Pet Portraits

This blog is primarily a tool to enable me to record my learning process as I progress through my university course. One aspect of that, for me. Has been to take on design work outside of work parameters in order to improve my skills. 

Over the past months I have been working to build a pet portraiture business in order to help pay my way while I study. Although it does not strictly come udner the rubric of Graphic Design, it has always been a hobby.

Illustration has allowed me to visualise work before attempting to recreate it digitally. I’ve never posted about my portraiture work before. But I feel it is relevant to my practice, so why not? 

I was commissioned to draw a Weimeraner called ‘Blue Bell’ as a Christmas gift for a client. I was given free reign to select my favourite image from a great number. 

Bkue Bell the Weimaraner

This was my favourite image. I like to capture dogs looking composed and relaxed. I also was happy with the lighting, it is natural and comes from one distinct source. 

Stage On

I always work entirely free-hand, I find that although it is never truly faithful tot he image, I manage to capture the likeness of the subject and add my own twist. Who wants a photorealistic portrait agent hey already have the photo? 

Stage Two

Once the basic shape is refined to my liking I begin to add the darkest shadows first. 

Stage Three

I begin building layers of shade and texture into the picture, I do patches alla cross the body instead of completing it section by section to ensure I don’t have disparity in contrast or  shading. 

Stage Four

I continue to add further detail,each breed is different, some longer rhaired dogs require a lot of detailing in the fur as it has irregularities. But Blue Bell is beige and short haired which made things easier. 

Finished Piece

Each portrait takes several hours, start to finish, but I always enjoy the process. I think people interpret so much expression is dogs faces, so capturing that is very important. 


Making my Mark

In our recent brief to create 100 marks or logos to represent our unique design practice, I learnt a great deal about what works and what doesn’t.

 Our pieces were awarded points by other students who each had six stickers to award. Three blue for professional execution and three orange for creativity and communication. There are more details of this in a previous post of mine. 

I had three or four designs of my 100 which received some awards, which I was very surprised by. If these I chose my personal favourite and decided to further refine the idea, refinement not being an option during the brief owing to the shear volume of work demanded. 

#85 The Wave

This piece was a personal favourite of mine so I’m glad someone shared my feeling. I’ve since done some sketching to advance this design and I’ve explored numerous variations. 

As you can see from the image, I was still open to any kind of alterations. The only consistent theme is clear geometry and a wave as the central theme. I feel that this is personal to me because I have always lived costally and been an avid surfer and lover of water sports of all kinds. 

I have two main lines of design going forward. They are marked in each stage by a letter for the design avenue and a number for the stage of design. 

‘A’ Series

The ‘A’ series follows most closely to the original sketch in the 100 marks project. I wanted a wave which emerges seemlessly from the circle in which is sits, that comes to a sharply defined point in the centre. 

Using a series of handdrawn geometric shapes, I aimed to give the mark the cleanest finish I could. I also settled on clean, clearly defined lines throughout with no texturing or complexity to allow the image to be shrunk and still be recognisable. 

‘B’ Series

Both series were designed in tandem and simply labelled afterwards to define them. With the ‘B’ series I was aiming to experiment with the use of negative space. Clean and simple is great, but a wave is just a wave. There are numerous brands which already feature this and I was worried I’d become one among many. 

I decided to create a logo with two waves opposite and the reverse one another, within a geometric shape which would be filled and leave the waves outstanding in negative space. This had the added benefit of creating an interesting shape in the centre that at first glance seems random until you realise it is a set of waves. 

Trying to make this logo implicitly oceanic rather than simple and explicit was a goal of mine. I wanted it to have depth and character. I think this design did a fairly good job at that and so I’m planning on moving to the next step and digitising it in Adobe Illustrator. 

Here are my two most advanced designs to date. Each is handdrawn to a greater degree or accuracy and detail. I will likely also digitise the ‘A’ series design at a later date. 

