The art of Dave McKean

I’m going to dive pretty far back into my progression as an artist and talk about a guy who had a huge influence on me and my work at an important time. Dave McKean was introduced to me way back in 1993 or something by way of his Sandman comic book covers.

I was instantly made crazy by his work, mostly because I didn’t really know what I was looking at. His work introduced me to the idea of “mixed media”, he was so multi-faceted as an artist that he used an array of mediums to create his pieces and designs. Paint, ink, sculpture, typography, photography, construction, he really did it all and used certain disciplines to achieve certain goals. Very early on I picked up Dust Covers, Arkham Asylum and Signal to Noise and proceeded to visually dissect them, trying to figure out how he did what he did.

In all honesty, back in 1995 Dave McKean played a HUGE role in me pursuing a creative career. I wanted to do what he did.

So in ’95 I enrolled and was accepted into Graphic Design in my hometown of Truro where I was introduced to Photoshop, a tool that definitely answered a few questions regarding McKean’s creative execution. I started experimenting almost immediately with photography, drawing and other mediums to see how I could blend them together the way he did. Here is a few pieces of my older work created between 1998 – 2003:

As you can see, McKean’s influence stuck with me for over a decade and his work really pushed me to now only study how Photoshop worked but how other mediums work as well. Being an aspiring artist and designer at the time, I couldn’t have asked for a better kick in the ass. I looked at his work daily for years and still flip through his many books I’ve acquired.

It kind of makes me weepy looking back at McKean’s work from the ’90s, I spent so many hours flipping through his material back then. I remember sitting on the patio at my parents’ place in ’94 reading Arkham Asylum, and flipping the page to see that insane Joker image above. Just about melted my face off.

Always remember who influenced you at important times in your life. Those are the turning points, man.

Signalnoise on Dribbble

I didn’t really understand the value of Dribbble when I first got an invitation, but have since started using the service a bit more and am really enjoying it. Dribbble acts as a ‘work-in-progress’ showcase where you upload a little snapshot of what you have on the go to either be a teaser or to acquire valuable feedback from other creative types. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying getting some behind-the-scenes glimpses at other peoples’ work.

Feel free to check out the Signalnoise Dribbble account. I’ll be experimenting with the service over the next while to show previews and other fun stuff happening at the studio.

A Signalnoise Special Presentation

Tune into Signalnoise Broadcast 12 this coming Thursday at 3pm EST for a Signalnoise Special Presentation. This week I will be switching up the format from the usual QA session to a more focused discussion broken up into 2 sections.

1. Personal Projects
I field a lot of questions each week dealing with industry stuff and client work, but lets take a break from that area and concentrate on what WE are working on, you know, the things we do on our own time because we love it. Lets talk about your personal blogs, design work, illustrations, whatever you may be working on. Alternatively, what is the project you would like to work on in the future? Think about your plans and questions and lets talk about personal projects.

2. The New Signalnoise Project
Additionally, near the end of the broadcast I will be talking about my new personal Signalnoise project that I’ve been working on for the past month, and I’ll have some things to show you guys. I won’t be recording this segment of the Broadcast I changed my mind and will indeed keep the recording going. Given different timezones, Canada Day obligations and other things, it’s not fair that some will be left out of the loop. Here’s a word straight from the jerk in charge, just ignore the part about the recording halt:

So that’s the scoop, should be a great time. Tune in live on Thursday, July 1st at 3pm EST for A Signalnoise Special Presentation.

PS. Regarding the suit, my original idea was to make that video preview like an awkward news ‘cast. I then lost interest in the idea and decided to do a normal recording, but left the suit on. I’m enjoying the “What’s with the suit?” questions.

District 9 tech concepts by Weta

Here are some great concept designs by Weta for the film District 9, the same creative company who worked on movies like Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Narnia, Avatar, the list goes on. I love watching all the behind-the-scenes footage on my Lord of the Rings DVDs to get a glimpse of their amazing studio and the people who work there.

Even though I don’t research this kind of work all the time, I’ve always had a fascination with the world of concept design, especially the tech stuff like architecture, weapons, vehicles and so on. The art of creating something completely original yet still maintain some sense of usability and practicality is simply amazing. I have no idea how these guys can create such intricate designs on a blank canvas using nothing but Photoshop and a tablet. Just look at the detail in those gun designs.

Want more? Check out the Weta Workshop website.

New Twitter username

Just a little note for all my Twitter pals out there. As of yesterday, my Twitter username has been switched to a much more efficient form. You can now find me via the handle @Signalnoise. As you can well imagine, I’m pretty excited to have my Twitter name sync up properly with my online identity. Now all I need to do is reprint all my business cards.

So if you are using any programs that require you to make the switch manually, make sure you can properly find me in the Twitterverse.

Signalnoise Broadcast 11

If you missed out on tuning in live yesterday for Signalnoise Broadcast 11, here is the recorded version. I was disappointed when Ustream dropped my recording after 30 minutes or something, so unfortunately this is only the second half of the discussion. A bit of a shorter watch, but still a good time.

Once again we talked about a range of topics, like dealing with a creative block, the importance of drawing, project software like Basecamp, the power of using a tablet, the meaning of “horse hockey”, inspiration vs. imitation, basic design skill-sets and a lot more fun stuff. So if you missed the live version, check it out right here.

Create your basic identity guide

If you are anything like me and you have your personal logo for use on your website or whatever, you probably just have one version saved in an AI document. You open it whenever needed and adapt it on the fly to whatever you might be using it for. I did the same thing for years.

However, with the new Signalnoise project I’m working on I realized that wasn’t going to cut it. I will be needing to send my logo to other people for use across a few different mediums, on different colors, using a different colors, etc and I would be spending a lot of time asking these questions and creating the logo per task. That eats up a lot of time, so I spent a little while thinking about my identity and creating different versions for use in these situations, in the form of a basic identity AI document.

Some of you might have learned about Brand Standards Manuals in school, where you create a book of rules and regulations on how the logo will be used. You might not need to do it to that extent for your personal identity, but it’s good general practice to think about these alternate variations of your identity and create them in one document. Not only will it point out problems (like color variations), but it will create a nice accessible library you can grab quickly or send to those who might need it. Think about things like: will you be printing on black or white? Will your logo be 1-color or full color? Will there be a wordmark or just an icon? It’s interesting stuff, and will certainly strengthen your personal identity.

Need a hand? Download the Signalnoise Basic Identity (AI, CS4) and have a look.

Signalnoise Tutorial for Digital Arts Magazine

I don’t yet have photos of the actual magazine but the ‘Elle’ tutorial I wrote for Digital Arts Magazine has been published on their website. The poster was originally designed for the crew at Thinkstock, who were kind enough to donate the photograph of the lady to this tutorial. The process is stripped down and broken into 16 steps, but the fundamentals of how I created this poster are there.

The tutorial is published in the July 2010 issue of Digital Arts Magazine, currently on newsstands in Europe. Enjoy!