Angry … Cows?

A friend challenged me to an exercise in creative concept art – draw some Angry Birds (yes, as in the game). But make them cows. Angry cows.

To meet the brief, I took a look at the original Angry Birds characters. The main thing you’ll notice about these characters is how very simple each design is, in terms of outline (most are based on a circle) and basic body features. The other thing you will notice is how unique each character is and, therefore, how easy each is to distinguish from the other characters, even in tiny, screen form. Angry Birds characters differ markedly in one or more of the following:

  • size – from the tiny Blue Bird to the Chubby White Bird and Big Red Bird.
  • shape – many of the characters are based on a round body model, but some are egg-shaped or even triangular, with differing tail or crest configurations that make them recognisable even in silhouette form.
  • colour – aside from Red Bird and Big Red Bird, all of the characters are swiftly recognisable by their colours, which is essential on a tiny game screen.
  • personalities – even though most of the birds are, as advertised, angry to be sure, there are also ones that look worried and determined and even a bit crazy.

The following character sheet was my take on the brief:


Here, I have gone with different colours, shapes (while most are modeled on the circle, a couple have been modeled on the inverted triangle and on the trapezium), sizes and outlines in order to make each character distinct. I have also varied the personalities, from the angry red bull and crazy orange bull to the suspicious yellow pineapple-esque cow, sad blue Ankole-Watusi and sleepy Highland Cow.

Note – for extra cowish brownie points, I also looked up breeds of cow, searching for unique types that I could include as characters. The first two cows are Highland Cattle – these have wide horns and amazing, long fringes that make for interesting character opportunities. The central, blue cow is modeled on the Ankole-Watusi (these are incredible looking cattle – definitely worth Googling). The black and white cow is based on the Holstein-Friesian – the classic, spotted dairy cow. The pineapple cow … was not based on a real cow breed (sorry about that).

Below are the characters in silhouette.

Walt Disney animation (particularly in the early days – Donald, Goofy, Mickey Mouse etc.) designed their characters based around the principle that they should be unique enough to be easily recognisable in silhouette form. Thus, you can recognise Mickey by his ears (the distinct shape that is, even now, the Disney logo), Goofy by his teeth and hat and stance and Pluto by his narrow ears and whip tail and the bump on his head (as distinct from the shapes of other canine characters). The same holds true for character design (especially casts of characters) today.


Note – the twin cows (the green one and the black-and-white) have the same silhouette. If I drew these again, I would place the bangle on the opposite foot of one to make them unique in silhouette.


If you want to catch more of my art, please check out my Flickr portfolio.

If you like my stuff and would like to hire me on a freelance basis for concept or commercial or book cover or book interior art, please check out my contact page.


No Chill


Some art I did last night listening to Triple J. Did the thumping Skrillex undertones of “No Chill” or the fabulously weird, off-beat music from Flume’s new “Skin” album influence this? Who knows? I think they may have had something to do with the colours.

The pose is a bit passive, though when I originally sketched this, I pictured her waiting at attention, like some kind of post-apocalyptic, hippy, English cop so I guess it’s okay. It was more an exercise in colouring and shading.

Hope you like it 🙂


Current Work in Progress – Raw Sketch


This is a sketch I did in a notebook – roller derby meets Mario Kart goodness. It’s just pencils, which I will ink and colour. I’ll post an update when it’s done. Hope you like it.

If you want to see some more art, you can check out my portfolio on Flickr.


Rats on the Brain


This is a sketch of a hooded rat that I drew after work last night.

The top picture is the raw pencil-work. For all their commonplace simplicity, I love the handling of basic lead pencils the most. They render fur and shadow marvelously.

The bottom image is the same picture scanned and coloured digitally.

rat-inyourface-colourIf you like my work, feel free to check out my portfolio on Flickr.

Conflux 12 is Coming to Canberra in 2016!

The 12th annual Canberra speculative fiction convention – Conflux 12 – is happening in Canberra from September 30th to October 3rd, 2016. It is always an excellent weekend with great panels, insightful special guests, masterclasses, kaffeeklatches and opportunities to just hang out with writers, artists and fans with common passions.

This year, we have writers Alan Baxter and David Farland as special guests.

Conflux is great because it tends to be smaller and more intimate than some of the bigger conventions around (i.e. not as crowded) and it also tends to attract many of the bigger names in the Australian speculative fiction scene. It is thus an excellent con to attend as a writer or fan if you want the opportunity to hang out at the bar with people you’ve always admired or pick some industry brains. I love it because I get to catch up with all my friends each year in a relaxed setting. The Aussie speculative fiction and art scene is full of really nice people so come along! 🙂

Anyway – about the header for Conflux 12:


The topic this year was Red Fire Monkey in reference to the 2016 Chinese New Year. To create this logo for the Conflux WordPress and Facebook pages, I looked up a load of Chinese art books, looking for a style that would suit. The style I went with, especially for the pine, is meant to evoke the flowing, tapering linework of ancient Chinese ink drawings.

The pine shape is reflective of cascading bonsai branches which, although better known in the west as a Japanese art and pruning style, also appears in Chinese art, culture and gardens. It took a few tries to find the right shape for the elegantly cascading branch. I also had to make sure that the monkey as well as the smoke and fire coming from its bowl were all the right shape and orientation to complement the elegance of the pine.

I also had to research monkeys, in particular types of red or golden monkey that I could use that would be appropriate for the theme. Originally, I was going to go with a golden lion tamarin, except that they are not Chinese! (I am not 100% sure they are technically monkeys, either) Thus, I went with the Chinese golden monkey and infused a little red into the coat. They actually do have a blue face, which adds some extra colour.

Finally, I had to add a Canberra touch. Canberra is known for the iconic Telstra Tower that sits in the heart of the city atop Black Mountain. I added it, giving it a tapering, angled aesthetic that I think fits in well with the flowing appearance of the rest of the piece.