Designing with Adobe Illustrator

In our meetings, our group decided that we’d split the animating workload evenly with each of us doing approximately 15 seconds each. I asked to do the introductory 15 seconds. To do this I had only Laura’s character which she had made in preparation. We would all need the model to insure our work would be uniform.

Emily Frontback of Emily

Here is the model of Emily that Laura designed in Illustrator through consultation with the group. We each had a copy of the project to use when we animated independently. We aimed for a sensible character with a large expressive face and features that would suggest her to be a young teenager. She needed to be taken seriously but be young and represent the most vulnerable users of the internet in society. Old enough to be active online, but young and naive of the risks.

shitty desk space
#1 Bedroom 

Here was a quick mock up of the room Emily would be occupying. It’s quite obvious that I’m less than stellar at using Adobe Illustrator but it was useful to have everyone on the same page about the rough design.

With Laura’s help we adjusted and refined the design and improved the colour scheme.

desk space
#2 Bedroom 

This was a far neater and more sorted model using the bones of the original. The colour scheme is far cleaner and makes Emily the center of attention with her bright red heavily contrasted against the blue/green surroundings.

Emily at Desk
Emily at the desk

It took far longer than I’d like to admit to seat Emily at the desk. The layer system is the same as Adobe Photoshop. However the controls are vastly different and more complex. We also had issues of page dimensions. As you can see the original sat within the green box. I had to change the canvas size and widen the background to compensate for this.


Here is my first frame in its completed form. The minimal movement was a symptom of my lack of ability with Adobe After Effects. This will be less obvious as I progress through the project. I wasn’t able to hear audio in the After Effects preview, so, thinking on my feet, I downloading VideoPad Video Editor and inserted my rendered footage to add the audio. I will attempt to recreate it in my own time at a later date. I have had several big ideas that were too late coming to be used and I’d love to try to animate them.


The emojis were tricky to design, but I felt they were really important. They are copies of the official Facebook angry face emojis which was very intentional. Facebook has spent huge resources on developing a brand which makes them and their designs immediately recognisable to most. In particular, millennials. In using this method, huge amounts of the work of conveying a message visually has been done for me.

Animating with Adobe FX

In a recent tutorial we were given our first instruction on using Adobe FX (After Effects). This was to prepare us for our animation project in which we would create a 45-60 second short video. Until this point I had felt confident that it would be a relatively simple endeavor.

Here’s the video. It was a joy to build this piece for scratch. Although the work requires infuriating levels of precision to avoid catastrophic errors, it is deeply satisfying to slowly build up a video and call it my own work. The layering system is in principle, the same as in Photoshop and Illustrator which is very helpful.

This was my first experience animating anything at all. But knowing the complexity of the process, building endless layers and having to watch the same couple of seconds of footage over and over to ensure it all plays in harmony and no one’s limbs fly off, I feel like I have a lot to learn. Adobe FX is vastly more complex than other Software I have used so far and must mean it has far more potential uses.



Cyber Bullying Research

Since changing groups, my topic research up to now is somewhat irrelevant. My new group is working on a piece exploring Cyber Bullying and raising awareness of the issue. To be a productive team player I will need more information about the subject and that’s the point of this post.

Bullying and Cyber Bullying

Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else – such as name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours, threatening or undermining someone. It can happen anywhere – at school, at home at work or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.

Bullying that happens online, using social networks, games and mobile phones, is often called cyberbullying. A child can feel like there’s no escape because it can happen wherever they are, at any time of day or night.

Bullying is an issue faced by young people and adults alike. But children are often far less autonomous and can feel they have less  control or recourse. A child spends 5 days a week in school, the majority of the people they see are school piers, if they suffer in school then it can feel as though they are trapped.

