Ingenious Genetics

page spread

And my book is back from the printers in time for assessments! Relief! This is a spread from my book ‘Ingenious Genetics’ that I have written and illustrated for one of my major projects for my university finals.

The book is aimed at GCSE-level adolescents (15 – 16 years-old) and contains information on the fields of genetics and genetic engineering (including DNA replication, transcription, translation, selective breeding, cloning, genetic modification and so on). For the project, I proposed a series of books, each covering a different area of the sciences, with the aim of giving teenagers an insight into the different fields so they can make more informed choices as to their further education, from A-level and onward.

I have been interested in genetic engineering since I was 14 and can remember doing a project on the moral issues during Humanities. I am fairly unbiased towards the subject which made it easier for me to make ‘Ingenious Genetics’ wholly informative with none of my own opinions. The best part for me was learning about DNA myself, I never studied Biology at A-level so up until this year my entire genetic knowledge stopped at ‘DNA is found in the nucleus of cells’. Unfortunately, although my knowledge of the subject has now increased, I have still managed to make a monumental mistake in the above illustration (which I shall correct in due course). Despite the entire page being about the sugar-phosphate backbones running antiparallel to each other, my concentration lapsed while illustrating and the far right illustration of the DNA chain portrays both strands running in the same direction.

Whoops, seems I’ve just messed up life as we know it… hopefully my illustration tutors won’t notice, here’s hoping! I won’t be making that mistake again.

Heart of Darkness cover design


My cover design entry for the Folio Society’s Book Illustration competition 2014. The brief was to design a cover and 3 illustrations for Joseph Conrad’s book ‘Heart of Darkness’. The story focuses on a steamboat captain’s physical and psychological journey up the Congo river in search of an elusive ivory trader, revealing the despicable treatment of the native people during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

My book cover is based off a quote from the very beginning of the book:

‘It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird…’ – page 10.

The Congo river is never actually mentioned in the book. However, the river in the book is widely presumed to be the Congo as Heart of Darkness was written based on Conrad’s own experience of the monstrosities committed in the Congo Basin. In order to illustrate this uncertainty, I had the snake on the map obscuring the words ‘Congo Free State’ and the map of Africa itself is at a tilted angle.

Unfortunately, the shortlisted entries have been announced and I’m not one of them but I’m hoping my efforts are going to pick me up some good marks at assessment time!

Farmyard characters


Character development for a children’s book I’m planning. I’m very sorry to say that the magnificent highland bull (who looks a bit out-of-it) will not be appearing in the story. I wish he was, he’s fun to paint but I’m sure I can cook up a story for him at some point. Fortunately, the rather grumpy-looking Jacob sheep will be in the story, the text for which has been completed. I’m hoping to send it off to some publishers once university is finished and perhaps become an author. I can dream…

Cthulhu: early pyrography test


Just dug this out when looking through some old work. This is one of the first little pyrography testers I did when I finally got my very own pyrography machine and who better as a test subject than Cthulhu? He (is Cthulhu a ‘he’?) comes in useful for everything and tentacles are always fun to draw!

Steampunk seadragon

Steampunk seadragon

It is my firm belief that inspiration comes in the most unlikeliest of forms and often has nothing at all in resemblance to the end product. This is a prime example of such an occurrence- this beastie popped into my head while watching an episode of comedy-drama ‘Doc Martin’.

Anyway, I’m not sure if this is steampunk, dieselpunk or neither but it’s grungy and has a gas mask! This is what results when I mix things that interest me, in this case it was skeletal forms, war-related items and marine wildlife. The blend created this bizarre mechanical menace based on the overall form of a seadragon but made from human bones. These things often spark insights into potential stories (few of which actually transfer from imagination to writing, unfortunately). In this case, the insight was that these creations exist in a future world ravaged by war. World population has decreased dramatically through advances in long-range devastating weaponry so much fighting is carried out through machinery. These sea-based creations carry explosives used to destroy submarines (or the future equivalent, underwater facilities maybe?). The bones and mask are perhaps added to strike extra fear into the target. Looking through a porthole to see a fleet of these cruising slowly towards you would be a terrifying sight!


Biro architecture


An illustration in the style of Piranesi, one of my favourite artists. Approximately A5 in scale and done in biro.

I discovered his work when on a trip to see some modern installation art at a gallery, a movement that I don’t care much for. The main exhibition hall contained what could only be described as a giant spiky foam dodecahedron and after circuiting it once I decided that was enough ‘mind-blowing’ modern art for one day. The main hall had a small side room attached to it and wandering in I discovered, for the first time, the magnificent works of Piranesi reproduced as large prints. Needless to say the dodecahedron got no more attention from me that day.

This A5 illustration was inspired by his amazing works and one day I hope to do a larger scale version but probably without the cephalopods which were added as a last-minute idea.

Plenty more fish in the sea

Plenty more fish in the sea

Part of a project to illustrate old sayings, for example ‘It takes a thief to catch a thief’, ‘Home is where the heart is’, ‘Time flies’ and so on. Challenge was that we couldn’t include any cliche’ s and our illustrations couldn’t be ‘too obvious’. It was a disastrous project for me in terms of marks but it gave me an excuse to draw the sea and some fish so I’m not complaining! This is ‘Plenty more fish in the sea’ and was illustrated in biro pen. I’m hoping to do a pyrography version once my studies are finished.

Mr. Shrike Character Design

Mr. Shrike

A piece of character design of one of my favourite literary characters, Mr. Shrike from Philip Reeve’s ‘Mortal Engines’ series. Mortal Engines is set in a future that sees massive cities rolling round on wheels or caterpillar tracks, devouring each other and salvaging metal and other materials in order to survive. It’s a cruel world and the books have possibly the most death I have ever read in a series for children/young adults but they are absolutely brilliant and would recommend them to anyone.

Mr.Shrike is a Stalker, a human resurrected as a robot with no memory of his previous life. Stalkers are programmed to kill specific targets (similar to Terminators I suppose) and really are horrifying creations. Shrike himself wears his preserved original human face as a mask, with his huge luminous green eyes protruding from the eye sockets. In truth he was absolutely fantastic to draw! See some other drawings of him here.