Collaborations with Younger Self

space2dA little while ago I came across an old sketchbook I had when I was about six. It was mostly full of incoherent scribbles, but with a few more-or-less finished drawings. Somewhere online, I’d seen some paintings done by a mother and daughter… the child had done the initial drawing then the mother added her own interpretation with the colour, but following her daughter’s lines exactly. I thought it would be interesting to do the same but with old drawings. What I got from this, I think, was an insight into my childhood imagination and also some refreshing practice at a new – or old- style of painting. Some friends have suggested I should animate these, so perhaps that’s the next step. (Click on the image to see more.)


Just occasionally, I suffer from migraines. I had my first one when I was 22, and thought I was going blind. I’d always thought a migraine was just a headache – no-one had ever mentioned those weird light patterns that obscure your vision. A few weeks ago I had one and it struck me that I’d never seem one depicted. I did a bit of searching and found a few pictures and animations but none of them really looked the way I saw them, so I thought I’d give it a try. I think this is pretty successful. If you’re not familiar with the experience (you’ve never lived!), with me it begins with a flickering sliver of distortion just below the centre of vision, which blossoms over half an hour or so into the c-shaped pattern shown here. After that it expands and moves outwards until it disappears off the edge of the field of vision. At that point I get a headache which last for an hour or so. It’s not too ghastly, it’s just inconvenient more than anything else as you can’t read or drive or do much else that requires clear vision while it’s going on. Fortunately I only get these once every year or two, and if I have the right medication handy I can avoid the whole thing as soon as I see it coming on. To get the accurate effect, look at the vanishing point in the image. (As the aura appears in your peripheral vision, you can never look directly at it.)



PwC – Facing the Future of Risk

Unlikely as it sounds, corporate projects often present the most interesting creative challenges. I animated this short film in TVPaint software for financial services company PwC, through London-based creative agency The Moment. Although the scriptwriting and concept work was done by the client and agency, they were very receptive to my input from an animator’s perspective and a pleasure to work with throughout. Although I love working on TV and film projects where I can spend all my time animating and honing my core skills, it’s great to alternate that with projects like this where I also get to design and storyboard the whole film.

Sport Scotland

Here’s a short film for Sport Scotland I worked on earlier this year – partly traditional frame by frame animation, computer-composited whiteboard animation. Visuals are all my own work except for the drawing hand. This was produced by Joseph Atkinson.


Animation by microbes

I wasn’t too pleased to find that a few of my old paperbacks were being eaten by bookworms, but was fascinated to notice that the trails they make as they bore their way through the pages work as a flip-book – one in which the pattern isn’t a creative recreation of life but an analogue record of life itself. It would be amazing to make a whole film from book damage of this type, but I expect it’s hard to find worm-eaten books that haven’t been thrown away!




M C Escher style animation

I made this years ago but was reminded of it by and animated version of a mural by M C Escher that appeared of Facebook recently. I wanted to see if it was possible to create an Escher-type repeating pattern that would animate/ This is bit of a cheat as the animated frames aren’t true repeating patterns. Maybe I’ll have another go sometime.



Hand-drawn GIF

A few years ago I applied for a job designing GIFs for phone screens – this was before everyone has smartphones – and was asked to create two GIFs as a test – one on a skull theme, one on a heart theme. This is the skull one. The original artwork was done the old-fashioned way, on paper,then coloured in the computer. I didn’t get the job – my work didn’t fit in stylistically with what they were doing, which was more Photoshop based – a clipart skull with a bolt of lightning added, that sort of thing. Being an old-school animator I opted to create a hand-drawn gif. Now that it’s possible to add GIFs to Facebook and Twitter there’s a new outlet for this type of work, so I’ll be keeping this in mind for promotional purposes.



Blackrock whiteboard animation

I often work in partnership with London-based video production company Shoot You, who produced this whiteboard animation – one of a series for Blackrock Inc. Actually it was drawn on paper rather than a whiteboard with animation added later. I Iike to draw these ‘live’ as I think filming an actual had drawing the images is more engaging and authentic than adding a composited hand later. However if the client needs subsequent changes it’s not always possible or cost-effective to go back to the studio, so on this occasion some of the shots include an added-in hand.


Android UK: Santa

This is an advert for Android UK which I worked on late last year for Passion Pictures in London. If you were in London at the time you probably saw adverts from this campaign all over the tube stations. I was part of a large team at Passion Pictures so several people worked on this at one point or another, but most of the animation in this one is my own. Passion Pictures is one of the UK’s leading commercial animation studios, so it was great to be able to work with them on this project.

Whiteboard animation

This is one of a series of telestrations (aka whiteboard animation) I did for AQA. These were drawn in marker pen on a large sheet of paper – so unlike doing all the work on a computer, the client could take the artwork away as a souvenir. No room for mistakes though, so these projects have to be carefully worked out in advance. I start by creating a storyboard to the client’s script, then they provide me with a voice track for the narration. I combine this with the storyboard to create an animatic, or rough draft of the finished film. One that’s approved I do a ‘dry run’ of the finished artwork in my own studio on a large sheet of paper, exactly as the finished drawing will appear, except for any last-minute revisions on the day. I take this drawing along to the photography studio then draw a copy of it under a camera that records the procedure in time-lapse. This is a highly-focused few hours as the artwork must all be drawn in the correct order, and any mistakes are tricky to correct in post-production. An alternative to creating one large drawing for a film of several minutes is of course to do several smaller ones. This is more cost-effective as it can be done in a smaller space and easily revised if necessary. Studio facilities for this series were provided by Touchdown Studios of Teddington. Photography by Jonathan Palmer. Produced by TwoFour Digital.

Irn Bru advert

Here’s an advert for Irn Bru that I worked on as animation director for London studio Sherbet. This was very popular in Scotland when it came out, even if a lot of parents complained about how it upset their children!  I was mainly directing on this job, but I also did some of the animation, including the final shot. Most of the drawing was by three of London’s leading traditional animators – Paul Stone, Peter Dodd and Teddy Hall. Paul Stone has worked on most of the traditionally-animated film and TV productions make in London in the last 30 years. Peter Dodd is currently working on Raymond Briggs’s “Ethel and Ernest”, and Teddy Hall worked on Disney’s “Hercules”. Laurie J Proud did the character designs, and the producer for Sherbet was Jonathan Bairstow. 

IrnBru – Animals from Sherbet on Vimeo.

Following the success and popularity of the multi award winning Irn Bru – Phenomenal Xmas, The Leith Agency commissioned Sherbet to produce a follow up ad.

The agency and their client AG Barr, needed hand drawn, traditionally cute and cuddly cartoon animals, to maximize the ad’s punchy and outrageous humour.
directed by Dennis Sisterson – animation by Sherbet!/weareSherbet