Sheepish return to the blogosphere.

No self-respecting blogger would ever allow two-and-a-half months to elapse between posts so I’ll forget any notions of self-respect and simply remind myself that this genuinely is the first opportunity I’ve had to post an update since the long-forgotten days of May 23rd.

This has been due to the fact that, after a worryingly work-free start to the year, several projects came in simultaneously and around the end of May I suddenly found myself working round the clock to stay on top of the deluge of deadlines. The situation was compounded by the siren (or should that be vuvuzela?)-call of the World Cup, an event that excites me now just as much as it ever did. My daily routine during its five week duration was structured around the kick-off times of crucial matches (ie. most of them) and much midnight-oil had to be burned to make up for the hours devoted to the beautiful game. Actually not that beautiful in England’s case, but that’s a whole other subject.

The rapid-fire nature of the deadlines I’ve been up against for the past few weeks is due in no small part to the biggest of my current jobs, a huge educational project for the US publisher Glencoe. Involving an estimated 800 individual pieces of artwork, this is set to run for several months yet. In a departure from the usual projects of this type, I’m delivering the artwork in RGB format for eventual use on electronic classroom whiteboards rather than in CMYK for print. The actual subject matter of the illustrations covers familiar territory but the means by which it will eventually be delivered to the students seems very ‘new media’ and is probably indicative of the way the industry is going. The whiteboard technology, as far as I can tell, allows for simple animations and visual transitions and is altogether more interactive and closer to a powerpoint-type presentation than a traditional textbook. This is educational material for the iPad generation and I anticipate that more of my work in future will be designed for these new platforms.

A few weeks into this project, with other work also on the go, my iMac decided it might be a convenient time to malfunction. Great. It began refusing to boot, getting a few seconds into the start-up process before freezing. The usual helpline remedies were no help so it had to go in for repairs. Even the good folk at the Apple ‘Genius’ Bar were initially confounded by the fault but after trying out a new motherboard and new RAM modules to no avail, they finally identified the problem as a dead graphics card. Anyway, enough nerd-talk. The point was, I needed a computer to work on in the meantime if I was to have any hope of keeping up with my various deadlines. I immediately ordered a new, custom-spec iMac but that was going to take up to two weeks to deliver so, for the first time ever, I looked into the possibility of HIRING a Mac as a temporary stop-gap solution. It’s reassuring to learn that there are companies out there that cater for just such contingencies but let me tell you – it’s not cheap; the best part of £400 for a week-and-a-half’s rental. I couldn’t help but reflect – not for the first time – that I’m in the wrong business.

Despite the price it was a pretty efficient door-to-door drop-off and collect service and without a hire machine my work would have quickly ground to a halt so the company concerned , Information Technology Rentals, probably deserve a mention and this link:

Now is it just me or is there an immutable law in the computer industry specifying that new product upgrade announcements must be made just a few days AFTER you’ve made a major purchase of said product? That’s how it often feels. Sure enough, in the period between ordering my new iMac and having it delivered, Apple announced a whole new, improved range of… iMacs! Irritating for sure but not as devastating as it might have been; my new machine, now in full service, might technically be ‘last generation’ but is still an absolute beast compared to its predecessor. In geek-speak it looks something like this: 27” Quad-core i7, 8GB RAM, 2TB HD. That should do me for a few years, with any luck.

My recent visits to the new Apple Store in Brighton, where they carry out repairs, also gave me my first good look at an iPad. To handle one is, as has been widely reported elsewhere, to fall for them instantly. The most alluring aspect for me is the potential to use the device as a digital sketchbook using apps such as the wonderful Brushes, an area already being explored to spectacular effect by a number of early adopters. YouTube is awash with videos of some terrific ‘paintings’ evolving stroke-by-stroke on screen, thanks to the free Brushes Viewer app. I’ve toyed with the iPod version of Brushes but get frustrated by the limitations imposed by the small screen size. The interface and functionality of the app are superb however, and the iPad seems like the perfect platform for it to flourish. It doesn’t require a massive leap of the imagination to envisage commissioned illustration work regularly being produced on such devices in the not-too-distant future.

I haven’t bought one yet but my self-restraint might start to buckle by the time the 2nd or 3rd-generation models are released.

Here are a couple of recent Brushes doodles that I made on my iPod:

And here’s a sneaky sketch of a couple of friends snoozing on the train home from London where we’d been in the audience for the recording of Radio 4’s ‘The Now Show’ at the BBC.

Finally, I’m intending to post this using upgraded WordPress software and I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to preserve my earlier entries. If not, I’ll leave them at their existing address for posterity.

Adios, Amigos.

Addendum: It took a while, but I re-loaded my earlier blog posts to the new WordPress address. There was no export option available for the type of ‘embedded’ blog I was keeping previously so I had to copy and paste them all across individually. It gives the impression that they were all posted on 12th August so I’ve added the original posting date at the top of each entry. Not ideal but it was the only solution I could come up with. Everything should be smooth from here on in!


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