NSPCC (link)

  • There were over 25,700 Childline counselling sessions with children about bullying last year. (2016)
  • Over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have experienced homophobic bullying at school
  • More than 16,000 young people are absent from school due to bullying
  • There were over 11,000 counselling sessions with young people who talked to Childline about online issues last year

Children aged 11-16 on social media

Researchers conducted an online self-completion survey in December 2012 of 1,024 11-16 year olds in the UK.

  • 28% of children aged 11-16 with a profile on a social networking site had experienced something upsetting on it in the last year
  • Of the children and young people who were upset, 11% were dealing with upsetting experiences on a daily basis
  • The most reported issue experienced on social networking sites was trolling, experienced by 37% of children who had been upset.
  • Other issues experienced by children who had been upset included: pressure to look or act a certain way (14%), cyber stalking (12%), aggressive and violent language (18%), encouragement to hurt themselves (3%), receiving unwanted sexual messages (12%), and requests to send or respond to a sexual message (8%).
  • Over half of 11-16 year olds (58%) believed at least one of the people responsible for the behaviour which had upset or bothered them was either a complete stranger, someone they only knew online, or they did not know who it was at all.
  • Only 22% of the children who were upset talked with someone else face to face about the experience.

What children have said of their experiences with bullying

Published 2016. Bullying has been among the most visited subject by NSPCC callers since 1989.

  • Bullying is the second most common reason for boys and the third most common reason for girls to contact Childline. It makes up 9 per cent of all counselling sessions
  • Bullying is the most common reason for children aged 11 and under to contact Childline; almost 1 in 4 sessions with this age group
  • Physical bullying is the top bullying concern for children aged 11 and under; peer pressure is top for 12–15 year olds and online bullying for 16–18 year olds.
  • Bullying affects academic performance and is linked to mental and physical health problems. 1/4 children is counselling sessions talked about mental health concerns

Article suggesting girls are twice as likely to be cyber bullied than boys. (Survey by ‘What about YOUth’ organiation)

Swansea girl committed suicide after being bullied on Snapchat and Facebook

A quarter of teenagers suffered online abuse in the past year. (Article posted 2016)



Group Discussion on Animation Topic


Our first task in our new animation brief was to each decide on a topic that we felt strongly about. Go away and research said topic, and then bring what we had to a group discussion and pitch it to the group.  Unfortunately, only two of our group of four were able to attend this discussion. Myself and Jenny.

My pitch, which is outlined by my research in a previous blog post, was centred around Healthcare. The system of healthcare we have in place in the UK currently (The NHS), the pressures placed upon it (funding and staff shortages, political opposition etc), and the emphasis on its necessity as an institution.

The exact nature of my topic was still rather broad as I wanted it to be flexible and possibly to incorporate other topics within it, making it as appealing to the group as possible. For example we could look comparatively at healthcare in other countries, healthcare availability and cost , issues surrounding reproductive rights for women, unjustifiable price increases for essential medicines in some countries for personal gain of manufacturers.




We narrowed our topic pool down to our personal favourites and continued to refine them. Mine remaining the NHS but more focused on the hiking of prices for medicine that have been frequent in the news in recent year and/or the need for compassion in a society. And Jenny’s being the Migrant crisis, possibly centring around the story of a migrant who became a model member of society in becoming a doctor and helping the population that gave him asylum, with a message of general goodness being cyclical.

NHS – Compassion

  • The general idea of this would be to show the direct compassion that seems inherent in humanity,
  • ‘humans are a social species who care for one another, even animals show compassion’
  • Clips of people instinctively helping other and animals:

Just a few potential examples.

  • Caparison between direct and indirect compassion. e.g most people would help someone they saw in danger or in need. But people vote for parties that would strip benefits from those who need them (disability benefits etc) because it saves them some tax money.
  • This would include possible clips of politicians scapegoating vulnerable groups


Pharmaceutical Monopolies

  • Examples:

  • Explanation of the impact this has on people, medical bankruptcies etc.
  • NHS is already struggling, this will damage it further


Migrant Crisis/Syrian Doctor

  • Dispel the myths about ‘ taking our jobs’ and ‘living happily off benefits’. Two paradoxical ideas.
  • Illustrate the suffering and pain of asylum seekers from those countries
  • Seek to humanise these people, they are often seen merely as statistics and numbers
  • Use a narrative to show that immigration is not simply a valueless burden on the host nation.




