes, you can tune into GSG Live here, and the Signalnoise Broadcast here.