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Saturday, September 29th 2012 - 02:07AM :

As times goes on, things change: Rant about the internet and my website

2005! Seven years ago since I re-worked this current version of Organic Metal! I'm now one of the small minority of internet artists out there who have been maintaining a personal website for several years without letting it run into the ground or the domain name expire (Yay me! ) IMO in this internet age a website should be re-vamped once every one to three years so I'm a little bit behind! But have no intention of sitting down to re-design Organic Metal version 3...

Screen Shot of the OM Splash page

Why fix it if it's not broken?

I've been adding and tweaking OM since it was created in an attempt to make it a little more user-friendly, a little more visually appealing and a little more bug-free. It's been great and it's now looking and performing the best it's ever been! Although:

A) There are so many new web technologies one can use to make sites work better now. For example-

There are dozens of amazing, fancy, pre-made image galleries, pre-made templates, content management systems and design solutions which have been refined and improved over the years by 1000s of web experts. Despite me adding some fancy touches to what has become a pretty meaty personal website, many of these are a little out of date and users (myself included) expectations of good design and usability have increased. Not that my site was ever plagued with an over-abundance of tacky animated gifs or poorly aligned Times New Roman fuchsia pink text on standard flat blue page background like so many sites in the late 90s/early 00s!

Also, originally I created images for every title header on the site- there's probably about 60 of these images on the site and if I need to edit them all, it can take hours. However using CSS3 I can upload the title font and apply an outer glow to the text without needing to mess around by creating dozens of individual image files. This also helps massively with SEO and getting the site noticed by Google searches.

B) Being found on the internet is now an art in itself. OM used to be ranked pretty high on Google search results a few years back, then it seemed to get black-listed for a while. I made a few content tweaks and eventually got most of it back in the rankings, but it's not a site which follows the new 'Rules of the Internet' and hence, isn't nearly as easy to find.

The rule now is relevance- there's billions of sites out there and people aren't prepared to sift through heaps of text. They want to search for then extract info from relevant sites as quickly as possible. Such has given rise to a blog boom, micro sites, or more basic mini-foloi sites which give users concise, basic info on very specific or niche topics. OM houses my artwork, in-depth personal info, tutorials, examples of my professional work and the ability for users to interact with the site by adding comments to the art, blog posts and dropping a public message in the guest book. This is great! But I realize most visitors don't want all that. It's too much info on too many topics and laid out too inconveniently so visitors go elsewhere to find more specific content which caters for their needs. Even new best friends I make aren't prepared to read through even half of my site's content!

Instead, fans or friends want something like Facebook, Deviantart or Twitter- a chance to keep up to date with little snippets of info in a format and structure they recognise, or potential business partners just want a professional portfolio without knowing 100s of irrelevant facts like what I keep under my bed or my top 20 favourite movies!

It's not broken, but it's out of date.

OM is a project I have loved working on and want to keep alive for as long as possible. However it's a site over-populated with arguably irrelevant content for the typical, new-internet-age visitor. Due to it's original design and nature, it's hard to find on web searches,
and hence only receives 10% of visits it used to in 2005 and IMO, not even 1% of the visits it deserves.

There are further modifications I would like to implement to the site to make it better. For example, this blog page alone could use an RSS feed, ability to add posts to social bookmarks, add images for every entry (to break up text) of which are sized and aligned uniformly by a CMS, more search engine friendly, the layout needs some work, It could use categorizing, tagging etc like Wordpress or Blogger and more!. However it would be easier to simply use Wordpress for this blog! And while I was at it, I might as well use Wordpress of a similar existing CMS structure to re-design my site around which would give me a ton more tried and tested usability features.

Organic Metal's Fate

It'll be around in it's current form for a long while yet both for my own satisfaction and for the pleasure of the 5000 visitors each month who do manage to find one of it's pages lurking around on the net! I wish that figure had a few more zeros on the end of it- It would be nice to have a few more user opinions on my ramblings and the artwork I post, or a few more job offers come in through the site.