My Thoughts

Regardless of the outcome of this stage of the process and whichever topic we finally land on as the one to carry on with. I am happy to have had the experience. Proffering my ideas and having other ideas counter them. It has been interesting to learn about topics that my piers hold strong views on and to debate the minutia of each topic and our feelings on the nature of the problems and the most effective solutions.



Constellation SLTS 3/8 Hip Hop Styles

Best Practice in academic writing

As our constellation work would involve essay writing, we were asked to paraphrase academic quotations, the need for paraphrasing is simply conveying the message of what can be a long winded and overly complex statement in as simple terms as possible. Until now i hadn’t realised that paraphrasing required citation.

Direct Quotation requires: Quotation marks, author, year of publication and page number.

Paraphrasing requires: Author, year of publication.

Additional: All sources and materials used must be collated into a bibliography.

Key Terms in the study of subculture

Construction: Putting a style together through a selective process. Picking and choosing from all manner of cultural and social influences to build a look.

Our job is to analyse this process piece by piece and understand the significance of and motivation behind the choice of each accoutrement.

Resignification: A term coined to describe the inflection of given meanings and alter them for them. Can be achieved by Modification, Intensifying, Exaggerating or Isolating the item.

1980’s Hip Hop Style

Image result for 1980s hip hop style

We were provided academic quotes from Whitely, Z and Kellner, D regarding their work on the Hip Hop culture and trends of the 1980s and asked to paraphrase and condense the information.

During the Capitalist boom of the 1980’s the focus of many became conspicuous consumption. People felt the need to demonstrate their wealth by the way they dressed. The ideal way to achieve this was to wear as much expensive jewelry and accoutrements as possible. This quickly became competitive. Who was the biggest and the baddest? Who could spray their graffiti tag in the busiest area? Who was the most popular music artist? Who wore the most gold and jewelry?

Brands and their associations were co-opted into the Hip Hop style. The intent was to emulate the perceived associations a brand carried. Juxtaposition of items demonstrated the fashion taking precedence over functionality. Heavy gold chains paired with Adidas sports wear. Trilby hats that demonstrated wealth and social position in past eras of fashion were incorporated.

Image result for beastie boys hood ornament

At one time the need for brand association in the style lead to people wearing car hood ornaments of expensive manufacturers such as mercedes and VW. As seen in this image of the Beastie Boys.

Context is everything to fashion. Every item, the way it is worn, what it is worn with, when it is worn. Many African Americans in the hiphop movement of the 80s teamed what by then was the established Hip Hop look with African garb to show solidarity and pride in their heritage and support for those in South Africa fighting Apartheid.

Style is a fluid and ever changing phenomenon. Anything can be a catalyst for change and bring about the emergence of a new look. In the 2000s lower income people, seeing that Burberry was highly regarding by wealthy celebrities, began buying into the brand. A brands identity is vital to its success. An expensive brand works through exclusivity. A consumer pays extra to wear something few can. Burberry suffered under this new trend as middle and working classes started buying their clothes and copycat companies began making knock-off versions. Brands influence consumers, but consumers influence brands in return.

Who wore it better?

Emma Watson endorsing Burberry
Burberry ‘Chav’


An example of the negative associations ‘chavs’ created for Burberry’s brand name.


This work has helped me to sculpt my process as a designer. Graphic Design is something I’ve always considered to be largely subjective. Different styles and different approaches appeal to different people. One person might like a brand or a logo and another may find it entirely unappealing. But the analytical nature of the Smells Like Teen Spirit course has helped me to understand a scientific method for understanding why things in fashion and equally in design are the way they are.