New badges available

Site Badge

If you like my artwork and would like to help spread the word, I’ve added a new page of badges and HTML snippets that you can use on your website. If you do add a link, let me know. I’m happy to consider a reciprocal link, subject to my review of your site content (SEOs , I’m talking to you).

As well as a selection of badges I’ve made myself, I’m including some made by other people. If you would like to contribute a badge, I will consider posting on the page, along with a credit and a link. Just contact me, and I’ll send you details of how to submit your badge.

Change to site content

Site Icon

I am an inveterate fiddler, and have shuffled the content round on this site again. I’ve replaced the old home page with what used to be the news page, to make sure visitors know about new images and projects straight away. The old news page still exists, but I’ve removed the main link, and the old home page is now the introduction. Are you following this?

At the moment, I’m adding new items to this page by hand, but hopefully I can find time to update my old news generating script so that I can add new articles by uploading an XML file to the server, which is how the old news page worked.

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BBC Schools Indus Valley site launched

Professor Indus

I recently produced a large quantity of images for a new BBC Schools project on the Indus Valley, and the site went public on 25th February. If you have 15-20 minutes to spare, you can work your way through the entire BBC Schools Indus Valley site. I have also added a selection of images from the site to my portfolio.

This was a great project to work on, for a number of reasons. Not least was the chance to visit the BBC team in Belfast, and talk through the design of the site with the producers and designers. This was really useful, and we managed to squeeze out some nice ideas that may not have seen the light of day without a face-to-face meeting. This is the first project I’ve worked on that was produced for BBC Schools, and this meant that it had to meet some strict guidelines regarding file size, screen size, and content.

This made designing the site challenging for myself and Deirdre, the BBC Flash designer, as we had to try and create a visually rich and interactive site, but keep the images as simple as possible to reduce the file size. For my part, I tried to ensure that all the vector images used common elements, which could be repeated, resized and mirrored to create more complex scenes and characters, and be sparing in my use of gradients. It also meant more work for Deirdre when she assembled the scenes in Flash, but I think the end result justified the extra work, as we have ended up with a site that looks great, but comes well within the file size restrictions, to the point where some of the proposed “loading, please wait” animations could be abandoned altogether.

The chameleon’s walking animation was a particular challenge, as his front and back legs are the same objects (two sets, one for each side of his body), animated out of phase to create his plodding walk. Deirdre has done a great job transferring all the objects into Flash and reconstructing the animation, and for me he is the star of the show. We both wish we had had the time and resources to use him elsewhere. There was a brief discussion about having him stick his tongue to “balloon cam” and get towed off across the scene, but we had to abandon this idea on technical and moral grounds. The idea of having him flung against the window of Professor Indus’ office and squeak down the glass went the same way.

Time constraints mean that some of the superfluous visual effects in the museum scenes got dropped, but that section still works really nicely. If time had allowed, it would have been nice to put a few random people into the museum lobby to make it look a bit busier too.

Thanks again to Phyllis, Deirdre and Chelle for looking after me so well in Belfast, and congratulations again to Deirdre for doing such a great job putting the site together.

Funky new style for the site

I’ve just finished a new style sheet for this site, designed to match my new stationery and business cards. If you have visited the site in the last 30 days and can’t see any change (there should be a yellow banner at the top of the page), click the default link in the styles menu on the right hand side.

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New sketch for my portfolio

Pet Dragon

I’ve been doing a lot of work for Flash projects lately, and my portfolio is dominated by the clean, flat vector style that is usually favoured for Flash content. My agent has suggested that I try and create some more detailed work to appeal to childrens book publishers, who favour a more fine art approach, and sent me a list of possible scenarios to work on when I have some spare time (insert sound of slightly crazed laughter here).

I took the “boy and his pet dragon” scene, and added a pinch of gross to it, which resulted in the sketch you can now see in my portfolio.

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Now accepting Credit Card payments with PayPal

I have just set up a PayPal account, so international customers can now pay for artwork by credit card. The service enables me to generate an invoice directly from my PayPal account, delivered by e-mail. Customers can then use the secure PayPal servers to make a payment. When time allows, I will add a proper payment page to the site, but for now this should make things easier and quicker for overseas clients.

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New images available at last

I’ve finally had time to put some of my latest work online. It is still far from complete, as the bulk of the work I’ve done over the last few months still can’t be shown; the site it was created for is still under development. I’m told that it should be launched at the end of this month, so hopefully I’ll be able to post the images soon.

Indian Ocean Tsunami

It just keeps getting worse.

This morning news reports put the official death toll from the Indian Ocean Tsunami at a staggering 125,000 souls. The pictures of the tidal wave, and the devastation left behind are horrifying and heartbreaking. Businesses and individuals around the world are donating huge sums of money to help the disaster relief agencies cope with a seemingly impossible task. GMTV reported that the UK public has donated £35 million so far.

If you want to make a donation, you can do so quickly and easily on the Disasters Emergency Committee web site.

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Indian Ocean Tsunami

Elaine and I watched in shock as the TV news showed pictures of the devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tidal waves.

The last figure I heard for the death toll was 60,000. I simply can’t get my head around an event like that. There are devestating natural disasters, disease and famine wiping out people all around the world, yet human beings still feel the need to kill each other in huge numbers because of religion, prejudice and greed.

When will we grow up?

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Is it really this bad for Windows users

An article on Wired about the dangers faced by the owners of new computers at Christmas paints a depressing picture of life for Windows users, who face a seemingly endless assault from Viruses, Adware, Spyware and other Malware.

The article ends with a depressing quote from Tony Ross, an analyst at security firm Sophos:

“At some point, people who receive them for Christmas often ask, ‘Is this computer a gift or a curse?'” Ross said.

How can the situation have become so bad for Windows users? And why are people continuing to invest money in an operating system that requires so much maintenance and extra protection from Third Party software? I know I’ve banged on about this in the past, but I continue to be bemused by it. You wouldn’t spend money on a new car that required almost daily servicing to keep it running, or expense new parts fitted to stop it breaking as soon as you use it on the road.

People need to learn that there are alternatives to Windows. It’s time that retailers started to accept the fact that alternatives actually exist by offering, and even encouraging people to consider, alternative operating systems. I’m not just talking about Apple and OS X (though for the novice user it seems like the best solution). Linux is making huge strides in creating a more user friendly and easy to use environment, with the advantage that it runs on less expensive hardware than Apple machines (although the “Apple Computers are too expensive” argument breaks down easily when you start looking at value for money rather than just cost).

PC World offer Apple machines for sale, but in a grudging way, with just a few badly set up iMacs and Powerbooks on display in my nearest store. There are no staff willing (or able?) to offer advice or information, and no effort made to emphasise the ease of use and security benefits of Mac OS X.

As even the most casual visitor to this site will know, I am a passionate advocate of Apple and the Mac OS. I run my G4 all day, every day, with NO viruses, NO malware, and NO security issues in the 8 years that I’ve owned a Mac. Just before Christmas, I decided to install and run the latest version of Virex, since it comes free with my .Mac membership. After nearly 6 hours scanning my entire system (nearly 60Gb of files in total), it found (as expected) absolutely no problems.

So, if you are tired of constantly battling to keep your system running and up to date with the lastest anti-virus software, consider Switching. You won’t regret it it, and you will soon be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.

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