I realize if I want hits, the next step is to develop a series of small/micro sites- More simplistic, 3-6 page, highly ranked brochure-like sites with more relevant and concise content. They will be fun projects to think about at some point
After they're up and running, OM will probably end up existing as an archive site/project (like now!) and if I were to update it, I'd only add a few artworks here and there, maybe a blog entry or two. I can't see myself writing any new tutorials for the site, re-opening the forum or editing/updating any of the current content and graphics. I wont have the time, inclination and there wont be much demand for it from visitors anyway. It'll simply exist a testament to the good old days

Comments: 4



Tuesday, June 26th 2012 - 06:29PM :

3 Girls Artwork

The more I draw, the more I feel like Iím moving away from the whole manga thing. Still love the style, but equally like more realistic stuff and western comic styles so loving experimenting with those.

This was a little something I worked on for fun, but wasnít quite happy enough with it to put it into my main portfolio gallery on the site. Completed with my usual process- pencil work, scanned then coloured in Photoshop on several layers. I flatted the whole image, then spent ages tweaking with the smudge tool to make it all look a lot more slick. Especially the girlís hair. As per usual, I laid a filter over the top- in this case a purple/blue tone to stop the colours and lighting from looking too bland. I still like it overall

3 Girls illustration

Comments: 3



Sunday, January 29th 2012 - 11:16PM :

Why are Macs "so great"?

I currently use a PC with Windows 7 for my art and design work. Love it and know it inside out. If I knew Macs inside out, I'd probably prefer them, but I don't.

What I'd like to know is; what specifically can a mac do that a PC can't? So far the list seems to be:
* Better re-sell value
* Less chance of getting a virus, but then I am too savvy to get one my PC so this is irrelevant (note to hackers- please don't try to prove me wrong here!)
* Easy for novice computer users to use. This is irrelevant as I already know how to use a PC properly.
* OSX is apparently more stable? If so, that is good!
Is that it? If I wanted to list reasons why PCs are better I know I could create a far superior list

The only reason I would want a Mac is because knowing how it works is often a requirement if you want employment within the graphic design industry. I have nothing against Apple at all, but it makes me angry when I'm forced into using a product like a Mac for the sole reason of 'because it's tradition' or 'because everyone else uses it' rather than using a product because it works well!

Comments: 1



Wednesday, January 25th 2012 - 03:43AM :

Making Money with Manga

I was asked to contribute to an article in Imagine FX magazine years ago about 'things manga' and found a document burred away on my hard drive the other day containing a few of my answers. Not that I've ever seen myself as an authority figure in the realms of manga and anime artwork, but for some reason having my name in print gives my thoughts a little more wait than your typical amateur artist and I wont complain

Anyho, the interview went a little something like this:

Iíve answered the questions below. The term ďmangaĒ can be used to describe ĎJapanese style comicsí but also a Ďtypical Japanese style of comic book/cartoon artworkí. The questions youíve asked seem to refer more to manga as comic books..? Iíve answered to show replies that could related to both Ďcomic book artistsí and Ďfreelance artistsí. Itís probably worth pointing out Iíve spent my years operating as a freelance artist/illustrator.

Personally, I believe thereís not enough money and opportunity in the comic book side of things. Many manga / comic book artists I know here in the UK freelance their style into other forms of revenue such as magazine spots, advertising, branding and packaging etc. Out of the 1000s of wannabe manga creators, there are a few exceptional UK talents which have made ok money outta their manga by having it printed by American comic book publishers such as Image, Dark Horse and Tokyo Pop. Once they realise they can get 5-10 times their wage acting as a freelance illustrator, the comic book career tends to fizzle out, unless theyíre really dedicated to the story side of things or donít consider other opportunities for their work.

I wouldnít recommend you printing my opinions above- it wouldnít give much hope for wannabe manga creators! But this is my own personal view on the current manga scene here in the UK. And Iím sure other artists more geared towards the comic side of things may have a totally different outlook on the situationÖ

There are several ways to make money with manga artÖ
The most obvious is to create manga (comics), and get them picked up by a publisher. But the manga style can be applied to other areas in the form of editorial illustration for magazines and articles, book illustration, creating art for movies and animation. I tend to specialize more in character based art and design for animation, games, company branding and advertising.

Unless youíre lucky enough to score a job with a animation, game or multimedia studio, youíll likely become freelance and self employed.

* What are the most important things someone should work on as a budding commercial manga artist? Is is style, originality, execution, or some combination of those?

