Digital Vector Illustration: Moggles – Ready for Takeoff!

A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover. Moggles & The Ninth Life. Made in Affinity Designer.
A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover. Moggles & The Ninth Life. 

Yes, yes, I know. I’m late for my flight.  There are a couple of reasons why I’ve taken so long to enter the world of digital illustration. For one thing, I love to paint and get my hands dirty and smell the paint and feel the brush in my hand. I became an illustrator to be a painter who gets paid properly from time to time.

Another thing is, I did already try some years ago. For a while I used a program called Painter which promised to give painterly results but I struggled with it before giving up on it as I just couldn’t get the results I wanted.

Then, Adobe introduced their subscription by the month, which is fair enough but it banjaxed my chances of using it.  That’s when I discovered the Affinity suite of products: The software company, Serif, obviously saw an opportunity provided by Adobe’s move to subscription and the resultant flight of irritated users. They’ve introduced two extremely comprehensive and professional applications that are developing apace. It’s true that neither of the programs have the complete set of bells and whistles provided by the standard-setting Adobe products but if you know what you want to achieve in your work, there’s almost nothing that a photographer or illustrator can’t do. Add to that, Serif’s Affinity Publisher, which is due for release in about a year’s time to compete with Adobe’s InDesign, and it will be possible to move away from Adobe and still produce industry-standard results.

A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover. Moggles & The Ninth Life. Made in Affinity Designer.
A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover in Outline Mode. Moggles & The Ninth Life.

So, illustrating this little ode to Affinity, is a cover illustration I did for a non-existent (as yet) children’s book. It’s made entirely in Affinity Designer and is a vector image. You can see something of how a vector image is made up in the above screenshot. I won’t go into the details of what that means  except that I can reach into any part of this image and refine it, change it or remove it at will. Imagine trying to do that with a hand-painted illustration! This is the way things work with today’s illustration clients who have become used to making ‘after the fact’ changes, and I must change my way of working accordingly. Over and out.

Marrow Envy & Other Stories


My current exhibition, and second in the Alliance Française, was launched last night by eminent historian and broadcaster, John Bowman. The show comprises 24 framed works, the greater part of which were published in newspapers and magazines such as the Irish Times, Marketing Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

The show runs until June 11th in the ground-floor Café des Amis. Grab some lunch and enjoy the marrows.

Thank you to my sponsors who helped to make this show such a success, including: The Irish Times, the Alliance Française, Celine Cazali of Océ Digital Printing Machines, Adam Lawrie of QPA Print and Lensmen & Associates.

Financial Report Illustration Project

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan organisation have just launched their new financial report, designed by Toronto-based design studio, The Works. The studio art director’s vision for the project used illustration to convey the central theme of this year’s report which is ‘balance’.
Although The Works had a clear idea of the principal image which is one of a high-wire unicyclist, they wished to use other characters throughout the design to focus on other activities of the OTPP.

Several rounds of sketches were made to present ideas for various aspects of the report. However, after consideration by the designers and the client, the concept was kept to one character.


You can see here, the development of the central character. The sketch at left was my first rough rendering which was changed according to the designers’ comments. The final illustration kept close to this last drawing, save for the objects being juggled. A nice idea was to show the reverse of the unicyclist on the back cover:

It was fun trying to get the model to balance just that little bit longer while I set up my easel on the other side of the line. A thorough dousing with fixative spray helped him to maintain the pose. The report is now in print and online on OTPP’s web site. and the model has finally been removed from the unicycle and returned to his family.

Marketing Magazine Cover Illustration


We’re moving towards election time again. The current issue of Marketing Magazine features one of my illustrations. The feature article describes the challenge that advertising creatives face when commissioned to create campaigns for political parties.

If you click on the above image itself, you’ll see a larger version.

I want to give you an idea of the process and collaboration that ended with the illustration as it appears [a collaboration between Michael Cullen, editor of the magazine, Jamie Cullen of Dynamo and myself]. The first rough sketch is the one that we felt conveyed the message in the strongest way. Like in previous posts, there were others, but there’s neither the space or the inclination on my part to show them!

Once this was accepted, I felt that the composition could be improved and made more lively. Also, I thought our creative should have the full hatchback head rather than a little back door and that we should see the brief a little more clearly.

So I submitted sketch 2, which was duly approved and I rendered the final illustration. It was completed in acrylics on Winton oils paper. So, that’s it. Vote for me! And invest in Marketing Magazine – try their web site.

Ho ho ho… A Very [Insert franchise name here] Christmas

First, I’d just like to wish a very happy and peaceful Christmas to both my readers!

Apparently, ’tis the season to send badly designed Christmas cards to people that you don’t know very well, in the hope of generating a bit of oul’ business. For, as it was once told to me by a wizened old marketing professional -you can send all the flyers you want during the course of a year but people will only remember the Christmas card.

I agree -but only if the card is worth looking at. I just received one from the garage that sold me my second-hand car seven years ago [as I have done every year since]. Although it doesn’t take the gong for worst card design, it comes eye-wateringly close. There is no excuse for sending abysmal cards unless you’re a graphic designer in a corduroy jacket who could say with a knowing smile, ‘This card is an ironic statement’.

Seems to me that all such cards generate is indifference, or worse; enmity. If the person to whom a card is sent is not a personal friend- then the card must have some other obvious merit. It should be very funny or very arresting in some other way. You can’t get good results from a picture lifted from a royalty-free image CD or one that has a company logo plastered garishly across the cover illustration. I venture to suggest that cards’ inner messages should also be hand-written, perhaps with a wry humorous note [since there may be no personal relationship with the receiver].

And… since companies habitually decide to include Christmas in their marketing strategies; they shouldn’t leave such important design choices to busy office managers or outsource the task of design to printers [printers and design are like builders and varnish; they don’t mix]. There are plenty of great illustrators and graphic designers -who are born for such work and can advise on approach. There are also excellent cards made by some of the charities, like Oxfam or The Irish Cancer Society. So, there’s plenty of choice -all well worth the expense and which could start generating a bit of warmth in these cold-hearted times.

Perhaps as image-makers, we’re not doing enough to convince people in the general business community of the value of design?

I’d wecome your thoughts on the subject. Have you received any cards this year that provoked a wince? Clean your stomach contents from your shoes and tell me about it.