A combination of all of the above! To make any kinda money in the art and design industry, youíll need to be technically talented as well as having ability to think up original ideas and solve problems. On top of this you need to be business minded. From what I see, there are thousands of fantastic manga artists out there wishing they could make money out of their talents, but end up settling for a more mundane 9-to-5 thinking there isnít any demand for manga art in the commercial world. But what most of these fantastic artists lack is business sense and the right kind of ambition. Itís fine self publishing small print run comics or designing the occasional cover for a small time unsigned local bandís first album while youíre at college or earning a regular wage else where. To make good money, you need to approach publishers that will sell your work in high volumes, freelance for high profile clients, consider editorial work for magazines etc.

* How hard or easy is it to be original in the manga market?

Originality within manga is near impossible! Itís something to strive for, but thereís so much material out there and so many artists pumping out manga work every day that coming up with something completely unthought of isnít easy. Being original as possible involves looking at adaptin
g existing ideas and well as drawing on your own experiences and influences while creating something you enjoy.

* Any tips on the best places to exhibit your work - on the Net and in 'real life' - to get noticed? Which are the publishers to go for?

Manga galleries in Ďreal lifeí are far and few between. You could try submitting work to IMAF (International Manga and Anime festival)ís annual art competition. Their festival features a gallery of all works submitted.

On the net, Devianart.com is a popular gallery and community site for artists. The site covers all art genres, manga and anime being one of the more popular themes.

Personally, Iíve found the best way to advertise your work is through your own website. It also looks a lot more professional to potential clients by having a unique, separate online gallery or portfolio opposed to sites like Devianart. Presentation is key, so make it look great and spend weeks advertising the hell out of it so people know it exists- submit site to search engines, link exchange, add it to directories etc. Even consider paying for on and offline advertising if youíre serious about making a career out of your art. Eventually you may get clients start coming to you with job offers instead of you rushing around after them!

If you wanna see about publishing your manga stories, try submitting work to Studio Sweatdrop, Tokyopop or Darkhorse to name a few.

* If you want to draw manga for a living, can you get away with a portfolio consisting solely of it, or do you need to demonstrate other styles too?

If youíve got the technical skill, creativity and business mind, you can potentially make a good success out of manga art alone. Also a single established style can be great as clients will know exactly what they can expect should they choose to work with you.
On the other hand freelancing is can be very tricky, especially when starting off and it would be a good idea to show clients you can do more than just manga and it never hurts to expand your repertoire of skills and styles to show youíre flexible.

* Any other tips you would give an aspiring manga artist?

Always stick with what you enjoy. Different manga styles and themes go in and out of fashion and it can be good if you can adapt to different markets- i.e. cute stuff for kids. Sexual or violent stuff for adults. But if you have a passion for illustrating teen romance or anthropomorphism- stick with it and let that become your Ďthingí. Going from drawing manga as a hobby to making money out of it can be a stress, so help your self out by drawing what you want to draw and let it help build up your portfolio and reputation.

- Most of that stands true, even 5 or 6 years later since I was first asked all this stuff! Hopefully it'll help give you a little more perspective about 'the industry' and best of luck to anyone wanting to make some money out of their art and creative efforts ^_^

Comments: 0



Sunday, November 27th 2011 - 12:58PM :

Question and Answer session

Yao Qu, a student studying digital manga asked if I'd answer a few art questions for her school project and thought my replies might be of interest to OM Blog readers

Apart from Manga, what other type/s of digital media do you create? For example photo manipulation, web designing, animations etc.

- All of the above! I started drawing manga first, and then later digitizing it by scanning and adding colour tones with the computer. Once I had acquired a general understanding of using Photoshop, learning other related software types became easier and more accessible. Many of the tools in something like Photoshop are similar in animation programs like Flash, and there are even a few interface similarities with web tools like Dreamweaver.
Itís great how an initial love for manga art ended up enabling me to branch out into so many other areas of digital art and design. Had I not been so amazed by some of the digital manga artists on the internet when I was around 16, I may have stuck with traditional media for a lot longer and that could have had a negative impact on my future career plans now that weíre pretty much all living in a digital age.

Which software do you often use for your drawings? (Photoshop, PaintTool SAI etc.) What particular aspect(s) of this program do you like and dislike?

I use Photoshop for nearly everything and luckily it can do nearly everything I would want. Itís really difficult to learn if youíre new to design software, but well worth sticking with- itís saved my butt so many times! I dabbled with Painter for a few hours but never got to grips with it and to be honest if you can do near enough everything with your favourite program- be that Photoshop or something else, then thereís not much point investing a lot of time mastering something totally new. Unless of course you just love experimenting and learning software I like itís familiarity and although itís complex, once understood, it can be a big help with my illustration work as well as photo editing, graphic and web design.

How would you rate this software? (1 Lowest - 10 highest)
Photoshop CS5Ė 9/10. Iíve been using it since version 4 which came out about 11 or 12 years ago and itís matured into a great bit of kit.
If a newer version of this software is released, would you upgrade?
Yes. I usually update every couple of years. Sometimes the programís interface changes a lot and it chucks a ton of new features at me- most of which I donít need, but some are vital. Since version CS4 64bit Iíve been able to work on humongous 1GB+ files, which means great quality when printing large scale artwork.

What was your earliest inspiration for drawing Manga?

Check out the Info/Profile page on Organic Metal for lots of details on this

In your opinion do you think Manga has made a big impact on digital art? Especially digital painting? For example, I started drawing Manga traditionally on paper, and then due to other's influences I've moved onto digital art, I was then more aware of different types of art media and painting software and graphic tablets. Is this the same for you?

Yes, exactly the same for me. You only have to look at huge online art communities like Deviantart to see large percentages of manga style artists who make use of digital media and that in turn is influencing other young, aspiring artists.
Although manga is only part of a massive shift towards digital media over recent years. Loads of other styles are adopting a digital approach as itís evident that artists can now produce amazing results in a fraction of the time Iíd take to do it traditionally. I wonder if itís more a case of technology having an impact on manga more so that the other way around

The End!

I've done several other little Q&A sessions over email, but must have deleted them otherwise I would have added them too. It's good for me to answer stuff like this and help formulate some opinions

Comments: 0



Tuesday, November 15th 2011 - 01:45AM :

Evil Ryu and Akuma. Plus thoughts about myself as an artist

This is an old collaboration from 2001. Pencils (Ryu)= Tong. Pencils (Akuma) & Inks= WebYoSan.

After checking out WebYoSan's Street Fighter fanart with cool design and well inked lines, I decided to do my bit and add some rendering. I was originally going to go for the normal Ryu, but decided his evil persona should be shown instead- he looks and plays better than the original anyway It was the first time I'd tried making use of the 'Multiply' and 'Screen' airbrush blend options. They can slightly increase the speed of CGing as it saves keep picking lighter/darker colour tones separately, but it can look more messy. I tried to overcome this messiness by later adding regular airbrush on top to smooth things over. In the end, the CG still took hours, but worth it! When approaching a CGing task (or any task in general!) it's often daunting and difficult to get started because I never know if it'll turn out well, but after I get stuck in and take my time, I usually manage to get decent enough results. However, there has been times in the past where I've started a CG or artwork and I just cant do it! I wonder if it's because what I'm doing is too hard for me, or if I'm just not in the right frame of mind. Luckily with colouring, if the line art is good, it inspires me to produce something on par.

10 years later and I did open up the original file to do a few colour corrections to bring it up a notch

Coloured using Photoshop 5.5

So why am I posting this now? And why not within the Art Gallery pages?

It's just I've spent all day looking through some of my older work. It's been nostalgic and fun to re-visit some of my earlier drawings and artworks A third of my works are still here and viewable on OM. This Street fighter pic was pretty cool and lots of fun to collaborate on at the time but perhaps just not quite good enough (in my opinion) to showcase my colour abilities so I've kept it out the gallery. It looks cool now that I added more purplish colouring to it though. I've also been making a few corrections to my other works now that my skills have improved and I'm able to do so, or able to see flaws I couldn't when I first started.

Although I wonder by how much have my skills improved over the last 10 years (the time in which I've mainly been concentrating on my artwork, digital colouring skills and calling myself an artist- although at times a very amateurish one!)?

I've gotten better, for sure. My observational skills, anatomy, shading, colour knowledge, proportioning, perspective, technical skills etc. have all improved Although I'm aware that despite having finished, perhaps 500 drawings, illustrations or CGs over the last decade it would be fair to say I'm still yet to reach a level of competency I feel is worthy of my efforts! It's not something I cry into my pillow at night over, but an interesting observation and leads me to suspect that if one's artwork isn't already at a decent enough standard by the time they're entering late teens and 20s, then it's not likely going to improve a drastic amount thereafter.

I wonder what other people's thoughts are on this?

An increase in ability is generally something that slows down as people get older- just look at really young kids that can learn to play musical instruments like pros after a year, while it would take an average 40 or 50 year old a year just to learn to play 'three blind mice'! Okay, not quite, but you get the idea
I wonder how this slowing down will effect my ability to produce artwork? I'm unlikely to get worse at least, which is good. My ambition to draw some amazing scene with characters all interacting from different, obscure angles AND all from memory and without reference AND within a short space of time may never be realized.

Perhaps thinking like this will prevent me from pushing myself by aspiring to achieve well beyond my current limits? Or perhaps this takes
the pressure off by allowing me to just focus on producing artwork within my own means; so know and accept that I will take huge amounts of time just to complete a single character drawing and knowing and accepting that I will likely need to use extensive photo reference material to get poses, backgrounds or accessories looking spot on etc.

Comments: 1



Monday, November 14th 2011 - 03:50AM :

Old Designs

I did these designs years ago- the Sony one was an early Photoshop experiment and the two video covers were done for a media production company called Capricorn.

Created in 2000 and 2001 using Photoshop 5.5!

Comments: 6



Monday, November 14th 2011 - 03:36AM :

Out with the Old, In with the New!

In updating the art gallery, I thought it was about time I relegated some of my older work so Iíll be adding them here instead.

Some of the character art is still good for the most part and I know if I just tightened up a few proportions or colours, it wouldnít be a far cry from my newer stuff.

I feel Iíve come a long way in the graphic design department, so even though that gallery is gonna be pretty bare, it Iím glad wonít be reflecting what Iím now capable of...
*20 minutes later*
I've renamed the Graphics Gallery to 'Abstract Designs and Graphics", so I can put some of my 'doodle' pictures or abstract, bio-mechanical designs in there now It's interested to look back at the 'graphic design' gallery works I had uploaded 10 years ago, not only are most of them pretty lame now, but I expected to produce a lot more computer-only, abstract, graphic work but never did. It seems if I haven't bdone it in 10 years, then I'm unlikely to do more any time soon, although I'd STILL like to!

NOTE: I intend to back-date the blog entries containing some of my old art designs, so check through this blogs previous entries if you want to take a look.

Comments: 0



Wednesday, September 21st 2011 - 12:01AM :

New Project added!

Branding is basically a section to illustrate some of the projects I've worked on which required logo creation as well as other graphic designed materials. A lot of the examples Iíve used are assignments given to me while I studied 'Graphic Media' as a mature student- my aim of going back into education was to increase my graphic design know-how and it added another strong string to my bow. I look back at the work I did at uni now and although I could improve upon all of it, I've uploaded it to organic metal anyway to give potential clients an idea of the work I've done in the past and show what I'm capable of.

I feel very competent in providing businesses a unique, comprehensive design package being able to offer: identity creation, logo design, stationary design, literature layout, packaging design, conceptual displays, ad campaigns, book or leaflet design, illustration, photography, photo editing, website design, web graphic creation, interface design, multimedia presentations.

Although Iíve done some basic CAD while I worked as a kitchen designer and about a day of playing around with 3D software, these are areas Iím relatively weak in. My Flash skills are pretty basic too, so Iíd outsource that kinda work if it came my way.

I guess itís true that I have become a bit of a jack of all trades within the art and design industry. I wonder what my hand drawn art would have been like if I concentrated all my efforts on that instead of diversifying? I donít regret learning stuff like graphic design and think it often aids my illustrations if anything

Comments: 0



Sunday, September 11th 2011 - 05:27AM :

New Project Added!

Although I completed this project years ago, I never got around to uploading it to Organic Metal until now. I've not included every single sketch or final piece, but it gives an idea of the kinds of illustrations I did for it. The spellcasting character designs are typical Ben style with smooth Photoshoped colouring. Although even now I still don't think I have a solidly defined style when it comes to my drawing. It often feels like I'm experimenting in style with each picture I draw! I usually apply colour in the same ways though. Having dabbled with Cel style, Cuts, low opacity brushes and airbrush, I still like the soft airbrush look. I've always been a fan of airbrush works, so I guess it figures. Plus it kinda reminds me of the 2D gradient-filled sprites from RPGs like Breath of Fire 3, Secret of Mana and so on. Used to love the graphics in those types of games.

Comments: 0



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